Chris McClure is one of Glasgow’s most remarkable performers. Still performing at the age of nearly 80, his career began in the social clubs of the 1960s. He was briefly part of the burgeoning beat group scene before returning to a more middle of the road oeuvre as Christian, the name under which he has traded since the early 1970s.
In doing so, he became a regular on television and radio in Scotland, as well clocking up dozens of pantomime appearances and most famously featured on Scotland’s 1982 World Cup record, I Have A Dream.
A rare non-white face in Scottish popular music from the 1960s onwards, his mother was Scottish and his father, who he barely knew, a black American entertainer, Chris Gill.
Brought up in Ibrox, his early interest was in football until he saw an advert looking for a singer in early 60s Glasgow beat group, The Fireflies. He was duly recruited and played around the pubs and clubs in the city while also working in a city-centre flour mill.
His big break came in 1965 when television producer, David Bell, spotted him and asked him to be one of the regulars on Stramash! – a tv pop show made in Scotland on the BBC. Here he appeared alongside the like of Lulu, Paul Simon, Tom Jones, Patti Labelle and other stars of the time.
This attracted interest from the London record companies and, over the next five years, went on to make a number of singles for the Decca and Polydor labels under either his own name or later as the Chris McClure Section. These were mostly underwhelming and made no impression on the charts, though the b-side of 1967’s ‘I’m Just A Country Boy’, ‘Hazy People’, is an interesting period piece.
At the start of the 1970s, the Chris McClure Section released one further single before a major change of direction for its leader. On the advice of his management – who though his name was not sufficiently rock’n’roll – McClure rebranded as Christian and returned to the Scottish club scene.
He appeared regularly on television in Scotland and even across the UK on Opportunity Knocks. This combined with a tour with Billy Connolly in 1975 and increasingly regular pantomine appearances meant that he became a well-known and liked, but simultaneously ridiculed public figure in Scotland. For the most part, he took it in good spirits and thrived. His debut album as Christian, The First Christian, came out on Polydor in 1976 and included a new version of ‘I’m Just a Country Boy’ as well as versions of ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.
Another late 70s album on Polydor achieved only moderate success – but he did finally make it to Top of the Pops in 1982 as part of the Scotland World Cup Squad – fully kilted and amongst a rogues gallery that included John Gordon Sinclair, B.A.Robertson, footballers and a pipe band.
Although this was something of a pinnacle, he spent much of the rest of the subsequent decades in the social clubs and theatres of the West of Scotland (and sometime further afield).
The original line up of the Chris McClure Section reformed briefly in 2006, but by 2012, he was back as Christian, and back near his childhood home, celebrating fifty years in showbiz at the Fairfield Social Club in Govan.
Remarkably, he has continued to perform in his seventies, and until the pandemic was playing every summer in Blackpool as well as continuing to appear at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow, where this year he was part of the ‘Jukebox Memories’ soul review – another notch in a remarkable and long-lasting career.