In Memory of Rocky Watson
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ROCKY WATSON: Rock ‘n’ roller died in motorbike accident. Article by Edwin Lawrence.

A top Ayrshire rock ‘n’ roll musician died in a motorbike accident on Monday May 16. Alan ‘Rocky’ Watson, 48, was thrown from the bike when he failed to take a right hand bend. He was riding the Suzuki machine on the A719 coast road, near its junction with the B7023 to Maybole. The accident happened in daylight and in near-perfect driving conditions, around 6.45pm. No other vehicles were involved. It is understood Mr Watson’s bike skidded on gravel and grass, before hitting a mound of earth. This led to him being thrown some distance, and he was found to be dead at the scene. Mr Watson, of Bryant’s Close in Maybole, was a keen motorcyclist for many years. But it had been some time since he regularly used a bike.

He was brought up on Kirkbride Estate, Crosshill, where his father worked. The family roots were previously in Glenbuck, one of Ayrshire’s legendary vanished villages. Young Alan took up his trade of bricklayer, but was also a talented singer/guitarist. And with his good looks, he was soon in demand as a working musician. He had a particular love for rock ‘n’ roll music, giving him a nickname which stuck. And one of his first bands was called Rocket 88 — named after a song that is reckoned by some to be the first-ever rock ‘n’ roll record. Another early band was Union Avenue — named after the street in Memphis where the legendary Sun Studios are located, and where Rocket 88 was recorded. Then came Route 66, in which Rocky was one half of a duo who were in constant demand for pub, club and function work.

Popular Rocky showed his versatility in cover versions of dozens of chart hits of the 1980s. But he was also front man in Rocky Bean and the Black Eyed Peas, a fun band who specialised in rockabilly music. The band became so successful that they played gigs all over Britain and Ireland, including rock ‘n’ roll festivals. But the lifestyle took its toll on Rocky, with the breakdown of his marriage, and other problems. Rocky stopped playing in public for a number of years, but musician friends were delighted to see him getting back to his old self recently. The friendly and likeable Rocky was rehearsing with other musicians, in a bid get back on the local gig scene. A musician friend said: “Rocky was incredibly talented — a brilliant guitarist and a first class singer. “He was also superb on the slap bass, producing an authentic rockabilly sound.” Alan ‘Rocky’ Watson is survived by grown-up daughter Beverley, 21.

Rocky Watson's Funeral

Rocky Watson’s funeral was quite an event. Afterwards Rev Dave Whiteman commented, “I have never had a funeral like this before, there must have been over 1,000 people there, people came from all over the country to attend.” At the funeral he began by welcoming everyone saying, “Family and friends, we are gathered here today to remember and give thanks and celebrate the life of a quite remarkable person Alan Watson -- Rocky. We are all stunned today as we think of how Rocky was taken from us so suddenly and so tragically. And it is right that we gather today to express our sorrow and our support for one another - because this is a very difficult time, a time of sadness at Rocky’s passing from life into eternity. It is right that we mourn, but we also come today to remember the happy times, to give thanks and celebrate Rocky’s life.

It was Rocky’s wish that that there should be no long faces today. Rocky said when he went he wanted a party, well, it might not quite be a party this morning but it will be a celebration of his life - and remember Rocky is looking on.” After a few words from Beverly, Rocky’s daughter, Davie Anderson and a poem of H S Holland’s Rev Whiteman continued, “Rocky was born in Cumnock, the son of a shepherd, and grew up around the farms of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, often helping out on the farms. The family settled in Carrick living in Crosshill and moving to Maybole in 1985.

Rocky always had a flair for music from an early age. He served his time as a brickie, although he worked at the creamery for a while but bricklaying was his main trade. Apart from his music Rocky loved photography, he took pictures of everything, and Rocky was a hoarder. He collected everything, most folk would call it junk, mind you, but to Rocky it was his stuff, Bits of wood, bits of metal, and he was good with his hands.

Rocky was a really talented man in many ways. He was a lovely artist, his pictures were brilliant, and he could fix almost anything. Everyone in Maybole has something that Rocky fixed at sometime. The amazing thing was that Rocky could take something apart, he could put it back together again - he would have all these bits left over and the amazing thing was it would still work!

