Tam Cowan: My old pal Sydney Devine was a Legend In His Time

It was November 2018, the 44th consecutive year he’d performed at the Glasgow Pavilion, and Sydney Devine had just finished reading  out the birthday dedications to his adoring audience.

He then said: “My old pal Tam Cowan’s in tonight. I want you to do the eulogy at my funeral, Tam. How are you fixed next week?”

We all laughed – after bouncing back from a series of health scares, Steak ’n’ Kidney seemed totally indestructible – and Syd enjoyed another good couple of years before sadly passing away last Saturday.

Turns out, though, he wasn’t joking about the eulogy.

At Syd’s request, I got a call on Monday from his dear friend and music producer Dougie Stevenson, who said: “So, how are you fixed next week?”

It will be an honour and a privilege, boys.

I’ve been a fan of Sydney Devine’s music since I was knee-high to Old Shep and I started going to his legendary gigs at the Pavilion Theatre in my early twenties.

Yep, even at his last concert in November 2019 – Syd’s 45th and final show at the Pavilion – I was still the only member of the audience with my own hips.

Tam rocking a Syd tee

In recent years, I only missed the 2017 shindig as I took my wee lassie to see Little Mix at the Hydro. (Sent a card to the girls’ dressing room before the gig – requesting a cover version of Tiny Bubbles – but it was rudely ignored.)

The first night I met my future in-laws, back in November 2003, I took them to see Syd at the Pavilion.

And yes, before any rascal says it, they STILL let me marry their daughter!

When we got hitched two years later, I even finished my speech with a couple of lines from Syd’s biggest hit Cryin’ Time. Turning to the new Mrs C, I said: “My love for you couldn’t grow no stronger, if I lived to be 100 years or more…”

Awwww. Imagine having to try for brownie points on your wedding day, eh?

In a brilliant career spanning EIGHT decades, my old mate sold an incredible 15million albums and worked with music legends such as Roy Orbison, Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton.

A few years ago, Glasgow Pavilion boss Iain Gordon told me: “I’d compare Sydney Devine – and I mean this sincerely – to Frank Sinatra. There are only a few people in this business  with genuine stagecraft and Syd unquestionably has the magic touch.”

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Syd loved a giggle and, just over a week ago, I was encouraged by his daughter Karen to drop him a wee text as he was “missing a bit of cheek”.

So I sent Syd a message saying: “I’ve just seen Dean Park at the Pavilion looking for any spare gigs in November…”

Quick as a flash, Syd replied: “He’ll never fit into my suits…” Aye, he was always fast with a one-liner.

I remember being in a hotel bar with Syd a number of years ago when a rather well-spoken lady asked us for directions to the toilets.

After pointing out they were just down the corridor, Syd let her walk right to the door before shouting: “Tell them you know Sydney Devine and you’ll get a good seat!”

After announcing Syd’s sad passing on Off The Ball last Saturday (yep, a proper JFK moment) the tributes flooded in. And Syd would have loved them.

According to one listener, when Syd owned the Anfield Hotel in Ayr they had a weekly karaoke competition. Syd took part one night – and finished ninth out of 12.

My favourite Sydney Devine joke?

Two guys facing the firing squad were allowed one last wish.

“I’d like to hear Sydney Devine singing The Crystal Chandeliers,” said the first one.

And the second fella said: “Shoot me first.”

As you can imagine, folks, I’ve been playing Syd’s music non-stop at home since Saturday. In fact, Alexa has already threatened to pack her bags and leave.

My Top 5 Sydney Devine songs?

5) Cryin’ Time

4) Legend In My Time

3) The Answer To Everything

2) Maggie (When You And I Were Young)

1) Scotland Forever

That last one (I’d urge younger readers to google it) is Sydney Devine’s finest four minutes in a recording studio and, as I’ve insisted for years, I think it should replace that dirge Flower Of Scotland as our national anthem.

One of my proudest Syd memories – a story I’ll share with his friends and family at next week’s funeral – is when he did the cabaret at former Motherwell FC owner John Boyle’s wedding in 2008.

I was enjoying a drink with a fellow guest – an Englishman who’d never even HEARD of Sydney Devine – when, halfway through his first song this guy just pointed at him and said: “Hank Williams.”

