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Mae McKenna

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Mae McKenna’s roots are strongly Irish and Scottish. She grew up in Coatbridge near Glasgow the youngest of three children with her brothers Hugh and John. Mae was raised in a house filled with music. Her parents and grandparents played music and songs from the variety theatre and the art songs of John McCormack to the classics of Frank Sinatra. At an early age she was exposed to jazz and classical music. At 14 she joined the Lanarkshire youth orchestra where she played viola. The sounds she heard at home included Art Tatum, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and the Tamla Motown classics on the radio all embedded in her teenage brain.

Mae McKenna joined her first group ‘’Day’’ in high school. She played viola with this gothic folk band. Playing in a local festival her musical talents were noticed by another young band called Contraband. Some meetings later and a night visit to a friend’s house in search of this elusive and talented young woman lead to Contraband asking Mae to join them as lead singer. A Scottish folk rock legend was born.

Contraband featured Mae McKenna, George and Billy Jackson, John Martin, Peter Cairney and Alec Baird. Contraband’s music was an exciting mixture of Irish and Scots traditional tunes, dramatic folk-rock arrangements of classical ballads and contemporary songs. They attacked their music with youthful vigour and energy. ‘’We loved playing together’’ Mae recalls, ‘’We always used to play and sing on the way to gigs and coming back from them. Looking back I couldn’t have wanted a better band to begin touring with’‘. Life on the road was an adventure and Contraband toured all over Scotland and England.

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