Robin McKidd obituary

Other lives: Guitar, banjo and fiddle player who toured with Billy Connolly, Lindisfare and the Strawbs

Our friend, Robin McKidd, who has died aged 69 after suffering from emphysema, was a musician’s musician. He played the guitar, banjo and fiddle, and sang with bluegrass, cajun, country and folk bands such as High Speed Grass, the Balham Alligators, Alive ’n’ Pickin’ and the Companions of the Rosy Hours. He also toured with Billy Connolly, Lindisfarne and the Strawbs, and recorded with Chris and Mick Jagger. He was also a smart, funny and generous man who made friends wherever he performed.

Robin was born and educated in Dundee, the son of Edward McKidd, a bonded warehouseman, and his wife, Mary, a secretary. She played the piano to accompany the singing of Robin’s aunt Violet, and his uncle Harry gave him his first instrument, a ukulele. Robin studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee.

He was part of the 1960s St Andrews University folk club scene, which is where we both first came across him. He played as a guitar/banjo duo, performing first (with Rab Noakes) in 1967 at the Glasgow Folk Centre. Robin was one of many Scottish musicians who moved south, briefly to East Anglia and then to London, where he played at the Troubadour and shared a residency at the King Lud in Ludgate Circus, near Fleet Street.

Connolly describes him as “one of the exotic men of mystique that I came across in the 60s and 70s. I was desperate to know where they got such great jeans and boots and where and how did they learn to play so well and so much like my American heroes? Where did they learn such obscure good songs by writers I had never heard of? Eventually our paths crossed and I found to my delight that he was a nice, approachable guy, who was only too happy to show me some banjo licks that had baffled me for years.”

In 1975, as half of High Speed Grass (with Davie Craig), he was the opening act for Connolly on his major British tour. Connolly remembers “many concerts with High Speed Grass, including one memorable night to an ecstatic audience in Peterhead prison which will live in my heart forever, just like Robin.”

The tour led to other gigs for the band in London at Dingwalls and the Rock Garden. Robin settled in London and undertook a series of collaborations with other musicians, including the Jagger brothers. He helped to form other bands, such as Alive ’n’ Pickin’ and the western swing band the Companions of the Rosy Hours. With Geraint Watkins, he was part of the successful cajun band, the Balham Alligators, which was formed in 1983.

He toured extensively in Scandinavia and was a regular performer in many north London music pub venues until the late 90s, when he moved first to Ireland and then back to Fife. He also recorded with John Watt on the influential 1976 folk album Shores of the Forth.

While in London, he became the racing tipster and crossword compiler for City Limits magazine in the 80s. A droll, gentle, well-read person, he played countless benefit concerts and was an inspirational teacher of the guitar. Apart from being an extremely gifted musician, Robin was a great travelling companion, knowledgable and witty, always with an eye for the unconventional point of view.

Married three times, he is survived by four daughters, Katie, Roo, Virginia and Rosie, his brother, Malcolm, and seven grandchildren.

Rab Noakes and Davie Craig

The GuardianTramp

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