Saturday, June 3, 2017

Middle of the Road (Sally Carr)



The Electrons were formed in 1964 and consisted of brothers Ian and Eric McCredie (formerly of The Dominos) and drummer, Ken Andrew (former The Talismen Beat Unit). They later changed their name to the Douglas Boys and backed Glasgow singer, Jan Douglas. In 1967 Sadie Carr (stage name Sally Carr) joined the group as a replacement lead singer when they were Part Three, Sally stayed and the group became Part Four. Latin American numbers featured heavily in their live act and their management encouraged them to reflect this in their name, Part Four became Las Caracas in 1967. For the next three years, the group toured the UK and in 1968 they appeared in ATVs talent show, Opportunity Knocks with Hughie Green.



The band did very well winning many of the heats but despite their popular appeal no interest was shown from recording companies. Sally, Ken and Eric turned professional in 1969 and Ian joined them a year later. The band had plans to move to Argentina, but delayed their decision to play on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. A new name was necessary and Ken thought of Middle of the Road, all agreed and the band was launched. On route to South America the band hit a hitch whilst in transit in Italy. Left stranded and penniless they worked the local restaurants. The group was heard by an RCA, A & R executive, who invited them to Rome for a recording test. Things went well and they recorded three songs Yellow River, I can't tell the bottom from the top and Jesus Christ Superstar. The company liked them so much, they included these recordings later on their first album.



At first MoR were used to back Italian pop singers including Sophia Loren.



The record did well in Italy and was the first of many film themes to be recorded by the group. RCA Italiana teamed the group with Italian producer, Giacomo Tosti in 1970 who found Chirpy cheep cheep which was written and recorded by Lally Stott. When the band heard it at first, they expressed reserve but Sally soon convinced them it was a good idea. Copious supplies of Bourbon were available in the studio when the song was recorded but on its release it went to Number one in many countries including the UK.



C4 stayed in the UK hit parade for 35 weeks and sold 8 million records world-wide elevating Middle of the Road to the third most popular recording artists in the Billboard Charts in 1971. Writers, Mario and Giosy Capuano joined the production team who produced a string of International hits. “Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum," their second single was used in a Fiat promotion for the launch of the Fiat 127. Car and single did very well.



"Soley Soley," was produced by Giacomo Tosti and penned by Spanish songwriter, Fernando Arbex, with lyrics co-written by Sally. The song was recorded in Madrid and got to Number 2 in the UK charts.



Despite their fame on the Continent and obvious commercial success, Middle of the Road was not promoted in the UK. The band toured nonstop around the world for the next two years and visited Brazil, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The next single Sacramento, reached the top ten charts in most of Europe, including many of the East European countries like East Germany, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.



Together Samson and Delilah, Yellow Boomerang and Talk of all the USA, sold over 2 million copies in Europe alone.











Neil Henderson (former Bay City Rollers) joined the group but by the mid seventies, the band was beginning to lose their mojo, and tastes in popular music were changing. Abba who once were the warm up band at MoR gigs, were now in the ascendancy. MoR changed labels but despite serious attempts to reconfigure their musical style, the band had no further success. A marketing war between Ariola and the giant RCA Corporation ensued and old recordings not previously released prevented their new works from impacting. Eventually Sally left to the band in 1977 to follow a solo career. A year later Ken left while Ian and Eric continued to exploit what was left of the Middle of the Road’s reputation. In 1981 Sally and Ken returned to MoR for a short time to re- record and perform their old hits. In 1991 they were back together again for a German TV gig and enjoyed a renaissance on the European nostalgia circuit. The band is still together as, Middle of the Road featuring Sally Carr, with originals, Ken Andrew and Neil Henderson. Shug Devlin (keyboards) and Phil Anderson (guitar and vocals) complete the lineup.





Worth a listen:
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1971)
Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum (1971)
Soley Soley (1971)
Sacramento (1972)
Samson and Delilah (1972)
Talk of all the USA (1972)
Yellow Boomerang (1973)
Kailakee Kailako (1973)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bill Martin



William Wylie MacPherson was born in 1938 in Taransay Street, Govan, Glasgow. His father was a poet and piano player and Wylie learned to play piano as a child. He later attested his song writing skills to his father’s early influence. He went to Govan High and began writing songs as a teenager. Wylie left school at 15 and started as an Apprentice Marine Engineer at The Alexander Shipyard in Govan. His two main interests were song writing and football. At 18 he went to London to try to sell some of his songs but returned without success. On his return he was delighted to sign for Partick Thistle and later joined Johannesburg Rangers in South Africa and the for next three years Wylie found himself exiled but kept writing and in 1960, London Music Publisher accepted one of his compositions called “That’s the only way.” The song was never recorded. Undaunted he kept at it and eventually in 1962 he had his first published song, “Kiss me now,” recorded by Tommy Quickly.



The song sold moderately in Australia but was a flop in the UK. Quickly was one of Brian Epstein’s GEMS artists and this did raise Wylie’s profile. Still writing as Wylie McPherson he was advised to shorten his name to ten letters and chose Bill Martin. In 1964 he teamed up with Tommy Scott and together they wrote songs for: The Bachelors, Twinkle, Van Morrison, and Serge Gainsbourg.











