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Ralph McTell (1944 - present day) - Singer-songwriter

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Ralph McTell was born as Ralph May in Farnborough, Kent on 3rd December 1944. Ralph passed his 11-plus examinations and attended the John Ruskin Grammar School in Croydon. At the age of 15, he was very keen to leave school and, in 1959, he enlisted in The Queen's Surrey Regiment. Army life proved much worse than school and, after six months, he bought himself out. He resumed his education at technical college, passing several O level exams and an A level exam in art. At college he discovered African American music - jazz, blues and R&B. Inspired by musicians such as Jesse Fuller, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he bought a guitar and practised tirelessly. He was persuaded to join a bluegrass-influenced band called the Hickory Nuts, who performed all over England and they ended up earning decent fees in front of respectable-sized crowds in venues such as Croydon's Fairfield Halls.
Ralph visited Paris regularly and in the spring of 1966 he met a Norwegian student named Nanna Stein and they became inseparable. On returning to Britain, they lived in a caravan near London Apprentice in Cornwall. Ralph and Wizz Jones were regular performers on the Cornish circuit, especially at The Folk Cottage in Mitchell. It was Jones who suggested the stage name 'McTell', after Blind Willie McTell, whose 'Statesboro Blues' they both loved. By the end of 1966, Ralph and Nanna were expecting their first child. They married in Norway on 30th November and returned to live in Croydon. Their first son, Sam, was born on 21st January 1967. That year Ralph decided to go full time in music. As well as his vocal and instrumental talents, he was developing as a songwriter and was in demand in folk clubs and festivals. He landed a deal with Transatlantic Records and by the end of the year was recording his first album, Eight Frames a Second. His second album, Spiral Staircase, recorded in late 1968, included the first recording of "Streets of London". By May 1970, Ralph was able to fill the Royal Festival Hall in London. In August, he played the huge Isle of Wight Festival alongside Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, and Leonard Cohen. Ralph and Nanna's daughter Leah was born on 9th February 1971. 1971 saw Ralph's first tour in the United States. While in the US, Ralph hung out with the British folk-rock band Fairport Convention, establishing lifelong professional relationships and personal friendships. While living mainly in Putney, Ralph and Nanna bought a derelict cottage in Cornwall during 1972. Ralph re-recorded "Streets of London" with Rod Clements on bass and backing vocals from Prelude. It was released as a single late in 1974 got to No 2 over the Christmas period, became a worldwide million-seller, and won Ralph the Ivor Novello Award.
Ralph and Nanna's son Tom was born on 7th September 1976 and son Billy was born on 19th April 1978. 1978 was a quieter year so Ralph was able to enjoy his family. He and Nanna divided their time between their London home and their house in Cornwall.
In 1982, his career took an unexpected change of direction when Granada Television commissioned Alphabet Zoo, a children's series based around songs written and performed by Ralph McTell. In 1983, Ralph presented his own music series on BBC Radio 2. In 1984, Ralph fronted another children's TV programme, Tickle On The Tum, again built around his songs. Ralph and Nanna's first grandchild, Ezra, was born on 25th June 2000. Ralph had been touring extensively at home and abroad for many years so in 2003 he decided to take a break from the road. He split the year between his London and Cornwall homes and spent the time writing, travelling and spending time with his seven grandchildren.
Ralph celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall in November, 2004. The entire show was filmed and released on DVD in 2005 as The London Show. In October 2007, Ralph released an 'audio book' titled As Far As I Can Tell. These 3 CDs included readings from his autobiography interspersed with new recordings of the songs the events inspired. On 21 November 2010, he released a seasonal song, The Things You Wish Yourself, as a download-only single. Ralph was invited to record his own interpretation of a Bob Dylan song for the BBC Radio 2 celebration of Dylan’s 70th birthday in May, 2011. Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright was also the title of McTell’s own six-song tribute to Dylan, which was released as a downloadable EP. In September 2011 Ralph embarked on a 36-date UK Autumn tour culminating at London's Cadogan Hall on 11th December.

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