Woolly Wolstenholme

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Woolly Wolstenholme
File:Woolly Wolstenholme, Holmfirth 2009.jpg
Background information
Birth name Stuart John Wolstenholme
Also known as Woolly
Born (1947-04-15)15 April 1947
Origin Chadderton, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 13 December 2010(2010-12-13) (aged 63)
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Keyboards
Years active 1960s–2010
Associated acts
Website www.woollywolstenholme.co.uk
Notable instruments

Stuart John Wolstenholme (15 April 1947 – 13 December 2010), usually known as Woolly Wolstenholme, was a vocalist and keyboard player with the British progressive rock band Barclay James Harvest.[1]


Wolstenholme was born in Chadderton, Lancashire on 15 April 1947, and went to school at North Chadderton Secondary Modern School. His first instrument was a tenor banjo, which he took up at the age of 12, and he also played tenor horn for the Delph band. He met John Lees at Oldham School of Art and Woolly played tambourine and sang with John in the Sorcerers, then the Keepers, where Woolly played whatever instrument was required, such as harmonica and twelve-string guitar.[2]

The pair then founded Barclay James Harvest, together with Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard, in 1967. Woolly taught himself keyboards, first the Mellotron and then adapting to organ, piano and synthesisers. His musical influences ranged from Love and Vanilla Fudge through Mahler to UK and Radiohead. Woolly remained with Barclay James Harvest until 1979, when he became frustrated and unhappy at the direction their music was taking.[3]

He recorded a solo album, Mæstoso, in 1980, and toured as support to Judie Tzuke and Saga, as well as writing film and TV music. A projected second album, Black Box, was shelved and Woolly lost interest in the music business, preferring instead to farm, initially in Lancashire and later in West Wales. Tapes from the sessions for his second album were finally issued in 1994, along with the complete Mæstoso album, as Songs from the Black Box.

Woolly returned to the music business in 1998 after meeting John Lees again,[3] and this resulted in the Eagle Records album Nexus credited to Barclay James Harvest Through the Eyes of John Lees. The album was followed by live shows in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Greece and the UK, the first British concerts by any members of Barclay James Harvest for nine years, and Eagle released a live album called Revival. A studio follow-up with the working title North was planned and recording began at Lees's Friarmere Studios, but after only a few days the project was shelved because Lees felt that due to a number of factors, the timing was not right to do justice to a new album.

A new CD of the Black Box sessions with previously unreleased material (including a brand new demo) was released in February 2004 as Black Box Recovered, and a new studio set, One Drop in a Dry World, followed in May 2004. A short UK tour was planned to promote the CD, but in the event only one concert, at London's Mean Fiddler, went ahead, on 12 May. The live set, including rarely heard BJH classics as well as Mæstoso material, was captured for posterity and released on a limited, warts and all live CD, Fiddling Meanly, released in February 2005. On 27 November 2004 Mæstoso played again in London, this time as support to Caravan at the Bloomsbury Theatre. At this show John Lees also made a surprise guest appearance for two songs.

This proved to be one of Woolly's most creative periods, with another Mæstoso studio album, Grim, appearing in October 2005, and a brand new album, Caterwauling, released in November 2007. Most of the Maestoso band also found time between recording commitments to perform as part of John Lees' Barclay James Harvest, including a full-scale UK tour in October and November 2006.

Wolstenholme took his own life on 13 December 2010, after a battle with mental illness.[4]


Barclay James Harvest

Woolly Wolstenholme played on all albums of Barclay James Harvest up to XII (1978).

Later albums

  • Maestoso Polydor 1980 (Released twice on CD (once in 2000) and Remastered and Re-released in 2006) Brimstone Records, Eclectic Discs
  • Songs from the Black Box 1994 Voiceprint Records
  • One Drop in a Dry World 2004 Eclectic Discs
  • Fiddling Meanly 2004 Eclectic Discs
  • Black Box Recovered 2004 Eclectic Discs
  • Grim 2005 Eclectic Discs
  • Caterwauling 2007 Esoteric Recordings (formerly Eclectic Discs)
  • Uneasy Listening 2009 Esoteric Recordings, Compilation


  1. "BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST music, discography, MP3, videos and reviews". Progarchives.com. Retrieved 2 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Barclay James Harvest Biography
  3. 3.0 3.1 7d 23h. "WOOLLY WOLSTENHOLME'S MAESTOSO music, discography, MP3, videos and reviews". Progarchives.com. Retrieved 2 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Woolly Wolstenholme website. Quote: "It is with profound sorrow that we have to announce the passing of Woolly Wolstenholme. In recent weeks Woolly's mental health had taken a turn for the worse and sadly he took his own life on Monday 13 December 2010. In this difficult time our thoughts are with Woolly's partner, Sue. We would ask all of Woolly's fans to remember his incredible contribution to popular music and his unique presence on stage."
  • The Barclay James Harvest Story by Keith and Monika Domone.

External links