Background / In the Beginning: Boy to Teens
Al Harrington was born in Middlesbrough
Like many boys and young men of his era, Al was swept away with the new progressive wave of music that was emerging from the blues, with the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Free, Ten Years After etc. Influenced by his older brother John, he began playing acoustic guitar – progressing to an electric guitar at the age of 13/14? That was a Gibson SG copy.
Al was only 15 when a very young local promoter called Dave Fitzpatrick arranged that very first gig.
The band: ‘Strange’ ……School kids doing their stuff! (‘Cream’, Free etc.)
The venue: Langbaurgh Secondary School, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, UK.
Next gig: A community centre just outside of Middlesbrough.
After only their second number the police needed to escort the band off the premises. Hoping it would be an evening of great noise and fun, playing to a full house of rampant teenagers, it turned out to be an ‘Easter bonnet parade’ for old age pensioners. But undeterred, the young Al persevered with his budding musical career.
The Real Deal
Aged 17 he upgraded his gear and bought a new cherry Gibson SG Special on hire purchase, and moved on to play in various line ups across the North East of England, expanding his confidence and experience.
At the age of 19 after answering an advert in the ‘Melody Maker’ he won an audition to join residency band ‘Casino Royale’ at the Graffton Rooms, West Derby, Liverpool.
That band were the venue’s warm up band and supported the likes of the Bay City Rollers, and mostly other up and coming pop bands.
A new night club, ‘Tiffanys’ opened in Middlesbrough. Casino Royale played the opening night and went on to play 6 nights a week for the following 10 months before moving on to a new residency in Nottingham. Al decided to stay in Middlesbrough and parted company with the band.
Frustrated and exhausted with playing the same music week in week out, a short break was necessary.
Collaborating and Recording
For full listing of Bands and their other members see below
It wasn’t all plain sailing. Aged 23, and after one or two disastrous musical experiences, a chance meeting took place with vocalist Mike Wilson. A song writing partnership developed and ‘Return Ticket’ was put together.
Recordings were made at ‘Guardian Studios’ where Terry Cavanagh produced the new material. Warner Brothers offered the band a recording deal while Phonogram and EMI also showed interest. Lots of gigs and a live TV performance followed.
Chris Rea’s management wanted Mike’s voice including the song writing partnership. This was unsettling because the band always felt they would stay together. Mike left the band.
They tried continuing without him, but after a couple of rehearsals it all felt a bit flat which was very sad.
After a while Al joined up again with Mike and formed ‘F88’ which was later renamed ‘The Pack’. The band would rehearse endlessly at ‘The Kirk’ owned by Chris Rea’s manager at that time, John McCoy. The creativity continued. Recordings and gigs followed, including support to ‘Q Tips’ which was fronted by Paul Young.
The band hung out for a deal with Magnet records which unfortunately never happened. So frustrating!
Eventually, Mike Wilson left the band to pursue his own thing. The band survived with a new vocalist, Paul Benolini and a second guitarist, Don Playford. Renamed ‘The Press Gang’ this line up went out and had some fantastic fun without taking themselves too seriously. The fun just went a little too far at times!
The Blueprint years
Al continued playing in various line ups for a few years with quite a few gaps until the formation of ‘Blueprint’ at which time he moved on to lead vocals and guitar.
The first line up was with Steve Evans on bass with John Drennan on drums.
Their opening gig was at the ‘Queen Catherine’ Osmotherly, North Yorks. That night had its moments with Steve the bass player doing a disappearing act during the interval. The search party eventually found him approximately 10 mins before the band were due to end the last set. What a disaster that was!
After about 20 gigs Steve eventually moved on to London.
His replacement was Paul McClenaghan.
This line up gigged mostly in Newcastle down to Scarborough doing blues clubs and Art Centres.
They would sometimes doing 3 gigs a day in Newcastle: ‘Broken Doll’ for the lunch session, ‘Lucky’s Bar’ the evening session and the late late session at the ‘Jewish Mother’.
The band played at the ‘International Jazz Festival’ in Amiens, France.
This band gigged heavily for about 3 years.
Paul eventually moved on and was replaced with 2 new members, Mick Hutchinson on bass with Sol on vocals and blues harp. Sol was really influential with his ideas, great voice and harp playing. This last version of ‘Blueprint’ continued playing for the next 2 years until their very last gig at the ‘Broken Doll’ Newcastle, which has a few clips on YouTube.
Guitarist for Hire?
On occasion Al would perform with resident band ‘The Squad’ at the Globe in Guisborough which included his cousin Phil Argument on guitar. Phil passed away in May 2009, and is sadly missed. A cutting guitarist and a wonderful person.
After a short break, he was invited to join Scarborough based 9 piece soul band ‘Big in the North East’. This band had a powerful ‘horn section’ and gigged all over the North of England. There was quite a lot of travelling with the band so Al decided to leave.
He joined ‘Stalebread Charlie’ and teamed up again with Mick Hutchinson. There were loads of fun and a shed load of gigs with this blues band.
Al Harrington Band
Al eventually decided to go it alone and form the ‘Al Harrington Band’.
At the time he was living at Stokesley, North Yorkshire and spent most evenings playing in Chapter’s Bistro!
The first line up included Mick Hutchinson again, Adrian Rea drums, Yussef Nimer, saxophone and John Murphy on keyboards.
After a few warm up gigs, 1st album ‘Blue July’ was recorded. The album was mastered at ‘Sound Recording Technology’ in Cambridge.
It received some warm reviews and American airplay. Then ‘Harbour Lights Café’ was released on a compilation album (Music for the man I love) in France by BMG records. It initially sold quite well in the French shops. It can be bought at Amazon.fr.
