Golden jubilee beckons for one of Kirkcaldy's most enduring bands
Just over 50 years ago on June 5, 1966, six music-mad Kirkcaldy teenagers played their first ever gig at the Lang Toun's YMCA.
By the end of the summer Gaels Blue as they called themselves were down to five members who have decided to mark the occasion of their debut with a reunion show.
Since getting back together for a one-off gig in 1999 the band, Tom Morgan, Jon Gillon, John Stevenson, Bob Brawley and John Clarke, decided to make it an annual event which this year will have an added significance.
Tom, the band’s lead singer, said they first got together at Kirkcaldy’s YMCA.
“We used to hang about there and that’s when we all first met in 1965,” he remembers. “We were about 16 and decided to form a band.
“Tamla Motown was a big thing then and that’s what a lot of the other bands you would see playing at the time were incorporating into their sets so that’s what we started playing and stuck with it and we’re still playing Motown to this day.”
The band took its unusual name from a soul legend.
Tom said: “Otis Redding had an album out called ‘Otis Blue’ which we all liked.
“One day there was a jar of Gale’s Honey on the table so we took the ‘Gale’ with a different spelling and the ‘Blue’ and put them together.
“The folk singer Michael Marra eventually named one of his songs ‘Gaels Blue’ after seeing us. That was in Blairgowrie.”
In Kirkcaldy the band quickly gained a good reputation and local following. Gigs took place at the YMCA and YWCA, various dances at BB halls and an appearance at a Radio Scotland beat group competition in November 1966, where the band went down a storm, was a turning point.
It led to bookings to support many of the 60s biggest bands including The Searchers, The Tremeloes, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich and Peter and Gordon.
“We would have appointments lined up right across Scotland,” said Tom, now a director at Raith Rovers.
“We were all working too so there would maybe be a midweek gig in somewhere like Montrose so we wouldn’t get back to Kirkcaldy until the wee small hours then have to get up at seven to go to work. That wasn’t always easy!
“We would usually play on a Friday and Saturday and sometimes two gigs on a Sunday as well as other midweek gigs at various exotic places such as Larbert!
“We played a lot in particular with The Searchers and, looking back, it was an amazing time but we were too young to really appreciate it.
“We would say ‘Who is it tonight? Cat Stevens? Yeah, OK’. We got a bit blasé!”
The band carried on a for a few more years before calling it a day.
“The two Johns moved away so that was the end of it. John Clarke would end up playing in Hawkwind, while John Stevenson, who would replace Rick Wakeman in a band after he left to form Yes, is now a music teacher.
“The rest of us just gave it up.”
But it wasn’t the end for Gaels Blue. In 1998 John Stevenson tracked everyone down, including the band’s original roadie Graeme Henderson - “he’s really a member of the band too, he was very much part of it.
“He was the only guy we knew who had access to a van!” -, and they all met up in Kirkcaldy for the first time in 30 years.
“Someone had the bright idea of getting back together for a one off reunion,” says Tom.
“We thought no-one would show up but it sold out. Mind you one of my friends said to me he didn’t want to see us, he was just looking forward to seeing some old friends that he hadn’t seen for 30 years!
“But that’s a big part of it and it’s great for us to catch up with familiar faces too.”
The one off has now become firmly established as an annual event and has raised over £10,000 for charity over the years. This year all money will go to Kingdom FM’s children’s charity.
Tom said: “We’re scattered all over the country now but we get together in Kirkcaldy a week before the gig and practice.
“Mind you, someone said to me ‘You just play the same old rubbish every year, what are you practising for?’!
“The gigs always sell out and I get inundated with people looking for tickets which is great.
“If you came to see the band in the 1960s or if you were at that first reunion gig, we would love to see you again, so please come along.”
Gaels Blue will play at Templehall Community Centre on Saturday, August 13. Tickets are available soon from the usual outlets and Graeme Henderson Timber priced at £15.