Brian Willoughby is best known as the guitarist whose presence helped re-invigorate the Strawbs in their 1980s reincarnation. Born in Northern Ireland, he took up the guitar as a boy and turned professional in his late teens. He eventually ended up running his own folk club in West London. It was through Dave Cousins, then leading a new group called the Strawbs, that he got a gig with Mary Hopkin; Cousins, who was recording with Hopkin under the auspices of her husband, producer Tony Visconti, played several of Willoughby's instrumentals for the two, and the composer/guitarist was engaged to play on tour with Hopkin -- as a result, Willoughby spent most of his 22nd year performing from Israel to Australia and New Zealand. After his stint with Hopkin, he went on to join the pop/rock group New World, who had several U.K. hits, including "Tom Tom Turnaround," and was also later played behind Roger Whittaker and cockney ex-rockabilly star Joe Brown, with his bands the Bruvvers and Brown's Home Brew, before joining No Sweat, who were the first act signed to Pete Townshend's Eel Pie label in 1977. In 1979, Willoughby was recruited by Dave Cousins to join him in a tour of British folk clubs, which led to the recording of Cousins' Old School Songs. The two continued playing concerts together, which led to Willoughby's joining the Strawbs following lead guitarist Dave Lambert's departure in 1979. The band officially broke up in 1980, and Willoughby went on to play on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation album and to an appearance in the feature film Time Bandits. In 1983, he joined Cousins as part of the re-formed Strawbs, and in the decades since, has not only added to their repertory with his own songs but also took over the repertory belonging to his predecessors, adding a level of virtuosity that the original band seldom approached. In 1994, he also recorded a second album with Cousins, entitled The Bridge. Since the mid-'90s, Willoughby has played a key role in the Strawbs, which resumed a relatively full schedule of touring at various times. In 1998, Willoughby recorded the first solo album of his career, Black & White, with American singer Cathryn Craig and a guest appearance by Mary Hopkin. He also toured on the folk circuit in England and rejoined the Strawbs at the end of the 1990s with Dave Lambert, playing as a double lead guitar team.
Share this page