Cammy Forbes is the former singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player with Underhand Jones, The Dolphins and David Forbes ... a prolific musician, equally adept on piano/keyboards as he was on guitar with a powerful voice that easily coped at both ends of the register, he was one of the foremost figures in the Glasgow band scene from the late 70s to the mid 80s …..Cammy was one of the main inspirations for this website and has kindly given GB80 this interview
Cammy Forbes Interview April 2006
How did you get in to music ?
I taught myself to play guitar and piano and sort of came from an entertainment background, my mother was a singer in theatres and my sister was a dancer, when I asked my parents for a guitar they bought me a piano as well parents are great that way aren’t they ? I was really into football until I was sixteen then I turned to music.
When did you decide to get into a band ?
Well I managed to sneak into “The Doune Castle” one night in the early seventies and got to watch a band playing covers at the time and the singer looked really confident and really looked like he knew what he was doing, it was at that point that I said to myself “That’s what I want to do “because up until then I was just writing and playing guitar and piano in my bedroom.
What was your favourite venue when you played with The Dolphins ?
It must be “The Dial Inn” it was one of the only places you could play in the afternoon, leave your gear set up then come back and play again that night and it was always packed, the crowd were always very forgiving, ready to accept new material and ideas, it just had a great atmosphere.
The pub scene has changed for local bands now what do you think those changes are ?
Places like “The Cathouse”, “Nice and Sleazy” and “King Tutts” all have their own P.A. systems and that for a start will affect how good a band will sound, gigs can have as much as five bands playing in one night in these places all they have to do is sell forty or fifty tickets at the door mostly sold to their friends and that’s it, to be fair bands don’t really get a chance to build up a following these days. We had our own P.A. and sound engineer and filled the place with fans who wanted to hear our songs, the pub made money from the bar, the band got paid and the chance to play and the punters got to see a band playing original songs for free.
In 1983 “The Dolphins” went to London to record some tracks, did you ever play there ?
We recorded “Leaving”, “Got to dream tonight”, “The Outsider” and “Street Fights” and we played in Chelsea University but not many gigs on that trip. Later on we did tour with Cris Rhea playing “The Wimbledon theatre” in London and other theatres up and down the country finishing at “The Coatham Bowl” in Newcastle, although I must admit we did miss the comfort zone of our own crowds in Glasgow.
Is it true The Dolphins appeared in front of royalty ?
Yes we played in front of Prince Charles and Princess Diana for the princes trust concert in the Kings Theatre in September 1983.
How did it feel to play the Kelvingrove concert in 1983 ?
A lot of work had to be put into organising that concert, we had to get permission from the Police and Glasgow city council for the go ahead before worrying about equipment, lights and the gig itself, then there were the news shoots and interviews beforehand. We knew a lot of people would turn up but when we looked out from backstage before we went on and it was full, we said…”shit there are about 4000 people out there”!! But the crowd got well into it; it was a great night finishing with a fireworks display, so yes it was my favourite gig, very special.
What was your role in Underhand Jones ?
I played guitar did backing vocals as well as most of the writing, I was still working on my voice around that time and needed to build on my confidence more than anything, I worked hard at it, losing my voice a few times along the way, eventually it was strong enough to take on lead vocals live around the time “The Dolphins” started.
What Venues did you play with Underhand Jones
The Amphora” in Glasgow and “The Victorian Carriage” in Greenock were some of our main gigs but the biggest gig we played was “The loch Lomond rock festival” in 1978 alongside The Boomtown Rats, Violinski, The Average White Band and The Buzzcocks.
Where did the names Underhand Jones and The Dolphins come from ?
With “Underhand Jones” we just shouted out words until we found something that would stick, one of the guys shouted “Underhand” then someone else shouted “Jones” that was it really. With The Dolphins we were looking at the creature idea of bands like The Animals and The Beatles so we just said “What animal does everybody love”? So we came up with The Dolphins everybody likes dolphins don’t they? ( Ok I know it’s a mammal) we did run the risk of it sounding a bit naff but it worked, if the music is good any name will work.
Who where your influences and what do you listen to today ?
“America” good four part harmonies, a British band called “ Vander Graff Generator”, “Alice Cooper”, “Bruce Springsteen”, “John Miles” and “Uriah Heap”. I don’t really listen to a lot of new bands these days I don’t get The Kaiser Chiefs at all !!... They appeal to their own generation I suppose and there is nothing wrong with that, I just don’t think bands like that will have any longevity but that’s the way it goes, you become your father and all of a sudden you don’t get the younger generations music anymore but I believe it is their job to shout back at my generation the same way I did when I was their age.
What do you think of the local band scene now ?
I work with a lot of bands these days and although there are exceptions it annoys me to see that some of them don’t even know how to use the equipment they have, they buy guitars and amps and don’t even know how they work relying on racks of effects pedals that try to reproduce what the guitars and amps are already capable of, to me it’s like having a car and getting someone else to drive it because you can’t be bothered to learn how it works, when I played I set my gear up so that when the volume on my guitar was turned down low I had a clean sound I turned it up for a distorted sound and cranked it up full for solos also bands have access to much more technology now with PCs, it’s easy to make your own CDs and album covers etc.. I would have loved to have had that technology when we played.
You went to America in 1983 what did you do there ?
Yes I went over there first when I was with The Dolphins to speak to some record companies and took over recordings of “Stay”,” The Story of Life”. “Me and Know One Else”, “Tonight” and “Too Late” I spoke to companies like R.C.A, Warner Bros, E.M.I, and Geffen Records and they showed a lot of interest and I went back again promoting David Forbes in 1984.
You put strings on some of those recordings which was unusual for a local Glasgow band ?
We used a twelve piece string orchestra on “Stay” and “The Story of Life” (Which cost a fortune) because I really liked the idea of the sound of an orchestra with a rock band it was different for that time, in fact thinking about it now I think that could have put some record companies off because of the high production cost of our recordings.
Did you ever get a record deal ?
No, we did get a publishing deal with “Rondor music” which helped to buy some new equipment and we signed to a management company called “Checkmount” who where handling bands like A Flock of Seagulls at the time but we never got a record contract, funny thing is , I met Nik Kershaw at “Rondor Music” offices in London and he had just signed his record deal, two years later he is playing in front of millions at Live Aid but that’s the way it goes, he was a talented musician.
How did the David Forbes band happen ?
The Dolphins came to an end quite abruptly and we played our last gig in Bathgate if I remember correctly…a lot of record companies where still very interested and I was still keen to carry on so I managed to put a band together in about three to four weeks, I think it helped that The Dolphins had such a good reputation at the time so getting musicians together for David Forbes was surprisingly easy, we had Davy Edgar the original drummer from The Dolphins Eddy Walton Jnr the ex guitarist from “Underhand Jones” on guitar, (young) Scott Ramsey on Bass and Brian McNeil on keyboards who later went on to play with China Crisis.
A special thankyou to Cammy Forbes for giving the llsite its first exclusive interview and for being so helpful.
"Flying Solo" The programme write up from the 1985 Kelvingrove Festival when Campbell had just gone solo as " "David Forbes" with a new Band line up.
"Part 1 of the audio recording from the 2007 Interview"
Below, The Dolphins reunion 2012 at Ivory Blacks in Glasgow.