Monday, 3 February 2014

Maggie Bell (Stone the Crows)

Maggie Bell was born in 1945, Glasgow, Scotland. In her early teens she started singing with the Kinning Park Ramblers where she shared the vocal with Catherine Lettice and met her future husband, Les Harvey (Alex Harvey’s younger brother). Maggie worked as a window dresser by day but at night the 17 year old fronted a dance band orchestra supplementing her income. The attraction to rock’n’roll was strong and Maggie made her recording debut in 1966, but received no commercial recognition. A year later she teamed up with Bill and Bobby Patrick (brass players) and Les Harvey (guitar) and they toured the American air-force bases in Germany. Here Maggie forged her stage craft and when they returned to Scotland, Maggie was in full force. She replaced Frankie Miller in a band and they called themselves, called Power. The lineup included Les Harvey (guitar), Jim Dewar (ex Luvvers), bass player, and John McGinnis (keyboards). Maggie Bell had a raunchy, gutbucket voice that matched Janis Joplin and she shared the vocals with Jim Dewar (his voice was like David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears). Power was a progressive soul band that predated pub rock, but had their genesis in the pubs and clubs of Glasgow. They were the house band at the Burn’s Howff, Glasgow where Peter Grant (the manager of Led Zepplin) caught their act and signed them.

In 1970, they changed their name to Stone the Crows, (Grant favourite saying, meaning “ to hell with it.”) and added drummer Colin Allen (Ex- Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers) to the lineup. Jim Dewar was an excellent bass player and Les, a gifted guitarist who had spent sometime in the US touring. He had acquired a feel for heavy rock and the band’s tight rhythm section made them an excellent live attraction. Les was determined to get members of the band to write their own material. Their studio work was produced by Peter Grant and their albums met critical approval but failed to sell in large numbers.

Stone the Crows were a powerful blues-based rock band and were a popular live act that toured university campuses, dance halls and festivals. They also toured the States and played alongside Frank Zappa, Edgar Winter and the MC5. However disappointed at the lack of real commercial success Jim Dewar and John McGinnis decided to quit the band in 1971, they were replaced by Ronnie Leahy and Steve Thompson. In the following year Les Harvey (now married to Maggie), was tragically electrocuted onstage during a gig at Swansea University. The group decided to carry on with Peter Green (ex Fleetwood Mac) as first choice but he pulled out and Steve Howe (Yes) helped out the band until the young lead guitarist of Thunderclap Newman was invited to join Stone the Crows, his name was Jimmy McCulloch.

Despite making another album the heart of the band had gone with the loss of Les and Jim and Stone the Crows broke up in June 1973.

Once free, Jim Dewar rejoined Frankie Miller for a short time before becoming a member of the Robin Trower (Band) in 1972. He played for many years before suffering a stroke. Jim died peacefully in 2002.

Colin Allen joined Focus and Jimmy McCulloch went onto Paul McCartney in Wings (1974-1977). He was an outstanding guitarist and died in 1979 from drug related heart failure, aged 26.

Maggie Bell pursued a solo career and released two solo albums, Queen of the Night sold very well in 1974 and a single, "After Midnight" charted in the US.

Her next album Suicide Sal (1975) featured session musicians Jimmy Page, Joe Jammer, Pete Wingfield, Geoff Whitehorn and Phil May sold well in the UK and US. Both were produced by Jerry Wexler.

Maggie’s voice was much in demand and in 1976; she was guest vocalist with Tim Hinkley, in his scratch band Hinkley's Heroes. She sang as a session singer with Rod and the Faces on their Every Picture Tells A Story album.

Maggie also recorded a couple of TV themes, "Hazell" charted in 1978, and the popularity of STVs Taggart, has allowed millions to hear her singing “No Mean City.”

She toured with Midnight Flyer in the early eighties.

In 1981 she had her last chart success in the UK with a duet with B.A. Robertson and their cover of "Hold Me".

Maggie based herself in Rotterdam, Holland for 20 years and returned to the UK in early 2006 to join the British Blues Quintet, sharing lead vocals with Zoot Money, Miller Anderson, and Colin Hodgkinson, the lineup is complete with Colin Allen (drummer).

Maggie has retired but continues to perform at benefit gigs and other special occasions.

Worth a listen:
Maggie Bell
After Midnight (1974)
Queen of The Night (1974)
As The Years Go Passing (1974)
Wishing Well (1975)
Suicide Sal (1975)
If You Don't Know (1975)
(Get a bit of sadness) In My Life (1975)
Comin On Strong (1975)
Hold On (1975) 
I Saw Him Standing There (1975)
It's Been So Long (1975)
Hazell (Theme from Hazell) (1979)
No Mean City (Theme from Taggart) (1983)

Maggie Bell and BA Robertson
Hold Me (1981)

Stone the Crows
The Touch Of Your Loving Hand.
Raining In Your Heart
Blind Man.
Fool On The Hill

Thunderclap Newman
Something in the air (1969)

Wings (with Jimmy McCullloch)
Junior's Farm (1974)
Venus & Mars Rock Show (1975)
Let 'em in (1976)
Maybe I'm amazed (1977)
Mull of Kintyre (1977)
With a little luck (1978)

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