Since that 1st line up, numerous musicians have contributed to an ever changing line up, with some players returning at times. All have inspired with ideas and support.
There have also been lots of solo performances supporting the likes of the legendary Paul Jones, Brenden Croker, and Woodstock legends ‘Ten Years After’.
Restaurant and Bistro work followed at Pinchinthorpe Hall, Guisborough and the White Horse and Griffin in Whitby. These were long residencies. Mostly solo.
He has also played guitar around the Greek Islands from time to time!
However, the interplay between musicians always felt more inspiring and fun.
Some musicians have changed the dynamics and textures by adding their own style to the sounds. Countless drummers. Bassist’s, guitar players, saxophone and keyboard players have all contributed, sometimes at short notice!
During one period the band went all out acoustic with Chris Parkinson coming in with his all round worldly experience on accordion. Added to that, the ever versatile Keith Wilson on guitar, mandolin and lap steel, the band became more diverse! Keith introduced a Gypsy Jazz style to the sound and on occasion performed with Al as part of a duo.
That period was creative and interesting; however, it was now time to revisit the blues!
Duncan Lister, founder member of UK band ‘The Blues Burglar’s’ came into the line up adding some extra edge with some scintillating slide guitar playing!
With the inclusion of bass player Franky Gibbon the line up now had more steel!
Drummer Paul Tilley stayed for a while then moved on due to other commitments. After all the years gone by Andy Woodhouse, drummer from ‘The Pack’ showed up and was now playing again. This line up has had some great times including outside summer performances and will continue to do so.
John Drennan, former Blueprint drummer and John Daniel, bass from ‘Big in the North East’ are also part of a squad of musicians that form part of the ‘Al Harrington Band’. And not forgetting Mike Forbes for all his support and promoting!
There has been some recent recording on a new project with Franky Gibbon at his studio.
Other projects are in the pipeline with view to the release of a new album late 2010 early 2011.
Basing Street Band and Tees Hot Club
Al Harrington is also a regular performer with the ‘Tees Hot Club’ (see link) and guitarist with the ‘Basing Street Band’.
Kasuga Nylon String Classical Guitar
Gibson Les Paul Studio (cherry)
Gibson Les Paul Classic (cherry sunburst)
Taylor acoustic guitar (big baby)
Epiphone Sheriton guitar (black) This guitar has all the electrics pick ups taken from the above Les Paul Studio.
Fender Telecaster and a Fender Stratocaster
A 1950's Hofner Original Jazz Guitar
An old battered nylon string Classical guitar hanging on the garage wall. Interesting label in the sound hole. ‘Hamilton’s Music Store, Corporation Road, Middlesbrough. North Yorkshire. With a 4 digit telephone number.
An American Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
4x 12 Marshall
Fender Super Champ Combo.
‘Return Ticket’ Mike Wilson vocals, Dave Armstrong guitarist, Mike Howard bass and Derek Robinson drums
‘F88’ Mike Wilson, vocals,
renamed ‘The Pack’ Al Harrington, guitar and backing vocals,
Steve Galilee, bass guitar,
Andy Woodhouse, drums
‘The Press Gang’ Paul Benolini vocals, Al Harrington, guitar and backing vocals, Don Playford second guitarist
Steve Galilee, bass guitar
Andy Woodhouse, drums
‘Blueprint’ Al Harrington, guitar and lead vocals,
Steve Evans bass, John Drennan drums
Paul McClenaghan replacement bass,
Mick Hutchinson replacement bass, Sol Vocals, blues harp
(check out YouTube)
‘The Squad’ Al - guest guitarist
‘Big in the North East’ Al was guitarist in this 9 piece soul band
‘Stalebread Charlie’ Al Harrington guitar, Mick Hutchinson bass,
Mick Kraus vocals, Andy Wood saxaphone,
Hugh MaGouran drums.
‘Al Harrington Band’ Al guitar, Mick Hutchinson bass, Adrian Rea drums,
Original line up Yussef Nimer saxaphone, John Murhpy keyboards
Members of various Ray Dales, Anna Kirby Saxophonists;
Line ups and contributors Ray Johns and Les Watts keyboards,
Chris Parkinson Accordian and keyboards.
Keith Wilson guitar, mandolin & lap steel,
Duncan Lister guitar, Franky Gibbon bass,
Paul Tilley drums, Andy Woodhouse drums,
John Drennan drums, John Daniel bass,
Alistair Smith, congas & percussion.
Mick Forbes support & promotion
Chris Wood promotion
‘Tees Hot Club’ Al’s a regular performer – see Link
‘Basing Street Band’
John Mayhew (Vocals), Al Harrington (Guitar), Gav Bell (Bass), John Drennan (Drums).
April 17th 2010… Last minute call to play with Paul Rodgers formally of ‘Free’, Bad Company and Queen at the Marton Country Club, Middlesbrough. The night also featured Claire Hammill and Steve Phillips and the Rough Diamonds.
Discography – Recordings and Albums
‘Blue July’ Album Al Harrington released 1996 - The album was mastered at ‘Sound Recording Technology’ in Cambridge.
Harbour Light Cafe (French Compilation ‘Music for the man I love’ released by BMG records - available from Amazon.fr.
Recordings at Guardian Studios - Several as Return Ticket.
Recordings as ‘The Pack’ - Several from the Kirklevington Country Club and Radio Tees.
Basing Street Band - Several tracks recorded at Castlegate Studios.
‘Fools Paradise’ album recorded with Franky Gibbon at Wildtrack Studios.
Latest recordings etc New project ongoing with Franky Gibbon and another with Andy Woodhouse.