Wishbone Ash are a British rock band who achieved success in the early and mid-1970s. Their popular records included Wishbone Ash (1970), Pilgrimage (1971), Argus (1972), There's the Rub (1974), and New England (1976). They were one of the first bands to use twin lead guitars.
Wishbone Ash are considered to be one of the major innovators of the harmony twin lead guitar format. Their contributions helped Andy Powell and Ted Turner to be voted "Two of the Ten Most Important Guitarists in Rock History" (Traffic magazine 1989), and to appear in the "Top 20 Guitarists of All Time" (Rolling Stone). Melody Maker (1972) described Powell and Turner as "the most interesting two guitar team since the days when Beck and Page graced The Yardbirds".
Formed in Torquay, Devon, in 1969, out of the ashes of trio The Empty Vessels (originally known as The Torinoes, later briefly being renamed Tanglewood in 1969), which had been formed by Wishbone Ash's founding member Martin Turner (bass & vocals) in 1963 and complemented by Steve Upton (drums and percussion) in 1966. The original Wishbone Ash line-up was completed by guitarists/vocalists Andy Powell and Ted Turner. In 1974, Ted Turner left the band, and was replaced by Laurie Wisefield. The band continued on with strong critical and commercial success until 1980.
After revolving line-ups featuring former members from King Crimson - John Wetton, Trapeze, and Uriah Heep, Wisefield left in 1985. In 1987, however, the original line-up reunited for several albums - Nouveau Calls, Here to Hear and Strange Affair - until 1990, when Upton quit the band. After Martin Turner was replaced in 1991, the band recorded The Ash Live in Chicago, before Ted Turner left in 1993.
Formation and rise to fame (1969-1980):
Wishbone Ash were formed in October 1969 by bass guitarist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton. When Tanglewood's original guitarist, Martin's brother Glenn Turner left the trio and returned to his native Devon, their manager, Miles Copeland III advertised for a guitar player and also for a keyboard player. After an extensive search for a guitarist, the band could not decide between the final two candidates, Andy Powell and Ted Turner (no relation to Martin). It was suggested that they try both guitar players "just to see what it sounds like". Differing from the twin lead sound of The Allman Brothers Band, Wishbone Ash included strong elements of progressive rock, and also of folk and classical music. After the band members wrote several suggested band names on two sheets of paper, Martin Turner picked one word from each list - 'Wishbone' and 'Ash'.
In early 1970, the band scored an opening spot for Deep Purple. That band's guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, later recommended Wishbone Ash to producer Derek Lawrence, as well as helping them secure a record deal with Decca/MCA Records.
The band's eponymous debut album, Wishbone Ash, was released in December 1970. One year later, the group released Pilgrimage. The band peaked commercially in 1972 with Argus, their highest placed entry in the UK Albums Chart (#3). The album was voted by the readers of Sounds as the "best rock album of the year", also "Top British Album" (Melody Maker). The band were getting international acclaim for their live performances as they gained popularity around the world.
The band had now begun to play major arenas as headliners. Wishbone Four (1973) was the band's first record without producer Derek Lawrence, as the band decided to produce the album themselves. In December 1973, the band released a double live album, Live Dates. There was an album released called Wishbone Ash Live in Memphis, which was a promo to FM radio stations but never sold in stores . Not long after, guitarist Ted Turner left the band. After replacing Turner with guitarist Laurie Wisefield, the band relocated to the United States and recorded There's the Rub (1974).Locked In (1976), produced by Tom Dowd, saw the band moving towards US soft-rock territory and the group began touring with a keyboard player.
1976's New England returned to the traditional Wishbone Ash style. Front Page News (1977) was the band's final in USA recorded album of this period.
In 1978, after years of experimental albums, the band decided to return to its roots with No Smoke Without Fire, the first to be produced by Derek Lawrence since Argus in 1972. The album contained mainly songs written by Laurie Wisefield and Martin Turner. The band spent six months making the next album, Just Testing which was released in February 1980. Pressured by MCA to make more commercial music, Andy Powell, Laurie Wisefield and Steve Upton expressed to bassist/vocalist Martin Turner that they planned to recruit a lead singer / frontman, thus restricting Martin Turner's duties to bass guitar only.. Turner felt unable to support such plans and described the position he was being put in as "untenable". Following a band meeting at his house, Martin Turner parted company with the band. Ironically, the band never recruited the proposed frontman and Turner, in his 2012 autobiography, described the situation as "constructive dismissal".
