THERE is an empty space on the wall of golfer Ian Woosnam’s home in Jersey next to one of his most prized possessions.

On display in a large frame is the US Masters green jacket he received in recognition of winning the tournament in 1991.

His triumph at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia – when he finished one-stroke ahead of Jose Maria Olazabal – was the highlight of his career.

Singer J.J. Gilmour hopes to fill the gap soon. It will be his way of saying a heartfelt thank you to the Welsh sporting legend.

“Every time I see Woosie, he asks me to sing what he calls … the medication song,” revealed J.J.

“He’s talking about Me And You, the first track on my album Sunnyside P.A.L.

“I gave Woosie one of the first CDs and he was so proud of the record that he was parading me around Jersey telling everybody they had to buy it.

“He said: ‘There’s a space on my wall that I’m keeping for when your record goes gold’.

“I’ve not given up on that. One day I hope I can present him with a gold disc.”

J.J.’s gratitude is well placed. It was Woosnam who bankrolled his career when he struggled to land a record deal.

“He gave me £100,000 to make Sunnyside P.A.L. in New York with the best musicians and producers,” revealed J.J.

“It was an incredible commitment. He was moving into a world he knew absolutely nothing about.”

The singer first came on to my radar when he joined The Silencers in 1989, as second vocalist for one of Scotland’s top bands.

The Coatbridge-born musician had served his apprenticeship playing in bars in Jersey and Canada.

“Vancouver had a thriving music scene and I was told there was a good band that was looking for a vocalist,” he recalled.

“When I got there I found it was a false promise and it never materialised. But I signed a development deal with Bruce Alan who managed Bryan Adams and ran Blue Wave Studios.

“I built up a local following and it was a brilliant apprenticeship.”

Everything changed when The Silencers passed through the city to promote their 1987 debut album, A Letter From St. Paul.

“They played in a venue called 86th Street and were so great it totally changed my mind about what I was doing,” admitted J.J.

“I thought, I need to go back to the drawing board.

“I probably could have had a very different career in Vancouver. But when I saw The Silencers that was a game changer.”

J.J. returned to Scotland and forged a friendship with Silencers’ frontman, Jimme O’Neill.

“He came to see me play at Club de France in Coatbridge,” recalled J.J.

“He said, what you’re doing is good, you’ve got an interesting voice, but I think you still need work as a writer.”

The band was managed by Bruce Findlay, whose artist roster included Simple Minds and China Crisis.

J.J. took part in the recording sessions for their 1991 album, Dance To The Holy Man.

“Jimme wanted to bring me in. I still don’t know if it was even discussed with Bruce or the rest of the band,” he said.

“I did the vocals on Hey Mr Bank Manager and Robinson Crusoe In New York. I genuinely thought I’d help them out on a couple of songs and that would be it.

“He was a great singer and songwriter. So it was very brave of him to bring me in.

“I had to earn my place. Not only were he and guitarist Cha Burns guys I really looked up to, but Bruce came with a big reputation too. It was an immense stage to walk on to.”

For the next seven years, J.J. toured the world with The Silencers, sharing bills with David Bowie, Simple Minds and INXS.

He sang on their albums Seconds Of Pleasure in 1993 and So Be It, two years later.

J.J. took the lead on the single I Can Feel It, used as a theme by Sky Sports during Euro ’96.

“Never for a moment did I think I’d end up fronting seven of the 12 tracks on Seconds Of Pleasure,” he said.

“It was very admirable that Jimme stepped aside to let this new guy sing his songs.”

But in 1996, J.J. decided to go it alone.

“It was a difficult decision to leave. I wanted more say in the band but it wasn’t a battle of wits or power,” he recalled.

“I had such admiration for Jimme. I suppose I spent most of my time looking up to him.

“It got to a point where I had a bunch of my own ideas. It was time to go.”

J.J. soon found himself back in Jersey where he gigged in local bars to stay afloat. Then came a career changing moment - his meeting with Woosnam.

“A friend introduced me to all these movers and shakers. Jersey is such an affluent place, so I got caught up in this whole circle of successful people,” said J.J.

“One night I was playing in a restaurant called Lido’s when Woosie came up and said … what have you done? I told him my history and he said he wanted to help me.

