Alex Harvey was born in February 1935 in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, an area that had the reputation as the toughest area of that Scottish city. In 1964 he made his first musical appearance playing trumpet at a private event. This led to a position ina Dixieland jazz band. Alex’s other influences included Woody Guthrie and Jimmie Rodgers. In 1955 he met saxophonist Bill Patrick and joined Bill’s Big Band or Clyde River Jazz Band, a trad jazz combo. They also appeared as the Kansas City Skiffle Group. With the dawn of rock ’n’ roll music they changed their name to the Kansas City Counts and played a mix of r’n’r coupled with more modern jazz.
In 1956, Alex won a local talent competition and was soon paraded as Scotland’s answer to Tommy Steele. During the late 1950s, the Counts became the Alex Harvey Big Band and, later, Alex Harvey’s Big Soul Band as the band was playing R&B music in the style of the Isley Brothers, Ray Charles and Bo Diddley. They backed US stars like Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and even John Lee Hooker, playing all over Scotland and England.
In 1963 they got a contract at Hamburg’s famous Top Ten Club. It was the time of the Beatles, and Alex followed their lead and record several songs in Hamburg at the Polydor Studios.
On February 6th, 1964 Alex Harvey’s Big Soul Band made their London debut at the 100 Club in Oxford Street. After recording a weird ’Blues’ album with his brother and an album with his band that remained unreleased until 1999 when Bear Family Records put it out, Alex left the music buisness and returned to Scotland in 1966. About a year later, Alex moved south to again to London, which by now was in the throes of flower-power. He formed a psychedelic group, Giant Moth, which released two unsuccessful singles, before disbanding.
Alex moved on to become a member of the backing band for the musical ’Hair’ and released a progressive rock album in 1969, ’Roman Wall Blues’. Then he began working with a jazz group called Rock Workshop.
After the death of his brother Les (electrocuted on stage), Alex teamed up with members of the Glasgow group, Tear Gas, and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band came into being. Once more, Alex became a celebrity. Even when the band split up, he continued to tour until he tragically died of a heart attack on February 4, 1982 in Belgium.