Thursday, 20 March 2014

Frankie Miller

Francis Miller was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow in 1949. He was brought up in a tenement with his parents, Kathy and Frank, and elder sisters Letty and Anne. Young Francis was an altar boy who loved to play football. He listened to his mother’s record collection and gained an appreciation for Rock’n’Roll and R&B. Frances identified with the music of Ray Charles, Little Richard and Elvis Presley and learned to play the guitar aged nine. He joined bands before becoming a professional musician with the Stoics and gained quite a reputation around Glasgow. Francis (now calling himself Frankie) had a powerful voice and the group was signed by Chrysalis in early 1970. They went on tour supporting Ten Years After and made a brief appearance at The Isle of Wight Festival as Howl. Now relocated to London the band broke up before making any recordings. Frankie met Robin Trower (Procol Harum) and was asked to join the band Jude in 1971. The lineup included former Stone the Crows, James Dewar (bass and vocals) and Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull) on drums but the group only stayed together for a short time. Frankie and Robin had written several songs together and although Jude made no recordings "I Can't Wait Much Longer" appeared on Robin Trower's first solo album, Twice Removed from Yesterday.

Frankie Miller now signed a solo deal with Chrysalis Records, and recorded his first LP Once In A Blue Moon, produced by Dave Robinson with Brinsley Schwarz as his support. The album met critical acclaim but little else.

Chrysalis was keen to develop Frankie’s commercial potential and recorded his second album High Life (1974) in New Orleans. The album was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (he produced ‘Workin’ in a coal mine’ by Lee Dorsey).

The follow up The Rock (1975) was produced by Elliot Mazer (he produced Neil Young’s Harvest) and was made in San Francisco. Frankie had put a band together called The Frankie Miller Band. The lineup was guitarist, Henry McCullough (The Grease Band & Wings), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Stu Perry (drums), and Mick ‘Blue’ Weaver (keyboards) who played on the sessions. Also the album featured the legendary Memphis Horns and The Edwin Hawkins Singers.

It took until 1977 before Frankie had his first commercial hit with “Be good to your self” from the Full House album (produced by Chris Thomas). Now playing with The “Full House” band which consisted of Ray Minhinnet (lead guitar), Jim Hall (keyboards) , Graham Deacon (drums) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie and the Band had just completed a national tour and was a sharp outfit which is caught on the album.

His next album was called Double Trouble (1978) and was produced by Jack Douglas (worked with Aerosmith). The singer had a new band including drummer, BJ Wilson (Procol Harum), Chrissie Stewart (bass), Ray Russell (guitar), Chris Mercer and Martin Drover (horns) and Paul Carrack (keyboards and vocals) with Stephen Tyler (Aerosmith) making a guest appearance as backing vocalist.

In the same year "Darlin'" became a hit in the UK and raised some interest in the US. The follow up "When I'm Away From You" failed to impact in the US and was a minor hit in the UK.

His last album for Chrysalis Records was recorded in Nashville where he worked with many of the industry’s best. The Glasgow singer made many lasting friendships as he continued to impress with his vocal performances and writing prowess. He signed to Capitol records in 1982, and released his eigth album called ‘Standing on the Edge’. All the tracks were written by Frankie Miller and recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, and featured part of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm section.

Frankie returned to a more rock style by the mid eighties and toured Europe and the States with a new band which included Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company), Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzie) and Chrissie Stewart (bass). Frankie continued to record but was no longer interested in commercial success he put his efforts into song writing. Frankie had already written and co-written successful songs including “Still in love with you’ with Phil Lynott.

Many of his own songs were also covered by his own heroes including: Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles which must have given him a kick. Other contemporaries to sing versions of his songs were: Rod Stewart,The Bellamy Brothers, Kim Carnes, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger, Bonnie Tyler, Roy Orbison, Etta James, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Cher, The Everly Brothers, Chris Farlowe and The Eagles among many others. Then out of the blue, Frankie Miller scored a huge number one UK hit with "Caledonia" in 1992.

Flush with his new success Frankie Miller joined Joe Welsh (The Eagles) and Nicky Hopkins and had plans to record and tour. Whilst writing material in New York Frankie suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and collapsed into a coma. He was unconscious for five months and had to go through extensive rehabilitation when he finally regained consciousness. After a long ,hard struggle captured in the BBC TV documentary ‘Stubborn Kinda Fella,’ Frankie Miller got back to writing again, collaborating with Will Jennings, and their composition "The Sun Goes Up, the Sun Comes Down," was performed by Bonnie Tyler, Paul Carrack, and Jools Holland at a concert for the disabled in Edinburgh.

