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John Lees and Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme were founder members of Barclay James Harvest, the melodic rock band with classical leanings which emerged from Oldham in the late sixties. Their relationship endured through nine studio albums and two live doubles, the period of BJH's history which most fans regard as their most creative and productive, and their musical collaborations included such classics as "Mocking Bird", "Galadriel", "Child Of The Universe" and "Hymn". John stayed with BJH after Woolly left in 1979, and it would be nearly twenty years before the guitar and keyboard legends would work together again.
When it was announced in March 1998 that Barclay James Harvest would be taking a sabbatical, it was effectively the end of the original band. Henceforth the members of the band would be pursuing solo projects, albeit using variations of the Barclay James Harvest name. John renewed his musical friendship with Woolly, and they began work together with bassist Craig Fletcher and drummer Kevin Whitehead under the name Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees. This line-up recorded an album of half new songs, half re-recordings of BJH classics, entitled Nexus, which was released by Eagle Records in February 1999. A tour of Germany and Switzerland followed and was recorded for the Revival - Live 1999 CD which appeared in March 2000, after which there were more concerts in Germany and Greece, plus the first concerts in England by any of the band members since 1992.
John and Woolly started work on a second studio album, with the working title North, but following the sudden death of his manager, David Walker, John didn't feel ready to make an album at that time and it was shelved. Woolly turned his attention to solo work, producing two studio albums and a live set between 2003 and 2005. By March 2005, John was ready to resume his musical endeavours, and an announcement was made to the effect that future live and studio work in collaboration with Woolly was planned, under the new name John Lees' Barclay James Harvest.
The first full UK tour by any members of Barclay James Harvest since 1992 took place in late 2006, and was a great success. The London show at the Shepherds Bush Empire was filmed and released in November 2007 as a DVD and CD entitled Legacy. 2009 saw increasing activity from the band, with live shows in the U.S.A., Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, plus another UK tour, and the work rate continued into 2010 with songs being written for a new studio album, plus a summer festival appearance in Portugal at the Douro Rock and Blues Festival. It would prove to be Woolly's final live appearance. A recurrence of a severe depressive condition meant that he was unable to participate in a series of concerts with John Lees' Barclay James Harvest in November and December 2010, and on 13th December, tragically, he was found dead at his home.
After some deliberation at a sold out tribute concert to Woolly at Buxton Opera House in February 2011, John Lees announced that he intended to continue with the group as a a four-piece, in part to keep the musical legacy of Woolly Wolstenholme alive. Subsequently the band made a series of headline festival appearances in Germany, Switzerland, France (with Status Quo) and the UK, including a headline spot at the prestigious High Voltage Festival in London. 2012 saw JLBJH make the first ever appearances by any form of BJH in Japan, followed by UK dates and a Spring 2013 tour in The Netherlands and Germany. In October 2013 the band released North, an album of all-new material, acclaimed by critics and fans alike as the best work to be released under the BJH banner for many a year. John Lees' Barclay James Harvest continue to delight concert audiences in Britain and Europe, and recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Barclay James Harvest's first ever record with a rapturously received event in Manchester. The band are currently working on a brand new studio album.
The story goes on ...
© Keith and Monika Domone, 2018
Born Oldham, January 13th, 1947. John had no formal musical education, but took up guitar when he was fourteen. Educated at Robin Hill Secondary Modern and Breeze Hill Comprehensive, John went on to study at Oldham School Of Art, where he met Woolly Wolstenholme in 1964. They played together in the Sorcerers, playing Eddie Cochran-style rock and roll, and in The Blues Keepers, before forming Barclay James Harvest in 1967.
He recorded a solo album, A Major Fancy, in 1972, but this was tied up when the band changed record label and was not released until 1977. John’s musical influences include Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joe Walsh and The Eagles. He also enjoys reading, his favourite books being Graham Greene’s A Burnt Out Case, science fiction novels (especially those of Ray Bradbury) and poetry. His hobbies include photography and amateur radio.
