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Bellowhead on Wikipedia
Bellowhead.jpgBellowhead live at 2013 Celtic Connections
Background information
GenresEnglish folk, folk jazz, electric folk, progressive folk, Folk Rock
Years active2004 (2004)–2016 (2016)
LabelsIsland, Navigator, Westpark
Associated actsSpiers and Boden, Belshazzar's Feast, Hannah and Sam
Past membersJohn Spiers, Jon Boden, Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin, Rachael McShane, Ed Neuhauser, Pete Flood, Andy Mellon, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Sam Sweeney, Giles Lewin, Gideon Juckes

Bellowhead was an English contemporary folk band, active from 2004 to 2016. The eleven-piece act played traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties, with arrangements drawing inspiration from a wide diversity of musical styles and influences. The band included percussion and a four-piece brass section, and was known for its energetic live performances.

All successful musicians in their own right, Bellowhead's bandmembers played more than 20 instruments between them; whilst all performers provided vocals.

Their third album, Hedonism (2010), is the highest selling independently released folk album of all time, having sold over 60,000 copies and earning the band a silver disk.

The band parted after their final gig at Oxford Town Hall in May 2016.


  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Early years and Burlesque: 2004-2007
    • 1.2 Matachin: 2008-2009
    • 1.3 Hedonism: 2010-11
    • 1.4 Broadside: 2012-13
    • 1.5 Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014-2016
  • 2 Band members
  • 3 Discography
    • 3.1 Studio albums
    • 3.2 Live albums
    • 3.3 Singles
    • 3.4 Extended plays
    • 3.5 DVDs
    • 3.6 Other works
  • 4 Awards and nominations
    • 4.1 At BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links
    • 6.1 Video clips

Early years and Burlesque: 2004-2007

The idea for the band came to Spiers and Boden while the duo were in a traffic jam on tour. The longer they sat in traffic, the more friends they thought to invite to join. This led to the formation of a ten-piece band, with Benji Kirkpatrick, Rachael McShane, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, Brendan Kelly, Justin Thurgur, Andy Mellon and Giles Lewin completing the initial line-up.

Before they had time to rehearse, the fledgling band were invited to play the first Oxford Folk Festival in April 2004, earning critical approval.[1]

In 2004, the band independently released a five-track EP, publicised as "English World Music", called E.P.Onymous, which generated positive reviews.[citation needed]

In 2006 Gideon Juckes joined the band, primarily playing the tuba, and they released their first full-length album, Burlesque, featuring material from the Napoleonic Wars, the American minstrel movement and sea-shanties from Brazil .

Towards the end of 2007 they became Artists in Residence at the Southbank Centre,[2] making their inaugural appearance with a Christmas Revels event.

Matachin: 2008-2009

In 2008 Bellowhead released their second album Matachin,[2] and a live performance at the Proms followed, which was broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio 3.[3] Sam Sweeney joined the band on fiddles and bagpipes following the departure of Giles Lewin. The following year in August the band were approached about recording music for a 20th anniversary episode of The Simpsons.[4]

Hedonism: 2010-11

In 2010, Ed Neuhauser replaced Gideon Juckes on helicon and sousaphone.

In October 2010, Bellowhead released their third studio album, Hedonism, which had been recorded in Abbey Road Studios. The album was produced by John Leckie.[5] In honour of the new album, the band developed a new ale also named "Hedonism," with several band members being involved in the brewing process.[6]

Broadcast from April 2011, The Archers spin-off Ambridge Extra[7] featured a revised version of Archers theme tune "Barwick Green," arranged and performed by Bellowhead.[8]

In May 2011, at the 02 Academy in Bournemouth, the band recorded a DVD, Hedonism Live, which was released in late November.[9]

Broadside: 2012-13

The band recorded a new album, Broadside, in March 2012 at Rockfield Studios with John Leckie which was released mid-October 2012.[10] The album generated generally positive reviews and went straight to number 16 in the UK official album charts[11] and number 1 in the UK independent album charts.[12]

In early 2012 the band undertook a European tour and in November 2012 toured the UK. In early 2013 the band toured the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In October 2013 they recorded a jingle for the flagship BBC Radio 2 folk music show The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe.

