Gay Woods was born Gabriel Corcoran in Ireland in 1948. She started singing very young as a consequence of coming from a musical family and her early accompaniment came from her brothers. As a teenager she met and married Terry Woods, also a musician and this brought her into contact with the Irish folk
scene of the 1960's and in particular with his groundbreaking 'Sweeney's Men' who were experimenting with electric guitarist Henry McCulloch. Gay was at the 1968 Cambridge Folk Festival when the band were booed off by traditionalists. Ironically though, just a year later, she herself would record one of the most important traditional folk albums of the period.
Gay had followed Terry to England to pursue his dream for a new folk band.Terry, a friend of Ashley Hutchings joined a new project with him and a traditional duo, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. When another singer was wanted Terry pointed out that Gay, now a typist, could oblige and she was in. During the winter of 1969 the band produced 'Hark the Village Wait' under the name Steeleye Span. But if the singing was harmonious, the relationships between the group were not and the following year the husband and wife duo split from Steeleye and after a brief dalliance with folk combo Dr Strangely Strange, with whom they recorded (and who also included long-time friend Dave Mattacks)formed their own outfit - The Woods Band. It was a successful venture artistically and the band toured Europe and produced an adventurous debut album. They had begun a writing partnership to provide material but management and financial difficulties caused an end to the project after just a year. Thirty years on, The Woods Band remains Gay's favourite collaboration with her former husband.
The two returned to Ireland and began writing again. Over the following decade they produced a further four albums together, the last being 'Tender Hooks,' recently released by Cooking Vinyl as 'A long lost folk classic' although, being much heavier than some of their earlier efforts it was much more of a commercial record than an album in the traditionally folk vein.
The two split in 1979 and Gay moved onto a progressive rock band called Auto Da Fe where further records were made although few saw the light of day in England. By 1988, with a new partner and havinga young daughter, she retired from the music scene.
There the story could have ended but for a phone call in 1994 from the band that had begun her career. Steeleye, now with only Maddy Prior remaining from the original line-up, were in need of a vocalist. Maddy had voice problems and wasn't sure she could handle her touring commitments without help. After initial reluctance,Gay returned. She was out of practice and had not kept upto date with what had been going on in the band during the quarter of a century she had been away but the resultant live shows gave long established Steeleye fans the chance to hear 'Dark Eyed Sailor', 'Lowlands of Holland' and others the way they had originally been sung. The tour was a success and Gay returned full time,making 'Time' with the group in 1996. Her arrival marked an upward surge for the group. Without a studio album in seven years they had seemed to be directionless despite the quality of their playing and the arrival of new blood. Shortly after 'Time' Maddy left. As the last and longest serving original member her departure could easily have meant the end of the group. It is a tribute to Gay that it did not. Her personality soon became stamped on Steeleye and the indestructable combo experienced another upturn in their long history . 'Bedlam Born' the latest chapter of that history was released in 2000 to great critical and commercial acclaim. Shortly after the tour, at the beginning of 2001, she again left the group, finally ready to step into the spotlight as a solo performer.
HARK THE VILLAGE WAIT
Recorded in the winter of 1969 and released in 1970,Despite the subsequent commercial success of the band, a recent poll put this record as one of the fans all time favourites.
THE WOODS BAND
Released in 1971, the duo's debut record is still regarded as the best by many, including Gay herself.
TENDER HOOKS (1978)
Hailed as 'a long lost folk classic' on it's rerelease, the
guitar-based feel to this album was one of the reasons Gay decided not to
continue with the duo's career.
AUTO DA FE
Gay retains very happy memories of her times with the eighties synth-based group whose career attracted such luminaries as Phil Lynott and Midge Ure.
brought Gay back into the music world after an eight year break. It was a most successful reunion for both parties, lasting more than six years.
BEDLAM BORN (2000)
The latest in a long line of Steeleye albums. (cover courtesy of Peter Knight)