RIP Graeme Williamson of the Pukka Orchestra

If you were into Canadian alternative in the 80s, you would have known about Toronto’s Pukka Orchestra, who was formed in 1981 and released a fabulous self-titled record on the Solid Gold label in 1984. Known by many as the “pink album,” it went out of print and disappeared when Solid Gold went out of business, even as the album was selling across the country. It wasn’t until 2000 that it was resurrected on CD.

A million people went through this group during its existence, but there was always a core that featured guitarist and singer Graeme Williamson. Fans with long memories might remember Graeme’s battle with kidney issues while he was visiting family in Scotland. It got bad real fast (the condition was due to a birth defect) and a benefit was organized by some of his fellow Queen Street West friends to raise money for his treatment. He eventually had a transplant that was followed by a little setback, but as far as I know, he made a complete recovery.

Damn, these were good songs.

Tom Robinson originally released this song under the title “Atmospherics.” The Pukkas gave it their own spin.

This song greatly annoyed Toronto Police because it broke to light a particular local story of police brutality.

Graeme’s health problems continued with multiple infections and transplants. While he never performed with the Pukkas again, he acquired an MA in creative writing and tutored at the University of Glasgow.

He died of a stroke June 25 at the age of 71.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “RIP Graeme Williamson of the Pukka Orchestra

  • June 26, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    The core members of the Pukka Orchestra from it’s inception till it’s final performances was always Graeme Williamson, Neil Chapman and Tony Duggan-Smith. We were together as the Pukkas until Graeme’s health deteriorated to the point where it wasn’t safe for him to leave Glasgow, the record company went tits up, and all the recording masters were destroyed in a flood at the Royal Bank where they were being stored during the label’s Receivership. Did I mention we received a CASBY at the same time as all this crazy stuff was happening! We had magnificent players like Steve Webster, Randall Coryell, John Whynot, Howard Aye, Larry Brown, Rockin’ Randy Kempf, David McMorrow, Todd Booth, Bohdan Hluszko, Denis Akiyama, David Norris, Jorn Andersen, Shane Adams….

    • June 27, 2020 at 8:50 am

      I had no idea what Cherry Beach was about until this moment. I just loved the music when I was a kid. Now I can go back and listen to it in a different light.

    • June 27, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Thanks Tony, we all appreciate and love your work. RIP to Graeme, a fantastic frontman. I only have the pink album, which I love and have with me digitally all the time. What else would you recommend from your output – and where can it be found?

  • June 28, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Somewhere in a box, I have a broken drumstick from when my big brother saw them in Cobourg!!

  • January 2, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Found the pink album in perfect condition at a antique shop in Freelton on. Love it!


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