ALAN GILLIES - HISTORY - PROLOGUE
The summer of '69; eventually a hit song for the then-8-year-old Bryan Adams, but at the time, the Summer of Love in Haite-Asbury, the height of the war in Vietnam, James Marshall Hendrix played at Woodstock, and Armstrong & Aldren placed their feet firmly upon the surface of the moon.
In completion of a much smaller dream, in the city of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, at 2:00 PM on August 1st, Warren & Darlene Gillies celebrated the birth of their first son, Alan Alexander.
While in Portage, young Alan's love for not only his family but also music & law enforcement developed, as his parents boarded in their home not only an RCMP officer (whose Smith & Wesson .38 was an obect of much serious adoration), but also then-undiscovered Neepawa/Nashville songwriter Larry Novak. Within 9 months, fate would bring the growing Gillies family back to Darlene's hometown of Neepawa, where she and Warren had met years earlier, and where Alan's only sibling Neil William would soon be born, Neil to eventually develop reknown as a hockey player, marry his one true love, take over the family business and raise a family of his own.
A true Canadian of Scot-Irish & French heritage ("Alan Gillies" is a truly Celtic name, translating from Gaelic as "handsome servant of Jesus"), young Alan's musical pedigree was almost written in stone. His uncle Murray Davie had been a recording artist in the 70's, and continues to be an influence to this day; American cousin Rick Lupien is bandleader for the DuWayne Heyd Show in Grand Forks; many relatives (including both parents) played or play guitar, piano, harmonica, bagpipes or violin, or sang in church.
Thus Alan began studying music as many do, in Sunday School. His formal training didn't begin until age 6, when he began Royal Conservatory of Music piano lessons at HMK in Neepawa, but ended when his father was transfered to Virden, Manitoba. At that time his parents insisted Alan continue to study piano, while Alan demanded to switch to guitar; the resulting deadlock continued until the Virden Junior High Grade 5 curriculum included guitar within its Music Appreciation class (the pregnant teacher replaced mid-year by a religious woman who removed the six-strings and cast Alan as a lead in the musical "David & Goliath"; 30 young men, too cool to be in Band Class, were not amused to instead be singing "One Tin Soldier"). Meanwhile, family friend and newspaper columnist Molly Stewart had already begun to have Alan's original poetry and essays published.
The following summer, the Gillies family returned yet again to Neepawa, having recently acquired what would become Neepawa Tire Ltd., and Alan waqs fortunate enough to discover that the local Grade 6 Music Program included acoustic guitar. However, it would still be a few years before his interest in the instrument would become completely and overwhelmingly life-consuming.
It was apparently upon viewing the music video for Van Halen's "Jump" that the epiphany occurred. Alan almost immediately informed his parents, "I want a keyboard, and I want a guitar." Suddenly Rifle Club and baseball were no longer stimulating enough. Forcing Alan to make a choice, Warren bought him a weight bench.
That summer included Alan's first real concert, at North Dakota's State Fair, ...Huey Lewis & the News. From this point on, there would be no stopping our young hero. From microphone to harmonica and then to his first guitar (a Harmony strat-copy electric Darlene ordered from the Sears catalogue), followed by a borrowed Korg synthesizer, Alan's musical armoury grew to include several electric guitars, a Roland Juno 60 synth, and various drums and harmonicas. Taking a lesson each in keyboard and guitar, Alan realized that his abilities exceeded the constraints placed upon him by his instructors, as his knowledge of music theory and his performance ability, while self-taught, were advanced by both talent and desire.
Now completely enamoured with chasing concerts, and at time chasing skirts, our hero began emaulating HIS heroes, and in 1985 when Michael J. Fox potrayed Marty McFly in the film "Back To The Future", the Chuck Berry/Van Halen/ Huey Lewis-worshipping quintessential 80's teen that thanks to TBS will never be forgotten, Alan began to consider the possibility that his dreams weren't unrealistic. Embrasing the music of a past era and that of the present? Was it "cool", or unheard of? In a style truly his own, he didn't really care. He'd already begun to write his own songs, and gain recognition as a performer, but was in obvious need of a band.