DONOVAN & FRIENDS
Let us take you back to 1963, to the Boot Inn, across the cobbles from the Old Clock Tower in St Albans, there you would usually find members of the city’s new teenage hit wonders: The Zombies. But, if you wanted to find out what was really going on you would have to walk to the other end of the main street, where a different scene was emerging. The Cock, with its embryonic folk club, was paying host to a motley crew of folknicks and free-thinkers. Here, you could fall in love with a girl because she walked into the bar carrying a copy of ‘Rambling Jack Takes The Floor’. Here people had names like Bounce, Big Bom and Little Bom, Pops Kerr, Haggis and Chunky Logan, and it’s here you would find guitar pickers, including Mick Softly, Hi-fi Hughie and a fresh-faced teenage Donovan, oh, and a tall thin guy who, according to Pete Frame, was “the best acoustic guitarist we had ever seen”... one Mac MacLeod.

Mac’s musical odyssey began earlier that year, he was touring the South-West coast of the UK and met up with John Renbourn who was beginning a similar journey. He returned to the same area during the summer of ‘64, busking around the Torquay area, smoking pot, drinking and playing at various bars and on the beach with Donovan. Mac had been teaching him finger-picking and introducing him to many songs and styles. Don had bought his trademark fisherman’s cap in Brixham, where they played in the Rising Sun. Donovan and Mac, plus Stella (Mac had eloped to Pitlochry and married the 16 year old beauty secretly in June) and two other girls (Vicki and Josie - who would be the inspiration for a Donovan song) all worked at the Phyllis Court Hotel, in Torquay, in the day... and played at the odd folk club and on the beaches during time off.

Mac and the girls returned to St Albans in the Autumn, with Donovan being ‘discovered’ in the meantime and lured away to fame and fortune. Pete Frame, future Zig Zagger, was launching a folk-blues club in the Dolphin coffee bar, Luton, and he asked Don if he would play. Don apologised, saying he had just been signed and couldn’t appear, but suggested his friend Mac, “...he knows over eight hundred songs!!”. Mac was duly booked to play the new folk club and it quickly became the place to hang out, a pivotal venue for the area. With an ear for a great track Mac would introduce songs by Big Bill Broonzy and Snooks Eaglin to the folk crowd, and the likes of Candy Man, San Francisco Bay Blues and The Cuckoo found their way into many a player’s repertoire through Mac’s performances. He became an influential player alongside the many young musicians coming through, including John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Mick Softly, Martin Carthy and eventually Donovan fresh from Ready, Steady, Go!

Donovan, now a pop star with a hit single, was asked by Beat Instrumental about his influences. “The man who helped me most,” replied Don, “was a fellow called ‘Mac’... and he’s taught me everything from chord progressions... to how to appreciate folk and real blues.” No surprise that he asked Mac to accompany him on guitar for his first UK tour, starting 13th May ‘65. Mac quit his job at the Record Room (an influential record shop in St Albans) and hit the road. The tour kicked off with the NME pollwinners concert at Wembley... and his hearing has never been quite the same since. A gruelling tour followed, meandering from town to town, criss-crossing the UK, playing with a changing package that included Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, Unit 4+2 and other less well-known hopefuls. Eric Stewart of the Mindbenders was mesmerised by Mac’s guitar technique and got him to demonstrate certain licks - all styles were developing and merging in pop music.

After the tour ended Mac did a handful of gigs with Dana Gillespie, and then teamed up with Maddy Prior, who he had know since the Cock days. They were billed as Mac & Maddy, infiltrating the local scene with gigs at The Peahen in St Albans, The Robin Hood in Potters Bar and The Red Lion in Borehamwood, before moving up to Soho and appearing at all the top folk clubs from the Scots Hoose to Les Cousins.

Above: Autumn 1965 - on the folk scene, photo by Jack Pia taken at Bedmond Hertfordshire... (he would also take the beautiful images that grace Donovan's 'Fairytale' EP)
Above: Mac Accompanies Donovan on stage at the NME Pollwinners Concert. The barrage of screams completely drowned out the guitars, they couldn't hear a thing!