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Judy Dyble With Dave Thompson - An Accidental Musician Book Review

The elusive singer’s memoir is well worth Liefing through.

Judy Dyble cover art for her autobiography An Accidental Musician

The girl they called ‘Judy Dribble’ in school writes a fun ‘Afore-Foreword’ in her warm, revealing and clear-eyed autobiography: “This is a book of my memories and recollections of times and occurrences over more than 60 years of living […] full of bumblingsabout and forgoodnessakeses […]. If you think there are mistakes, then there probably are.”

Therein lies the tone of this cosy fireside chat of a book, as the singer recalls her youth in post-war London with an Alan Bennett-like eye for detail. As music weaves its spell, she buys her first autoharp with money from her desk job at the GLC and starts frequenting folk clubs. She meets “a tall and distinctive-looking man called Ashley Hutchings” and “delightful lanky sixth former” Richard Thompson, and falls into the fledgling Fairport Convention, later knitting in the wings of the Speakeasy stage as Jimi Hendrix jams with the band.

With anecdotal ease, Dyble sets Fairport and all the bands she’s touched in meaningful historical context, giving us
a telling snapshot in time, and her quotidian detail on touring and gigging is vividly authentic (the B&Bs, the fog-delayed flights, the mind-numbing routine). Her first meeting with proto-Crimsonites Giles, Giles And Fripp is dated to June 7 1968 (she called Fripp ‘Bob’ back then); John Peel casually christens her duo with Jackie McAuley as Trader Horne, and later – after a 35-year hiatus – Tim Bowness, Markus Reuter and even Prog’s own Sid Smith crop up.

Peopled by colourful characters in places that have since become legendary this highly personal tale recounts events humdrum, tragic and magical, and comes up to Enchanted Garden and her new cycle of albums in the digital age, and the Trader Horne reunion at Bush Hall last year. She’s been on the periphery of greatness often, yet there’s not an iota of bitterness within these pages. Just love, thankfulness and those bumblings about. Do read it.

Grant Moon is the News Editor for Prog and has been a contributor to the magazine since its launch in 2009. A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.