Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Blues Council

The Scottish rhythm and blues group was formed in the mid-60s by Bill Patrick, formerly a band leader in a variety of Glasgow ballrooms. The line-up was Henry Wright replaced by Billy Adamson (drums), Fraser Calder (vocals), ‘Wee’ Jimmy Giffen (bass), Leslie Harvey (guitar), John McGinnis (piano and organ), Larry Quinn (alto saxophone) and Patrick (great sax). The lads had played together in previous line-ups, before The Blues Council. The format was slightly different from most other groups at the time, and The Blues Council played without a lead guitar. Instead with two saxophones they could play popular soul music, and soon established themselves as the resident band in the Scene Club, West Nile Street, Glasgow. The group played almost every night, twice at weekends and earned a reputation as a high-energy, crowd-pleasing attraction. They played alongside other Scottish luminaries including the Bobby Patrick Big Six; Alex Harvey’s Soul Band as well as R & B favourites, Georgie Fame and Blue Flames.

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The Blues Council became the country’s leading live band with gigs all over the central conurbation of Scotland. Not only did they draw fans but also other musicians including Lulu, Nazareth and others of who would eventually become, the Average White Band, were all keen to see them perform live. They were still semi professional and when Henry Wright was offered a full time positing with Lulu and the Lovers, he left the group and was replaced by Billy Adamson.

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In 1965, the group signed for Parlophone Records, and released ‘Baby Don’t Look Down’/‘What Will I Do’. The group were signed to appear on Ready Steady Go and poised to give up their jobs to go professional. Tragically, coming back from a celebratory party in Edinburgh, the group’s van was involved in a fatal crash, killing both Fraser Calder and Jimmy Giffen.

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A concert to commemorate Fraser (23) and ‘Wee’ Jimmy (19) was held at the Barrow land Ballroom with over 40 bands from all over the country in attendance. The 1200 dancers fell silent during a preview of the group’s, Baby Don’t Look Down.” Later in an attempt to regroup, Bill Patrick added tenor saxophonist, Bobby Wishart, but the group had lost its impetus and self-belief, and no further recordings were issued. Les Harvey (brother of Alex and husband of Maggie Bell) went onto play with the Kinning Park Ramblers then, Stone the Crows. Les died on stage in 1972 after being electrocuted.

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Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Chris Rainbow (1946 –2015)

Christopher James Harley was born in Glasgow in 1946 to James and Pamela (nee Clapham) Haley. As a child growing up, he had a marked speech impediment disappeared when he sang. When he left school, he was trained as a graphic artist and worked from 1964 to 1972. He joined his first band, "Hope Street", in 1970. and the band released a couple of singles without commercial success before they broke up in 1973.

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Polydor Records signed him as a solo artist and to avoid any confusion with the more famous, Steve Harley (Cockney Rebel), no relation, he took the professional name Christopher Rainbow after he saw 'Christopher Rainbow' flashed on a television screen. Later Christopher was shortened to Chris Rainbow and he released a couple of singles in 1975 which Kenny Everett constantly played on Capital Radio in London, but few other radio programmers thought them worth airtime.

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His debut album "Home of The Brave” (1975) was produced by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff. The single from the album was ‘Mr. Man’ , but it again failed to chart.

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Chris was a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist at a time they were at their premium yet despite his undoubted talents he seemed to miss the same attention most record buyers gave to David Dundas, 10cc, Peter Allen and other Pop charters.

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His second album, ‘Looking over my shoulder’ (1977) was produced by himself and contained a tribute to his hero, Brian Wilson (Beachboys) called ‘Dear Brian’. When the founder of the Beachboys heard it, he was both touched and honoured. Much later on the news of Chris Rainbow’s passing, Brian Wilson thanked Chris for his music and sent his condolences to Chris’s family and friends.

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Chris Rainbow received strong such support from Kenny Everett (Capital Radio) who featured his music extensively, he readily agreed to make some jingles for the station.

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His third solo album, "White Trails" (1979) was released on EMI and featured Ian Bairnson (Alan Parson’s Project) on guitar. The single from the album was "Ring Ring," but failed to attract much attention. Unforeseen however, was the pop duo Dollar who had a minor hit with their version of "Ring Ring" in 1982.

