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Obituary - Tom Alexander MBE 

25th June 1934 - 9th Jan 2020

On the 9th January this year, our music scene lost one of the most well respected and decorated musicians we have ever had the privilege of knowing and listening to, Mr Tom Alexander MBE. 

For the best part of 60 years, Tom along with brother Jack, The Alexander Brothers graced the stage, a partnership that would see them travel the world delighting audiences with their songs, music and charisma, recording a multitude of best-selling records, amassing a huge fan base and becoming two of Scotland’s most recognised ambassadors. 

For me, Tom was always the consummate professional when playing Solo. I had the pleasure of watching Tom perform at my local accordion club, Seghill and from that moment on as a 14 year old boy, I learnt so much from Tom’s playing ability and stage craft, that has inevitably enabled me and others to further our own musical careers using the tips and techniques that Tom showcased at each of his performances. 

Tom possessed a depth of qualities not just in his playing of the piano accordion, but his ability to connect with his audience. I witnessed him at our accordion club sit and listen to all of the local artists before retiring to his dressing room to change into his kilt ready for his first performance. He was always immaculately dressed, beautifully presented on stage, an endearing smile for all to see and his playing to top it off was something to behold. He always offered a kind word to each of the players who had supported the evening. There were no airs or graces, he was a genuine, kind individual who had such a wonderful talent, he can only be described as a very humble gentleman. 

His playing was of outstanding quality, he tackled pieces that others could only dream of playing. He was of course classically trained in his early years and this set the grounding for Tom to play pieces such as The Carnival of Venice, Lady of Spain, Pistonette and The Poet and Peasant Overture with total ease. He was such a controlled player and another quality was his ability to choose material that suited his audiences. He would start his performances usually with something devilishly difficult like Lady of Spain featuring a bass solo, then into Happy Hours and a set of Shetland Reels. He would continue with favourites such as The Cuckoo Waltz, The Mad March Hare and The Spanish Gypsy Dance. He would then slow the tempo down with The Dark Island or Highland Cathedral and then finish his first set with The Typewriter and The Savoy American Medley. Such a diverse repertoire, there is no wonder why Tom became my idol and my hero. 

In 2005, Tom and Jack were awarded a well deserved MBE for their services to Light Entertainment. They both were hugely proud of this honour and they continued performing until 2012. After Jack’s passing in 2013, Tom continued to perform solo for a couple of years but with his health declining in the latter years he decided to retire in early 2016. 

When I heard about Tom’s retirement I was of course deeply saddened. I immediately thought of celebrating Tom’s long and successful career and mark his legacy with an afternoon to remember for him. In August 2016 I organised a Lifetime Achievement Concert in The Salutation Hotel, Perth, a day that will live long in the memory for many. When I phoned Tom to ask him if he would accept the invitation, he was so overwhelmed that someone would do such a thing for him, again so humble with his attitude. We recorded a CD showcasing a tribute to Tom. Myself and The All Star Band performed his greatest hits in front of Tom’s 300 plus fans who had travelled huge distances to be there for such a memorable occasion. We presented Tom with his award, a bottle of malt whisky and a pocket watch with The Flying Scotsman inscribed on it. He received three voluntary standing ovations over the course of the afternoon and Tom contacted me the very next morning to thank me for the hospitality he received. It was unfortunate that his lovely wife Betty couldn’t make that day due to a broken hip, but since that day I have had a couple of conversations with Betty and she was always complimentary on the way I treated Tom that day. On one occasion when Tom was admitted to a care home in 2018, I visited on my afternoon off and met with Tom and gave him and the other residents a 45 minute concert where I played most of Tom’s compositions and favourite tunes. It was such an experience to see his face light up as each new piece was played. Sometimes you have to go that extra mile for the people who really deserve it, and Tom was one of those people. He deserved all of the accolades he received. Betty heard about this impromptu concert and promptly phoned and left a lovely message thanking me for being so thoughtful and kind. 

It is fair to say that we have lost a legend of our time, he will be greatly missed and fondly thought of for many years to come, but his music and legacy lives on in others and we can now be rest assured that Tom and Jack, The Alexander Brothers are now back together again in the theatre in the sky. 

Leonard Brown 

Check out
Leonard Brown’s Tribute to
Tom Alexander