– 1989: Following the death of a friend, Ian Gourlay from Meningitis, Glasgow businessman, Peter Smith decided to arrange a charity night to raise money for the Neurosurgical Unit at a local hospital. A group of musicians got together and rehearsed eight songs from the Blues Brothers film, which had been Ian’s favourite before his untimely death at the age of 21. These songs tore the roof and scorched the dancefloor at the charity night!
– On 28 October 1989, “BIG VERN N THE SHOOTAHS” were born.
News spread fast and following one night’s music, job offers rolled in from far and wide. The boys, clearly stunned by their overnight success, decided the band should continue. The most significant gig of the year was a Christmas lunch for the Publicity Club of Scotland at a top Glasgow hotel.Word quickly spread about the hottest new band in town.
– 1990: With two changes in personnel this year, the band were receiving job offers from all over the country. Particular highlights included playing Freshers Week at the University of Glasgow and an open-air show in George Square, Glasgow. The band performed at the legendary King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in the city and received critical acclaim for their own show, which by now was a blend of sharp suits, pork pie hats, cool shades and sweet soul music.
– 1991: The greatest honour to befall the group took place this year, with the band playing the support slot to the original Blues Brothers band. “Big Vern n the Shootahs” were given the seal of approval by these true legends of soul music. The band played at the Scottish F.A.Cup Final in May and a national tour followed in association with Tennents breweries promoting “Wild Party Nights”. In September, the band played a sell out show at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre. The stage set was a massive jailhouse with the band playing on two floors! The crowd was rocking in the aisles to the legendary sound of Big Vern. This helped sales of their EP. “Hauf and a hauf’ and everyone in town was wearing the all new Big Vern t-shirts.
– 1992: By now the band were playing all over the country and highlights included playing at the Tennents Sixes, and taking part in a world record attempt at Harry Ramsdens Restaurant, when 10 000 fish suppers were sold in one day! Big Vern finally hit London this year, playing at the Savoy Hotel’s Summer Ball! They were literally “Stompin at the Savoy” when the band struck their first note. A truly memorable night!
– 1993: After a support slot to Eddie “Knock on Wood” Floyd at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre the band returned for their own sell out show to launch the album, Big, Bad and Live, recorded live on “The Ferry” in Glasgow. Following on from the album Big Vern supported “The Commitments” on the Scottish leg of their tour. Radio Clyde invited the band to appear at their very successful “Cash for Kids Lunches” to help raise money at Christmas time for underprivileged children in and around the Glasgow area. Appearing at “The Biggest Hogmanay Party in the World” at Aviemore ice rink in front of 3000 people rounded off the year. A great end to a great year.
– 1994: Further touring took place this year with the band playing for the first time at Aberdeen’s “Lemon Tree Theatre” coupled with extensive tours of Scotland’s hippest venues, with most Universities visited at least once, with students enjoying the distinctive and highly polished sound of Big Vern’n’the Shootahs. Having a strong reputation for their live show enabled the band to play at Glasgow’s Hogmanay Party in George Square. Fifteen thousand freezing cold but happy revellers got the chance to hear the band in action, which remains to this day one of the best gigs the band has performed.
– 1995: Word about the band spread and they were invited to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (four sell out shows), the Tall Ships Race at Leith (a 50,000 plus crowd) and two tours to Wales and Ireland. Whilst in Belfast the band played their version of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin LIVE on the “PK Tonight Show” which was broadcast live to an estimated audience of one million viewers. More live sessions followed including the Radio 1 Roadshow at the Scottish Exhibition Centre when The Clothes Show came to town and a live session for BBC Radio Scotland’s, “Jump the Queue”.
– 1996: The band finally made an emotional return, during this year to where it all began Glasgow School of Art. A further two tours of Ireland, visiting new venues and a further tour of Northern Scotland including the Tall Ships Race (Aberdeen), were the main highlight of the year. One gig in May took the band by surprise. A backfield party for the Scottish Claymore American Football team at Murrayfield Stadium. Sharing a stage with a team of cheerleaders was a testing time but the by now nine-piece ensemble produced a match winning performance.
