Tag Archives: Michael Chapman

The Half-Century Road to Michael Chapman’s “50”

Michael Chapman

Photos by Constance Mensh.

“I’ve never been a folk singer, ever,” Michael Chapman insists. “People call me that because I play acoustic guitar, but it’s nowhere near the truth.” Chapman’s avoidance of the “f” word didn’t stop him from taking his rightful place among the late-‘60s/early-‘70s vanguard of acoustic-guitar-wielding British singer-songwriters, though—and the peerage of Bert Jansch, John Martyn, and Nick Drake isn’t exactly shabby company.

While Chapman’s work hasn’t given him as high a profile as his peers, his perseverance as an artist has paid its own dividends. His music has been having something of a renaissance over the last several years, via a series of reissues and new releases. His latest, 50, commemorates his half-century as a touring musician, featuring vital new versions of older tunes as well as some striking new songs, with the accompaniment of a new generation of Chapman acolytes. Five decades down the road, Jansch, Martyn, and Drake have all left us, but at 75, Chapman remains a force to be reckoned with.

The Yorkshireman’s entrée into the music world was an inauspicious one. “I couldn’t stand my history teacher in high school,” he recalls, “so I conned my mother into buying me a guitar, and I used to sit in the back of the classroom playing the guitar to annoy him. Not the best reason, I know.” Whatever his impetus, Chapman eventually came to realize he’d found his calling, and he started soaking up the influences of blues and jazz guitar greats. “Big Bill Broonzy was a huge influence,” he states, “and after that, I got into a lot of the blues guys. Then, when I got into jazz I was a Django Reinhardt fanatic. I used to learn all the Reinhardt solos, and pretend they were mine. I gradually progressed into Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery and Grant Green and people like that. I’m still looking for guitar players to listen to. I find them endlessly fascinating.”

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