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Eric McCredie Obituary

Born June 17 1945
Died October 2007

Few bands were more aptly named than Middle Of The Road, whose brand of uptempo bubblegum chimed with the frivolousness of the early 1970s pop charts, and scored a number one with Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. The death of founder member Eric McCredie aged 62 last week several years after he quit the band, still popular in the European revival circuit, marks the end of a career which saw the Glasgow born bass guitarist tour the world before opting to duck out of the limelight.

This was all a far cry from 1971, the year Middle Of The Road struck gold when Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep stayed at the top of the charts for five weeks at a time when records sales were substantial and the charts were a genuine subject of mass public consumption. The novelty hit came about while the band were touring Italy, when, after initial reluctance, they recorded eccentric English composer Lally Stott’s slice of Europop cheese initially for a local release. In a portent of Ibiza anthems to come, holiday makers returning from cheap package tours sought out their new favourite record, and, despite its irritating catchiness, bought it in droves.

The equally inane Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum reached number two, and a third single, Soley Soley, number five. Following this, the hits may have dried up in the UK, but over the next two years the band found favour on the continental chicken in a basket circuit where they’d served their musical apprenticeship with Sacramento, Samson And Delilah, Bottom’s Up and The Talk Of All the USA.

This was a long way from Partick, where, following school in Hyndland, McCredie worked as a sales rep for a stationers. By the mid 1960s, Eric had teamed up with his guitarist brother Ian, playing around Glasgow with their band The Dominos. Out of this the musical siblings eventually teamed up with Ken Andrew of The Talismen Beat Unit to form The Electrons, who played during interval breaks at The Dennistoun Palais dance hall. Following this the McCredies and Andrew backed female vocalist Jan Douglas as Jan Douglas And The Douglas Boys, playing summer seasons with the likes of Chic Murray and Sidney Devine.

As fate would have it, it was Douglas’s intended temporary replacement while she took time out through illness, who helped patent the jauntily inoffensive harmony sound that would pave the way for other groups such as The Brotherhood Of Man to go on to even greater Eurovision glories than Middle Of The Road. When Sally Carr stepped in for Douglas, McCredie and his band-mates had morphed into Part Three, a name which on Carr’s arrival was understandably changed to Part Four.

The band were approached by a management team, who suggested a change of image and musical style, and the Latin infected Los Caracas were born. In 1968, McCredie and Los Caracas appeared on Opportunity Knocks, the light entertainment precursor to today’s slew of talent shows, hosted by the smooth-talking Hughie Green, and featuring the Clapometer, a charmingly primitive device in which the competition could be won or lost based on the scale of audience applause. Los Caracas won three weeks on the trot, and in October the same year featured on the All-Winners show. With a rigorous touring schedule capitalising on this success, the band turned fully professional in 1970, Los Caracas became Middle Of the Road following a cruise ship tour, after which they were managed by a pair of Argentinian croupiers working in a Glasgow casino.

During a tour of Italy, the band were left in the lurch by their management, and were forced to keep playing to raise their fare home. It was here they were approached by a holidaying executive from RCA Italy, who took them for a recording session in Rome. McCredie and the others became a backing band for a stream of Italian artists on record and TV, including screen goddess Sophia Loren. The publicity gained from this collaboration led to a meeting with producer Giacomo Tosti, who put them onto Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep following the release of Stott’s own version of his song. The band, now with a versatile repertoire, thought the song hilarious, and initially turned it down. As it turned out, it was to make their fortune.

When a conference of worldwide executives from RCA heard Middle Of The Road’s new recording, a global hit had clearly been made, and the production team of Catoca – a forerunner of contemporary pop machines was drafted in to bring in new material. For Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum, a promotional film to publicise the launch the Fiat 127 hatchback featured the song, and played in cinemas before screenings of that year’s tear-jerker, Love Story.

In 1972 the song won an award at the Venice Song Festival, the band picked up 32 gold discs for all their hits world wide, and even won a special award for services to the British dance scene.

For the next few years McCredie and Middle Of The Road toured the world, only parting with Catoca in the mid 1970s after ex Bay City Roller Neil Henderson had joined the band. By 1977, though, Carr left the band, and, while McCredie and his brother played the circuit with a new singer, there was little to compare with the original act.

In 1981 McCredie and the full band came together for a Stars On 45 megamix of all the band’s hits, though it wasn’t until the 1990s that they would tour again. A law-suit intended to prevent Ian McCredie’s son Stewart using the band name was prevented after Ian left the original band to join his son. Eric himself stopped touring after a couple of years, despite phenomenal success in Germany, and left Carr and Andrew to continue the band with other players.

The last decade saw McCredie more or less retire from the music business, although his generosity was well known, and, now living alone in Glasgow’s east end following his divorce, he offered support and encouragement to young bands making their first steps in an industry he’d seen both the highs and lows of first-hand.

The Herald, October 2007

ends

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