Jack the Lad were a British folk rock group from North East England formed in 1973 by three former members of the most successful band of the period from the region, Lindisfarne. They moved from the progressive folk rock of Lindisfarne into much more traditional territory and were in the mid-1970s something of a northern counterpart to bands like Fairport Convention. They have also been seen as part of an important roots movement, rediscovering traditional Northumbrian music.
After two highly successful albums, Lindisfarne’s third album Dingly Dell (1972) was a commercial and critical failure and the band split with main songwriter Alan Hull going off to perform solo projects and eventually reforming Lindisfarne with a new line-up later that year. The remaining members: Rod Clements (bass, violin, guitar, vocals), Simon Cowe (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals), and Ray Laidlaw (drums) formed Jack the Lad with former Lindisfarne member Billy Mitchell (guitar, banjo, vocals).
They had originally thought of calling themselves the Corvettes, but decided it would make them sound too much like a rock ‘n’ roll revival outfit, and instead took their name from a phrase that Status Quo had used when they and Lindisfarne were touring Australia together earlier that year. The phrase “Jack the Lad“ is British slang for a “flashy, cocksure young man”. The phrase may have its origins in a traditional British song called “Jack’s the Lad”, but the first recorded use of ‘Jack the Lad’ was in the 1969 film Performance.
While Lindisfarne without them had become a harder rocking outfit, Jack the Lad retained much of the folksy spirit, warmth and good humour of the original group. Though his talents had previously been overshadowed by the more prolific songsmith Alan Hull, Clements, who had penned Lindisfarne’s first hit single ‘Meet me on the Corner’, continued to write most of their material, which in the view of some fans and critics was the equal of anything Lindisfarne produced at around the same time.
Lindisfarne’s record label, Charisma Records, decided to keep the band under contract and the first line-up of Jack the Lad recorded one album for them, It’s Jack the Lad which was released in 1974, and two singles, ‘One More Dance’ (1973), and ‘Why Can’t I Be Satisfied’ (1974). (This album was released in the US by Elektra Records, which had been Lindisfarne’s American label.) Neither charted, though they received positive reviews for their records and live performances which began to gain a reputation for outlandish entertainment. The traditional roots of the band were evident in an 8-minute medley of jigs, reels and polkas on their first album, which staked a claim to their being in part a Geordie answer to Fairport Convention and a guest appearance on ‘Song Without a Band’ for Steeleye Span‘s Maddy Prior. The band toured with Ralph McTell, who was then at the height of his post ‘Streets of London‘ fame.