Can there be any more literal definition of a cult hero than an artist who dresses every day in full Highland battle dress – kilt, helmet, claymore sword and all? The story of Jesse Rae, this self-styled “funk warrior” from the Scottish Borders town of St Boswells may be one of the weirdest and most maverick untold tales in British pop.
After initially making his way to the US as the bassist in a heavy metal band, in the 1970s and 1980s Jesse Rae became a close companion and collaborator with some of the great American funk musicians of the era – Parliament-Funkadelic and Talking Heads’ synthesiser guru Bernie Worrell, the talk-box loving Roger Troutman of G-funk progenitors Zapp and Roger (as sampled on 2Pac’s California Love), as well as Keith LeBlanc and Doug Wimbish from the Sugarhill Records house band (as featured on White Lines and The Message) and many more. Between 1979 and 1987, with a little help from his friends, Rae penned a raft of slick, groovy, camp and not a little bit silly synth-funk singles, full of Celtic bon mots, sung with a thick Scottish flourish and accompanied by surreal, self-directed videos. He also wrote Odyssey’s 1982 hit single Inside Out.
Next time he appears near you, head along and give this forgotten funk warrior a salute. He’ll be the guy in the kilt and helmet wielding a claymore.