Remembering Judy Dyble

The British folk great, the first singer with Fairport Convention, makes her final departure

Judy Dyble (Art: Ron Hart)

For much of her career, singer Judy Dyble chose to dwell in the shadows.

Nevertheless, she played a significant role in the emergence of two key outfits, first, the nascent Fairport Convention and later, as part of the auspicious beginnings of King Crimson. Dyble, who died on July 12 after a lengthy bout with cancer, was a soft-spoken yet articulate artist whose devotion to both her music and to animal welfare made her a gentle soul and an individual who was extremely admired by both fans and fellow musicians.

While in her mid-teens and early twenties, Dyble pursued a promising singing career, first with an otherwise obscure outfit dubbed the Judy and the Folkmen, and later with the original incarnation of Fairport Convention, which then included guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol, bassist Ashley “Tyger” Hutchings, singer Ian Matthews and, briefly, drummer Shaun Frater, who was quickly replaced by the late Martin Lamble. Dyble remained with the band for two years, from 1967 to 1968, during which time she helped record the group’s self-titled debut album, a selection of songs that included both band originals and covers of songs by artists who had yet to receive wider recognition in Britain. Two of those tracks — Emitt Rhodes’ “Time Will Show the Wiser” and Joni Mitchell’s “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” —became essential parts of the group’s set list and continue to be performed frequently at Fairport’s annual reunions in the English countryside. Dyble herself made several appearances at those gigs over the years. Nevertheless, her brief stint with the band was quickly overshadowed by her successor, Sandy Denny, the singer that the band enlisted after Dyble’s departure.


AUDIO: Fairport Convention “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”

Having helped Fairport lay the groundwork for a British folk-rock fusion and after mingling with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, early Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band (with whom she guested on their iconic album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter), among other notables of that era, Dyble abruptly switched gears.  She joined forces with a decidedly eccentric outfit known as Giles, Giles and Fripp, a trio which eventually evolved into the early King Crimson. Dyble’s recordings were given a belated release under the name the Brondesbury Tapes and, though far from the progressive posture later pioneered by Crimson, the band did record a demo version of the group’s beautiful ballad “I Talk to the Wind,” which Dyble herself would later revive in her solo sets.

By 1969, Dyble returned to the folk world at the helm of Trader Horne, an outfit which also included a former member of Them with Van Morrison, Jackie McAuley. Trader Horne recorded only a single album, Morning Way, but its title track was written by Dyble as well as another song, “Velvet to Atone,” that was co-penned with future Rod Stewart sideman Martin Quittenton. Nevertheless, the group quickly disbanded, only to return for a one-off reunion in 2015.


AUDIO: Giles, Giles and Fripp The Brondesbury Tapes (1968)

Dyble famously retired from he music business in 1973, but reappeared early in the new millennium at the helm of a new band called The Conspirators. From that point on, she worked with an eclectic array of musicians in various genres while releasing a series of solo albums, the latest of which, Weavings Of A Silver Magic, was recorded live at St Barnabus Church in Cambridge, England. Judy guested on the Big Big Train LP Grimspound (2017) contributing vocals to “The Ivy Gate”. Her final recordings, Between a Breath and a Breath, is a collaboration between Judy and BBT’s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David Longdon and is due this September.

When news of her passing reached Fairport fellow founding member Simon Nicol, he issued a statement saying, “Judy was ever a childhood friend to me first and foremost, and now cancer has taken her after a long fight. But she’ll remain as I always saw her: kind and gentle, shy but hilarious, wistful but focussed. She surrounded herself with loveliness, loved her kids and grandchildren, and adored her rescued greyhounds. Farewell, lovely. x”

“Judy was a lovely spirit – there from the beginning,” current Fairport member Chris Leslie added. “It was always great when she came along to be part of the reunions celebrating past Fairport line ups across the years at Cropredy to touch base with those earliest days of the band… Love and respect. Chris X”

Indeed, all those that have come to cherish the revival of contemporary folk music in Britain and the world over the past half century owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. She will be missed. 


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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

One thought on “Remembering Judy Dyble

  • July 14, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    Her final recordings, specifically a guest appearance on an album titled Between a Breath and a Breath by the British prog band Big Big Train, is due this September.

    I think you may like to edit this and make some amendments. Judy guested on the Big Big Train LP ‘Grimspound’ (2017) contributing vocals to the song, ‘The Ivy Gate’. The LP ‘Between a Breath and a Breath is a collaboration between Judy and BBT’s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David Longdon. You are correct that it is due for release in September 2020. Various musicians from BBT are making contributions on the Dyble/Longdon LP so it is possible to be slightly confused about this. Hope this helps.


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