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After Chris was dropped by EMI, he briefly worked with Max Middleton (keyboards) and Robert Ahwai (guitar) in 1979, and sang vocals on their jazz funk album, ‎Another Sleeper. He and Max Middleton released a one-off disco funk single but it failed to attract much attention.

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,br> Chris Rainbow started working with Alan Parson in 1979, and sang backing vocals on many of The Alan Parson’s Projects’ albums as well as on Alan Parsons' 1999 solo album, The Time Machine.

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The 1982 , Chris worked with Camel on both The Single Factor, and Stationary Traveller (1984) albums and briefly toured with the band.

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Continuing his solo career he released "Body Music" in 1981.

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By 2001, he reverted back to his birth name, Chris Harley, and started to produce others. He produced several albums for Runrig as well as providing vocals, and joining them at some live gigs.

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Latterly, he owned his own studio called the Vital Spark Music Studio on the Isle of Skye. Several artists including Donnie Munro and KT Tunstall recorded albums there.

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Chris Rainbow sadly died in 2015 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

‘Glasgow Boy’ is from his first solo album a song that tells the story of Glasgow gangland warfare. The song got little or no attention at the time, but remains timeless and its poignancy is just as relevant now as it was nearly forty years ago.

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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Clyde Valley Stompers

The Clyde Valley Stompers were formed in 1952 in Glasgow, Scotland. The amateur trad jazz group quickly found a following at the Astra Ballroom in Glasgow and when band leader Jim McHarg (bass) emigrated to Canada two years later he was replaced by trombone player, Ian Menzies (1932 - 2001). Soon after the band became a full-time professional group. During the 50s, the moldy figs like Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttleton, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball became popular and the Clyde Valley Stompers extended their popularity beyond Scotland and released several records on the Beltona label.

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Essentially they were a live act and the recordings never quite caught their energy subsequently their records did not sell especially well beyond their loyal following. The band members included, successively, Charlie Gall and Malcolm Higgins (trumpet), Jimmy Doherty, Forrie Cairns and Peter Kerr (clarinet). The rhythm section included pianists John Doherty, John Cairns and Ronnie Duff, banjo players Norrie Brown and Jim Douglas, bass players Louis Reddie, Andrew Bennie and Bill Bain, and drummers Bobby Shannon, Robbie Winter, Sandy Malcolm and Billy Law; and vocalists Mary McGowan, Jeannie Lamb and Fionna "Fiona" Duncan.

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Dubbed ''the most travelled jazz band in Europe,'' they appeared in village halls and big venues alike and even topped the bill at Liverpool’s Cavern. As their popularity grew internationally the band moved to London, and signed for Pye Records.

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There they were managed by Lonnie Donegan and toured with him as well as other top names including Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark and blues legend Big Bill Broonzy.

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Sometimes the band were billed at the Clyde Valley Stompers and others as Ian Menzies and the Clyde Valley Stompers.

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In 1962 they had a UK Top 30 success with ‘Peter And The Wolf.’

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“Stompermania” predated the Mersey Sound but had all the same intensity. The Clyde Valley Stompers were the first trad jazz band to appear on the Royal Variety Performance, when it was held in Glasgow Empire. Their popularity in the UK was enhanced with guest appearances on television's Morecambe & Wise, Russ Conway, and Thank Your Lucky Stars shows. In 1963 the band appeared in a British musical called It's All Happening (The Dream Maker) and starring Tommy Steele..

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As the fad for Trad Jazz passed the group disbanded in 1963. Over the decades the band has occasionally re-formed to perform as The Clyde Valley Stompers Reunion Band which included Jim McHarg.

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Worth a listen
Lonnie Donegan Presents Ian Menzies and Clyde Valley Stompers
The Swingin' Seamus (EP) (1959)
Roses of Picardy/Beale Street Blues/
Gettysburg March/Swingin’ Seamus

Ian Menzies and Clyde Valley Stompers
Big Man (1961)
Play the gypsy (1961)
The fish man (1966)

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) Alex Harvey (1935 - 1982) Ted McKeena (1950 -2019 )

Alex Harvey was born in 1935 in the Gorbals, Glasgow. He did a number of jobs after leaving school aged 15, before turning to music in 1954. He played trumpet with a number of different Dixieland and jazz bands around Glasgow including the Clyde River Jazz Band and the Kansas City Skiffle Group. In 1956 he entered and won a talent competition as “Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele.” Alex preferred the songs of Big Bill Broonzy and Jimmie Rogers and turned his talents to singing them in a skiffle group. Once skiffle peaked he played pop covers with the Kansas City Counts. In 1959, Alex had formed the "Alex Harvey's Soul Band," (sometimes called, Alex Harvey's Big Soul Band) and was performing around Scotland sometimes backing Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and John Lee Hooker on their local tours. The band took the opportunity to work in Germany eventually taking residency at the famous Top Ten Club in Hamburg. A recording contract with Polydor Records and released a live album called Alex Harvey and His Soul Band, in 1963.

