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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (P)
Ian Powrie


I wanted to add our Ian Powrie, who we lost in October. His daughter sent me the link, an excerpt of his video, the Ian Powrie Story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNgysjtF2CQ

William Powrie, his father, was a ploughman, learning music by ear in a bothy. I can't figure out how to freeze frame off a video. I know he served in the RAF during WWII, and I love a shot of his plane, and how his Da taped a pillow and his boots to the bicycle, so he strapped the child sized fiddle on his back then plopped Ian on the pillow, stuck his feet into the boots, so he was secured Ian that way and took him to Coupar Angus, for his lesson. Only Mary on the piano read music, and brother bill won more contests, but living in a remote town in rural Oregon, Ian WAS Scotland to us!

Da played his 78's on a 1903 Edison Talking machine, and my Da would listen over and over, and then took his pipes to the covered car park. My Minnie/Mum was a Sassenach, so only allowed the chanter in the house, but she taught his Gaelic to us, and we learned to lean "North the Tweed"!

Ian was a great person, with many gifts besides music. A cousin Will Powrie, Bill's son found a box of wire tapes when moving house, and converted them to CD, the Bankhead tapes bio was added to the CD. It is some of his finest music. sent to another Band leader in North America for comment, then sent back. The find made Ian happy to hear them again. I can hook anyone who wants a copy up with his email...

Bankhead Tapes

The “Powrie ”name is well known in Scottish music circles- Ian Powrie and his band had a very loyal following in the 60s. Broadcasting on Television, and touring all over the world , accompanying Andy Stewart in concerts , as well as backing him on many of recordings. . We all used to look forward to The New Year TV programme featuring Andy Stewart and the Ian Powrie Band, but these days have long since passed !

Some of the “more senior” followers of Scottish accordion playing will also remember Will Powrie, who recorded 78’s on the Beltona label in the 1930’s. Known as “The Angus Ploughman”, Will Powrie recorded “Ane, Twa, Three, Fower Five and Sax” in early June 1932 at Peckham, London and in May 1933 at the Guild Hall in Perth he recorded a 78 record with his son Ian on the Fiddle at the age of 9. ( PA Photo?).(Name tracks?) If anyone has a copy of Ane & Twa please contact me.

Bill Powrie played for while in the early Ian Powrie band, but left to do his national service in about 1950. His place in the band was taken by none other than Jimmy Blue, who teamed up with Mickie Ainsworth, to form the most formidable accordion duo ever to grace a stage.

Bill Powrie is less well known than either his father Will, or his famous brother, Ian.

However, those who heard him play, and in particular, his fellow professionals, hold him in very high regard, for his playing ability. He had perfect pitch, very rare in accordion players of his time, and he was always looking to add richness to his playing, using different harmonies, on both left and right hand.

Three years in succession (1977-9) he won the Perth & Kinross Accordion & Fiddle Club New Tune Competition: Schianbank Two Step , Cherrybank Polka , and Capt. RB Cooper . He said to me after the third win, that the judges had commented to him, that the winning entry stood head & shoulders above the rest. He was so proud of his achievement, and reckoned that most button key players would struggle to play some of the harmonies incorporated in his winning tunes. Given the “sook- blaw” nature of the chromatic accordion, it is more difficult to reach certain notes, when changing the direction of the bellows, compared to the piano accordion. It is the richness of the harmonies, and the smoothness and tightness of his playing, which distinguishes Bill’s playing from many of his contempories.

Willie Simpson, a great friend, who played with him on many occasions, told Bill that The Cherrybank Polka, was “rubbish and you‘ll never win anything with that tune”. “Aye, said Bill “but just listen tae what am dain wi’ma left hand, Bill replied. Willie confessed later that he could not stop whistling the tune (“always the sign of a good tune”) and it went on to win the New Tune Competition!

Of the three winning compositions only Schianbank Two Step was ever recorded, on a Jimmy Blue a LP, and if anyone has a recording of the other two, I would be very interested to hear from you. Please contact me at billpowrie@bigfoot.com

John Crawford of Freuchie says “ Bill’s playing was typical of the Powrie sound- it had that “bight” you get from the button key , but had that “tightness of playing ” which became his trademark”

Bill Wilkie says “Bill was a natural musician. He had perfect pitch, a rare gift. He also had an ear for good harmonies and was always seeking better and fresh chord sequences.

