Saturday, 7 August 2021

Average White Band (AWB)

( Average White Band images by New Once )

Alan Edward Gorrie was born in 1946, in Perth, Scotland. He went to Dundee Art School and played bass guitar. Alan loved the blues and in 1966 co-founded the Blue Workshop in Perth as a place where musicians could interchange line-ups and explore the free form side of jazz, blues and soul. The Blue Workshop was held at The County Hotel, in County Place, Perth in their upstairs function suite. It was also the home of Perth Folk Club.

There was limited opportunity for like-minded musicians to play together outside paid gigs, which were mostly mainstream. The Blue Workshop allowed them to jam and listen to new albums, not commonly available in the UK or played on the radio. Regulars included Alan’s college mates, Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan and Roger Ball, (later dubbed the Dundee Horns by Maggie Bell); Jim Mullen (double bass); and a 17 year old Robbie McIntosh (1950 - 1974) on drums. Sixty miles away in Glasgow, Onnie McIntyre and Hamish Stuart played at the late night, blues /soul venue, the Picasso Club, Glasgow.

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By 1967, Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre had joined forces in the Scots of St James, and worked mainly as backing for visiting American soul artists. They also toured Germany playing clubs and US military bases but failed to catch attention with their vinyl releases.

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In 1970, Roger Ball and Molly Duncan joined a jazz rock band called Mogul Thrash and released and album and single, "Sleeping in the Kitchen.” Neither attracted much attention in the UK but sold respectably well in Europe. Mogul Thrash disband shortly after the record's release.

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Robbie McIntosh had joined the white soul band, the Senate, and backed touring acts like Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Big Maybelle, and Garnet Mimms. He left to join The Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express with Jim Mullen, The initial Brian Auger's Oblivion Express album was released in 1971, listening to it you can begin to hear the genesis of the AWB.

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Meantime, Alan Gorrie (bass guitar, piano, vocals), Onnie McIntyre (guitar and vocals) and Stuart Francis (drums) formed Hopscotch and the line-up was completed with Hamish Stuart (vocals) and Graham Maitland (piano/vocalist). Hopscotch released two singles but neither would chart. Hamish Stuart left to form Dream Police in Glasgow.

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Dream Police quickly became one of Scotland's bigger crowd pullers along with Chris McClure Section, the Poets, the Stoics, Tear Gas and the Bay City Rollers. Despite their obvious appeal the band had little or no commercial success with their singles and gradually began to break up. Hamish quit to form Berserk Crocodiles with Matt Irvine (keyboard and vocals), drummer, Wullie Munro (Tear Gas) and Frazer Watson (Trash) in late 1970/1971.

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After Hopscotch disbanded, Gorrie, McIntyre and Francis formed Forever More, with Mick Strode (aka Mick Travis) on guitar. The progressive rock band was based in London, under the management of International Artists. They toured extensively both UK and Europe. When not on tour, their contracts allowed them to work at pubs, clubs, concert halls, and festivals; and as session musicians in various studios in London. In 1972, McIntyre and McIntosh record live with Chuck Berry at The Lanchester Arts Festival and it was released as The London Sessions featuring Chuck’s first and only UK No.1 single 'My Ding-A-Ling'.

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The group appeared as a band pursued by groupies in Lindsay Shonteff's cult hippie movie. Permissive (1970) and produced two RCA albums: "Yours" (1970) and "Words on Black Plastic" (1971). The former made the lower end of the American Billboard Charts.

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The band briefly became Glencoe, but Alan Gorrie started working in the studio with the Dundee Horns, McIntyre and McIntosh had become almost a permanent fixture at Island Studios working individually and/or together on various sessions, including Johnny Nash's 'I Can See Clearly Now' (1972). The Scots lads earned the nickname “the Team.”

