Dan McCafferty, one of the founding members of Scottish hard rock group Nazareth, has died at the age of 76.
Born in Dunfermline, the star was known for his raspy vocals on 70s rock classics such as Broken Down Angel, Hair Of The Dog and Love Hurts.
He remained with the band until 2014, when he developed a lung condition that made it hard to breathe and was forced to retire.
His death was confirmed by Nazareth bassist Pete Agnew. No cause was given.
“This is the saddest announcement I ever had to make,” Agnew wrote on Instagram.
“Maryann and the family have lost a wonderful loving husband and father, I have lost my best friend and the world has lost one of the greatest singers who ever lived. Too upset to say anything more at this time.”
Nazareth formed in 1968, but the core members – McCafferty, Agnew, Manny Charlton (guitar) and Darrell Sweet (drums) – all cut their teeth in a covers band called The Shadettes, who dressed in matching yellow suits and played venues around Dunfermline in the mid-60s.
McCafferty had joined the band in much the same way that Bon Scott later joined AC/DC.
“I was the band’s roadie,” he told Classic Rock magazine. “When one of their singers decided he was leaving on the day of a gig, the boys decided to give me a try.
“It was a case of straight in, and with no rehearsal. The yellow suit of Des, the guy who’d left, almost fitted me.”
By 1970, the band had tired of covers and decided to pursue a career as a rock band in their own right.
To make it official, they quit their day jobs and moved to London – bankrolled by bingo hall millionaire Bill Fehilly, another Dunfermline native, who had agreed to manage the group.
After months of gigging around the capital, McCafferty’s livewire performances caught the attention of Pegasus Records, who signed the band in 1971.
Their first two albums, Nazareth and Exercises, weren’t big-sellers, but they did well enough to land an American tour with rock giants Deep Purple. The band’s bassist Roger Glover was a fan, and agreed to produce their next record, 1973’s Razamanaz.
That proved to be their breakthrough, spawning the top 10 singles Broken Down Angel and Bad, Bad Boy; as well as an eerie cover of Tim Rose’s folk classic, Morning Dew, which became a major hit in Germany.
Just six months later, they followed it up with Loud ‘N’ Proud, a harder and more aggressive album that went to number one in Australia and produced another smash hit in Germany – this time a cover of Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight.
But it was the following year’s Hair of the Dog that established Nazareth as an internationally popular band, with the title track becoming a staple of 1970s rock radio.
That album’s bluesy cover of Love Hurts – originally a hit for The Everly Brothers – earned the band their only US top 10 single, and went to number one in six countries, including Norway, where it remained on the charts for 60 weeks.
The band continued to record successful albums for the remainder of the 1970s, and featured heavily on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test programme – where, thanks to a friendship with producer Mike Appleton, they became the standby act for anyone that pulled out of the show at the last minute.
Although their chart run dried up in the 1980s and 90s, Nazareth remained a popular touring act in Europe, especially Germany. But they were also victims of the record industry’s shady practices during the hard rock era.
“We have had our ups and downs and a few lawyers got rich on the way,” McCafferty told Swedish rock journalist Michael Erikkson in 1989.
“We got totally screwed by two managers on different occasions. Now we do not even know how many records we have actually sold.”
The band’s reputation never dimmed, however, with Guns N’ Roses citing Nazareth as a key influence, and covering Hair Of The Dog on their 1993 album The Spaghetti Incident?
McCafferty was forced to leave in 2014 after developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“I can’t sing on tour like I used to anymore,” he told Classic Rock. “I figure if you can’t do the job then you really shouldn’t be there. I’m sad about it but I just can’t sing a whole set live anymore.”
However, he continued to record in the studio, and released his final solo album Last Testament in 2019.