Owen Hand's career in music was relatively brief -- he was active as a performer for just over four years, and left behind only two complete albums, but through that small output and short career he became a much-loved figure on the English folk scene. He was born in Scotland at the end of the 1930s, and while he may have had an interest in music as a boy, it had to compete with a lot of responsibilities and necessary distractions. Hand's mother passed away when he was 13 and he was forced to leave school and take a job as a mine worker. Hand didn't learn to play guitar until he was in the army in his late teens, but he soon got good enough to pursue a career. He made his public debut in Edinburgh in 1962, and founded the Three City Four a year later with Leon Rosselson, Ralph Trainer, and Marian McKenzie. He remained with the quartet for a year before choosing to embark on a solo career -- he was succeeded in the group, incidentally, by no less a figure than Martin Carthy. Hand made an initial solo appearance on record with the Decca release Edinburgh Folk Festival, Vol. 1 (Decca LK 4546) recorded in 1963, on which he performed "One Dime Blues." In 1964, he recorded his first album, Something New, for Transatlantic Records, which was a surprisingly ambitious mix of traditional and original material, and was well-received within the folk community. His second album, I Loved a Lass (1966), was even more successful, but he never had a chance to build upon it. His marriage broke up around the time of the album's release, and Hand later left England. He emigrated to Israel for a time, lived on a kibbutz for much of the next year, and then returned to Edinburgh, where he abandoned music permanently in favor of running a retail store. He never returned to performing for the remainder of his life, but his recordings remain among the most beloved parts of the mid-'60s Transatlantic catalog. Additionally, his friend Bert Jansch still performs Hand's "My Donal" as part of his repertory.
Share this page