Whippersnapper were a four-piece acoustic band formed by Dave Swarbrick, Chris Leslie, Kevin Dempsey, and Martin Jenkins in Northamptonshire during 1983. Although none of the others could quite compare with Swarbrick's long experience or near-legendary status, each of the others brought something substantial to the table at the outset of the group's history -- Chris Leslie was a musical instrument maker as well as an experienced violinist (who had Swarbrick's playing as a model); guitarist, singer, and percussionist Kevin Dempsey had played in Dando Shaft, and had experience with Latin music as well as Celtic and English folk repertory; and multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins had played with Matthews Southern Comfort and was also an ex-member of Dando Shaft, as well as a Bert Jansch alumnus. As a result, the group's work was highly anticipated by folk enthusiasts, as a unique all-acoustic supergroup. The group made its debut in January of 1984 at the Burnt Post in Coventry and subsequently played the Cambridge Folk Festival, a performance that was captured on video as well.
Their music was a deceptively complex brand of progressive folk, driven by the presence of four full-fledged virtuoso players. Whippersnapper spent most of their first year honing their sound and repertory, which started out fully formed, drawing on the songbags of all four members. As a result, their debut album, when it came time to do it -- recorded for their own Whippersnapper label -- came together very quickly. The Promises long-player was recorded in December of 1984 and in stores just about eight weeks later, and well received by fans and critics. A second LP, Tsubo, didn't appear until 1987, and it was similar in form and structure to the first. A third studio album was intended, but in the interim the quartet issued These Foolish Strings, a compilation of four years' worth of live recordings. The fourth album, Fortune, was released in early 1990, and also marked the end of Swarbrick's involvement with the group. The group continued as a trio of Leslie, Dempsey, and Jenkins, and Leslie and Dempsey recorded the LP Always with You, released in 1996. Dempsey eventually teamed up with Swarbrick anew, while Leslie joined one of the latter-day lineups of Fairport Convention. ~ Bruce Eder