Harrogate musician on Elton John book's 'error' about his band

One of Harrogate’s greatest ever songwriters, whose band features in Elton John’s new autobiography, is celebrating half a century in music with a special concert in Ripley.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 4:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th November 2019, 4:13 pm
Final show? Harrogate songwriter and musician Chris Simpson whose legendary folk prog band Magna Carta have sold nine million albums across their 50 year career.

Chris Simpson will be making a musical journey through 50 years of prog folk with his the bestselling band Magna Carta at Ripley Town Hall in the first month of the New Year.

In the band’s late 60s to mid-70s heyday, Simpson became accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the likes of other famous faces of the day - David Bowie, George Harrison, The Incredible String Band, Herb Alpert.

Which is why, he says, part of Elton John’s current bestselling book Me referencing Magna Carta doesn’t quite fit with his own memories of the time when both artists shared the same producer – the late, great Gus Dudgeon.

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Chris said: “Our guitarist at the time was Davey Johnstone, a stunning guitarist and all-round musician who was on our Seasons album and also Songs From Wasties Orchard.

“Around the same time he was hired to play a couple of things on Elton’s Madman Across the Water album.

“Afterwards, Elton’s book has him asking Gus if it was a good idea to ask Davey to join his band full-time.

“Gus is reported as saying “maybe not, he only plays acoustic guitar.”

“That’s not right. Gus knew at the time that Davey could play anything.

“He even played sitar when Magna Carta had their own show at the Royal Albert Hall in 1971 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.”

That fateful phone call from Davey Johnstone to Chris to tell him he was leaving Magna Carta to join Elton John took place on November 30, 1971.

A lot of time has passed since then and many classic songs have flowed from Chris’s songwriting pen.

Despite having no manager in the UK since the mid-1970s, Magna Carta have endured and can boast total album sales of nine million.

Chris has turned his hand to fiction writing. The Visitor is an evergreen tale of farming life and the supernatural which has proven a popular favourite in the festive season.

This evocative tale of wonder is set in the Yorkshire hills he trod as a small boy.

The man who grew up in Hampsthwaite has travelled the world but never really said goodbye to the Dales.

Will the Magna Carta 50th anniversary gig at Ripley Town Hall on Saturday, January 25 be his final farewell?

With an ace line-up set to accompany Chris Simpson in a venue he first set foot in as a small boy before the days of Elvis, fans of this legendary band will surely be hoping the answer is ‘no’.

Tickets for Magna Carta: 50 Years at Ripley Town Hall are available now from ripley.live online or by calling 01423 860340.