Gordon Giltrap
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Gordon Giltrap

Gordon Giltrap

Gordon Giltrap.png
Giltrap in 2019
Background information
Born (1948-04-06) April 6, 1948 (age 71)
Brenchley, Kent
GenresProgressive rock,[1]classical,[1]folk,[1]Celtic[1]
Musician, composer

Gordon Giltrap, MBE (born 6 April 1948 in Brenchley, Kent) is an English acoustic and electric guitarist and composer. His music crosses several genres. He has been described as "one of the most revered guitarists of his generation" who has "drawn praise from fellow musicians like Marillion's Steve Rothery and Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore."[1]

Life and career

Giltrap started to learn the guitar at the age of twelve. Never receiving any formal tuition on the instrument, he gradually developed his own style and technique. His musical career started to take off in the 1960s, when he played on the folk scene in London alongside contemporaries such as Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Mike Oldfield.

At the age of 18 Giltrap signed with Transatlantic Records releasing two albums in 1968 and 1969 entitled, respectively, Gordon Giltrap and Portrait. Whilst never claiming to be an inspired natural lyricist, these two albums, on which he both sang and played, included instrumental pieces which amply demonstrated Giltrap's versatility with the guitar. Although he regarded his lyrics as naive [2] a song on the first album 'Willow Pattern' to his great pride, attracted the praise of Ralph McTell for the imagery it portrayed.[3] On the first track of his debut album, "Gospel Song" and later with "Lucifer's Cage", he revealed a very aggressive strumming style (double strumming[4] which later became his trademark) and which was influenced by Pete Townshend.

In 1969, showcasing their artists' talents, Transatlantic Records released 'The Contemporary Guitar Sampler Volume 1' [5] Volume 2 was released the folowing year.[6] These instrumental albums featured the work of various well-known guitarists of the time including John Renbourn, Stefan Grossman, Ralph McTell and, perhaps Giltrap's greatest influence, Bert Jansch. Giltrap had two pieces featured on each album. "Fast Approaching" and the 12-string piece, "Ive's Horizon" featured on the first album and "Lucifer's Cage" and "Confusion" appeared on the second. These albums showcased his skill and brought his name to the attention of a wider audience. "Lucifer's Cage" was to be revisited on a later album, Visionary, and has become a significant feature of his live performances.

After releasing his first album, in April 1969, he joined the Buskers' Tour of the UK, headlined by one-man band and 'King of the Buskers', Don Partridge. Giltrap subsequently formed a band with Partridge called Accolade releasing an album of the same name.[7] While Partridge, had found fame with the hit single 'Rosie' in 1968. Partridge later wrote the sleeve notes for Portrait. Giltrap played lead guitar in the band and penned several compositions. Whilst his involvement in the band certainly helped to raise his profile he felt impatient to move on to recording further new albums under his own name.[8]

In 1970 Giltrap signed to MCA records and released his next album Testament of Time which was again a mixture of songs and instrumental pieces. The latter included a skillfully-played piece entitled 'Catwalk Blues' which was to resurface, reworked, (and, in Giltrap's opinion, improved).[9] on two future albums. It was to be one of the pieces he chose to play on his first television appearance on Disco 2 the forerunner to BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test.

At this stage he was managed by Miles Copeland who, amongst others, also managed Wishbone Ash. Strings on the album were arranged by Del Newman who also played keyboards. Newman had already worked with many well-known artists of that era including Cat Stevens. As he became better known and more greatly respected, Newman later went on to work with many famous artists including Elton John and George Harrison.[10] Thus began a lasting friendship and indeed it was Giltrap who wrote the foreword for Newman's 2010 autobiography A Touch From God (It's Only Rock and Roll).[11] With Newman's influence, the album had a much fuller sound than Giltrap's previous two albums and he regarded it as a significant step forward.[3]

His association with Copeland ended when he moved to Philips records releasing the 1973 album entitled Giltrap. This album was interesting in that it featured a much larger band. On some of the songs he experimented with early instruments (played by Douglas Wooton and Rod and Joseph Sleeping) and some of his lyrics reflected clearly reflected an interest in historical events. The drummer on this album was"Nicko" McBrain who went on to become the drummer for the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden.

The front cover photographs reflect Giltrap as a proud father blowing bubbles together with his son, Jamie , who had been born two years previously. The opening track 'When I See My Son' further reflected that pride. Sadly never released on CD, this was the last album on which he sang lead vocals. The photo on the rear cover of the album showed Giltrap wearing a tank top in a Cat Stevens-like pose.[12] As he became less convinced by his lyric writing capabilities he began seeking a different path.

