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The Alexander Brothers

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In some areas of the world, not only Scotland, traditional Scottish folk music is extremely popular. A man (Scottish folk performers usually being men) in a kilt and full Scottish regalia singing the songs that have been passed down from generation to generation reminds people of a simpler time when music was something made on the spur of the moment to have fun and enjoyment, and entertain a few listeners along the way. In the case of the Alexander Brothers, there were two such men in kilts; Tom (born in 1937) and Jack (born in 1939) from Cambusnethan, near Wishaw, learned the trade of painting and decorating and had already begun performing as a singing duo in local talent shows when they were both teenagers in the early '50s. Their father, Jimmy, worked in the local steel works but their musical talents came from their mother, Helen, and they learned to play the piano and accordion. After Jack had completed his national service with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, they turned professional in 1958, their first show part of a summer concert at the Webster Theatre, Arbroath. Their manager, Ross Bowie, introduced them to Tony Hatch, who took them to London and secured them a recording deal with Pye Records. Their repertoire included traditional Scottish folk songs "Road to Dundee," "Caledonia," "Northern Lights of Aberdeen," "Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl," and "Campbelltown Loch," similar to Jimmy Shand or Andy M. Stewart. Benefiting from the novelty of a performing duo consisting of two young brothers, Hatch helped them get appearances on the most important variety show on TV during the early '60s, Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and eventually their own television series on Scottish TV. In 1964 they recorded their first single for Pye, "Nobody's Child," a cover of a Hank Snow song, but although it sold extremely well in Scotland that year, it did not secure a position in the U.K. charts until 1966 as part of an EP with the tracks "You're Free to Go," "Wild Side of Life," and "Jealous Heart," albeit for just one week in the anchor position of number 20 on the separate EP charts. They recorded over 50 albums, with only one title, These Are My Mountains, charting in the U.K. for one week in 1966 at number 29 -- but recording was only part of the story, as the brothers concentrated on touring the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with appearances at the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall being highlights of their career. In 2005, they were both awarded MBEs at a ceremony in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh for services to entertainment in Scotland, to which elder brother Tom remarked that the honor was "nae bad for two painters from Wishaw" and that he and his brother were "totally gobsmacked" with this icing on the cake to their 46-year career in show business. ~ Sharon Mawer

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Cambusnethan, Scotland

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s