Dick Gaughan: Wikis


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Dick Gaughan live at the "Rätsche" in Geislingen/Steige (Germany), 6 May 2006, photo: Markus Großmann

Richard Peter Gaughan (born 17 May 1948) is a Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter.


Early years

He was born in Glasgow's Rottenrow Maternity Hospital, when his father was working in Glasgow as an engine driver. He spent the first one and a half years of his life in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, after which the whole family moved to Leith, a port on the outskirts of Edinburgh. He has never returned to Rutherglen, and is proud to be a Leither. His mother was a Macdonald from Lochaber, and was a native speaker of Gaelic. As a child in the 1930s she won a silver medal at the Gaelic Mod. His father was born in Leith, and his paternal grandfather was an Irish speaker from Mayo, who played the fiddle. The three children, of whom Dick Gaughan was the eldest, grew up surrounded by the music of both Scotland and Ireland. The family experienced considerable poverty, which had a very strong influence on Gaughan's chosen path in life and his political views.[1]

Dick Gaughan took up the guitar at the age of seven. Although he later sang in Scottish Gaelic he is not fluent in that language; however, he has a powerful command of Scots. He sang in Edinburgh folk clubs and became a professional musician in 1970. Gaughan began playing mainly traditional songs on an acoustic guitar. He now writes his own songs as well as performing those of others. Although his approach to performing concentrates strongly on the song itself, Gaughan is known as being a master of the acoustic guitar. An example of his purely instrumental work is Coppers and Brass (1977).


He made one solo album, No More Forever, before joining The Boys of the Lough, singing and playing guitar on their debut album in 1972. After leaving, he was a guest of the High Level Ranters when they recorded The Bonnie Pit Laddie in 1975, performing on two tracks. From 1976 to 1978 there then followed a hectic period of his life pursuing two careers, one as a member of Five Hand Reel and one as a soloist. It was a time of hard drinking, travelling continental Europe in vans, and seeing very little of his wife and daughter. The crisis came when his daughter was knocked down by a car while he was away. The daughter survived, but Gaughan had to take stock of his life and re-prioritise things.

He taught himself to read and write music, and in the late 1970s he began to write reviews for what was at the time the only national folk music paper, Folk Review. He also saw more of his family. He joined the agitprop theatre group 7:84. In this, he appeared to be following in the footsteps of another socialist theatre-director-singer Ewan MacColl, even recording a tribute album to him in 1978. (Gaughan has also taken part in a tribute to Woody Guthrie).


At the beginning of 1982, Gaughan proposed and oversaw the organisation of a conference, held at Cecil Sharp House, which set up an organisation in the UK called Perform ("Performance of Folk and Other Related Music") which was intended to be an umbrella body of people involved in "Folk and Other Related Music" in any capacity - performers, promoters, record companies, journalists, broadcasters, etc - to facilitate greater communication and cooperation. One of the achievements in its short life was the coordinating of fundraising events to support Nic Jones and his family after his serious road accident. Gaughan served two years as chair with Susie Stockton as secretary and Matt Armour as vice-chair. Following Gaughan's stepping down as chair due to his voice problems at the beginning of 1984, he was succeeded by Matt Armour.

Gaughan's solo albums of the 1980s returned to the acoustic style in which he had begun, containing both traditional ballads ("The Muckle Sangs") as well as his own songs, and using acoustic guitar (although he can play electric guitar and in fact most fretted instruments). His decision to concentrate on songs which convey a political message, rather than those which might be more easily attractive to the mainstream, is clearly shown in the important albums Handful of Earth (1981) and A Different Kind of Love Song (1983). Handful of Earth was Melody Maker's album of the year in 1981, and in 1989 was also voted album of the decade by Folk Roots (now fRoots) magazine in both readers' and critics' polls.


