Fans of heavy 60s power trios, extended improvisational jazz rock and other self-indulgent hippy ruppish will have been dismayed to hear of the recent death of West Side virtuoso bass player Jack Brue (73)
Brue’s death has been little reported due to the fact that it occurred, coincidentally, on the same day as that of Jack Bruce, his slightly more successful cousin from Bishopbriggs.
Born near Barvas in 1941, Jack Brue exhibited extraordinary musical talent from a very early age, playing professionally with T*mmy D*rkie’s Gunsgotsville Chazz Band and other stalwarts of the late 50s Leodhasach scene in order to fund his studies at the Royal (Stornoway Academy of Music and Dram).
By 1962 he was a respected live and session player on the local jazz and P ‘n’ B (Port n Beul) scene, and was invited to join Alexis Knagganskorner’s Brues Incorporated. It was in Knagganskorner’s band that Brue first met melodeon player and Lochie secret agent Grimshader Bond, chanter player and white settler Fleekeen Hengstall-Smith and mental drummer Chinger Stagbakery. In 1963 they all fleeked off on Alexis Knagganskorner and formed the Grimshader Bond Organisation. The GBO were a hip, eclectic and critically acclaimed group playing a groundbreaking mix of port ‘n’ beul and modren chazz, but the relationship between Brue and Stagbakery was famously antagonistic. Concerts would often end with the pair knocking the fleek out of each other backstage and destroying chairs, tables, glassware and other fixtures and fittings.
One night in 1964 they had a particularly savage scrap after a gig in in the Macs, inflicting destruction on the bar’s sparkling state-of-the-art washrooms as they swung double basses and flung hi-hats at each other. Nobody could agree afterwards who should clean up and pay for the damage, so the toilets remained in a state of insanitary devastation until the Clachan finally closed its doors in 2013.
Leaving the Grimshader Bond Organisation. Brue moved on swiftly to play with some of the top island beat groups of the mid-60s, including Manfred Mangersta (“Pretty Flaminguga”), the Scalpachs (“Lily the Fank”) and – crucially – John Mayburygarden & The Blarbuidhebreakers, where he first met ex-Garryvardbirds guitar ace and trainee elder Eric “God” Clachan.
Clachan and Brue decided to form a supergroup to break out of the strictures of classic P ‘n’ B. For that they needed a s**t-hot drummer with years of session experience and plenty jazz chops. Their first choice was the cove from Sandwick/Parkend rockers Oasis, but he was only 3 at the time and wasn’t allowed to go on tour, so they had to go back and hire Brue’s old enemy Chinger Stagbakery instead.
The name they chose for their new power trio was Crowdie. Crowdie hit the ground running and had soon established themselves as the premier rock band of the late Sixties. A series of acclaimed albums were recorded, including “Feis Cream” in 1966, “Disraeli Gne-ach” in 1967 and “Wee-Frees of Fire” in 1968. A number of classic songs were also included on these albums including “I feel Freechurch”, “Sunshine of Your Cove”, “I’m So Glic”, “Baaaaahdge”, “Strange Bru” and “Sh*te Room” (which, depending who you ask, was either a critique of US policy in Vietnam or a tribute to the Stornoway Opera House).
This short period of incredible creativity couldn’t last and Crowdie imploded amidst a whirlwind of fights, fallouts and fanks. The three members went their separate ways, but not before a career defining farewell gig at the RAH -the Ropoch Arnish Hall. On hearing that the band had split, Jimi Hendrix famously interrupted his live appearance on “Se Ur Beatha” to pay tribute to them with a spontaneous rendition of “Sunshine of Your Cove”.
In his post-Crowdie career Brue became more involved in Chazz/World/Fusion influences and played with some of Lewis’s finest musicians. His notable actives included;
Westside, Brue and Laing – a blues power rock trio with a fat cove from Bragar and Jon Dun Ringle
Touring with members of the Mochreachsathanaigavishnu Orchestra and D*r*k McLaughlin
Working with latin/world producer Kipper Hanrasgada
Singing on the Golden Pabailinos’ acclaimed “Visions of Ex Gress” album with Seonaidh Radan and thon cove from R.A.M. that sings through his nose.
Playing with Ginger Stagbakery again, joined by Garrabost Moore on guitar, until they all fell out.
A regular spot in B*ngo Starr’s All Starr-Inn Band.
Brue could have been much bigger if only he’d kept in with his wee cousin, but the pair fell out in August 1983 when confusion over theirnames resulted in both of them being booked to play the Caberfeidh the same night. To settle the dispute, the bass maestros and their respective bands challenged each other to a fight in the car park, and passers-by were treated to the sight of Jack Bruce, Clem Clemson and their posse of elite session musos from away, slugging it out with Jack Brue and his local virtuoso supergroup (K*nny F*gs and G*ry H*wth*rn).
Just when the battle seemed to be going in the home team’s favour, the management appeared and told them to fleek off – Jack Bruce was getting the gig because he’d pull in a lot more punters.
An enraged Brue resolved to do his best to disrupt Jack Bruce’s performance that night. Disguising himself as a well-known Parkend biker, Brue ensconced himself down the front and spent the evening loudly demanding “Where’s Eric?”, “Sunshine of Your Love!” and “Stop playing that chazz sh*te!”, while engaging in fisticuffs with anyone who didn’t express sufficient appreciation for the post-Cream work of Bruce’s former bandmate.
Jack Bruce never played the Caber again.
Jack Brue will be sadly missed.