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Gorrie and co were so happy with the results they decided to form a band. The new line was : Alan Gorrie (singer and bass), Onnie McIntyre (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Roger Ball (sax, horn arrangements, keyboards), Malcolm “Molly” Duncan (tenor sax) and Mike Rosen (trumpet), and Robbie McIntosh (drums). Michael Rosen was quickly replaced by Hamish (Black Throat) Stuart. Robert Stigwood suggested Robin Turner as their manager and actor (Sir) Stanley Baker financed the project. It was Alan’s idea to bring the band together but unmistakably Robbie drove their sound and they were soon catching attention with a tight, soulful sound. The band literally introduced The Metropolis to white soul music but were lacking a name. They appeared at The Great Western Express Festival in Lincolnshire in 1972, as the Average White Band. The name had started as an ‘in joke’ but just stuck.

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Bruce McCaskill (Eric Clapton’s tour manager) acquired a recording of the band rehearsing and played it to Bonnie Bramlett, who was looking for funky band to back her on her debut solo album, Sweet Bonnie Bramlett. She had the band fly out to out to Los Angeles for six weeks in the summer of 1972. Once in LA, the band indulged themselves in the music culture and made some very influential friends. They arrived back in London full of ideas and armloads of potential new material.

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In 1973, AWB were invited to be the support for Eric Clapton's comeback concert at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. The band earned rave reviews and were immediately signed to MCA records. Bruce McCaskill, agreed to become their manager and their first album, Show Your Hand was released later the same year.

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After the album failed to catch much attention, Bruce McCaskill borrowed money and took the group to the LA, where they started to record their follow up album. When MCA turned it down, Jerry Wexler heard the tapes, and signed them to Atlantic Records. He allocated producer, Arif Mardin to oversee them in Miami's Criteria Studios. The album was finished at Atlantic Studios in N.Y., where Gene Paul was assigned as the engineer best equipped to capture their sound. They adopted the abbreviated moniker AWB and The White Album (AWB) was released in October, 1974. The single, “Pick up the Pieces,” an instrumental, went to #1 on the Billboard Pop chart, but this would be a bittersweet moment for the band, for just prior to its release, on the last night of a triumphant week at The Troubadour, Robbie McIntosh died of a drug related incident at a celebratory Hollywood party in September 1974. The single had been released in the UK in July 1974, but failed to charted, when if was re-released a year later, it climbed to number six.

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Scotland’s blue eyed soul boys had arrived in America and as both a tribute to their knowledge of funk and a tongue-in-cheek play on the Scottish band's name, The J.B.'s, (James Brown’s backup band), released "Pick Up the Pieces, One by One", under the name AABB (Above Average Black Band). What a tribute.

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For their third album, ‘Cut the Cake’, Steve Ferrone (Bloodstone and Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) replaced Robbie McIntosh. It was never going to be an easy job to complete this album as naturally feelings were high and progress was plagued by creative and artistic differences. After several members of the band walked out of the studio Arif Mardin considered pulling the plug on the project, but presevered and the final album was dedicated to Robbie’s memory. ‘Cut the Cake,’ topped the Billboard R&B Chart and reached Number 4 in the US Album charts. The title track reached #10 on the Billboard pop singles chart and “Schoolboy Crush,” and “If I Ever Lose This Heaven,” also charted. Until they appeared on Soul Train many people thought they were an African American soul band.

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The record company issued’ ‘Put It Where You Want It’ in 1975 , but this was a repackaged Show Your Hand . "How Can You Go Home" replaced Jugglers in the reissue and the album peaked at #39 on the Billboard Top 200.

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“Soul Searching” was released in 1976 and went to Number 9 in the US album charts as well as going platinum. The singles did less well, with "Queen of My Soul," reaching number 21, and the other stand out track "A Love of Your Own," failed to make the Top 100.

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In 1976, the group released a live album entitled “Person to Person” to showcase their live abilities. The following year, they were invited to join the Atlantic All-Stars at the highly-regarded Montreaux Jazz festival in Switzerland.

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Benny & Us, was a collaboration with soul legend Ben E. King, in 1977. They met while the band were on vocation in Miami and decided to combine their talents. The album is both soulful and funky and became Ben E King’s best selling album, rising to number 33 in the US charts. The double A side, "A Star in the Ghetto"/"Keepin' It to Myself" made respectable showings on the R&B singles charts, Unfortunately the joint tour which had been tentatively planned fell through but Ben E King and The AWB did appear at some live performances.

