Judy Dyble

Velvet To AtoneMorning Way
StarcrazyEnchanted Garden
Road To SomewhereThe Whorl
JazzbirdsTalking With Strangers
Talking With StrangersTalking With Strangers
Black Dog DreamsFlow And Change
FeatherdancingFlow And Change
CrowbabyLive At WM Jazz
Sisterhood Of RuralistsLive At WM Jazz

Judy Dyble photo 1

Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention 1968)



Judy Dyble playlist


Judy Dyble photo 3

Jackie McAuley, Judy Dyble (Trader Horne)


Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

This may be a unique Toppermost in that Judy Dyble has read this in advance of me submitting it to the editor.

Before there was Sandy Denny, there was Judy Dyble, and before there was Fairport Convention, there was Judy and the Folkmen. After Fairport Convention, there was Giles, Giles and Fripp (which became King Crimson), Trader Horne, and so, so much more.

Judy is the possessor of a beautiful, true and mesmerising voice that should be celebrated daily; a national treasure surely. I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting her after a gig a few years ago and turned into an inarticulate, star-struck, gibbering wreck. The gig was at the O2 – yes Judy Dyble has played at the O2 – in an atmospheric jazz club beneath an oriental restaurant called the Water Margin, more of which later.

Judith Aileen Dyble was born in London in February 1949, her first band (between 1964 and 1966) was Judy and the Folkmen who recorded some home-made demos. In November 1966, she sang in the various bands put together by Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol with their rotating memberships and various musical styles. In 1967, the line-up of the band settled, as did the name – Fairport Convention. Judy sang on the first, eponymous album, sharing vocal duties with Ian Matthews. That first album is interesting for its cover versions of American songwriters, including, the as yet hardly known in the UK, Joni Mitchell. It is a Joni song on that album that I commend. The vocal on I Don’t Know Where I Stand is as pure and beautiful as any I’ve heard from that era. The story is that Ashley Hutchings was introduced to Judy as a possible singer with his band. She said she didn’t rate Eric Clapton; Hutchings apparently replied ‘Really? You’re mad’ but she got the gig anyway. You’ll need to read her book to find out why.

My selections commence with a track from the very fine album Morning Way recorded by Judy Dyble with former Them keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Jackie McAuley as Trader Horne (the band were named after John Peel’s nanny, Florence Horne, nicknamed “Trader” a reference to the explorer Alfred Aloysius “Trader” Horn). I could have chosen any of the tracks but settled on a song Judy wrote with Martin Quittenton, Velvet To Atone with its piano motif and the lyric melding together perfectly. Between the tracks on the album are short instrumental inserts, different on each side.

Judy married DJ Simon Stable (Count Simon de la Bedoyere) and in 1973 left the music business to work with him and raise a family. Following her husband’s death in 1994, Judy retreated further until being coaxed out of retirement to join Fairport Convention on stage at the Cropredy 30th anniversary reunion in 1997, and again in 2002 and 2007. 2017 will see the 50th anniversary of the band and the hope from this fan is that Judy will play a full set of her own material and also appear with Fairport Convention for a very special Saturday night closing set.

Judy Dyble resumed recording in 2004 with the wonderful, evocative Enchanted Garden from which Starcrazy is a stand out song. In my opinion, it has echoes of the theme music to the TV series “A Touch of Frost” but Judy’s voice is as pure as it ever was, her diction is still perfect and you are left thinking what might have been. Spindle followed in February 2006 and The Whorl later that year.

From Spindle I’ve selected Honeysweet and from The Whorl, Road To Somewhere. These two albums were limited releases with almost no distribution but with judicious searching they can be found on CD and to download. Another Cropredy appearance in 2007 reunited as close to the original Fairport Convention line-up as was possible and in March 2008 Judy Dyble spent three weeks in the official UK indie charts lending vocals to The Conspirators version of Fairport’s One Sure Thing.

Talking With Strangers was released in August 2009 with its centrepiece the 20 minute Harpsong. I’ve chosen two shorter songs from this collection: Jazzbirds with a complex musical arrangement and a simple lyric, and Talking With Strangers which, in a way, is the opposite. Both lovely songs.

