From Blackpool's Grange Park to Top of the Pops, Maddy Prior's heading back to the coast
When Maddy Prior performs at Fleetwood’s Marine Hall next month with her band Steeleye Span, it will be something of a Fylde coast homecoming for the long-established folk singer.
Maddy, who shot to fame with the band in the 1970s, when it had hit singles and albums, grew up on Blackpool’s Grange Park estate until the family left for St Albans when she was aged 11.
Her dad, Allan Prior, worked for the Gazette for a while back in the 1950s and later was the co-creator of police drama Z Cars.
After moving south, she eventually became involved in the folk music scene and was a founder member of Steeleye Span, which is still going strong after 21 studio albums.
The band were among England's folk rock pioneers, powered by Maddy's unmistakeable soaring vocals.
The latest tour is a Covid-delayed 50th anniversary celebration of the band’s influential folk rock debut album, Hark the Village Wait, which came out in 1970.
It paved the way for later hit singles Gaudete and All Round My Hat, which saw the band perform on Top of the Pops.
Maddy, 74, who received the MBE in 2001 and now lives near Carlisle, said: “We lived in a prefab house on Draycot Avenue when I was young.
“My dad wrote reviews for The Gazette and we had to buy a TV so he could watch the things he actually wrote about. We were one of the first on the estate to have a TV!
“I also have vivid memories of waiting for buses in the freezing cold bus station at Talbot Square.
"I liked it in Blackpool and when we moved to St Albans, me and the locals had a few issues understanding each other at first."
Maddy was not a fan of folk music in those days, preferring Elvis Presley and Little Richard.
But later , when she was in her late teens, she became influenced by Bob Dyan and Joan Baez.
Maddy recalls: "We knew some American musicians and when I tried singing American folk they told me I was bad at it and should sing English folk songs!
"And that's the direction we ended up going in."
Maddy has vivid memories of singing Gaudete, a 16th century carol, on Top of the Pops.
"I don't think they'd had someone singing in Latin on the programme before!
"They wanted us to mime, which we weren't happy about, and we had to prance around carrying candles."
Remarkably, the song reached number 14 in the British singles charts in 1973, while two years later, the jaunty All Round My Hat reached number 5 and the album of the same name was a big seller as well.
Maddy, who has enjoyed a successful solo career and worked with other acts, including the acoustic Carnival Band with whom she will be performing in Lytham in December, added: "We never wanted to become famous, we just wanted to play the music we loved and make a decent living at it.
"But being on Top of the Pops was a big deal in those days.
"You never really knew if a record would make an impact until you'd heard it on radio, because they'd compress the sound and it would either work or it wouldn't."
Maddy is looking forward to return to the Fylde coast and will spend some time seeing her longest-established friends , Marilyn and Dennis, who now live in Pilling.
Maddy and the band will perform at the Fleetwood venue on on Thursday, October 7, from 7.30pm. The box office is on 01253 887693.