Van Morrison and Them

“Van Morrison was born into a working-class Protestant community in East Belfast and his father collected works for blues musicians such as Leadbelly.” He played in local skiffle groups such as Deanine Sands And The Javelins playing guitar and harmonica before learning to play a saxophone. The 15-year-old Morrison joined an Irish showband called The Monarchs [1960-63], performing in Scotland and Germany before playing in the red-light districts of Hamburg. After leaving the band, he and a fellow musician from the Monarchs formed The Manhattans and started a shift towards R&B. He then joined The Gamblers who became THEM with Morrison as vocalist and harmonica player. Their first gig was in April 1964. Morrison left the group in the summer of 1966 and began writing songs for a solo career. His first hit as a single act was “Brown Eyed Girl” Notes from “The Rough Guide to Rock” edited by Peter Buckley [this book and “The Words and Music of Van Morrison” Erik Hage  are free for viewing online]

note: The International Irish Showband, The Monarchs, played at the Two Red Shoes, Elgin on 27 June and at Tain Town Hall on the 29th. If this was the group Van Morrison was part of, 1963 would be the first of two visits to Elgin Scotland’s, Two Red Shoes ballroom.

When Van Morrison and Them visited NE Scotland to perform at the Two Red Shoes [1965], it was not without incident though enjoyed by those who attended their performances. Northern Ireland journalist, Chris Ryder, wrote: “in Elgin rag students captured them…all were mobbed and lost cufflinks, ties and even shoes”). David Hay who was involved in the “kidnapping” wrote: “We were students at Aberdeen from 1962 to 1966 and during the Easter holidays we ran a local charities campaign which culminated in the Charities Ball in the 2 red shoes. We painted strips of newsprint with poster paint and hung them like wallpaper in the dance hall. The top was stapled to the plaster board and the bottom parts were sellotaped to the formica panels.

Aberdeen Student Union decorating the Two Red Shoes.

One of the years, I can’t remember which one, some of the guys met the group Them with Van Morrison who were playing in the 2 red shoes that night, and persuaded them to pretend to be kidnapped. They spent the afternoon in our charities headquarters where I and others were painting the decorations for the Charities Ball. They whiled away the afternoon with a case of cans of McEwan’s export. Albert Bonici donated some money to the charities campaign to effect their release.”
One of the songs was “Gloria” which brought Van Morrison international fame years before he released “Moondance” in 1970. It was in Glasgow where the band got their break and did a short tour in the north-east ending in Aberdeen:

Van Morrison has recently performed for BBC1 and his hits have recently been re-released


Inspired by Van Morrison’s song of the same name, Moondance [1994] was one of my earliest b&w cut/paste collages. [copyright DJ Dills] More illustrations at Mystic Eyes [1965]


My research began in 2007 as a visitor to the north of Scotland. With a fascination for the beat music era that took place throughout the UK, my research investigates the late '50s through early 1970s. Relying on interviews, the Albert Bonici archives, and other resources, I continue to gather materials to tell the story of a special time in music in the mid 20th century. Scottish promoter, Albert Bonici, brought many of the top beat music acts to Scotland which delighted music lovers during the early days of the beat music era. SCOTBEAT was created to share a bit of history about the BEAT years in Scotland and remembers the contributions of promoter, Albert Bonici, a man with a vision who, with the help of his family and staff, created a happening that is still fondly remembered by those who attended dances and concerts. Besides other local resources and interviews, SCOTBEAT presents exclusive photos, adverts, and documents from the A Bonici Archives [circa 1960s]. Unless otherwise agreed, materials are not to be used for financial gain and ask that you respect the terms below. Materials presented are not to be used for financial gain without consent. © 2014-2019 All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be copied, redistributed, broadcast or published in any form without crediting this blog and/or copyright websites mentioned. All correspondence, flyers, programs, and photos from the Bonici Archives are not to appear in print other than through the propietor of SCOTBEAT. Use of the site signifies your agreement to all of these terms without condition. Please reference when sharing materials found here as the site is continuously updated to present the subject matter accurately and as a historical resource. Thank you.

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Posted in 1960's pop music

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