Gavin Sutherland "Tango At The Lost Cafe"
Ex. Sutherland Brothers & Quiver
Gavin Sutherland "A Curious Noise"
Gavin Sutherland, musician, song-writer
A Brief Autobiography.I was born in Peterhead, a fishing town in North East Scotland on October 6th, 1951. My father, a semi-pro dance band leader, was playing a dance at the local Palace Hotel when I arrived so music has played a big part in my life since the very beginning. My brother, Iain, and I were brought up surrounded by music and 'music talk' as my dad's friends visited the house to discuss new tunes and arrangements. His collection of swing band and jazz records had a strong influence on us both. It was all about rhythm. My great grandfather was a fisherman who played fiddle at the local weddings and wakes and was chorister at his village kirk, so I guess there must be something in the DNA.
The family moved to the midlands of England when I was about six years old. A serious culture shock for Iain and I and a struggle for me at first but I got used to it and eventually settled into a new way of life. A friend who owned a tiny Dansette record player introduced me to rock n' roll a few years later when I first heard the sound of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and our home-grown Shadows. Like a lot of kids at that time I wanted to be Hank Marvin, and got my first guitar for my tenth birthday. Not long after that I heard an amazing sound on a crackley transistor radio tuned in to Radio Luxemburg. When the record ended the DJ told us the song was 'Love Me Do', the new single from a Liverpool group called 'The Beatles'. I didn't realise then just what a powerful effect that two or three minutes of music was to have on my future.
I left school at the age of sixteen to join the band my brother had formed with a couple of school pals. 'A New Generation' did some recording for Southern Music's 'Spark' label and gigged a lot in the UK before we disbanded. Iain and I decided it was time to move to London, the only place to be at that time if you wanted to give the music business a serious go. Everything was there, record companies, studios, publishers, promoters, agents, yes, everything. There was nothing going on in the music business outside London at that time. There was a sense of freedom around back then, but not a lot of money, so hitch-hiking was the standard mode of transport for young people. I remember standing at the bottom of the M1, thumb in the air, when a Land Rover pulled over. Opened the door, and it was the inimitable John Peel. Nice one! We'd recorded stuff for his shows at BBC's Maida Vale studios quite a few times but had never met the guy. For the next few hours we talked rock n' roll and football, my two favourite subjects, as we headed north to see the folks. Nice bloke.
We'd been in London, working in a store to pay the rent, for a few months before a friend of ours got a tape of some songs to Muff Winwood at Island Records. He liked what he heard and signed us to the label. After a short audition session in their Basing Street studio we were given the go-ahead for a three album deal. What a buzz! We celebrated with beans on toast and a pint of tea around the corner in Mike's iconic cafe.
We recorded our first album as 'The Sutherland Brothers' Band' with an old pal, Neil Hopwood on drums and Kim Ludman, a bass player who joined us after an audition day in a pokey little rehearsal room in Shepherds Bush. We gigged around until that combo broke up, leaving just Iain and I working the pub, club and the college circuit as an acoustic duo. We were looking to work with other musicians and our manager, Wayne Bardell, told us he knew of a band who were looking for a singer and writer. We went along to a 'Quiver' gig in a pub in north London and met the lads. We got on just fine and decided to try a bit of studio recording together. The very first tune we put down, 'You Got Me Anyway', went top twenty in the States and at the same time we were invited by Elton John to open for him on his 'Yellow Brick Road' tour. That was our first time in the USA and we had a ball. Everywhere we went the "Yellow Brick Road Show" was big news. The crowds were massive and the media attention was pretty intense. We played all those places we knew from school geography classes and Chuck Berry records, Madison Square, Hollywood Bowl and everywhere in between.
We spent a lot of time there over the next few years. Rod Stewart had a hit with our song 'Sailing' and we had a hit in the UK and all over Europe with the song 'Arms of Mary'. That song was later covered by The Everly Brothers, a bit of a mind blower for both Iain and I as we used to work out their harmonies and sing some of their numbers when we were kids. Amazing that they'd sat and worked out our harmonies on that song. Yeah, pretty awesome! Something that stands out in my memory of that time was when 'Mary' was number one in the South African 'white chart'. Yeah, it was back in the days of apartheid and black and white folks couldn't even share a music chart! The B side down there was a song called 'Something's Burning'. It was picked up by the black stations and went to number one in the black charts. We were all very proud of that. A one-off as far as I know.
We gigged here, there and everywhere, opening for Elton, The Faces, Lynard Skynard (Bless 'em all!) The Kinks and many more before we started to headline our own tours. The band eventually split and Iain and I returned to focus on our writing. The last time the two of us walked onto a stage together was at the 'Fairport Convention' Cropredy Festval with Dave Mattacks, Dave Pegg and Jerry Donahue behind us. A great wee band. That was about thirty years ago. Yes, time flies!
The sea played an important part in my early life, as it does today now I'm living back home, not far from where I started out. It's always been a handy metaphor for both Iain and I as writers, the calms, the storms, and all that. Researching my own family history on return to Scotland some years ago became a bit of an obsession after I discovered one of my great-grandfathers served aboard some of Peterhead's many 19th century whaling ships. Following his story led me to a complete study of the industry in the town and my notes eventually led to a book on the subject being published by The Centre For Scottish Studies, Aberdeen University. I went on to edit two more books for publication, both of them local memoirs from the early 1900s.
In the late 90s, after the planned short break had turned into quite a long one, I got back into my music and started writing songs again. The first batch of wee, home-made songs became the album 'Diamonds and Gold' and was released by Dutch record company Corazong. After that came 'Tango At The Lost Cafe' (the title track written in honour of my favourite eating place, not far from where I now live) which gave me the opportunity to work with some good old friends, including Tim and Willie from Quiver, Billy Rankin from Brinsly Schwarz, and even a Hitchcock vocal harmony appearance from big brother. My latest work, 'A Curious Noise' was recorded last summer and released just before Christmas last year. It was good to be working with John Wright, drummer with my first band way back in the 60s, and Carl Damiano, a piano player I had the good fortune to meet up with while out and about gigging a couple of years ago. As things developed we were joined by backing vocalists Rachael Brown, a local talent, Debi Doss, a session singer who's been a pal since we met and worked together with SBQ in the late 70s, and tuba player Drew Jarvie who leads the local brass band.
I have had the good fortune to enjoy my life as a musician, and the privilege of working in the company of some great musicians and record makers through the years, way too many to mention. I want to thank them all for the music we made and the fun we had together and I look forward to the next chapter. That's about it, for now. Cheers, everybody, love and peace!
Early Hit By The Band "The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver ( Gavin @ Ian Sutherland, Tim Renwick, Willie Wilson, Bruce Thomas on Island Records.
A track from Gavin Sutherland's Latest CD "A Curious Noise"
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