Adge Cutler and the Wurzels, renamed The Wurzels after Cutler's death, are a British Scrumpy and Western band. The band is best known for its 1976 number one hit The Combine Harvester but has a history stretching nearly 40 years, and still performs to this day. In its heyday the band was very popular despite disdain from "serious" critics. The band recently released a new single "One for the Bristol City" and were the centre of a campaign to get it into the charts for September 30th 2007.
The band also appeared with members of the Bristol City team to sign any singles bought from Virgin Megastores in the Mall Galleries in Bristol on Thursday the 27th September 2007.
The name of the band came from the fodder beet Mangelwurzel. As can be determined from the subject matter of many of their songs, cider is very popular amongst Wurzels and their fans. Their particular "genre" of music has been named "Scrumpy And Western" (scrumpy is a name given to traditional cider).
Adge Cutler and The Wurzels
The Wurzels were formed in 1966 as a backing group for singer/songwriter Adge Cutler.
With a thick Somerset accent, Adge played on his West Country roots, singing many folk songs with local themes such as cider making (and drinking), farming, local villages and industrial work songs, often with a comic slant.
During the 1960s, the band became immensely popular regionally, and the release of the single Drink Up Thy Zider led to national fame and number 45 in the UK charts.
A number of live albums were recorded at local pubs and clubs, filled with Adge Cutler penned favourites such as Easton in Gordano, The Champion Dung Spreader, and Thee's Got'n Where Thee Cassn't Back'n, Hassn't? together with songs written by others and some reworkings of popular folk songs of the time.
Adge Cutler was killed in May 1974 after crashing his car in Chepstow following a Wurzels concert in Hereford and is buried in Nailsea.
Adge's death marked a curious turning point in the history of the Wurzels. Deprived of the main song-writing talent, the remaining Wurzels recorded The Wurzels Are Scrumptious! in 1975, an album containing many favourites from the back catalogue, including a number of previously unrecorded Cutler-written songs
In order to continue the surviving band needed its own songs, and these mostly took the formula of re-written popular pop songs of the time with the lyrics changed to include the usual Wurzel themes (cider, farming, local villages, Cheddar cheese, etc.)
In 1976, the Wurzels released "The Combine Harvester", a re-work of the song "Brand New Key", by Melanie, which became a huge UK hit, topping the charts for 2 weeks.
The band quickly followed its success with the release of a number of similarly-themed novelty songs such as I Am A Cider Drinker (another rework of an existing melody--this time "Una Paloma Blanca" which was written by and been a hit for the George Baker Selection and also covered by Jonathan King the year before) and Farmer Bill's Cowman, but by the turn of the 1980s had largely faded back in to obscurity.
The Wurzels never stopped performing, but record releases during the 1980s and 1990s were limited to even more obscure novelty singles like I Hate JR, Sunny Weston-super-Mare, and I Want To Be An Eddie Stobart Driver. This latter single (1995) from Loose Records.com got in the UK Top 100 and appeared also as a limited edition lorry shaped disc. The interest in this record sparked off renewed interest in The Wurzels.
The late 1990s saw the continuing of this revival of the fortunes for the surviving Wurzels, gaining a cult status amongst students and a resurgence in their popularity in their native West Country Under the new management of Stranglers manager Sil Willcox a number of CD releases followed, largely featuring re-recordings of older works, but also Never Mind The Bullocks, an album of cover versions of contemporary British rock songs. This album was recorded and produced by Louie Nicastro and George Allen manager of The Mission. In 2005, the band released a limited edition split single with British Sea Power. The Wurzel's covered BSP's Remember Me while BSP covered I Am A Cider Drinker. The band also supported BSP at their gig at the London Forum in November.
In 2007 it was announced that The Wurzels and Tony Blackburn would re-release I am a cider drinker again with the royalties from the song going to the BUI Prostate Cancer Care Appeal in Bristol.
The Wurzels continue to gig around the UK, including playing at the Shalbourne Festival for nearly 11 years, although they pulled out of the 2007 Glastonbury Festival, having been scheduled to play the bandstand stage where they could not use their own sound engineers. Although they had played the same stage at the 2000 Glastonbury Festival. They were also one of the headliners at the 2007 Bristol Community Festival.
The Wurzels are also still very popular in parts of the west country, especially with supporters of Bristol City who the band also support. Their song "One For The Bristol City" is the official club anthem. First released in 1976, a newly-recorded version of this song reached number 66 in the UK charts in September 2007. However, most fans recognise another Wurzel song "Drink Up Thy Zider" as their anthem. It is played at the final whistle at Ashton Gate if the home club win and it is constantly sung by fans along with another Wurzel song "I am a cider drinker".
The West Country-born stand-up comedian Bill Bailey occasionally references The Wurzels in his routines. In his Bewilderness show he mentions knowing them "when they were a German techno band, Die W?rtzels - and then they sold out, went all oo-arr country", as well as performing a pastiche of "Combine Harvester" in the style of Chris de Burgh. In an appearance on BBC2's Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Bailey stood and saluted a playing of the intro to "Combine Harvester".
Bristol-based Portishead list The Wurzels as an influence on their MySpace site - as the only influence, in fact.