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“Warmer Communications” was released in 1978 and reached 28 in the US album charts. The title was wordplay on Warner Communications, the parent company of AWB's Atlantic Records label. It is considered by many fans, to be the last great album the group produced. “Your Love’s a Miracle,” was the single from the album and made a respectable 33 in the Billboard's R&B singles chart.

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By the time “Feel No Fret,” was released in 1979 AWB were beginning to loose their poularity in the US, as musical tastes were changing. None the less the album reached 32 in the US charts and peaked at No. 15 in the UK charts. Singles, “Walk on by,” and “"When Will You Be Mine, " made it to the lower end of the Top 50 singles and “Atlantic Avenue” (sic. my personal favourite) failed to chart, Stateside.

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When Shine (1980) then Cupid’s in fashion (1982) failed to recapture the full energy of their previous work, it looked as if the group had peaked. Shine saw the band in jazz mood but had less appeal to their funk/soul fans. "Let's Go Round Again, " was released as a disco single and reached #12 in the UK charts (US Pop #53, US R&B #33).

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The group dissolved in 1982 and band members went onto pursue solo careers. Steve Ferrone joined Duran Duran, Hamish Stuart joind Paul McCartney and Alan Gorrie released a solo album, Sleepless Nights in 1985.

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Alan Gorrie, Roger Ball, and Onnie McIntyre, did reform the AWB in 1989 and the line up was completed with Alex Ligertwood (Santana , Jeff Beck Group and Brian Auger's Oblivion Express) who replaced Hamish Stuart on vocals, and Eliot Lewis (keyboards, drums and programming). Together with invited guests, Chaka Khan and the Ohio Players, they recorded Aftershock. Ligertwood left after the album's recording and drummer Tiger McNeil (1989–1994) joined the reunited band for their live shows. Average White Band continued to tour and record: Soul Tattoo (1997), and the live album Face to Face (1999) without rekindling their earlier successes.

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Almost half a centry after their formation, AWB continue to perform with Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre the only remaining original members. In 2015, Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan, Steve Ferrone and Hamish Stuart reunited to form The 360 Band. This is in essence one half of the original AWB and released an album titled "Three Sixty" (2017) and have been performing live together along with supporting musicians.

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AWB became arguably the most successful Scottish band of the 20th century. Not only did they master the soul sound of contemporary North American music they developed their own blend of funk and soul which made them one of the few white groups to credibly cross the colour line. In achieving this spectacular goal they have influenced countless others, and have been sampled by many musicians in the late 80’s and early 90s, making them the fifteenth most sampled act in history. ‘The Team,’ from their humble beginnings in Scotland, were well above, the Average White Band.

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Reviewed 7/08/2021

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Stuart Henry (1942 - 1995)

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Stuart Henry was born in Edinburgh and trained as an actor. By chance one of his first role as a professional actor was to play a DJ. He liked it so much he joined Radio Scotland as pirate jock.

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Chronic sea sickness prevented him from broadcasting from the ship (Comet) so many of his programs were pre-recorded or broadcast from the mainland. Stuart’s show was immensely popular and he was selected to join the Radio 1 stable when private radio was made illegal.

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Stuart was the master of understatement and spoke with a gentle East Coast accent which endeared him to his audience. He presented 'Midday Spin' (1967 -1974) as well as the Saturday Morning show (1966 -1967). When Stuart began to slur his words regularly on air his superiors thought he was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Somewhat controversially, Stuart’s contract with BBC was not renewed and he left to join Radio Luxembourg in 1974. Soon after the DJ was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

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Throughout his career with Radio Luxembourg he battled with the progressive disease and continued to broadcast until the illness finally overtook. By his side always in the studio was his wife Ollie. Stuart was always enthusiastic about the records he played and did much to introduce new acts to the listeners of Radio Luxembourg. He was a compassionate man and expressed his concern for ecological issues, as well as the plight of runaways living rough. Stuart died in 1995.

