7 top musicians you might not have known were from our area

British folk and pop singer Donovan, who is to appear at the Newport Folk Festival in America.

Donovan has a US number one hit with Sunshine Superman. - Credit: PA

From number one albums and singles to Eurovision contestants, our area has a storied musical history. Here are seven musicians you might not have known were from Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield and Potters Bar.

1. Donovan

British folk and pop singer Donovan boarding an aircraft for New York at London's Heathrow Airport.

Donovan grew up at 230 Bishop Rise in Hatfield. - Credit: PA

Born in Scotland but raised in Hatfield, Donovan is regarded as one of the founders of the psychedelic rock genre. 

After his first two albums drew comparisons to the great Bob Dylan, the folk singer became a rock star thanks to the help of an Aldous Huxley book on psychedelia and LSD. 

His 1966 single, Sunshine Superman, taken from the album with the same name, went to number one on the US Billboard Chart, with the song cited as the start of psychedelic rock.

He would hit the top 10 again with Hurdy Gurdy Man and Atlantis, but he stepped back from fame in the early 1970s to focus on family life, although he still makes music to this day. 

A blue plaque at 230 Bishop Rise marks his former home, saying of his Hatfield residence: “In that little wallpapered bedroom, my dreams were dreamt of being a voice for freedom for my generation.” 

READ MORE - Celebrating 55 years since Donovan’s genre-defining US number one hit 

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2. Acker Bilk

Library file dated 5.1.62 of Acker Bilk who has been diagnosed with cancer of the throat, the 70-yea

Acker Bilk spent much of his time in Potters Bar. - Credit: PA

Born Bernard Stanley Bilk in Pensford, Somerset, Acker divided his time between his hometown and Potters Bar during his long and storied career. 

A clarinettist easily recognisable for his unique sound and look of goatee, bowler hat and striped waistcoat, Bilk first appeared on the music scene in late 1950s. 

His biggest success would come in 1962 when his song Stranger on the Shore went to number one in the US and number two in the UK.

The album of the same name would chart at number six, while The Best of Ball, Barber and Bilk, with Kenny Ball and Chris Barber, went to number one. 

He would have a career renaissance in the later 1970s, when his song Aria went to number five in 1976, while his 1977 album Sheer Magic hit number six. 

Releasing his last album in 1978, Bilk passed away at the age of 85 in 2014 following a battle with throat cancer. 

3. Mat Osman and Bernard Butler

Suede are headlining the opening night of Standon Calling

Mat Osman (second right) was born in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: Archant

Two members of Brit Pop band Suede came from our area. 

Bassist Mat Osman was born in Welwyn Garden City, while guitarist Bernard Butler grew up in nearby Potters Bar, later admitting: “I didn't know anybody there and I hated it.”

Butler and Osman both worked on the band’s debut album, Suede, which went to number one in the UK charts, while their follow-up album, Dog Man Star, hit number three.

Butler left the band in 1994, while Osman has remained with Suede. 

4. Mick Taylor

New member Mick Taylor (second from right) joins the Rolling Stones to replace lead guitarist Brian

Mick Taylor (second from right) joined the Rolling Stones in 1969 to replace Brian Jones. - Credit: PA

A member of the Rolling Stones from 1969 to 1974, Taylor was born in Welwyn Garden City and raised in Hatfield – where his father worked as a fitter for the de Havilland Aircraft Company. 

Learning to play the guitar at the age of nine, he was a member of the The Gods and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in his early career before joining the Stones.  

After founder Brian Jones left the band in 1969, Taylor was brought in as his replacement after being recommended to Mike Jagger, working on albums such as Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.

After returning to the band in late 1973 following an operation, Taylor fell out with Keith Richards and then just over a year later in December 1974 he quit, informing Jagger of his decision at a party before walking out.  

Since his departure from the Stones, the now 72-year-old has continued working with a number of bands and produced solo work. 

5. Colin Blunstone

Colin Blunstone (center) of The Zombies perform in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire in London.

Colin Blunstone (center) of The Zombies perform in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire in London. - Credit: PA

Much like Taylor, Colin Blunstone was born and raised in Hatfield, with his father working as an aeronautical engineer for de Havilland. 

Blunstone was lead singer of 1960s psychedelic pop sensations The Zombies, with the group going on to achieve huge success in America, earning number one hits with She’s Not There and Time of the Season.

Despite that success, sales began to decline and the band split up in 1967, but they have since reunited and continue to perform today, while also securing a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. 

6. Alex Larke

Electro Velvet, featuring Welwyn Garden City's Alex Larke, will represent the UK at this year's Euro

Alex Larke (right) was one half of Electro Velvet. - Credit: BBC/Sarah Dunn

Welwyn Garden City-born Larke is best known as one half of Electro Velvet, whose song Still in Love with You was the UK’s entry for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. 

The song received five voting points during the competition as the UK finished 24th out of 27th. 

In 2017, Larke released his debut solo album, Disposable Love.

7. Terry Ellis 

Although not a musician, Welwyn Garden City’s Terry Ellis was a successful music producer, working closely with prog rock band Jethro Tull, co-produced their albums This Was, Stand Up, Benefit and Aqualung, which all charted in the UK top 10. 

Ellis set up Chrysalis Records alongside Chris Wright in 1968, with signed artists including Blondie, Spandau Ballet, Billy Idol, The Proclaimers, Robbie Williams, Simple Minds, Supertramp and many more. 

Terry was bought out of the company by Wright in 1985, before Chrysalis was sold to EMI in 1991. 

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