Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson’s first group was Emil and the Detectives, named after the 1929 German novel. Another member of the group was his classmate, Hugh Cornwell, later to front the Stranglers.

Richard’s sister was the social secretary at the Hornsey College of Art and would book the group for £30 a gig and their biggest claim to fame was supporting Helen Shapiro at the Ionic Cinema in Golders Green.

Inspired by guitarists like Buddy, at the age of eighteen Richard was playing guitar with Fairport Convention and by the time the band’s second album, What We Did on our Holidays was released his status as both a musician and songwriter was growing, Thompson having penned the classic Meet on the Ledge. Before the release of their third album, Unhalfbricking, the Fairports were involved in a serious road accident resulting in a regrouping musically. The line-up became Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Sandy Denny, Dave Swarbrick, with Thompson and Swarbrick writing new material for the 1969 album Liege and Lief and the 1970 album Full House. By 1971 Richard was doing a lot of session work and more song-writing, fuelling his decision to leave the band. His guitar work featured on the songs of such artists as John Martyn, Al Stewart, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake and Matthews Southern Comfort and later, Viv Stanshall, Crowded House and Bonnie Raitt.

His first solo album, Henry the Human Fly was released in 1972 and with his new wife, they released I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight as Richard and Linda Thompson in 1974. The Thompsons had two more albums out; Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver, both in 1975. Two years later he played on albums by Sandy Denny and Julie Covington and went in the studio to record a new Richard and Linda Thompson album, First Light, with further albums, Sunnyvista, in 1979 and Shoot Out the Lights in the early 80s. They toured the States, with former Fairport musicians Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks, but on return Richard and Linda parted ways and Richard released a solo album, Hand of Kindness in 1983. He increasingly toured the States and Europe with the Richard Thompson Big Band and following marriage to his friend Nancy Covey, based himself in America. Other albums followed, including Small Town Romance, Across a Crowded Room, Daring Adventures and Amnesia as well as him contributing to the 1985 Fairport Convention album, Gladys’ Leap. There were more albums in the 90s with Richard also appearing on Places I Have Never Been, an album by fellow guitar recipient, Willie Nile and having his own album Rumor and Sigh nominated for a Grammy.

In 2003 the BBC produced a documentary about Richard’s career called Solitary Life which was narrated by John Peel, and after many more releases, Richard’s 2010 album, Dream attic was nominated for a Grammy. That same year he was awarded the Mojo Les Paul Award for ‘Guitar Legend,’ and was awarded the OBE the following year as well as a honorary doctorate by the University of Aberdeen. His 2014 album Family, features several family members, including his ex-wife Linda, and was produced by his son Teddy. In 2018 Richard Thompson released his eighteenth album, 13 Rivers. The J-45 copy of Buddy’s guitar with which Richard was presented carries the song title, Baby Won’t You Come Out Tonight.

Jools Holland