In the late 1960s, two members of the Glasgow police – Gordon Menzies and Robin Watson – came together to form the duo Gaberlunzie. Fifty years later, they’d become one of Scotland’s best loved folk acts, combining traditional songs with original writing, and a uniquely Scottish sense of humour that’s proved popular the world over.
The duo took their name from the medieval Scots word, which describes licensed beggars; travelling singers and storytellers. These gaberlunzies would visit small communities, bringing news of the outside world, often communicated through ballad tales and songs.
Gaberlunzie made their first record in 1969, which also featured fellow policeman Jimmy MacDonald. Cyril Stapelton the album’s producer wrote in the sleeve notes: “What magnificent song pedlars Gaberlunzie are. I called this album ‘Brave Words ‘N’ Fightin’ Talk’ because after the first five minutes of the recording session I was so shaken by the threatening rattle of dirks and sporrans I wanted to fly back to my side of the border, miserable cowardly Sassenach that I am. Seriously, Messrs. Menzies, Watson and Macdonald have done a wonderful job on this recording of Scottish Folk Songs and original songs written by Gordon Menzies”.
Following their debut album in 1969, Gaberlunzie amassed a huge back catalogue of twenty eight releases. They toured the world, appearing live in concert and on television and radio across the UK, Europe, Canada, United States and the Middle East. Such a long and varied career led to playing in a mix of venues. As they put it: “From folk clubs to football stadiums, from holiday resorts to concert halls!” From all of their travels, they garnered a huge and loyal following, to whom they’re affectionately known as “The Gabs”.
Menzies and Watson collaborated widely over the years, most of their albums featuring at least one guest appearance from a range of instrumentalists and vocalists. On the 28th of December 2013 – their 45th anniversary year – Gaberlunzie invited some of these friends and collaborators to join them for their annual christmas concert at Milnathort Town Hall. The concert was turned into a recording session, which resulted in the double album “Gaberlunzie and Friends”.
This was one of the last albums Gaberlunzie produced. In 2018, the duo embarked upon their last tour: “Gaberlunzie Say Farewell and Thank You”, with the accompanying album “Last Orders”. After fifty years on the road, there’s few that can grudge them a well earned rest, but no doubt that they’ll be sorely missed.