Formed in 1968 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, Nazareth evolved out of local attractions the Shadettes. Dan McCafferty (vocals), Manny Charlton (guitar), Pete Agnew (bass) and Darrell Sweet took their new name from the opening line in “The Weight”, a contemporary hit for the Band. After completing a grueling Scottish tour, Nazareth opted to move to London.
Nazareth and Exercises showed undoubted promise, while a third set, Razamanaz, spawned two UK Top Ten singles in “Broken Down Angel” and “Bad Bad Boy” (both 1973). New producer Roger Glover helped to focus the quartet’s brand of melodic hard rock, and such skills were equally prevalent on Loud ‘N’ Proud. An unlikely rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight” gave the band another major chart entry, while the Charlton-produced Hair of The Dog confirmed Nazareth as an international attraction. Another cover version, this time of Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle”, was a Top 20 entry and although Rampant did not yield a single, the custom-recorded “Love Hurts”, originally a hit for the Everly Brothers, proved highly successful in the USA and Canada.
Nazareth’s popularity remained undiminished throughout the ‘70s but, having tired of a four-piece line-up, they added guitarist Zal Cleminson, formerly of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, for No Mean City. Still desirous for change, the band invited Jeff “Skunk’ Baxter, late of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, to produce Malice in Wonderland. While stylistically different from previous albums, the result was artistically satisfying.
Contrasting ambitions then led to Cleminson’s amicable departure, but the line-up was subsequently augmented by former Spirit keyboard player John Locke. Baxter also produced the experimental The Fool Circle, while the band’s desire to capture their in-concert fire resulted in Snaz. Glasgow guitarist Billy Rankin had now joined the band, but dissatisfaction with touring led to Locke’s departure following 2XS. Rankin then switched to keyboards, but although Nazareth continued to enjoy popularity in the USA and Europe, their stature in the UK was receding.
Bereft of a major recording contract, Nazareth suspended their career during the late ‘80s, leaving McCafferty free to pursue solo ambitions (he had already released a solo album in 1975). No Jive was an impressive comeback album in 1992, but the band failed to capitalize on its success. In 1999, Castle Communications reissued the band’s back catalogue, complete with added bonus tracks and alternate takes.
The release of Boogaloo in Europe on SPV saw critics begin raving again. It seemed Nazareth was beginning to be noticed once again by the industry. The success of Boogaloo in Europe and the success of The Double Trouble Tour (with Uriah Heep) led to a signing with the major US label, CMC International.
As Nazareth began climbing to the top again, tragedy struck! On April 30, 1999 founding member and drummer Darrell Sweet died suddenly from a major heart attack.
Shattered, the band understandably cancelled the tour and headed home to Scotland. The future was in limbo for a few months as the families, band, and crew tried to digest what had happened.
But after several band meetings, it was decided that Darrell would have wanted them to continue on.
In fine tribute to Darrell, the band selected Lee Agnew, Pete’s eldest son, to fill the drumming duties for Nazareth. Lee was a natural choice as he is a very talented and accomplished drummer, already knew the music, learned tips from Darrell and he knew all the guys already.
After a few months of rehearsing - the band got ready for their first ever tour without Darrell. They amazed everyone - they played better and stronger than ever. Lee had won the hearts and support of Naz fans everywhere. The band enjoyed how well they were playing and the audience acknowledged this everywhere they played! (Darrell is surely smiling with pride!).
Over the last few years Nazareth has carried on touring around the world, A UK tour with their old mates Uriah Heep, in March 2001 saw the first British shows for many years, ending with a great gig at the Astoria in London to a sell out audience.
On October the 20, 2001 Nazareth Played to a sold out crowd at the Garage in Glasgow, the show was recorded for a new live album and DVD titled Homecoming. It was a great night of Rock’N’Roll and one the fans will treasure forever!
Sadly, 2002 was another busy one for the band, but it was to be the last time keyboardist Ronnie Leahy appeared with the band, Ronnie had decided to hang up his road shoes and retire from touring.
So, once again Nazareth was back to being a four piece again, They took hold of the challenge that change brings, regrouped, and filled their schedule with world tours.
After the critical success of their album The Newz, Nazareth approached the recording of Big Dogz (2011) with a sophisticated challenge - no tricks, no studio gimmicks - just the real thing - the authentic sound of the four members of the band in the studio. The band retired in Prague and wrote all the new songs. Yet, instead of working like most artists do nowadays - artificially creating a polite version of their new compositions, Nazareth worked on the sound, on the essence of their interpretation as well as on the spontaneity of their performance. The band ultimately wanted to bring the real spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll back. That’s why it only takes one play to realize Big Dogz will be a fans’ favorite album as much as No Mean City (1979) or Hair of The Dog (1975).