FP100 Fife bands 1. Jimmy Shand Band

Jimmy Shand and his band - May 1956
Jimmy Shand and his band - May 1956

He was the maestro from Muchty - the man who sold more records than The Beatles, received a knighthood and entertained millions.

There simply isn’t any one single band which can match the pedigree, or success, of the Jimmy Shand Band.

Sir Jimmy Shand

Sir Jimmy Shand

A knighthood, the Freedom of Fife, appearances on ‘Top of The Pops’ and a worldwide fan base - just a few of the milestones in a career that spanned decades.

Not bad for a miner who was born in East Wemyss in 1908.

He was the sixth child in a family of nine born to Erskine and Mary Shand.

His dad played the melodeon, and that musical environment was to help shape his future career after going down the pits aged 14 - he was involved in the 1926 General Strike where he played his accordian in the soup kitchens.

Out of work he headed to Dundee where he visited J.T. Forbes, the music shop in King Street to try out an accordian. The owner heard him play and offered him a job as a salesman - another turning point in the remarkable Shand story.

Soon afterwards Jimmy made his first recordings on the Beltona label, turning his hobby into a career that was to bring him global recognition,

Pronounced unfit to serve in the army, he spent World War II in the fire service, and playing in a dance band.

When peace broke out he formed his first band, and they made their BBC radio debut on New Year’s Day, 1945.

As a full-time musician he played everywhere across the UK, and also America, Australia and New Zealand as his music took off - by 1949 the band’s old 78s were selling over 50,000 copies, and by the 1950s that figure had soared into millions.

It was during this time that Jimmy recorded his signature tune - ‘The Bluebell Polka’ produced by the legendary George Martin.

It took Shand and his band into the top 20 in the hit parade in 1955 and became the song which defined him, although there are over 300 compositions credited to his name.

The hit also led him to ‘Top Of The Pops’ - the only accordian band to ever appear on the legendary BBC show - and led to folk singer Richard Thomson penning the affectionate ‘‘Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands’’ song on his album ‘Rumour And Sigh.

His father had been a keen collector of the maestro’s works, and the song included the chorus:

Call me precious I don’t mind,

78s are hard to find,

You just can’t get the shellac since the war,

This one’s the Beltona brand,

Finest label in the land,

They don’t make them like that any more.

The Jimmy Shand Band became regulars at the famous White Heather Club in the 1950s, and in 1962 they played for the Queen at Windsor and Balmoral - he was a favourite with the Royal Family and played for them many times.

That year also saw him receive an MBE plus gold and silver discs for his records.

The honours continued to come came thick and fast.

In 1974 was made a Freeman of the Royal Burgh of Auchtermuchty, in 1978 he was the subject of ITV’s ‘This Is Your Life’ and in 1985 he became a Freeman of North-East Fife. The Freedom of Fife followed in 1998.

Ill health saw Jimmy officially retire in 1972 but he returned 22 years later to make a video with his son, and his music continued to be enjoyed by audiences across the globe.

Knighted in 1999, his portrait was placed in the Scottish National Gallery.
Sir Jimmy died on December 23, 2000, at the ripe old age of 92, and three years later a bronze statue of him was unveiled in Auchtermuchty, the place which had been home since moving there from Lochee aged 50. Always dressed in his tartan kilt,Sir Jimmy was the maestro of the acordian.

His music got us up to dance, made us tap our feet ... and, most of all, made us smile.