Iain Mackintosh

Late-starting folk singer
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Iain Campbell MacKintosh, folk singer: born Glasgow 20 July 1932; married 1956 Sadie Nelson (two daughters); died Glasgow 28 August 2006.

Although he was a late starter, Iain MacKintosh enjoyed a recording career that spanned some 14 albums over three and a half decades. He only occasionally wrote songs, but was known for his considered choice of material by the likes of Eric Bogle, Alex Campbell and in particular Harry Chapin.

An understated but strangely compelling and often humorous performer, he sang in an unaffected brogue and charmed audiences wherever he went, especially in the United States, Denmark, Germany and his native Scotland. He was also a respected session musician, and a successful solo artist who formed partnerships with the bluesman Hamish Imlach and the ex-Battlefield Band member Brian McNeill.

Ian Green, the founder of Greentrax Records, first met him in the late 1960s while running the Edinburgh Police Folk Club (a.k.a. "Fuzzfolk"). Over the next decade, Green regularly booked MacKintosh for them, largely on the strength of his way with a crowd: "He had a wonderful knack of getting his audience involved with him," says Green. "He won them over with his quiet personality and just gently worked away at them."

MacKintosh's first instrument was the highland pipes, which he began to learn aged seven and later played in a local band. He also picked up some guitar while doing National Service. However, with the austerity of the war years and the death of his mother when he was 12, he joined his father's business as a watchmaker and goldsmith. By 1960, he was running this with his wife Sadie.

The seeds of his future career had been sown near the end of the 1950s, when he witnessed the American folk icon Pete Seeger at a gig in Glasgow playing banjo. MacKintosh immediately bought one and immersed himself in the Scottish folk scene; though he also played harmonica and concertina, the five-string long-neck banjo became his instrument of choice.

In 1960, he formed his first band, the Islanders. MacKintosh once declared they were "not very good, but successful", and they eventually released their eponymous début in 1965. Stints with the Skerries and the Other Half followed, and he did his first session on Hamish Imlach's album Ballads of Booze in 1967.

By 1970, he had decided to pursue music full-time. His début solo album, By Request, appeared in 1973, and he began to make regular appearances on Scottish television shows like A Better Class of Folk. His first album with Hamish Imlach was A Man's a Man (1978), and he made his Greentrax début in 1988 with Gentle Persuasion, considered to be his finest. MacKintosh's last Greentrax album was Stage by Stage (1995) with Brian McNeill, who also joined him on his final recording, Live and Kicking (2000).

Jon Lusk