Andrew McIlroy (Guitar/Vocals)

Andrew McIlroy (Guitar/Vocals) Photo (c) asp-photography

Andrew McIlroy grew up in Melbourne, Victoria, and started playing guitar in 1971. 

In those days, it was not very common for kids to play guitar and in a school of roughly 1100 children he was one of only a hand full of kids learning guitar.

By the age of 14 he was playing weekly in an adult folk band in clubs around Carlton (Melbourne's equivalent of Northbridge). At this time he purchased his first electric guitar. He tried to introduce it to the folk band and soon found his services were no longer required!

In 1973, Andrew formed his first band, influenced by the usual greats of the time - The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and The Kinks - then quickly progressed to more guitar-orientated bands like The Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Then in 1975 he made his first step into the Blues when he swapped a copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the Moon for a copy of John Mayall’s Blues breakers with Eric Clapton.

Being in Melbourne at that time was a great opportunity to hone one’s craft and Andrew spent many years playing in bands supporting the likes of AC/DC, Skyhooks, Rene Geyer and many others. In 1979, came his first tour of Western Australia in a band called Airborne. He loved the WA lifestyle, but it took another eight years before he finally returned in 1988 and opened a guitar business called The Rock Inn, which operates in Mount Lawley.

Establishing the new business was a priority and it was another seven years before he could find the time for musical commitments. However, was lucky enough to be offered the position of House guitarist at the Perth Blues Club in 1995. This opened the door to meeting some of the best blues musicians in the state and for the next decade he performed in the following bands.

  • Perth Blues Club House Band
  • Bob Patient and The Shakers
  • Rick Steele and the Hot Biscuit Band
  • Rick Steele and the Common Man Band
  • Richard Roberts and the Cruise-o-matics

Empire Blues was formed in 2005 with long-time friend Alan Dawson, and Gavin Kerr who had worked with Andrew in The Cruise-o-matics. To some degree, the idea to form a three-piece came as a response to the difficulties of running a nine-piece band, which was the basic line up for the Cruise-o-matics. The band quickly grew in popularity as no one else in Perth was concentrating on British Blues.

In 2010, due to work commitments, Gavin had to retire from the band and a chance meeting and jam with Frank Shinell at the funeral of a mutual friend saw Frank join the band.

To put some perspective on this, Alan and Frank had played together in various bands since the '70s and Frank had done sound for Andrew when he was touring here in 1979. So all three have had their lives intertwined for over 30+ years.

Empire Blues is a return to Andrew’s musical roots as the bulk of his early playing was based around three-piece blues trios and predominately British musicians. Although he has spent many years listening to and playing blues of all persuasions, it is largely the British Blues invasion of the 1960’s where his influences lie.

Andrew strongly believes if it wasn’t for the British artists of that time, blues music and musicians would not have the recognition they currently enjoy today. Now, ten years on, Empire Blues concentrates most of its efforts on original material, but the British influences are never very far away.

7324 Last modified on Thursday, 22 October 2015 12:51
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