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North West Bluegrass News
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Highly Strung

Briefly: This is a long-established high-quality very professional North Wales duo which specialises in Old Time music with frailed and picked banjo.

John Les: Banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmony singing.
Gill Williams:  Lead singing, guitar, banjo.

A Profile of John and Gill

John started playing banjo in 1962 and sang for several years in the Groes Hotel in the Conwy Valley with a band called ‘The Harvesters’. A year or so later he started the Llandudno and Rhyl Folk Club, which is still going strong today. After a 20 year break in Folk and Old-Time music to bring up a family, John’s then 14 year old son Guy took up mandolin and a bluegrass duo formed with John on guitar and banjo, backing up Guy.

John Les and Gill Williams

In 1989 Llandudno Folk Club was going through a sticky period. Gill, who had been struggling to keep it going, suggested that John came out of retirement and so ‘Highly Strung’ was formed. Gill had been running the Liverpool University Folk Club and already had an enormous repertoire of songs but, after her first Edale, she was inspired to sing Bluegrass and promtly started learning 3 or 4 songs a week. Gill, already a competent guitarist with a superb voice, also became a superb banjo player. ‘Highly Strung’ also play a 1917 Gibson mando-cello, autoharp, Appalachian mountain dulcimer and violin. They still run the Llandudno Folk Club every Sunday night, presently at ‘The Olde Victoria Public House’, Church Walks, Llandudno.

When Gill heard that North Wales Bluegrass Festival (which John Prytherch had run for 3 years at Abergele) was closing she immediately took up the challenge and took it over, moving it to Trefriw for 3 years then to its present site at Conwy.

John and Gill travel all over Britain introducing people to Bluegrass and allied music styles and promoting their festival. They said “Derek, please tell everyone that we look forward to seeing them at the North Wales festival - and at the Club, if possible!” John has many tales to tell - for example how he came to own Doyle Lawson’s F5 Paganoli Mandolin, but there isn’t room here - I suggest you catch him at Conwy and nail him down!

Phone John Les/Gill Williams on 01492-580454. Click for a Gig Report

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Updated 23rd Jan 1999