“Why dont you try Radio? You have the perfect face for it. (Various Smartarses)

So there I was, driving my truck past Dumbarton Rock on the way to another store delivery and, as I fiddled with the radio trying to find something decent, I came upon 96.3FM, a frequency I’d never tuned in to before. That’s because it was a brand new station and right away I was smiling cos it was playing Classic Rock, something you’d never heard before from a Scottish broadcaster. Then, as the song finished, an unmistakably Scottish voice proceeded to bastardise the English language in every way possible: “Dat’s Queen with Fart Bortum Gulls!” I think he said and, spookily enough, I recognised the bastardiser’s voice. “Hells Bells!” I yelled, looking down at the radio like he was actually in it. “That’s Tom Russell!”

Tom Russell and Father Ted 07
Tom Russell and Father Ted 2007

Before owning a couple of record stores in Glasgow then becoming the self-proclaimed Godfather of Rock thanks to his Friday Night Rock Show with Radio Clyde (on which yours truly featured with Nazareth, La Paz and during Growin Up Too Fast’s release) Tom and I had worked together way back in 1976/77 when my band, Phase, often played gigs alongside the Tom Russell Road Show. In the recent past, Tom had been demoted to Clyde 2, the AM frequency underling of the now commercially-driven Radio Clyde FM as Clyde’s bosses had decided there was no place for Rock music on their hi-fidelity flagship. And yet, here he was on 96.3FM or, to give it its full name: 96.3 Rock Radio. Scotland’s first Classic Rock Station. The year was 2007 and I’d settled into a normal existence of solo pub gigs built around full-time trucking, but this was about to change, spookily.

Enter another blast from the past: The host of the STV show on which I’d made my Nazareth debut back in 1980. Then, in 1981, as part of a Radio Forth documentary following Naz on tour in the US, he sold his recording equipment to buy drugs. The ultimate ‘Should’ve Been a Rock Star,’ Jay Crawford. Since leaving Radio Forth, Jay had built himself an impressive career. He was MD with Real Radio Scotland, the recent Big Dog on the block owned by GMG, Guardian Media Group. They also had under their control many other radio and TV stations such as STV, LWT, a new breakfast franchise, GMTV, and even shares in The Walt Disney Company. Add to that, newspapers The Observer and, of course, The Guardian itself made Jay’s position all the more commendable. As part of Real Radio, he also oversaw Smooth Radio but, crucially to this story, had also bought the license for a third, yet to be named 96.3FM. Along with his boss Billy Anderson (who will feature much more, later in my story) Jay had gone for making this small-reaching wavelength a Rock station. Scotland’s first, as we’ve said. Add to this, Jay and I had once written a song together called Hampden Nights about the Scotland football team way back when Scotland actually had a football team worth writing about.

Jay Crawford with Ronnie Wood

After hearing Tom on this new station, I sent him a congratulations type message saying it was good to hear him back on the airwaves and, to my surprise, he replied:
“Jay wants to speak with you.”

“Hi Jay, it’s been a long time.”
“Since we Rock and Rolled?”
“Oh, good one!”
“Listen. Would you be up for doing a show?”
“What, you mean a radio show?”
“Yeah, maybe like once a week, you play some songs by folk you’ve known or worked with and talk about them. It could be fun and it’s not every day the listener’s get to hear stuff from a real ‘been there, done that, wore the T-shirt then sold it for drugs’ Rock Star.”
“Sounds more like you Jason, but okay, sure. I’m up for that.”
“Great. Come into the studio and we’ll try it out.”

Ian 'Fergie' Ferguson
Ian ‘Fergie’ Ferguson

By ‘Try it out’ Jay meant me doing a trial link or two to see how my voice sounded on the radio. This exercise was carried out by chief producer for Real Radio, Ian ‘Fergie’ Ferguson who was also an award-winning ‘Imager’, which means putting together audio clips and sound effects. Yes, that title baffles me too. We sat down together at the studio desk. Fergie showed me how to work the buttons. I strapped on the headphones, pushed up the mic fader and spoke. “Holy Fuck. Ferg! Err, hello. I’m Billy Rankin and you’re listening to 96.3 Rock Radio. That was Dio’s Holy Diver at a quite frankly outrageous volume. Ah nearly burst ma farting string there.” Truth be told, my headphones were set quite high and I did actually get a bit of a fright but, by the time I’d recovered, Fergie was already leaving the studio saying, “Take five mate. I’m just going to see Jay.” Minutes later, Jay listened back as I tried to apologise for the language and stopped the playback:

Glasgow Evening Times 14.1.07
Glasgow Evening Times 14th January 2007

“Fuck a weekly show Bill. I want you full-time.”
“Huh? What brought that on?”
“Your voice mate,” said Fergie. “It’s perfect for radio.”
“Yes, it is,” Jay agreed. “That timbre, that expression, that confidence, that ‘Don’t give a fuck’ attitude is just what we need.”
And so, after some negotiations, I handed my notice into Asda/Walmart and became a professional radio presenter.
And all because I’d heard Tom Russell talk shite as I drove by Dumbarton Rock.

Nah. We never played The Police on 96.3 Rock Radio.

“Hey, Scotty, I know it’s no safe tae eat the beef just now, but is it still okay tae Smoke It?” (Live call to Scot FM’s Scotty McClue during the UK’s BSE beef crisis, 1996)
Rock Radio promo shot 08
Rock Radio promo shot 2008

My contract with Rock Radio was for six 4 hour shows per week Monday to Saturday and they started me on nights, 6pm to 10pm. Although Jay was happy for me to VT (voice track) all of them at a time to suit, I asked to be allowed to only VT the weekend show and do the rest live. I reasoned that actually going out live to an audience would give me an edge you never get when it’s prerecorded plus I could interact with emails and texts as they came in. It was deemed acceptable although I was refused the use of Phone Box, the piece of equipment which allows phone calls from the listeners cos, unless you’ve got it set to a 10-second delay or have prerecorded it while you’re playing a long enough song, it can cause you all sorts of trouble, not to mention a fine from Ofcom if something deemed offensive is said. Poor old Scotty McClue learned this the hard way.

Now for some context: The combined GMG stations Real, Smooth and Rock were all operated out of one building in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. The three studios sat adjacent to one and other and, during the day, the main office area was a bustling array of producers, engineers, news teams, researchers and, most importantly, sales operators cos commercial radio can only survive through advertising revenue. After 6pm, however, when I was in, there was only a handful of staff present and a few other presenters such as Ewen Cameron who, alongside Scotland goalkeeping legend Alan Rough, hosted Real Radio’s immensely popular Football Phone-in. Roughie was a bit of a prankster and would often stick his head through the studio door and try to put me off as I was about to do a live link:
“Hey, Billy,” he once announced as Montrose’s Bad Motor Scooter was coming to an end, “You know those phone sex lines? Don’t ever use Stuttering Sluts. It’ll cost ye a fuckin’ fortune!” He then stood back with arms folded and watched me try to speak into the microphone through fits of laughter.

