Born: October 14, 1946;

Died: November 8, 2022.

DAN McCafferty, who has died aged 76, was for more than forty years the lead singer of the Dunfermline-sired rock group, Nazareth. McCafferty’s rasp-laden voice defined a sound that came of age in the first half of the 1970s, with the likes of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Free’s Paul Rodgers among his clear vocal peers. Weaned on first-generation rock and roll, Nazareth took backwoods blues into spit-and-sawdust, inner-city bar-room territory.

This was evidenced on a spate of cover versions that included rock re-inventions of Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight (1973), from Mitchell’s classic 1971 album, Blue, and especially on their U.S. hit, Love Hurts (1975). The latter appeared on the American edition of Hair of the Dog (1975), the sixth Nazareth album, which saw the band cross over into the big league.

Originally intended as a B-side, the Boudleaux Bryant-penned ballad had previously been recorded by The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Gram Parsons. McCafferty and co transformed the song into a stadium-sized power ballad, and gave Nazareth their only American hit single.

The American success of Hair of the Dog left its mark, with the album’s title track later covered by Guns n’ Roses, one of the bands for whom Nazareth and McCafferty’s mix of unreconstructed raw bombast undoubtedly helped pave the way.

William Daniel McCafferty was born in Dunfermline, Fife, where he attended St Margaret’s school.

Nazareth formed from the ashes of local covers band, The Shadettes, whose uniform of yellow suits was adopted by McCafferty after he graduated from roadie to lead singer when the band’s original vocalist left. Working with guitarist Manny Charlton, bassist Pete Agnew and drummer Darrell Sweet, McCafferty played a circuit of hotels and dance halls that existed during a period when the 1960s pop revolution was still wedded to old-school showbiz.

As the era swung ever more adventurously, so too did McCafferty and co. This was cemented in 1968 when they became Nazareth. The quartet took their new name from the Pennsylvania town referenced in the opening line of The Band’s song, The Weight ("I pulled into Nazareth/Was feelin' about half past dead"). Managed by bingo-hall entrepreneur Bill Fehilly, who would later go on to look after the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth hit the road, and moved to London in 1970.

If the band’s eponymously titled debut album, released in 1971, and its string-laden follow up, Exercises (1972), retained a hangover of 1960s out-there groove, Nazareth were already forging their own personality by way of the brand of melody-tempered hard rock that defined them. They played support slots to Deep Purple, whose bass player Roger Glover came on board as producer of the third Nazareth album, Razamanaz (1973).

As well as featuring covers of songs by Leon Russell and Woody Guthrie, the record spawned two UK hits, Bad Bad Boy, and Broken Down Angel. Glover went on to produce Nazareth’s two follow-up albums, Loud ‘N’ Proud (1973) and Rampant (1974) before Charlton took over the reins for Hair of the Dog.

In 1975, McCafferty released his self-titled solo debut, a set of covers produced by Charlton, who also played on the record alongside Glover. Other contributors included guitarist Zal Cleminson and drummer Ted McKenna, both from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The cover featured photographs of a moody-looking McCafferty by celebrity snapper Terry O‘Neill. McCafferty released a second solo set, Into the Ring, in 1987.

Nazareth’s core quartet remained constant until 1990, when Charlton – who died earlier this year – left the group. Sweet remained in the band until his own death in 1999. The band continued, with McCafferty at its heart for forty-five years. Chart success may have been eluding them as fashions changed following their mid 1970s flurry of hits, but they continued to release albums and tour the world to a devoted fan base. In 2006, Nazareth even got to play the Pennsylvania town that gave them their name.

McCafferty stepped down from vocal duties in 2013 due to the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (COPD). This followed a concert in Switzerland, when he was forced to leave the stage after three songs. A month earlier, he had collapsed on stage due to a burst stomach ulcer. As McCafferty said in an interview, “If you can’t do the job you shouldn’t be there – Nazareth’s too big for that.”

While the band continued without him, with Agnew keeping the flame as the sole original member, McCafferty appeared on Nazareth’s 2014 album, Rock N’ Roll Telephone – their twenty-third - and five years later released his third and final solo album, Last Testament (2019).

McCafferty and the band remained loyal to their hometown, and in 2008 played the opening concert at Dunfermline’s newly-refurbished Alhambra Theatre. McCafferty had visited the theatre as a boy before it was converted into a bingo hall. Nazareth returned to the Alhambra in 2012, a year before McCafferty was forced to step away from the band.

In May 2015, McCafferty played with Nazareth one last time at the Legends of Rock event that took place at East End Park in Dunfermline, when he joined Agnew and co for an emotional encore of Broken Down Angel.

McCafferty is survived by his wife, Maryann, and their two sons, Derek and Colin.