The Average White Band

Their self-effacing name to the contrary, Average White Band was anything but -- one of the few white groups to cross the color line and achieve success and credibility playing funk, with their tight, fiery sound also belying their Scottish heritage, evoking American R&B hotbeds like Detroit, Memphis, and Philadelphia instead. Singer/bassist Alan Gorrie, guitarists Hamish Stuart and Onnie McIntyre, tenor saxophonist Malcolm Duncan, keyboardist/saxophonist Roger Ball, and drummer Robbie McIntosh comprised the original Average White Band lineup. Veterans of numerous Scottish soul and jazz groups, they made their debut in 1973 as the opening act at Eric Clapton's Rainbow Theatre comeback gig, soon issuing their debut LP, Show Your Hand, to little notice. After adopting the abbreviated moniker AWB, a year later the band issued their self-titled sophomore effort, topping the American pop charts with the Arif Mardin-produced instrumental "Pick Up the Pieces." The record's mammoth success was nevertheless tempered by the September 23, 1974 death of McIntosh, who died at a Hollywood party after overdosing on heroin.