Rock Radio Christmas promo 2010
Rock Radio Christmas promo shoot, Buchanan Street, Glasgow 17 December 2009. L-R Martin Kielty, Billy, Donald, Tom, Ted and David

As for my team: Willie Docherty, or Wild Willie as he was marketed, did the breakfast show; Tom Russell from mid-morning to 2pm and David ‘The Captain’ Grant was the drive-time presenter. Then there was the wonderful Angela; our sales team, no, Angela WAS our sales team; chief engineer and fixer of everything technical Phil Reed (or Phil McCrackin as he was known when he’d occasionally do shows) whom I referred to as Saviour due to his awesomeness. His sidekick Rob Crumlish, who would often let me borrow stuff knowing I didn’t need to return it and the award-winning Imager and producer Ian ‘Fergie’ Ferguson. My immediate boss Ciaran O’Toole who answered to Jay, who answered to Billy Anderson and his underling Gavin Bruce was, and still is, an absolute nutter. Ciaran had been VTing the nighttime shows I was now doing under his pseudonym of Father Ted. Whenever he would have to fill in for one of us live, everyone was on tenterhooks, especially the bosses who feared an Ofcom fine could be forthcoming whenever Ted spoke. We all had to listen regardless cos he was so bad, he was actually quite good.

But, by far, the worst offender was Donald MacLeod.

Donald McLeod and Billy @ Tartan Clef Awards, SECC, Glasgow 27.11.09
Donald McLeod and Billy @ Tartan Clef Awards, SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009

Donald owns two of Glasgow’s best Rock clubs: The Cathouse and The Garage; has a weekly column in one of Scotland’s major newspapers and, was approached by Jay much the same as I’d been to do a once-a-week speciality show on Rock Radio. On the one occasion he covered a live show (David Grant’s Drive Time), Big Donald had to do a traffic and travel update. It was both terrifying and hilarious:
“There’s a stupid wee cow broke down on the Kingston Bridge, probably in her clapped oot Ford Fiesta. Haw, if yer listening ya stupid wee cow, get aff yer phone and just set fire tae yer motor, preferably wi’ you still in it ya stupid wee cow!”
That got noticed. Fortunately for Donald and the bosses, no complaints from the public were made to Ofcom. It was only a matter of time though. After prerecording his show one week with Fergie at the controls, its broadcast got not only a hefty fine from Ofcom, it also resulted in the Big Man being, albeit temporarily, suspended from Rock Radio. It was bad enough to have (and in hindsight only he or Father Ted would’ve) made a reference to then US President Obama’s Maw’s vagina. But, to link it to Soundgarden’s biggest hit….

Guilty as charged M’Lud.

“You coulda been sleeping, you coulda done anything, but everybody’s singing Good Mornin’” (Nazareth: All Nite Radio, 1983)

I stayed on nights for a few months then Bossman Jay and Bossman Billy (Anderson) had an idea to boost Rock Radio’s ratings, or more particularly breakfast show host Willie Docherty’s ratings. “We’re taking you off the night shows,” they told me in the upstairs office. You always knew it was important if you got summoned to the upstairs office, and more often than not, you were going to get your balls booted, but not this time.

Billy Anderson

“Remember what time we used to go to bed when Nazareth were on tour?”
“Oh Aye Jay, Why?”
“Because that’s the time you’ll be getting up from now on,” replied Bossman Billy.
“Yep, we’re putting you on the Rock Radio Morning Show, 6am-10am.”
“Instead of Wild Willie?”
“Along with Wild Willie.”
And so, to mirror every other breakfast show in the country, Rock Radio would have twin presenters to bounce off wittily of a morning. They no doubt imagined getting a Batman and Robin, Laurel and Hardy, Shaggy and Scooby but instead, they got a Burke and Hare, and the listeners loved it!

Willie & Billy

On attending GMG’s next RAJAR (ratings) results, Bossmen Jay and Billy proudly announced that the Rock Radio Morning Show with Willie and Billy had surpassed all expectations and was the one they’d personally listen to when driving into work in the morning. This, of course, didn’t sit well with our counterparts on GMG’s other breakfast shows, but fuck ‘em. “You just don’t know what they’re going to say next,” the Bossmen enthused, which was technically correct cos me and Willie didn’t usually know either. A few times our unrehearsed and spontaneous banter got us in trouble. Willie would occasionally let the odd shit come out, I mean the word Shit, quite literally and I almost cost the station a fine of £10,000 when a listener made an official complaint about me to Ofcom. We’d been discussing a recent US music awards show where a now clean and sober Slash had been complaining about the lack of canapés at the backstage buffet. All I said was, “Slash was more fun when he was on drugs,” which, in hindsight, wasn’t the cleverest of comments, but I was certainly not advocating heroin use makes you more fun, which the complainant a mother of three driving her kids to school at the time had accused me of. (Come to think of it now, I was extremely lucky to have only gotten a slapped wrist from Ofcom, a point made by Jay and Billy to me later in the upstairs office as they took turns booting me in the balls.) The secret of our success, we realised early on, was that we took all the rules of Radio broadcasting and broke them.

Don’t ever talk about something? We’d talk endlessly about it.
Case point 1:
“If you could have an affair and your wife wouldn’t ever know about it, would you do it?”
“Who with?”
“I dunno. Hadn’t thought this through.”
“What about an affair with you?”
“I’d tell your wife!”
“Ah, but could we leave the lights on?”
Case point 2:
Don’t divulge your affiliations to a particular Scottish football team? We’d mercilessly insult each other’s affiliations to the point of listeners texting the show saying, “Willie can’t call Billy a bigoted, blue-nosed arsehole,” or, “Billy really shouldn’t be referring to Hibernian FC as glorified East Coast bead-rattling tattie munchers.”
We’d write, then record (with the help of Fergie and anyone in the station willing to voice them) a series of Spoof Ads. They were usually of a mature nature and could appear at any point in the show forcing the audience to do a double-take at their radio while thinking “Did I really just hear an advert for a Japanese motorcycle called an Itchy Tadger?” Yes, yes you did. And it was voiced by our oriental-looking member of staff, Jacob Chan, who actually sounds more Scottish than we do.

Rock Radio, in general, was edgy.

Me and Willie just added to the lunacy already there thanks to the likes of Ted, David, Donald and Tom but, most importantly, we treated our audience like adults who listened to Rock music, cos that’s what they were. This reputation and opinion would eventually help bring us down, but I’m getting ahead of myself. A feature I brought to the show was ‘The School of Rock’ which I’d done on my nighttime programmes and was enjoyed hourly on Breakfast, mainly by Willie himself who could nick out for a cigarette while I did them. Basically, I’d look at an event in Rock for that day (birthday, death, plane crash etc.) write a script, read it out then play an appropriate track. This would come in useful to me later, but again, let’s rewind a bit.

Rock Radio Christmas promo shoot, Buchanan Street, Glasgow 17 December 2009 L-R David, Ted, Tom, Billy, Donald, Martin
Rock Radio Yorkhill Children's Hospital Easter Egg Run 18th November 2010
Rock Radio Yorkhill Children's Hospital Easter Egg Run 18th November 2010
Rock Radio Yorkhill Children's Hospital Easter Egg Run 18th November 2010
Rock Radio Yorkhill Children's Hospital Easter Egg Run 18th November 2010
Rock Radio Yorkhill Children's Hospital Easter Egg Run 18th November 2010
Rock Radio Help For Heroes November 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Triumph Glasgow, Rock Radio charity bike wash 2010
Ciaran aka Father Ted Rock in studio 2010
Rock Radio curry night in Glasgow 2010
Ciaran with Slash 2010
Tom buys Billy a pint. Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 2011
Naz drop by for an on-air chat March 2011

A final feature was something I’d forgotten about til then. It involved a guy called Bob Rivers who had a morning radio show in Seattle, Washington and had a studio at his home, in his garage to be exact. During my second tenure with Nazareth in the ’90s, we did a version of Hair Of The Dog in Bob’s Garage and Bob gave us a tape of what usually gets done in his studio: Spoof Songs which he called Twisted Tunes. I got Fergie to upload a bunch of them and we started playing those Spoof Songs much in the same way as we did with our homegrown Spoof Ads, i.e. with no introduction or explanation and occurring anywhere in the show. Songs such as “Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep” by a very convincing AC/DC sounding band or Soundgarden’s “Asshole Son” soon became yet another ‘must-hear’ for listeners to Willie and Billy’s The Rock Radio Morning Show, but there’s one more component: We wound each other up. I’d often refer to him as “Draft Dodger Docherty” despite knowing his history in the armed forces just to hopefully send him off in a rant about it. “I fought in the Falklands!” was usually enough to tell me it was Game On. Willie, on the other hand, would call me an “Ex-failed-Rock Star Has-been” before playing a completely butchered version of Baby Come Back (assisted by Fergie of course) in the hope I’d rise to the bait, which I usually did. Time passed and we were taking Rock Radio forward, or so we thought.

