Gay Woods

With her return to Steeleye Span, the group she founded with her ex-husband, Terry Woods, and ex-Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings after more than two decades, Gay Woods (born Gabriel Corcoran) resurrected the spirit that had made her one of the leaders of the late-'60s and early-'70s British folk revival. Singing since earliest memory, Woods was influenced by her brothers, Austin and Terry, who performed in Dublin's folk scene of the mid-'60s. As a teenager, she often joined her brothers during performances. A turning point in her career came when she met Terry Woods, a singer/guitarist who performed with Sweeney's Men, a seminal Irish folk-rock band that also featured Andy Irvine and Henry McCulloch. Falling in love, she married Woods in 1967. Sweeney's Men's electric approach to traditional Irish music was ahead of its time and they disbanded shortly after being booed from the stage by angered traditionalists. When Terry Woods traveled to England to search for a new band, Gay followed. Although she took a job as a typist, Wood's business career was short-lived. When Terry hooked up with Hutchings and traditional duo Tim Hart & Maddy Prior, she was recruited to sing with the group, which took the name Steeleye Span. Although the original band recorded one album, Hark the Village Wait in the winter of 1969, internal conflicts within the group forced the Woods to leave within a few months before the band's first live performance. After briefly performing with Dr. Strangely Strange, which included Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks, Terry and Gay formed the Woods Band. This group had no more lasting success than the Woods' previous efforts. Although they recorded an impressive debut album in 1971, the recording was not officially released until March 2001. Returning to Ireland, the Woods continued to perform with the Woods Band for a decade, releasing four albums. The difficulties of keeping the band going put stress on the Woods' marriage and they separated in 1978. After several unreleased recordings with Ian McDonald of King Crimson, Woods temporarily moved to Holland where she formed a band, Auto Da Fe, with Dutch musician and keyboardist Trevor Knight. Together, with Auto Da Fe, Woods recorded several singles, including "November November" and "Bad Experience," which were produced by Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, and "All Is Yellow (Hot Hot Hot)," which was a major hit in Ireland. A mini-CD, Five Singles and One Smoked Cod, released in 1984, was followed by a full-length album, Tatitum, a year later. Woods seemed to be on track for rebuilding her career when an auto accident in 1987, only four months after the birth of her daughter, left her emotionally drained. Withdrawing from the music scene, she devoted her attention to studying Jungian analysis, earning a diploma from the All-Ireland Centre for Jungian Studies. She remained disengaged from music until receiving a telephone call from Steeleye Span in 1994. Told that the group's singer, Maddy Prior, was experiencing voice problems, she was asked to rejoin the band as a second singer. Accepting the invitation, she performed her first concert tour with the band. The encouragement and sense of appreciation she felt from the audience resulted in her becoming a full-time bandmember. She became the sole vocalist in 1986 when Prior resigned from the group following the recording of their first album in seven years, Time. Her singing helped turn the band's 2000 album, Bedlam Born, into one of the best recordings in the group's 30-year history. The album, however, marked her final hurrah with Steeleye Span. A few months after its release, she left to pursue a solo career.
Craig Harris, Rovi

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