WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.
4 July 2021 // Robbie McIntosh
The child of an American-born Aboriginal father actor Bonar Colleano, who had a successful career in films, he was brought up in Broughty Ferry Scotland with his maternal side by his Nan and Aunt. In his mid-teens, he moved to Kincardine Street in Dundee’s Hawkhill.
It was as a pupil at Harris Academy that he took up drumming and, by the time he was 15, he was gigging with local bands. The Sapphires and The Syndicate were two of his early groups which also included the East Coast Jazzmen and The Poor Souls.
Aged just 17, Robbie became a member of The Senate, Scotland’s leading soul band, then came stints with The Piranhas and Mal and the Primitives, followed by Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, appearing on the band's early albums Oblivion Express (1971), Better Land (1971) and Second Wind (1972). They performed on Top Of The Pops and film of them performing the song regularly pops up on BBC4’s Friday night musical history programmes.
Robbie also played on the Chuck Berry hit My Ding A Ling before forming the Average White Band (AWB) in 1971/72. While working with the AWB, he also recorded two tracks that appear on the Herbie Mann album London Underground (1973).
The Average White Band’s breakthrough was a support slot at Eric Clapton’s comeback concert in 1973. Bruce McCaskill, Eric Clapton’s tour manager, liked AWB’s music and agreed to manage them. He borrowed money to take them to the US and to promote them. McCaskill had many contacts from his days with Clapton and managed to get Atlantic Records to sign the band. AWB relocated to Los Angeles and released The White Album which was such a big seller that it reached No 1 in the charts.
The AWB have influenced others, such as the Brand New Heavies, and been sampled by various musicians, including the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, TLC, The Beatnuts, Too Short, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Christina Milian, and Arrested Development, making them the 15th most sampled act in history.
McIntosh died of an accidental heroin overdose at a North Hollywood hotel. They had been at a party in honour of Gregg Allman following a concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. According to a contemporary report in Time, McIntosh and fellow band member Alan Gorrie took what they thought was cocaine, but was in fact heroin laced with rat poison; Gorrie was saved by the intervention of fellow party-goer Cher, who kept him conscious long enough to recover.
The party host, 30-year-old millionaire Kenneth Moss, was subsequently indicted for murder by a grand jury. Moss pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 120 days in jail and four years' probation.
McIntosh is buried in Barnhill Cemetery, Dundee.