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Alex Harvey. Born 1935 in Kinning Park, Glasgow, Scotland. Died on the eve of his 47th Birthday in Zeebrugen,Belgium. That much information I have taken from other sources. My personal association with Alex began in 1957. A Glasgow newspaper was running a competition to find "Scotland's Tommy Steele" and the number of people who entered the competition was quite amazing. Let me go back a little, so I can fill you in on what the scene was like leading up to me meeting Alex. I was 19 years old, was still going to high school and had been playing guitar for about a year. I knew of one other guitar player in the whole of Glasgow, and guitars were really just good looking instruments that cowboys played in the movies. As far as most people were concerned You were a bit of an odd ball if You played guitar and sung songs. Nobody guessed that within the space of a few years there would be a deluge of Odd Balls and one of the most significant forces in that deluge would be a guy called Alex Harvey. I was playing an "Arch-Top" "Hofner Senator Guitar," acoustic. Most of the guitars were arch tops in those days, mainly because of Gibson's great popularity before and after the war years.  No electric pick-ups. Those were just a dream.

         Alex with Tommy Steele

If you had a pick-up you had to have an amplifier and financially that was impossible to achieve. A company called "Besson " had a basic pick-up on the market selling for the grand sum of 7pounds and 10 shillings sterling, and through the kindness of my Uncle James I managed to acquire one for the forthcoming competition. I attached the pick-up to the guitar and off I went to the hall where the event was to take place. There must have been 50 people there, all playing guitars, all playing at the same time.Getting their act together for their audition. Different songs, different tunes, different keys and most of it terribly out of tune. But it was marvellous, I was very excited, I had never seen so many guitar playing nutters in one place before. Nobody had. It was the first great gathering of a new clan. The McGuitar players ! Brothers all, immediamente. all you needed was six strings and a bit of bullshit.And look ! Over in a corner is a guy with an amplifier. An AMPLIFIER !! And I have a pickup ! I am five feet away from Wonderland. The guy with the amp. is playing a battered old acoustic with a "Besson" pickup attached, like me, and He's strumming nicely and singing an old Ballad . "St. James Infirmary" or something. When he finished I introduced myself and he told Me his name was Alex Harvey. Now I knew a couple of tunes, like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and a blues thing I had heard Django play, and Alex knew them too, so pretty soon we were jamming together and some other guys joined in. And I was plugged into The Amp.with Alex, there were two inputs. And a lovely red light shining on the top of the amp. At last I could hear myself, and I could hear Alex, He could hear me, and it was wonderful. Sure it all sounds so basic now but that first thrill I'll never forget. Communication folks. And no spoken language. The guys are going in in one's and two's for their auditions and it looks as if it's going to take all night to hear everybody. The auditions are taking place in another room adjacent to the one we are in. The plan is to eventually end up with just three contestants and they will perform the following night at a local ballroom in the final heat of the competition. There are strange noises coming from the other room. Guys are whistling "Blue Suede Shoes, " yes, whistling ! This is is Scotland's first attempt at a rock competition and anything goes. After a couple of hours of chaos the list is down to the final three -Alex, Myself, and another guy - Pat somebody. We three eventually end up in the room together and we have to give a bit of a performance for the Press. My big number is "You're Right; I'm Left, She's gone" an old Elvis song. Alex goes heavy into Little Richard, and the other guy does Be Bop-a-Lula . So, that over, We are ready for the final the next night, and Alex wins and I join him on guitar in his band. Lead guitar ! Wow ! Alex has been playing for some time and is into Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, Little Richard, Bo Diddly, mainly Black artists. and some Django Reinhardt and Hank Williams thrown in. He was also into Traditional Jazz and knew a lot of the old tunes, " St. Louis Blues" and so on. Anyway, now I'm lead guitar with Alex Harvey and the "Kansas City Band." We were a strange mixture that Alex picked up from all over. To tell the truth, I think most of us were just about the only guys available. Early days. But We managed to get a line up together consisting of tenor sax, three guitars, drums. and steam bass. No bass guitar, that came later along with an alto player. But We were all keen and dying to play. We had an old 1940's car as the band wagon, and we packed the instruments into an equally old ex-post office van and hit the road Jack. Any kind of gig we would play, anywhere, anytime. No money, just enough for petrol and and a meal. All I knew was that I wasn't stuck in a 9 to 5 somewhere. We eventually ended up with eight guys in the band and a Driver/Manager, so we acquired a big car called an " " a nine seater with a chauffeur's window and we were in business. We lived in that car. Slept in that car. We were marooned in various towns and that car was our home.We used to pick up chicks, mainly for one reason, to