Jack Alexander, Scots music great, dies at 77

In their prime, brothers Tom (left) and Jack Alexander had their own television show and toured the world. Picture: Contributed
In their prime, brothers Tom (left) and Jack Alexander had their own television show and toured the world. Picture: Contributed
Share this article
Have your say

JACK Alexander, one half of the legendary traditional ­music duo the Alexander Brothers – who outsold The Beatles in Scotland at the height of the Fab Four’s fame – has died after suffering a stroke.

He was 77.

A statement from the ­Ayrshire Hospice said Jack – the piano-playing vocalist of the traditional ­music act – passed away peacefully at 1.40pm surrounded by his family.

Alongside his brother Tom, 79, the duo dominated the world’s ceilidh circuit for more than half a century.

In their prime, the Alexander Brothers had their own ­television show and packed out some of the globe’s most prestigious venues from the Sydney Opera House to New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Even Hollywood screen legend Charlton Heston was a fan of the pair, who always performed in their trademark kilts.

The brothers’ biggest hit single, Nobody’s Child, was released in 1964. Such was the track’s popularity that it sold more copies in Scotland that year than recordings by The Beatles. It was a fitting twist of fate, since The Beatles recorded the same song three years earlier as a backing band.

The Scottish duo’s beginnings were modest. Jack was the younger of the pair by a year-and-a-half, born in Cambusnethan, near Wishaw, in 1935.

He started piano studies at the age of 11 and Tom learned the accordion.

After leaving school during the 1950s, they initially embarked on a split work career – painters and decorators by day, and entertainers by night.

The brothers cut their teeth performing in working men’s clubs – a notoriously tough environment for live music. Their professional debut was in 1958 at Arbroath’s Webster Hall and the break convinced them to cast aside their paintbrushes. They were spotted and signed by Pye Records after a run of shows at the Metropolitan Theatre on London’s Edgware Road.

A string of hits would follow – These Are My Mountains, Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl, The Northern Lights Of Old Aberdeen and Two Highland Lads. Tours as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand helped consolidate the brothers’ global fame. The duo would record more than 30 albums and were awarded MBEs in 2005 for their services to entertainment.

The Alexander Brothers only retired from the music circuit last year due to Jack’s ill health.

Tom said after their ­final show: “We wanted to ­finish on a high note and did not want to tarnish what we have achieved over the past 54 years. When you start having to cancel gigs, then it is time to stop.”

Jack was taken to Ayr Hospital last month after suffering a stroke at his home in Prestwick, Ayrshire. It was his third stroke since January.

A spokeswoman from Ayrshire Hospice said: “The family respectfully request privacy at this sad time.”