Wishbone Ash are a British rock band who achieved particular success in the early and mid-1970s. Formed in Devon in 1969 out of the ashes of the group The Empty Vessels, which had featured Wishbone Ash's founding members Martin Turner and Steve Upton, the original line-up was completed by Andy Powell and Ted Turner.
Classic era: formation and rise to fame (1969-1980)
Wishbone Ash were formed in October 1969 by bass guitarist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton. After an extensive search for a guitar player, the band could not decide between the final two candidates, Andy Powell and Ted Turner. It was suggested that they try both guitar players "just to see what it sounds like". Differing from the twin lead sound of The Allman Brothers Band, the Wishbone Ash included strong elements of folk, progressive rock, and classical music. After the band members wrote several suggested band names on two sheets of paper, Martin Turner picked one word from each list - 'Wishbone' and 'Ash'.
In early 1970 , the band scored an opening spot for rock legends Deep Purple. During sound check, Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was warming up alone onstage when Andy Powell walked up, plugged in, and began jamming along with Blackmore. Blackmore later recommended the band to producer Derek Lawrence and helped them secure a record deal with Decca/MCA Records.
The band's self-titled debut album, Wishbone Ash, was released in 1970. One year later, the group released Pilgrimage. The band struck gold in 1972 with Argus, their commercial peak. The album was voted by the readers of Sounds magazine as the best rock album of the year. The band were getting international acclaim for their live performances as they gained popularity around the world.
The band had begun to now play major arenas as headliners. Wishbone Four (1973) was the band's first record without producer Derek Lawrence, as the band decided to produce the album themselves. In 1973, the band released a double live album entitled Live Dates. Not long after, guitarist Ted Turner left the band and, largely, retired from music. After replacing Turner with guitarist Laurie Wisefield, the band relocated to America ( Connecticut to be specific ) and recorded the There's the Rub (1974) album. Locked In (1976), produced by Tom Dowd, saw the band moving towards US soft-rock territory and the group even began touring with a keyboard player.
1976's New England returned to the traditional Wishbone Ash style. Front Page News (1977) was the band's final US-recorded album of this period and contained a mix of rock numbers with more mellow tracks as well.
In 1978, after years of experimental albums, the band decided to return to its roots with No Smoke Without Fire, the first to be produced by Derek Lawrence since Argus in 1972 . The album contained mainly songs written by Laurie Wisefield and Martin Turner. The band spent six months making the next album, Just Testing. Released in February 1980 , the album contained mostly Martin Turner material. Pressured by MCA to make more commercial music, the band considered bringing in a lead singer and restricting Martin Turner's duties to bass guitar only. A huge mistake in this poster's opinion ( Turner could sing well and play bass superbly ) After 11 years, the band's front man and co-founder found himself in what he regarded as an untenable position and reluctantly parted company with Wishbone Ash.
Lineup instability (1981-1986)
Turner was replaced by John Wetton, formerly of King Crimson, UK, and several other classic groups. Number the Brave was released in 1981 and featured Wetton's lead vocal on just one song, although during album sessions he had offered songs such as "Here Comes The Feeling" that would eventually sell millions when released on Asia's 1982 debut album. Wetton did not continue with Wishbone Ash beyond the album sessions and continued with Asia. Wishbone Ash were dropped by MCA the same year.
Wetton was replaced on the Number the Brave tour by former Uriah Heep bassist Trevor Bolder. Also joining the band was female backing vocalist, Claire Hamill, who had sung on both the Just Testing and Number the Brave albums. The new Wishbone got mixed reviews. In 1982 , after Hamill's departure, the band experimented with heavy metal on the Twin Barrels Burning album. Surprisingly, the album became the highest charting Wishbone Ash album in years. Check out the number, "Engine Overheat"...Wowee-zowee!!!
Trevor Bolder left the group to rejoin Uriah Heep in 1983, to be replaced by bassist/vocalist Mervyn Spence (ex-Trapeze). The group continued with a heavy metal side on 1985's Raw to the Bone, which became the first Wishbone Ash album not to make the charts. Not long after, Laurie Wisefield quit after being in the band for eleven years for a varied career that would include work with Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Roger Chapman, Jeff Wayne and the Queen musical We Will Rock You. He was replaced by Jamie Crompton, who in turn was succeeded briefly by top sessioner Phil Palmer. Early in 1986, Mervyn Spence quit as well, to be replaced by ex-Kinks bassist Andy Pyle.
Reunions and departures (1987-1994)
In 1987, IRS Records founder and original Wishbone manager Miles Copeland began a series of albums entitled "No Speak," which featured all instrumental music. In order to launch the label successfully, Copeland needed a big name band that would bring publicity to the project. Copeland approached the four founding members of Wishbone Ash about having the original line-up record an all-instrumental album. For the first time in 14 years, Andy Powell and Steve Upton joined forces with Martin Turner and Ted Turner to record the album Nouveau Calls, released in 1987 . The original line-up's tour of 1988 was a huge success, as the band played large venues for the first time since the late 1970s. In 1989, the band released a full-fledged reunion album with vocals entitled Here to Hear, featuring mainly songs written by Martin Turner and Ted Turner.