Then, Shit hit the Fan.

This Shit had a name and the name was Cutbacks. It was across all three GMG Scotland stations but, for the purpose of this story, it mainly concerned Rock. We lost our budget for many things. Poor Angela, our sales rep, was often to be found in tears in the Rock Radio station wagon and the breakfast show had to lose one of its hosts. We even joked about it on air: “There’s a vacancy in the sausage van, I’ll send you a link,” was one of our better efforts, but this was serious. One of us was going to lose our job. Willie and I always had a good relationship, but when it came to superiority (and I’m sure he won’t disagree here), Mr Docherty always played the upper hand. After all, he’d been in charge of the Rock Radio Morning Show before I’d arrived, he’d been doing radio for years unlike my mere months and would’ve even been my horse to back in the ‘Who Will Keep Their Job’ stakes. As I’m writing this, I remember being annoyed, no, fucked off when I’d see an email from him with the sign-off: Willie Docherty, Mainman, Breakfast.
In hindsight I kinda get it.
Arrogance? Yep.
Dominance? Undoubtedly.
Insecurity? Must’ve been a factor.
Regardless, Bossman Jay gave us two ‘must-attend’ meetings five minutes apart to which Willie went first.
I didn’t need to attend my meeting, the look on Willie’s face said it all, but Willie said it anyway.

“All the best, Billy Boy. How do I get a Truck Driver’s license?”

“Hey, Fergie, they keep referring to The Talent. Who’s The Talent?
“You are, Numb-nuts!
“Cool. Can I be referred to as The Talent from now on?
“Hell No, Numb-nuts!” (GMG Radio Breakfast Show Bootcamp, Wales 2009)

I didn’t have to attend my meeting with Jay after Willie cleared out his desk, but I did so anyway. Turns out I was being kept on instead of the Wild One due to, as Jay put it, “Your on-air content, your superior knowledge of Rock and the admiration from listeners you’ve earned.” I was having none of that. In my opinion, the success of our breakfast show was down to both Willie and I. It was purely company cutbacks which led to one of us being shown the door, not any of Jay’s pish-posh reasons. I didn’t voice this, of course.

“Aye, Fuck Willie Docherty Jay. Ah never liked the Arsehole!”

Rock Radio promo 08
Rock Radio promo 2008

And so I got to work building a one-man breakfast show unique to the radio industry, i.e. every other one continued to have dual presenters. A major lesson I’d learned from regular ‘snoops’ between Jay (and sometimes my immediate boss Ciaran aka Ted) was that you could never have enough ‘prep’. There’s nothing worse than sliding that microphone fader up at the end of a song and realising you have nothing to say except what the song was called, who it was by and which radio station you’re listening to. All of that had to be done of course, according to my very early snoops, but there had to be something ready to talk about after it. That’s where prep comes in.

Rock Radio Birthday Bash aftershow, G2, Glasgow January 2008
With Max Maxwell (SAHB) @ Rock Radio Birthday Bash aftershow, G2, Glasgow January 2008

From someone spotting the AC/DC tour bus near Hampden Park to a guy capable of a decent rendition of Smoke On The Water on his handsaw, everything was up for grabs, and I was solely responsible for getting it live on Rock Radio, on a daily basis. Unlike all other breakfast show presenters, I had no co-host, no production team or anybody to set up and record phone calls. I had to do it all myself and it was great fun! So much so that when GMG decided to hold a Bootcamp for all their breakfast show teams in the UK, I was the only one who went to a posh hotel in Wales with no team. Don’t get me wrong, Bossman Jay attended as head of all 3 Scottish stations, Angela, as our Sales rep, and Fergie, who figured it was a golden opportunity to get pished on the company. It’s funny how, even in times of a financial crisis, the leadership can still find ways of blowing cash on pointless seminars, hiring the top experts to give their expert advice on how best to deliver a fuckin’ radio show. I met many people, mostly arseholes and learned only one thing: Never ask Fergie to refer to me as The Talent. Business was good, or so we thought. Our annual Birthday Bash celebrations and numerous exclusive Rock Radio gigs given by visiting artists whose particular audience would be our listeners through easy-to-enter competitions helped increase our overall reach in the community. We really had become a family. Things ticked over for several more years til the next series of cutbacks was given a new and, to the media industry, a now-familiar name:


This was explained away in many forms at the time but cutting to the chase it meant producing the same show in numerous parts of the country using one central presentation, usually London based. The resulting chaos wasn’t limited to GMG stations, lots of people who’d spent decades in the industry were dropped overnight. 96.3 Rock Radio suddenly found itself being broadcast from somewhere hundreds of miles from Scotland. An extensive campaign kicked in from our local, loyal audience during which petitions were signed, protest gigs such as “Keep Rock Radio Scottish”, “Bring Back Rock Radio” and “Ted: I’m Pregnant”, but all were ultimately in vain. Rock Radio was ‘Networked’ from Manchester for a while with no local involvement apart from stalwart Tom Russell’s mid-morning show, became RealXS for a bit then simply disappeared.

Or did it?

“I don’t believe you. You’re a Liar!
(Bob Dylan’s reaction to a heckler when he’d gone electric: Manchester Free Trade Hall, May 17th 1966)

Nordoff Robbins is a charity close to Rock Radio and it’s easy to understand why. They use music to influence positive reactions from sufferers of mental and physical illness, usually, but not exclusively the young. Case in point: Frankie Miller, the biggest kid on the block who benefited greatly from Nordoff Robbins therapy during his long recovery from the massive brain haemorrhage which ended his career. Every Rock Radio event, our birthdays, exclusive gigs and listeners challenges were in support of this worthy cause so, when the station got involved with the Nordoff Robbins Tartan Clef Awards in 2009/2010, I was taken aback on both occasions.

Dougie Souness
Dougie Souness

First to 2009 at Glasgow’s SECC when Scottish folk singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean was to receive an award. For those of you unfamiliar with Dougie, his main claim to fame was that he wrote Caledonia, a song made famous by Frankie Miller who’d covered it with much success. A bloke called Dougie Souness was put in charge of supplying Mr MacLean with a backing band for the event and wasted no time in putting forward Hue & Cry pianist Greg Kane and Wet Wet Wet drummer Tommy Cunningham. Dougie happened to be the manager of Wet Wet Wet and had history with Hue & Cry so this wasn’t unexpected. What surprised me was that I was invited as the guitar player. “He wants a Rock sound for this interpretation,” was Dougie’s pitch to me, so I accepted. “Who’s playing bass?” I enquired.

Now let me digress for a moment.