While popular on the folk and university circuit, Giltrap reached a turning point and received greater recognition during the 1970s. During this time Giltrap started to concentrate on more purely instrumental pieces, and in 1976 released the album Visionary, based on the art and poetry of William Blake. Work on the new album obviously required significant additional time in the recording studio. Once, whilst recording, he missed the birth of his daughter Sadie,who arrived to his great delight on 5th March 1975.[13]

Visionary was produced by Jon Miller who along with guitarist Roger Hand and keyboard player Rod Edwards [14] were known as Triumvirate Productions[15][16]. Hand and Edwards, having listened to demos of some of the material for Visionary decided that it was time for Giltrap to be dragged, initially reluctantly into the realm of rock music.[17] With this new sound however, Giltrap found a different audience and gained greater commercial success.[18] To this day he remains grateful to these two for their influence in helping with the new direction his music took at that time.[19] The success of this album prompted Giltrap to move on from the singer-songwriter approach and to form the Gordon Giltrap Band[20], which toured extensively in the UK at that time.

Once the demos for Visionarywere finished Giltrap found himself with a three album record contract with Electric Records.[21]  Now more in the public eye, he was delighted when offered a UK tour supporting the English progressive rock band 'Renaissance'. This tour helped to raise his public profile significantly. Perhaps as a result of this he was invited to appear on BBC's 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' hosted by Bob Harris. Supported by his full band they performed Robes and Crowns/Awakening'and Lucifer's Cage. Footage of the latter performance still survives and can be seen on the program 'Guitar Heroes at the BBC'.[22]

A European tour followed at the end of 1976 as a support act to the well-known rock band, 'Wishbone Ash'. They played several dates in Germany and were also booked to tour Switzerland. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Zurich Giltrap was hit by a car and broke his collarbone.[23] As he was then unable to play guitar the rest of his tour was sadly cancelled.

His follow-up album Perilous Journey consolidated his success, being named one of the best albums of 1977 by The Sunday Times. It peaked in the UK Albums Chart at No. 29.[24] A single taken from the album, "Heartsong", received extensive airplay and reached No. 21 in the UK Singles Chart.[24] The track was later used as the theme tune of the BBC TV series Holiday. Another of Giltrap's tracks, "The Carnival", was specially commissioned by ITV for the theme tune to ITV's holiday programme Wish You Were Here...?.

Heartsong has subsequently become the tune for which Giltrap is best known and features in his live sets to this day. Heartsong was eventually nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for the best instrumental/ orchestral piece for that year. The recipient was Elton John for Song for Guy. Giltrap told the story of the track's creation to Teamrock:[25]

"It began with a song I did in the late '60s called 'Starting All Over.'When I lived in London I began to mess around with it and stumbled on the riff for what would become 'Heartsong.' I kept working on it, and eventually recorded the guitar part for it. Then we added the rhythm section from Simon Phillips (drums) and John G. Perry (bass)."

"At the time I never thought of this as anything other than a jolly little tune, but my producers Rod Edwards and Roger Hand realized the commercial potential in what we had. The melody really came out when the mini moog part was added, and then Eddie Spence (keyboards) came up with the fast moving synth figure. Edwards and Hand recorded Eddie at half speed, then played it back at normal speed to get the desired effect. That was something they learnt from working with George Martin."

Whilst Visionary had evolved from acoustic compositions adapted for a bigger band, Perilous Journey was composed with a bigger band sound in mind and thus it had greater cohesiveness than the previous album. It appeared occasionally to be more keyboard dominated but Giltrap was unperturbed by this as the pieces were his own compositions and he was really pleased with the arrangements which he had worked on with Rod Edwards and Roger Hand.[26]

In those days albums had to flow from artists at consistent rates and few acts dared to allow time for the public to forget them. Such was the case with Giltrap who released his next album,Fear of the Dark, was released in 1978. Iron Maiden, whose future drummer Nicko McBrain played on the 1973 album by Giltrap, used the same title for a later album, and the font in their logo is quite similar to the "Gordon Giltrap" logo on the Fear of the Dark album.[27]

At this stage, after the success of his previous two albums, Giltrap was riding on a high. Creativity was in full flow so material for his next release was relatively swiftly assembled. The resultant album was arguably one of his finest. The title track, in shortened form, was released as a single but disappointingly failed to achieve the success of Heartsong. [28] It reached number 48 in the singles charts and the band appeared on Top of the Pops.