wash our clothes, iron our shirts for the next gig. We got stuck for a week in the Market Square in Carlisle on the Scotland/ England border. Now the wonderful thing about that square was it had public toilets and was next to a railway station. Every morning one of us would go and use the facilities, washing,shaving etc. This cost a penny which you inserted into a box on the door. And as one guy came out he'd hold the door open and the next guy would go in until all of us were fresh and ready to meet the day,for one penny. But eating was our main concern, we never had enough to eat. I would approach some young lady after a gig and ask her if she could take me home for the night, just to get a meal and a bed. I met many kind people who looked after me and the purity of their daughters was always preserved, well, nearly always. Well,sometimes. If I didn't get caught. Anyway, here's Alex Harvey and the Kansas City Band stuck in the Square at Carlisle Station. The Driver/manager was a rip off artist and said He had to go back to Glasgow by train to see his family for a couple of days. He handed us a couple of bucks each and said "Adios" and Alex and the guys,well we had to look out for ourselves. First thing we do is go to a hardware store and buy a frying pan, then we buy some "Oxo" cubes, a loaf of bread and we drive out to the countryside. Some guys are bullshitting about how to build a fire and they've been in the army, the boy scouts etc. Oh yes, and we had a few tins of beans. So now Sidney Devine { Who's now a big name in Scotland } and I go over to a field and dig up some potatoes and turnips and stuff, and we go back to the fire to cook them. Alex Harvey and the Kansas City Band on their way to the big time. We're drinking hot "Oxo," eating beans and burned potatoes,and our bed that night would be the old car. Want to know something ? It was magic. The few bucks left would get us some cheap wine and we would talk shit to all hours. And play guitar and sing. Hey, we would get all sentimental and sing of lost loves, blind children, real heart breakers. And we would cry, and we would laugh, and go into philosophy and what's it all about, and we look up at the sky and the stars and thank God that We weren't in a 9 to 5. Then we would go to sleep snuggled up against each other to keep the cold out, like sardines in a can. Alex's home in Glasgow was a ground floor room in a tenement building in "Crown Street" in an area called the "Gorbals."A very, VERY tough area. It was known at one time as the most vicous, crime ridden area in Britain. Most of the crime occurred among the residents of that area. Violence was the main thing. You could be smashed up in a pub just because the guy next to you didn't like the colour of your neck-tie. Razors, chains,bottles, axe handles, snooker cues, all this was in common use in Glasgow, I was fighting in the street when I was five years old and the area I came from was quiet compared to where Alex lived. We had an expression in Glasgow to describe a guy who could look after himself. We'd say "Hey, that guy can use himself" and that means just what it says. There's no Marquis de Queensbury Rules. Uh Uh ! In a fight You moved first, you moved fast and you made sure that when you hit the Guy he just didn't get up again. Otherwise it's you who's on the ground. I never ever messed with Alex. Oh don't get me wrong, He was my buddy and we never argued. We loved each other and all that stuff , But I knew if it ever came to the crunch Alex was far more experienced than I was. Just the environment, that's all. Alex would cry at the beautiful words of a song, real sentimental. and He taught me the Guitar solo featured on the Gene Autrey recording of "You Are My Sunshine" a country Flat-Picking thing. I've never forgotten it. He played mean rock guitar, imjected tremendous energy into his performance and swung like a bitch. Alex was a soft natured sweetheart. He was a flower of Glasgow. Just that in Glasgow all the flowers had to grow thorns. Hey, We HATED violence, all of us. But in a tank of Piranahs the goldfish must fight or be eaten. How Profound, My ass ! I've told you that Alex was the owner of our one and only amplifier. a "Selmer" - 15 watts or something ridiculous, it had two inputs. So if Alex, Sidney Devine and myself all wanted to play at the same time We had to double up on an input. This means wiring two guitars to one jack plug. It also means that when one guy turns his volume up the other guy's volume goes down, and so it would see-saw back forward all night. We never carried spare fuses. If a fuse blew you wrapped it in a piece of silver paper from a cigarette packet and stuck it back in again. And the halls. Oh they were mainly little village halls,and the villages themselves were little country places. We had to trust to luck that there was a P.A or hope that there was another band on the gig who would let us use their equipment. I don't think we even owned a microphone. In the early days of rock all the bands wore stage "Uniforms." You just were not a proper band unless you had uniforms. These had to be replicas of those worn by Bill Haley's Comets or Freddy Bell and the Bell Boys or any of the U.S bands popular at that time. We had no money or very little so Alex went to a catering shop over the"Jamaica Street Bridge" in Glasgow. They sold everything for Restaurant and Hotel catering there, including Waiters' jackets. All in white of course but cheap. So Alex buys eight of them and dyes them red. Sheer genius ! With a string bow tie we look the real thing. But