Tributes paid to Scottish music legend Tom Alexander

For more than five decades, he stood as ambassador for Scottish folk music, playing New York’s Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House alongside his sibling and outselling the Fab Four at home.

Tom Alexander enjoyed international fame alongside his brother, Jack,. Picture: Emma Mitchell

The world of Scottish traditional music was in mourning today after the death of Tom Alexander, who together with his brother, Jack, thrilled audiences the world over as the Alexander Brothers.

The 85-year-old’s death was confirmed by Ayr’s historic Gaiety Theatre, a venue at which the brothers performed on countless occasions over the years.

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In a statement announcing the “very sad news,” it said: “One of our legendary performers from the Gaiety’s golden era of showbusiness, Tom Alexander, has sadly passed away.

The Alexander Brothers in their pomp. Picture: Albert Jordan

“Tom will be greatly missed, and our sincere condolences and love go out to his family, friends, and fans.”

Accordionist Leonard Brown was among those to pay tribute to the musician.

He said: “Tom will always be regarded as my biggest influence on the accordion and he will be sadly missed by all. He was a total gentleman and definitely someone to look up to.”

Tom and Jack, who died in 2014 at the age of 77, were born a year apart in the Cambusnethan area of the North Lanarkshire town of Wishaw. Encouraged by their musical mother, they started instrument lessons at an early age, with Tom favouring the accordion and Jack the piano.

The siblings take time off from a run of shows at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh in 1968 to enjoy a round of golf. Picture: Albert Jordan

After leaving school, both became painters and decorators, but in the evenings, entered talent shows and played working men’s clubs.

Their big break came in 1958, when they turned professional and secured a summer season at Arbroath’s Webster Theatre.

Audiences lapped up their Scottish repertoire, and before long the brothers - who had by then ditched suits for swirling kilts - were playing Glasgow’s Metropole.

They performed alongside Shirley Bassey on the television variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium and by 1965 had been given their own long running show on STV.

In the decades that followed, they performed to fans around the world, and enjoyed buoyant sales of their albums, videos, and latterly, DVDs.

Whenever they played Los Angeles, one special fan regularly attended their concerts - the Hollywood actor, Charlton Heston, clad in full Highland dress.

The brothers were made MBEs in 2005 and retired eight years ago owing to Jack’s increasingly poor health.

At the time, Tom reflected: "In showbusiness you are only as good as your last show and after 54 years we wanted to go out when we were still on top of our game."