Alec’s final article in the “Greatest Ever” series is an epic. So much so that we’ve had to break it into two pieces for fear that our readers’ heads may explode. Following last week’s list of females, Alec provides 50 of the greatest ever Scottish male vocalists for you to consider. In part 1 he deals with ‘The Frontmen’ and ‘The Singers’.

Before suggesting any omissions, don’t forget that Part 2 of this article is here.
And of course last week’s female vocalist article is here.

‘Whole generations thinking of themselves, As infidels and pop stars’ – Del Amitri

For the past few weeks, my brain has been more battered than a Blue Lagoon fish supper trying to make sense of who the greatest Scottish X, Y and Z might be. And doing the male vocalist has been the hardest!

Well that’s not quite true, because if you asked me, ‘who is the greatest ever Scottish frontman’, my answer would simply be ‘Alex Harvey’, and this article would be considerably shorter. But The Dear wants a “Greatest Vocalist” for the Dear Scotland Supergroup, and so my brain gets another doing and our readers have another problem to rammy over for a few weeks.

The root of the problem is that when we talk of “Vocalists” there are a number of things that come in to play. You have your Frontmen like Alex who, through sheer on-stage presence, antagonise, bully, chive and scare people into believing their world. Then there are the pure Singers like Marti Pellow, Rod or Frankie Miller who can sing Happy Birthday and make it sound like the greatest vocal performance on earth.

There are the magical exponents of ‘Popular music‘ who can take a few words and a good tune and somehow make millions of people sing along with them. Another breed are the Troubadours, in the mould of Del Amitri’s Justin Currie, who sing their own penned poems and can kill you in a single lyric, “In an empty house full of ashtray doubts. Your formless future floats”, WTF!

And finally there are the Rogues like Billy McKenzie or Billy Bates who have a uniqueness of vocal delivery that can connect directly to your soul.

If the truth be told, I have not got a clue who “the greatest” anything is. All I know is that the vocalists listed below challenged, captivated and inspired me. Basically, the greatest vocal performers for me are those that take me back to a time or place, more often than not, coupled with a smile or a tear.

So here is my list of infidels and pop stars and if I have forgotten someone, or not written enough about your favourite singer, don’t take it as a dis, just tell us why they challenged, captivated or inspired you.

In (almost) no particular order…

The Frontmen

These people may or may not be great singers but what they are great at is communicating their art to an audience and getting that audience to join them on their musical journey.

Alex Harvey – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

When I was 12 years old, I loved comics. One day I walked into a record shop and saw the album cover for “The Impossible Dream” by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. That’s why I bought the record that blew my mind and changed my world. A few weeks later, I was in the front row when Alex shuffled onto stage dressed as a school teacher with a huge leather book under his arm. He walked up to a lectern and threw the book down as a cloud of dust appeared and a voice boomed, “Children I want to tell you a story”. The story was of The Tomahawk Kid, Vambo, a Faith healer and a place called Action Strasse.

Alex introduced me to Brel, Leadbelly and Jimmy Reed. He was my escape in life and I cried the night he died, as a huge part of my childhood died with him.

Recommended SAHB track to escape to – ‘Give My Compliments to the Chef’


Jim Kerr – Simple Minds

If you watch the best frontmen in the world they use movement to create energy or hypnotise an audience into a trance and Jim Kerr at his peak was a master of this art.

Recommended – ‘In Trance as Mission’

Leo Condie – The Low Miffs

Not since Alex Harvey died have I come across a singer with the vocal range, attitude and sense of drama that excites me as much as Leo Condie of The Low Miffs. Sophisticated from Brecht to Springsteen through to Franz Ferdinand, Condie is schooled in the art of delivering musical text in the most absorbing of manners.

Recommended – ‘The Man That Took On Love and Won’

Stuart Adamson – Big Country

As Stuart was the winner in the ‘best guitarist’ category it was tempting to leave him out but that would have been so wrong. If there was ever a frontman who could create a party atmosphere or sing along with absolute enthusiasm it was Stuart. At The Frankie Miller Tribute gig I watched in awe as 2000+ punters sang along with ‘Chance’ on a huge video screen, such was the power of his memory.

Recommended – ‘Chance’

James Allen – Glasvegas

There are a few times in life when you look at someone and think, he looks like a rock star. In James’s case he’s lived up to first impressions and then some!

Recommended – ‘Daddy’s Gone’



I needed someone to sing ‘Caledonia’ with SAHB and Brian Robertson on guitar and I thought, “Who is a big enough singer to stand in the centre circle at Hampden and sing Caledonia with a pipe band?” A year later at the World Bowl final, Fish stood in that centre circle and belted out Caledonia with a massive pipe band, which is still for me the definitive version of the song.

Recommended – ‘Caledonia’ at Hampden (Anyone got a video of this?)


NME called Rico, “The bastard child of Tom Waits and Kurt Cobain” and if Rico was an American he would be on a level with NIN, Marylyn Mansun and Rage Against the Machine.

Recommended – ‘Attack Me’

Bon Scott – AC/DC

What can you add to the legend that is Bon Scott?

Recommended – ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’


Bobby Gillespie – Primal Scream

If you stand in the King Tuts Tent at T in the Park waiting for a band to come on and the PA starts playing Country Girl, you will see 5000 people get up and dance and sing. I’ve seen it happen and Bobby didn’t even have to be there to inspire it!

Recommended – ‘Country Girl’

Ian Anderson – Jethro Tull

If you’re going to jump around on stage in a leotard with a flute you need 3 things: talent, big balls and warm weather.

