With a typically Scottish sense of irony, the Average White Band were so named because, even at the very outset, the cocky wee buggers knew very well they were anything but. Their sound was both entirely original and as black as the ace of spades, drawing on soul, funk and R&B for its inspiration, but freshly delivered in a musical package of utterly exquisite and irresistible smoothness.
Signed to Atlantic Records in 1974, their finest hour is probably encapsulated within the "White Album" , every track a triumph of their polished urban black/white style, including the seminal "Pick up the pieces".
Universally acclaimed on both sides of the racial divide (and both sides of the Atlantic), and destined for No1 in the album charts, it seemed that only a tragedy could deny them their rightful place at the music world's top table.
The Average White Band demonstrating a typically Scots liking for decent boozers
Tragedy struck in September 1974. At a party thrown at the home of millionaire Kenneth Moss in honour of Gregg Allman (one half of the originally named "Allman Brothers Band") several of the guests including the AWB's Robbie McIntosh and Alan Gorrie were given what they thought was cocaine, but which turned out to be heroin laced with strychnine. They were all violently ill, and by pacing the rooms to avoid becoming comatose all recovered, with one exception. McIntosh, already exhausted from the band's punishing weeklong residency at the Los Angeles Troubador Club, was unable to vomit and thus retained the poison in his system. He slipped into unconsciousness and died in the early hours of the morning.
The rest of the band were, understandably, shattered. If founder member Hamish Stuart was the AWB's soul, drummer McIntosh was undoubtedly its beating heart, his tight syncopation the unflinching backbone around which the AWB groove was so perfectly formed.
Although the band carried on, with replacement drummer Steve Ferrone becoming the group's first black member, they never quite recaptured the magic that hit its peak with the "White Album", although several later tracks do stand out as notable exceptions.
AWB, pre-fame in 1972 demonstrating a typically Scottish sense of fashion
Hamish Stuart left the AWB in 1989 and went on to become a permanent member of Paul McCartney's touring and recording band. Hey, fair do's, we all make bad career decisions sometimes.
Alan Gorrie stayed somewhat truer to his white-soul roots and is a regular writing/performing collaborator with Daryl Hall.
The AWB (or at least a version thereof) continue to perform to this day and in 1996 they were rather grandly named as "World Ambassadors of Funk and Soul" for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA.
Tracks you simply must hear before you die include "Pick up the pieces", "Let's go round again", "When will you be mine" and "Atlantic Avenue".
AWB TRIVIA FOOTNOTE:
In October 1972, drummer Robbie McIntosh and fellow AWB member Onnie McIntyre both played on Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling", which hit No.1 in both the UK and US.