it was the enthusiasm that carried us through it all. Remember - the 2nd world war had ended only twelve years before and things still weren't Hollywood in the U.K or anywhere else in Europe for that matter. But Brando was on the screen, so was Jimmy Dean. Elvis was shaking his thing and suddenly there was a way out for all the kids who were pissed off with their lives. It was called Rock and Roll. The kids in the U.K could see themselves mirrored in movies like Blackboard Jungle, Rock around the Clock etc. The same problems, nobody understanding them, no one could really show them the way. Their parents belonged to a lost generation so what chance did they have. So you made your own chances. Guys like Alex and myself and many many others took a guitar, a few bucks in our pockets, and we got on a bus to wherever We thought it was happening. You could do it in those days. Alex taught me another very important trick - how to tie a broken guitar string together again. At times we didn't even have enough money for strings, so this was a gift from the Muses. The only problem was that if the "Knot" in the string was somewhere within your playing range you would inevitably forget about in the frenzy of a solo and at the end of the night we would have an assortment of scratches and cuts on our fingers. Ah, but the FUN. that's what made it so wonderful. We had fun. Each guy knew he could look to the next if he needed support in whatever kind of situation. none of us had much,but we had a band and each other's comradeship. To use a corny old phrase :You belonged. You fitted in, but you still had freedom to do your own thing. That's called a "Band." That magic thing where a bunch of guys can get together, maybe hit it off and possibly be catapulted out of their pissed off dreary lives into a world that most people only dream of. Of course it's all crap. But at least it gave you some kind of dream to hold onto in the midst of all the squalor of the early post war years. Everyone must have a dream no matter what it is . Remember the song " If You don't have a dream, how you going to make that dream come true" ? We did some crazy gigs with Alex. One gig was at Paisley Town hall in Glasgow on a Sunday Afternoon. It was virtually Scotland's first major Rock and Roll Festival and had all the up and coming rockers on the Bill. Now even in those early days Alex gave it everything He had. We all did. He had that crazy Little Richard scream in his voice and the band was vicious. The place was packed and the audience was ready to show that they were every bit as rebellious as their American counterparts. The dancing started, just like the movies, then the fighting started, just like the movies, and the cops arrived, just like the movies. We had Scotland's first Rock Riot, and We had caused it, us - Alex Harvey and the Kansas City Band. Well,perhaps causing a riot isn't such a nice thing, but it was an indication of how the youth in the U.K were feeling. If society doesn't provide an outlet for frustation and pent up emotions the people will find their own outlet eg.- rock and roll. Devil's music some some called it. What the hell did "Society" expect ? All of us were looking for a way out. Alex had a younger brother - Les Harvey. A wonderful guitarist of "Stone The Crows" fame with Maggie Bell. In those early days Les was always around whenever we had a gig in, or near, Glasgow. He was only about 12 years old at the time,but already he had formed his own band. When we played a gig at St. Andrews Hall 1957, Les and his band were on there playing Django tunes, blues , and doing it right. As fans of "Stone The Crows" will know, years later Les was electrocuted on a gig . The old "Don't hold the microphone and your guitar at the same time" trap. How many of us were so close to it in the old days. A wonderful musician and a lovely guy gone just because the wiring was wrong somewhere. A terrible loss. I left Alex's band in 1958 and moved to Rikki Barnes All Stars, another wonderful Scottish band, and about a year later I moved to London. When Alex eventually moved to London we saw each other now and again, usually at a studio.We greeted each other with genuine affection, that period in the car always alive in our minds, and we really were like brothers. Then I saw the release of the "Penthouse Tapes " etc and the forming of the "SAHB" and I thought "At last Alex is getting a break." I almost joined Him again around 1971/ 72 . I got a call from his manager, Bill FeHilly telling me that Alex was forming a new band. I went to a meeting to discuss money etc. Les was there , so was Maggie Bell, Alex, and Bill. Unfortunately the money didn't add up, so I remained in the studios and Alex got another guitarist. That was the last time I saw Alex or Les. And poor Bill FeHilly. A couple of years later He went down in a private plane in Scotland. So there. Three of my closest associates from the Early Magical days of Rock - gone. I didn't check out the date of Alex's death until I started this article. To me is "still there." The epitomy of the spirit that rises from deprivation to propel itself to a new and better life, and the vehicle he chose was good old Rock and Roll. My parting words to anyone reading this and who wants to " do it " are these : Anyone can do it. Anyone. All you need is a guitar, a few bucks, and a bus ticket. Oh,- one more thing . Ask God to pack a big piece of courage in your bag before you board the bus. Bon Voyage. God Bless the Memories of Alex Harvey, Les Harvey and Bill FeHilly. Long Live Rock and Roll. (c) moretti