As a youngster, I was given a toy cardboard button-key accordion for my Christmas and Bill wrote out the notes for “The Duke of Perth”for me. My wee brother, Alan, received a guitar, and whilst I was trying to knock out a tune on the wee accordion, in the living room at 3 Paradise Place, Kintillo, Bill spent hours in the kitchen, trying to work out chords on the guitar with Alan. He taught us how to introduce an “F Diminished” into the last few bars of “Oh Believe Me of all Those Endearing Young Charms”. To this day, we always pause, and smile when we reach that note, in memory of out Uncle Bill !

Willie Simpson who played with Bill on many occasions, describes Bill as a “perfectionist”. On one occasion they stayed up till 4a.m practising one tune* for a country dance the following night. In the third part there was tricky section, and Bill would not go to bed until he had mastered it, and of course, Willie had to stay up with him ! On the night of the dance, when it came to playing that particular tune, Bill came up to a very tired Willie, and suggested they play another ,easier, tune instead !. As Willie says, the dancers would not have noticed the difference, but Bill himself would have!

(Willie Simpson will confirm it was General Stuart’s reel* ?) 01738 880264

The “Bankhead Tapes” is musical greeting card with a difference. When he died my Grandfather, Will Powrie left me a box of reel to reel tapes, which featured him playing alongside my Uncle Bill. Since our reel to reel tape recorder, given to my father by Ian, had long since been taken to the tip, I never played these tapes, until I recently moved house, and came across the box. Borrowing an old reel to reel tape recorder from my friend Stu, I discovered a musical treasure trove of both Bill and Wull playing together.

Several tapes had been posted to the USA, and were addressed to: Jim Denham, 229 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA (PHOTO of tape box ?). Many of you will know that, when Jimmy Shand left Auchtermuchty to work for Forbes in Dundee, as an accordion salesman, he went to live with Mr and Mrs Jim Denholm. (See Jimmy Shand’s Biography). Bill would ,on a regular basis, send a tape to Jim Denham, who would listen to it, and return it to Bill. The box also contained tapes addressed to Jim Cameron in Kirriemuir.

At the beginning of The Bankhead Tapes you will hear Bill introduce the music, and at the end , send his best wishes to Jim and his family from all the Powries at Bankhead. Bankhead Farm, Dupplin, near Forteviot,was where my grandfather lived during his time as farm manager on Lord Forteviot’s Estate. In those days, when the telephone rang and it was “The Laird” on the phone, Wull would take off his bunnet as a mark of respect! He looked after Lady Forteviot’s shorthorn cattle, and I used to have a set of cufflinks with the initials WP, which were presented to my grandfather on his retirement, thanking him for all his help with the prize winning herd.

Bill would practice for hours in his room at Bankhead, as the acoustics were particularly good , and it was from there that these tapes would regularly cross the ocean to give pleasure to Jim Denholm.

I felt that it was appropriate for me to preserve these tapes on CD, because I want to ensure that Bill’s playing is preserved for the benefit of all lovers of Scottish Music, and because many enthusiasts may have missed the opportunity to hear the quality of his playing. He did not receive the same pubic adulation of his more famous brother, but was highly regarded by his fellow professionals. All up and coming young accordionists will enjoy hearing a collection of traditional tunes played in Bill’s particular style.

On side 2, of The Bankhead Tapes, you will also hear several duets with his Father Wull, playing a Double Ray melodeon, with Bill playing the accompaniment, to provide some lovely harmonies, on some rare old tunes. One tune was written by an old fiddler friend of Wull’s, they shared the bothy together, - “Auld Rattray”. The accompaniment on these tracks contrasts favourably with some old 78 recordings, where the accompaniment to the box, was often someone vamping on the piano, in the same key throughout, to emulate the drones on the bagpipes !

On one part of the tape (not reproduced here), Mickie Ainsworth drops in and plays two tunes: Dark Island and Pennies from Heaven, demonstrating his virtuosity on the piano accordion.

Bill was brought up to the sound of music being played around the house and in the bothy. His early influences were his father Will Powrie, who played a melodeon , and also Jimmy Shand, who was a great friend of the family. They would often play together. As neither Will or Jimmy were great readers of music , in the early days, my Auntie Mary would often play a piece of written music for them, till they got the hang of it , and played it by ear ! My Grandad, Will Powrie, came in third at the Alyth Music Festival in 1931? and Jimmy Shand was second. (See Jimmy Shand’s autobiography)

Among his musical heroes were Will Starr and Torulf Tollefsen, both of whom who played at the Perth Music Festival organised by Bill Wilkie. One day whilst on the dodgems at the Shows in Perth, Bill heard a continental piece of music being played on a button key coming from the kiosk. When the ride was over, he asked the operator who was playing. It turned out to be Will Starr, playing The Martelette Polka, and his love of Will Starr, and his playing ,was born.

