Magna Carta are renowned for their gentle ballad style and mythical subject matter. Although never purely a folk band, they managed to successfully bridge the gap between folk and folk-rock. The band was originally formed in London in May 1969 by Chris Simpson (b. 13 July 1942, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England; guitar/vocals), Lyell Tranter (b. Australia; guitar/vocals), with Glen Stuart (vocals) added to the line-up shortly afterwards. The trio released albums for Fontana Records and Vertigo Records, enjoying particular success with 1970's Seasons before Tranter returned to Australia. Davey Johnstone (guitar/vocals) joined the line-up as his replacement, recording Songs From Wasties Orchard and In Concert with the band before leaving to work with Elton John and Kiki Dee.

Simpson and Stuart were then joined by Stan Gordon (guitar), recording and releasing the much-lauded Lord Of The Ages (texts from this album and Seasons were used as part of the English syllabus in several European countries). Graham Smith (bass), who had played on the sessions for Lord Of The Ages, was also added to the line-up but shortly afterwards both he and Gordon left. There followed a period of much change and upheaval as Simpson and Stuart added a new rhythm section, but Glen Stuart did not feel comfortable with the new direction. This short-lived set-up soon gave way to Simpson and Stuart being joined by Tommy Hoy.

5 February 1950, Glasgow, Scotland; guitar, vocals, ex-Natural Acoustic Band), before Stuart left to run a pet shop in Richmond, Surrey. Nigel Smith (bass) joined in time to help record 1976's Putting It Back Together. In 1977 Hoy's former bandmate in the Natural Acoustic Band, Robin Thyne (b. 1 November 1950, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), joined the band, along with Lee Abbott (b. 21 January 1950, Gravesend, Kent, England; fretless bass, vocals). Soon afterwards, Pick Withers (drums) was added. Withers stayed only briefly, leaving to join Dire Straits. Amid much acrimony Thyne and Hoy left in 1979 to form Nova Karta. Tom McConville.

6 November 1950, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England; fiddle) appeared on the Live In Bergen release, before the line-up changed again to include Al Fenn (b. Alastair Fenn, 9 March 1947, Chingford, Essex, England; guitar, vocals), and George Norris (b. 30 December 1945, Cowes, Isle Of Wight, England; guitar/vocals). Between 1980 and 1982, Doug Morter (guitar) was added to the line-up, together with a variety of drummers, including Paul Burgess (b. 28 September 1950, Stockport, Cheshire, England). The 1981 release, Midnight Blue, contained "Highway To Spain", a popular track on radio station playlists around the world. Norris, Burgess and Morter all left, the latter moving on to the Albion Band.

Chris Simpson's solo release, Listen To The Man, came out during this period and featured backing from Abbott, Linda Taylor (b. 28 June 1953, Halifax, West Yorkshire, England; guitar/vocals), and Willie Jackson (b. 18 February 1954, York, England; guitar). Between 1984 and 1986, Simpson and Taylor went to the Middle East to run a music club, before returning home to re-form Magna Carta. By 1986 the extremely fluid line-up now included, in addition to Simpson, Taylor and Abbott, Gwyn Jones (keyboards), John Carey (fiddle), Paul Burgess (drums), and Simon Carlton (lead guitar). In 1988, One To One was released on the Tembo label.

Jones left the band the same year. In 1990, Simpson and Taylor married, and, with the semi-retirement of Lee Abbott, they continued to play as Magna Carta as a duo, as well as with a larger line-up for extensive touring. The 1992 Dutch release, Heartlands, was followed by a sell-out tour of Holland. The duo has continued to maintain a busy live schedule, and over the years have toured over 150 different countries. Several live albums appeared over the course of the decade, in addition to the reissue of the band's 70s albums on CD, but no new recordings were forthcoming until 2001's Seasons In The Tide.

Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989 - 2005