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Reviewed 22/07/2021

Sunday, 13 June 2021


( Lulu Image via PAILISH )

Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie was born in 1948 in Lennox Castle, Lennoxtown, Scotland, the daughter of a butcher. Marie grew up in Dennistoun, Glasgow, where she attended Thomson Street Primary School and Onslow Drive Junior School. Little Marie loved to sing as a child and started at the tender age of 12 year old with a local group called the Bellrocks. At 14 she joined The Gleneagles and had a regular spot at the Lindella Club, Glasgow.

( British singer -songwriter Lulu Image via getty images)

The owner of the club had a sister, Marion Massey (c.1930 – 2014) who was one of a few female theatrical agents based in London. In 1962 Marion signed up the new girl and gave her the stage name Lulu and the backing band The Gleneagles became The Luvvers. Lulu and the Lovers became part of the Decca stable of artist. The precarious nature of the music business and the vulnerability of a young girl was enough for Massey to invite Lulu to live with her family in her London home. Lulu attributes much of her success to having had a family-oriented and mature manager in Marion Massey. Decca released Lulu’s first record in 1964. It was a raucous cover version of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” and it became an instant UK hit and reached #7. She was fifteen.

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Decca quickly followed up with the more soulful ‘Here Comes The Night' (1964), and 'Leave A little Love' (1964). 'Try To Understand' (1965) was a bit more poppy and all reached the lower end of the UK charts.

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By the end of 1965, Lulu was voted 'Britain's Most Promising Newcomer in Showbusiness,' and she and The Lovers briefly featured in 'Gonks go Beat' released in the same year. Lulu also sang 'Choc Ice' over the title sequence.

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The lack of major chart success forced her to leave The Luvvers behind and join Columbia as a solo artist and there she was teamed with producer Mickie Most. In April 1967, Lulu was back in the UK singles charts (#6) with "The Boat That I Row", written by Neil Diamond.

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The relationship between artist and producer was not always as harmonious as her singing but the results in chart success gave her the most successful years (1967-68) in her career. All seven singles cut with Most made the UK Top Ten Singles Chart. These included: 'Let's Pretend'(1967), 'Love Loves To Love Love ' (1967) 'Me The Peaceful Heart' (1968), 'Boy' (1968) and 'I'm A Tiger' (1969)'.

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In 1967, Lulu had shown herself a credible actress when she co-starred with Sidney Poitier in E. R. Braithwaite's 'To Sir with love' directed by James Clavell. Lulu also sang the title song which surprisingly did not chart in the UK, but topped the charts in the US, ensuring her internationaal success.

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In 1967, Lulu appeared with The Monkees at the Empire Pool, Wembley, and quickly there were rumours she and Davy Jones were an item.

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By now she had become a polished performer and toured extensively. In 1968 she co-hosted a new TV show (BBC) entitled Three Of A Kind, with Mike Yarwood. Lulu was such a hit she appeared regularly until 1975. Her popular variety shows went under various titles including: Lulu's Back In Town, Happening For Lulu, Lulu and It's Lulu, which featured Adrienne Posta. Her BBC series featured music and comedy sketches and star guests, including Jimi Hendrix. TV history was made when Jimi Hendrix shocked everyone with an impromptu tribute to Cream on live TV.

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In 1969, Lulu was chosen to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest and won with, "Boom Bang-a-Bang", written by Peter Warne and Alan Moorhouse.

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In the same year Lulu married Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees). A romance which started after the couple met backstage at Top of the Pops. Sadly careers and his heavy drinking forced them apart and they divorced in 1973.

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In 1970, she embarked on a trans-American tour with Englebert Humperdinck and also took time out from her heavy schedule to co-host television's 'Andy Williams Show' with singer Ray Stevens.

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She toured Australia, New Zealand and the Far East at the peak of her career. Despite this chart success eluded the singer then in 1974 she released a cover version of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World" and "Watch That Man". Bowie and Mick Ronson produced both recordings and the former became Lulu's biggest record successes going to #3 in the UK and Top Ten in other countires but failed to chart in the US.

