I met up with Gerry Brown at the Oran Mor and had a chat about the years he has spent as a live music fan in the heart of Glasgow
Kirk: So, Gerry, lovely to have you here today. As an avid fan of the music scene, home & abroad, tell me a wee bit about your connections with live music.
Gerry: Well, I started going to gigs when I was about 15. My friend used to go to Strathclyde University and they used to have really good bands on every week.
Bands like Mott The Hoople & Roy Wood and that’s what got me into live music.
Kirk: Can you play any instruments?
Gerry: I can play but I’m not anything like these guys. I play guitar. I’m right-handed but I play the guitar left-handed.
Kirk: How did that come about then? Did you just pick up a guitar and naturally play it like that?
Gerry: Yes, that seemed to be the natural way to play for me. I was a big fan of UFO in those days so I bought a Flying V because Michael Schenkner used to play that.
Kirk: So that wouldn’t matter what way round you played it then? (Laughs)
Gerry: That’s why I bought it! (Laughs). The only thing was, you couldn’t sit down with it because it would just slide off your leg!
So that was the early days. I liked ELO, Marc Bolan, T-Rex. I was a big T-Rex Fan! Then in the late 70’s when I was about 18 or 19, when I could get into pubs, I went to The Burns Howff. That’s where they used to play the Rock Music. There was a place upstairs where they used to play Blues and that’s where I discovered The Blues Legends with Big George Watt and Rev Doc and a few other guys. I’d never really heard that kind of music before and that was what got me into it. I went to see them a couple of times but later, Big George brought his own band out. I used to spend my weekends going to see those 2 bands. Rev Doc & The Congregation and Big George & The Business.
After that there was a place in Glasgow called The Brewhouse just off George Square.
Kirk: Yes, that’s where Fraser (Speirs) tried to start up the Glasgow Blues Club.
Gerry: That’s right. There used to be bands playing on a Friday and Saturday night and that is where I first saw The Hideaway Blues Band with Scott Pentland, Stevie Nimmo and Ricky Hardie and then later on, The Blackwater Blues Band with Alan Nimmo, Stevie Nimmo, Zander Greenshields and Boyd Tonner and they just blew me away. They were Rock and Blues. Alan was only about 16 at the time. They were there for about a year, so that was my Saturday night out. When they weren’t available the venue filled in with other bands and I met one of those guys a couple of weeks ago: Gerry Jablonski. I mentioned the Brewhouse to him and he couldn’t believe I remembered him playing there!
One thing I did back then and have continued to do to this day is take people along to see these local bands and promote the music to a wider audience.
Kirk: Would you say there was more live music then than there is now?
Gerry: I would say that there may have been more venues back then that promoted the live scene. Studio 1 in Byres road was a particular favourite. I used to go along to all the nights in there. I already knew Stevie Nimmo but that’s where I met Alan. Believe it or not, we used to play football against each other. Alan and Stevie were really good football players in their day. They still had the long hair. Through that and the music we became really good pals. I followed his career through the Nimmo Brothers, his solo stuff, acoustic stuff and now obviously King King. He deserves that success because he has worked extremely hard.
There is a whole load of great players in Glasgow, I’ve written them down here so that I wouldn’t miss anyone out. (Gerry produces a sheet of A4 full of names and venues)
Kirk: That looks like my website! (laughs)
Gerry: I just love the atmosphere of being in a room full of like-minded people that are there to see the band and hear the music.
It was fantastic when The Apollo was still open and everyone went along to see the Scottish bands like Nazareth and Frankie Miller.
I brought along a book of all the ticket stubs I’ve kept from the gigs I’ve been to. This is just a small selection by the way. The first ticket I have was for Bachman Turner Overdrive with support from Thin Lizzy back in the 1975. I’d never even heard of Thin Lizzy but I thought they were brilliant.
It was then Wizard with Roy Wood and then Marc Bolan. That was mental, as you can imagine. Loads of screaming women and I remember thinking …” This is great! I like this!”
I just got hooked on going to concerts. I loved it whether it was in the Apollo or in the pub across the road. My mate Dougie and I used to search for the live music in the town. We didn’t know who half of them were and we didn’t go out to get drunk, we just went out to see the bands.
Kirk: So, the draw was the like-minded people and everyone having a great time. You won’t find a better place than Glasgow for that.
Gerry: The number of people I have met out in Glasgow over the years is incredible. I follow live music and football and I play golf so I can strike up conversation in 5 minutes with a complete stranger.
Kirk: (Laughs) Aye, right enough. If you’re out in Glasgow and know anything about music or football…you’re in!
Gerry: Round about the mid 80’s when we were about 35, Dougie and I used to ask ourselves whether we would still be following all the bands when we were 40. Now we’re asking, “Do you think we’ll still be doing this when we are 70?”
Kirk: I don’t think there’s any question about it!
Gerry: Another thing that I’ve noticed is the span of the age groups going to see these bands. I was at a King King recently and I was delighted to see that there were so many young people there. It was a gig in Edinburgh a couple of weeks back and there were crowds of young guys and they were singing the lyrics to every single song. I was amazed. It was great to see that.
Kirk: Talking of young people, you’ve got 2 sons yourself. Have they picked up your passion for music?
Gerry: Yes, I've have twin boys. Young Gerry lives in New Zealand now but his twin brother Marc has turned out to be a very good guitarist and plays only Blues, he's not too interested in Rock or Country but has been brought up in our house on Blues music and plays every night in the house and has turned out to be rather good.
Kirk: What is it about live music that draws you in so much Gerry, apart from the crowd and the atmosphere?
Gerry: It’s the passion that these guys have on stage. It’s incredible.
Kirk: Thanks Gerry. Just one last thing. The old reputation about Glasgow being a rough town seems to still hang around. As someone who has been going out in Glasgow for the last 40 years, what’s your impression of the city?
Gerry: I honestly think that Glasgow is one of the safest cities in the world. I feel more uncomfortable in London than I do here. Everyone I’ve ever introduced to the nightlife of Glasgow has loved it and I’ve never see any trouble in all the years I’ve been going out here. It’s a great place to go out and have a drink, a meal and to see a band.
Can I say what a pleasure it's been listening and making so many close friends in the Glasgow Blues scene over the last 30 years, the next 30 could be even better! Thank you Kirk.