IAN TELFER - Born in Falkirk, a place he has revisited just once, on a wet Wednesday (and it was closed). Each male generation of his father's family either worked in a bank or went to sea, which might explain a few things if you believe in genetics as destiny. Grew up in Aberdeen, and in more egalitarian days, when such things were easier (hooray), was the first in his family to go to university, studying Lang'n'Lit at Aberdeen, which he loved, and Kent at Canterbury, which he did not. Flunked out of an attempted doctorate (the words "George Meredith" can still bring him out in hives) and dossed around as waiter, bartender, overeducated skinhead until "Music saved my life" Was the fiddler in artfolk band Fiddler's Dram (with Alan and others) until their attempt at a career was blown by a huge novelty-hit single, "Day Trip To Bangor" - the kind of success you don't easily recover from. Fiddler's Dram did one more tour then gratefully took the money (and the gold discs) and ran, in Ian's and Alan's case into what was then an aspiring dance outfit, The Oyster Ceilidh Band......
Writes much of the band's output of lyrics, generally in consultation with John. Has been banned, er, democratically outvoted by other Oysters from playing sax on stage. Presently lives in a Cypriot/Kurdish village in north London, where his immediate neighbours are Jamaican, Pakistani, Somali, Greek Cypriot, Chinese and South American, and he likes it very much, thanks, apart from the din of police helicopters. Recently bought a Turkish dictionary to try to keep up with the political grafitti. Currently into: Morocco; the poems of Elizabeth Bishop and of Martin Espada; and the novels of Ian Rankin and of Orhan Pamuk; though only one of these might have an influence on future song-writing.
CHOPPER - Scottish mum, English dad, Irish ancestral connections. Grew up in Surrey, Hampshire, Lancashire. I was about 13 when I first heard someone strumming an acoustic guitar. I remember being rooted to the spot in amazement, so I went home and borrowed my sister's neglected Christmas present, complete with Play Guitar In Only Three Days instruction book, and immediately had a purpose in life. I started on the bass guitar a year later, for the traditional reason that I had two friends who played drums and lead guitar, and they said if I played bass I could be in their band.....which sounded like the most exciting thing in the world. School bands, then art-school bands. Early influences: blues, English folk-rock, American psychedelia and country rock, Velvets, Iggy Pop, then we were suddenly playing punk without knowing it.
Dropped out of Brighton art college, joined an arty punk band called Amazorblades, went pro, didn't eat much for the next few years. Bought a cello 'cos I wanted an acoustic kind of bass to play in case the power failed. Met a drummer called Lee (yes, this one); we flirted with pop, got pissed off with pop, discovered African music, found a band called OK Jive, were the darlings of the music press for about 5 minutes. I left under acrimonious circumstances to join some old pals in the fridge and watermelon business who later became known as 3 Mustaphas 3. For a while my identity became strangely confused with that of Oussack Mustapha, Nightingale of Szegerely. Simultaneously tried to be a singer in my own band, which became reasonably unsuccessful. I also appeared on various singles and sessions....and all this before I met Oysterband in 1988
ALAN PROSSER - Upbringing: totally normal, except for driving parents and siblings demento with whistles, recorders, banging on the piano, etc. They did not deserve this. Early groups (savour the period charm of some of these names): The Clee Three; Madame John; Cuspidor; Beggar's Description; Fiddler's Dram.........also a stint with Albion Band. Instruments tried: guitars, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bowed psaltery, bones, bandura, various guitar synths, sitar, drums (failed), trumpet (failed failed), banjo-mandolin (eeyuk)...... Alan says: "I dropped out of Kent University to become a medieval minstrel and pizza chef, though not usually at the same time. Invented the banana-flavoured bolognese sauce for spaghetti, which remains a signature dish in the sense that no one else on the planet will touch it with a bargepole. Got heavily into the guitar; in fact got so far into the guitar that once when Ian was wittering about recent events I had to say: "General election? What general election?" - which I have not been allowed to forget. Found myself in The Oyster Ceilidh Band and the rest you know. Married Jane Elder in 1988, one son Harry born September '93. Made a solo album, Hall Place, in '97 with Alaric Neville producing." Harry says: "He's a real pest and he talks about spanking me a lot and he's quite a gruesome cooker. But he's a good tickler"
LEE - Born February 22nd, 1954 at Romford, Essex. Early years spent cursing my parents for naming me Valentine Lee, then bringing me up on one of the rougher council estates in England. Learnt to fight and to call myself Lee. I managed to live in Herefordshire, Northamptonshire and Sussex before settling in Finchley for my teenage years. I was a goody-two-shoes at school, the one everyone would copy their homework off. Form Captain and prospective Head Boy...........then I discovered Frank Zappa, Jean-Paul Sartre and hedonism, grew my hair (I could just about sit on it), expanded my mind and saved up to go to San Francisco.