In 1965, Bill met Phil Coulter and formed a publishing company which spurned hits for many British artists. The impressive list includes: The Troggs and Geno Washington (Hi Hi Hazel 1965); Cliff Richard (Congratulations 1968), and Cilla Black (Surround yourself with sorrow 1969), The Dubliners (Scorn not his simplicity 1970) and many, many more.



















However, it was a composition for the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest which catapulted them into the superstar category it was Puppet on a string recorded by Sandie Shaw.



Success continued into the 70s staring with the number one hit by The English World Cup Squad (Back Home 1970).



Martin and Coulter were quick to spot the rising popularity of Scotland’s Bay City Rollers and penned a few of their hits including: Remember (Sha La La La) (1974), Shang a lang (1974), Summerlove Sensation (1974), All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974), and the band’s #1 US hit Saturday Night (1976).























Phil Coulter and Bill Martin translated the lyrics of Jean-Pierre Bourtayre and Claude François song. "Parce que je t'aime, mon enfant" (Because I Love You My Child) into English and the song was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1973 and reached #20 on the Billboard pop chart,



Bill and Phil later formed the Martin-Coulter Music Group to discover new talent including Billy Connolly and Midge Ure. Martin-Coulter Music, also signed other songwriters including Van Morrison, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Eric Bogle, They continued the hit factory with Kenny “The Bump" and 'Fancy Pant's; Slik with ‘Forever And Ever’. (1976).







Aside from pop music Bill also wrote for films and TV including “The Water Babies”, some “Carry on" films and a number of television theme songs including "Spiderman ".







The partnership with Coulter ended in 1983 when Martin bought out Coulter's share of the business then sold it to EMI Music. In the same year he produced the stage musical Musical Jukebox which ran to critical acclaim in the West End for six months. Bill has continued to write songs and collaborated with many other composers. As a songwriter, record producer and music publisher the boy from Govan has had No1s in every country of the world and some estimated worldwide sales of over 35 million. Bill Martin continues with other business interests but was recently inducted into his old school Govan High's Inaugural Hall of Fame in 2011 and joins fellow luminary, Sir Alex Ferguson.



Worth a listen

Tommy Quickly
Kiss Me Now (1963)

The Troggs
Hi Hi Hazel (1965)

Sandie Shaw
Puppet on a string (1967)

Cliff Richard
Congratulations (1968)

Cilla Black
Surround yourself with sorrow (1969 )

Dana
All kinds of Everything (1970 )

England World Cup Squad
Back Home (1970 )

Richard Harris
My Boy (1971)

Dick Emery
Ooh you are awful (but I like you) (1972 )

Elvis Presley
My Boy (1973 )

Bay City Rollers
Remember (Sha La La La) (1974 )
Shang a lang (1974 )
Summerlove Sensation (1974 )
All Of Me Loves All Of You (1974)
Saturday Night (1976 )

Kenny
The Bump (1974 )
Fancy Pants (1975)

Slik
Forever and ever (1975)
Requeim (1976 )

The Water Babies
High Cockaloum (1978)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Glen and the Loch Ness Monster





The Great Glen in the Scottish highlands is a rift valley 60 miles long and contains three famous lochs; Lochy, Oich and Ness. Loch Ness is around twenty two and a half miles long and between one and one and a half miles wide. It is deeper than the North Sea at 754 feet with a flat bottom. It holds 263 thousand million cubic feet of water or 16 million 430 thousand million gallons of water with a surface area of 14000 acres and could hold the population of the world 10 times over. It is fed by 7 major rivers the Oich, Tarff, Enrich, Coiltie, Moriston, Foyers and Farigaig plus numerous burns, with only one outlet the River Ness which flows 7 miles through Inverness into the Moray Firth 52 feet below the loch surface. Loch Ness never freezes because a thermocline lies around 100 feet below the surface. The top water temperature alters depending on the weather conditions but below the thermocline the temperature never varies from 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The mysterious steaming across the loch is due to heavier cold water falling below the thermocline and being replaced by the warmer water from below.



Nessie is a mystical creature that reputedly inhabits the largest freshwater lake in northern Scotland, Loch Ness . The most common speculation is the creature represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs. Although its existence has never been proven scientifically, eye witness accounts describe the cryptid as a large pre-historic sea creature. Nessie remains the most famous example of cryptozoology first reported on 2nd May, 1933 by a water bailiff called Alex Campbell. Later the same year a tourist and his wife reported a dragon like animal crossing the main road as it made its way to the loch. They described a four feet tall animal with a 25 feet long body and“undulating” 10- or 12-foot neck. The couple also said they saw an animal in the beast’s mouth possibly a small lamb. Soon other claims of sightings followed.



Reports of a monster in the remote Scottish Highlands were enough to attract the attention of the general public. British newspapers sent reporters to Scotland in search of additional testimony and proof the monster’s being. Marmaduke Wetherell , celebrity game hunter was engaged and discovered enormous tracks he thought belonged to a creature at least 20 feet long.



Plaster casts were taken and sent to the Natural History Museum in London for verification. These were found to be a hoax.