Line-up instability (1981-1986):
Turner was replaced by bassist vocalist John Wetton, formerly of Family, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep and UK. Number the Brave was released in April 1981 and featured Wetton's lead vocals on just one song, although during album sessions he had offered songs such as "Here Comes the Feeling" that would eventually sell millions when released on Asia's 1982 debut album. Wetton did not continue with Wishbone Ash beyond the album sessions and rejoined Asia.
Wetton was replaced on the Number the Brave tour by the former Uriah Heep bassist Trevor Bolder. Also joining the band was female backing vocalist, Claire Hamill, who had sung on both the Just Testing and Number the Brave albums. In 1982, after Hamill's departure, the band experimented with heavy metal on the Twin Barrels Burning album. It became the highest charting Wishbone Ash album in years (UK #22).
Bolder left the group to rejoin Uriah Heep in 1983, to be replaced by bassist/vocalist Mervyn Spence (ex-Trapeze). The group continued with a heavy metal side on 1985's Raw to the Bone, which became the first Wishbone Ash album not to make the charts. Not long after, Wisefield left after serving as guitarist in the band for eleven years, going on to a varied career that would include work with Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Roger Chapman, Jeff Wayne and the Queen musical We Will Rock You. He was replaced by Jamie Crompton, who in turn was succeeded briefly by Phil Palmer. Early in 1986, Mervyn Spence quit as well, to be replaced by ex-Kinks bassist Andy Pyle.
Reunions and departures (1987-1994):
In 1987, I.R.S. Records founder and original Wishbone manager Miles Copeland III began a series of albums entitled No Speak, which featured all instrumental music. To launch the label successfully, Copeland needed a big name band that would bring publicity to the project. Copeland approached the four founding members of Wishbone Ash about having the original line-up record an all-instrumental album. For the first time in fourteen years, Andy Powell and Steve Upton joined forces with Martin Turner and Ted Turner to record the album Nouveau Calls, released in February 1988. The original line-up's tour of 1988 was a huge success, as the band played large venues for the first time since the late 1970s. In August 1989, the band released a reunion album with vocals entitled Here to Hear, featuring mainly songs written by Ted and Martin Turner.
In 1990 the band went back into the studio to record the follow-up to Here to Hear. The band were shocked when founding member Upton, the band's drummer for their entire career, announced his retirement from the music industry. They enlisted drummer Robbie France, but replaced him with Ray Weston when it was determined that personal conflicts between France and Martin Turner could not be resolved. Strange Affair was released in May 1991.
Later in 1991, the band decided to continue without founding member Martin Turner, with the bassist/vocalist being replaced by returnee Andy Pyle, who had been in the band years earlier. The band toured throughout 1992/93, releasing the live album The Ash Live in Chicago. 1994 saw the second and final departure of Ted Turner. Following Turner's departure, Pyle and Weston also left the band.
Reunion years to present (1995-present):
At this stage Andy Powell was the only original member left in Wishbone Ash. Powell enlisted guitarist/songwriter Roger Filgate, bassist/vocalist Tony Kishman, and drummer Mike Sturgis. The new line-up debuted on a short UK/European tour in spring 1995.
By the time of the band's 25th anniversary tour in late 1995, Tony Kishman was finding touring difficult due to other performing engagements in the United States. Founding member Martin Turner replaced him on bass and vocals for the duration of the tour, before Kishman returned to record lead vocals for the band's next album. Illuminations was released in 1996 and featured the Powell, Filgate, Kishman, Sturgis line-up. Powell relied on fan donations and outside assistance to help finance the album.
In 1997, Filgate, Kishman, and Sturgis departed, so Powell brought former drummer Weston back into the fold, along with new members guitarist Mark Birch and bassist Bob Skeat. Wishbone Ash then went on to release two electronic dance albums on UK indie label Invisible Hands Music. The albums contained electronic beats blended with Wishbone Ash guitar riffs. Trance Visionary was the first of the pair, spawning a 12" single of four mixes that was a clubland smash and reached number 38 on the UK dance chart. Psychic Terrorism followed.
