Gary: “I was not a huge fan of Seventies Music, but this band I enjoyed. They basically started in Scotland, pretty much by accident. A Bass player by the name of Alan Gorrie booked time in a recording studio, got several of his musician friends together and recorded some of the songs he had written. When the experiment was finished they had created a jazz oriented “Soul” group. This was in 1971. The problem was, all these musicians were still contracted to other current bands. They waited until 1972 when all were free of their obligations and The Average White Band was born.
For the better part of the last twenty-eight years, the Average White Band has performed Sold-Out shows around the world, confirming the timeless appeal of their brand of funky soul. Formed in 1972, their roots may have been Scottish, but the collective heart of the band belonged to the soulful sounds coming from Memphis, Detroit, and Philadelphia in the 60’s.
AWB was formed in 1971 by bass player Alan Gorrie and saxophonists Malcolm “Molly” Duncan and Roger Ball, with guitarist Onnie McIntyre, guitarist/bassist Hamish Stuart, and drummer Robbie McIntosh joining them in the original line-up. Duncan and Ball, affectionately known as the Dundee Horns, studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art (now part of the University of Dundee), and were previously members of Mogul Thrash.
The band’s breakthrough was a support slot at Eric Clapton’s comeback concert in 1973. MCA Records released their debut album, Show Your Hand, which sold poorly.Bruce McCaskill who was Clapton’s tour manager liked the band’s music and agreed to manage them. He borrowed money to take them to the U.S. and to promote them. McCaskill had many contacts from his days with Clapton and managed to get Atlantic Records to sign them.
The band relocated to New York, signed to Atlantic and released the follow-up, AWB, better known as “The White Album”. This album was the first of many with renowned producer Arif Mardin, and reached #1 in the U.S. Hot 100 chart.
However, tragedy struck on 23 September 1974, when drummer McIntosh died of a heroin overdose at a party following a concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. According to a contemporary report in Time, McIntosh and fellow band-member Alan Gorrie took what they thought was cocaine, but was in fact heroin. The mistake cost McIntosh his life, while Gorrie was saved by the intervention of fellow party-goer, Cher, who kept him conscious long enough to recover. The party host was subsequently indicted for murder by a grand jury.
McIntosh was replaced by Steve Ferrone (of Bloodstone, and, like McIntosh, previously with Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express), becoming the band’s only black member.
In 1975, the single “Pick Up The Pieces” from the album AWB also hit #1 in the U.S. chart. The track is probably their best known today. The band followed up with the LPs Cut the Cake (1975) and Soul Searching (1976), both big sellers and yielding further Top 40 singles. Their next LP, Benny & Us, was a collaboration with soul legend Ben E. King.
After several more albums, AWB’s audience and sales dwindled. Although a dalliance with disco yielded the 1980 hit Let’s Go Round Again (covered in the late 1990s by Louise), the group disbanded by 1982.
Ferrone worked with Duran Duran whilst Hamish Stuart joined Paul McCartney’s touring group. In 1985 Gorrie released a solo album, Sleepless Nights. Gorrie, Ball and McIntyre reunited in 1989 to record Aftershock, but Ball left the band shortly after its release. Eliot Lewis co-wrote with Gorrie on this album and joined the band replacing lead singer Hamish Stuart.
Average White Band has continued recording (Soul Tattoo 1997, Face to Face, 1999) and touring since. When Eliot Lewis left AWB in September 2002 to pursue other musical opportunities, he was replaced by Klyde Jones (see AWB). Their most recent album release in April 2003 was entitled Living in Colour.
The AWB line-up then included Alan Gorrie (bass, lead vocals), Klyde Jones (guitar, keyboard, lead vocals), Onnie McIntyre (guitar, vocals), Fred Vigdor (sax, keyboard, vocals) and Brian Dunne (drums). Gorrie and McIntyre are the only remaining original members of the band.
2006 saw yet another successful tour for the band but with New Jersey native, Rocky Bryant, replacing Brian Dunne as drummer. Also in 2006, Hamis Stuart as a bass player toured with Ringo Starr and his All Star Band.