Running through the middle of Celtic Rock.

6 July 2024
6 July 2024 Dodosticks

Running through the middle of Celtic Rock.

In 1973, amidst the bustling halls of Graeme High School in Falkirk, a serendipitous meeting between Don Jack and Kenny Duncan would ignite the formation of their first band together. The duo, more often now missing from their school classes at just 16 and 17 years old, swiftly became central Scotland’s premier club band.

At the Armadale Social Club, Don revolutionised the traditional drum rolls their traditional Scottish dance selection with a rock beat, while Kenny skilfully synthesised the sounds of accordions and bagpipes. Their versatility extended to backing various cabaret artists, including local sensations like The Judges*, Franky Farrell, and Christian.

Franky Farrell, dubbed Scotland’s Teenage Sensational Shining Star, followed in the footsteps of Lena Zavaroni and Neil Reid, gracing TV screens and recording studios alike. On January 11, 1985, Franky made an appearance on BBC Scotland’s “Stars in Their Eyes,” with musical accompaniment by the Peggy O’Keefe Band. Don and Kenny’s collaboration on his EP “Stars of Scotland” hinted at their unique blend of pop and traditional Scots music, most notably on the track “LochNagar.”

By 1981, Kenny Duncan had contributed to the album “Dancing Through Scotland,” released by Dansan Records, a souvenir edition coinciding with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, who appeared on the album cover. The record featured traditional drumming by the late Bert Craig, as mandated by the record company.

During his art college years, Don Jack performed for the rock band Marco Polo, which included fiddle player George Footer. Their occasional fusion of traditional Scots fiddle music with rock beats showcased their innovative blend. Don later soared through the Scottish music charts with Burt Bacharach’s “Please Stay,” recorded at REL Studios Edinburgh. His three-year tenure as vocalist/drummer for the house band Candy at the renowned Chequers nightclub further cemented his status.

The Gleneagles Hotel, known for its elite society performers, became a significant venue for Don, Kenny, and Douglas Gillespie, all of whom met and married Chequers servers—an intriguing coincidence in their shared timeline.

When Kenny Duncan left the band, Don transitioned to keyboards, Douglas Gillespie took up the bass, and Dave Blues joined on guitar. This new lineup led Candy Band to international acclaim, with a notable residency at the Grand Hyatt La Manga Club & Resort on the Costa Cálida, Spain.

Around this period, Don, Douglas, and Kenny established Meadows Recording Studio where they released “Scots Wha Hae (The Shire on 45),” a blend of traditional Scottish songs with synthesised bagpipes and rock beats. A young Stuart Cassells was earmarked to add live bagpipes to the mix.

Douglas recalls the birth of the term ‘bag rock’: “We were a posh function band playing gigs like Gleneagles, with people in bowties bobbing up and down. It was wild – we were booked solid for months. When venues called and we were already booked, I started recommending other bands I knew.”

“One act I booked frequently was Stuart Cassells. He was young but getting loads of work. In 2002, he approached me with an idea for a bagpipe group, and thus, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers were born.” Their debut album was recorded at REL in 2005, and they achieved international fame in 2007 after winning the BBC talent show “When Will I Be Famous?” with their fusion of bagpipes, drums, guitars, and rock music.

As mutual friends of Dave Plues, Don Jack, and *Chris Judge came together forming the vocal duo The Cookis. From 2000 among their notable collaborations onwards were a rock/opera version of “Poker Face”, recorded with the permission of House of Gaga, and a TV performance of “Amazing Grace” with The Gospel Truth Choir.

On June 12, 2011, Stuart Cassells of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers joined The Gospel Truth Choir for a memorable rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. Later, Chris Judge would take on the role of vocalist for the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, continuing the band’s legacy of blending traditional Scottish music with contemporary rock.

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