Scotland was so immersed in soul and R&B in the mid-1960s that if a visitor closed his eyes in a Glasgow club, he'd swear he'd been transported to Detroit or Muscle Shoals.
Just ask Alan Gorrie, bassist for seminal '70s funk outfit Average White Band, who recalls being mesmerized by the trance-like syncopation of American records from the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, King Kurtis and others. Gorrie and his bandmates channeled those inspirations into some of AWB's most potent grooves, including "Pick Up the Pieces," "Cut the Cake" and "A Love of Your Own."
Bakersfield will get a chance to harness some of that energy into their dancing feet Saturday when the Average White Band appears at Bright House Networks Amphitheatre, kicking off the venue's outdoor concert season.
"It was pretty much the only music anyone ever went out dancing to," said Gorrie, 66, describing the sights and sounds of the 1960s Glasgow music scene during a phone interview.
"It was Stax, Motown and Atlantic Records. Soul music was kind of the lifeblood of the Scottish music scene in the mid- to late 1960s. If you didn't play soul and R&B, you didn't get many gigs."
Gorrie went into detail about musical tastes in Great Britain, which varied according to region.
"London was all about the blues. The midlands were pure rock, things like Black Sabbath, Slade, and they still are to an extent, still stuck in that groove. Scotland has always been a soul country, because the background of Celtic music lends itself to the very idea of soul music."
Within a year of formation in 1972, the band became a sensation, attracting attention from the labels, after scoring a coveted spot on Eric Clapton's comeback concert tour. Following their American debut, "Show Your Hand," the group's self-titled sophomore album solidified its reputation as both a dance band and electrifying live act. Anchored by the hit single, "Pick Up the Pieces," the album became a million-seller.
Gorrie recalled the organic nature of the song, which became the group's calling card, beginning with a basic riff from guitarist Hamish Stuart.
"Hamish got up one morning, started playing that upside-down kind of guitar riff, that skank soul that we threw. Then, drummer Robbie (McIntosh) joined them on drums. I got the bass out and we had the three of us playing the groove. Guitarist Onnie (McIntyre) joined in on guitar with his rhythm stuff. Then Roger Ball, our arranger, took it overnight and came back with the horn line all written out the next day. It was literally done in 24 hours."
Gorrie pointed to a key moment in the song recorded by original sax player Malcolm "Molly" Duncan.
"I always really liked Molly's sax solo. It's really gritty, earthy and unsophisticated. I'm a big lover of things that aren't too polished and that sax solo just resonates with me. It's kind of like a first take. Everybody contributed a lot equally to that song."
The group continued with a string of hits over the next two decades before going on a seven-year hiatus to pursue solo projects. Today, the groups maintains a year-round tour schedule with original members Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre, plus a group of longtime collaborators that includes former Tower of Power vocalist, Brent Carter.
"We've got a lot of new dimensions with the band as well. The live performance is always what's kept me going."
When asked to comment on the state of today's soul and R&B music, Gorrie didn't hold back.
"I'm really tired of hearing music that now has no instrumentation on it. Even the vocals are machines. It's human-free and it doesn't make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That's one of the yard sticks I've had all my life. To have come this far through all these wonderful musical developments, the roots of everything from New Orleans, through rock 'n' roll, through soul, R&B, jazz, to end up with this. What an indictment of laziness.
"It had neither rhythm, nor blues. It's something else and I won't retract my statement."
Gorrie added Bakersfield needn't worry about those concerns at Saturday's performance.
"Our fans will always get what they want, the history book, a fresh performance of all the hits and some surprises you won't expect to hear. People can look forward to a great show Saturday night."