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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day


Alex Harvey

By Irene Maver

Alex Harvey (1935-1982) was one of Scotland's most original and influential rock musicians. He was born in the Gorbals and worked in an eclectic range of occupations before becoming a performer. Originally a trumpeter, his first appearances were with a Dixieland jazz band, but he was also attracted to the blues-tinged country style of Hank Williams (1923-1953). By the mid-1950s Harvey was the vocalist and guitarist with a band that had jazz roots, but increasingly reflected the vogue for rock 'n' roll. Over the next few years Harvey became a mainstay of the Scottish music circuit and his band appeared under a variety of guises, including the Kansas City Counts, Alex Harvey and the New Saints and then, famously, Alex Harvey and his Soul Band.

The Soul Band favoured rhythm and blues and performed their own distinctive interpretations of relatively unknown American R & B hits. A feature of their act was "Shout" which had first been recorded by the Isley Brothers in 1959. A Glasgow teenager, Marie Lawrie (b. 1948) was dazzled by the frenetic Harvey version, and with her band Lulu and the Luvvers subsequently shot to stardom with the song. However, fame eluded the Soul Band, despite their reputation for outstanding live performances and a highly regarded debut album. Spells working in Hamburg and London did not help in boosting their morale and they disbanded in 1965.

Harvey embarked on various individual projects during the late 1960s, including an acoustic album with his talented younger brother, Leslie (1945-1972). He also spent five years on the London stage, performing in the rock musical, Hair. Then, in 1972, Harvey returned to Glasgow and joined forces with the rock band, Tear Gas. As the Sensational Alex Harvey Band they soon attracted a huge following. Their fusion of hard rock and often surreal theatricality was evident in their 1975 top-ten hit, "Delilah", a tongue-in-cheek version of the melodramatic Tom Jones song. However, the stress of such high energy performing took a toll on Harvey's health. In 1976 he collapsed on stage and the following year he left the band. Although Harvey died in 1982, his dual reputation as a rock 'n' roll pioneer and flamboyant musical showman has continued to grow.

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