Flow And Change is another fine collection and it was difficult to choose only two songs to fill the spaces I had reserved. Black Dog Dreams with its harsh guitar opening seems to deal with depression, if I’ve interpreted the lyric correctly. Featherdancing looks back to Judy’s childhood and is a completely delightful song. It describes Judy and her two sisters dancing together as young children do – with all the fun, delicacy and delight of the period. Readers of my posts will know that I like ‘smile songs’ and this is a perfect one.

As mentioned at the top of this post, I was lucky enough to see Judy Dyble play live in 2013 at the WM Jazz Club in the 02. I had the opportunity to speak to her and became a tongue-tied babbling jelly so said nothing of any meaning – sadly! I hope this essay makes up for that moment of nonsense.

My final selections are from the CD released from the recordings made that night. Crowbaby appeared on Flow And Change and is one of the most beautiful songs I own – and there are in excess of 40,000 of them! On the one hand, the lyric and the fiddle bring a lump to my throat, but on the other I am reminded of a very silly joke:

Q: What do you call two crows on a park bench?
A: Attempted murder!

The last selection is Sisterhood Of Ruralists and again, originates from Flow And Change, something that wasn’t done deliberately. This is another fine song and it also closes the set and the album. It seemed a fitting last track.





Judy Dyble photo 2

In 2015, Judy Dyble issued Gathering The Threads, a 3CD anthology of her career. The first disc of this triptych is released as a deluxe vinyl compilation of her earlier work, Anthology – Part One, 15 rare tracks, limited to 1000 copies.


“An Accidental Musician: The Autobiography Of Judy Dyble” was published this year by Soundcheck Books.

Judy Dyble An Accidental Musician



Judy Dyble (1949-2020)

“It is with great sadness that we announce that English singer-songwriter Judy Dyble passed away on 12th July 2020 following a long illness borne with great courage. She was one of the pioneers of the English folk rock scene in the 1960s, most notably as a founding member of Fairport Convention and vocalist with cult band Trader Horne.” (extracted from a statement from Judy’s agent)


Judy Dyble official website

Judy Dyble facebook

Judy Dyble recalls her Fairport years

Judy Dyble talks about recording with The Incredible String Band

Andrew Darlington interviews Judy Dyble and reviews her recent 3CD anthology, “Gathering The Threads: 50 Years Of Stuff” for International Times online (May 2015)

Fairport Convention on Toppermost

Judy Dyble biography (Apple Music)

TopperPost #537


  1. Dave Stephens
    Jul 20, 2016

    Many thanks for this Toppermost Ian. It was evidently a labour of love. I’m particularly pleased that you made some positive noises about Fairport’s first album which rarely gets much of a mention in features on the band. I’m well aware that “cover versions of American songwriters” (your words) sounds far less interesting than “creators of British folk rock” (most people’s words) but those covers on the first were a lot more than covers; they were fully blown interpretations with a lot of input from the various band members. The version of “One Sure Thing”, a highly obscure song, should get in any short list of Brit Psych Classics. It’s that good. And Judy sets the tone superbly before Richard blasts off into the stratosphere. Sorry, Conspirators, you don’t get close to the Fairport version even though it was a good try.

    • Ian Ashleigh
      Jul 26, 2016

      Thanks Dave, I rate that first Fairport Convention album alongside Leige and Leif because it was equally groundbreaking in its own way as you so rightly observe. And I will argue that Richard is every bit as good a guitarist as Jimi Hendrix (with whom he jammed at UFO), Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck et al, if not better! I wanted 9 of Judy’s new songs and a Trader Horne song which is why I mentioned it but didn’t include a song from FC’s first album. And I recommend Judy’s book, it is a wonderful history of growing up in the 1950s, the music scene of the 1960s and how it is so different in the 21st Century. I think I read it from cover to cover with a smile on my face.

      • Dave Stephens
        Jul 26, 2016

        You’re making all the right noises Ian

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