2016 was a landmark year for Michael Chapman. As well as celebrating his 75th birthday it was also 50 years since he first went on the road professionally. In 2017, he released the album ‘50’ and on 18th April he appeared on Later... with Jools Holland.
The guitar and voice of Michael Chapman first became known on the Cornish Folk Circuit in 1967. Playing a blend of atmospheric and autobiographical material he established a reputation for intensity and innovation. Signed to EMI's Harvest label he recorded a quartet of classic albums. LPs like 'Rainmaker' and 'Wrecked Again' defined the melancholic observer role Michael was to make his own, mixing intricate guitar instrumentals with a full band sound. The influential album 'Fully Qualified Survivor', featuring the guitar of Mick Ronson and Rick (Steeleye Span) Kemp's bass, was John Peel's favourite album of 1970. 'Survivor' featured the Chapman 'hit', "Postcards of Scarborough", a characteristically tenderly sour song recounting the feelings of nostalgia and regret.
A label change to Decca brought a change in sound. Electric guitar, still with that distinctive Chapman fluidity, featured more prominently. Tracks like "New York Ladies" and "Firewater Dreams" on 'Millstone Grit' showed a guitar master pursuing sounds and textures. Michael continued to build his live reputation, touring solo and with a variety of groups, recording the live album 'Pleasures of the Streets' a strong mix of solo and band performances. He was a regular session contributor to Radio One, and BBC TV broadcast two Chapman Band performances as part of their Sight and Sound series.
A lively and accomplished improviser, Michael gained a reputation for re-working material, both before an audience and on record. Songs were seen as standards, themes to be explored, extended and varied on stage and in the studio. The Don Nix produced 'Savage Amusement' featured versions of the Chapman songs "Shuffleboat River Farewell" and "It Didn't Work Out". Different musicians and a different sound breathed new life into earlier material, showing Michael to be a jazz musician in spirit if not in sound. 'The Man Who Hated Mornings' showed the respect Michael commanded among musicians with supporting performances from Andy Latimer of Camel, Keith Hartley and violinist Johnny Van Derek.