He tried his hand at acting in 1979 and appeared Peter McDougall's TV film ‘Just a Boy's Game’.

Frankie Miller's songs also appeared regularly in the scores of many high profile movies and TV films. He and Rory Gallagher co-wrote the score for the movie Sense of Freedom which dramatise the story of his second cousin, Jimmy Boyle.

Worth a listen
I Can’t Change It (1972)
A Fool in Love (1975)
Aint Got No Money (1975)
Jealous Guy (1977)
Be Good to Yourself (1977)
Darlin' (1978)
Sense of Freedom (1979)
Jealousy (1982)
Caledonia (1992)

Worth a listen
I Can’t Change It (1972)
A Fool in Love (1975)
Aint Got No Money (1975)
Jealous Guy (1977)
Be Good to Yourself (1977)
Darlin' (1978)
Sense of Freedom (1979)
Jealousy (1982)
Caledonia (1992)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Humblebums

Billy “The Big Yin" Connolly was born in Glasgow in 1942. He started off as a folk sing and played banjo. His first band was an old time country music group called The Skillet Lickers and was formed in the 1960s. Later he joined a novelty musical group called The Acme Brush Company. Connolly then co-founded the Humblebums with Tam Harvey in 1965 and played in the pubs and clubs around the city, most notably the Old Scotia Bar. The name for the band came from a Connolly quip, “he (Connolly) was humble and Tam Harvey was a bum.” In truth Tam Harvey was an accomplished plectrum guitarist and played mandolin. Billy sang, played banjo and guitar. He loved to entertain his audiences with humorous introductions to the songs. For a brief period Shetland fiddler, Aly Bain joined the Humblebums as "unofficial member”. The Humblebums built up a loyal following in Glasgow and signed to the Transatlantic label. Their first album was a mixture of traditional folk songs and Billy Connolly originals, entitled First Collection of Merry Melodies released in 1969. Ronnie Rae (bass) was hired as a session musician to flesh out their sound. The album sold well in Glasgow.

In the same year after a concert in Paisley they met Gerry Rafferty a local musician and song writer and when Connolly heard him sing at an after gig party he asked Gerry to join the Humblebums. The group performed as a trio for a short time but inevitably the change in the band’s direction with the addition of Rafferty led to internal tensions and Tam Harvey left in 1970 and formed High Speed Grass with David Craig. Rafferty and Connolly were meantime working on a new album called The New Humblebums. This was released in late 1969 and featured brass and woodwind arrangements.

The Humblebums recorded a second album in 1970 called Open Up the Door*. Rafferty’s plaintive vocals and melodies and Connolly’s upbeat tunes and fine guitar playing were complimented by session musicians which unfortunately meant the duo found it difficult to capture the feel of the record on stage.

Shoeshine boy was the most commercial of their singles and sold well in Scotland but failed to attract much interest in the rest of the UK.

The duo was working a punishing schedule and although records were selling reasonably well, and their gigs growing in prominence, Gerry was developing his music style whilst Connolly was less motivated and preferred his story telling on stage. Off stage Billy was drinking and became unwell. Now ill at ease with each other's company they eventually broke up in 1971. In debt Billy Connolly return to Scotland and embarked on a solo career which led him eventually to become an internationally successful comedian, actor and raconteur.

Rafferty meantime recorded a low impact solo album, Can I Have My Money Back?

Soon after he formed Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan and they recorded "Stuckin the Middle with you" before eventually emerging as a major solo artist with "Baker Street".

*The album cover was painted by John "Patrick" Byrne, marking the beginning of a long working relationship between Byrne the painter and Rafferty.


