Monday, 25 December 2017

Alex Young aka George Alexander (1938 - 1997)

Alexander Young was born in 1938 in Glasgow and brought up in Cranhill. He had several siblings including; older brother Steven (1933–1989), George (The Easybeats), Angus and Malcolm (ACDC), and his sister Margaret. George loved music and learned to play tenor saxophone and guitar. Aged 22 , in 1960 he joined The Bobby Patrick Big Six, with the line up of Bobby Patrick (vocals/trumpet), Archie Leggatt (bass/vocals), Pete McCrory (guitar), John A. Wiggins (keyboards), Freddy Smith (drums), Elizabeth Thompson (aka Barry St. John, vocals) and Alex 'Alexander' Young (saxophone). They soon established themselves as one of the top Scottish R &B bands during the pre- Beatles era. In 1962, they moved to London and become regulars at the Kray Twins’ Blue Gardenia Club in Bethnal Green. Meantime, the Young family emigrated to Australia leaving Alex to pursue his musical interests.

The Bobby Patrick Big Six made many trips to Germany and played in Peter Eckhorn’s Top Ten Club. They were one of the first British groups to perform on the Hamburg rock scene and Alex and boys became personal friends with the Beatles when they played in the neighbouring Star Club. The groups became inseparable, with the more experienced Big Six, sharing much of their American covers with the Beatles . Like the other groups of the time, The Bobby Patrick Big Six provided backing to solo singers, sometimes credited and often not. The Bobby Patrick Big Six supported Tony Sheridan as the Beat Brothers and toured Europe in 1963, playing their own shows as well as providing support for the popular Sheridan.

Previously, the Beat Brothers had been the Beatles and consequently the band were often mistaken for the Fab Four. It was common then, for lesser known groups to go uncredited and record under other names due to contractual difficulties. Many minor artists were signed to different record companies at the same time. When Beatles Mania took off, Polydor quietly dubbed many of the early recordings from 1961, featuring The Beatles with Pete Best on drums and used the the Big Six. They kept Tony Sheridan’s vocals and Lennon’s voice on, “Ain’t She Sweet,” as well as some of George Harrison’s guitar work. No credit was given to the session musicians.

When Barry St John left the group in 1963, their agent linked them with Emile Ford (1937 – 2016). Emile Ford and the Checkmates had enjoyed some recording success in the late 50s and early 60s, Ford was attempting to recapture his former success and the Bix Six replaced the original Checkmates, touring UK, Ireland and Sweden.

Prior to becoming a singer, Emile Ford had previously been an audio engineer and travelled with his own backing track system for stage shows. The new Checkmates put this to good use and during this period met and shared the same stage with many Jazz greats, all of whom had the greatest regard for the group.

As The Bill Patrick Big Six, they released several UK singles and one EP, but without commercial success.

Now very much a band in demand they were asked to provided back-up for major American acts on their British tours. This included Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison and at other times they made up the bill on package tours featuring many artist. Nineteen sixty four was a particularly hectic time for the band and included backing Brenda Lee and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles on their UK tour. They received little money for their efforts however, and had to travel many miles touring.

Whenthey went back to Germany, Bobby Patrick and Archie Leggatt left and were replaced by Pete Carter and Iain Campbell. The group continued as The Big Six, but sometimes appeared on the billing as the Gilberts or the B.S.. The Big Six backed Tony Sheridan on his album ‘ Just a Little Bit of Tony Sheridan.’ (1964).

They released several singles including: “Comin’ Home Baby” (1965), a brilliant version of “Shame , shame, shame,” (1966) as well as a cover of Lennon and McCartney's ’ “Nowhere Man,” under the name The BS. All failed to chart and the group went back to Germany and made a living backing Tony Sheridan as The Beat Brothers.

In 1967, only John Wiggins from the original line up, and Iain Campbell remained in the band. The final single was a cover of “Jailhouse Rock” sang by Tony Sheridan and the BS in support. This was later released in Germany in 1968. The recording captures the band’s best quality as a life group but made no impact commercially.

