Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Gerry Rafferty (1947 - 2011) [ Humblebums and Stealers Wheel]

Born in Paisley, Scotland in 1947 Gerry’s mum was Scottish and his father was Irish. Gerry’s father enjoyed singing and despite being deaf loved Irish rebel songs, Catholic hymns, traditional folk music, and the pop music of the 50's. A comparative latecomer to the music scene the Paisley buddy was 21 when joined the Humblebums (1968). The folk duo had consisted of Tam Harvey, a rock guitarist and folkster Billy Connolly. Billy liked Gerry’s songs and invited him to join the Humblebums. The group had built up a loyal following in Glasgow and were signed to the independent Transatlantic label. As a trio they were very good and combined trad ional folk with Celtic rock and some humour interjected in between. Inevitably there were internal tensions and Tam Harvey left in 1970.

Messers Rafferty and Connolly continued together and recorded some interesting material with Shoeshine boy the most commercial of their singles.

Gerry was developing his music style whilst Connolly was less motivated and preferred his story telling on stage. The duo worked a punishing schedule and although records were selling well, and the gigs were growing in prominence, the musicians were ill at ease with each other. The Humblebums broke up in 1971.

Transatlantic were keen to keep their investment and Gerry brought out a solo album in 1971. The single, Can I Have My Money Back? enjoyed modest success and featured Gerry schoolboy chum Joe Egan.

Egan had gained a reputation in Paisley and surround, as star musician and soon the duo were featured in Stealers Wheel. SW was one of the most promising (and rewarding) pop-rock bands in the UK scene of the mid-1970's and there first album proved to be a cracker, with the single Stuck in the middle with you, a huge internal hit.

Unfortunately due to complicated legal wrangles, Gerry was unable to be a regular member of the group and disbanded in 1975. After protracted legal battles which lasted three years Gerry returned to recording again in 1978. He recorded City to City album for United Artists Records which enjoyed another international success. The single Baker Street was a phenomenal hit and a masterpiece of pop production. Raphael Ravenscroft's haunting sax was just pure sophistication. Gerry refused to tour the States which was a disappointment to his record executives.

His next single Night Owl (1979) also did well. Gerry continued to record but sales dropped off. He was reclusive by nature and refused to promote his works with live performances.

Instead he decided to become a producer and he and life long friend Hugh Murphy took an unknown duo from Edinburgh called the Proclaimers and in 1987 their single Letter from America catapulted them into the pop charts across the universe.

Gerry Rafferty went onto release another six solo albums as well as many compilations. The singer song writer became a chronic alcoholic and died from liver failure in 2011.

Worth a listen:
The Humblebums
Shoeshine boy

Gerry Rafferty
Can I have my money back?
Baker Street
Night Owl

Steeler’s Wheel.
Stuck in the Middle with you

Letter from America

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