The Humblebums — “Rick Rack”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — August 19, 2022


556) The Humblebums — “Rick Rack”*

A beguiling and unforgettable song by Gerry Rafferty from his Humblebum days that seems informed by his relationship with his abusive father. Alan Murray says that “[w]hen Gerry Rafferty [joined the Humblebums,] . . the songwriting and music leaps to another level. Rick Rack [is] truly memorable”. (

Stewart Mason notes regarding the album from which the song is drawn:

Rafferty . . . turned the duo’s original trad folk aesthetic into a prettier, poppier sound. . . . That dichotomy continues throughout, with Rafferty’s unapologetically pop songs and Connolly’s folk- and blues-based tunes alternating. Truthfully, Rafferty’s songs are better, with their lightly psychedelic arrangements suiting his whimsical lyrics. . . . [His] six songs . . . are uniformly excellent . . . .

And Dangerous Minds adds:

The New Humblebums . . . began to achieve far greater success with their mix of Rafferty’s plaintive vocals and melodies and Connolly’s upbeat tunes and fine guitar playing. That same year, the duo released their first record together and band’s second album, The New Humblebums. The album was a major-hit in Glasgow and was well-received nationally. . . .

Steve Huey provides some history of the clan:

Scottish folk outfit the Humblebums aren’t perhaps as well known as their two main individual members: Gerry Rafferty, who later scored hits with Stealers Wheel and as a solo artist, and Billy Connolly, who left music to become an internationally successful stand-up comedian. Conolly actually founded the group in 1965, along with guitarist Tam Harvey; both had been regulars on the Glasgow folk circuit . . . . The duo quickly became a popular attraction in Glasgow’s folk clubs, particularly as Connolly honed his humorous between-song patter . . . . After a few years of local celebrity, the Humblebums recorded their debut album . . . split between traditional folk songs and Connolly originals. Not long after[,] . . budding singer/songwriter . . . Rafferty approached the duo after one of their gigs for feedback on his original songs. He wound up being invited to join . . . . Rafferty’s songs soon took a prominent place in their repertoire, which led to friction with Tam Harvey; he departed around half a year [later]. Toward the end of 1969, [Rafferty and Connolly] entered the studio together and cut the second Humblebums LP . . . . With Rafferty’s pop instincts, the Humblebums grew more popular on the live circuit than ever, and they recorded another album in a similar vein . . . . However, there was growing dissension . . . Rafferty’s material had a more serious bent than Connolly’s lighthearted, dryly witty offerings, and Connelly’s comedy bits were taking up a large portion of the Humblebums’ stage show, to the point where Rafferty wanted him to cut the comedy altogether. . . . [T]he Humblebums broke up in 1971. Rafferty moved on to Stealers Wheel, best known for their hit “Stuck in the Middle With You,” and later went solo, scoring a huge hit with “Baker Street.” Connolly . . . in a few short years became one of the most popular comedians not only in Scotland, but the whole U.K. . . .

Michael Gray talks of Rafferty’s childhood:

Rafferty was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, an unwanted third son. His father, Joseph, was an Irish-born miner. His mother . . . dragged young Gerry round the streets on Saturday nights so that they would not be at home when his father came back drunk. They would wait outside, in all weathers, until he had fallen asleep, to avoid a beating. “If it wasn’t for you, I’d leave,” Mary told Gerry. Joseph died in 1963, when Gerry was 16. That year, Gerry left St Mirin’s academy and worked in a butcher’s shop and at the tax office. At weekends, he and a schoolfriend, Joe Egan [with whom he later formed Stealers Wheel] played in a local group, the Mavericks. . . . after Gerry’s song Benjamin Day failed as a Mavericks single, Gerry and Egan quit the group and Gerry joined Connolly’s outfit, the Humblebums . . . .

And Seamus Dubhghaill adds:

Inspired by his Scottish mother, who teaches him both Irish and Scottish folk songs, and the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, he starts writing his own material. . . . In the mid-1960s Rafferty earns money busking on the London Underground. In 1966 he meets fellow musician Joe Egan and they are both members of the pop band the Fifth Column.

* Rick rack is braided trimming in a zigzag pattern, used as decoration on clothes.

Check out the site’s new page: Stick It to the (Fish)Man: Feedback — the coolest comments I have received!

I have added a Facebook page for Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock! If you like what you read and hear and feel so inclined, please visit and “like” my Facebook page by clicking here.

Here is the Peel session:

Here is the BBC Radio One session:

Pay to Play! The Off the Charts Spotify Playlist! + Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock Merchandise

Please consider helping to support my website/blog by contributing $6 a month for access to the Off the Charts Spotify Playlist. Using a term familiar to denizens of Capitol Hill, you pay to play! (“relating to or denoting an unethical or illicit arrangement in which payment is made by those who want certain privileges or advantages in such arenas as business, politics, sports, and entertainment” —

The playlist includes all the “greatest songs of the 1960’s that no one has ever heard” that are available on Spotify. The playlist will expand each time I feature an available song.

All new subscribers will receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock magnet. New subscribers who sign up for a year will also receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock t-shirt or baseball cap. See pictures on the Pay to Play page.

When subscribing, please send me an e-mail ( or a comment on this site letting me know an e-mail address/phone number/Facebook address, etc. to which I can send instructions on accessing the playlist and a physical address to which I can sent a magnet/t-shirt/baseball cap. If choosing a t-shirt, please let me know the gender and size you prefer.

Just click on the first blue block for a month to month subscription or the second blue block for a yearly subscription.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: