Rocking out for charity

Raising money for charity and making sure everyone has a great time are the two driving forces behind the Poor Man’s Band, a band that performs regularly across the Algarve

Gary Steel and John Corrigan were just teenagers when they formed the first iteration of Poor Man’s Band in 1969.

They lived on the same street in Ayr, Scotland, and their fathers were both policemen, which is how they became friends in 1963 and developed their love for rock music alongside each other.

“John learned to play the guitar, which meant I had to try to learn as well. I never got close to how well he plays, but we decided in 1969 to start a band with a few other mates. With all of us being from working-class families, we decided to name the band the Poor Man’s Band,” lead singer Gary Steel told the Resident.

Euan Pyper at Felizonda

While they played gigs in their hometown, both Gary and John decided to pursue careers in other areas, leaving the Poor Man’s Band as more of a part-time hobby which they would return to with different members over the years.

The current line-up features Gary and John alongside Keith Roberts (bass guitar), Euan Pyper (percussion), Ulf Baggstrom (drums) and Bob Beatson, a keyboardist who has been performing with the band since the 1980s. Gary Bristow stands in occasionally for Ulf on drums when he is out of the country, as he is not a full-time resident in the Algarve unlike his fellow bandmates.

“John, Euan, myself (Gary) and Bob are Scottish, Keith is an ‘honorary Scot’ from Newcastle, and the drummer is a Swede who was born in Finland,” Gary said, explaining how they all came to meet up and form the band in the Algarve.

John Corrigan at Felizonda
John Corrigan at Felizonda

Gary and Bob had been holidaying in Carvoeiro, Lagoa, with their wives for many years, and John and his wife would also join them occasionally.

“Although we all moved here, we didn’t do so as a group,” Gary explained.

It was only after they were already retired Algarve residents that they met the remaining members through their social circles and decided to reform the band with a new goal in mind – raising money for charity.

Their first gig was at a golf course in the Algarve organised by Euan Pyper, who asked if he could sing a song with them.

“I told them that if I was rubbish, they could tell me, I wouldn’t be offended,” Euan told us.

“But we never did…,” Gary interjected, and the rest is history. Euan ended up joining them as the sixth member.

Poor Man’s Band rehearsing

It was not long after that they had their first band meeting in which they set up a series of guiding principles, two of which the band has consistently stuck to: they only play for charity, asking organisers to make a donation to a charity of their choice and an amount of their choice; and they always refuse to take a gig if they know there is a band of working musicians also vying for the opportunity, as they “absolutely do not want to take money out of working musicians’ pockets”.

“We’re at a point in our lives where we don’t need the money. We just want to give back and have fun,” they told us.

The Poor Man’s Band repertoire includes a wide range of classic rock acts, from The Rolling Stones and The Beatles to Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and even some more recent bands such as Snow Patrol. The band members also rotate the singing, although Gary is in charge of most of the lead singing duties.

One of the band’s most recent and largest concerts happened at the Felizonda festival on June 30, held in Lagos to raise money for Oranta – Support Association to the Ukrainian Community in Portugal.

“To our amazement, there were between 1,500-1,600 people of all age groups, including teenagers who were singing along to lots of the songs,” Gary told us.

Keith was even recognised on his way back to his car after the gig.

“As I was leaving with my wife, we saw a group of young kids engaged in some horseplay, and my wide even suggested going around them. But since I was carrying my bass guitar on my back, they recognised me and asked me for a picture,” he amusedly told us.

Between several gigs and a GoFundMe campaign (which saw the band travel up to Lisbon to record four songs and release them to anyone who has made a donation), the Poor Man’s Band has already raised around €13,000 for Oranta alone.

As Euan puts it, the work they put in the band is a “win-win situation”.

“People benefit from the money we are raising, and we win because we enjoy doing it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gary admits that he could not imagine a better retirement.

“A number of friends and family have said to me: ‘you’re living the dream’. And yeah, frankly we are.”

For booking enquiries, contact Euan at +351 968 734 804. You can also stay updated on the band’s upcoming shows on their Facebook page.



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