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Live Music for Charity

Tribute to Al McGee

B. 1946 D. 2018


Alan Wesley McGee was a multi-instrumentalist specializing in the saxophone and keyboards. He was born in Saskatoon on May 1, 1946. He began piano lessons with his mother at the age of four and at six started Grade One with the Toronto Conservatory. At 12 he enrolled in the Saskatoon Lions Club band program and learned to play the saxophone, after protruding teeth proved unsuitable for the trumpet.

Alan, at 15, joined his first rock and roll band in Saskatoon playing first alto sax and the switching to tenor sax which he thought had a bigger, fuller tone for rock music. When the family moved to Calgary in 1961, Alan was invited to join a band called The Belairs. It featured Floyd Snead on drums who became part of 3 Dog Night. The guitar player/singer was Lionel Neveu who joined the A & W Lords five years later.

The family moved again in 1962, this time to Edmonton. Alan answered an ad in the Edmonton Journal from a band looking for a saxophonist. He became a member of The Pharaohs, later to be James and The Bondsmen. In September 1965 the band had a recording session in Memphis, Tennessee. Not wanting to move with The Bondsmen to Toronto, Alan stayed in Edmonton and in late 1965 was invited to join The Lords. The Lords featured Andy and Harry Krawchuk, Mel Degan, Clay White, Wayne Kozak, and Lorne Peet. In 1966 they had a recording session in Los Angeles with producer Gary Paxton who had worked with the Hollywood Argyles, the Association, and Left Bank. The session produced the following tracks: “Rovin’ Heart,” “Savin’,” “Blue,” Happy Lovin’ Time,: and “The Highly Successful Young Rupert White.” Though claiming not to be a singer, Gary Paxton had Allan sing both as back-up and soloist on the recordings.

In 1968 The Lords became Privilege. Stu Mitchell replaced Clay White on drums.

Privilege was offered a five-year recording contract in Los Angeles but declined on the advice of their managers who felt they would be relinquishing too much control.

Instead they went to Chicago and recorded a session at The RCA Studio used by The Guess Who. The resulting tracks were “Proper Stranger,” written by Randy Bachman, and “Oh I Don’t Know” on the b-side.

In 1971 Alan became involved with a touring company doing “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He helped to assemble the cast of about 25 actors and musicians. He and Gerry Dere scored the orchestrations. The company played in Calgary, Edmonton, Portland, San Francisco, Detroit (Cobo Hall), and Philadelphia (Schubert Theatre) before the rights holder, Robert Stigwood, obtained an injunction to close the show.

In 1973 Privilege recorded the rock musical Cantata Canada in Vancouver with producer Doug Hutton. It was recorded in the summer and released in the fall and has become a classic in Canadian rock music. In 1976 the band was part of a show produced by Maurice Fritze that toured in the Middle East entertaining Canadian troops in Cyprus, Sinai, and Golan Heights in Israel.

Alan stepped back from touring in 1976 to return to University. He played gigs in cabaret bands to finance his education. Some of these bands were Band of Sound (1978), Seabreeze (1970), and the Kennedy Jensen Band. Between 1985 and 1988 Allan took a hiatus from music and played no gigs.

In 1988 Alan with members of the old Privilege at the First “Annual” Band Reunion at the Kinsmen Field House. In 1989 he was invited to join a re-formed Nomads featuring Larry Guthrie (keyboards/vocals), Les Vincent (bass/vocals), Ron Danyluk (drums), Wayne Saunders (guitar/vocals), and Garry MacDonald (trumpet).

They played in the Second (and last) “Annual” Band Reunion at the Kinsmen Fild House. For the next sixteen years the Nomads played at corporate functions, casinos, fundraisers, and private parties in Edmonton and throughout Northern Alberta. Highlights included playing at the new Winspear Concert Hall in Edmonton with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in 1997 and doing a repeat performance with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in I998 at the Jack Singer Hall. Garry MacDonald left the Nomads in 2006 and took the Nomads name with him. The band replaced him with Doug Zimmerman in 2006 and Bob Tidesley from 2007 to 2914 and became The Classics.

Efforts to re-team with Mel Degan as The Lords in 2013 and 2014 ended with Mel’s poor health and death. The group lined up with Barry Allen to form Barry Allen and the New Rebels featuring Barry Allen (guitar, vocals), Alan McGee (keys and sax),

Percy Marshall (guitar), Clay White (drums), and Del Chadwick (bass). The group has played several stages in and around Edmonton from to 2015 to 2017. The same core group also performed as Persons of Interest featuring Christina McKay. Alan also was involved in 2015 with the reforming of Celtic Fusion Illusion. He had been part of the original band.

Alan McGee passed away on February 24, 2018. He was survived by his wife, Meggie, one son, one daughter, two stepsons, and four grandchildren. His obituary notice recognized his career as an accountant and called him “a presence and legend in the Edmonton music scene and a consummate musician.” 

Thank you to Pete the Rocker, The Shoebox on CJSR, for Al's bio.

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