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Lulu was chosen to sing the title song for the James Bond film 'The Man with the Golden Gun.'

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Her follow up release 'Take Your Mama For A Ride' (1975) sold reasonably well but barely broke into the Top 40 in the UK.

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The singer got married to London Hairdresser John Frieda in 1976. The couple separated in 1990. The erly 80s saw more chart success for Lulu in the US with 'I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)' (1981), 'If I Were You' (1982), and the Grammy nominated track 'Who's Foolin' Who' (1982).

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She continued to make records and popped up in the top ten charts starting with a release of 'Shout' (1986). 'Relight my fire,' with Take That topped the charts in 1993, and a duet Ronan Keating, "We've Got Tonight" reached Number 4 in 2002. This would mark her last chart entry.

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She continues to to entertain and from time to time has successfully diversified into acting. Lulu was made a Companion of the British Empire (CBE) in 2021 for her serves to music and her charity work. Lulu remains without question the greatest Scottish Female entertainer of the 20th century.

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Reviewed 13/06/2021

Friday, 4 June 2021

Chas McDevitt (The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group)

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Charles (Chas) James McDevitt was born in Eaglesham, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1934. The family moved to Camberley, Surrey where he grew up. As a teenager he suffered a long illness and during this time developed a liking for American Blues and Jazz. He taught himself to play the banjo and later joined a local college jazz band called The High Curley Stompers. In 1955 McDevitt moved to London and played with the Crane River Jazz Band. Fellow band members included Ken Colyer, Sonny Morris and Marc Sharratt.

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Keen to progress he also busked and performed in a skiffle group with blues singer Redd Sullivan (The Thameside Four). Quickly they established themselves as coffee bar favourites and appeared regularly at the 2Is Coffee Bar and other Soho Jazz Clubs. Chas McDevitt became a featured artist at the Cy Laurie Jazz Club and during the intervals as a trio with Marc Sharratt still (washboard) and Pete Timlett (piano) later joined by guitarists Dennis Carter and Alex Whitehouse. In 1956, Oriole Records recorded a demo the group’s version of Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train” (composed by Paul James and Fred Williams).

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The group regularly played "Freight Train" as part of their live set and featured it in a talent contest promoted by Pye Records on Radio Luxembourg. Bill Varley, their new manager suggested they recruit a female vocalist to help them stand out from other skiffle groups and they asked a Scottish folk singer called Nancy Whiskey (1935 – 2003) to join them. They re-recorded Freight Train with Nancy as lead vocalist and when the single was released in 1957 it reached # 5 in the UK Singles Chart. Riding high on chart success the group toured Europe and America featuring on the Ed Sullivan Show.

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Chas McDevitt Skiffle Band had a second lesser hit with `Greenback Dollar' on which Nancy was again vocalist.

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The popular skiffle group made guest appearances in a couple of movies including The Tommy Steele Story (Rock around the world) (1957); and The Golden Disk (1958). When Nancy left the band at the height of ther fame, she was replaced by Irish singer, Shirley Douglas (1939 - 2013), who later married Chas McDevitt. Dennis Carter and Alex Whitehouse also left the group to form a rival group, i.e. The Oldtimers Skiffle Group.

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New members came and went including Jimmie MacGregor, Tony Kohn, Lennie Harrison and bass player, Bill Bramwell as the group continued tp tour extensively.

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Once the skiffle phase had passed the The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group broke up in 1959. They did reform briefly in the 80s for festival performances with Chas McDevitt, Marc Sharatt, John Paul and Nick Lawrence. The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group still survive with Steve Benbow (lead guitar), Jack Fallon (bass) and Chas' daughter, Kerry on vocals and washboard. Occasional members include Martyn Oram (fiddle), Mike Martin, (guitar and banjo) and Richard Sharp (bass).

