The Cottonwood story

The beginning

In the autumn of 1975, June and Terry Handscomb organised an event for all of the church youth groups in the Bournemouth area. The event was entitled With One Accord and it was at this event that Helen and Mark Banfield first met June and Terry. June and Terry were already playing music locally, together with Graeme Palmer, their bass player. The five musicians found that they shared common interests, common musical tastes and a common faith, so it was a logical next step for them to form a new band.

Cottonwood is born

The band was named Cottonwood and first started to rehearse together after Helen and Mark’s wedding in April 1976. Liz Palmer (Graeme’s wife) was appointed as Cottonwood’s manager and the first local booking was made.

The first gig

The band was booked to play at a district youth event. The event was due to take place at Pamphill Green, just north of Wimborne in Dorset. The band arrived courtesy of Graeme’s builders truck, armed with instruments, amplification and a generator.

Having set everything up, the band members were the only people at Pamphill. Some time later, a car arrived. The driver got out and walked over to where the band was ready to play, then explained that the venue had been changed to Delph Woods, 5 miles away. Sorry, you should have been told. The band packed up, drove to Delph Woods (arriving late, of course) and proceeded to set up once again in the middle of the woods. The gig was a great success and more bookings were made.

Getting known

Over the course of the next 3 years, Cottonwood became well known in the Bournemouth area. Many gigs were played and the band even featured in a local newspaper, The Bugle. It was always a dream to make an album and release it on cassette tape; this dream was finally realised in February 1979 when Starting Out was recorded and distributed on limited release.

The album

Cottonwood had always operated on a shoestring budget. The whole band was fully occupied with their jobs and businesses during the day and had very little money to spare on instruments and equipment. For the recording, Terry and Mark used their trusty Eko Ranger 6 guitars (Mark still has his to this day) which, whilst almost bullet proof, were not the best-sounding guitars.

The other instruments used on the recording were borrowed from Tony Arnold, our sound engineer and the owner of Arny’s Shack Studio.

The parting

Shortly after the album was released, the band split up and went their separate ways, musically and geographically. The band members now live spread across Europe, from the North of England to Austria.

The album revisited

Only 250 cassette tapes of the Starting Out album were produced and sold. Most have disappeared over the years, but Mark discovered his copy in a cupboard and decided that it was high time to re-release the album in honour of Cottonwood’s 40th anniversary. A 40 year old cassette tape doesn’t sound great, as will be abundantly clear. However, it captures perfectly the essence of Cottonwood; simple music with three-part harmony vocals. Cottonwood have never reformed since the 1979 split, but all six band members remain good friends.

Will they ever play music together again? Watch this space...