Eight musicians you didn’t know were Mackems

Emeli Sande
Emeli Sande
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It’s well known that Dave Stewart, The Futureheads and Frankie & the Heartstrings fly the flag for Sunderland sounds. But today we look at some of the artists you may not have known had roots in Wearside.

1. Eric Boswell

Many believe it to be an age-old traditional Christmas carol, but Little Donkey actually hit the charts in 1959 after it was penned by Sunderland-born Eric Boswell.

The song – originally written as a children’s Christmas carol – proved a hit for both Gracie Fields and the Beverley Sisters in November of that year.

Eric, the son of a tailor, was brought up in Millfield. He took up music lessons at the age of seven and went on to become a composer.

One of Eric’s proudest achievements came in 1983 when he set one of Catherine Cookson’s best-selling novels – Katie Mullholland – to music.

The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981

The Toy Dolls at the Sunderland Echo offices, Pennywell, March 1981

During his varied career he also worked with Frank Wappat, Spectrum, Mick Macabe and Consett opera singer Graeme Danby.

But it is for Little Donkey that Eric, who died in 2009, is best remembered.

2.Emeli Sandé

Though she has a distinctive Scottish lilt, this chart-topper was actually born in Sunderland after her parents met at Sunderland University. She moved to Aberdeenshire when she was four and went on to have great success with tracks including Read All About It with Professor Green, Next to Me and Beneath Your Beautiful.

Franz Ferdinand at Pop Recs in Fawcett Street

Franz Ferdinand at Pop Recs in Fawcett Street

3.Lauren Laverne

Most people will know the BBC 6Music presenter is a Mackem, but did you know she was in a pop punk band in the early ‘90s? Lauren was at the helm as lead vocalist and guitarist in Kenickie, which also consisted of her brother Peter Gofton (Johnny X) on drums, lead guitarist and occasional lead vocalist Marie du Santiago (Anne Marie Nixon) and bass guitarist Emmy-Kate Montrose (Emma Jackson).

The band’s name came from their favourite character in the 1970s film Grease. Their debut album reached No.9 in the charts and drew them much critical acclaim.

4.Toy Dolls

Lauren Laverne (centre) while playing in  Kenickie  24 october 1996

Lauren Laverne (centre) while playing in Kenickie 24 october 1996

Best-known for their punk rock cover of children’s classic Nellie the Elephant, which broke the Top 5, Toy Dolls was fronted by Sunderland’s Pete Zulu,

The Toy Dolls - featuring Pete Zulu and Michael ‘Olga’ Algar on vocals, Phillip Dugdale on bass and Colin Scott on drums - played their first ever gig at Millview Social Club to a “very sparse” crowd before taking the post-punk era by storm.

In August they announced they would be celebrating their 35th anniversary with a string of festival appearances across Europe.

As well as keeping his hand in with music, Pete is a celebrated chef who has run the kitchen at Throwing Stones at National Glass Centre and The Black Horse in Boldon.

5.Ruth-Ann Boyle

Back in 1997, You’re Not Alone dominated the airwaves. It showcased the distinctive voice of Sunderland-born Ruth-Ann Boyle, who fronted band Olive. The track went on to hit the top spot in the charts and is still played on dancefloors today.

6.Alex Kapranos

The frontman of Franz Ferdinand grew up in Sunderland and South Shields before moving to Glasgow and launching a successful music career. Last year he returned to his old stomping ground when the Brit Award-winning band performed an intimate set at Pop Recs Ltd in Fawcett Street.

Their hit tracks include the anthemic Take Me Out.

7.A Tribe of Toffs

Novelty pop band A Tribe of Toffs are best remembered for their 1988 Top 40 single, John Kettley is a Weatherman.

The band was formed in 1986 by four pupils from Bede Comprehensive School - Stephen Cousins, Andrew Stephenson, Michael ‘Motch’ Haggerton and Philip Rodgers.

They were noticed after sending a tape of their songs to children’s TV presenter Andy Crane.

8. Bryan Ferry

The Roxy Music singer is often cited as coming from Newcastle, but he was actually raised in Washington. He attended Washington Grammar-Technical School, now Washington School, on Spout Lane from 1957. He’s had an illustrious career as a band frontman and solo singer, with tracks including Love is the Drug, Angel Eyes and Jealous Guy.