When he celebrated his 50th birthday on February 24, 1999, by announcing his retirement, Richard Digance left a void that was only filled with a standing-room-only comeback tour of British theaters three years later. One of the most successful entertainers in the United Kingdom, Digance has gone from the late-'60s folk clubs of Glasgow, Scotland, where he briefly attended Reid Kerr College, to become one of England's top writer/performers. The host of a popular series of television specials, A Dabble With Digance, and various other programs, including Stop the World, for the BBC in the 1980s, he moved to Capital Radio in the early '90s. Remaining at the London-based station for five years, he hosted a music show that featured interviews with American artists including Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, and Roy Orbison. Returning to the concert stage as the opening act for Eric Clapton at London's Victoria Theater, Digance continued to perform with musical comedian/vocalist Jim Davidson until 1999.
The son of a doctor's receptionist and a cab driver, Digance was born in the east London village of Plaistow. Although he planned to study mechanical engineering, he was drawn more to the folk music that he heard at the campus folk club. A college friend of singer/songwriter John Martyn, Digance found his future calling in the humorous tunes of folk comedians, including Billy Connolly. Switching his major to English literature and modern British history, Digance transferred to East Ham Technical College in London. Practicing the guitar five hours a day, he supported himself with an assortment of jobs, including driving an animal ambulance. After several solo appearances at the Ilford Folk Club, Digance joined with John O'Connor and Tim Greenwood to form a humorous, music hall-influenced trio, Pisces. After releasing a self-titled debut album in 1971, Digance reorganized Pisces as a duo with guitarist Frank McConnell.
Digance's first solo success came with his 1975 album, How the West Was Lost. Featuring such tongue-in-jowls tunes as "Working Class Millionaire" and "Drag Queen Blues," the album was named Folk Album of the Year by Melody Maker. Frustrated by his experiences with the Transatlantic record label, Digance launched his own label, Dambuster, in 1977. He later sold his interest in the company. The writer and director of two plays, Sex, Spangles and Sensible Shoes and Fear of Frying, Digance's autobiography, A Wealth of Comedy, was published by Robson Books. Digance helped to set up a children's programming company, SKD Media, in 1998. ~ Craig Harris