During the 1960s, The Poets were considered one of the most creative beat groups to have come out of Scotland. The group started life playing rock’n’roll and blues covers, but also wrote some original compositions, all around the dawn of the British beat group boom, throughout 1962 and into 1963.
The group was founded by George Gallacher (vocals) and John Dawson (bass) who then drafted in Alan Weir on drums, and early guitar playing friend Stafford Hamilton. It was Stafford who introduced them to school friend Hume Paton who came in to play 12-string lead guitar.
When, reluctantly, Hamilton was let go of, drummer Alan suggested Tony Myles for the rhythm guitar slot. With their remarkable take on the earthy rhythm and blues and soul sounds of the day, The Poets were soon a very popular live draw all over Glasgow and its environs; their earliest gigs being in the various Orange halls, and Masonic halls that peppered the city.
The ’63 Demos
The Poets earliest recordings were made in a studio in Argyll Street in Glasgow.
The group and management felt they needed to stand out from all the other groups operating in Glasgow at the time and so a strikingly original visual image was put together: high-heeled beat boots, corduroy jackets with velvet collars and elaborate ruffle-fronted shirts. By the beginning of 1964 The Poets were one of Scotland’s biggest live attractions, playing standing-room-only gigs all over the country, with many busloads of teenage fans regularly travelling all over the city, and to many out-of-the-way gigs in Ayrshire, Edinburgh, the Lothians, and also the various border towns, and north-east enclaves that served as the touring circuit for all the groups now popping up everywhere.
George Gallacher, Hume Paton and Tony Myles had also established a Poets songwriting team, and were writing all the group’s original material. George would come up with the lyrics and initial melody lines, which Hume and Tony would then work on, illustrating and augmenting with inventive 12-string flourishes, and evocative chord structures; something that not too many groups of that time were doing.
The ’64 Demos
The Poets had already been down to London to undertake a recording test for EMI producer Mickie Most earlier on in ‘64, but despite some great takes of early originals such as the raving R&B rocker ‘Miss Queen Bee’,‘Loving This One’ and ‘With You By Me’, Most decided against signing them, and the resultant tapes came to nothing.
Andrew Loog Oldham
This was a fact not lost on Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham, who first noticed The Poets staring out from the front cover of the Scottish pop publication ‘Beat News’, before auditioning them soon after at the group’s rehearsal place within Glasgow’s famed Flamingo Ballroom.
An indication of the typical reaction to be found at a Poets’ live gig can be seen in this remarkable footage from 1965 of the band live in Airdrie Town Hall.
Oldham was heading to Gretna to marry his 18 year old girlfriend who, by English law, was still underage. Seriously knocked out by what he’d heard at the audition, and by the incredible scenes he apparently witnessed at a gig The Poets played later that night or so, Oldham then arranged a recording contract for them with the Decca label and before long the group would be in London recording their debut single.
The local and music press wasted no time in reporting this latest Poets’ career news.