U.K. Folk-Rock Drummer Gerry Conway Dead at 76—Played with Cat Stevens, Fairport Convention, & Others

Veteran British folk-rock drummer Gerry Conway, died Friday, March 29, at the age of 76. Among the many well-known artists with whom Conway played and recorded were Cat Stevens, Al Stewart, Jethro Tull, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, and Fairport Convention.

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According to a post from founding Fairport Convention member Simon Nicol, Conway died after being diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease a few years ago.

In the late 1960s, Conway was a member of the folk-rock group Eclection, and in 1970 he and bandmate Trevor Lucas formed the group Fotheringay with former Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny. Conway also played on several tracks on Steeleye Span’s 1970 debut album, Hark! The Village Wait.

Conway contributed to most of Cat Stevens’ albums throughout the 1970s, including Teaser and the Firecat, Catch Bull at Four, and Buddha and the Chocolate Box.

He also played on a number of Stewart’s 1970s releases. Conway was featured on two albums by Jethro Tull—The Broadsword and the Beast (1982) and Crest of a Knave (1987).

In 1987, he joined the British folk-rock group Pentangle, and played with that group on and off throughout the rest of his life. He was married to Pentangle singer Jacqui McShee.

In 1998, he became a member of influential U.K. folk-rock act Fairport Convention, and played with that group until 2022.

Among the other artists with whom Conway worked were Ex-Fairport members Iain Matthews and Richard Thompson, Joan Armatrading, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Musicians Pay Tribute to Conway

A number of musicians who worked with Conway over the years have posted tributes to the drummer on their social media pages.

Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam, wrote, “Sadly my great old drummer, Gerry Conway just passed away. What a lad, and what ingenuity and style. May God grant him the beautiful reward of peace everlasting.”

In Nicol’s post, he referred to Conway as “[m]y dearest drumming pal.”

He also noted in the message that when Conway retired from Fairport in 2022, “None of us knew that he was in the early stages of that pernicious horror Motor [Neuron] Disease – I didn’t know until today [March 29], when news of his death filtered out from the protection and privacy he and Jacqui [McShee] sought and deserved.”

Nicol added, “Wonderfully patient and wise, infuriatingly tardy (!) but always ready and eager to play, and blessed with his own inner calm and solidity, I’m going to miss him more than I can say.”

Longtime Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks, who was replaced by and subsequently replaced Conway, noted that he’d known Gerry since 1970.

“He was a truly gentle soul – SO musical – & his TIME!” Mattacks wrote. “There were/are many artists we both worked with – but I was always in awe when [I] heard what HE did with them.”

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