“He offered to back me to the tune of £100,000. I would imagine his management company would have thought, why are you giving this guy, who is a total stranger, all this money?

“But Woosie was gung-ho, saying people had helped him when he was a young, unknown golfer. He wanted to do the same thing for somebody else who was looking for a career.

“At the Deutsche Bank Open he introduced me to Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer saying … you should hear this guy sing.

“It was unbelievable that someone who’d won the US Masters and was captain of the Ryder Cup team really believed in me.”

J.J. travelled to New York to record Sunnyside P.A.L. at the House Of Love Studios.

He worked with producer Dan Wise, who’d recorded Joan Osbourne and Scissor Sisters.

Wise recruited top US session musicians to play on the tracks.

“I’d shared stages with David Bowie, James Brown and INXS – all incredible artists. So when I stepped into the studio I thought I’m ready for this. It’s time to prove myself.”

The singer spent four months making an album he describes as effortless.

Kenny Thompson, manager of Supertramp and Chris de Burgh, was brought in to look after him.

Tracks such as Smile, Believe Me Now, The American Dream and first single, Cogno, underlined that his decision to go solo had been sound.

When I reviewed the album I wrote, “I always knew J.J. Gilmour was a great singer - I didn’t know he was also a great songwriter.”

It was licensed via Edel Records in France, which had been a big territory for The Silencers.

Top radio station, Europe 2 focused on Me And You and said they’d A-list the track if it was released as a single.

Then disaster struck. Weeks after J.J. was made a worldwide priority by Edel, the label went bust.

But the singer was undaunted. He dusted himself off and continued to write songs and tour.

He made three further albums, The Boy Who Didn’t Fall (2009), Slocomotion (2012) and Dix (2017).

He also wrote the music for two successful stage musicals, Dancing Shoes: The George Best Story and The Titanic Boys, both of which were fittingly premiered in Belfast.

“I played Liverpool the other week and a guy came up and said if I was going to recommend an album which would it be,” revealed J.J.

“I chose Sunnyside P.A.L. because that’s where all this began. The quality of the songs and the playing – and that’s no disrespect to any of my other records – is first class. There’s something magical about it.

“I was so determined on that record to show that there was more to me than The Silencers. And again, that’s with the greatest respect to the band.

“I needed to prove not only to myself – but everyone else – there was much more to me.

“I don’t think the songs are any better or worse than what I did with The Silencers. But Sunnyside P.A.L. is MY record. There are things on it I wanted to say but didn’t get the chance to before.”


J.J. Gilmour was inspired to write the songs on Sunnyside P.A.L. by the tragic death of a childhood friend.

When Paul Anthony Lennon lost his battle with cancer in 1992 the singer marked his passing with a career defining collection of tracks.

“Paul had more or less been brought up in my family home in Coatbridge,” recalled J.J.

“The songs were about trying to understand why a young man of 27, whose life was still in front of him, had been taken away.

“He’d just got married. I was on tour with The Silencers. We were both the same age and heading into proper adulthood.

“But he got cancer and within a couple of months was gone. I thought, how am I going to describe this terrible situation and deal with it?

“Me And You was the first song I wrote specifically for the record. It’s just me saying to everybody this is who Paul was. The album is dedicated to him.”

It was an emotional moment for J.J. when the album was released in France.

“I went into Virgin Records on the Champs Elysees in Paris and there was this huge pyramid built with my CDs. It must have been about 50ft. high,” he recalled.

“I stood on that famous boulevard and started crying. I was completely overcome. It was all to do with the fact I’d written these songs in Paul’s memory. And also that until then I’d always been the bridesmaid, now I was the bride. The emotion just built up.”

But there were some lighter moments on the album too.

Every time I go to see J.J. play live he jokingly dedicates Spy to me. He knows it’s my least favourite song.

“I wrote it about a wee guy called Richard who came into Lido’s every day for lunch,” he revealed.

“He told me there was this big underworld conspiracy going on in Jersey involving the Mafia and the Triads.

“It was a complete figment of his imagination. But I found him riveting.

“He said he had all the cast iron evidence locked in a briefcase he guarded very carefully.

“One day he went to the toilet and I couldn’t help myself. I opened the briefcase to take a look.

“It was completely empty apart from one thing … an apple.”

* THE Billy Sloan Show is on BBC Radio Scotland every Saturday at 10pm.