Worth a listen
Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon (1969)
Give Me a Little of Your Time (1969)
Salt Coats at the Fair (1969)
Windy and Warm (1969)
Look Over the Hill & Far Away (1969)
Rick Rack (1969)
Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway (1969)
Patrick (1969)
Coconut Tree (1969)
Silk Pyjamas (1969)
Good-Bye-Ee! (1969)
Steamboat Row (1970)
I Can’t Stop Now (1970)
Shoeshine Boy (1970)
My Singing Bird (1970)
Oh No (1970)
I Can't Stop Now (1970)
Mary of the Mountains (1970)
All the Best People Do It (1970)
Worth a listen
Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon (1969)
Give Me a Little of Your Time (1969)
Salt Coats at the Fair (1969)
Windy and Warm (1969)
Look Over the Hill & Far Away (1969)
Rick Rack (1969)
Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway (1969)
Patrick (1969)
Coconut Tree (1969)
Silk Pyjamas (1969)
Good-Bye-Ee! (1969)
Steamboat Row (1970)
I Can’t Stop Now (1970)
Shoeshine Boy (1970)
My Singing Bird (1970)
Oh No (1970)
I Can't Stop Now (1970)
Mary of the Mountains (1970)
All the Best People Do It (1970)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stealers Wheel (Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan)

Stealers Wheel were formed in 1972 when Gerry Rafferty (1947 – 2011) and Joe Eagan decided to get together with Rab Noakes, Roger Brown and Ian Campbell. Rafferty and Egan had been friends since their teens in Paisley where they grew up. The school mates played in several local bands including The Sensors and The Mavericks before working as session musicians. Gerry joined the Humblebums with Billy Connolly in the late sixties but the duo broke up after recording a couple of albums.

Gerry started a solo recording career and released the album Can I Have My Money Back? (Transatlantic, 1971).

This met with little success and so he started the group. The original line-up of Stealers Wheel lasted only a few months and by the time the band was signed to A&M Records later that same year, Brown, Noakes and Campbell had been replaced by Paul Pilnick (lead guitar), Tony Williams (bass) and Rod Coombes (drums). Their first album, Stealers Wheel was produced by Leiber & Stoller and contained the international chart topper "Stuck in the Middle with You".

By the time the first album was released Rafferty had left the band to be replaced by Luther Grosvenor, who remained with the band for much of 1973 on tour. DeLisle Harper also replaced Tony Williams on tour. Gerry Rafferty was persuaded to return. However, Grosvenor, Coombes and Pilnick all left the band. With so many changes in the band's line-up they officially became a duo (Rafferty and Eagan), with backing musicians as needed on tour and in the studio. Later in 1973 the single "Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine" had modest chart success and, in 1974, the single "Star" reached the Top 30 of both the UK and US charts.

A second album Ferguslie Park was released in 1974, but made little commercial impact.

By the time Right Or Wrong album was released in 1975, Stealers Wheel had ceased to exist.

All three albums had sleeve designs by artist John Byrne.

The group did get back together in 2008 without Egan and Rafferty. Both Jerry and Joe went onto have solo careers but were contractually unable to release material for another three years. Egan recorded his solo debut album Out of Nowhere, (1979) with the hit single “Back on the road.”

Map (1981) was his second album but was not a critical or commercial success.

Joe left the music business and now runs a publishing company from home. Gerry went on to solo success and released a series of hit albums and singles.

Worth a listen

Late again
Stuck in the Middle With You (1972)
You put something inside me (1972)
Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine (1973)
Star (1974)
What more could you want (1974)
Over my head (1974)
Blind Faith (1974)
Nothing gonna change my mind (1974)
Steamboat Row (1974)
Benediction (1975 )
Right or Wrong (1975)

Gerry Rafferty
Can I have my money back (1971)
Didn’t I tell you (1971)
Mary Skiffleton (1971)
Sign on the dotted line (1971)
Where I belong

Joe Egan
Back on the road again (1981 )

Friday, 7 March 2014

Alex Campbell (1925 – 1987)

Alex Campbell was born in 1925 in Glasgow. He was brought up by his grandmother after his parents and siblings sisters died from tuberculosis . He idolised his grandfather and became an avid reader. During the War years he learned the songs of Allied servicemen. He left school and went to London where he worked at the Inland Revenue (now HMRC). After a couple of years he left to travel and ended up a student in Paris. To make extra money he became a well known busker. Later he played in a café after he became friendly with American folk musician Derroll Adams.

On trips back to London in the 1950s, Campbell appeared at Alexis Korner's "Blues and Barrelhouse" club and other skiffle and folk music venues. He soon became involved with the folk music revival taking place in London and met Ewan MacColl.

