BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST (Oldham)

  • John Joseph Lees  - lead guitar, lead vocals 
  • Stuart John 'Woolly' Wolstenholme  - lead vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica, banjo, organ 
  • Melvyn Paul 'Mel' Pritchard - drums, percussion 
  • Richard Leslie 'Les' Holroyd - bass, cello, mellotron, organ, piano, vocals 


THE EARLY YEARS

The Barclay James Harvest story begins in the early sixties in the Oldham area of North-West England. John Lees and Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme met at Oldham Art School, and formed a band called The Sorcerers, which evolved into The Keepers.

 

 

Meanwhile Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard were playing in another local outfit rejoicing in the name of Heart And Soul And The Wickeds.

In 1966 a new band was formed from a fusion of the two and performed live shows on a semi-professional basis as The Blues Keepers. The resulting six-piece gradually dwindled to a stable quartet comprising Holroyd, Pritchard, Lees and Wolstenholme, and in the summer of 1967 they turned professional with a new name selected by putting names into a hat, and Barclay James Harvest was born.

Under the patronage of John Crowther, a local businessman and their first manager, they moved into an 18th Century farmhouse called Preston House to write and rehearse, and their spartan lifestyle was captured in a short documentary film made for Granada TV.

A one-off single deal was negotiated with EMI's Parlophone label, and "Early Morning" appeared in April 1968, attracting acclaim and the opportunity to record radio sessions for John Peel.

This in turn led to a contract with EMI as the band became one of the first signings to the legendary Harvest label, releasing "Brother Thrush" as their second single in June 1969.

From the very beginning , BJH experimented with new forms, going beyond the traditional guitar, bass and drums format to include woodwind, strings and brass, then acquiring a Mellotron to simulate the sound of an orchestra. It was a logical step, then, to record their debut album, Barclay James Harvest, with their own orchestra led by "Resident Musical Director" Robert Godfrey, later of The Enid, and to back the release of the album in June 1970 with a short orchestral tour. 1971 saw them perfecting their fusion of rock and classical music with the seminal albums Once Again and Barclay James Harvest And Other Short Stories and ambitious live performances which, while stunning their audiences, did nothing to impress the record company accountants!

Mounting debts and strained relations with EMI led to a couple of abortive efforts at commercial singles and a slightly below-par 1972 album, Baby James Harvest, which led to a parting with the Harvest label in 1973.

Fortunately the crisis which threatened to finish the band was averted when they were signed up by Polydor and began to enjoy greater commercial success. From then on, as Woolly put it, it was, "Fame, fortune - and age!"

Info courtesy: Keith & Monika Domone - International BJH Fan Club - BJH web site: www.bjharvest.co.uk