"Hurdy Gurdy Man" is a song by the Scottish musician Donovan. It was written and recorded in early 1968 and released in May as a single and gave name to the album The Hurdy Gurdy Man, which was released in October of that year. It was late speculated that the song may have also been written about one of Donovan's former colleague, a teenage girl named Dale Hynes. It reached #5 in the U.S. and #4 in the UK pop charts. The song was written for Donovan's old friend and guitar mentor Mac MacLeod. MacLeod was in a Danish band at the time called Hurdy Gurdy. The song features a harder rock sound than Donovan's usual material. It also features an Indian influence with the use of a tambura in it.
In the booklet that came with Donovan's 1992 double CD, Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976, Allan Holdsworth and Jimmy Page are listed as the electric guitar players and John Bonham and Clem Cattini as drummers on the recording. However, according to John Paul Jones, who arranged and played bass on the track (and also booked the session musicians), Clem Cattini played the drums and Alan Parker played the electric guitar. The song was an anthem for free-spirited hippies at the time due to its psychedelic sound.
chart positions were #4 UK Singles Chart; #5 Billboard Pop Singles (US); #3 Cash Box (US)
John Paul Jones, who later became a member of Led Zeppelin, was the musical director for the session. According to drummer Clem Cattini, the musicians who played on the song were:
Donovan - acoustic guitar
John Paul Jones - arrangement, musical director and bass guitar
Alan Parker - electric guitar
Clem Cattini - drums.
The session was produced by Mickie Most and engineered by Eddie Kramer.
In interviews with Keith Altham for the NME and Hit Parader, and Tony Wilson for Melody Maker, Donovan explained he wrote "Hurdy Gurdy Man" as a gift for his friend and early guitar mentor Mac MacLeod. Donovan wanted MacLeod's band Hurdy Gurdy to record it. However, Donovan changed his mind about giving the song as gift and recorded his own version. Donovan claimed in an interview with Little Steven Van Zandt that he had originally hoped Jimi Hendrix would play on the song, but as he was unavailable, Jimmy Page played instead. Page has often been credited as playing electric guitar, which Donovan still maintains: Page, Jones and Cattini assert that it was Parker. Donovan's claim is documented in Hannes Rossacher's 2008 documentary Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan, where he asserts that "Hurdy Gurdy Man" ushered in the Celtic rock sound which would lead to Page, Jones, and Bonham going on to form Led Zeppelin soon afterwards.
Fans of Steve Hillage will no doubt recall this one!
Donovan - "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (1968)