Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Tam White

Tam White (12 July 1942 – 21 June 2010)

I have finally been dragged from my blogging and life lethargy whilst here on holiday at my annual week retreat here in Ballater. 

Whilst browsing through some music magazines I brought with me I was shocked to read of the passing of the great Tam White following a heart attack back in June, this was obviously news to me and has somehow acted as a wake up call from the introspective phase I seem to have been going through. 

The news has driven me back to the keyboard as it is only appropriate that I post on one of my favourite Scottish Bluesmen. 

He was an east coaster living in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket until the age of 13 and thereafter moving to Saughtonhall where on leaving school he trained to be a stonemason. 

Photo by Derek Prescott

Primarily known as a blues vocalist with a trademark gravel-voiced sound, in the 1960s he recorded with beat groups The Boston Dexters and then The Buzz, who recorded one single with producer Joe Meek in 1966. 

In the 1970s White was the first artist to sing live on Top Of The Pops. 

He also provided the vocals for Robbie Coltrane to mime to as Big Jazza McGlone in John Byrne’s award-winning television series Tutti Frutti in 1987. 

Tam was prone to a bit of acting himself and went to Ireland where he appeared alongside Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”. 

Whilst in Dublin he recorded what has become known as “Dublin Demos 1994” 

Here is the story behind the recordings:-

‘Dublin Demos 1994’ Found by Yianni Mano
In 1994, I was in Dublin at about the time Tam was working on the movie Braveheart.A friend of mine was working on the set, and called me to say he had ‘a guy who wanted to record a demo’. I am from Australia, and at that time I was based in Dublin with a band I was a writer in, and I had a very basic Portastudio setup – no monitors, just a pair of Sony MDR7506 headphones. Long story short, Tam came over to where I was living at the time. I had absolutely no idea who he was – though he seemed like a very personable man. I set him up in a basement room with an acoustic guitar, 3 Shure 545’s that i had on hand (1 as a vocal mic, and two in an x+y config). I put my headphones on (no monitors!!) hit record, and nearly fell off my chair from what came down the mics!! 

I captured three great performances; one of them being the demo ‘Braveheart’, ‘The Ritz’ and ‘Linda’s Hideaway’. 

“Braveheart” – Tam White 

He also had roles in Rebus: Black and Blue, playing Rico Briggs, The Legend of Loch Lomond, Goodbye, Mr Steadman and Man Dancin’.  (see below)

His last television appearance’s were playing Tony MacRae in EastEnders in late 2003 and early 2004, followed by a brief stint in 2009 in the BBC Scotland soap River City. 

Tam & Maggie Bell at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Photo: Marc Marnie

Collaborations with musicians such as guitarist Neil Warden, the harmonica player Fraser Speirs and bassist Boz Burrell (Bad Company) eventually developed into a permanent lineup known as The Shoestring Band, who continued performing together either as a trio or a larger band until Burrell’s death in 2006. 

Here they are with a version of “I Can’t Help Myself” at “The Groove Connection” Edinburgh Festival, check out the “groovy” dancers in the crowd. 

White and Burrell also issued a mini album “The Celtic Groove Connection” in 1999/2000 


“Home Is Where The Hatred Is” – Tam White (with Boz Burrell and Neil Warden) 

The last Tam White album was 2004’s “Hold On” which featured this painting of Tam by Maggie Milne on the cover. 


On the album White extends beyond pure blues to adorn his sound with a retro jazz feel with a touch of soul. 

One of the tracks is a remake of his “Man Dancin'” which was timed to tie in with the release of the feature film which he appreared in as noted above and which borrowed it’s title. from his song/album of the same name. 

The album is a fine example of his ability as a songwriter, 10 out of the 11 tracks being self penned, however, his one collaboration on the album is with that gifted young lyricist Robert Burns on ‘Slave’s Lament’ so he was in good company. 

My favourite album of his is Tam White’s Shoestring’s  “The Real Deal” which was originally released in 1997. 


Recorded live at Edinburgh’s The Dome it features long term collaborators Neil Warden and Fraser Spiers. 

Here is one of his signature tracks. 

“Stonemason’s Blues” – Tam White’s Shoestring 

Despite being a fitness fanatic Tam died of a heart attack click HERE for The Scotsman’s obituary. 

“The greatest undiscovered blues talent of our time.”
“Superb melodies, vacuum-tight arrangements, awesome musicianship.”
“One of the best blues singers in Europe.”
“This high calibre music deserves the widest audience.”
“When Tam sings, it’s a party … he’s an entertainer, but one whose art creates moods. His audiences leave happy, but thoughtful too.”
“Tam’s real talent lies in his ability to connect with his audience in such an honest, down-to-earth way, that you’re drawn in, hook, line and sinker. From the moment he hit the stage… it’s the real deal.”
“Tam is habitually described as a blues singer, and while he has that in his locker beyond any argument, it is far from alone there – rock, R+B, funk, country and jazz all play a part in the totality of his style.”

I leave you with that blue blue feelin’ 


“I’ve Got That Blue Blue Feelin'” – Tam White 

For more information and further free downloads visit these two great sites:- 

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Movies, New News, Old Music, Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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