Malcolm & Jack Bruce 14
Malcolm & Jack Bruce 2014

I come from Kirkintilloch, a small insignificant hamlet near Glasgow. A few miles away is another insignificant hamlet called Bishopbriggs. Google either and you’ll find I am not mentioned as significant to mine but check out Bishopbriggs and a famous musician is evident. And he’s a Bass Player. Sheesh!
His name is, or more accurately was, Jack Bruce: You may have heard of him. Bishopbriggs famous son has a real genetic son called Malcolm Bruce and, just like his father, he is a very proficient bass player. Malcolm made up the final piece of Dougie MacLeans backing band. We met at a Glasgow rehearsal studio the night before the event and didn’t take long to work things out. We were, after all, just performing one song, Caledonia. I was asked which of the Marshall amps and cabinets offered would I like to use and, as is my wont, I replied, “Eh, all of them?” Looks of horror from Tommy, Greg and Malcolm led me to believe I might be overdoing things, but Dougie himself leapt to my defence:
“Yes! Use all of them. That’s the attitude I’m looking for. Let’s Rock this bastard up!”

Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009 L-R Dougie MacLean, Fiona McKeown, Billy Rankin
With Tommy Cunningham @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
With Jordan Rankin @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tommy Cunningham & Jordan Rankin @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Jordan Rankin with Ian Hunter @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Dougie MacLean @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Greg Kane @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Dougie MacLean, Tommy Cunningham & Billy @ Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009
Tartan Clef Awards soundcheck. SECC, Glasgow 27.11.09

The following afternoon we reconvened at the SECC for the obligatory soundcheck where I discovered to my delight that my old friend, Ian Hunter, and his Hoople of Motts’ were also receiving an award and would be playing after us. Later that evening and, after collecting his reward from Tom Russell, Dougie MacLean picked up his battered acoustic guitar and began the intro and first verse of his famous tune to rapturous applause. We, his Rock Band accompaniment, joined in with much gusto at the second chorus and the look of terror from the packed SECC as everyone tried to cover their ears in unison was a sight to behold. Only a wry smile from Dougie and a brief nod in my direction told me he approved of 2 Marshall stacks entering his folky Scots ditty. This was reconfirmed by a hug backstage 5 minutes later:
“Holy Shit Guys!” he exclaimed, a well-earned whisky in his hand. “That was like Peter, Paul and Mary meets Pantera!”

There was one more thing I had to do.

With Ian Hunter @ Tartan Clef Awards, SECC, Glasgow 27.11.09
With Ian Hunter @ Tartan Clef Awards, SECC, Glasgow 27th November 2009

Wandering around the backstage labyrinth of the SECC, it didn’t take me long to locate the dressing room of Mott The Hoople where I was greeted warmly by Ian Paterson Hunter thus: “William dear boy. I’ve been expecting you. So good to see you,” before leading me by the arm towards his fellow bandmates:
“This is the guy I’ve been telling you about.”
“Oh, Hullo Bill,” said guitarist Mick Ralphs shaking my hand.
“As I was just saying,” Ian continued, “Aside from you and Ronson,” he was talking to his guitarist, “This bloke is the finest Rock musician I know.”
High praise indeed so I wasn’t about to let it slide.
“If that’s what you think,” I countered, “Why won’t you let me play in your band?”
“Ah, that’s quite simple, William. You’re too fuckin’ loud!”
“Aye,” said Mick Ralphs as means of confIrmation.
“You were just playing 10 minutes ago, yeah?”
“Yes I was, but how did you know?”
“Well, when that first power chord hit our dressing room, Ian turned to us and muttered

“Uh-Oh. Rankin’s On.”

“So-called Mr Rock & Roll is dancing on his own again. Talking on his phone again to someone who tells him that his balance is low.(Amy MacDonald, 2007)
Old Fruitmarket
The Old Fruitmarket

The following year, in 2010, another Tartan Clef Awards was to take place in Glasgow in aid of Nordoff Robbins, this time in the smaller but, in my opinion, better venue known as The Old Fruitmarket. This beautifully designed and restored building was perfect for musical performance unlike the previous years Boom Box’ aircraft hanger with lights, The SECC. It’s worth pointing out here, mainly cos I forgot to in the earlier section that Rock Radio’s involvement with NR came about through infamous nightclub owner and occasionally fired and rehired’ presenter, Donald MacLeod. He was the chairman of Nordoff Robbins (Scotland) thus securing our station a ContributionTo Rock’ award which we, meaning the brand, got to present it to the charity’s chosen recipient. What I’m trying to say is that the Tartan Clef Awards while ultimately being all about music wasn’t all about Rock music. Just our bit. My contribution with Dougie MacLean as his sledgehammer in 2009 wasn’t in any way connected with Rock Radio (though I did get away with sporting our station’s T-shirt during the performance.) It would’ve been more appropriate had I not been regarded by Ian Hunter as being too loud to play with our actual connection, Mott The Hoople, that night. 

This year’s Rock Award was to be given to Def Leppard, but there was a problem: Unlike Mott, The Leps were, for the most part, tax exiles living it up in America, so getting them to show up in Glasgow to accept their award wasn’t gonna happen. Luckily, one of them was dodging tax a bit closer to home. Lead singer Joe Elliott resided in Ireland and was happy to appear as the band’s representative on the night, but when asked if he’d “Do a few songs,” he quite naturally but politely refused. Joe, however, had a solution to the problem which would also fulfil a boyhood ambition, nay, dream of his: “Only if I can do it with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band,” he offered as a compromise.

That set the charity’s bosses a few challenging questions:
“Who’s the Sensational Alex Harvey Band?”
“Where’s the Sensational Alex Harvey Band?” and, most pressing of all:

“Does anyone know how to get in touch with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band?”

Naturally, given my 30-odd year relationship with SAHB and being personal friends with every one of them, I was able to help by giving the bosses invaluable information:
“Aye. Joe knows them all. He’s probably already asked them.”
And he had.
But would they play Def Leppard songs?
No need.
Joe wanted to sing a few SAHB songs which must have pleased SAHB no end cos the last thing they would’ve wanted was to have to learn fewer chords than was usual. (No, that’s unfair. “Learn new songs” is more accurate. Both bands’ chord count is pretty comparable.) So it was settled.
Then it wasn’t.
SAHB Guitarist, Zal couldn’t make it.
I received two phone calls, two minutes apart.
The first was from Joe: “Zal can’t make it. Chris says you’ll do it.”
“Oh, does he?”
Then the second call: “You’re doin’ it.”
That would be Chris.

Tartan Clef Awards rehearsal, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow 20th November 2010

We convened at the same rehearsal studio I’d attended the previous year with Dougie, Tommy, Greg and Malcolm, but this time with Chris, Ted and Hugh, the night before the gig, again. It was all good. Playing with SAHB is akin to riding a bike except, instead of being the rider, or the bike, or the pedals, or even the saddle. You are more like the playing card or lollipop stick we used to insert into the wheel spokes which went “Clickety, Clickety, Click” as we sped down the hill towards impending doom, but sounded great during the process. Being a tax exile in Dublin, Joe didn’t make rehearsals, so the only time we had for a run-through was on the afternoon of the show itself at the Fruitmarket.
Again, it was all good.