By the early 60s Campbell was an established folk singer playing to audiences in the UK and Europe . He enthralled his audiences with his story-telling and singing. His performances were occasionally marred by his excessive drinking. He recorded over 100 albums but didn’t enjoyed great commercial success.

He never restricted himself to Scottish folk music which was met with some criticism but enjoyed a catholic taste recording many folk styles and showcasing other writers' work, including Paul Simon, Anne Briggs, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan.

He became a major influence on many folk singers and earned the nick name Big Daddy due to his persistence and generosity promoting new talent. Sadly Alex Campbell died of tuberculosis in 1987.

Worth a listen
The Dundee Weaver (1963)
The Wee Cooper O' Fife (1963)
Wi' a Hundred Pipers (1963)
Will ye no come back again (1963)
Done in the valley (1963)
Love is teasing (1964)
I’m a rover (1964)
Been on the Road So Long (1969)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Bay City Rollers

In 1967 Alan Longmuir (bass) 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 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.

In June 1972, Eric Faulkner (lead guitarist) joined the band and then Les McKeon (1973) replaced Nobby Clarke, and Stuart “Woody” Wood (rhythm guitar). 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)."

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 thereby spreading their appeal.

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.

  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.

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.

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

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).

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, was over. During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members. In 1999, the most-famous line-up of Alan, Derek, Woody, Les and Eric briefly reunited for a new LP and tour. Currently, there are two touring versions of the group: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group features only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday.

Worth a listen:
Keep On Dancing
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974)
Shang-a-Lang (1974)
Summerlove Sensation (1974)
All of Me Loves All of You (1974)
Bye, Bye, Baby (1975)
Give A Little Love (1975)
Saturday Night (1975)
Money Honey (1975)
I Only Want To Be With You (1975)
It's A Game (1977)

Sandy Shaw
Puppet on a string

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Rab Noakes

Robert Noakes was born in 1947 in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. Influenced by rock’n’roll and skiffle he learned to play guitar but became more impressed with the success of Bert Jansch and The Incredible String Band.

He began touring Britain and Denmark sensitively interpreting the work of American singer/songwriters. His knack for writing hook-laden songs brought him to the attention of others long before he recorded his first album. Both Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson included his songs on their albums. In 1970, he signed for Decca and released a solo album Do You See the Lights. One of the tracks "Together Forever," became a folk-pop hit for Lindisfarne.

His next album, Rab Noakes (1972) was produced by Bob Johnston, and featured guest vocalist Gerry Rafferty. Subsequently Rab appeared on Gerry Rafferty’s debut album, Can I Have My Money Back in the same year.

He agreed to form Steeler's Wheel, with Rafferty and Joe Eagan but left before the group recorded their Top Ten hit "Stuck in the Middle with You."

They remained friends and Noakes played guitar on one of Rafferty's later albums, Over my Head. His third solo album was Red Pump Special (1973) and was recorded in Nashville produced by Elliot Mazer. The single, Branch was released in the same year and despite attracting considerable airplay it failed to chart in the UK.

Restless (1978), was recorded at John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Tittenhurst and produced by Terry Melcher. The album was released on Ringo Starr's label, Ring O'Records. It was followed two years later with a reissue of his solo album, Rab Noakes.

In the ’eighties he teamed up with some young Glaswegian musicians including Brendan Moon, Lorraine McIntosh and Andy Alston to form Gene Pitney's Birthday. Into the 'nineties this grew into The Varaflames whose members have included harmonica ace Fraser Speirs, Rod Clements of Lindisfarne, guitar ace Jerry Donahue, Pilot’s David Paton, Hilary Brooks, Jim McDermott, Deacon Blue's Ewen Vernal and Pick Withers of Dire Straits.

The singer songwriter’s health began to deteriorate as he became alcohol-dependent. He released Under the Rain in 1984 but did not make another album until 1994 when he recorded Standing Up, a scaled-down recording featuring his solo guitar and vocals. Rab started touring with The Varaflames.

Rab started touring with The Varaflames. In 1990 Noakes worked as music director for the BBC television series Your Cheatin' Heart, after which he became senior executive producer for BBC Radio Scotland.

He left in 1995 to form his own production company, Neon, with his personal and business partner Stephanie Pordage. Neon continues to provide quality TV and radio programs from its base in Glasgow's Kinning Park. Rab Noakes continues to work with harmonica supremo, Fraser Speirs. The first record on the Neon label was 'Throwing Shapes' by The Varaflames, which was followed up with Rab and Fraser’s 'Lights back on' (2001).