In 1991, Dick Gaughan invited seven other well-established Scots musicians to take part in a band project called Clan Alba[2]. The original lineup was Dick Gaughan, Mary MacMaster (Sprangeen, The Poozies, Sileas), Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band), Patsy Seddon (Sprangeen, The Poozies, Sileas), Davy Steel (Drinker's Drouth, Ceolbeg), Mike Travis (Wildcat, Cauld Blast Orchestra), Dave Tulloch (Spencer's Feat, Five Hand Reel) and Gary West (Ceolbeg). The first performance of Clan Alba was at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh as part of the 1992 Edinburgh Folk Festival, and over the next two years, Clan Alba performed at numerous festivals across the UK and Europe including Glastonbury, Cambridge, WDR Festival in Bonn, Brugge, Tønder and Stainsby. In 1993, Gary West departed and was replaced by Fred Morrison. In 1994 Clan Alba recorded a self-titled double CD at Redesdale Studios with Gaughan as producer before disbanding in 1995. Since then, Gaughan has continued to pursue his solo career.

Style and interests

In 1983 Dick Gaughan was the subject of a BBC Spectrum documentary entitled Gaughan, and in 2005 a further television documentary entitled A Different Kind of Love Song formed part of the BBC Four Sessions series.

Dick Gaughan has many and various influences. In his guitar playing one can detect the influence of Doc Watson, Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, but he also claims to have been influenced by musicians as diverse as Hank Williams and Seán Ó Riada. His songs have been recorded by Billy Bragg, Mary Black, Jessica Haines & Mark Kaiser and Capercaillie amongst many others. He has also recorded extensively as a session musician.

Gaughan's deep interest in composition and orchestration has led to two orchestral commissions from the prestigious Celtic Connections festival: Timewaves (Lovesong to a People's Music) in 2004 and, in 2007, his first symphonic work, Treaty 300 (a musical examination of the effects of the Treaty of Union of 1707 on Scottish culture) composed for the inaugural concert of the Celtic Connections Youth Orchestra.

One of Dick Gaughan's strong interests is the Internet, and he has a particular love for Usenet in which he has been an active participant for many years. While recovering from voice problems in 1984 he took a course on computing and is one of the few professional singers who could easily get a job as a web designer. He designs and maintains his own extensive website, and is strongly in favour of web accessibility.

Present day

In 2002 Gaughan released Prentice Piece, a self-selected thirty-year retrospective of his career (although some material could not be included owing to copyright disputes), and a studio album, Lucky for Some, was released in April 2006. A live CD (the first since 1985) entitled Gaughan Live! at the Trades Club, recorded at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, was released on 1 April 2008.


Solo and Main Performer

  • No More Forever (1972)
  • The Boys of the Lough (1973) (The Boys of the Lough)
  • Kist O'Gold (1976)
  • Five Hand Reel (1976) (Five Hand Reel)
  • Coppers and Brass (1977)
  • For A' That (1977) (Five Hand Reel)
  • Songs of Ewan MacColl (1978) (with Dave Burland and Tony Capstick)
  • Gaughan (1978)
  • Earl o' Moray (1978) (Five Hand Reel]
  • Handful of Earth (1981)
  • Parallel Lines (1982) (with Andy Irvine)
  • A Different Kind of Love Song (1983)
  • Fanfare for Tomorrow (1985) (with Ken Hyder)
  • Live in Edinburgh (1985)
  • True and Bold (1986)
  • Call It Freedom (1988)
  • Clan Alba (1995) (with Clan Alba)
  • Sail On (1996)
  • Redwood Cathedral (1998)
  • Outlaws And Dreamers (2001)
  • Prentice Piece (2002)
  • Lucky for Some (2006)
  • Gaughan Live! at the Trades Club (2008)

As a Guest Contributor

  • Songs of Ewan MacColl (1985) (with Dave Burland and Tony Capstick

This discography excludes recordings to which Dick Gaughan contributed only a few tracks.


  1. ^ Artist's page on Footstompin
  2. ^ Brief history of Clan Alba

External links

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