All of the bosses and presenters at Rock Radio were in attendance this evening along with our respective spouses. We even had our own “Rock Radio” table which other guests, for the main part, wisely avoided. Beforehand, we were led into the VIP lounge of the venue where we mingled with alien beings from another dimension, or at the very least, another musical genre. Gallagher & Lyle were reunited for the first time since they’d tried to stab each other back in the day and some pre-Indy types called The Bluebells flirted with the canapés before resuming a fight they’d had some time in the past by throwing food at each other. I felt slightly out of place til my bandmates cornered a young lady called Amy MacDonald, rescuing her from our bass player. One dashingly skinny and handsome chap was receiving more than his fair share of attention but, unlike Amy MacDonald, didn’t appear to require rescuing.
“Who’s that?” I asked our now downtrodden bass player.
“Paul Nutella, or something,” he replied.
“It’s Paolo Nutini,” someone correctly corrected Chris.
“He’s from Paisley.”
“Serves him right!” growled our bassist. “If Glasgow be the Arsehole of the World, then Paisley be 6 miles up it!”
Paolo, as it turned out, was pretty damn good we’d later realise, but for now, he was, in Chris’ opinion, a “Wee Poof.”
Onwards to the gig itself and things got off to a great start with Paul McManus & Co’s Gun who set the bar higher than audience expectations leading to Bossman Jay leaning over and asking me, “Think you can better that?”
“No problemo, Jayman,” I replied. “Playing with SAHB is akin to riding a bike except, instead of being the rider…” at which point my wife Mary interjected, “Don’t! Just Don’t!”

So I didn’t.

Joe Elliott receiving his award from Tom Russell was my cue to make my way stage-wards. After everyone realised we weren’t actually Def Leppard and not about to Pour Some Sugar on anyone, we went down a storm, but not in the same storm category as Amy or Paolo.

After all of the artists had played, things calmed down a little and, as is customary with charity events of this nature, a series of auctions took place. A VIP package for Take That’s sell-out gigs at Hampden Park the following summer was fiercely fought over inducing a collective “Take Who?” reaction from the Rock Radio/SAHB/Joe Elliott table. An audible “Fuck Naw!” was heard from Gun’s aforementioned Paul McManus when he realised his bid of £14,000 had been accepted for a week on a luxury yacht owned by ex-Apollo theatre owner, Frank Lynch. It appeared Paul had only been trying to stir up the bids, but became the highest bidder, then forgot. Another auction highlight involved Paolo Nutini’s winning bid of £4,500 for a Hohner harmonica donated by soul legend Stevie Wonder. That further enhanced my admiration for the “Wee Paisley Poof” as Chris Glen had now renamed him. What sealed it was a brief conversation I had with Paolo at the bar near the end of the night. It seemed we both shared an almost hero-type worship for Lowell George’s Little Feat, a band I’d first been introduced to back in early 1978 in the North London home of, yes, you guessed it, Chris Glen.

There must be a word out there stronger than ‘irony’, but for the life of me, I can’t think of it right now.

“When I was growing up, my parents never understood me. They were Japanese.” (Chic Murray: Scots comedian, 1967)
Tom in studio 10
Tom Russell in the studio 2010

Tom Russell always got to do the major interviews on Rock Radio, and quite rightly so. After all, due to his long and illustrious career as the Godfather of Rock, Tom had spoken to and had his photo taken with more Rock Stars than anybody, with the possible exception of Billy (Sure, how are you?) Sloan. As I actually ‘knew’ Rock Stars, I wasn’t best qualified to ask the probing questions such as, “So how’s the tour going?” or, “Are you still using a real snake, Alice?” Oh, I got my share. Tom wasn’t a rank-puller, but I tended to get the musicians who’d want to talk about things other than their current tour or album. Hence I had some interesting chinwags with the likes of Denny Laine:
“How much did you make from selling your songwriting credits to Paul McCartney for Mull of Kintyre?” and, “How much action did you get touring with Wings when the lead singer always had his wife with him and your other competition was a 4-foot Glaswegian guitarist?”
“Not as much as you’d expect,” was his answer to both posers.
Mick Abrahams was genuinely pleased I didn’t want to discuss what possessed him to leave Jethro Tull just as they made it big and Foreigner’s Mick Jones and Journey’s Neal Schon seemed happy to talk Gibson vs Fender rather than Lou Gramm or Steve Perry not participating on the current tour.
My planned interview with Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer of Kiss would’ve been great but, at the last minute, I had to cancel and handed my questions to ‘Father’ Ted Rock.
You can only imagine the confusion: “Anny preference, string-woise? Whale Oil Beef Hooked.”
My best interview came (and is documented later) when I sat with Joe Bonamassa as we lamented on the loss of, amongst others, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee and Paul Kossoff and the obvious superiority of original P90 pickups. Joe does countless press every day, but singled out our discussion as his most enjoyable in a long time, we even exchanged phone numbers.

So, when in 2010 the station was offered an interview and subsequent invitation to a playback of Meat Loaf’s new album, ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ in Glasgow, I begged the bosses to send me. “Absolutely not. You’ll ask him what amps his guitarist uses or why he only used Brian May and Steve Vai on one track.”

They had me there.

Tom was given the job but, as he could tell I was slightly put out, he kindly invited me along saying, “I’ll do the interview. You can hide in the wings and, if it’s okay with Meat, you can have a few minutes with him.” We arrived at the hotel and the first thing we noticed was Mr Loaf talked funny. Not in a humorous way but more in a rambling Elvis meets Ted Nugent motormouth style which was slightly off-putting. The second somewhat off-putting thing was that there was only one chair in the room. Billy Sloan exited saying:
“The bastard makes you crouch down to talk to him! What’s that about?”
“Sure. How are you?” I replied, but I think I got away with it.
Tom did his usual impeccable job then announced to Big Marv, “There’s someone who wants to say hello, Meat. Is that okay?”
“Whaaat? Who? Why? Is this pert oh the plaan?” he asked one of his underlings.
When no reply was forthcoming, he nodded to Tom to get off the floor and waved me in.
“Whooo Er Yoooo?” he inquired of me.
“I’m Billy,” I replied, cos I was.
“Billah? Come sit with me, Billah.”
I should’ve corrected him, but I didn’t.
After lowering myself to floor level and mic in hand, I continued:

Interview with Meat Loaf 2010
Interviewing Meat Loaf 2010

“Do you remember an album called Blind Before I Stop, 1984?”
“Sure I do, Billah. Went Gold.”
“No, just Silver.” (500,000 copies in the UK) I assured him.
“Are yooo shittin’ me, Billah?”
“Is he having a stroke?” I remember thinking.
“There’s a song on it called Burning Down. Remember it?”
“Boinin Daawn!” he began singing, note-perfect, almost.
“Lurved that sawng!”
“Me too,” I replied then continued, “Do you remember a song from your 2003 Gold album (1 Million copies in the UK) ‘Couldn’t Have Said It Better’ called Do It?” I asked.
“Fuck Yeah, Billah. We opened with that sawng evree night on that tour. Jeez, what’s your point, Maan?”
“I wrote ‘em both.”
“Wait! What! You’re Billah Renkin?”
Close enough.
“Yes, Marvin, I’m Billy Rankin and I just wanted to thank you for doing my songs.”
“Holee Fuck! Billah Renkin is Scotch? Well, I’ll be damned!”
The conversation went on, I think, to include Meat shaking my hand, thanking me for “Them Awesome Sawngs” and asking me what I thought of his renditions of them.
“They were Shit!” I said, “But, for possibly the only two times in my career, I actually got the writing credit due to me and the royalties, which were (and still are) substantial.
“You are the only artist ever to do right by me, and that’s why I’m thanking you.”
This got me a hug and an order barked to his underling of, “Make a note to put Boinin Daawn back in our Live Show. Ah lurve dat sawng!”
Finally (or so I thought) as we parted company, we exchanged phone numbers promising each other we’d keep in touch (we haven’t) and his most bizarre statement yet. “Put an extra seat beside me for tonight’s playback. Ah want Billah to sit in it.”