The band then released an acoustic album of classic and new songs entitled Bare Bones before hitting the road in 2000 to celebrate their 30th anniversary. A filmed show was held at Shepherds Bush Empire in London, where the band welcomed special guests Wisefield and Hamill as well as other friends for a star-studded concert that resulted in Live Dates 3 and a live DVD.
In 2001, Mark Birch was replaced by guitarist Ben Granfelt. The band hit the road for their most extensive touring schedule in years. Wishbone Ash returned to the studio in 2002 for the Bona Fide album. 2003 saw the band touring across the world with Savoy Brown, playing their largest number of American dates since the 1980s.
Ben Granfelt left the band in 2004 to continue working on his solo career. Granfelt's mentor, Muddy Manninen, joined the band. In late 2006, the band released a new studio album entitled Clan Destiny. In 2007, longtime drummer Ray Weston left the band, stating that he was tired of constant touring and wanted to concentrate on different things. He was replaced by Joe Crabtree, known for his work with Pendragon and King Crimson violinist David Cross. In late 2007, the band released Power of Eternity; their first with new member Joe Crabtree.
On 25 November 2011 Wishbone Ash released their 23rd album, the well received Elegant Stealth, which is also the first album to be recorded by the same line up as the predecessor since 1989.
In 2013, a dispute about trade mark infringement and the use of the name "Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash" was decided in court.
On 19 February 2014 the 24th studio album Blue Horizon was released. As of 2014, the current line-up of the band, having been together since 2007, is the longest-lasting line-up of Wishbone Ash in the group's history.
After several years concentrating on production work, Martin Turner returned to regular touring in 2004 when he formed his own band under the name Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash. The use of the name was without the consent and against the wishes of Andy Powell.
Nevertheless, Martin Turner toured throughout the UK and Europe using the name "Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash" and has released four live albums 'New Live Dates Vol.1', 'New Live Dates Vol.2', 'Life Begins' (the latter also available on DVD), and 'Garden Party' all containing classic Wishbone Ash songs, as well as a re-recording of the original band's 1972 Argus album. Ted Turner has also made an occasional appearance with the band. However, they have so far failed to record any new material.
In July 2012 Martin Turner published his autobiography 'No Easy Road - My Life and Times With Wishbone Ash and Beyond'. The book chronicles Martin Turner's version of the classic Wishbone Ash years, as well as his personal journey, and contained contributions from former Wishbone Ash members Ted Turner (who also wrote the foreword to the book), Laurie Wisefield and Ray Weston, as well as other key figures in the story.
On 31 August 2012, the band held a Garden Party at Liscombe Park, Bedfordshire where they played a number of less frequently performed songs for an invited audience that included fans, music press, family and friends. The band were joined on stage by Ted Turner, Laurie Wisefield and Steve Upton, marking a re-union of 4 out of 5 members of the two classic line ups of Wishbone Ash.
In 2013 Martin Turner's use of the name "Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash" resulted in that name being challenged in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, London. The case of Andrew Powell V Martin Turner was heard and found in favour of Andrew Powell. Martin Turner attempted to appeal the decision but in February 2014 the courts refused him the right of appeal. It was accepted by the court that Martin Turner is not a current member of Wishbone Ash and that he is no longer allowed to use the name in a band title, although he is allowed to reference himself as one of the four founding original members of Wishbone Ash and to use the name as a description of the contents of his live show. He now performs as "Martin Turner" and his live performances are billed as "Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash', as permitted in the judgement.
In 2015 Martin Turner released the all-original studio album "Written in the Stars", under the banner "Martin Turner, founding original member of Wishbone Ash". The album has received mainly positive reviews with many fans stating that the album contains many of the hallmarks and qualities of the classic Wishbone Ash line-up's material.
Wishbone Ash have developed two group gatherings, AshCon in the UK and AshFest in the United States. These began in 1994 and have developed into gatherings of the 'faithful' and have since become annual fixtures.
Andy Powell - guitar, vocals (1969-present),
Bob Skeat - bass, vocals (1997-present),
Muddy Manninen - guitar, vocals (2004-present),
Joe Crabtree - drums (2007-present)