The Incredible String Band

ISB circa 1966

Clive, Robin, and Mike – The Incredible String Band


The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
The Incredible String Band were an inspiration and a sign.” So wrote Robert Plant in his programme notes for Led Zeppelin’s 1979 tour. A surprising assertion, on the face of it: the bluster and bombast of Zep’s stadium rock would seem to have little in common with the delicate pastoral whimsy of vintage-period ISB. But Zep had their quieter, acoustic moments, as well as a keen interest in Eastern drone-based modes and subject matter that drew on myth, magic, and the rhythms of the natural world; all of this is directly traceable to the influence of the ISB.
Nor were Page and Plant alone in this. The Beatles checked the ISB out whenever they played in London in the late ’60s; the Stones tried to recruit them to their abortive Mother Earth label. Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan and Donovan were also keen students of the unique musical vision of ISB main men Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. Even Bob Dylan spoke of them approvingly, if with typical terseness: “Quite good,” he mumbled into a Sing Out! reporter’s microphone.’

The Incredible String Band were a Scottish Band that formed in 1965. They played at Woodstock festival and produced hippy influenced folk albums until 1974 though reforming twice years on.

Robin Williamson:

Wheels Of Fortune with John Renbourn

Ye Banks and Braes by Robert Burns and sung by Robin Williamson

Years back, I attended a bardic evening with Robin Williamson who sang, played, and recited Scottish and Irish lore for a small but appreciate audience in Eugene. It was the first time I’d ever heard anything like it and was amazed by the presence of the bard.

Robin [raised in Edinburgh], is a “Scottish multi-instrumentalist musician, singer, songwriter and storyteller, who first made his name as a founder member of The Incredible String Band. Between 1966 and 1974 the Incredible String Band, based around the duo of Williamson and Heron, released some 13 albums, becoming in the UK one of the most popular, best-loved and influential groups of the era. The group also included Williamson’s sometime girlfriend Licorice McKechnie.”

Clive Palmer: “Born in Edmonton, N London, Palmer first went on stage at the age of 8, and took bango lessons from the age of 10. Around 1957 he began playing with jazz bands in Soho. He began busking In Paris in 1959–60, before moving to Edinburgh in late 1962. By now a virtuoso banjo player, he teamed up as a duo with singer and guitarist Robin Williamson in 1963, playing traditional and bluegrass songs. Billed as Robin and Clive they played in Scotland in 1964 [St Andrews Folk Club] and further gigs with ISB including Dundee Folk Club 30 March ’66 besides Glasgow and again in Dundee later in the year as ISB.

Mike Heron:

Heron was born in Edinburgh and attended Edinburgh University before leaving to start training as an accountant. He played in R&B and pop bands in Edinburgh, including The Saracens, and in late 1965 successfully auditioned to join a new trio, The Incredible String Band with Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer.  Heron has said that “It was an exploring era in the Sixties and people were rebelling from the boring pop stuff into folk and blues and world music. You couldn’t sit down and listen to Buddy Holly and pass the joint around. So we tried to make the kind of music we felt was missing from our lives, that fitted with the hippy lifestyle.”

ISB:  They became the Incredible String Band in 1965 when they decided to develop their sound and their own writing talents, and added a third member, Clive Palmer. In the early days of the band, they supported Tom Paxton and Judy Collins at Albert Hall, London, Free Trade Hall, Manchester, Ulster Hall, Befast, and Birmingham Town Hall on a November 1966 tour and did a 1967 gig with the Pink Floyd and two other groups at “Sunday at the Saville Theatre.

“Together they broke from the folk club beginnings they shared with other emerging artists such as Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Davey Graham and Billy Connolly to pioneer an eclectic “world music” approach.”




My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. Growing up a few miles from San Francisco, I would frequent the active music scene on weekends besides being a fan of British BEAT music and never missing Shindig! on television. When first visiting the small community of Elgin in 2007, I was surprise to learn how the Beatles and many other vocalist and musicians came to perform during the early days of their careers. In the early 1950s, Albert Bonici began promoting dances though it had been an ambition since his teenage years. When he and Henry Robertson co-organized a string of jazz dances in the north Scotland, they could not have predicted the enormous success of the venture. Albert Bonici became one of the most respected promoters in the UK having arranged a high volumn of music venues throughout the north of Scotland which delighted music lovers during the height of the jazz and beat music era. Whilst known for booking the Beatles at the beginning of their 1963 tours, Albert Bonici brought most of the top British acts to north-east Scotland besides working with Scottish musicians to boost their careers. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and also a tribute to a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Albert A Bonici hosted many up and coming bands who went on to gain international acclaim for their contributions. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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