Bob Dylan on email, Jimi Hendrix on bass guitar - Derbyshire based The Guv'nor shares his amazing stories from 60 years in the music business

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When a musician tells you that Bob Dylan is a friend and that Jimi Hendrix played their bass guitar, you’re tempted to take it with a pinch of salt.

But when ithat musician is the founding father of British folk rock Ashley Hutchings, aka The Guv’nor, doubts disappear quicker than you can say ‘in your dreams’.

Bob Dylan was my great hero for many years before I started playing guitar.” said Ashley. “Out of the blue in 2015 I got an email from him saying would you lke to put this quote on your website ‘Ashley Hutchings is the single most important figure in English folk rock’. It was stunning. It knocked me sideways!

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"I got the MBE for services to music in the same year that I got that email, I don’t want to offend anyone but I think it was probably getting the email from Bob that was more important than the MBE!”

Ashley Hutchings and Becky Mills play the first concert of the month-long Bookstock at the High Peak Bookstore and Cafe, Buxton, on April 26, 2024.Ashley Hutchings and Becky Mills play the first concert of the month-long Bookstock at the High Peak Bookstore and Cafe, Buxton, on April 26, 2024.
Ashley Hutchings and Becky Mills play the first concert of the month-long Bookstock at the High Peak Bookstore and Cafe, Buxton, on April 26, 2024.

Unbeknown to Ashley, one of the biggest names in American folk rock had been following his career since his early days in Fairport Convention. Ashley said: “When I started with Fairport Convention in the late Sixties we did some of Dylan’s songs. I was the person in the group who found rather obscure compositions of Bob’s which we recorded. Bob said he loved Fairport, that they influenced him which we never knew and that he’d followed my career and knew all about me which was just stunning. He has become a friend of mine on email in recent years; it’s been a joy in my old age.”

Jimi Hendrix was also a fan of Fairport Convention’s music. Ashley said: “We played at the Speakeasy, a famous club in London, in 1968. Jimi was in the audience and came up to us in the interval and said ‘You guys are great, can I get up and jam with you? He played my bass guitar.”

These are just a couple of the jewels plucked from Ashley’s treasure chest of tales which he has collected during a 60-year career that has seen him play not only with Fairport Convention but also Steeleye Span and The Albion Band.

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His unrivalled number of albums have spawned a unique show, titled 100 Not Out, which encompasses music, stories and poetry. Ashley said: “No-one knows anyone who has made as many as 100 albums of new music, so we’ve made something of that by selecting some of my favourite songs on these albums.” The ‘we’ he refers to is Becky Mills who he describes as “a great singer, really great songwriter and a very good guitarist.”

Ashley said: “We’ve written some songs together which we sing and play, I read some poetry, mostly that I’ve written and we talk about our lyrics. I tell a lot of stories now that I’ve got a great long history."

Their show will launch a month-long music festival at High Peak Bookstore and Cafe, Buxton on April 26. Ashley said: "It’s a gig I’m really looking forward to because as the years have gone by, I’ve got more and more lyric and word based gigs and records. When the gig came through I thought ‘oh a bookshop, that’s going to be cute and small’. It’s absolutely massive – it’s almost like an aircraft hangar turned into a bookstore, the children’s section alone is as big as any normal bookshop.”

HIstory is now repeating itself as Ashley’s son, Blair Dunlop, is achieving worldwide success as a singer-songwriter. Ashley said: “About three years ago, Blair said ‘why don’t we do a podcast dad and I said what’s a podcast?’ Because of the massive span between my age – I’m nearly 80 and Blair is 32 – I’ve got old stories to tell which are new to him and he’s got great things to tell me about people he’s worked with or heard around the world. Each month he comes to my place near Ashover and we record a podcast in which we talk not only about music but also about football, people we’ve seen, what might be happening in films or television.” The podcast is available on

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Ashley credits fellow Derbyshire folk star John Tams for a nickname which has stuck for decades. He said: “John used to refer to me as The Guv’nor when The Albion Band were doing music for plays at the National Theatre, really big successful ones like Lark Rise To Candleford, for about four years.

"I’ve done a lot of theatre type work. I did my own one-man show in the 80s which I researched, wrote and acted about Cecil Sharp, the great folk song collector of 100 plus years ago. That was a shock, the very first time I had to walk on stage alone, I was so nervous. I got used to it and it broadened my work. There’s a lot of theatre type touches in the show that we’re doing, 100 Not Out."

Decades of playing guitar have contributed to arthritic aches and pains but Ashley still practises his bass every day and his wit shines as bright as ever. Asked what his plans are to mark his 80th birthday in January 2025, he said: “I hope I’m still alive.”

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