1935 - 1982
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|When Alex Harvey died in 1982 while touring Europe
he left many fine recordings and thousands of fans in Britain and America
in mourning. He was born February 5th 1935 in Glasgow's south side. Before
becoming a professional jazz musician playing trumpet in 1954 he worked
at several jobs, including lion-taming. In 1955 he joined the "Clyde
River Jazz Band" which later became the "Kansas City Counts"
combining rock 'n' roll with traditional jazz and by 1956 was Scotland's
answer to British teen idol Tommy Steele. With their repertoire of songs
by black Americans the "Counts" changed their name to Alex Harvey's
Big Soul Band and backed the likes of Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and John
Lee Hooker while they toured. Like the Beatles, in the early 60's the group
took up residency at a Hamburg club in Germany and released a live album
on Polydor in 1963 called Alex Harvey and His Soul Band. This was followed
by some unsuccessful singles and finally the group returned to Britain and
joined the growing rock and blues club scene.
In 1965 Harvey made a solo recording with his brother Les called "The Blues". The next year they formed "The Blues Council", followed by a stint fronting, (dressed in a tuxedo) the house band at Glasgow's famous Dennistoun Palais. By 1967 Alex turned up and on in London, leading the psychedelic group Giant Moth but while their recordings flopped they helped him get a five year job in the pit band for the musical "Hair" at London's Shaftesbury Theatre. Harvey later teamed up with the popular Glasgow progressive rockers "Tear Gas" and by 1972, they had become the "Sensational Alex Harvey Band. At about the same time his brother Les, while playing with Glasgow's "Stone the Crows," was electrocuted on-stage in a freak accident. Les's death sent Alex and SAHB into a relentless touring schedule both at home and abroad. Following their 1974 release of "The Impossible Dream" the band had won enthusiastic audiences due to their energy and theatrics in portraying the underground culture of the streets and gangs of mid 20th century Glasgow and America.
After a pair of hit singles, including a cover of "Delilah," SAHB had become one of Britain's most popular live bands with three different albums charting in 1975: "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" , "Next", and "Live". In 1976 they released "Penthouse Tapes" and "SAHB Stories" and the band reached their zenith, unfortunately due to Alex's recurring health problems they had to disband in 1977. He recovered and mounted a solo career, recording in 1979 "The Mafia Stole My Guitar". It was short lived as three years later while in Zeebruggen, Belgium, he suffered a massive heart attack and died on the eve of his 47th birthday
Harvey's lengthy contribution to popular music has ensured him a place in its history. Now two decades since his departure to the Howff, Alex Harvey is still remembered fondly by Scots as a great character and one of their favourite music sons.