John Alexander

Roots & Blues

Roots and Blues songwriter and guitarist John Alexander

Evening Times

Glasgow singer follows summit gig with Fringe show

People have been playing the blues around the world for a long time but a gig at the top of an African mountain followed by a packed venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe must be a first.

But Glasgow blues singer John Alexander is about to do just that.

Having returned from a charity trek up Jebel Toubkal in Morocco, he is gearing up for two gigs at the capital’s annual arts festival.

Raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, John played a specially written song at the 13,700ft mountain summit after carrying his guitar on his back.

He said: “The guide taking us up saw me carrying the guitar from the start.

“He was looking at me as if I was crazy when he realised I was planning on taking it all the way to the top. But the performance went down well, so I think the music was appreciated.”

John, a keen hillwalker, made the trip with friend Daniel McCafferty and told how it came about.

“I go hillwalking with friends and somebody said they wanted to something a bit different, a bigger trip rather than one in Scotland.

“Because the Morocco trip was something a bit different we felt we had an opportunity to raise some money for a cause.

“A few people had family that had a lot of help from Macmillan and while Daniel and I have no direct contact with the charity we decided it was really good cause.”

Used to the mist, midges and cold of Scotland’s mountains, the heat of Morocco – “a cool 42°C” said John – could have been a hindrance, but he persevered.

“I passed up the opportunity to have a mule carry my guitar because I decided that just was not in the spirit of the event,” he said.

“I also felt sure I would be spurred on by my fundraising promise to Macmillan Cancer Support to carry the guitar to the top.”

Having reached the top, John and Daniel celebrated with some Irn-Bru.

“Spot the Glaswegians,” John said with a laugh. “It was warm and fizzed up, but still tasted good.”

With the sun out and his thirst quenched, John sat and played a few songs before sitting back to listen to fellow musician Andy Robbie, of Glasgow band The 4/5s.

John said: “Once I got my breath back I played Call Me A Doctor’, the song I had penned for the trip.

“I then savoured the views as Andy took a turn on the guitar with a few tunes.”

John and Daniel have so far raised £1600 for Macmillan Cancer Support from the two-day trek but hope to get some more donations.

John is now back down in more familiar territory as has prepares for two nights at the Edinburgh Fringe.

He played the Fringe last year with two sell-out shows after receiving critical acclaim for his album, Rain For Sale.

The Fringe shows will be followed by a short tour in the Highlands before returning to Glasgow for the Americana Festival in October.

Any plans to play a regular mountain-top slot?

“I might try somewhere else,” he replied.

“I had a crazy idea to play on top of Ben Nevis, but I have already done one a few feet higher. Kilimanjaro might be next, it’s a bit colder.”

  • John Alexander, Dustbowl Blues With A Glasgow Kick, Back Room of the Acoustic Music Centre, St Bride’s Centre, Orwell Terrace, Edinburgh. August 12 and 19, doors 8pm, £8 (£6 concessions).
  • To make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support visit