The first purported photograph of the monster was published in the Daily Express on the 6th December 1933. Robert Kenneth Wilson was a London gynaecologist refused to have his name associated with the photograph and the paper dubbed the it the the Surgeon's Photograph .He reported taking four photos but only two came out clear. The first one with the small head and back became the iconic image and for many years was regarded as the best evidence of the monster’s existence.



It took another 60 years to reveal the true origins of the Surgeon’s Photograph. Ninety year old Christian Spurling, (Marmaduke Wetherell step son) admitted he had colluded with Wetherell and Wilson to produce a hoax photograph.



In 1933 Bertram Mills, circus empresario offered a £20,000 reward to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus. It remains unclear whether Mills could afford the reward but it did start a landslide of interest. Reports of a monster in the Loch meant there was prize on Nessie’s head and this attracted the attention of armed hunting parties to the remote location. Local concerns were such Inverness-shire Chief Constable William Fraser wrote a letter to the newspapers in 1938, stating as it was beyond doubt the monster existed he believed his power to protect the monster from the hunters was "very doubtful".



Local man, Hugh Gray took a picture in 1933 which depicts a creature with a long grayish neck that tapers into a thin head rising out of the water, followed by two humps. Despite the photograph being published the quality was generally poor and eventually dismissed by most. Gray was a well known practical joker which only added to skeptics’ dismissal of the evidence. More recently the photograph has been analysed in detail and may indeed be genuine.



Still gripped in monster fervor R. T. Gould published his book, The Loch Ness Monster and others in 1934. Gould’s work included collected records of additional reports pre-dating 1933. The earliest recording was AD 565.



There is a tale about St Columba who saved his companion Luigne moccu Min when he was chased in Loch Ness by a beast. It is recorded in Adomnán’s Life of St. Columba, the Saint made the sign of the Cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror.



Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster pre-1933 were rare, but did exist. Doctor D. Mackenzie of Balnain wrote to Robert Gould in 1934 to say as a young man he had witnessed an object that looked much like a log or upturned boat wriggling and churning up the water. The object moved slowly at first, then disappeared off at a faster speed (circa 1871). Sightings of the monster increased following the building of a road along the loch in early 1933. This brought both workmen and tourists to the formerly isolated area. In the same year Arthur Grant was on his motorbike and claimed to have nearly hit the creature while approaching Abriachan on the north-eastern shore of Loch Ness. It was a moonlight night and Grant was sure he saw a small head attached to a long neck.



More sightings, photographs and filmed encounters followed. A South African tourist G. E. Taylor in 1938 took a three minute 16 mm colour film. The film was never shown publically but a still was published in The Elusive Monster (1961) by Maurice Burton. Some experts thought the photograph was genuine but because it was never open to more detailed scrutiny like many reports it was dismissed as inconclusive. In 1951, Lachlan Stuart, a local Forestry Commission woodsman took a picture of what appears to show three humps moving in the waters of the Loch. Thirty years later it was revealed the humps were thinly disguised bales of hay covered in tarpaulin in another elaborate hoax. The Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau was formed in 1961and sporadic land sightings continued until 1963.



Many sonar attempts had been made but most were either inconclusive or negative. In December 1954, the fishing boat Rival III made sonar contact with a large object at a depth of 146 metres (479 ft). It was detected travelling for 800 m (2,600 ft) before contact was lost then found again. In 1961 two submarines with sonar experts on board was used but were unable to locate Nessie. They did however find a vast underwater cavern at 950 feet deep. Many speculate the elusive Nessie might use this as a hiding place. In 1975 an American-based expedition used underwater photography and special sonar to examine the Loch Ness. The underwater camera was able to take images of a moving object that had flippers. Based on these photos some scientists concluded that the 20-foot long creature was possibly an ancient reptile that became extinct with the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.



One of the most interesting videos of the Nessie was taken in 2007 by Gordon Holmes, a 55-year-old lab technician. Considered to be one of the best filmed evidence to date the absence of other objects in the video does make comparisons impossible. Other evidence includes a sonar image taken in 2011 of an unidentified object considered to be 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) long which apparently was following the boat of a local fisherman for two minutes at a depth of 23 m (75 ft).



George Edwards, a cruise boat operator, claimed a photograph he had taken in 2011 displaying a hump out of the water was genuine. On first inspection the photograph appeared genuine but closer scrutiny confirmed the so called monster was a fibreglass hump previously used in a National Geographic documentary that Edwards had participated in. Later he freely admitted to the hoax defending his actions as ‘ramping up interest in the Loch Ness monster and attracting people to the area.’



In 2014 after “Official Registrar of Loch Ness Monster Sightings reported no sightings of the creature had been recorded in 18 months. This was the first time since 1925 so much time had passed without a confirmed sighting claims, many feared the Loch Ness Monster was dead. Then Andrew Dixon who was browsing an Apple map of the Loch saw what appeared to be the monster close to the surface of the loch. Possible explanations for the image were it could be the wake of a boat, a seal causing ripples or a floating log. Some even believe the image was Photoshopped using an image of a whale shark. Closer inspection did also reveal the image bore a close resemblance to a Loch Ness-based cruise ship called the Jacobite Queen.