And so, later that evening in a packed Glasgow pub reserved for competition winners and Meat Loaf fans from all over the country, I found myself the envy of everyone else there and was plonked in the only other seat beside Meat himself. During the playback of the new album, he never said a word and silently ignored any request for an autograph or handshake. When it had finished, amongst much whooping and cheering from his adoring fans, he turned to me and said, “So Billah. Whadda ya think?” I am nothing if not honest, but luckily Meat Loaf himself wasn’t offended and hugged me again as I replied:

“It was Shit!”

“Folks who listen to Rock music don’t buy cars.
“Right. So we just eat babies, ya dick!
(Rock Radio Sales Executive Angela Job failing to secure commercial backing from a Glasgow car dealership).

Angela ‘Killer Cassidy’ Job
Angela ‘Killer Cassidy’ Job

Classic Rock magazine December 12.11
Classic Rock magazine December 2011

Just before we went under, Rock Radio got thrown a lifeline in the unlikely form of the head of GMG Scotland himself, Bossman Billy Anderson. This was a surprise. To qualify: At an earlier night out at The Underworld in Glasgow, Billy brought together our English counterparts at Rock Radio Manchester and introduced me to various bosses of GMG as ‘Our In-house Rock Star’ to which they asked:
“So Bill, what’s your favourite Rock band and your most loved Rock song?”
“Be Bop Deluxe is my favourite band and My Baby Is A Headfuck by The Wildhearts,” I honestly replied.
That got a nod of approval from Manchester’s assembled presenters, but merely a smile of indifference from the Big-Wigs. Then the same question was put to Bossman Billy, who confidently replied, “Bon Jovi and Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.”
The silence was deafening.
Oh, the Bossmen whooped, but the rest of us just let our jaws drop.
Seriously?” I said, eventually. “Are you having a laugh?”
He wasn’t. In fact, he should’ve brought a bigger shovel.
“Led Zeppelin and Hendrix I never got. Pink Floyd? Bunch of self-indulgent twaddle and don’t even start me on The Stones. Even I can sing better than Mick Jagger.”
I had to give him that last one, but Holy Shit!

The night ended with me and Bossman Jay doing a duet of Brown Sugar after someone had found me a guitar and Bossman Billy murdering his favourite song on the Karaoke machine. So, when Billy Anderson announced he was quitting the top job as head of GMG Scotland and intended bailing out 96.3 Rock Radio by buying the license, well, as I said, this was a surprise. In the end, various circumstances prevented this from happening and we all lost our jobs. This called for one final blow-out at The Cathouse. An emotional time was had by all, but what to do next? Fortunately, I’d left my Asda/Walmart trucking job on good terms. In fact, in 2008, my old boss, Andy Ballantine, called me to ask if I could help with an Asda fund-raising raffle. I personally delivered him two VIP tickets for Bon Jovi’s concert at Glasgow’s Hampden Park stadium resulting in Andy saying, “You’re welcome back anytime Bill. You’re one of the good guys.” Unfortunately, by 2012, Andy had been promoted elsewhere, so I got back to trucking through agency jobs, sometimes involving my old workplace, sometimes not.

Then I got a most unlikely call.

Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig ticket, The Cathouse, Glasgow 14th October 2011
Listener's protest logo 2011
Listener's protest logo 2011
Rock Radio farewell gig @ The Cathouse, Glasgow 14.10.11

This new venture had, according to Ciaran, secured massive financial backing. They had already purchased a lucrative magazine chain, Future, which included Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Blues, Jazz, Country and a host of gaming mags such as PlayStation and they wanted me involved.
“You know stuff about music, Bill, yeah?”
“Yes, but I’m a truck driver now Ciaran, don’t let’s screw me over again.”
“You know about the Blues?” he replied, ignoring my point.
“Sure. It’s my favourite musical genre. Why?”
“We want you to do the Blues Magazine Show on TeamRock Radio.”
And so I did.
It wasn’t without logistical problems.
For starters, I wasn’t about to quit my job as a trucker, so going part-time was agreed. Suddenly, I found myself back in ‘Radio-Land.’ As Bossman Billy had recruited technical genius Phil ‘McCracken’ Reed along with the entire Rock Radio Manchester team and relocated them all to London, a solution was reached to make my job possible. “Go to B&Q and buy a bucket, preferably rectangular,” advised Saviour Phil. I did, and Phil modified the bucket to include a microphone and some soundproof materials which he then connected to my laptop. The extra income was welcome but, after 6 months or so, my job was upgraded to hosting what was, in hindsight, the obvious choice.

“Billy Rankin’s School of Rock on TeamRock Radio.”

“So, Is TeamRock a radio station, Bossman Billy?
“Is it a magazine group?
“Is it the manufacturer of gate-leg tables?
“Now you’re just being ridiculous, Rankin.
(Conversation between me and Billy Anderson, 2013)

I was going to start here by answering the question raised above, but I don’t think I can, even now. Check out the 16-minute video here as Billy himself tries to explain it. That’s 16 minutes of your life you won’t get back and there’s a good chance you’ll still be none the wiser. If TeamRock wasn’t a radio station then why were we broadcasting 24 hours a day as TeamRock Radio? If it wasn’t a magazine group, then why had they paid £10.2M for Future who owned a host of successful, and some not so successful magazines? What wasn’t in doubt was that he’d taken an enormous risk while leaving arguably one of the top jobs in Radio to launch what was, to me and his other 79 employees, an unknown entity. As for his other employees, Billy had not only recruited a bunch of staff from GMG Scotland including Ciaran/Ted Rock as his right-hand man, but also the entire presenter crew from Rock Radio Manchester who had to relocate to London. He made Hugh “Moose” Evans (yes, he’s Canadian) head of TeamRock Radio and therefore my new boss along with Big Dewsbury, Rachael, Tom and James Espley, all of whom took the huge gamble of exchanging Manchester for the more expensive London life.

I had a great time cos it was only two shows a week I was doing from the comfort of my own home and, being the only Scots-based member of the team, I got to attend concerts and interview famous folk when they came North of the border. One particular guy was Joe Bonamassa, whom I got to spend time interviewing prior to his sold-out gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse. I found myself backstage along with others including Tom Russell who was working for RealXS at the time and we were to be allocated 10 minutes each with the great guitarist. That was til Joe heard I was a fellow axeman and that I wanted to talk guitars with him. “Give Billy 30 minutes,” he informed his manager. By the time we’d finished talking about everything from Mick Ronson, Rory Gallagher, Bill Nelson and Alvin Lee’s Big Red Gibson 335, we had even exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. “Great,” I remember thinking. “Another famous buddy I’ve made whom I’ll never call and bother.” (I’m banned by my whole family from looking at my contacts while drunk, just in case.)

The first sign of things going wrong in TeamRock was when Bossman Billy called a meeting in early 2016 to announce “We’re losing £2M a year, but don’t worry. It’s all part of the plan.”
“Is the plan Bankruptcy?” I asked sheepishly from the back.

Then, we hosted the Classic Rock Awards, not in London as was the norm, but in Japan. Guest stars from the World of Rock included Johnny Depp and Zak Wylde singing a ballad while playing the piano. “That not only sucks,” Ciaran confided to me at the time. “But it’s also cost us a fuckin’ fortune.”

