Average White Band

  • Scottish funk band formed in 1972 from Dundee Scotland. The members of the group during the 70s were Owen McIntyre (guitar, vocals), Hamish Stuart (guitar, bass guitar, vocals), Alan Gorrie (guitars, bass guitar, vocals), Malcolm Duncan (tenor saxophone), and Roger Ball (keyboards, alto saxophone). The original drummer was Robbie McIntosh – he died in 1974 by heroine overdose, and he was replaced by Steve Ferrone. All members contributed to songwriting.
  • The various members had their roots playing jazz and soul music in their native Scotland with various bands. Gorrie, Ball and Duncan were college students together, and they but they didn’t perform together until they separately moved to London in 1971. While in London, they happened to meet again at a concert, and they scheduled a jam session along with the other artists would become members of the band. A friend heard them perform, and he commented that what he heard “was too much for the average white man.” Accordingly, the band had its name.
  • The breakthrough for AWB was a gig where they were the opening act for Eric Clapton’s comeback concert in 1973. The exposure got them a recording contract. Their debut album, Show Your Hand, was released later that year, but it did not sell well. Clapton’s tour manager liked AWB, and he agreed to promote the band in the U.S., where he had many connections in the business. The manager convinced another label to sign them in America, and the band moved to Los Angeles to record their second album.
  • Their second album, named AWB (and often called The White Album) was released in 1974. Just after its release, McIntosh died of a heroine overdose at a party, thinking that it was cocaine. Gorrie also overdosed, but was kept conscious by Cher until help arrived. The album was a huge success, thanks to the jazz-funk classic instrumental Pick Up the Pieces. The single reached #1 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the soul chart – rather amazing that a group of white Scotsmen. The album topped the Billboard 200 album chart in 1975.
  • Their next two albums – Cut the Cake in 1975 and Soul Searching in 1976 also sold well, both charting in the top 10 of the album chart, and the latter certified platinum. The title track to Cut the Cake reached #10 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the R&B chart, and was nominated for a Grammy award. The album was recorded amid much conflict within the group, as tensions were high after the death of their drummer. While Soul Searching was their best selling album, the singles from the album did not chart highly – only Queen of My Soul managed to crack the top 40, and the title track reached #4 on the Dance Club Songs chart.
  • AWB released a collaboration album with Ben E. King in 1977, and then four more studio albums from 1978 to 1982. Sales declined with each album, and a few singles charted on the Hot 100 and R&B chart, with 1980’s disco song Let’s Go Round Again reaching #12 in the UK and #33 on the U.S. R&B chart. In 1983, the group split up. The classic lineup reunited in 1988 for a concert, and the following year, Gorrie, McIntyre and Ball released an album as Average White Band titled Aftershock. Gorrie and McIntyre continued to perform and record with various other artists after that, releasing albums in 1997, 2003 and 2018. As of 2021, they continue to perform concerts in Europe and the U.S.
  • Pick Up the Pieces is a great funk song, and I still love it today. I guess I always realized that it was a bunch of white guys playing R&B, but I didn’t realize that they were from Scotland, of all places – not exactly ground zero for soul music. James Brown gave homage to them soon after the song was released by recording and releasing a song called Pick Up the Pieces, One by One, crediting the track to the band A.A.B.B. (Above Average Black Band). Here is AWB performing Pick Up the Pieces at Montreux in 1977.

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