John worked as a Music Technician at a Church of England High School near Oldham for five years, helping a new generation of musicians with GCSE and A Level coursework in Music and Music Technology, but retired from that work in July 2012 in order to concentrate fully on his own music once again.
John lives in Saddleworth with his wife Olwen and they have two children, Esther Jane (born 28th July, 1980 and recently married) and John Joseph (who shares his father’s birthday, being born on 13th January, 1986).
Craig FletcherCraig Fletcher - wit, raconteur and occasional musician. Bassist extraordinaire, with a mean line in fretless. Oh, and he can sing a bit, too.
Born on 9th September, 1964, Craig grew up with music and was soon involved in local bands.
Vinny Burns, guitarist with Ultravox, Asia and Ten, recalls on his own web site, The Viper Room, how he met Craig:-
"I used to hang about in a music shop called 'Rock Island' in Oldham (long since closed). There was a bass player called Craig Fletcher that also used to go in there. I saw him around a lot and he was always gigging. His brother Morgan had been playing around Oldham for a long time and always drew a lot of people to gigs. Craig asked if I would form a band with him and Morgan. We did no rehearsals but drew up a list of cover songs at Morgan's house and did a bit of a run through. He got us a gig on a Monday night at 'The Grotton Hotel' just outside Oldham. We did the gig and it went down really well. We got offered every Monday and from that it grew to six gigs a week. I did that for a couple of years and it really improved my playing and gigging experience."
Craig has played in a number of bands with Vinny over the years, and appeared on albums such as Vinny's 1999 solo album, The Journey, and 2003's What If by Burns Blue. In between, he has worked with Tony Auton and his band, The Trauma (together with drummer Kev Whitehead), the delightfully named Obvious Rubber Sharks and, most recently, with Kev again in Schwing and in Manchester session man and guitar teacher Nigel Pickering's covers band, The Idol Frets.
Craig has known Barclay James Harvest's John Lees since a very early age, and John took Craig under his wing when he was in a band known as Off The Rails around 1984/1985, giving them the use of his studios and acting in a semi-managerial role for them. Unfortunately, Off The Rails' chances of fame and fortune were dealt a severe blow at their crucial meeting with BJH and Status Quo's manager, David Walker, when the band's lead singer made an unfortunate comment about David's nose, and Craig's chances of landing a major record deal evaporated.
John invited him to join Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees in 1998, and Craig recommended Kev Whitehead for the drum seat. Craig and original BJH keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme put the fun back into BJH as the band set about recording the album Nexus and terrorising the good people of Germany and Switzerland with their live shows. A live album, Revival, followed, and when Woolly was looking to put together his own band, Mæstoso, for a new studio album (One Drop In A Dry World) and occasional live concerts, Craig was the natural choice, and he worked with Woolly until the latter's tragic death in 2010.
When not involved in music, Craig previously had a day job as a plasterer, but in recent years has been working as a full-time musician, much of which has been as a permanent member of John Lees' Barclay James Harvest.
Kev’s earliest venture into professional playing was recording with a band called Blue Zone which featured a very young Lisa Stansfield. Since then he has recorded many albums with Lisa, including her two most recent ‘Seven’ and ‘Deeper’.
Over the years Kev has recorded and performed live with Pete Lockett, The Christians, The Animals, Proud Mary, Yazz and many more.
Kev joined John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest in 1999 for the album Nexus after which followed many extensive tours of Europe. Kev joined Dare in 2008 and continues to tour most parts of the world with these 2 bands.
His most recent venture is a country rock band called Between The Vines alongside his wife Rebecca, and they have a new album out called 50 Ways To Beautiful.
You can find more information and order the CD from the Between The Vines official web site.
Jez SmithBorn Sept 18th 1957 in Hyde, Cheshire, and educated at Audenshaw Grammar School, Greater Manchester, which has something of a musical tradition with former pupils including Des Tong (Sad Café), Clive Gregson (Any Trouble, Nancy Griffith's Blue Moon Orchestra) and Mick Hucknall to name but three.
