Talking To Jerry Donahue About Fotheringay

Originally recorded before the Fotheringay tour, this interview seems to have been cursed with delays so particular apologies to Jerry Donahue. It is up well before the December tour so please check the band's site for details of dates etc.

Jerry, Jirst of all thank you for the opportunity to talk about Fotheringay, it's really appreciated.
When you first stepped onto the Fotheringay ride, how quickly did you realise that it was going to be one heck of a rollercoaster?
#JD Pretty much from the very first gig. It was quite evident how popular Sandy was and the new band was fairly readily accepted, as well. Our approach was quite different from Fairports and people soon embraced that difference.

Carrying the analogy through, what would you say were the greatest highs and deepest troughs with the original band.
#JD Fotheringay was the nearest thing to a family to me - I believe to all of us. It was a joy playing the wonderful music together and I enjoyed just about everything we did together, whether it was recording, playing live or socialising on days off. The only downside was our management who was against Sandy starting another band after Fairport, rather than to go solo at that point in time. Where Fairport owed a great deal of their early success to the management, Fotheringay became successful in spite of it, we all felt.

When the first phase of the band came to an end with just the single album to their credit did you realise how much of a legacy and an impact you were leaving behind? Especially with the danger, and I don't mean this in a disparaging way, of the band being viewed as a transition between Sandy Denny's Fairport career and her solo one.
#JD No I didn't realise anything of the sort - we were all just shattered that Sandy was persuaded (with unfulfilled promises) to go solo, as there would have been no reason to try to continue without her. Despite the danger of Fotheringay being viewed as merely a transition between Fairports and Sandy's solo career, I believe that the years since have shown that not to be the case. On the contrary, Sandy was never more popular than she was fronting a band, whether Fairport or Fotheringay.
She won her first "best female vocalist of the year award" in Melody Maker off the back of her year or so with Fairport. Her second consecutive win followed the year she was in Fotheringay. Though she made some wonderful albums as a soloist since those days, she never had another win like that after Fotheringay. Her solo career was not embraced by her fans to the same degree and it was clearly on a slow but steady decline - largely the reason why she rejoined Fairport at the beginning of '74.

You were instrumental in driving through both the second album and the subsequent box set. Were you surprised at the reaction, particularly from younger fans who had never been in the position to have seen the original live?
#JD It took years of relentless efforts to finally gain access to the recordings intended for a second album, but shelved when the band was broken up. Universal weren't interested in releasing it (saw the band as a flash in the pan and who would even remember us after all those years?). For me it was not about that - just a book I couldn't close and to simply finish and mix it would serve to mitigate the regret I'd had (we all had - especially Sandy) that we couldn't be left alone to do what we loved and what the fans clearly had enjoyed so much.

And finally on the box set, it contains live footage of the band performing. How essential do you see that as part of the legacy?
#JD It took a lot of effort on the part of Universal/Island to persuade Radio Bremen to grant the rights for its use on the box set. I was told that the boxset would not have proceeded if those rights had not been granted. It was touch-and-go there for a good while!

What prompted the decision to take Fotheringay back on the road?
#JD The sudden increased interest via the box set and Mich Houghton's Sandy biography "I've Always Kept A Unicorn".

As a band you ultimately took the decision to have both Sally Barker and Kathryn Roberts taking over Sandy's vocal duties, how difficult was it to decide on who was going to do the roles and ultimately when did you feel that it needed two great singers, both bringing different vocal qualities?
#JD No matter how great a vocalist she may be, having just one would draw unfair comparisons to Sandy - no doubt about that. I suggested two to lessen that obvious tendency to do so and to make it clear that we are there not to try to replace Sandy, but to celebrate this particular chapter in Sandy's music that for the most part has lain dormant for far too long. The enthusiasm we received everywhere on the brief tour we just finished, clearly shows that we've done the right thing. I turned the responsibility, of who sings what, over to Kathryn and Sally, suggesting only that in cases where they both might wish to take the lead on the same song, that they split it. Actually they were drawn to different songs generally, and share vocals only on songs like Gypsy Davey and Banks of the Nile, where the lyrics yield a conversation between two people, in any case.

I guess in the attention given to Sandy and her replacements, it's easy to lose sight of the role Trevor Lucas played in the original line-up and tragically, he's no longer with us either. Again how easy was it to pick PJ (Wright) to step into those shoes?
#JD As great as we know that Trevor was, people tend not to be as 'precious' about him as they have been with Sandy. We just knew that PJ would fit the bill perfectly, and this side of Fotheringay has been met with open arms as well. It's what Sandy would have wanted, we're sure. I believe they both are with us somehow, - smiling in approval!

Whilst the tour hasn't quite started yet, though it will have done when most people read this, how difficult was it to start the rehearsals, playing the old songs with a different line-up, how much did you feel the spirits of Sandy and Trevor in the room?
#JD Though we all worked dilligently to get everything right, the process of rehearsing was not difficult at all. We just had to work out endings where there had been fade-outs on the recordings, and go through everything several times to get the arrangements locked into our minds. The success of the rehearsals served also to confirm that we'd chosen the right new members. Yes, we commented at the time that we could feel their presence in the room.

Are there any plans for a live release of this phase of Fotheringay? (Please elaborate on the answer either way).
#JD Yes, we will be recording the set at The Grand in Clitheroe this December. The stage is wired to the recording studio they have on the lower level.

Neil King

For news and details of that and the other dates, please go to

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