Steeleye Span are an English folk-rock band, formed in 1969 and remaining active today. Along with Fairport Convention they are amongst the best known acts of the British folk revival, and were among the most commercially successful, thanks to their hit singles "Gaudete" and "All Around My Hat". They had 3 top 40 albums. They achieved a certified "gold" record with sales of "All Around My Hat".
The name Steeleye Span comes from a character in the traditional song Horkstow Grange (which they did not actually record until they released an album by that name in 1998). The song gives an account of a fight between John "Steeleye" Span and John Bowlin, neither of whom are proven to have been real people. Martin Carthy gave Tim Hart the idea to name the band after the song character. When the band discussed names, they decided to vote between the three suggestions "Middlemarch Wait", "Iyubidin's Wait", and "Steeleye Span". Although there were only five members in the band, six ballots appeared and "Steeleye Span" won out. Only in 1978 did Hart confess that he had voted twice. Terry Woods maintains that the members had agreed that if more than one person departed, the remaining members would select a new name, and he was upset that this did not happen when he and Gay Woods left the band. The liner notes for their first album include thanks to Carthy for the name suggestion.
Throughout their long history, Steeleye Span have seen a many personnel changes but has maintained a strong continuity of tradition. Lead vocalist Maddy Prior was one of the main attractions of the band's music, being one of a handful of strong-but-melodically-voiced women in rock music in the 1970s (along with Sandy Denny, Renaissance's Annie Haslam, Jacqui McShee, Linda Ronstadt, and Linda Thompson).
Their typical album is a collection of mostly traditional songs with one or two instrumental tracks of jigs and/or reels added; the traditional songs often include some of the Child ballads. In their later albums there has been an increased tendency to include music written by the band members, but they have never got completely away from traditional music, which draws upon pan-British traditions.