Not long after that, the second sign of impending doom arrived when Ciaran quit. It was played down by both himself and Billy, but some of us saw it as a serious concern and feared the worst. Then, the worst happened. In early December 2016, with no warning whatsoever, TeamRock ceased to be. Two weeks before Christmas and “Boom! Everyone Out, No Wages, No Direction Home.” Absolute Chaos! I’d called Moose about getting a song put into our database for my School Of Rock show that weekend and I instantly heard his voice crack down the phone line: “It’s over Bill. We’re all fucked. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

Now, regarding my School Of Rock Shows, we’ll have to go backwards in time a bit. You may recall the origins back in 2007 when I started featuring little stories based on either artists or songs relevant to the particular day or week we were in. Sometimes they’d be based on my personal experience. Other times they’d be the result of the research I’d done, but regardless they proved very popular with listeners to my shows on 96.3 Rock Radio, and I kept them going right through the Breakfast show years til the final week I was on the air.

Along with my old mate, Martin Kielty, we’d compiled a book called, bizarrely, ‘Billy Rankin’s School Of Rock’ and it was to go on sale the very month Rock Radio was closing down. (There’s a link to a Daily Record article here.) Martin arranged a book signing at the Solid Rock Café, during which I gave a talk about my experiences in the music business, and some of my better-known friends showed up. None was more controversial (remember we’re in Glasgow) than my old mucker and, at the time, manager of the Glorious Glasgow Rangers, footballing legend Ally McCoist. It was probable that Ally signed more copies of my book that night than I did, and he wasn’t even in it but, as is common in the West of Scotland, religious hatred and bigotry is never far away. After giving my talk and helping Ally sign my books, we went outside together for a catch-up and a bit of peace and quiet. We were approached by a homeless guy, paper cup in hand who asked if we had any spare change. As I handed him about £3.56 in coins, Coisty opened his Glorious Glasgow Rangers Blue wallet and produced a crisp £10 note. As he moved to place it in the cup, the wee beggar recoiled saying:

“Naw, yer alright mate. That canny happen. Ah’m a Celtic supporter!”

With Ally McCoist at School Of Rock book launch, Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 10th November 2011
With Ted at School Of Rock book launch, Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 10th November 2011
Billy Rankin's School Of Rock book delivery October 2011
Billy Rankin's School Of Rock book
Daily Record 15th November 2011
With Ally McCoist at School Of Rock book launch, Solid Rock Café, Glasgow 10.11.11

Fred MacAulay Show, BBC Radio Scotland November 2011

“If at first, you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.” (US Comedian Steven Wright)

In July 2013, during a gig in Canada, Dan McCafferty collapsed onstage and a month later had to leave the stage after just a few songs during a concert in Switzerland. That should’ve been the end for the band, but as with all things Nazareth, things took a few unexpected twists and, er, shouts.

Dan McCafferty

The first was to be found during Dan’s official “I’m Done” statement to the press in which he explained his illness, the real reason he had to quit right away and his expressed wish that the band should find a replacement and keep going. For anyone even remotely aware of Nazareth, Dan McCafferty’s voice WAS Nazareth and thus irreplaceable. To labour the point slightly, if any of us were to find ourselves on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the question was, “Can anyone else sing like Dan McCafferty?” and the following 4 options came up:

A: Yes
B: Yes, but only if they were a good mimic.
C: Yes. He wasn’t really that good, to be honest.
D: No.

The answer is an unequivocal D.

If I’ve learned anything from a lifetime of singing, it’s that hitting any note is achievable (if it’s in your vocal/falsetto range), but it might not sound like someone else hitting the same note. Many, including excellent mimics, have tried to imitate Dan’s singing voice and come up wanting. Hell, I even tried to analyse his technique on the tour bus one night despite Pete’s advice: “Don’t even try, Billy Boy. We have. He doesn’t know how he does it.” And he didn’t, he just opened his mouth and sang what I’d sung to him back at me and it didn’t sound like me at all. It sounded like Dan McCafferty. Why? Because he’s Dan McCafferty and I am not. Nobody else is. So when in his announcement, Dan had hoped Nazareth would continue without him, I, along with everyone else wondered, “How?” When Pete called to ask if I’d even consider the vacancy, he cleverly caught me off guard by assuring me, “Nobody else can sing like Dan. I want you to sing like you.” That was enough to get me through to the band’s rehearsal studio to talk, even possibly sing. I arrived, exchanged some pleasantries and was offered one of guitarist Jimmy’s other axes but refused, and here’s why:

Dan McCafferty with Linton Osbourne

Even though most Rock bands sound better ‘live’ with 2 guitar players, if for no other reason than to fill the gap in power while a solo is being played, nobody wants the lead singer to be playing anything during a live gig. With the possible exception of Steve Marriott, no other frontman has ever done well while playing an instrument. Having been a massive fan of Free and then loving what I heard of Bad Co, I was absolutely horrified when I saw them live and Paul Rodgers was playing a guitar. How ridiculous would it have been if Robert Plant had appeared on stage sporting a Fender Strat or Roger Daltrey exchanged power chords with Pete Townshend during Won’t Get Fooled Again at the Glasgow Apollo? It’s just wrong. If you need to reproduce your live sound to better it, hire a second guitarist. Shit. Nazareth did, albeit by hiring Zal or me. For my ‘audition’ we did Love Leads To Madness and Razamanaz. Madness was fine, after all, I’d written the song and the Naz version was in the same key as my demo but Razamanaz? I nailed that too.

Dan McCafferty with Carl Sentance

As previously mentioned, I’ve had a lifetime of experience as a vocalist and can hit the notes required. (Check out Phase doing Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll in The Early Years section or May The Sunshine from Live At Sinky’s.) But if you’d closed your eyes and listened as a fan, the most I’d expect from you would be: He’s doing a great job, but he ain’t Dan McCafferty. I stand by my decision of rejecting the job, and yes, it was offered, but anybody replacing Dan in Nazareth is on a hiding to nothing. (You can check out an article from Ultimate Classic Rock here and the Classic Rock Forum here.) Linton Osbourne and now Carl Sentance are both fine vocalists, but neither are relevant in my opinion. Nobody can be. As an answer to the Millionaire question of “Can anyone else sing like Dan McCafferty?” I’d like to add a 5th, and winning option:

“Everyone has the right to be stupid, but you’re abusing the privilege.”

“And In The End, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” (The Beatles, 1969)
Meeting at Waxy O'Connor's, Glasgow early 2016
Meeting at Waxy O’Connor’s, Glasgow early 2016 L-R Tom, Ted, Billy & Jim

Anyone who managed to get through Billy Anderson’s description of the now-defunct TeamRock and taken anything from it should have noticed he was right about one thing. Unlike Real and Smooth, Rock Radio was based on a community. A group of people who shared not only a passion for Rock music, but also an understanding of belonging.
“This is ours. Don’t Fuck with it.”
When, after he’d quit TeamRock, but before it went under, Ciaran called me with a proposal, I listened.
“96.3 is up for grabs. The license is available from Ofcom and I wanna get it. Are you in?”
“At what cost?” I asked, basing the question on previous experience.
“25 grand to Ofcom. I’ve got some backing, but we’ll have competition.”
“So if we pay 25 grand we get Rock Radio back on the airwaves?”
“Naw, ya stupid git. We pay 25 grand to Ofcom to request they consider our application for the license. We’ve got serious competition.”

And so it began.