During 2013 they recorded a double A-sided single, Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells which was released on 1 December in digital-only format.[13]

Tenth anniversary, Revival and separation: 2014-2016

In 2014 the band celebrated ten years performing together with two 'Bel10whead' performances in April: Bridgewater Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.[14] A new studio album, Revival, followed, released on 30 June 2014 by Island Records.

Bellowhead headlined the concert in July 2015 to celebrate the opening of the refurbished Cardigan Castle.[15]

The band announced their intention to go their separate ways following a decision by Jon Boden to step down as frontman. Bellowhead played their final gig at Oxford Town Hall, also the venue for their first concert twelve years earlier, on 1 May 2016.[16]

Band members

  • Jon Boden - lead vocals, fiddle, tambourine, shaky egg, thunder tube, kazoo, whistle
  • John Spiers - melodeons, Anglo concertina, Claviola, kazoo, vocals, tambourine
  • Benji Kirkpatrick - guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo, vocals, kazoo
  • Rachael McShane - cello, fiddle, kazoo, vocals
  • Paul Sartin - fiddle, oboe, slide whistle, kazoo, vocals
  • Giles Lewin (2004–2008) - fiddle, bagpipes
  • Sam Sweeney (2008-2016) - fiddle, English bagpipes, kazoo, vocals, whistle
  • Pete Flood - percussion (including frying pan, glockenspiel, knives and forks, clockwork toys, megaphone scratching, stomp box, coal scuttle, party blowers, broomsticks, ratchet, Casio VL-tone, shakers and tambourine), vocals
  • Gideon Juckes (2006–2010) - sousaphone, helicon, tuba
  • Ed Neuhauser (2010-2016) - sousaphone, helicon, tuba, vocals
  • Brendan Kelly - saxophone, bass clarinet, vocals
  • Justin Thurgur - trombone, vocals
  • Andy Mellon - trumpet, vocals

Live albums

  • Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour (2016)


  • New York Girls (2010)
  • Cold Blows The Wind (2010)
  • 10,000 Miles Away (September, 2012)
  • Roll The Woodpile Down (February, 2013)
  • Betsy Baker (July, 2013)
  • Christmas Bells / Jingle Bells (December, 2013)
  • Gosport Nancy (16 June 2014)
  • Let Her Run / I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (22 September 2014)
  • Roll Alabama (20 April 2015)

Extended plays

  • E.P.Onymous (2004)


  • Live at Shepherds Bush Empire (2009)
  • Hedonism Live (November, 2011)
  • Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour (2016)

Other works

  • Umbrellowhead (2009)
  • Pandemonium - The Essential Bellowhead (2015)

At BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards are an annual awards ceremony held to celebrate achievement among folk artists that year. During their 12 years together, Bellowhead won eight of these awards, including Best Live Act on five occasions.


  1. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (19 September 2008). "Folk has a new sex appeal". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Spencer, Neil (14 September 2008). "Folk review: Bellowhead, Matachin". The Observer. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Prom 5: Folk Day 2 and Ceilidh. Retrieved 2008-07-24
  4. ^ "Intro to The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special". YouTube. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  5. ^ Lewis, John (4 October 2010). "Bellowhead's Sam on recording at Abbey Road". BBC. Archived from the original on 14 February 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Smith, Casper Llewellyn (2010-09-26). "Bellowhead: 'We're a party band with serious intellectual pretensions'". The Observer. The Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  7. ^ "Bellowhead In Ambridge… » Properganda". 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  8. ^ Anita Singh (5 April 2011). "Folk-rock Archers theme tune fails to charm listeners". The Daily Telegraph. 
  9. ^ iWeb. "Bellowhead - Hedonism Live (DVD) at". 
  10. ^ "November Tour 2012". 
  11. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100 - Official Charts Company". 
  12. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50 - Official Charts Company". 
  13. ^ "Bellowhead releasing Christmas single". 4 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  15. ^ "Festival favourites Bellowhead to headline Cardigan Castle opening concert". Tivyside Advertiser. 25 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  16. ^ "THAT'S ALL FOLKS...!". 
  17. ^ "Chart Stats - Bellowhead". Retrieved 2011-11-12. 
  18. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 2011-11-12. Note: User needs to scroll down and enter "Bellowhead" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.

External links

  • Bellowhead website
  • Bellowhead forum
  • Bellowhead Interview - Folk Radio UK

Video clips

  • Official YouTube Channel

Complete Video List

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