That day in ’63

For people of my generation it’s very easy to remember where we were when we heard President John Kennedy had been shot. In my case I was 5 years old (a month a way from my 6th birthday) and in the back of my Dad’s car. A knock on the window came from a neighbour and a friend. We’d been at the Bible Band – a children’s church meeting led by my Dad at the Gospel Hall every Friday night – and we were coming home as  my Dad rolled down the window to Mr Harkness. ‘President Kennedy’s been shot.’ I’m not sure I knew who he was but by Ten O”Clock I had become brutally aware. We were transfixed as we watched the news reel over and over again. Even on our blurred black and white TV it was very clear that something terrible had happened.

So on Friday we’ll remember those times and play some of the songs of the time and some of the artistic responses from the country community. It’s worth remembering too that (as you well know) the implications from that dreadful day in Dallas rolled on for years to come.

We’ll also be in the presence of this man:


We’ve played Josh Ritter’s records before on the AC. His recent album however marked a real departure as he wrote about his own personal circumstances in a  sometimes painful, but very honest, way. Josh’s recent divorce from singer Dawn landes means he’s another artist to have written a ‘divorce’ album. There have been a few – and some great listens. I’m pleased to say Josh’s hits the quality threshold but avoids the bitterness marker. He took his time and found a creative way out. He talks all this and much more in a fascinating interview he gave to us a few weeks ago when he was in Glasgow to play at The Old Fruit Market. He also recorded some songs for the Culture Studio which they’ve been good enough to share with us too.

We have new music from The Mermaids (again!), Southern and The Lone Bellow. We’ll also play a highlight from a run of three shows Bob Dylan gave in the Clyde Auditorium this week. Everyone delights in telling you how bad Bob can be in concert. I went with my wife and we both loved it. An astonishingly great band playing with the greatest living artist in brilliant voice with, to my mind, a great selection of songs. What could be better? In my view anyway, nothing that I’ve seen this year.


It’s Another Country on BBC Radio Scotland on Friday evening from five past eight.


On Sunday


I will spend the first part of the programme talking to Leila Abouleila about her literally travels which have taken her from Sudan to Aberdeen. Her novel, ‘Lyrics Alley’ is a moving story about a family caught between Khartoum and Cairo towards the end of British Rule. It’s a fascinating insight into colonialism and the power of poetry. (as well as many other things)



We’ll talk to Alister McGrath about his new biography of C.S. Lewis who’s death was probably overshadowed by the sudden passing of JFK on the same day. We’re looking at Domestic Abuse. There’s a 16 days of activism to end violence against women campaign, this is global, but it coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Edinburgh and Glasgow branches of Scottish Women’s Aid……so how much has really changed in Scotland?

We’ll also find out what you study when you explore the ‘theology of Bruce Springsteen.’ (frankly I wouldn’t care as long as, at some point, I got to listen to this…….

Music from Joni Mitchell, Andrew Gold, Nina Simone and Beyonce´ too.


And finally……. We had a recent story about the John Byrne Awards. Here’s the news about the winner:

It all starts on Sunday Morning on BBC Radio Scotland at five past seven. Join me if you can.



2 thoughts on “That day in ’63

  1. I remember being at a triumphant Larry Norman gig in Motherwell Civic Centre in November 1991. He had just finished his first decent new studio album in a decade and had some copies on sale at the stall at the end of the gig before it came out in the shops a few months later. He was excited about the new album and played a lot of it solo at the gig and the audience ended up being as excited about the new stuff as he was. But it was also the anniversary of JFK assassination and CS Lewis’s death that night, and during one of his long between songs monologues Larry spoke about JFK and CS Lewis and their different legacies… he also spoke a bit about Bob Dylan that night and 5 weeks later i heard a popular Scottish pop combo of the period cover “Every Grain of Sand” from the recently released BD Bootleg Series Vols, 1-3 at one of their gigs at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and I figured that if Dylan came recommended by both these acts I really should check him out! Needless to say that as being a student at the time it became a ritual once the grant cheque had cleared to head to Fopp and pick up more of Bob’s back catalogue on CD each term.I saw him twice at the SECC and he was brilliant both times. In 1998 he was on a double header tour with Van Morrison – Van was on first and had the slickest backing band I had heard and I wondered how Dylan could follow that, but follow it he did! He played a great selection of songs from Time Out Of Mind, covers and some gorgeous reworkings of Boots of Spanish Leather, Farewell Angelina and Tangled Up In Blue and the band contained Larry Campbell (lead guitar, Mandolin and Harmony vocals) and Bucky Baxter. 2 years later Bob played a different set of songs and had Charlie Sexton contributing some great solos dualling with Larry Campbell… a riproaring take on Country Pie was a personal highlight for me that night. I think with Dylan as a performer and singer, if he is in a good place within himself and feels connected with the songs he’ll deliver the goods no problem – he does have a reputation for being poor live and I do wonder if that stems from tours like 1978, 1984-7 where he was getting over his divorce and had issues with alcohol or said in Chronicles he couldn’t remember what a lot of his old songs meant to him.

  2. I’m afraid I’ve been in constant catch-up mode with The AC in recent weeks, but I had to chime in and say how much the Josh Ritter interview was a real highlight. As well as deepening my appreciation for “The Beast in Its Tracks” and making me want to seek out a copy all of my own, it was one of those truly insightful interviews that really got to the heart of a songwriter’s craft. That’s often what chimes with me most of all—when you get deep into the creative process with the range of talented artists that visit AC Towers. Great stuff.

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