Leslie Harvey was born on September 13, 1944, and died on May 3, 1972, aged 27 years and 233 days. Les, as he was known, was a Scottish musician, guitarist, and member of several bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s including Stone the Crows and the Alex Harvey Soul Band. Alex Harvey, Les’ brother, went on to form the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, which had some worldwide success in the 1970s. Les Harvey died onstage with Stone the Crows, after being electrocuted by holding an ungrounded microphone with hands wet from the rain.
Harvey was born in a working class neighborhood in Glasgow Scotland, as was his brother Alex, and they spent their childhood and teen years there. Both young men were interested in being musicians and escaping the life of their father working in the factories, and it was a good time to start in the business. In the 60s, Alan Price of the Animals saw Harvey playing guitar and asked him to come over to the Animals camp, but Les decided to stay with his brother in their band at the time. Harvey next became a member of a Scottish R&B band called the Blues Council. After recording an album and touring, the band fell apart when a terrible accident with their equipment van killed 2 of the group – fickle fate sparing Harvey for a few years.
1967 saw the formation of the band known as Cartoone, and Harvey became the band’s guitarist in 1969. He worked on their second LP, and was with the band when they toured the states supporting the new but relatively unknown English band Led Zeppelin, and the up and coming American psychedelic group Spirit. Cartoone was signed to the Atlantic label in the US before Led Zeppelin, and Zep’s manager Peter Grant was an investor in the band. In late 1969, Maggie Bell, a Scottish blues singer that many compared to Janis Joplin, met Les Harvey through his brother Alex. Maggie’s voice can be heard on Rod Stewart’s song Every Picture Tells a Story, where it has a rough and bluesy quality that really makes the song complete, but she was not the inspiration for Maggie May on the same record.
They hit it off, becoming lovers and working together, and started performing with other musicians (including James Dewar, who would later become well-known as the bassist and vocalist for Robin Trower’s band) as Power. They decided to change their name to Stone The Crows, which was UK English slang for wow or oh gosh, an exclamation of surprise. Peter Grant was their co-manager, and the band were on their way to the big time. The original group with Harvey on guitar and Maggie Bell on lead vocals recorded 2 albums together, both of which were successful enough to tour behind and which launched their career. It was at a gig in Swansea, England, in 1972 that Les Harvey met his untimely end by clutching an electrified mike with wet hands, and entered the pantheon of the forever 27 club.
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