Alexander (“Lex”) McLean Cameron was born on the 30th April 1907 at 6 Rosebery place, Clydebank, Dunbartonshire. He was the son of Donald (Daniel) Cameron Iron Moulder 1871-1951, and his second wife, Mary Howe McLean 19876-1948 greengrocer.
Whilst his parents hoped that Alex would become a classical musician and would enter university for an academic lifestyle, they were to be disappointed on two counts. Firstly Lex was expelled from school for being a difficult pupil and then he gave up his piano music lessons and took to the accordion.
He was so scared to tell his mother, that he fled to Belfast with just £4 in his pocket. He returned to Scotland and began to earn his living – £3.10s a week – by playing piano, sax, trombone, concertina, and bagpipes, on the sea fronts of Girvan and other Firth of Clyde holiday towns. He also busked outside the picture houses in much the same way that the legendary Jimmy Shand had in his early days.
Meanwhile, whilst Lex was beginning his entertainment career his parents were telling anyone who enquired about their son that he was on the road as a commercial traveller, such was the stigma attached to touring ‘theatrical types’.
Lex toured with variety shows and worked as a foil to other comedians, before finally becoming the lead comic. He embarked on a solo career in 1947 and got booked Edinburgh as a principal comic.
Lex finally achieved full prominence in 1955 when he succeeded Tommy Morgan (1898-1958) at the city centre Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, winning a steadily increasing following with packed audiences up to 1971.
Wearing a red cloak and top hat, or a flat cap and baggy trousers, and with a smirk on his face, he would offer comedy lines with a double meaning; “Keep it bright, keep it bright!” he would smile.
The media dubbed him “Sexy Lexy” due to the nature of his act and patter, but his material was passed as ‘suitable for the public’ by the Lord Chamberlain and Glaswegians queued in their hundreds to enjoy him.
It was the Glasgow Pavilion Summer shows which were the golden days for Lex Mclean, when his guest or supporting acts included acts as well-known as Roy Castle, The Bachelors and the Alexander Brothers.
Lex paid his support bill acts high fees but was a demanding taskmaster in return. He also proved a tough negotiator when it came to negotiating his own deals. He asked and got not only a share of the box office receipts but also a profit share in the bar takings.
He invested his money in stocks and also held shares in the Pavilion Theatre.
After a show at the Pavilion Lex would dash out of the stage door and run down to Queen street Station to catch the last train home to Helensburgh. When the train arrived at Helensburgh, Lex would get into his car which he always left at the station and drive the few miles from the station to his home.
Lex would usually reach his home at three minutes past midnight and Grace would always have his supper ready for him. They would sit together and discuss that night’s performance.
During the day before he would set off to the theatre, he would sit in his rocking chair up on the enclosed balcony in his house which faced onto beautiful views of the River Clyde and write fresh material.
When Lex wasn’t working he would relax for a few hours on his boat, regularly sailing up the Gareloch or the Clyde. And when he wasn’t enjoying the water, he could be found at Ibrox, watching every home game of his beloved Rangers FC.
Lex died at his home, 2 Cumberland Avenue, Helensburgh, from pneumonia on 23 March 1975, and was cremated at Clydebank crematorium on 26 March 1975.
Lex was a Master Mason of Lodge Dramatic No.571.
extract from the history of Lodge Dramatic below,
No record of the Lodge would be complete without a mention of the late Lex McLean. Lex was the traditional Glasgow comic, but he had friends and admirers the world over. He was a brother and friend to the Lodge for many years, and it was often thanks to Lex and his colleagues, including ''the dodger,'' PM Alec Rodger that Dramatic's harmonies were such a success.