Dan MCafferty: A unique voice & a great rock singer

Pic Kenny Smith......'Nazareth prepare for their world tour in "The Sinclair Arms" pub Dunfermline, where 250 fans will see their heroes off.'Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew, founder members of the band rehearsing in the pub.
Pic Kenny Smith......'Nazareth prepare for their world tour in "The Sinclair Arms" pub Dunfermline, where 250 fans will see their heroes off.'Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew, founder members of the band rehearsing in the pub.
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Allan Crow on the retirement of Dan McCafferty, frontman of Nazareth - one of Scotland’s greatest and most enduring rock bands.

There may well have been more charismatic frontmen in rock music, but few possessed a set of lungs to match Dan McCafferty.

He gave Nazareth their unique sound for over 40 years, and his decision this week to retire on health grounds will sadden all who have followed the band.

Stood centre stage with his mic stand at a slight angle in his left hand, McCafferty simply chatted with the fans and then did what he did best - he sang.

Nazareth were the first band I saw live back in ‘79 on their ‘No Mean City’ tour.

Fast forward to 2010, thousands of gigs later, and that voice was just as raw, loud and powerful as they played to a sell-out crowd at the Alhambra.

Time hadn’t diminished it one little bit, so it’s ironic that McCafferty’s presence on stage should be halted by lung disease - the very bellows that enabled him to make his name as one of rock’s most distinctive singers have finally let him down when it comes to performing for and hour and a half night after night.

Born out of the dance halls of Fife and Scotland,  Nazareth may not have been fashionable, but they had a loyal following across the globe. The stage was their home.

I can still remember sitting in the front row of the balcony up in the gods at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh watching them in their prime.

Back then Manny Charlton was still on guitar opposite Pete Agnew on bass and the late Darrell Sweet was behind the drum kit - - the original quartet - plus Zal Cleminson on guitar. ‘‘May The Sunshine’’ was in the charts and the band were back on ‘Top Of The Pops’ once more.

Forty-five years on and they were still going strong, still recording new material, and still hitting the road to places in Russia most of us have probably never even heard of, still touring Europe and the UK.

At the Carnegie Hall a few years ago they opened with an acoustic set and then took a break, returning with the full live band which McCafferty promised ’’might get a wee bitty loud.’’

And they did - loud ‘n’ proud to the extent the earplugs deployed by some in the audience were probably useless.

And they returned for a special gig at the Alhambra for the Mary Leishman Foundation. The queue for entry snaked right round the theatre. They were worth the wait.

Sure we all came to hear the big hits, but Nazareth were never part of the nostalgia circuit. They continued to record and add new material to their sets.

The band may continue without their powerhouse frontman - indeed McCafferty’s own view was they should.

He told Classic Rock magazine: ‘‘The music we’ve made over the years is more important than any member of the band. We always felt like that, and I can’t see that’s changed just because I’ve left.’’

Regardless, it marks the end of an era for a band that ought to go down as one of the very best to emerge from Scotland.

McCafferty has paid his dues. He deserves the respect as a truly great rock singer.

‘Love Hurts’ without him will simply not sound the same ...