In 1990 the band went back into the studio to record the follow up to Here to Hear. The band were shocked when founding member Steve Upton, the band's drummer for their entire career, announced his retirement from the music business. They quickly enlisted session drummer Robbie France to help out on some studio tracks and live shows. The band permanently settled on drummer Ray Weston. Strange Affair was released in 1991 .
Later in 1991, the band decided to continue without founding member Martin Turner, with the bassist/vocalist being replaced by returnee Andy Pyle, who had been in the band years earlier. The band toured throughout 1992/93, releasing the live album The Ash Live in Chicago. 1994 saw the second and final departure of Ted Turner.
Andy Powell Led Era (1995-present)
Andy Powell decided (by now the only remaining original member throughout the band's history) to form a completely new version of the band - one where Powell would operate Wishbone Ash as a personal business venture and employ musicians on a session basis, rather than the band existing as a group democracy. Guitarist/songwriter Roger Filgate replaced Ted Turner, bassist/vocalist Tony Kishman joined, and drummer Mike Sturgis replaced Ray Weston. Powell, by this time ensconsed in gainful employment as a farm labourer, relied on fan donations and outside assistance to help finance the new studio album. The new line-up debuted on a short UK/European tour in the Spring of 1995. However, by the time of the band's 25th anniversary tour in late 1995, Tony Kishman was finding touring difficult due to other performing engagements in America. Founding member Martin Turner returned to the fold to hold the bass and vocal position for touring duties, although Tony Kishman would be recalled to record lead vocals for the band's next album. Illuminations was released in 1996 and featured the Powell, Filgate, Kishman, Sturgis line-up. Original member Martin Turner, who honoured the bulk of touring commitments to promote the album, was not featured and was not retained for future studio/live projects, though would remain part of the overall Wishbone Ash set-up through his work in assembling various archival releases, album remasters, etc.
By 1998 , Kishman, Sturgis and Filgate had departed and Powell formed another new Wishbone Ash with bassist Bob Skeat, guitarist/vocalist Mark Birch, and former drummer Ray Weston. During the line-up changes, Andy Powell released two electronic dance albums on UK indie label Invisible Hands Music under the name Wishbone Ash. The albums were ambitious dance projects that contained electronic beats blended with Wishbone Ash guitar riffs. Trance Visionary was the first of the pair, spawning a 12" single of four mixes that was a clubland smash and reached number 38 on the UK dance chart. Psychic Terrorism followed.
The band then released an acoustic album of classic and new songs entitled Bare Bones before hitting the road in 2000 to celebrate their 30th anniversary. A filmed show was held at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, where the band welcomed special guests Laurie Wisefield and Claire Hamill as well as other friends for a star-studded concert that resulted in Live Dates 3 and a live DVD.
In 2001 , Mark Birch was replaced by guitarist Ben Granfelt. The band hit the road for their most extensive touring schedule in years. Wishbone Ash returned to the studio in 2002 for the Bona Fide album. 2003 saw the band touring across the world with Savoy Brown, playing their largest number of American dates since the 1980s.
Ben Granfelt left the band to continue working on his solo career. Granfelt's mentor, Muddy Manninen, joined the band. In late 2006, the band released a new studio album entitled Clan Destiny. In 2007, longtime drummer Ray Weston left the band, stating that he was tired of constant touring and wanted to concentrate on different things. He was replaced by seasoned session drummer Joseph Crabtree, known for his work with Pendragon and King Crimson violinist David Cross.
Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash
Recent times have seen a further twist in the Wishbone Ash story, with founder member Martin Turner forming Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash (rights to the band name are retained by all four original members). Featuring guitarists Keith Buck and Ray Hatfield, and drummer Rob Hewins, the band has toured the UK/Europe performing material from the band's heritage years, as documented on their debut release New Live Dates Vol.1 (2006). Original Wishbone Ash member, Ted Turner, performed four songs at the band's Birmingham show, two of which were included on New Live Dates Vol.1.
Wishbone Ash have developed a couple of group gatherings, AshCon in the UK and AshFest in the United States. These began in 1994 and have developed into gatherings of the 'faithful' and have become annual fixtures.
In this poster's opinion, these guys were way ahead of their time and actually share some commonalities with YES. Those being unsurpassed talent, creative musical genius and raw talent as a foundation. They have changed so much they are no longer even remotely close to what they were with respect to dynamic rock and a degree of uniqueness that had separated them from so many others. Yet, at one time, the twin guitar sounds of Andy Powell and Martin Turner was not only original but presented with a very appealing sound. If ever you have the chance, please purchase the album ( CD ) NEW ENGLAND. If you like to have your socks rocked off, well, this is the doctor's prescription. Sadly, they, like YES, never received the kudos due them although YES did fare better. Why remains a mystery.
"Master of images-Songs cast a light on you"