Most scientists consider it impossible for a dinosaur like creature to survive for millions of years unseen. Most sightings are simply explained away by floating logs or unusual waves. Loch Ness is fed from the Moray Firth in the North Sea via the River Ness. The sea is frequented by porpoises, dolphins and whales and seals and dolphins have been filmed in the loch many times. In the last three decades independent scientists have used sonar and satellite imagery to scan every inch of the loch and found 'no trace of any large animal living there'. The Loch Ness monster however is estimated it to be worth in the region of £50 million per annum and more than 500,000 tourists travel to the area every year in the hope of sighting the beast. Reason enough them to keep the secret of Loch Ness secret.

More information

Loch Ness Hunter Haggis Tours
Loch Ness Investigation
Official Registrar of Loch Ness Monster Sightings



Is the British Government Hiding The Loch Ness Monster?


Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rikki Fulton (1924 - 2004)




Robert Kerr Fulton was born in Dennistoun, Glasgow in 1924. The youngest of three brothers, the family moved to Riddrie, when Rikki was three. His mother did not keep well and Rikki grew up as a bit of a loaner but with a veracious reading habit. His father had been a master locksmith but bought a newsagent and stationery shop. Fulton completed his secondary education at Whitehill Secondary School in 1939. He wanted to become an actor but initially worked in the family's stationery business. When he was 17, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, and served until 1945. He took up straight acting and had a knack for accents Rikki worked his way through local repertory theatre, into broadcasting on the BBC Home Service (Scotland). With a foot on the ladder he gave up his interest in the stationary business to concentrate upon his acting career.



He moved to London in 1953, and became the laconic compere of The Show Band Show (Cyril Stapleton) on the Light Programme. There he worked with several luminaries including Frank Sinatra.







In 1953, he made his film debut playing a poacher in the romantic comedy Laxdale Hall (Released in the US as Scotch on the Rocks).



Rikki wanted to be a comic and started to write his own material and on his return to Scotland in 1954, became a regular on Five Past Eight at the Glasgow Alhambra and the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. Although principally based in Scotland he was invited to appear on Bernard Delfont's Sunday Show in 1959 as "the new UK comedy personality".



In 1960 and 1961, he starred in two Saturday night specials for the BBC, called The Rikki Fulton Show, with Ethel Scott (his wife) as his foil. Both shows enjoyed peek viewing. He loved pantomime and starred in "A Wish for Jamie," with Kenneth McKellar and Fay Lenore, which premiered at the Alhambra Theatre Glasgow in 1960, and its sequel "A Love for Jamie," which ran for three consecutive winters.



While working at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Fulton met comedian Jack Milroy. Together they created a stage double act of two gormless Corner Boys from Glasgow named "Francie and Josie". In 1962, Scottish Television featured a new series called The Adventures of Francie and Josie. which established both Fulton and Milroy as household names in Scotland. By the mid 60s, he was the star of the Rikki Fulton Hour (Scottish Television), which featured a series of hilarious sketches.



From the success of Francie and Josie, Rikki decided to return to straight roles and appeared at the 1973 Edinburgh Festival playing "Flatterie" in a pre-Reformation satire entitled ‘Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis in Commendatioun of Vertew and Vituperatioun of Vyce. He also played Andrew Fairservice in BBC TV's serialisation of Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy (1977). Two years later he was the Laird O'Grippy in the televised adaptation of Molière's The Miser. He continued to perform regularly in pantomime , mostly notably with the Royal Lyceum Company in Edinburgh and the Scottish Theatre Company based in Glasgow. In 1978, he began Scotch and Wry series on the BBC and it continued for another 15 years. The comedy sketch show with a distinct Scottish accent became an institution at Hogmanay. The series established the character of Fulton's lugubrious television vicar the Rev I.M. Jolly. Another well-remembered character was Supercop, a glaikit police motorcyclist whose persecution of drivers always began with the words: "OK Stirling, oot the car."







In 1980, Rikki played the elder, John Fleming in The Sandyford Place Mystery: Square Mile of Murder (TV Series) and in the following year appeared as Robbie Kerr in Nothing Like a Dame. More straight roles followed with Autolycus, in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of The Winter's Tale (1981), then Lord Justice Clerk in Boswell for the Defence, (1983). Guest appearances in Bergerac (1981), The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (1984), and Scotland's Story, an epic dramatised history for Channel Four, saw him back on the small screen. Rikki Fulton returned to cinema in 1981, with The Dollar Bottom, and shocked his Scottish fans with his cruel eyed and saturine rendition of the KGB major in Gorky Park (1983). He appeared in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983) and Comfort and Joy (1984). Back treading the boards, he won acclaim in his and Denise Coffey's reworking of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as A Wee Touch o' Class at the 1985 Edinburgh festival.



Rikki played Dan Macphail, the engineer, in The Tales of Para Handy in BBC’s follow up to The Vital Spark. The series ran from 1994 to 1995.



In 1996, after 36 years of performing as Francie and Josie, Fulton and Milroy appeared in their "Final Farewell" at the King's Theatre, Glasgow. Rikki Fulton's last full performance on television came in 1998, his second appearance in Rab C. Nesbitt.