One night at a party we were told there were instruments set up in the basement. I was the last one in the room so ended up on the drum kit, where I exhibited stunning natural ability and that was that. I joined a band. Fed up with school, I left without telling my parents and pretended to go to college for a year. This was the era of Pub Rock in London: The Hope and Anchor, The Kensington, Newlands, The Rochester Castle and many more. Eked out a living for a few years, then, on a whim, joined a fringe theatre group called Incubus. Somehow obtained an Equity card, saw the world, appeared naked on stage (apart from my shoes and socks) and had a whale of a time.
Then I met Chopper and my life has never been the same since. Every few years he 'phones me up and persuades me to do something unlikely or unusual or just plain stupid. Been in three different bands with him now. First one was The Decoys, Power Pop (you should see the publicity pics), Island Music, millionaire record-producer, reasonable songs for what they were, but a singer with a lisp. He's made a mint selling real estate in California. (Hi Dave) Debut release was a double album that never made the shops. Then OK Jive. Big CBS record deal. Hyperama. African Pop. Radio One. Bright clothes and ribbons. A few personal problems in the band..... Hyperactive songwriter, immature singer, drug-addicted guitarist (it's all true - so sue me). All went horribly wrong. The manager should never have shagged the singer, who was married to the tour manager.......
Met up with Kirsty MacColl at this point, made an album and various singles and appeared on Top of the Pops. Had a bit of my 15mins then joined Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart. Now he really was a head case, but he knew how to hold a bass guitar. Had 10 years of fun and adventure in one year and escaped with my life and sanity. Just. Somewhere around this time I had started to study tai chi. I decided to dedicate my life to it and become a master. I sold my drums, gave up everything not prescribed in the manual and got down and got spiritual. Or so I thought.
Years passed. I practised long and hard, went and studied with a master, began teaching and immersed myself. Years passed. I married and had a child. Years passed.
Then Chopper 'phoned up.
JOHN JONES - Born in Aberystwyth, Wales, and brought up in Meltham, Yorks. Dad rarely spoke Welsh, maybe because they called him Taffy, which he hated. Mum's family came from Castleford and had a coal-mining background. Parents were Labour supporters, grandparents were Communists, so there was no shortage of political argument in the house. My grandad, Edward Longley ("Red Ted"), was the greatest influence on my life when young. From him I got radical politics, the sense of injustice, al love of nature, a love of lurchers, hatred of the Tory way of mind, the sense of history, and a short temper.
Went to grammar school, when my brother and sister went to secondary moderns; was made aware of what selection in schools does to people. Survived school thanks to good teachers and was the first of my family to get to university. After football, music was my big love, particularly Northern Soul. Became the first mod in Meltham. Learned piano, thankfully.
Went to Exeter University: a revelation, it was so middle-class. Took Politics and Sociology (people did in those days). Fell in love with British traditional music and all things English - learned melodeon, morris-danced, wore collarless shirts, and generally tried my best to become an old man before my time. Arrived in Canterbury, Kent, via London, and met afro-haired, bespectacled guitarist and severe short-haired Scottish fiddle-player (among many others in a truly amazing local music scene). Was an English teacher for some time and became a year-head in Canterbury's only comprehensive school. I was a lazy teacher but a good year-head - I think.
Helped form Oyster Ceilidh Band, which in its prime was the best ceilidh band, anywhere, ever. Took on the role of singer, went full-time into music, never looked back. Now I live on the Welsh border and am struggling to learn Welsh.