Page last updated at 00:12 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 01:12 UK

Not your average band

By Steve Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

Average White Band
Alan Gorrie (front) and the latest line-up of the Average White Band

They are one of the most successful Scottish bands of all time.

But the triumphs of this blue-eyed soul, funk, jazz outfit are seldom trumpeted.

They had a number one on the US billboard Hot 100 and played with stars such as Marvin Gaye, James Brown, BB King and Eric Clapton.

Their tunes are some of the most-sampled by other artists ever, yet the Average White Band are hardly ever mentioned among the list of Scotland's greats.

Formed by bassist Alan Gorrie in 1971, the achievements of AWB are not as average as their name suggests.

Two Glaswegians, two Dundonians, a saxophonist from Montrose, and Gorrie from Perth, got together in London and started to hone their traditional R&B style.

By 1975, the world was at their feet, with an international best-selling album and hit records such as Pick up the Pieces and Cut the Cake.

Traditional R&B

Gorrie, now 62, told the BBC Scotland news website: "We had simultaneous number ones on every chart in the United States. It has not been done again by any other band from the United Kingdom as far as I know.

"We were number one R&B, number one Pop, number one album - just unbelievable. I think it was even in the country chart. Maybe not, but in pretty much every section we were top of the list and that went on to the next album and the next album."

Gorrie said the band's style was traditional R&B, not to be confused with the modern urban variety.

He said the sound was based on James Brown, with the soul vocals of Marvin Gaye as an inspiration.

It also has a distinct jazz flavour and influences from instrumental "notables" such as Herbie Hancock.

"What we brought to that type of music was intrinsically Scottish," said Gorrie.

"It was an attitude we had to how it should be played and how it should sound.

"Rather than slavishly copying the American genre, which was obviously our influence, we brought our own sense of humour to it, our own lyrical sense."

It is a re-affirmation of the quality of what we did back then
Alan Gorrie

For seven years the band toured and recorded, enjoying the kind of success that few other Scottish bands can boast.

There were excesses too.

Robbie McIntosh from Dundee died of a heroin overdose in 1974.

Gorrie himself overdosed in what he brushes off as a "freak accident".

He said: "It is not characteristic of our life pattern or our history. We learned not to tackle any of that stuff, which we did not want to in the first place.

"We were touring and recording, touring and recording, non-stop for six or seven years.

"It was exhausting mentally and physically. You get to know about the physical bit, what you can't evaluate is the mental bit. That's where it takes it toll on people."

They split up in 1982 but reformed in 1989 and have recorded and toured ever since.

Gorrie said the band, which will play in Scotland in August, had a hardcore fan base from the past as well as a "whole new young audience that's come to us through all the sampling and usage of our material by other artists".

AWB's R&B sound was particularly popular with hip-hop acts such as Ice T, TLC and Nas.

The band's full catalogue from 1973 to 1982 has been made available digitally for the first time by Demon Digital.

Eleven albums from the period have been re-released for download.

"It is a re-affirmation of the quality of what we did back then," Gorrie said.

"It is definitely a mark of respect of what we did. It is very life-affirming."

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