In 2009 Magna Carta, the British acoustic group fronted by singer/songwriter Chris Simpson celebrated its 40th anniversary. As part of the celebrations Repertoire released ‘Prisoners On The Line’ one of their best-selling albums that ‘went silver’ over the years. It’s just one of several albums available from the group that began its career in 1969.
Chris laughs when he remembers the folk rock group signed its first recording contract on the back of a beer mat in a London pub. The group then included Chris Simpson (vocals, guitar), Lyell Tranter (vocals, guitar) and Glen Stuart (vocals). Simpson (born Harrogate, North Yorkshire July 13, 1942) wrote most of their songs. Before forming the group he had led an extraordinary career, taking on a succession of different jobs.
He’d worked as a traffic engineer after leaving university and was once a post mortem assistant. He also played guitar with a society dance orchestra, entertaining the rich and famous including the Royal family. One day they supported Cream at Sussex University and Chris lent Eric Clapton some guitar picks. But Simpson preferred acoustic music and his heroes were Martin Carthy, Davey Graham, Alexis Korner and Pentangle.
Magna Carta played their first gig at a Cambridge folk club. The group proved such a success they would record 30 albums including six gold and three silver over the coming decades. Their second album ‘Seasons’ yielded hit song ‘Airport Song’. Lyell Tranter returned to Australia in 1970 and was replaced by Davey Johnstone who played on ‘Seasons’ and ‘Songs From Wasties Orchard’.