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Reviewed 4/06/2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Marmalade (aka Dean Ford and the Gaylords)

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Glaswegians, William "Junior" Campbell met Patrick “Pat” Fairley both enjoyed playing rock roll and inspired by the Everly Brothers and Cliff Richard the Shadows, the boys formed a band in the early sixties. Junior Campbell (instrumentalist, vocalist), Pat Fairley (bass guitar), Billy Johnson (bass) and Tommy Frew (drums) became the Gaylords and played at local clubs. Later Bill Irving and Raymond Duffy, replaced Billy Johnson and Tommy Frew respectively and the quintet’s format was complete when Thomas McAleese (Dean Ford) joined them as the singer. Dean Ford and the Gaylords became one of Scotland’s most popular groups but like many others in the early 60s had little chance to get a recording contract. The group regularly supported visiting acts and were regulars on BBC Radio Scotland but real success failed them despite their undoubted popularity within Scotland. Eventually they were signed by EMI-Columbia in 1964. Their debut single "Twenty Miles," sold well in Scotland, but failed to chart nationally.

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The group relocated to London and fellow Glaswegian, Graham Knight replaced Bill Irwin. Despite more efforts to crack the charts their records failed and fame eluded them. Things changed when the Gaylord’s changed their management at the request of their friends, The Tremoloes manager Peter Walsh, recommended a change of name and The Gaylords now Marmalade became the resident band at the Marquee Club, London. In 1965, CBS Records signed Marmalade and their first single under the new label was "It's All Leading up to Saturday Night," but despite showing how the group had improved no commercial success came.

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The group persevered and their two bass players gave them a unique sound. Their next single "Can't Stop Now" (with Alan Whitehead as the group’s drummer) did well in the US, getting to number one on some State charts.

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Marmalade were a hard working band and getting more and more exposure as well as winning the admiration of fellow artists such as Jimi Hendrix. However chart success was not forthcoming and they were all but ready to give up when in 1968 they recorded "Lovin' Things." The single sold well and gave the group their first UK hit.

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Their next single was a cover version The Beatle’s "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," from the White Album The song became number one hit in the UK and sold millions of copies around the world.

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Marmalade was delighted with their success but a bit embarrassed because the sound was too commercial for their tastes, however, their record company was keen they continued in the same vein. Keen to lose the ‘bubblegum’ tag they changed labels and released “Reflections of My Life," an original composition by Campbell and Ford incorporating pop/rock and harder progressive elements. The single went to the top of the UK and US charts.

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The follow up single "Rainbow," also sold well.

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By 1970, Marmalade was in serious internal strife and Junior Campbell left the band to pursue a successful solo career.

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Hugh Nicholson (former Poets) joined Marmalade and shared the vocals. Junior Campbell continued to do the band’s arrangements and Marmalade’s music changed back to rock’n’roll. Alan Whitehead was eventually replaced by Dougie Henderson (Poets). By 1972, Pat Fairley decided to give up performing, and took over as the band's publicist and coordinating publishing activities. In the same year they were back in the charts with "Radancer.

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As the years passed new lineups followed until Dean Ford was the only original member. By this time Marmalade were more like Status Quo but as music tastes changed their popularity slipped. Peter Walsh grabbed the opportunity and used Alan Whitehead and Graham Knight as the basis for a relaunched Vintage Marmalade. Sandy Newman (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Charlie Smith (guitar), made up the new format and they had a surprise hit with "Falling Apart at the Seams," in 1977. This was the group's last chart success. Marmalade continued with different formations to entertain live audiences.

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Dean Ford continued as a solo performer and released a self-titled LP in 1975 then later, worked on a project with former Marmalade band member Hugh Nicholson. When his solo efforts failed to attract attention he moved to US in 1979. Now battling alcoholism, he dropped out of the music business. The royalties from "Reflections of My Life" keep him financially afloat, and in 1986 with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ford was sober. Gradually he turned to music again by appearing in small clubs and open-mic venues. In 2002, he was back in the recording studio with a revamped The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) and they recorded a version of Dancing In The Rain for a Tribute to Frankie Miller album. He continued touring with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

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Later in 2012, Dean worked with Joe Tansin (Badfinger) and recorded a notable version of "Reflections of My Life". Dean Ford passed away aged 73 in 2018.