Recommended – ‘Too Old To Rock’n’roll: too Young to Die’


William Rouge – The Blimp

The support act for SAHB’s Glasgow show dropped out on me and I was wandering up to Tuts to see a potential replacement when I decided to take a detour into Sleazy’s. The Blimp was playing, they finished the show and I offered a bemused Bill the gig on the spot. IMHO if you have not been to a Blimp show you are not a real Glaswegian music fan!

Recommended – ‘Jumping Through the Park’

Alex Kapranos – Franz Ferdinand

When Alex declared, “I am the New Scottish Gentry” in ‘Shopping for Blood’, he could’ve be accused of being, arrogant, ironic or simply prophesizing. Prior to Franz Ferdinand, Glasgow was a gritty gallus city struggling to reinvent its image, “Smiles Better” being the worst example of how un-cool Glasgow was.

Roll forward to a post, “Darts of Pleasure” Glasgow and you will see the city running a campaign called, “Glasgow Style” with Alex key in assisting Glasgow in finding its Art School cool. Kapranos is the first Scottish rockstar that has chic and if you asked people in Berlin, New York or Milan who are the cool rockstars, the list might start with something like, Bowie, Lou Reed, David Byrne etc. etc. but it might well finish with Alex Kapranos.

Recommended – ‘Shopping for Blood’

Ewan MacFarlane – The Grim Northern Social

When The Grim played BD Reilly’s at SxSW in 2004 there was chaos – the venue was packed and 200 people blocked the street to see one of the most outstanding performances at SxSW by any band, let alone a Scottish one.

Recommended – ‘Urban Pressure’


The Singers

Here are a few folk who can chant into the celtic soul of any heart.

Frankie Miller

The widow of the late great Otis Redding reckoned: “That little ole white boy Frankie, has the blackest voice since Otis”. I rest my case!

Recommended – ‘I Know Why the Sun Don’t Shine’

Marti Pellow – Wet Wet Wet

If a singer can take a song you hate and perform in a genre you hate and make you listen then they have something special. At the time of “Wishing I Was Lucky”, I would have gladly shot myself or Marti Pellow in the heid to get away from that bloody song. Admitting you like Wet Wet Wet in certain circles is akin to coming out the closest in the Catholic Church, but years later I saw Marti doing his solo show in Glasgow and play the lead in Chicago and feck that dude can sing. So I am out of the Pellow closet.

Recommended – ‘Temptation’ (check out 3:08 in to this song and one of the only ‘fucks’ to get past the censors on Radio One)

Ray Wilson

Best known perhaps as the frontman of Stiltskin, Ray went on to become the lead singer of Genesis post Phil Collins and have a solo No1 in Europe with ‘Another Day’. It would have been so easy to punt, “Inside”, as it is such an anthem, but for me Ray has one of the greatest voices in music.

When I was producing the Frankie Miller Tribute, part of the joy was matching Frankie’s songs to artists, many who were afraid to tackle things because they said or thought, “I can’t do that better than Frankie”. The album has some fantastic performances and interpretations, but Ray is one of the few that nailed it better than the original.

Recommended – “Good Time Love” from The Frankie Miller Tribute

Paolo Nutini

If Joe Cocker had died in the 70’s and been reincarnated, I would have put money on the fact he came back as Paolo Nutini. We all know he didn’t but maybe Paolo’s mum was a Cocker fan ;o)

Recommended – ‘Last Request’


Iain Morrison

The only singer that can make me homesick in a heartbeat, his vocals have the pathos of broken angels and his lyrics evoke a Celtic want, buried deep in a gypsy soul.

Recommended – ‘Broken Off Car Door’


Pat Kane

I know I am in danger of mentioning The Frankie Miller Tribute too often but this article has stirred so many memories of great vocal performances by great Scottish artists, not least that of Pat Kane, and it was 2 bitter sweet years of my life putting it together.

I have briefly mentioned this before but it deserves another mention. Frankie wrote the song “I Can’t Change It” at the age of 15 and it was later recorded by his idol Ray Charles. I was standing next to Frankie at the Barrowland as Pat sang this, while I watched the tears roll down Frankie’s cheeks, as he punched the air.

Recommended – ‘I Can’t Change It’ by Pat Kane & ‘Button Up’ from The Frankie Miller Tribute Album

Scott Rinning – The Cinematics

If you can sing Grace and make Jeff Buckley’s mum cry, you have that little special something. Along with Leo Condie, Scott knows the history of music and has an outstanding range and pitch. I once watched him perform “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure and thought that it was better than the original. Which young singer can chant better than Leo or Scott, you tell me?

Recommended – ‘Grace’


Dan McCafferty – Nazareth

Dan is another Dunfermline artist who could easily straddle the categories for great frontman or great singer. Enduring is a word used far too much to describe bands who can still tour after 30 years, but there is a reason bands like Nazareth are enduring, and it is because they are fecking good at what they do and Dan can still rock em!

Recommended – ‘Dream On’

Dean Ford – Marmalade

Ask Ted McKenna and other musicians of his generation who inspired him and the name Dean Ford will come up over and over.

Recommended – ‘Reflections of My Life’

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart is what Frankie Miller would have been if he had not been raised in Brigton. With The Faces, Rod would easily been in the frontman section as they remain one of my top 5 “rock n roll” bands of all time. He has written the odd tune himself, but like Elvis what he is best at is finding the right song for those exceptional vocal pipes.

Recommended – ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’


Part 2 of this article, ‘The Popstars, The Troubadours and The Rogues’ is here.
And not forgetting last week’s female vocalist article here.

Next Wednesday we will somehow produce a top ten of Greatest Ever Vocalists for you to vote on.

Photo Credit : Uncut via the official SAHB website