Brian Connolly PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 October 2008 08:18

Brian Francis McManus (Adopted surname)

Born: 5 October 1945  Hamilton, Scotland

Died: 9 February 1997

Age: 51

Cause of death: Liver failure.

Notable because: Singer for 'The Sweet'. Sang 'Ballroom Blitz.' Consumed by alcohol.

 

Brian Connolly was born in 1945 in Govanhill, Glasgow, (some early Sweet biographies claim he was born in 1949). Whilst the true identity of Brian's father was never made public, his mother was a teenaged waitress named Frances Connolly. He was left in a Glasgow hospital by his mother as an infant whilst possibly suffering effects of meningitis. He was fostered, aged two, by Jim and Helen McManus of Blantyre and took their family name. When he was aged about eighteen he inadvertently discovered his lineage and reverted to the name Connolly. His brother was not the late actor Mark McManus (who found fame in the title role of detective series "Taggart") as is occasionally claimed. Mark's father and Brian's foster father Jim were brothers, thus making Mark McManus his (foster) cousin. The confusion is largely due to the fact that Jim McManus also had a son named Mark, and he and Brian grew up together.

At the age of twelve Connolly moved to Harefield, Middlesex. Connolly played in a number of local bands before eventually replacing singer Ian Gillan (later of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fame) in a band called Wainwright's Gentlemen, which included drummer Mick Tucker. Wainwright's Gentlemen split up in 1968 without releasing any recordings. Connolly and Tucker remained together and then recruited guitarist Frank Torpey, and bassist Steve Priest. They named their new band Sweetshop. The group recorded several singles and eventually shortened their name to Sweet; Andy Scott joined the line-up in late 1970, just as the band started to become famous. Over the next eight years Connolly sang on many internationally successful singles and six albums with Sweet until his drinking problem caused him to leave the band in late 1978 although the announcement of his departure was not made public until March 1979. Andy Scott told Mojo magazine in 2008: "I think we'd known there was a problem [with Brian] as far back as the US tour in 1975. We'd say: 'Let's try having a non-drinking day', but it was hard."

After leaving Sweet, Connolly launched a solo career that had little success. Over the next three years he released a handful of singles ("Take Away The Music", "Don't You Know A Lady" and "Hypnotised") under his name but these made little or no impact on the charts. He also recorded a dozen or so new tracks but most never got past the demo stage, although one, the never-officially-released "Magic Circle" (1985), was a potent reminder of Brian's wonderfully melodic voice.

In late 1982 he survived multiple heart attacks in a single night, but his health was permanently affected.

At the start of 1983 Connolly supported Pat Benatar at Hammersmith Odeon, London with Connolly's Encore, a band that included most of the members of Verity (fronted by ex-Argent guitarist John Verity.) Also in the line-up that night was Terry Uttley, bass player from Smokie. Songs played included "Windy City", "Fox on the Run", "Hypnotized" and new numbers, "Sick and Tired", "Red Hair Rage" and "The Candle."

Despite ill health Connolly toured with his backing bands New Sweet and Brian Connolly's Sweet from 1984 onwards. In 1988 Connolly reunited in Los Angeles with former bandmates Scott, Priest and Tucker to rework studio versions of "Action" and "The Ballroom Blitz". This Mike Chapman-produced reunion floundered quickly and Brian went back to performing with his unknown and often changing backing band.

Sweet reunited again in 1990 for the promotion of a music video documentary and again there were rumours of a full band reunion which, ultimately, came to nought. However, by the late 1990s Connolly's previous drinking problem had taken a toll on his body, and he died of liver failure on 9 February 1997. He was survived by two daughters, Nicole and Michelle, and a son Brian James (BJ).

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 16:01
 

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