Remembering Sweet's Brian Connolly

02/10/2012
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(Gibson) On this day in 1997, Brian Connolly, singer with the 1970s glam rock group Sweet, died of kidney and liver failure at age 47. Connolly replaced Ian Gillan (later of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath) in Wainwright's Gentlemen, who became Sweetshop and then shortened their name to Sweet. Gibson takes a look back:

Perhaps no band embodied glam rock, at least visually, more than Sweet (or The Sweet, depending on which circa 1971 teenybopper you're talking to). With tight jumpsuits, bright and heavy guitars and uncomfortably high harmonies, Sweet were a staple of early '70s music programs. And at the front of the stage was an impossibly blonde singer named Brian Connolly.

Connolly was born on October 5, 1945 under the humblest of circumstances in the Govanhill district of Glasgow, Scotland. His mother was a teenage waitress who was abandoned by Connolly's father. By the age of two, he was living in foster care and was raised under their family name of McManus. His new family gave him love and stability in his growing years and fostered his love of music, as he often sang around the house in lieu of a television.

At the age of twelve, Brian's family moved to Harefield, Middlesex, England. It was here that he got his start as a musician, a path he pursued in earnest when he finished school. Having learned the identity of his mother around the age of 18, he took her family name of Connolly just as he was gaining a reputation for himself around town as a high-powered singer. After bumping around the North London scene for a bit, he finally found a home in an R&B-flavored band called Wainwright's Gentlemen, who were seeking a replacement for their departed singer, the future Deep Purple legend Ian Gillan.

In early 1968, Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker left Wainwright's Gentlemen for brighter pastures. They formed their own band, called The Sweetshop, bringing in Steve Priest from The Army to play bass and a friend of Tucker's, Frank Torpey, to play guitar. The group caught fire on the London club scene and quickly got a record deal with Fontana. On the eve of their first recording, they learned of another band recording under the name The Sweetshop, so they shortened their own moniker to The Sweet (or just, Sweet). more on this story

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