The Varaflames second album ‘‘Unlimited Mileage’ was released in 2007.

Rab Noakes continues to record and perform.

Worth a listen
Without Me, Just With You (1970)
Too Old To Die (1970)
Pass The Time (1973)
Branch (1973)
Wrong Joke Again (1973)
Sittin’ In A Corner Blues (1973)
Memories (1975)
November Afternoon (1975)
Restless (1978)
Waiting Here For You (1978) Long Dark Night (1978)
Call It A Day (1980)
Take This Letter (1984)
How Can I Believe You Now (1984)
I Wish I Was In England (1994)
Gently Does It (1994)
Open All Night (1994)

Together Forever (1971 )

The Varaflames
If these shoes could talk (2000)
Learning the game (2000)
Blues around me now (2000)

Gallacher and Lyle

Benny Gallagher (vocals/guitar) and Graham Lyle (vocals/guitar) first played together in Largs, in Ayrshire, Scotland. They were skilled songwriters and soon asked to write for Dean Ford & the Gaylords (aka Marmalade). The single "Mr. Heartbreak's Here Instead," (1964) was a hit for the group Gallacher and Lyle’s first success as writers.

In 1967 the duo went to London and worked as writers at the Beatles’ Apple label. There they had a couple of minor successes with ‘Sparrow’ (B side of Goodbye) and ‘International’ which were both recorded by Mary Hopkin.

The duo continued to perform until they were asked to join McGuinness Flint in 1969. The group was formed after Tom McGuinness and Hughie Flint had left Manfred Mann and Tony Reeves (ex Coliseum) recommended his friends. The lineup was completed by Dennis Coulson (vocals), Paul Rutherford (trombone), and Tony Reeves (bass). Gallacher and Lyle wrote “When I’m dead and gone (1970) and Malt and Barley Blues (1971) which gave the group two sizable hits before Benny and Graham left in 1971 to pursue their own solo partnership.

McGuinness Flint continued with a series of lineup changes but never reached their previous popularity and eventually packed it in, in 1975. Tom McGuinness joined up Paul Jones (ex Manfred Mann) in a group called The Blues Band. The lineup included Hughie Flint, Dave Kelly. Paul Jones had previously “sat in” with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962 before joining Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers (aka Manfred Mann). He had been offered to be the lead singer in the group Brain Jones was putting together, but declined. Paul went solo in 1966 and had a few hits before becoming an actor. In 1979 he and Tom McGuinness joined forces again in the Blues Brothers.

In 1974 Gallagher and Lyle joined Ronnie Lane's group Slim Chance but were still keen to have a solo career.

Their self-titled debut duo album was for Capitol, but when they switched to the A&M label for their second effort. A&M reissue of their debut album. These albums showcased Gallacher & Lyle’s flair for folk music but it was not until they released Breakaway which gave the duo two separate hits, I wanna stay with you (1976) and Heart on my sleeve (1976) which reached the charts.

Art Garfunkel covered the title track and took the single into the US charts. Other albums followed and despite successful tours and switching labels in 1979 the duo separated. Graham later found a new partner, Terry Britten and wrote What’s love got to do with it, and Just good friends recorded respectively by Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.

Gallagher and Lyle continued to work as session musicians and were reacquainted in 2007 when both appeared on an album by singer-songwriter Chris Tassone recorded at London's Abbey Road studios. The pair started performing together again at charity gigs in 2010 and undertook a Scottish tour two years later. Gallagher continues to tour the folk circuit.

Worth a listen

Gallagher and Lyle
I want to stay with you (1976)
Heart on my sleeve (1976)
Stay with you (1976)
Storm in my soul (1976)
Rock writer (1976)
Every little teardrop (1977)

McGuinness Flint
When I’m dead and gone (1970)
Malt and Barley Blues (1971)

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
How come? (1973)

Art Garfunkel
Breakaway (1975)

Tina Turner
What’s love got to do with it (1993)

Michael Jackson
Just good friends (1987)

The Blues Band
Come on in
The Blues Band Song (1980)
Find yourself another (1980)
Nadine (1980)
That's all right (1980)
Itchy Feet (1981)
Come on (1981)
So bad (1982)
Blue Collar (1982)