Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 14:28 UK

Brothers celebrate 50 music years

By Denise Glass
Tayside reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Alexander Brothers
The Alexander Brothers have toured the world since 1958

One of Scotland's most successful and enduring musical acts have returned to the theatre where they started their professional career 50 years ago.

The Alexander Brothers first played the Webster Theatre in Arbroath on 27 June 1958.

Since then Tom and Jack, who are originally from Cambusnethan, near Wishaw, have toured all over the world and were even awarded MBEs for services to entertainment.

On Tuesday evening they performed again at the theatre in Angus, where they were presented with engraved decanters and a framed copy of an advert publicising their first appearance.

Tom said: "It was the heady days for us because we had just left our trades as painters and decorators in Wishaw and we decided to take the bull by the horns and have a bash at the showbusiness lark.

"GB Bowie - the man who ran all the summer shows down the Clyde and Arbroath and Montrose - auditioned Jack and I and he decided that he would put us into the summer show in Arbroath.

"If you can imagine, it was a changing programme twice a week - change on a Monday and change on a Thursday - and Jack and I really didn't have that amount of material, so it was quite a hectic 10 weeks I can tell you."

The young Alexander Brothers
The boys were both classically trained and played from a young age

However, Tom admits their Scottish style took a while to develop.

He said: "We hadn't found our niche, because we went up there with drainpipe trousers and the full drape jacket and the string tie - the kind of Cliff Richard 1950s look about us - and we didn't do anything Scottish at all.

"We were both taught classically - Jack on the piano and me on the accordion. Jack was singing the pop songs of the day and I was playing things like the Kalif of Baghdad on the accordion, the Poet and Peasant Overture, and it wasn't going down terribly well - you can imagine in Arbroath, all the fisherfolk!"

It was a comic in the summer show who suggested to the brothers that they start to follow the style of acts like Andy Stewart and the Joe Gordon Folk Four, who were proving popular.

"The transformation was unbelievable - the audience just loved it," Tom said.

Alexander Brothers receive MBEs
The brothers were awarded MBEs for services to entertainment

"But we were still out there with our drainpipe trousers - so we really had to make a quick decision and we got tartan jackets. The rest is history, everything just changed and we decided that was the route to go."

For their 50th anniversary the brothers had planned to return to many of the places they had played over the past five decades, only to discover that many of the theatres and village halls had closed down.

However, Tom, 74, and Jack, 72, have an extensive tour planned and will be releasing a double album with 50 tracks.

Tom believes that keeping up with the times has allowed their music and performances to survive.

He said: "I wouldn't have believed it if somebody said you're going to still be around 50 years from now.

"But having said that we've worked hard at keeping our image up and we try to keep ourselves fresh.

"We keep trying to freshen up our repertoire, and of course it's DVDs now. We've gone from LPs to cassettes, from cassettes to the big videos, now it's the CDs and the DVDs.

"It's quite incredible - 50 years. I supposed 50 years in any business is quite an accolade."


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