One track on the album entitled Fast Approaching was a reworked track, vastly different from the original which had appeared on Giltrap's first album. It was extended to five minutes and featured Giltrap on both acoustic and electric guitars. He was now becoming far more familiar with the latter instrument and at this stage really enjoyed playing his Gibson Les Paul.[29] Giltrap's electric guitar playing is a feature on this album but he was always first and foremost an acoustic guitarist and before too long the electric guitar featured less and less in his work.

The drummer on this album was the highly talented Simon Phillips who had also played on the previous two Giltrap albums and who has since progressed to become one of the most highly commended and influential British drummers.[30] One of his first jobs as a professional drummer came when he joined Giltrap to record Visionary in 1975/6 and he still speaks fondly of that time.[31] He has since played session work with many well known acts including 'The Who'. Indeed, Pete Townshend initially employed Phillips because he loved his work on Giltrap's albums.[32] Phillips later became the drummer for the American rock band 'Toto' which he joined in 1992.

By this stage in Giltrap's career he was beginning to be concerned about becoming too predictable. He decided to move away from playing with a band  and move back towards solo work.

By the end of the 1970s he had been commissioned to write a number of notable pieces, such as the classically inspired The Brotherhood, based on the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, and The Eye of the Wind Rhapsody,[33] an orchestral work celebrating the exploration of the New World by British sailing ships. In the 1990s Giltrap played a key role in Cliff Richard's Heathcliff musical, playing the musical narrator. He also composed a number of pieces for the show.

In late 2009, Giltrap started "Three Parts Guitar", a four-date world tour with the classical guitarist Raymond Burley and the jazz guitarist John Etheridge.

For two years, around 1997,[when?] Giltrap wrote a regular acoustic column for Total Guitar magazine. An anthology of 26 of these articles is published in Total Giltrap,[34] a book with an accompanying CD on which he plays the studies and pieces. Giltrap is a regular columnist for Acoustic magazine.

In August 2012, he became product ambassador for Guitar Practiced [sic] Perfectly.[35]

He is described as innovative in his biography at AllMusic.[36]

Giltrap was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, "for services to music and to charity".[37]


Giltrap cites Hank Marvin, the Beatles, Pete Townshend, Donovan, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Julian Bream, John Williams, Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams as his main musical influences.[1]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Interview: Gordon Giltrap". M Magazine. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ Perilous Journey, First Edition 2018, Steve Pilkington. p. 31
  3. ^ a b Perilous Journey, First Edition 2018, Steve Pilkington. p. 39
  4. ^ "Gordon Giltrap". Giltrap.co.uk.
  5. ^ The Contemporary Guitar Sampler Vol 1, Transatlantic Records - TRA SAM 14, 1969
  6. ^ The Contemporary Guitar Sampler Volume 2, Transatlantic Records - TRA SAM 15, 1970
  7. ^ "progarchives".
  8. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.37
  9. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018 First edition, Steve Pilkington, p. 39
  10. ^ Perilous Journey 2018 First edition Steve Pilkington Page 38
  11. ^ A Touch From God - It's Only Rock and Roll, ISBN 9781906358792
  12. ^ Perilous Journey, First Edition 2017, Steve Pilkington, p. 46
  13. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.56
  14. ^ "Rod Edwards Music.com".
  15. ^ Perilous Journey, First Edition 2018, Steve Pilkington. p. 58
  16. ^ "Discogs".
  17. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.57
  18. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.59
  19. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.57
  20. ^ "Discogs".
  21. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.57
  22. ^ "Guitar Heroes at the BBC".
  23. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.66
  24. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 227. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  25. ^ "Songfacts".
  26. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.71
  27. ^ "Gordon Giltrap". Giltrap.co.uk. Retrieved 2019.
  28. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.86
  29. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.89
  30. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.90
  31. ^ Perilous Journey. 2018, First edition, Steve Pilkington, p.90
  32. ^ Who I Am - Pete Townshend. 2012 edition Page 318
  33. ^ "Gordon Giltrap and Friends at the Symphony Hall", Live Recording (2006), La Cooka Ratcha, Cat. No. LCVP160CD
  34. ^ Giltrap, Gordon (2002). Total Giltrap - Guitar Encounters of the Fingerstyle Kind, Mel Bay, ISBN 0-7866-5676-X
  35. ^ ""Gordon Giltrap teams up with Guitar Practised Perfectly"". Guitarpracticedperfectly.com. Retrieved 2019.
  36. ^ Hill, Gary. "Gordon Giltrap". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015.
  37. ^ "No. 62507". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 29 December 2018. p. N18.

External links

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