Alexander James "Alex" Harvey (5 February 1935 – 4 February 1982) was a Scottish blues/rock musician. Although Harvey's career spanned almost three decades he is best remembered as the frontman of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, with whom he built a reputation as an exciting live performer during the era of glam rock in the 1970s.
Harvey was born in the Kinning Park district of Glasgow, a working-class neighbourhood, where he grew up. By his own account, he worked in a number of jobs, from carpentry to waiting tables at a restaurant to carving tombstones, before finding success in music. He first began performing in skiffle groups in 1954.
His musical roots were in Dixieland jazz and skiffle music, which enjoyed considerable popularity in Britain during the late 1950s. From 1958 until 1965, he was the leader of Alex Harvey's Big Soul Band, playing blues and rock and roll songs and spending considerable time touring in the United Kingdom and Germany. He also won a competition, that sought "Scotland's answer to Tommy Steele". Harvey became strongly identified with British rhythm and blues music, although he was equally able to play rock songs.
After leaving the Big Soul Band, he briefly tried for a solo career but with little success. By 1967, he found a positive direction for his career, when he became a member of the pit band in the London stage production of the musical Hair. This band recorded the live album Hair Rave Up, which contained Harvey originals and other songs not from the stage show. In 1970, Harvey formed Rock Workshop with Ray Russell; their first, self-titled album contained an early version of "Hole in Her Stocking", later to appear on Framed. Harvey remained with Hair for five years.
Harvey was also instrumental in the formation of the band Stone the Crows by introducing his younger brother, Leslie "Les" Harvey, to singer Maggie Bell. Also in Stone the Crows was bassist James Dewar, later of Robin Trower fame. Les Harvey was electrocuted in a freak accident while performing with the band in 1972.
In 1972, Harvey formed The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (often shortened to SAHB) with guitarist Zal Cleminson, bassist Chris Glen, and cousins Hugh and Ted McKenna on keyboards and drums respectively, all previous members of progressive rock act Tear Gas. SAHB produced a succession of highly regarded albums and tours throughout the 1970s. The band never achieved acclaim in the United States the way it did in Great Britain, but it had a cult following in certain U.S. cities, especially Cleveland, where the group first played at the Agora Ballroom in December 1974. Thanks to airplay from WMMS, songs like "Next" and "The Impossible Dream" became very popular. Cleveland music critics observed, that the Sensational Alex Harvey Band could headline in that city, while in other cities, few people came to see them.
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had Top 40 hits in Britain with the single "Delilah", a cover version of the Tom Jones hit, which reached number seven in 1975, and also with "The Boston Tea Party" in June 1976. After Harvey left the group later that year, the other members continued as "SAHB… without Alex". Harvey re-joined the group for 1978's Rock Drill, but they disbanded shortly afterwards.
On 4 February 1982, a day short of his 47th birthday, Harvey suffered a massive heart attack while waiting to take a ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium back to England after performing a Belgian gig with his new band, the Electric Cowboys. He suffered a second fatal attack in an ambulance on the way to hospital. He left his second wife, Trudy, and two sons (Alex, by his first wife, Mary Martin, and Tyro).
In 2002, a biography of Harvey by John Neil Munro was published: The Sensational Alex Harvey. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were voted the fifth greatest Scottish band of all time in a 2005 survey. In 2004, SAHB reformed and, two-years later, released a live album entitled Zalvation (2006), which features many classic SAHB songs. On February 4, 2012, a rowan tree was planted in memory of Alex on the grounds of the People's Palace museum in Glasgow. The tree was planted by Alex Harvey Junior and the remaining members of the band. A limited edition book entitled Alex Harvey: Last of the Teenage Idols, photographed by Janet Macoska and edited by Martin Kielty was released for the 30th anniversary of his death.
- Alex Harvey and His Soul Band (1964)
- The Blues (1964)
- Roman Wall Blues (1969)
- The Joker is Wild (1972)
- Framed (1972)
- Next (1973)
- The Impossible Dream (1974)
- Tomorrow Belongs to Me (1975)
- The Penthouse Tapes (1976)
- SAHB Stories (1976)
- Rock Drill (1978)
- The Mafia Stole My Guitar (1979)
- Soldier on the Wall (1982)
- Hair Rave Up (1969)
- Alex Harvey Talks About Everything (1974)
- Live (1975)
- Alex Harvey Presents: The Loch Ness Monster (1977)
- BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (1991)
- Live on the Test (1995)
- British Tour '76 (2004)
- Live at the BBC (2009)
- Band On The Wagon (1969)
- Alex Harvey and His Soul Band, 20 unreleased tracks, CD only (1999)
- Hot City: The 1974 Unreleased Album (2008) (an earlier version of The Impossible Dream, unreleased at the time)
- ... Delilah, (Spectrum 1994)
- Hot City (2009)
- Big Hits and Close Shaves (1977)
- The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Old Gold 1997)
- Teenage A Go Go (Alchemy Entertainment 2003)
- All Sensations (Vertigo 1992)
- The Best of the Sensational (UK chart peak: #148)
- Since 2005, Not The Sensational Alex Harvey Band has been performing in Switzerland. Alex Harvey is portrayed by fellow Scot, Gustav Bertha.
- In 2008 a new Alex Harvey tribute, Vambo Rools, was formed in the Cleveland, Ohio region.
- Official site
- Alex Harvey (musician) discography at Discogs
- Alex Harvey at AllMusic
- The Sensational Alex Harvey Band at AllMusic
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Image from Discogs