The Incredible String Band

The Incredible String Band was a Scottish folk-rock band from Edinburgh that released six studio albums and a live double-LP on Elektra between 1966 and 1970, followed by five further albums on Island between 1971 and 1974.

Members: Robin Williamson (guitar, violin, whistle, mandolin, gimbri, flute, oud, percussion, pan pipe, piano, shenai, [water] harp, bass, sarangi, bouzouki, suona, harpsichord, kazoo, organ, Jew’s harp, Irish harp, washboard, [Chinese] banjo, sundri, conch, cello, oboe, bass recorder, banjo, hardanger fiddle, viola, vocals, 1965-2003), Mike Heron (guitar, sitar, organ, harmonica, hammer dulcimer, harpsichord, washboard, percussion, piano, vibraphone, mandolin, bass, harmonium, flute, accordion, vocals), Clive Palmer (banjo, vocals, 1965-66, 1999-2006), Christina “Licorice” McKechnie (vocals, organ, percussion, guitar, kazoo, bass, hammer dulcimer, spoons, drums, harmonium, pipe organ, bodhrán, autoharp, 1968-72), Rose Simpson (bass, violin, percussion, tabla, vocals, 1968-71), Malcolm Le Maistre (bass, keyboards, harpsichord, percussion, kazoo, swanee whistle, mandolin, whistle, tenor recorder, bouzouki, glockenspiel, clarinet, church organ, guitar, harmonium, vocals, 1971-74), Gerard Dott (clarinet, saxophone, keyboards, vibraphone 1972-73), Stan Schnier [aka Stan Lee] (bass, 1972-74), Jack Ingram (drums, 1972-74), Graham Forbes (guitar, 1973-74), John Gilston (drums, 1974)

The Incredible String Band had its roots in a musical partnership between singing acoustic musicians Robin Williamson (guitar, mandolin, fiddle) and Clive Palmer (banjo).

Williamson (b. 1943, Fairmilehead) first performed in various jazz bands on the Edinburgh club circuit. By 1961, he turned to folk music and roomed with guitarist Bert Jansch (later Pentangle). They performed as a duo in Edinburgh and London.

In 1963, Williamson befriended Palmer (b. 1943, Edmonton, North London — d. 2014), who started on the late-’50s Soho jazz scene and busked in Paris circa 1960 with folkster Wizz Jones. Williamson and Palmer played trad and bluegrass on the Edinburgh folk circuit, including the Crown Bar run by Archie Fisher.

In August 1965, they impressed American talent scout Joe Boyd, who was setting up a UK office for Elektra Records. Wanting a fuller sound, they held auditions for a third member. They hired guitarist–singer Mike Heron (b. 1942, Edinburgh), formerly of local R&B/beatsters The Saracens.

In early 1966, Palmer opened the Incredible Folk Club, an all-night haunt on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. As the house band, they courted interest from the folk-specialty label Transatlantic. Boyd outbid that label and signed the trio to Elektra.


  • The Incredible String Band (1966)
  • The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967)
  • The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968)
  • Wee Tam & The Big Huge (1968)
  • Changing Horses (1969)
  • I Looked Up (1970)
  • U (1970)
  • Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending (1971)
  • Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air (1972)
  • Earthspan (1972)
  • No Ruinous Feud (1973)
  • Hard Rope & Silken Twine (1974)
  • On Air [archival] (1991)
  • The Chelsea Sessions 1967 [archival] (1997)


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