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In 2020, Jayvee Tv (Youtube) reviewed "Reflections of my life" . The DJ had never heard the song before and his reaction would have pleased Dean and Junior Campbell no end.

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Reviewed 1/06/2021 Worth a listen:
Lovin' Things (1968)
Wait For Me Mary-Anne (1968)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (1968)
Reflections Of My Life (1969)
Rainbow (1970)
Cousin Norman (1971)
Radancer (1972)
Falling Apart At The Seams (1976)

Reviewed 1/06/2021


( Jayvee Tv Image via News Break)

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Friday, 23 April 2021

Bay City Rollers (Les McKeown 1955 - 2021)

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In 1967, bassist Alan Longmuir (1948 - 2018) and brother Derek (drums), Gordon Nobby Clarke (singer) and John Devine (guitar) were in a Scottish group called Saxon. They thought the moniker was too English sounding and according to legend found the group’s next name by throwing darts at a map of the United States. Why it was not a map of Scotland (being fiercely Scottish) is not clear but the Bay City Rollers were born. The Rollers were a very popular club act in the late 60s and were soon snapped up by Bell Records. Their first single was a cover version of Gentry’s "Keep on Dancing." The record was produced by Jonathan King (Everyone’s gone to the moon) and entered the top ten in UK.

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In June 1972, Eric Faulkner (lead guitarist) joined the band and then Les McKeown (1973) replaced Nobby Clarke, and Stuart “Woody” Wood (rhythm guitar) joined the band. This stabilised the quintet's line up. Their next three singles flopped but in 1974 they had a minor hit with "Remember (Sha La La La)."

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From this point forward the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain with everyone of them dressed in plaid. The tartan clad Rollers won a song contest, sponsored by Radio Luxembourg with a song called "Mañana. " which proved popular in Europe and Israel spreading their appeal and ensuring global success.

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When the Rollers were not doing cover versions many of their early hits were written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. The writers had previously written Sandy Shaw’s hit “Puppet on a string,” and Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations.” Over the next three years the Rollers released a string of successful hits including, "Remember (Sha La La La),” "Shang-a-Lang," “Summerlove Sensation,” and "All of Me Loves All of You.” In the spring of 1975, they had become one of the biggest selling acts in Britain.

(Video Courtesy: Just Music by Youtube Channel)

(Video Courtesy: daniellenovak by Youtube Channel)

(Video Courtesy: daniellenovak by Youtube Channel)

Rollermania took hold of the UK as the Rollers undertook a national tour. "Bye, Bye, Baby" (previously recorded by the Four Seasons) stayed at #1 in the UK for six weeks and "Give A Little Love" topped the charts in the summer of the same year.

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By autumn (fall), they were number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 with "Saturday Night," a second US hit came with "Money Honey" which reached #9.

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A Dusty Springfield song "I Only Want To Be With You" reaffirmed their popularity in the UK.

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By the end of the 70s, the Rollers had lost much of their fan base and the last single to make the charts was "It's A Game" (1977).

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Meantime Alan Longmuir left the band because he felt he was too old for the lineup. He was replaced briefly by Irish American, Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn. Alan Longmuir re-joined the band in 1978. The Rollers branched out into children’s television in both the UK and the US but when their manager Tam Paton was sacked in 1979, and Les McKeown's was replaced as lead singer by Duncan Faure, a South African singer, the days of the Bay City Rollers, were over. During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members.

( Bay City Rollers Image via Starts at 60 )

In 1999, the most-famous line-up of Alan, Derek, Woody, Les and Eric briefly reunited for a new LP and tour. After this date there were two touring versions of the group: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group featured only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday.

(Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers Image via The Japan Times )

In 2015, The Bay City Rollers, including McKeown, Stuart “Woody” Wood and Alan Longmuir announced that were reforming and would play a show at the Glasgow Barrowlands. Alan Longmuir after a short illness died in 2018 aged 70. Les McKeown died suddenly at home in April 2021 aged 65.

(Video Courtesy:Bay City Rollers Les Mckeown Official by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 23/04/2021