Wendy Thatcher with Eddie Adcock and IInd Generation (June 1970) – photo © Larry Marschall
Jan Erin “Wendy” Thatcher, best known in bluegrass for her association with Eddie Adcock, passed away on August 28, 2017.
She has been described as “a powerhouse female singer in an early line-up of the great 1970s band, Eddie Adcock & The II Generation.”
Born in Washington, D. C. in 1948, she was raised in nearby Arlington, Virginia, where Thatcher learned to play the piano while in the first grade at school and progressed to playing the guitar at the age of 15 years.
Later she learned to finger-pick the tunes Freight Train and Deep River Blues, but she declined all opportunities to play outside of the house where she kept her brother and sisters entertained.
That nervousness meant that she was fearful of going on stage, even though she and her friend Beth practiced assiduously, and she was very comfortable with fellow musicians as they gathered behind the stage.
All this changed when she met Eddie Adcock, who was a member of the Country Gentlemen at the time. The duo would play during the intermissions at the Country Gentlemen’s shows.
A short time afterwards they teamed up with Ed Ferris, the bass player with the Country Gentlemen, working at Hall’s Seafood Restaurant in Washington, DC.
Early in 1970 Thatcher and Adcock went west to California where as Clinton Codack (an anagram for Adcock) and Wendy Special they fronted a country music band called Codack Special, doing so well for about a year that they recorded a single.
From about this time Thatcher penned the oft-recorded song Another Lonesome Morning. (Emmylou Harris and the Seldom Scene recorded it among others). The song is sometimes credited to Thatcher and Adcock.
Returning to the east side of America, Adcock, Jimmy Gaudreau and Bob White formed IInd Generation, playing a more progressive style of bluegrass music. Belatedly, Thatcher was invited to join the band and she stayed with them through to 1974. During that time the band became one of the most popular on the bluegrass festival circuit.
They released a single, which included another song, Virginia, composed by Ms Thatcher, and an LP with all-black jacket, both for the Rome label.
Later IInd Generation recorded a second LP, for Rebel (Head Cleaner, SLP 1533), featuring one other song penned by Thatcher; Train. The LP included a second version of Virginia.
Early in 1974 she left IInd Generation to go back to California, where she attended college and raised her son, Shane.
While her voice had folky tones it was reminiscent of Karen Carpenter. In her book Pretty Good for a Girl, Murphy Hicks Henry described her “no-frills voice” as “pure and true.” A Bluegrass Unlimited reviewer called it “warm and sensuous.”
Along with Ginger Boatright, Thatcher was one of the earliest of the modern-era women in bluegrass, influencing Katie Laur, and serving as a heroine to writer Caroline Wright.
She moved to Chicago in 1976, where she studied to became an Emergency Medical Technician before progressing to be Paramedic, and worked for the city and then worked inside the Cook County Jail, one of the most dangerous in the country. The arduous work led to her to developing major back problems.
Thatcher became ill with lupus in the mid-1990s, suffering terribly with that dreaded disease. She was diagnosed with cancer this past spring (2017).
“She worked on her own music and songs, developing a finely-wrought intricate flat-picking style, never heard in II Generation, that to my ears was often evocative of Pentangle,” comments her partner Jeremy Raven, the original mandolin player in Special Consensus. She rarely played music in public after leaving II Generation.
Wendy Thatcher is survived by Jeremy Raven; a son, Shane Thatcher; her 96-year-old mother, Jean, who wrote Raining in Nashville (on the Head Cleaner album); sisters Jinxie and Jaimie; and a brother Jeffery Thatcher.
R.I.P. Wendy Thatcher.
Here is an audio recording of IInd Generation from 1973 at the Berryville Festival at Watermelon Park.