My first professional gig was with Art Nouveau, winners of TV talent show New Faces, before joining '60s chart band Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders in 1977. The period spent with the Mindbenders was not only great fun, it really improved me as a band musician, in the sense that I came to realise that it wasn't all about individual virtuosity and that gelling with the unit came first.
During the 80s I worked for a while on the Cabaret circuit with bands such as Tapestry before teaming up again with two of the guys from The Mindbenders in a band called Baktrak.
In the early '90s, I first encountered one Craig Fletcher in a band called Tin Tin, later to be joined by Kev Whitehead. We were doing jazz-influenced material including tracks done by the likes of David Sanborn, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour etc.
Since then I've played with Craig and Kevin in a number of bands and projects when JLBJH has been "resting". For the past two years, the three of us along with the other two guys from Tin Tin have also been involved in putting together an annual Charity event in Manchester based on The X Factor. We've helped raised just over £70,000 for Mencap over the two events. I also play in a band called The Semolina Pilchards, performing Beatles music. It's definitely not a tribute band but we do try to be faithful to the original arrangements and include a lot of material from the later albums which can be quite tricky to do live, particularly some of the Sergeant Pepper tracks like "Mr Kite" and "A Day In The Life.
Getting the opportunity to work with JLBJH is a something I'm really looking forward to. I was a big Prog Rock fan in the '70s and first got to know about BJH in around 1974 when I heard Everyone Is Everybody Else on Radio Luxembourg. I promptly went out and bought it, subsequently followed by the likes of Once Again, Time Honoured Ghosts etc. It's been great fun re-acquainting myself with the nuggets contained in BJH's back catalogue in preparation for the forthcoming gigs ...
Woolly Wolstenholme, R.I.P.
Stuart John Wolstenholme was born in Chadderton, Oldham on April 15th, 1947, and went to school at North Chadderton Secondary Modern. His first instrument was a tenor banjo, which he took up at the age of twelve, and he also played tenor horn for the Delph band. He met John at Oldham School Of Art and Woolly played tambourine and sang in The Sorcerers, then The Keepers, where Woolly played whatever instrument was required, such as harmonica and twelve-string guitar. Later he taught himself keyboards, first the Mellotron and then adapting to organ, piano and synthesisers. His musical influences range from Love and Vanilla Fudge through Mahler to UK.
Woolly was a founder member of Barclay James Harvest in 1967, and remained with the band until 1979, when he became frustrated and unhappy at the direction their music was taking. He recorded a solo album, Mæstoso, in 1980, and toured as support to Judie Tzuke and Saga, as well as writing film and TV music. A projected second album was shelved and Woolly lost interest in the music business and went into farming, originally in Lancashire and then in South Wales.
Woolly came out of retirement in 1998 and collaborated with John on the album Nexus - Barclay James Harvest Through The Eyes Of John Lees and the live set, Revival, before releasing a long overdue follow up to Mætoso, entitled One Drop In A Dry World, in May 2004, and returning to live work in the UK with the Mæstoso band. A live Mæstoso CD, Fiddling Meanly, was followed by a studio album, Grim in 2005, the new collaboration with John Lees' Barclay James Harvest in 2006 and a brand new Mæstoso album, Caterwauling, in 2007.
Woolly also performed with JLBJH at numerous concerts in 2009, including shows in the U.S.A., Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, plus another UK tour, and the activity continued into 2010 with a summer festival appearance in Portugal at the Douro Rock and Blues Festival. It would prove to be Woolly's final live appearance.
For many years Woolly had fought against a severely debilitating form of depression, which had led to him being hospitalised for a period in 2003. A recurrence of the illness meant that he was unable to participate in a series of concerts with John Lees' Barclay James Harvest in November and December 2010, and on 13th December he was found dead at his home, having lost the final battle. The world had lost a prodigiously talented writer and musician.
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© Keith & Monika Domone, 2012