Bobby Patrick went back to Glasgow and with his borther Bill formed the Blues Council with Billy Adamson (drums), Fraser Calder (vocals), James Giffen (bass), Leslie Harvey (lead guitar), John McGinnis (piano), Larry Quinn (alto saxophone). In 1965, they released, ‘Baby Don’t Look Down’/‘What Will I Do’, Tragically, Calder and Giffen. Were killed in a traffic accident when the band were returning from a gig. The group continued for a short time after but had lost much of their initial impetus. Bobby continued to work in and around Scotland and joined the house band at the Locarno Ballroom with Maggie Bell and Leslie Harvey (Stone the Crows) . He became a session musician and worked with many luminaries including Alex Harvey, before he passed away in 2016.

Barry St John had left earier to pursue a solo career and released a string of UK singles for Decca and Columbia. She had one UK top 50 hit with “Come Away Melinda” in 1965.

In 1967, John Wiggins became a member of Tony Jackson & The Vibrations for a short time before returning to work with Tony Sheridan later that year.

After a fall out with Sheridan, Wiggins joined The Krew in 1968 , which saw him reuniting with former band members , Archie Leggat and singer Barry St John.

After a disastrous Italian gig with a drunk Iain Campbell, who just joined the band, Wiggins left to pursue other musical activities. John Wiggins sadly passed away in 2017.

The reformed Krew went back to London and recorded new material and released the album, 'According to St John' in 1968.

After the break up of the Big Six, Peter McCrory left the music business but remained in Hamburg. Freddie Smith became drummer with a number of bands after leaving The Big Six This included Ian & The Zodiacs (1966), The Fyx (1967/68) and Third World War . He also spent a short time with the Krew before forming Maurice’s Portrait with Archie Legget. When the Paris based trio broke up in the early 1970’s. Both musicians became session men and Smith reunited briefly with worked with George Alexander, and worked with Harry Vanda, George Young , Kevin Ayers and John Cale among others. Archie Legget eventally joined Johnny Hallyday’s backing band. Sadly both musicians have now passed away.

Iain Campbell had a checkered career after The Big Six , he sang lead vocals on ‘Shot in the head, ’ a single released by Haffy’s Whisky Sour in 1971. After The Easybeats disbanded in 1969, Harry Vanda and George Young wrote and produced many projects. ‘Shot in the head, ’ whoich featured George Alexander. Campbell briefly joined Stealer’s Wheel in 1972, but left soon after before the band broke through commercially. He also released a solo album ‘Campbell Country ‘N’ Soul, ’ to critical acclaim as a country singer but little else. In 1973, Iain was again playing bass on another Alexander, Vanda and Young project, The Marcus Hook Roll Band . The group is noted for featuring the four Young brothers, Malcolm and Angus, prior to forming AC/DC, George Young and George Alexander (Alex Young). They released three singles and one album, Tales of Old Grand Daddy (1973). Iain also released a solo album ‘Campbell Country ‘N’ Soul, ’ to critical acclaim but little else. Iain Campbell died in 2015, but not before becoming a well respected folk musician.

Alex Young returned to the UK, changed his name to George Alexander and was signed to Apple Music Publishing Ltd., as a song writer in 1967. He formed a new band with three members of Tony Rivers & The Castaways to record his songs. Initially the the line up was John Perry (guitar and vocals) , Geoff Swettenham (drums) , Pete Swettenham (guitar), Mike Fowler (joined later on keyboards and guitar), Malcolm Jelley (bass), Bob Wale (was a replacement of Pete on the second album for on vocals, lead guitar and harmonica) and George Alexander (bass and vocals) .

John Lennon liked the Beatlesque "Lullaby for a Lazy Day", with the Lennon type lead and christened them Grapefruit after a book written by Yoko Ono .

During 1968/69, they recorded several singles helped by McCartney, Lennon and Harrison who often produced for them. They also made two collectable albums. (Around Grapefruit (1968) and Deep Water(1969))

Their debut single "Dear Delilah", produced by Terry Melcher went to number 21 in the UK singles chart. George Alexander wrote most of the bands material which become more soft rock by the second album. Grapefruit broke up in late 1969.

In 1970, George Alexander became involved in several projects with his younger brother George Young and his songwriting partner Harry Vanda (Easybeats). After their initial success the pair came to the UK to write songs and the trio recorded under several names including Paintbox, Moondance and Tramp, as well as the Marcus Hook Roll Band (see above). He even revived the Grapefruit name, issuing, "Universal Party" / "Sha Sha". In the 90s he returned to Hamburg and worked as a music manager with "Proud and Loud Management" before he did in 1997.

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