Ian Campbell Folk Group

…a brief history

Formed by in 1956 in Birmingham, West Midlands as the Clarion Skiffle Group, changing their name in 1958, The Ian Campbell Folk Group (ICFG) went on to become among the most respected, influential, and prolific ballad groups of the British folk scene.

The Campbell Group's first recordings on the Topic label included the EPs, Ceilidh At The Crown and Songs of Protest, the former being the first ever live folk club recording to be released on vinyl, in 1962.

In 1963, the Ian Campbell Folk Group was signed to Transatlantic Records and released their first album, This is The Ian Campbell Folk Group. The group's many television appearances throughout the 60s included Hootenanny Show, Barn Dance and Hullabaloo. Concerts and packed houses followed at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in London. The Campbell Group performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, and in 1965 their version of Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" reached the UK Top 50.


1956-1958: The original Ian Campbell Folk Group consisted of Ian Campbell (b. 10 June 1933, Aberdeen, Scotland; d. November 24, 2012, guitar, vocals), his sister Lorna Campbell (b. 1939, Aberdeen, Scotland; vocals), Dave Phillips (guitar) and Gordon McCulloch (banjo). During the Ian Campbell Groups 22-year existence from 1956 to 1978, its line-up was ever evolving and becomes somewhat complicated.

1959: Gordon McCulloch departs and is replaced by John Dunkerley (b. 1942; d. 1977; banjo, guitar, accordion).

1960: Dave Swarbrick (b. 5 April 1941, New Malden, Surrey, England; fiddle, mandola) joins the group.

1963: Brian Clark (guitar, vocals) joins the group as Dave Phillips replacement. Clark becomes a long-term member, staying until 1978.

1966: Bass player Mansell Davies is added. Dave Swarbrick departs the line-up. George Watts (flute) joins and appears on two albums.

1968: Mansell Davies leaves the group and is replaced by Dave Pegg. George Watts also leaves the group.

1969: Andy Smith (d. 2007; banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle) is added to the group's line-up.

1971: Dave Pegg leaves the group — joining Fairport Convention. Andy Smith also departs. Mike Hadley (bass) joins.

1976: John Dunkerley is forced to leave the group due to ill health and died the following year from Hodgkinson's disease, aged 34.

1978: The group disbands, but still had bookings to fulfill and Ian and Lorna continued to perform through 1984. They enlisted a number of musicians, including: Aiden Ford (b. 1957; d. 2000; fiddle, guitar), Colin Tommis (b. 1960; guitar) and Neil Cox (b. 1957 d. 1996; guitar).

2012: Ian Campbell passes away on November 24 at the age of 79.

An update from Mike Hadley:
You are right that I joined the ICFG in 1971, but that was a few months after Dave Pegg had left. I did not leave the Group in 1974, but played every week at the Jug o' Punch Folk Club at Digbeth Civic Hall, where the ICFG were the residents, for many years beyond then. I also played as many of the Group bookings as I could, as a semi-pro, while trying to hold down a full time job. I well remember John Dunkerley becoming ill, and ultimately going to his funeral. After John was unable to play with the Group, a number of people helped out, particularly Andy Smith, who was the best 5 string banjo player I ever knew. When the Digbeth Civic Hall became too big for the audience we moved to a cellar in Albert Street, still in the city centre. Later, we became the residents at the Folk Club in Redditch, which is where Brian Clark and Lorna Campbell lived.

I was still playing with the Group when Brian Clark left, to take up a career outside the music field, and played with the two new recruits, Aiden Ford and Colin Tommis, who lived not far from me in North Birmingham. I left the Group at about the same time as Colin Tommis, who had played with the Group for 18 months, which I reckon was probably the summer of 1982. Later, the Group was joined by Neil Cox, but I am sure I never played in this line-up.