Ciaran was correct. We did have serious competition. Radio Clyde was only one of them, but unlike us, 25 grand was a drop in the ocean to them and get this:
“Lose the application, lose the 25 grand.”
“Do we stand a chance?”
“Probably not, but I’ve submitted a proposal they need to take seriously. It’s a lot of words.”
And now, if you thought Bossman Billy’s video clip was hard going, try this link.

And there was more.

“We’re starting a Bring Back Rock Radio media thingy.”
“Media thingy?”
“Aye. An online petition. Use your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, every means at your disposal. They’ll have to sit up and take notice.”
By They’ he meant Ofcom.

Radio Clyde and all the other bidders didn’t bother their arses to do this and I have to hand it to Ciaran, it was genius. Rallying the faithful worked wonders and all I had to do was commit to being a presenter for the newly renamed Rock Radio Glasgow. I could spend the time explaining what happened next, but basically, we put on a gig to thank the faithful for their support even before we knew the final outcome. Here’s the transcript of a local newspaper feature:

Chris Glen & Biff Byford
Ryan Roxie & Chuck Garric from Alice Cooper's Band
Jesse Hughes from Eagles Of Death Metal
Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach
Chris n Biff
“Campaign to bring back Rock Radio to Glasgow set for special gig at The Garage tonight.”

The campaign to bring back Rock Radio to Glasgow has captured the imagination of fans across the city and tonight the organisers are saying thank you with a special concert in The Garage. Local heroes Gun will headline alongside The Virginmarys, We Were Hunted, Kieran Robertson and the promise of more special guests on the night. Since the demise of 96.3 Rock Radio a few years ago, music lovers in Glasgow have been poorly served by the absence of a daring and distinctive station they can call their own, so this bid for the frequency is hoped to be the answer to their prayers. For Gun’s Paul McManus, the bid isn’t just about bringing the music he loves back to the airwaves, it’s something that he believes is sorely needed in Glasgow. He said:


“We are delighted and honoured to be asked to play at the Rock Radio Glasgow party. We are very keen to support the radio bid and we wish the team behind the bid the best of luck securing the licence and delivering a radio station I think we ALL want and that is desperately needed. A station owned and run locally by seasoned music business professionals, playing guitar rock for Scottish rock fans who feel they are excluded by the national stations. The bid team rely on the fans demonstrating to Ofcom that there is a demand and support for the station (I understand the response from the rock fan community thus far has been nothing short of phenomenal). We would appeal to those who haven’t already done so to like and share the Facebook page and to email Ofcom direct offering support. Collectively, we can all make this happen! Of course, we have sentimental reasons for wanting to be part of this – we played the last Rock Radio party up in The Garage in 2008 and that was the catalyst for reforming the band! The response we got that night was incredible and really prompted us to get the band back together and take another shot at it! The rest is history! We look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow night and hanging out with 700 of our rock family! Oh, and taking the roof off during our set!”

One of the men behind the bid is Donald McLeod, owner of The Garage and The Cathouse. He said: “The show tonight is a massive thank you to all the fans out there for supporting our bid to bring a genuine rock music station to the Glasgow and West of Scotland airwaves. We won’t know for a few weeks if our bid is successful and we’re still in there fighting to win it, but, we want to take the chance now to say thank you and to celebrate the journey getting to this stage. We have a great line-up planned and a few surprises up our sleeve, so we promise a bash to remember. All proceeds from the gig go to our nominated charity, Nordoff Robins whose work makes a huge difference. Be there!”

Acts like Twin Atlantic and The Lafontaines have given their support to the bid for the station, posting pictures of themselves with a sign of the #BringBackRockRadio tag, but the campaign hasn’t just been confined to Glasgow, with global names like Alice Cooper, Anthrax, Black Stone Cherry, Papa Roach and The Cult all joining in.

The Bring Back Rock Radio Bash is tonight at The Garage. (Glasgow Live, 9th September 2016)

With Chris Glen @ Bring Back Rock Radio Bash, The Garage, Glasgow 9th September 2016
Bring Back Rock Radio Bash, The Garage, Glasgow 9th September 2016 L-R Jim Gellatly, Tom, Billy, Ted & Donald
With Chris Glen @ Bring Back Rock Radio Bash, The Garage, Glasgow 9.9.16

Months later and, with still no word of an Ofcom decision, I was on a 3-generation Rankin holiday in Florida about to have breakfast at Denny’s when I received a text from Ciaran:
“WHALE OIL BEEF HOOKED!” (Hint: Try saying it quickly in your best, or worst Irish accent.)
After making my apologies to the grandchildren, I dashed outside and called him.
“We got it, Billy Boy! We got the fookin’ license!”

And so Rock Radio Glasgow was born.

Numerous private meetings were held upstairs at Glasgow’s Hard Rock Cafe involving Ciaran and his chosen team including yours truly, Tom Russell, Phil McCracken’ Reed, Angela Killer Cassidy’ Job, Alan Clarke (no, not the singer with The Hollies, a business Wiz Kid comparison) original Rock Chick, Lisa Cunningham and new presenter Jim Gellatly whom Ciaran described as, “Catering for listeners young enough not to have mothers old enough to have dated Billy or Tom.” We initially asked Real Radio for our original studio back, but the new owners told us to “Fuck Off” so new premises were found in Clydebank and Phil got to work building a new facility able to withstand a second Nazi blitz: A Come on Herman Goering if ye think yer hard enough!’ type location.

Ultimately, however, we failed. Ciaran and his backer’s originally projected figures meant investment of colossal amounts into the millions. With no guarantees of returns, the support slowly dwindled til eventually, he had to relinquish the license to some middle-of-the-road non-Scottish, non-Rock outfit which currently broadcasts Pish’ to our loyal Rock-starved minions.


But, in true Rock and Roll tradition, I’m not gonna end this on a negative note. Going back to the Rock Radio Birthday Bash referred to by Gun’s Paul McManus in 2008 which led to them getting back together as a band, I have a personal memory to recite.

Rock Radio Birthday Bash 01.08
Rock Radio Birthday Bash January 2008

That night, my old friend Frankie Miller was in attendance. Being a wheelchair user, reliant on others, but still able to make his presence known, I’d gotten numerous bouncers to carry him and his chair up to the top level. He was able to stand up next to the sound desk while shaking hands, signing autographs and drinking beer. Perfect. Then trouble occurred. While bringing him yet another pint I did my usual “Awright, Frankie Boy? Great night, Eh?” Now, there’s a look someone can give you. Whether it’s the look of someone having an actual stroke, or just that his balls are caught in an elevator, but Frankie gave me a look.
“Everything okay?”
“Aye! Eh, Naw.”
The limited vocabulary was enhanced when he pointed to his nether regions.
“Aw, Frankie.”
“Have ye pished yerself?”
“Naw! Fuck Naw!”
“Dae ye need a pish?”
“Fuck it, Frankie. There’s no bathroom up here. I’ll need tae get help tae carry ye downstairs. Can ye hold it in?”
“Aye. Eh, Naw!”
It was at this point I realised the solution was in the palm of my hand. “Hold on.” Glug, glug, glug. “Right. Whip it out man, pish into this,” I suggested aiming my now empty pint glass in the direction of his crotch. I can’t imagine the response from Frankie Miller’s expectant fans as they approached him for an autograph at this moment, but it must’ve been life-changing. I had to, of course, dispose of the almost pint-filled glass so naturally made my way to the only person tighter than Tom (is that a pint of pish?) Russell: Drive-time presenter David The Captain’ Grant. “Hey mate. Just noticed this has been sitting here unattended for a while. You want it?”

Frankie Miller tucked his stuff away, smiled and gave me a nod, a wink and a look.