“It’s a rock and roll fairy tale!” exclaims John McLoughlin, vocalist with Johnny Mac And The Faithful who have been supporting Rod Stewart on the summer leg of his UK tour. “It’s been an amazing time and we’re loving every second of it, but if it was a film script you’d think it was too far fetched!”

Fairy tale, or not, it has been a dream come true for John and the band who were virtually unknown outside of Glasgow. They have been playing to thousands of fans at football grounds and other outdoor venues across the UK, supporting one of the biggest rock and roll stars of all time.

“Rod has rolled out the red carpet for us,” John adds. “Most support bands get wheeled in and wheeled out and not much is said about it but we’re with Rod’s band all the time, in the dressing room, hanging out, we’re all in catering together and we’re having the greatest time. It’s been fun, the most beautiful experience!

“Then we come out and we play and, to be fair, not a lot of people have heard of us. But Rod Stewart introduces us, from backstage, how cool is that? That sends you on stage with a little bounce in your step. And the reaction from the fans has been mind blowing! We are out there enjoying ourselves and every show has been incredible! Rod clearly loves what he does and that just pours down through all the crew involved with the tour and to little old us!

“And then Rod stops before a song and thanks us and thanks me and every night I’ve got tears in my eyes with pride! I can’t actually believe it.”

John has been involved in the music business for over thirty years, primarily as a songwriter, including number 1 hits for Westlife (Queen Of My Heart) and Busted (You Said No), and as a producer.

“I started writing songs for teen pop bands. 911 had my first hits and then I met Simon Cowell and he asked me to write for some of his bands like Five, Liberty X and Blue. 

“Then I was working with other bands, Echo and the Bunnymen, Shane MacGowan and The Pogues and Marti Pellow. I wrote with Lamont Dozier, the Motown legend! That was a wonderful experience as well. Rod’s a big Motown fan too, so there’s always been a connection! Add Celtic to that and you have a winning formula!”

Celtic Football Club, now that’s something our Rod’s really passionate about.

“I was having success as a writer,” John continues, “and it was the anniversary of Celtic being the first British team to win the European Cup in ‘67. I decided to write a song for it with (Simple Minds guitarist) Gordon Goudie and we thought we’d get a bunch of celebrity fans to contribute to the video. We managed to get Rod in on that, a song called Best Day Of Our Lives, with Noel Gallagher, Billy Connolly, Fun Loving Criminals and Echo and the Bunnymen. They all appear in the video and that gave us a chart hit for one of the Celtic charities.

“Celtic asked me to do more and more music and I started writing more songs for them. I was writing with Shane and by accident we started writing more songs in the style that we play, kinda celtic – Pogues, Waterboys and so on. It went down a treat with the Celtic fans and they started playing the songs at the ground. We started making the records and Celtic asked us to come and do some of the shows they were putting on. We’ve performed at The Park sometimes which, as a Celtic fan, is a huge, huge honour and a thrill.

“Rod heard a piece of music that I had put together for something that Celtic were doing and he tracked me down. He spent a while doing that, just shy of eight or nine months, and he’d written the words to the song that became Julia on his album. It was an absolute thrill for me because I was a Rod Stewart fan, boy and man. My cousins were listening to Rod Stewart and The Faces when I was younger. They were all in their teens, I would have been 10 or 11 but I always remember them playing these records, the posters and seeing Rod on the telly.

“So it’s very bizarre for me that all these years later, here we are, friends, co-writing partners on a song and now I’m on tour with him!” he laughs. “World famous global rock star, great friend and beautiful human being Rod Stewart!”

Through their mutual love of Celtic, music and a pint, John and Rod have become great friends. But it was still a surprise to John when the offer came to support Rod on his UK tour.

Johnny Mac & Faithful 2 John McLoughlin
Photo: Geoff Ford

“Usually we go to the Celtic games together and it’s fair to say we have a little drink afterwards and Celtic have been doing so well over the past few years, we have a bit of a celebration. So you think ‘Maybe we had a few, I’m sure that’s not what he meant!’ Then we’d turn up to go to the game and Rod would say ‘Have you got your band together, yet?’

“‘Are you sure about this, this canna be real!’ All of a sudden managers and contracts have been turning up. Shit, I’d better get this together! Myself and Gordon Goudie, he’s the most experienced of us, and David Thomas are the main ones behind Johnny Mac And The Faithful.

“We’ve only done a few shows at Celtic but actually supported Rod at The Hydro when there was a big celebration of Celtic’s 50th anniversary of winning the European Cup in 2017. We were part of that event which was brilliant but he hadn’t put two and two together and realised that I was the guy that he was trying to find that wrote this piece of music.

“I used to be in bands, back in the day, but we never got a record deal or anything so in the last 34 years I had done only four or five shows altogether as a live performer!” he laughs. You may have gathered, John is on such a high, he laughs a lot!

“So this is kind of a baptism of fire for me but I’ve spent a long time around music and around bands, trying to encourage them and writing and producing. I’m sure some of that has rubbed off – plus my absolute enthusiasm for doing this and my love of Rod Stewart! I hope that comes across in my performances.”

Absolutely! Johnny Mac And The Faithful is a great little band mixing rock and roll with their celtic roots and creating a great atmosphere before Rod’s shows. The rest of the line up is Gordon Goudie and Gary McDowell (guitars), Stevie Morrison (drums), Tam McKinley (bass), Lisa Pettigrew of The Dubliners on fiddle and Terry Drueich on keyboards and squeezebox. “Terry is actually an accountant but he’s a fantastic squeezebox player, plays in a lot of traditional bands. Accountant by day, rock and roll hero by night! I’m probably the one with least experience!”

The band play a lively set which includes their version of The Irish Rover and some self-penned songs, Waiting So Long and their forthcoming single Took A Train, before finishing with a rock and roll number called Joey Ramone in which they manage to name-check a number of Rod Stewart songs.

There was a slight delay before Johnny Mac And The Faithful got to play on home soil. Rod’s only Scottish summer gig, at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, was postponed due to high winds and so the rearranged date of 16 July was the final concert at the ageing venue.

“Aberdeen was fantastic,” said John. “A bit sad as it was the last show (of our tour) but it had a party feel to it! We were out with Rod and the band for a right old knees-up afterwards, too!

“God bless Rod for taking the most bizarre chance of his career. Thankfully it seems like it paid off, judging by the response we’re getting. I just wanted to do a great shift and give people a good time before Rod comes on.

“As a result of this we’ve been asked to do other things. I can’t believe this. After this little stint we finish an album and hope to have it out for the end of August or September. We’re getting more and more requests to come and play in other cities and agents are contacting us, it’s pretty overwhelming!

“We’re just so grateful for Rod for taking such a chance. Can you imagine sitting at the meeting with the promoters, all the people involved thinking ‘Who’s the support act going to be, Rod? Emeli Sandé? Lewis Capaldi?’ ‘No! It’s going to be a complete bunch of unknowns you’ve never heard of from Glasgow who sing Celtic songs!’ How much would you pay for a photograph of everybody’s faces on that day?” Even more laughter!