As a ’60s band we endeavour to play period-correct instruments where possible.
Mathew predominantly plays Hofner 500/1 violin basses, made famous by Paul McCartney. Mathew has two variants of this iconic instrument; the “Cavern” model as used by McCartney during the Beatles’ Hamburg days and on their early records, and the ’63 model, which has been McCartney’s bass of choice for almost sixty years.
Mathew occasionally uses a Fender Precision Bass, called Stephanie, customised with late-’60s-inspired artwork. After over a decade of service as Mathew’s main instrument, Stephanie is now enjoying a well-earned semi-retirement, making only occasional appearances at Hurdy Gurdy shows. The P-Bass was a staple instrument for a countless number of ’60s musicians, from Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys to Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.
Barry plays a Fender Jaguar, an off-set solid-body electric guitar first released in 1962, known as a firm favourite of Surf bands during the ’60s. It is unusual for a Fender guitar as it has a short scale 24″ neck.
Barry also plays an Epiphone Casino (see below) and a Gibson Les Paul. The Les Paul was first sold in 1952, and one of the best-known shapes for a solid-body electric guitar. Its typical design features a solid mahogany body with a carved maple top and a single cutaway, a mahogany set-in neck with a rosewood fretboard, two pickups with independent volume and tone controls, and a stoptail bridge, although variants exist.
Ellie plays an Epiphone Casino. Originally created as a budget version of the more prestigious Gibson 330 semi-acoustic, the Casino was popularised in the mid-’60s by the Beatles. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and John Lennon all used Casinos extensively in the studio and on tour during this period, and their endorsement led to the humble instrument outselling its Gibson counterpart.
Barry plays Seydel 1847 and Hohner Marine Band Crossover harmonicas. Hohner Marine Bands are the top-selling harmonica of all time, and the Crossover is a version of the Marine Band that is assembled using screws rather than nails, so it’s easier to take apart to clean. Marine Bands were commonly used during the British Blues Boom in the ’60s, and have been played by artists such as John Lennon, Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sonny Terry and many, many more.
The Hurdy Gurdies use Vox guitar and bass amplifiers, which are famous for their chimey “British” sound. Vox released the AC15 in 1958, and the AC30 in 1959; their amplifiers helped to produce the sound of the British Invasion, being used by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds, among others.
Hurdy Gurdy Man
“Hurdy Gurdy Man” is a song by the Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. It was recorded in April 1968 and released the following month as a single. The song gave its name to the album The Hurdy Gurdy Man, which was released in October of that year in the United States. The single reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
Donovan wrote “Hurdy Gurdy Man” while in Rishikesh in India, where he was studying Transcendental Meditation with the Beatles. It also features an Indian influence with the use of a tambura, a gift to Donovan from George Harrison, who also helped write the lyrics. The song may have been influenced by “Green Circles“, a psychedelic 1967 song by Small Faces. The similarity is in the melody of the descending verse, the strange vocal delivery, and the topic of being visited by an enlightened stranger. In 2012, Donovan revealed that he had become friends with Small Faces in 1965.
The hurdy-gurdy is a mechanical string instrument that produces sound by a hand-crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents—small wedges, typically made of wood—against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board and hollow cavity to make the vibration of the strings audible.
Most hurdy-gurdies have multiple drone strings, which give a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody, resulting in a sound similar to that of bagpipes. For this reason, the hurdy-gurdy is often used interchangeably or along with bagpipes, particularly in Occitan, Aragon, Cajun French and contemporary Asturian, Cantabric, Galician, Hungarian and Slavic folk music.
The Hurdy Gurdies