You can take the boy out of Paisley... but you can't take Paisley out the boy!

Reclusive rock star Gerry Rafferty tells all about life growing up in his home town.

It was in the unlikeliest of places that Gerry Rafferty got a break and was launched on the road to fame and fortune.

Billy Connolly & Tam Harvey - The HumblebumsThe Orange Halls in Castle Street,Paisley weren't ringing to the sounds of a flute band. Instead, the people were there to hear Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey perform as folk duo, The Humblebums. The pair of them picked their way through a set of tunes and Connolly-inspired ditties on banjo and guitar. In the audience was a young would-be songster, Gerry Rafferty.

After the gig, Gerry invited The Big Yin to a party back at his New Street flat. The popular story goes that Gerry tells Billy: "I write songs as well." And Connolly thinks: "Aye, very good, son. Heard it. But since there's a carry-out on the go, I'm your man for a party." But when Billy Connolly heard Gerry's own songs he decided to ask him to join The Humblebums.

For the first time, Gerry Rafferty tells how he came to meet Billy Connolly and how the Big Yin was so impressed by his songs he asked him to join his band. "Billy Connolly and I were first introduced by Paisley folk singer, Danny Kyle. 'Sadly, Danny has passed away now, but I had known him since I was about 18. I knew that Danny was involved in the folk scene and we were having a few pints in the Tweedsmuir bar, in Silk Street. "Danny was telling me about this guy called Billy Connolly who played in a duo called The Humblebums and he was coming in to meet him. "And sure enough, in came the bold Billy.

"At the time, the pub had a resident pianist and he got people up to sing. Joe Egan was also there and we got up to sing an Everly Brothers number. "Then Billy got up and sang one of his songs, Saltcoats at the Fair - he brought the place down. It was brilliant.

"A few nights later The Humblebums were playing a gig at the Orange Halls, in Castle Street and Danny suggested it would be a good idea if I went along to see them. "After the gig, I invited Billy to my flat because we were having a wee party and we were having a great laugh. "

Knocked out
"I sang a lot of my own songs that night and Billy was really knocked out by them. I think he wanted me to join The Humblebums there and then, but he wanted to talk it over with Tam Harvey.

Connolly and Rafferty - The "New" Humblebums"Billy and I met a few nights later in the Scotia Bar, in Glasgow - where all the folk music people tended to hang out - and it was that night he asked me to join The Humblebums." Gerry continues: "This was a great move for me. I was developing my songwriting and at the time the folk scene was thriving. It gave me the chance to get my songs heard by people who were willing to sit and listen." Six months after Gerry joined The Humblebums, Tam Harvey left the band. But Gerry Rafferty was going from strength to strength and signed his first record deal with Transatlantic as part of the band.

But as time went on, Billy Connolly was spending more and more of his act on stage building up a comedy routine instead of singing and playing guitar. Gerry, of course, was winning more and more fans with his finely crafted lyrics and melodies. Two albums later The Humblebums were no more. Gerry takes up the story: "The split was absolutely amicable - it was time for the parting of the ways. We were doing our own thing and it was the right thing to do. "I still keep in touch with Billy. These were magical, wonderful times. It allowed my songwriting to develop and The Humblebums gave me a band to perform my songs."

Gerry was contracted to record one more album for Transatlantic - and what a cracker it turned out to be. For many people, the Can I Have My Money Back album ranks alongside the City to City record - Baker Street et al - or any of the Stealers Wheel releases as a superb example Gerry Rafferty's songwriting ability.

But in the beginning, Gerry Rafferty strummed his first chords as a member of the Paisley beat groups The Sensors and The Mavericks. He played places like The Templar Halls, in Old Sneddon Street, Paisley and the St Peter's social club, in Glenburn That's where Gerry and Joe Egan first played and sang together as members of these beat groups. Both had been pupils at St Mary's Primary and St Mirin's Academy, in Paisley but only had vague recollections of seeing each other in the playground.

Vocal fusion
The odd foray to the London-based record companies yielded a single, called Benjamin Day - co-written by Gerry and now world-famous artist and playwright, John 'Patrick' Byrne. Fame and fortune were still distant dreams and Gerry left the beat groups behind when his songwriting began leaning towards the folk scene.

Stealers WheelBut the Gerry Rafferty / Joe Egan singing and songwriting partnership was rekindled when they formed Stealers Wheel in the early Seventies - the post-Humblebums era. The vocal fusion of their two voices in harmony brought an ever-increasing army of fans. Gerry says: "Joe and I struck up the most amazing relationship. There really was something special between us. The blend of our voices was astonishing." Success both critically and financially was just round the corner with hits like Stuck in the Middle With You and Star topping the charts in both the UK, Europe and America.

But neither of them took to the music industry lifestyle in London town and Gerry amazingly left the band - albeit to return later - as their success was being guaranteed. Gerry explains: "There was a huge amount of pressure on us to do things we didn't particularly want to do.


World-wide hit
"I had qualms about our management company. They wanted us to tour the USA - I didn't, so I left the band. "Eventually though, Joe and I had a talk and I came back to Stealers Wheel." Another album, Ferguslie Park also brought critical and sales acclaim. But months filled with tension and legal problems between the band and management company meant there was only to be one more Stealers Wheel album - Right or Wrong.

Since then Gerry Rafferty has had a huge world-wide hit with his song, Baker Street, from his City to City solo album. And further acclaim with albums like Night Owl, Snakes and Ladders and Shipyard Town. He's still recording albums and there's a new one - called Another World - due out in the next few months. It's a long way from the Orange Halls, in Castle Street...