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The recording took place in an empty theatre with the Liverpool band the Undertakers (although some authorities credit "Kingsize" Taylor & the Dominos) both playing and acting as the audience. The album is now highly sought after and considered to be one of the better live recordings of that era. A couple of singles came from the album, an excellent cover version of Willie Dixons’ “I just want to make love to you”, which is in my opinion, superior to the Rolling Stones version; and a brilliant cover of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin'".

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Alex left the band in 1965 and recorded an album with his younger brother Les, the album was called The Blues.

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Back in Glasgow a year later the Harvey brothers teamed with local musicians (including Bill Patrick and singer Isobel Bond) to form the Blues Council but the group soon disbanded and Alex briefly joined Giant Moth a psychedelic band.

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By 1967, he had found steadier work in the backup band for the London production of Hair. Three years later he released another solo effort, Roman Wall Blues, but it failed to make a commercial impact.

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Just as Alex was rethinking his career he met Glasgow’s progressive rockers Tear Gas.

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Together they metamorphosed into the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1972. (SAHB) line up was guitarist Zal Cleminson ('Pierrot' image of white-painted clown make-up), bassist Chris Glen, and the cousins Ted and Hugh McKenna, on drums and keyboards respectively and Alex on vocals. The band gave a good sound and all were accomplished musicians who would be happy on stage performing old pop songs, Broadway standards, folk music and heavy rock. Their live act was amazing with Alex’s performances a combination of musical and verbal flair coached in both humour and sincerity with songs which often contained messages and morals.

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The Sensational Alex Harvey Band scored a couple of chart hits in the UK "Delilah", a re-make of the Tom Jones hit, and also with "The Boston Tea Party".

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In 1974 the band released the Next album.

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SAHB also made several concept albums including The Impossible Dream and Tomorrow Belongs To Me. Their live act also featured a tale of "Vambo", an urban superhero who was the subject of some of his more energetic numbers.

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Alex's physical performances took its toll and with back problems the singer announced his retirement in 1977. He made a brief comeback in the '80s with the Electric Cowboys, but sadly died of a fatal heart attack in 1982. SAHB did reform after Alex’s death and played at rock concerts across Europe. After the break-up. Ted McKenna worked as a band member for several artists, including Rory Gallagher (1978–1981), and session musician with The Greg Lake Band (1980–81); the Michael Schenker Group (1981–84); Bugatti & Musker, (1982) among others. He formed his own band in the mid-80s before briefly touring with Ian Gillan in 1990, alongside fellow former SAHB member, Chris Glen. Two years later SAHB were reformed with Ted McKenna, Zal Cleminson, Hugh McKenna, and Stevie Doherty on vocals. The reformed SAHB made one album Live In Glasgow '93. Before disbanding in 1995. Ted became a lecturer in Applied Arts at North Glasgow College (1996–2011).

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Between 2004 and 2009 they once again reformed the band with Max Maxwell on vocals. SAHB released the live album Zalvation. Zal Cleminson retired in 2008 and the band broke up soon after. Ted McKenna died in 2019.

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Despite being consumate musicians, the reformed SAHB (in its various line-ups) would be in the absence of front man Alex, a pale shadow of its former self.

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Worth a listen:
Alex Harvey Soul Band
I just want to make love to you (1964)
I got my mojo working (1965)

Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Faith Healer (1973)
Gang Bang (1974)
Next (1974)
Vambo (1974)
Cheek to Cheek (1975)
Action Strasse (1975)
Delilah (1975)
Boston Tea Party (1976)

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Marmalade (aka Dean Ford and the Gaylords)

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

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(Video Courtesy: joe tansin by Youtube Channel)

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)