In 2002, Rikki Fulton was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and died peacefully at the age of 79 in 2004. In tribute to his Scotch and Wry character Supercop, police motorcyclists escorted the funeral cortège as it made its way to the Crematorium.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)



Ian Scott Anderson, was born in 1947, in Dumfermline, the youngest of three siblings. The family lived in East Port, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, then later moved to Edinburgh. The young Anderson was always keen on music, initially influenced by his father's record collection of big bands and jazz musicians, then later by rock n roll. In 1959 the family relocated to Blackpool and Ian finished his schooling at Blackpool Grammar School. In 1962/63, he formed a school band called The Blades and they played soul and blues music, with Anderson on vocals and harmonica. The line-up was complete with Jeffrey Hammond (bass), John Evans (drums and piano), and another guitarist. Drummer Barrie Barlow became a member in 1963 after Evans had switched from drums to piano. Later the band developed into a seven piece called the John Evan Band (before becoming the John Evan Smash). Meantime Ian completed his studies in fine art at Blackpool College of Art. The group decided to try their luck in the South and moved to Luton. Frustrated by the lack of instant success most of the band quit, leaving Anderson and bassist Glenn Cornick (who had replaced Hammond) to join forces with blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and his friend, drummer Clive Bunker, both from the Luton-based band McGregor's Engine. They took a series of names as they played the London Club circuit but what was memorable about their various metamorphoses was Ian played mouth organ on stage standing on one leg. Frustrated by his own inability to master the electric guitar Ian traded it in for a flute and in record time became proficient in rock and blues flute. Eventually the band weas christened Jethro Tull by a booking agent’s clerk and the name stuck. The group signed to the Ellis-Wright agency and they released their first single in 1968 called "Sunshine Day.”



The record failed to impact on the record buying public. Their first album 'This Was ‘came out in the same year and caught some critical acclaim.



Blues purist Mick Abrahams left the band to form Blodwyn Pig after some artistic differences with Ian Anderson.



Martin Barre eventually replaced Abrahams and Jethro Tull released their next album Stand Up in 1969. It topped the UK album charts.



Progressive rock groups rarely issued singles as their demographic was young adults and not young teenagers who traditionally could not afford to buy albums. When Jethro Tull released “Living in the Past" as a single it reached number three in the UK charts.



They followed up with their other singles, "Sweet Dream" (1969) and "The Witch's Promise" (1970), and a five-track EP, Life Is a Long Song (1971), all of which made the top twenty.











By the time the album Benefit was released John Evan (keyboards) had joined the band.



In the same year Jeffrey Hammond re-joined the group when bassist Glenn Cornick was asked to leave. The group released their most popular album Aqualung in 1971 which had international success reaching Number 7 in the US album charts.



In 1972 the concept album Thick as a brick was released and topped the charts.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Andy Stewart (1933 - 1993)



Andrew "Andy" Stewart was born in Glasgow in 1933 the son of a school teacher. The family lived in Shieldhall, Glasgow until he was 5 then they relocated to Perth before settling in Arbroath, six years later. He grew up in a musical family and played mouth organ. Andy actually preferred to use his natural vocal dexterity to impersonate other instruments rather than learning to play them. He was a natural mimic and amazed his parents with impersonations of famous singers and actors. He attended Arbroath High School and wrote his first lyric at the age of 14. The song “My Hameland" was recorded much later in 1969 and became the title track of one of his most popular albums.



Andy trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and started on the boards in 1954 as a comedy impressionist. One of his most popular routines was to perform “Ye Cannae Shove yer Granny Aff a Bus’ in the voices of American stars like Jolson or Armstrong. Andy reveled in the audiences’ reaction to his impressions of Presley and Little Richard. In 1955 Andy joined the cast of a new comedy series on the Scottish Home Service called Jim & Mary (17 Sauchie Street) it drew large audiences and ran from 1955-1959. He was also master of ceremonies to the first packaged Rock & Roll show to tour England, introducing the likes of Tony Crombie and his Rockets, Don Fox and Maxine Daniels to the music-hungry teens.



Steward became a firm favourite with older audiences too and appeared regularly in variety shows and pantomime throughout Scotland. In 1957 he became the host of BBC TV’s The White Heather Club which started as annual New Year's Eve party (1957–1968) before becoming a weekly series (1960–1968). At the height of its popularity, the show had a viewership of 10 million.



Andy affectionately known as the ‘Hobbit,” was the master of ceremonies and sang songs and told jokes. In 1959 he signed his first recording contract with Top Rank and they released “Donald, Where's Your Troosers?” This gave Andy his first taste of chart success because it was a minor hit in the UK charts peaking at number 37.



Next EMI released “A Scottish Soldier” on the Top Rank label. The lyrics were written by Andy and the song was based on an old pipe-tune called “The Green Hills of Tyrol.” The song was recorded at Abbey Road, London and accompanied by The Michael Sammes Singers with Orchestra conducted by Bernard Ebbinghouse. The recording was produced by Walter J. (Wally) Ridley. "A Scottish Soldier" spent 36 weeks in the UK Singles Chart in 1961 and was in the top 50 in the USA for over a year. In Australia, the record became the biggest selling single since Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock in 1956.



