Lyle and Benny Gallagher initially teamed up in 1959 as members of the local Largs based band, The Bluefrets, and teamed up again in a band based in Saltcoats called the Tulsans with lead singer James (Drew) Galt, Dennis Donald (keyboards), Eric (surname unknown) on guitar, Benny Gallagher (bass) and Graham Lyle (drums). The Tulsans released two singles in 1965 under the name James Galt for Pye that are now prized by northern soul collectors: "Comes The Dawn" and "With My Baby". Benny and Graham later moved to London in the mid 60s.
A rare one-off single, "Trees", was issued on UK Polydor 56093 in 1967, under the name Gallagher-Lyle.
In 1968, Gallagher and Lyle were signed by Apple Records, where they wrote for musicians such as Mary Hopkin ("Sparrow", "The Fields of St. Etienne", "International", "Heritage", and "Jefferson").
In 1970, the two Scots became original members of the British band McGuinness Flint, writing nine of the 11 songs on the group's eponymous debut album, including the British hit singles "When I'm Dead and Gone" and "Malt and Barley Blues", which reached No.2 and No.5 respectively in Britain. The pair recorded a second album, Happy Birthday Ruthy Baby, with McGuinness Flint—again writing most of the songs—before leaving to form the duo Gallagher and Lyle in 1972.
As a duo, Gallagher and Lyle recorded a total of eight albums: Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle, Willie and the Lapdog, Seeds, The Last Cowboy, Breakaway, Love on the Airwaves, Showdown and Lonesome No More. All these were issued on A&M except for the last, which was released on Mercury. The most successful of these was 1976's gold-selling Breakaway, which was produced by David Kershenbaum and yielded the British Top 10 hits "I Wanna Stay With You" and "Heart On My Sleeve", both of which also charted in the US. "Heart On My Sleeve" was subsequently covered by Bryan Ferry, Judith Durham and Ringo Starr.
Two other songs from this album were successful in the US: Art Garfunkel's cover of "Breakaway", topped the Adult Contemporary chart, and Don Williams took "Stay Young" to No. 1 on the Country record chart, which saw the song receive in excess of one million airplays on American radio. The duo also penned and performed "A Heart in New York", which was later performed by both Simon & Garfunkel and Garth Brooks in their concerts in Central Park, New York to audiences of 500,000 and 750,000, respectively. The pair's original recording of "A Heart In New York" eventually appeared on 1991's compilation album Heart On My Sleeve - The Very Best of Gallagher and Lyle.
Lyle's recordings after 1980 were rare, but included an album with Tom McGuinness, credited to the Lyle McGuinness Band: Acting on Impulse (1983), as well as a solo portfolio album, Something Beautiful Remains (2003). A solo single, "Marley", was issued on Red Bus in the UK in 1983, while "Taking Off" - a TV advertising jingle, co-written with prolific session keyboardist Billy Livsey and credited to the Lyle-Livsey Band - was released on the Dolphin label in 1984, but only in Eire, where it became a Top 20 hit.
In 1997, Lyle co-wrote and produced 2 British Top 20 hits for Conner Reeves: "My Father's Son" (No.12) and "Earthbound" (No.14). The former song was covered by Joe Cocker.
More recently, Lyle performed his composition "One Woman" at the United Nations in New York (www.un.org/webcast/) on 24 February 2011 to launch their "U.N.Woman" project.
Reunion with Benny Gallagher (2009–present)
The seeds for a reunion with Benny Gallagher were sown in 2007 when he and Lyle, as session musicians, appeared on an album by Canadian singer-songwriter Chris Tassone; this was recorded at London's Abbey Road studios. In April 2009, soon after Lyle's official retirement, the two Scots attended the opening of the Largs Heritage Centre. The following year, the duo re-formed.
In October 2010, the pair staged two charity concerts in Largs in aid of Haylie House, a residential care home in the town. The following month, they received the Tartan Clef for Lifetime Achievement at a ceremony in Glasgow.
2012 saw Gallagher and Lyle undertake their first tour since 1979, consisting of 9 dates at 8 Scottish venues. Their two dates at The Green Hotel in Kinross, a large golf resort, earned them the Mundell Music Award for Best UK Performance of the year.
In March 2016, Gallagher and Lyle performed together at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters' Festival. In November 2016, the duo returned to The Green Hotel in Kinross for four concerts.
The summer of 2017 saw the duo perform as part of the 'Byre at The Botanics' season in St Andrews, and also at the Belladrum Festival in Inverness and the Albany Theatre in Greenock. In March 2018, the duo returned to Belfast to perform once more at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters' Festival.
Caledonia USA, a musical based on the songs of Gallagher and Lyle, was staged in Largs in April 2016. Originally titled "When I'm Dead and Gone", it was subsequently retitled after a new song written specially for the show by Gallagher and Lyle.
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