I’m not sure who gave Ashley the nickname “the Guvnor” but they were not wrong. Ashley in one or other of his many manifestations – as bass player / bandleader / songwriter / arranger / record producer / facilitator- runs through the history of the folk scene of the last 50 years like the word “Blackpool” runs through a stick of rock.
He was a founding member of three of the most significant folk-rock bands in the history of the world: Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band and has worked with bands like The Rainbow Chasers,Lark Rise Band and The Etchingham Steam Band. He showed people how exciting English dance music could be with Morris On, one of the greatest instrumental folk albums ever and has produced a fine body of work on the great collector, Cecil Sharp.
It is impossible to over-exaggerate the contribution Ashley Hutchings has made to the folk music scene; this man should have been given a gong years and years ago.
Ashley describes himself as a “band leader” and that’s one facet of what he is, but he is much more. After Dave Swarbrick joined Fairport Convention Ashley steeped himself in the tradition researching songs and tunes. I remember seeing him in the library at Cecil Sharp House on many a day, working his way through manuscripts and recordings. The first result of all that work was the 4th Fairport album, Liege and Leaf which was voted the most important folk rock album of all time.
Thankfully, he hasn’t stopped. The man is still at it, working away and coming up with great music. He has enriched in more than one way the cultural life of not just these islands but the whole world of music.