Jimmy Shand

(1908—2000) accordionist and dance-bandleader

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b. James Shand, 28 January 1908, East Wemyss, Fife, Scotland, d. 23 December 2000, Perth, Scotland. The leading exponent of Scottish country dance music, accordionist and band leader Shand’s remarkable career stretched over a period of 60 years. Shand was one of nine children of a coal miner, and followed his father down the pit at the age of 14. More importantly, he also learnt how to play melodeon, becoming a fluent exponent of a wide-ranging repertoire of traditional jigs, reels and polkas. Shand left the mining industry following the General Strike of 1926, taking up employment with the Fife Power Company until 1933 when he was hired as an accordion salesman and demonstrator by the J.T. Forbes Music Shop in Dundee. He made his first button accordion recording for Regal Zonophone Records the same year, and shortly afterwards gave his first performance on the wireless. A productive recording relationship with the Beltona label ensued, but it was not until the end of World War II that Shand elected to become a full-time musician. He formed the Jimmy Shand Band, comprising Shand, George McKelvey (accordion), Dave Ireland (fiddle), Owney McCabe (drums) and Johnny Knight (piano), and signed an exclusive recording contract with Parlophone Records. The band soon became an institution on the Saturday evening broadcasts of the BBC Scottish Home Service, and in 1955 enjoyed a Top 20 hit with ‘Bluebell Polka’ although the musicians’ only reward was a £12 session fee. During the subsequent decade Shand became a regular on the nation’s television screens, appearing on the BBC shows The White Heather Club and Top Of The Pops. He also attracted a 20, 000 strong audience to an open-air concert in Aberdeen. Shand retired in 1972, retreating to his beloved home village in Auchtermuchty, Fife. In 1978 he was the subject of the popular UK television programme This Is Your Life. He enjoyed an unexpected revival in 1994 when the music video Dancing With The Shands, featuring a 1990 live performance by Shand and his son Jimmy Jnr. at Letham village hall in Angus, broke into the Top 10 of the UK video charts. Five years later Shand was knighted by the Prince of Wales for services to Scottish culture. Previous awards had included an MBE in 1962, the Freedom of Fife, and an honorary degree from Dundee University.


From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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