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A fitting epitaph, in my opinion.

Sydney Devine was born in 1940 and he died in 2021.

But his music will last forever.

Kilty pleasure Sydney in his full pomp

PS. One final story that Syd loved telling against himself. It’s August 1977 and Syd’s agent is in a Glasgow restaurant with a colleague when the waiter suddenly announces that, according to a news flash on the radio, Elvis Presley has died.

The stunned silence is only broken by Syd’s agent leaning across the table and whispering: “You know, this could be the break Syd’s been waiting on…”


My favourite photos of the week…

The world is falling to bits and everything is terrible, but at least I’m not in this car…

Ed Sheeran with James Corden

The first pint when the pubs reopen…

Big pint or wee hands?

Gizza jab…

Yosser Hughes from 80s TV series Boys from the Blackstuff

Relaxing after winning another lockdown argument with my wife…

Sleep tight

I could swear FM has outed herself as an Aberdeen fan

At Monday’s daily Covid briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Sometimes it takes all my power not to use expletives when asked about football.”

So, has the First Minister outed herself as an Aberdeen fan…?

Nicola Sturgeon at this week’s First Minister’s Questions

Remember last week’s story about the police inquiry into 19 pregnant sheep stolen in the north-east between December and January?

Well, the senior officer on the case says only the Aberdeen players have been rule out at this stage as they’ve been firing blanks all season.

In fact, so they don’t visit any house parties like certain other footballers, I hear the Aberdeen lads have urged friends and family to paint goalposts around their front doors…

PS. As a Motherwell fan, I still can’t believe the stuff I’ve been watching this season is “elite sport”. Seriously?

Another shout out for TV’s Golden Oldies

Anne Robinson on Channel 4 after being announced as the new Countdown host

I had forgotten all about Anne Robinson since her reign as Queen of Mean ended in 2012.

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But after a few years, I understand, working in quality control at a sausage processing plant – “You are the weakest link – goodbye!” – she’s set for a TV comeback at 76 as the new host of Countdown.

Another golden oldie – shouty actor Brian Blessed – also got a new gig during lockdown.

The Flash Gordon legend has won a new generation of fans as Grampy Rabbit in kids’ cartoon Peppa Pig.

Wonder if he ever goes up to the bacon counter in Asda and yells: “Peppa’s not alive!” According to reports, the 85-year-old now spends a lot of “bliss” time in a cabin in the woods. That’s how it was described by his wife…

An increasing number of people have become addicted to their Smartphones and tablets during lockdown.

And I’m not surprised to hear the young ‘uns are totally hooked.

When my wee girl was just three years old, we thought it’d be fun to show her our old wedding album.

Lo and behold, instead of trying to turn each page, she tried to SWIPE it!

Text joke of the week…

● Five Rangers players were at the house party but James Tavernier also showed up when the police started handing out penalties.

● On my weekly trip  to the supermarket yesterday, I thought I saw Van Morrison in my rear-view mirror – until I remembered everything in a mirror is reversed. Turns out it was just a Morrisons van.

● News reporters everywhere are hoping and praying a Llanfairpwll- gwyngyllgogerychwy- rndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Covid-19 variant doesn’t emerge.

Spiteri’s horrific lockdown haircut

Sharleen Spiteri of Texas

Texas rocker Sharleen Spiteri says she left her Welsh terrier looking “a state” after a horrific lockdown haircut. Reminds me of the bloke who taught his pet poodle how to talk.

Its very first words were:

“Don’t you EVER cut my hair again…”

Leitch to their own

Tam and Off the Ball pal Stuart Cosgrove

Here’s another quick round-up of my favourite silly questions put to Professor Jason Leitch on last week’s Off The Ball…

● My gas and electricity boxes are right next to each other in the hall cupboard – should I keep two meters apart?

● Under current regulations, did I break the law last week by having three snowmen in my garden?

● Due to the two-metre rule, can pickpockets apply for furlough money?

● Is shopping online OK? Last week, me and my wife shopped two of our neighbours for having visitors…

And finally…

According to reports, the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England is now available online. Listen, I know we’re all bored during lockdown – but surely nobody’s THAT f****** bored?!?


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