He had bags and boxes of wires and screws and everything. Amazing. He also collected coins and was interested in antiques. He was a natural collector. Junk to you, was treasure to Rocky. Rocky was summed up to me this way -he had the mind of a millionaire and the pockets of a pauper. He once swopped a BMW for a Chevy Camaro - a heap of junk to some folk but a treasure to rocky. Rocky was always full of fun. I'm told he was once even a kissogram. Rocky loved anything about the 50s, he loved the 50s music especially.

He was something of a local hero and definitely one of Maybole’s characters. He lived life to the full, Rocky loved life. He was kind and generous and would do anything for anyone, he was always the same neither up nor down - and Beverly tells me that she had the very best dad in the world. Rocky was so pleased to have made contact with his nephew, John. John came into Rocky’s life and they hit it off right away and the family are very happy that John is part of their lives.

Maybole Gala 1985. Left to right: Quintin (Cutty) Fife, Chris Campbell, Jimmy Murdoch, Rocky Watson, Brian Bounds, Michael Andrew.Rocky went through a very difficult time in his life, he had it hard, but he came through it. He was determined to get his life back together, and it is to his credit that he worked hard at it and he was getting his life back together. Rocky left this world as did many of his heroes, like James Dean, Buddy Holly, and Eddie Cochran, - as they say that’s rock and roll! Not many people get a chance to sing at their own funeral but we are going to listen now to a CD of Rocky singing “Pink and Black” and during this time let us all bring to our minds memories of Rocky.”

Tribute by Davie Anderson at the Funeral of Rocky Watson

The first time I ever remember seeing Rocky Watson was when I was about ten years of age. I was sitting at the War Memorial at Crosshill (the toll as its locally known), the Girvan via Dailly bus was coming up King Street and just as it turned the corner it slowed up and while the bus was still moving, off jumped this tall, striking, handsome figure of a man. Dressed in a powder blue suit, winkle-picker boots and an Elvis hairdo, he duly nodded and proceeded into The Heid Inn.

Little was I to know then of the friendship we would share, the influence he would have on us and the exciting times that lay ahead. Rocky plucked Gavin Loch and me from the obscurity of my mother and father’s front room (which we later rehearsed and recorded in) at Newton Street and put us on the stage. And what a rollercoaster ride it was.

Rocky was a first class guitarist. His slap-bass playing was Bill Black/Dorsey Burnette calibre. He was such an influential guy. He used to practice for hours to get it just right. He was mischievous, always full of fun and humorous sarcasm. We used to phone each other at teatime and decide what colour of shirt we would wear for the night. 'red shirt wee man" or 'black shirt the night pal." He usually decided!! Despite band pressures and being on the road for weeks I don't think we ever had a cross word.

I remember one night we went to pick him up and it was coming down in buckets. He came out carrying his heavy bass amp with Lorraine holding an umbrella over him while she got a soaking! Then after the gigs, there were the parties at his house in Kirkbride Crescent in Crosshill and later at Minnoch Crescent in Maybole. That's where he would reveal his extensive record collection and when he would play the rare rockabilly numbers. What a learning curve it really was. You've maybe heard people say 'born in the wrong era"....I believe that if Rocky had been performing his music in the 50s he would have been a major star - of that I'm certain.

But Rocky moved with the times and was always one of the first to play the latest hits of the day in the band circuit. That said, he never gave up on Elvis, Eddie Cochran, ,Johnny Burnette and the whole 50s era. Rocky Bean and The Black-eyed Peas, the band that started as a charity busking group and went on to become one of the hottest Rockabilly acts in the country. I know that Rocky was so proud and thrilled to play at Hemsby, Americana, Kilkenny Festival and The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Nervous stuff, but you knew that when you were getting up on stage with the big man, you were going to be all right. He was dynamite , what a performer ....he always gave his all. Big venues, but there was nothing Rocky enjoyed more than a home gig in front of his family and friends.

I remember him also for the cup of coffee and the cigarette in the morning, the great listener when you had a problem. He was always there for you. And what would Rocky want for us all now...... well he'd want us to get on with our lives , follow our dreams , live our lives to the full.. Rocky certainly did. Whenever we hear a bass slappin’, or the jingle jangle of a guitar You'll always be in our minds, Big Rocky....... you were a star.

Born in the wrong era ?....... not for us he wasn't ...What a rollercoaster ride you gave us. But like so many of your heroes...... You've left us much too soon. I can assure everybody that there will be many events in the near future and beyond to honour and remember Rocky. I know you'll all be there to support them. At this time I would just like to thank Louise and the Watson family for allowing me to say these few words on a truly remarkable man whose memory will '' Not Fade Away".