Whilst his records continued to sell he never was able to repeat the earlier chart success. As an entertainer, he frequently and successfully toured Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.



Recurrent ill-health took its toll and from 1973 on wards Andy was frequently hospitalised. He continued to work when he could but sadly the "The Tartan trooper, " Andy Stewart died in 1993.



Worth a listen

Come in-Come in ( )
Donald Where's Your Troosers?” (1961)
Campbeltown Loch (1961)
The Muckin' O' Geordie's Byre (1961)
The Road to Dundee (1961)
The Battle's O'er (1961)
Take Me Back (1061)
Tunes Of Glory (1961)
Dr. Finlay (1965)
The Gallant Forty-Twa" (1968)
Rainbows Are Back In Style" (1969)
Farewell My Love" (1972)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lonnie Donegan (1931 - 2002)



Born in Glasgow in 1931, Anthony James Donegan was the son of a professional violinist who played for the Scottish National Orchestra. When his parents divorced in 1933 Anthony moved with his mother to East London (hence the accent). Young Anthony loved listening to the radio and enjoyed country and blues music as well as New Orleans jazz. He got his first guitar at the age of fourteen. Once he mastered the guitar he began playing around London. Chris Barber thought Anthony could play banjo, which at the time, he could not. He brought a banjo to the audition but failed to impress however, he and Chris Barber got on so well Anthony was asked to join the Chris Barber Skiffle Group. In 1949 Anthony was called up for National Service and served two years during which time he heard a lot more American music.



When he was demobbed, Anthony formed his own group called the Tony Donegan Jazzband in 1952. He took inspiration from a new source of blues and folk music from the library at the American Embassy, which allowed visitors to listen to any recordings that were on hand.



The stage name Lonnie came as a tribute to Lonnie Johnson who Donegan admired. The Tony Donegan Jazz band played on the same program with the blues musician at the Royal Festival Hall and was mistakenly introduced as Lonnie Donegan, he like it and the name stuck.



In 1953 Lonnie was back with the Chris Barber, now in a band called Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen.



Being that bit younger than the rest of the group Lonnie began to play skiffle in between the trad jazz sets. He entertained the crowd to some do-it-yourself music with a washboard, a tea-chest bass and a cheap Spanish guitar, singing folk songs and blues by artists such as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. So popular was the skiffle segments he was asked to record a fast-tempoed version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line", with Chris Barber's Jazz Band in 1954. The single with John Henry as the B side was a spectacular hit in both UK and the US.







Lonnie Donegan's last recordings with the Chris Barber Band, before he left to pursue a solo career capitalising on the success of "Rock Island Line", were made on 4 April 1956. He was replaced on banjo by Dick Bishop, who also soldiered on with the skiffle group (known both as Chris Barber's Skiffle Group and Dick Bishop's Skiffle Group).



The King of Skiffle launched the craze which would lead to the creation of over 50,000 skifffle groups in the UK alone, Lonnie Donegan changed the face of popular music forever. His first single “Lost John" hit No. 2 in UK. A series of popular records followed including "Cumberland Gap" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour on the Bedpost Over Night?".











He also followed up on the music hall style comedy, with "My Old Man's A Dustman".



By the early sixties Lonnie Donegan was no longer a headline act but had inspired many of the new order of guitar players including John Lennon and Pete Townsend. He resigned himself to live concerts and cabaret and worked tirelessly touring the world circuit, starring in Las Vegas, Hollywood, New York, Canada, Bermuda, Australia and New Zealand. He was back in the UK for a reunion concert with the original Chris Barber Band in 1975 but back in the US severe heart problems forced him to retire in 1976. By now many of his disciples were established stars themselves and Adam Faith encouraged the King of Skiffle to cross the Atlantic and re-record some of his earlier works with an array of stars including Ringo Starr, Elton John, Peter Banks, Ron Wood, and Brian May. All contributed to “Putting on the Style” which was released in 1978.



A follow-up album featured Albert Lee and Lonnie Donegan singing country-and-western.



Refreshed by the interest Lonnie formed his own Skiffle group and started to tour again. Health problems continued however and in 1992 Lonnie underwent bypass surgery. Two years later he joined Chris Barber, when the trombonist band leader was celebrating 40 years of his band. Both reunion concert and tour were recorded.



In 1999, collaboration with long-time fan Van Morrison resulted in Lonnie's first album release in 20 years, Muleskinner Blues. Lonnie became a frequent guest and opening act for Van's shows and in June 1999 played at the Glastonbury Festival and the Fleadh Festival, followed by a tour that autumn. Lonnie also featured in the Skiffle Sessions – Live in Belfast with Van Morrison, Chris Barber, with a guest appearance by Dr John in 2000.







Lonnie died in 2002 shortly before he was due to perform at a memorial concert for George Harrison (a lifelong fan). He was aged 71. .




