Appreciation: Junior Campbell remembers fellow Marmalade member Pat Fairley

Pat Fairley, Scottish guitarist, co-founder of Marmalade. Born: 14 April 1944 in Glasgow. Died: 11 August 2020 in Los Angeles, aged 76.

Pat Fairley, right, with Marmalade co-founder Junior Campbell in 1969
Pat Fairley, right, with Marmalade co-founder Junior Campbell in 1969

Pat was born in Glasgow and raised in Barlanark, one of the new post-war housing schemes situated just east of Glasgow.

His elder brother, Frank, who was in the Merchant Navy, had picked up a guitar on his travels and gave it to Pat when he was around 15 years old. I lived on an adjoining development, Springboig, and I met Pat on my 14th birthday in May 1961 when, after auditioning, he invited me to join The Gaylords (named after a Chicago street gang), a little group he had put together – me on lead, him on rhythm guitar.

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Pat was 17 then, and the age difference was a big deal but he stuck with me…

We gained some notoriety but our instruments were basic and around 1962 the group decided we needed a Fender Stratocaster for the “lead guitarist”, just like Hank B Marvin of The Shadows, whom we, and every other band in the land, imitated.

This was to cost the princely sum of 219 guineas, and my father was prepared to stand as guarantor for the HP payments but a fairly large deposit was required – Pat dipped into his personal savings account and put up that deposit.

We were gaining a reputation locally, but when we both saw vocalist Dean Ford at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow in 1963, we were astounded by his talent and persuaded him to join us, becoming Dean Ford and The Gaylords.

The group became popular in Scotland and evolved through various personnel changes and in 1966, after settling in London, became The Marmalade and we went on to major success, becoming the first Scottish group to reach No 1 in the UK Pop Charts with the Lennon/MacCartney composition “Obladi Oblada”.

Pat was always the group leader, strong and loyal, and he took no prisoners; he was probably the most popular member of the band, everybody loved “Big Pat”. He was funny and always larking and joking, with a huge big-hearted, bellowing laugh... he was also a wicked practical joker.

One story is embedded in my memory: when we first moved to London in late 1965 we had a group flat in Archway. We were totally skint, having literally started again, trying to build a reputation south of the Border. Pat devised a method of bypassing the coin-operated electric meter, as the only heating we had in the winter was a two-bar electric fire.

After about three months the landlord turned up unexpectedly to inspect the flat and clear the meter. Pat quickly assembled the meter and of course, the power went off, so he quickly bunged a shilling in the slot. The landlord was impressed by how tidy the place was and proceeded to “empty the meter”.

“There’s only a shilling in here,” he said.

“Aye” says Pat, “I just put it in.”

“Only a shilling, after three months?” protested the landlord.

Quick as a flash, Pat pipes up, “Aye, we’ve been away a lot.”

I don’t know how we got away with it, but we did.

I left the band in 1971, and Pat left just five months later to run our music publishing interests.

He then worked for the Robert Stigwood Organistation, who had the Bee Gees, and Pat was primarily responsible for me being involved with Barbara Dickson as RSO didn’t know what to do with her after her stage success in John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert. Pat recommended I get involved, and between us we gave Barbara her first and biggest solo success with “Answer Me”, with me as producer/arranger.

Pat then administered prog rock band Yes’ music publishing catalogue both here and in Los Angeles and toured extensively with them. He always claimed this really started his deafness, blaming the huge volumes of sound involved in stadium rock.

In 1978 he decided to remain in Los Angeles in publishing and in the 1980s he left the music business – he and his wife Nancy opened their theme pub restaurant and music venue, Scotland Yard, in LA’s San Fernando Valley. It became hugely popular with locals and ex-pats alike. He and Nancy sold the very successful business just a few years ago.

We always kept in touch and visited each other over the years. Dean, who also lived in LA, had problems with booze which are well documented, but Pat and Nancy always looked out for him, always had him to their home at Christmas, Thanksgiving, parties and so on. Dean died on New Years Eve 2018.

Pat was an utter technophobe, refused to have anything to do with computers etc, couldn’t really communicate by phone because of his increasing deafness, so used to write lengthy letters in longhand to me. The trouble was, he’d start the letter in say, April, and finish it in July … picking up where he left off at various points, often with different pens or pencils! I still have every single letter.

Pat and Nancy were married for more than 52 years, dedicated to each other and their children and grandchildren.

Pat wasn’t David Bowie or Dean Ford but he was a giant, big-hearted man who was also a much better musician than many gave credit, including himself. He was a pristine rhythm guitar player with terrific technique, right up there with Bruce Welch of our beloved Shadows, and also played six-string bass.

I loved Big Fairley dearly and I have fantastic warm memories of him which will remain with me forever.

Pat died at home in Los Angeles surrounded by his beloved Nancy, children Emma and Simon, and his grandchildren. He had been ill for some time with a form of throat cancer.

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