– 1997: This year the band was joined on stage by Tina Turner, (okay it was the “Stars In Your Eyes” version, but she was very good!). A mini tour included Wales and Lancashire and a second visit was made to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Fringe Club). At one charity gig, the band was auctioned off to the highest bidder, who could ask them to play anytime, anywhere, anyplace. A bid of £3,500 secured the band’s service with all money raised donated to a local children’s charity. Further shows included a number of gala functions all across the country, which culminated in a string of Christmas party nights at a top Scottish hotel.
– 1998: As well as the hectic live schedule, the band spent time in the studio this year and released two records. “Jockbashin” a World Cup tribute song to the Scottish Football Team and a Christmas charity single for Radio Clyde’s “Cash for Kids” called “Still in Love with Christmas/Horny This Christmas!” The Christmas single raised £5000 for the appeal and the world cup single led to the band being asked to play in front of 4000 football fans before and after the screening of Scotland vs Morocco in an enormous purpose built marquee based on Glasgow Green. Though the team lost, it was one hell of a party.
– 1999: The band celebrated their tenth year with a party held in King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. The audience included past band members, sound engineers and old friends. A rare time was had by one and all, with the venue kitted out in Big Vern merchandising with displays of old (embarrassing) photographs of the first ten years work. Undoubtedly the Millennium celebrations were going to involve Big Vern in some way and the band were quickly snapped up and were delighted and honoured to play in front of four thousand fans in Paisley Town Centre.
– 2000: The New Year and the new century were approached with eager anticipation by the band as new cover versions were added to the set. New towns and cities including Perth and Dundee were visited this year. A particular highlight of this year was when at a charity function in the Glasgow Moathouse the band were joined on stage by Pat Kane of Hue & Cry fame for a funkadelic version of Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
– 2001: A hectic touring schedule kept going apace throughout the year as new cities and venues were sought out, played and conquered. Another successful year was rounded off in fine style with some of the best Christmas party nights around the country.
– 2002: Highlights of the year included a slot at the Champions League Final which was played at Hampden Park, Glasgow in May, opening the West End Festival with a gig at Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow and the headlining slot at the Street Party of the Festival. In what was a year of upheaval for the band, our keyboard player of ten years service, Alan Penman decided that his time with the band was coming to an end, so the search was on for a top quality replacement! Unfortunately our trombone player, David Macluskey lost his left arm in a coach crash whilst going on holiday with the pupils of Largs Academy, where David is a teacher. The band rallied round David and the families and friends of the people involved and a charity night was organised in Largs, where the band were delighted to welcome David back on stage. David was determined that the accident wasn’t going to stop him living his life and there was never any question of him not returning to the band as soon as he was ready.
– 2003: Long discussions were had about how to conduct the search for our new keyboard player, but as luck would have it, our guitar player Dave Ramsay had being working on a charity single with a talented keyboard player, called Rupert Black. After suggesting his name to the rest of the band, Rupert came along to some rehearsals and fitted in perfectly with the band, sense of humour included. Rupert’s past credits include touring with The Alarm, Talk Talk and The Pretenders! With a record like that, it’s fair to say that Rupert’s influence on the already considerable musical talent within the band has been fairly significant. Touring has always been the constant in Big Vern’s life and this year proved no different, with new towns and cities being visited throughout the year. The highlights of this year included appearing at ‘Free At The Dee’ in Aberdeen in front of three thousand screaming fans and two stunning headline performances at Radio Clyde’s Cash For Kids Lunches.
– 2004: Talk about a ‘difficult second album’ after a gap of twelve years Big Vern finally announced plans for a new album, which was recorded live at Cottiers Theatre in the West End of Glasgow on Boxing Day 2003. With the new album in mind , lots of gigs were booked for the whole of 2004 and well into 2005.
– 2005: It was an eventful year. Our resident Trombonist Dave Macluskey parted ways with the band after many a happy year for pastures new, only to be replaced by John Milne who is proving he CAN let his hair down with the best of them. November saw the departure of David Ramsay as guitarist of 14 years with Big Vern to follow a career as a professional musician. Replacing David is Alan Nimmo. A regular on the Blues circuit throughout the UK, Glasgow born Alan has been one half of “The Nimmo Brothers”, recording artistes, touring the UK, Europe and the US. To old members we wish them all the best for the future, and to the new members we welcome you both to the fold !