Worth a listen:
Rock Island Line ( 1954)
John Henry (1954)
Midnight Special (1955)
Worried Man Blues (1955)
I'm Alabamy Bound (1956)
Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O (1956)
Mule Skinner Blues (1957)
Cumberland Gap (1957)
Putting On The Style (1957)
Jack O' Diamonds (1958)
The Grand Coulee Dam (1958)
Tom Dooley (1958)
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour (1958)
Battle Of New Orleans (1958)
My Old Man's A Dustman (1959)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A brief history of the Glasgow Fair




The Glasgow Fair dates to the 12th century, and is one of the oldest pubic holidays and was granted by William the Lion, King of Scotland (1165 to 1214), after Bishop Jocelin asked for permission to hold festivities within the boundaries of Glasgow Cathedral in 1190. By the 1800s, the fair moved to Glasgow Green.



Glasgow Green was established in the 15th century and is the oldest park in the city. It sits on the north bank of the River Clyde on the city’s east end. King James II granted the land to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow in 1450. Originally it was an uneven swampy area composed of the High and Low Greens, the Calton Green and the Gallowgate Green, divided by the Camlachie and Molendinar Burns. Initially it was a grazing area with the banks of the Clyde used for drying fish nets and communal washing. Over the years, the burns were drained and the green levelled and extended. After the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the Town Council of Glasgow employed 324 jobless as workers to remodel Glasgow Green. Throughout the 19th century, the green was used for political meetings, demonstrations and public executions.



At first, the fair was associated with the sale of horses and cattle. As time passed the gathering became a focal point for traveling showmen, who took advantage of the large audiences. More recently the fair become associated with amusements, with circus and theatre shows as centrepieces. As was the custom most local businesses closed on 'Fair Friday' to allow workers and their families to attend. The community of travelling show people grew in the city towards the end of the 19th century. In anticipation of the fairs around the city, showground families acquired, or leased patches of land. By 1912, the fair incorporated penny gaffs, these were make shift theatres, which cost one penny entrance fee. Originally a gaff was the name given to a cock fighting pit. Cock fighting was banned in the 19th century and the penny gaff featured clowning, dancing, singing and short melodrama. The Glasgow Fair in 1912 featured a scenic railway to visitors on a simulated ride through Japan and back to Scotland. Green’s Carnival at Whitevale. Gallowgate attracted large audiences eager to see films on a silver screen of Trench War. As the years passed, Glasgow Green became the site for amusements, circus animals, shows and ride simulations.



Prior to the Industrial revolution in the 19th century, fairs, markets and the like were patronised by the gentry as part of a paternalistic ethos. Both cultural, and structural changes came with industrialisation and the spread of factory work and unprecedented regularity and intensity of working hours produced a new formation of leisure activity. Most workers had the Sunday off, but apart from that the only other time off was during the religious holidays of Christmas and Good Friday. In 1871, the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year and four new public holidays were introduced in England and Wales, and 3 in Scotland. Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban areas, the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the 1874 Factory Act limited the workweek to 56.5 hours, encouraging the movement toward an eventual eight-hour workday. Moreover, a system of routine annual vacations came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class. By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all cities. This provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theatre. Glasgow was well served with railways with inexpensive railway fares; the Clyde steamers allowed working class people access to the seaside resorts and cheap hotels along the Firth of Clyde, Rothesay and the Ayrshire coast.



It soon became a common practice for local industries to close during the second half of July, to allow the majority of their employees a holiday on the Trade Fare. Literally everything would have stopped production, shipyards, retail (for the most part), and Glasgow ground to a halt. Being paid holiday pay in hand meant it was not out of character to see wives of workers waiting patiently outside the docks or depots, to ensure their husbands did not spend their fair fortnight wages, in the pub.



After the Second World War, tens of thousands of Glaswegians made their annual exodus from the city either travelling by rail to exotic locations such as Blackpool or "doon the watter" on the Clyde steamers. Huge queues of holiday-makers formed at Glasgow's Central Station or the Steamer Terminal at the Broomielaw with families eager to start their holiday. A regular call was “Taps aff, we’re going doon the watter for the fair.” (Shirts off boys, we are going to the seaside). Blackpool became a Mecca for thousands.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Haggis Mythbuster




Take a wee donner through Literary Walk in Central Park, New York and you will find a statue of a man seated on a tree stump with a quill pen in one hand. The bronze figure by Sir John Steell (1804-1891) is of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most renowned literary figure. Great patriot he celebrated Scotland’s landscape with its moors, bogs and highlands in his folksongs and also reached a deep pathos in poetry about friendship, love and loneliness. The statue was gifted to NY by Scottish Americans in 1880.



Burns might easily have become an American had fate not thrown him a terrible blow with the loss of his true love. Whilst poised to immigrate she was struck down and Robert stayed in Scotland where he became a Customs and Excise man and celebrated poet. Burns’ poetry is appreciated all over the world and celebrated on his birthday, January 25th. He was a confirmed nationalist and proud to be son of Scotia, but he was also an international socialist and person of the people. Burns works, which was extensive, contained some excellent examples of pithy wit, keen observation, rye humour and bonhomie. None more so than his Ode tae a haggis.



