May 12, 1969 – Martin Francis Lamble was born on 28 August 1949, in St John’s Wood, northwest London. The eldest of three brothers, Martin was educated at Priestmead primary school, Kenton, and later at UCS, Hampstead.
He was the drummer for British electric folk band, Fairport Convention, from just after their formation in 1967, until his death in the Fairport Convention van crash in 1969. He joined the band after attending their first gig and convincing them that he could do a better job than their current drummer, Shaun Frater.
Britain’s answer to The Band, in many ways, Fairport Convention experimented with the fusion of traditional English folk music and rock and roll, just as bands in the U.S. were rushing to blend rock with country and folk.
While never as well-known as their North American contemporaries like The Band, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, Fairport Convention were massively influential, not least for launching guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson.
Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol started it all in London 1966 as the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra. When guitar prodigy Thompson joined in 1967, they became Fairport Convention and added drummer Martin Lamble and a female singer Judy Dyble. Signed by producer Joe Boyd to Polydor, they added another singer, Iain Matthews and issued their self-titled debut album and were quickly dubbed the “British Jefferson Airplane.”
After Dyble was replaced by Sandy Denny, the band put out two critically adored albums, What We Did On Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking. The future looked bright indeed.
Then, one night, after a gig at Mothers in Birmingham, most of Fairport were travelling back south in a van when they crashed on the M1 motorway. It would prove a tragic and devastating accident that would change the band forever.
Lamble played on the band’s first three albums, the self titled ‘Fairport Convention’, ‘What We Did on Our Holidays‘ and ‘Unhalfbricking’ but shortly after recording Unhalfbricking on 12 May 1969, Fairport’s van crashed on the M1 motorway, near Scratchwood Services, on the way home from a gig at Mothers. Lamble and famed groupie Blue Jean Baby Jeannie Franklyn, guitarist Richard Johnson’s girlfriend, was dead by the time the ambulance arrived. At the hospital, they weren’t able to bring Martin Lamble back to life.
Lamble was only 18 years old when he died and already tipped by many who’d seen him as a future great with the sticks. Nicol says: “He would have gone on to have been so much more than just another drummer, another musician: there was something very special about him.”
He also played on Al Stewart’s album Love Chronicles, released in September 1969.
Eventually tFairport Convention did recuperate enough to record their classic Liege & Lief album that reached #17 on the U.K. album chart. But soon the band’s co-founder Hutchings would leave to pursue his growing interest in traditional music. It was something Nicol feels was caused in part by the accident and death of Lamble.