On the farm at Bankhead, they had a sheepdog called Flo. As soon as Bill struck up the first two notes of the Cuckoo Waltz (Track 13)–another Starr tune- Flo would howl like a wolf! When Ian & Leila Powrie were listening to the Bankhead Tapes in Australia recently, there own dog started to howl, just like Flo. Leila wrote to tell me that the tears just ran down her cheeks, as she was transported back all these years to Bankhead, and Bill playing one of his favourite tunes in the kitchen.

Bill later played another Will Starr tune- Entrainante* on a Jimmy Blue album. A measure of their close relationship was when Bill was asked by Will Starr’s widow to play at his graveside.

* (possibly bonus track ?)

Bill was indeed a perfectionist and on the tapes from which The Bankhead Tapes has been extracted, you can hear him practice, over and over again, in order to achieve a result with which he was happy.

Like so many talented artists he probably never achieved the public recognition in his lifetime, which is talent deserved. Listen for yourself and you can judge where he stands alongside the players of his generation.

Bill Powrie
November 2005

Biography

Dob 6th May 1931

Dod ? May 1980 aged 48

Born at Easter Essendy? near Blairgowrie and went to school at ?

Ian Powrie Band :

Went to study agriculture in Edinburgh and completed his National Diploma in Agriculture( NDA) = 1949

RAF Hong Kong - 18 months national service. Jimmy Blue took over his seat in the Ian Powrie band. December 1952

Jim Cameron Band 1955-?

Employed as a Grain Merchant with D&J Galloway York Place Perth

Went Solo-set up his own business as a grain merchant & farmer at Schianbank Farm, Scone near Perth. Played with Jim Brown from Kintillo.

Founder member of Perth and District Accordion and Fiddle Club .Treasurer from 1971 – 1979.

Mull Accordion Fiddle Festival June 1980 – died of a massive heart attack in Mish Nish Hotel in Tobermory ,owned by Bobby MacLeod.

Stories

1. When Bill went to Hong Kong to do his National service he sent a telegram home, asking his mum to send out his “box“ as he was missing it so much! His mother sent his accordion by air mail to him, and it must have cost a fortune.

2. Whilst in Hong Kong Bill played on the radio in a talent competition on the Carl Lewis Show - similar to Opportunity Knocks. The winner was a female vocalist, who sang the Doris Day song “Secret love.” Bill came in second. Next day he received a phone call from Chief of police in Hong Kong. He was a great friend of Bill’s father, Will Powrie, and he invited Bill to lunch, and gave him a Police motorbike to explore Hong Kong on his off duty!

3 With Jim Cameron Band they travelled down to play the Newcastle Town Hall in the early days of double yellow lines. As they were unloading the gear from the back of the bus, it was approached by a keen young traffic warden. Jim engaged the warden in conversation, as the band members unloaded the gear. When it was all safely inside the hall, Bill went to the front of the bus, to see what was happening. The traffic warden was sat in the front seat, drinking from a half-bottle of whisky, conveniently produced from under the drivers seat. “Is everything Ok ,”Bill enquired?” “Och aye”, said Jim. “He’s a fine crackin’ lad. His faither comes fae Kirrie!”

4. One member of the band in which Bill was playing had been married before, as had his wife. He had two children from his first marriage, his wife had two children from her first marriage, and there marriage had produced two more.

On a Saturday night after playing in the village hall, it was customary for the band to go for a drink, before heading home. One Saturday, Bill asked the band member if he was going for a drink. When he received a negative reply, Bill was surprised and asked the reason. “Well,” he said “ I’ve just had a phone call to say that her bairns and my bairns, are fechtin’ wi’ oor bairns !”

Acknowledgments

Bill Wilkie
Mickie Ainsworth
Willie Simpson
Bill Dean Myatt
Duncan Cameron-Perth Accordion and Fiddle Club
Joan Blue
Jayne Kettles
Ian , Leila and Ailsa Powrie
David Cunningham, Thane Multimedia
Mary & Sandie Dawe

Mary Powrie Schacht
Portland, Oregon

Some pictures captured from the video by John Henderson,,,

I also attach my copy of Ian playing one of my favourites of his,‘Margaret Ann Robertson’ with a spoken request from Jimmy Blue (by the sound of the voice!).

Here is an mp3 track that John sent in

Listen also to...

Waltzing Matilda
Tribute to Stan Hamilton
Peerie Willie


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