The Haggis was a popular dish during Burns' lifetime but no one is quite sure why Burns wrote of something, that might be today the equivalent of a hamburger. He penned the poem in the midst of the French Revolution; the aftermath of the American War of Independence; and in the wake the Jacobite Rising. Being an educated man, he was well aware of the need for national pride and unilateral identity of the common man and may have chosen the humble haggis as the vehicle with which to demonstrate both national pride and internationalism. The Haggis was poor man’s fair but, as a nutritional treat, it could, without pretentiousness, take pride of place on the table of kings, amidst all other international cuisine.



In 1785 Robert Burns was a guest at a lawyer’s dinner in Kilmarnock. The meet was euphemistically known as a haggis dinner, because haggis was the main meal. Burns was asked to say grace and instead choose to address the haggis. The recitation went done well and was later published in a newspaper. This added to Robert Burns’ popularity as poet of the people. Address to the haggis was first published in 1786 in the Caledonian Mercury. After his death in 1796, many lamented his passing and a group of his friends met to have dinner to commemorate “The Bard.” The venue was in Alloway and the fayre was haggis. Burns had a great sense of humour and would have appreciated the Toast to the Haggis being ceremoniously recited. The friends decided to make the event an annual one and held it on January 25th (Burns birthday). News spread and in 1801 the world’s first Burns Club was founded in Greenock and now they are found all over the world. Burns Night is the pinnacle social event, where tribute to the life and works and rebellious spirit of Robert Burns is celebrated. Whether formal or informal the supper includes ‘Address to the Haggis,’ ‘The Immortal Memory” (reflection on the life of the Bard), a ‘Toast to the Lassies’ and a reply from the ‘Lassies’. Interspaced with songs and poems washed down with copious supplies of whisky and haggis.



The dish is almost certainly not Scottish in origin and was known to exist in antiquity. The combination of meats, spices and oatmeal boiled in a sheep’s’ stomach is an early example of a convenience food. The etymology of Haggis is unclear and most authorities trace it to words meaning "to chop" or "to hew". There is no agreement however whether the word was borrowed from Old English haggen, French hachis or hageur (to cut), or a Norse root, such as Icelandic hoggva- and haggw-, German –hackwurst (minced sausage).



Alternatively, some believe it is derived from Old French ‘agace,’ ("magpie"). The magpie is known for collecting odds and ends, and a haggis is made up of odds and ends. The term haggis is Scottish but it remains unknown when or where the first haggis was consumed. It was however, common practice after a beast was slaughtered by the landowner for workmen to have the offal as a perk. Stomach linings provided an ideal medium to contain liver, kidneys and the offal. This could then be boiled on site and eaten. Crofters used ingredients readily available and could conveniently be packaged for travelling. Haggis may therefore have been a convenience food for workers who travelled long journeys through inhospitable hills and glens. In any event, it took until the 18th century before the dish became popular in England. Today it is considered a delicacy.



Haggis became a source of amusement for many people and represents an early example of racist humour. For centuries, the English were distrustful of their neighbours to the North and that feeling was reciprocated. After the highland clearances, much animosity prevailed and all things Scottish were lampooned in a systematic attempt to destroy the highland culture. Decried by the English, the Scots reciprocated by inventing amusing origins to belittle their counterpart’s ignorance. The myth prevails and recent surveys indicate as many as one third of the tourists to visit Scotland expect to catch a haggis in the wilds, blissfully unaware of the real origins. Something the Bard would appreciate. It took until George III (1738 – 1820) before better social relationships was cemented and by the time of Queen Victoria everything Scottish was acceptable again.



An old receipt for haggis was to boil sheep’s pluck i.e. the liver, lungs & heart of a sheep before mincing the meats and mixing them with chopped onions, toasted oatmeal, suet, salt, pepper, and spices. These ingredients were stuffed into a cleaned sheep's stomach then closed and sewn. Enough room was left for expansion caused by heat and the haggis was boiled with stock for several hours before being served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed turnip (neeps). The vegetables are prepared separately. Turnips or better known as 'swedes' (in England) and 'rutabaga’ in the US. Haggis represents the largest type of culinary sausage or savoury pudding and today is made from best meats, including tripe and offal and prepared with finest oatmeal and spices which are served in a synthetic skin. All tastes are now catered for and there is even a meat free vegetarian haggis available. Food laws in certain countries prevent the traditional haggis receipts from being made and sold.



Ode Tae a Haggis
Robert Burns 1796
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn,
they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent lyke drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
"Bethankit!" 'hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

Now the translation….
Greetings, you are a superior food and are worthy of a grace as long as my arm. You fill the plate so well and look so sturdy. Your juices are as inviting as whisky. See the knife cut you, allowing your insides to flow. A glorious sight and aroma. Then spoon after spoon they stretch and strain. It is every man for himself because there will be none left for the slow ones, until all their stomachs are full and fit to burst. Is there anybody who eats foreign food who would look down disdainfully at this dinner. Poor souls, if they do. They will be poor thin creatures, not fit for anything. But if you eat Haggis, you will be strong, robust and fit for battle. God, who looks after us and feeds us, Scotland does not want food with sauce that splashes in dishes. But if you want a grateful prayer then give her a Haggis.