BRITISH BLUES ARCHIVE

Eyewitness

 

Paul Soper - Part 3

Paul Soper in action

Biography:

Born in Pimlico in 1948 Paul was ideally placed to experience the 'Blues Boom' of the early 1960's, he played guitar in a number of school bands including 'TCP' withn Tony Cohu and Carlos Ordonez - a very early acoustic blues trio. Studying business at college he eventually qualified as an accountant in 1973, went on to specialise in Taxation and is today a lecturer/consultant, produces regular podcasts (for others as well as himself) at www.taxationpodcasts.com and writes an irregular 'humerous' blog at www.taxationpodcastmusings.wordpress.com .  During the 70's and 80's was a regular provider of financial advice for various phone-ins, starting with Robbie Vincent at Radio London, but also with a large number of later hosts, including Tony Blackburn, and regular spots with Johnnie Walker, Diane Luke, the late great Tommy Vance and a friend I miss dearly Mike Sparrow.  TV appearances included the first three series of Moneyspinner on Channel 4 and the BBC accountants' TV network.  Never forgetting the blues entirely Paul started to experience it live again at the Weavers Arms blues jam in Newington Green, hosted by Earl Green and Todd Sharpville, decided that really guitars ought to have 4 strings and sound an octave lower and hasn't looked back - bands since then include 'Blue Juice' with regular Coach and Horses Jammers Clive Nash and of course 'is lordship... Lord Carvell of Acne, followed by an 11 year stint as a Bluesdragon with Jimmy C and more recently as a Fork Handle with Jessie Pie.  Always looking for opportunities to play he has a band which appears at a Picnic in the Park, set up to encourage young bands, where Tim Hill, Clive Nash and Eddie Angel form the backbone of the Enate Blues Band - it's a Crouch End thing.

Paul Soper FCCA Tax Lecturer, consultant, broadcaster (and Bass player)

 

Part 3 - the Americans

Many people credit the Rolling Stones with bringing the original blues greats like Howling Wolf to a wider audience. In fact it was really the Beatles and the 'Beat Boom' of the early 60's which brought those same original blues greats to the UK - but indirectly! Let me explain - music, like a lot of other activities, was unionised, both in the UK and in America but the Musicians Union had a lot more power then than it has today. One of its rules was designed to protect UK musicians - an American artist could only appear in the UK if a UK artist was booked in the States. By the early 60's this allowed a small number of American star musicians to appear in the UK. Then came the Beatles, the Hollies, etc, etc and all of a sudden British groups were the flavour of the month in the States and so many UK musicians crossed the Atlantic that it was now possible to bring over many many more American artists to the UK - and amongst them were some of the greatest names in the Blues.

Visiting blues artists were also overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for their music they encountered in the UK - here was a musical form which was next to dead in the states but in Britain they were revered - some relocated to our side of the water permanently including Champion Jack Dupree who made his home in Halifax of all places. How much were they paid to make a European tour? I'd guess it wasn't much, because the tours were fairly gruelling rounds of blues clubs and venues up and down the country - promoters probably took advantage of the low earnings they made in the States to make offers that looked generous to them but meant that they could be put on at a reasonable price in a club that held maybe 120 to 200 people.

Not so great for them perhaps but it meant we could not only see them, but talk to them, shake their hands, and experience their music not simply in a concert hall but up close and sweaty!

The first blues greats I saw were in a concert hall - Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley on tours of cinemas - this was the old model of touring where a variety bill of artists would be assembled, play two or three numbers each and then rotate on - this was interesting but it wasn't - the blues. The attitude of our two heros was markedly different - Bo brought his US band with him, including, of course, the Duchess on rhythm guitar and Jerome on maraccas - maraccas were an essential part of the aural landscape of the blues at this time - although we'd probably, and more accurately, call it R&B. The R&B charts of the time included blues stars but also acts like Chuck and Bo through to pop acts like the Coasters and every British band included these numbers in their acts - you were as likely to hear a version of Going Down Slow, which I think we'd agree was the blues, as the Stones playing Bo Diddley's Mona - always a club favourite with tremolo guitar and, of course, Mick brandishing as many maraccas as he could carry - just like Jerome - blues? No, but very much pop R&B. So Bo Diddley provided a show and played numbers we'd expect to hear as we'd expect to hear them - Roadrunner was sensational.

Chuck - different matter. Famously mean he never brought a band, only his guitar and played with a pick-up band, not even rehearsing, because that would cost... who would you choose as a pick-up? The Stones would be logical, they knew his catalogue inside out and could provide him with a backing band that would make his material come alive - no - he played with the Nashville Teens - a rather fake (in our opinion) R&B band assembled by Mickie Most. Of course he played the crowd pleasers, did the duck walk but... I have never felt motivated to see him again.

A jazz loving friend at school went to the same venue in Victoria to see visiting jazz acts and I liked going too - these included the Dave Brubeck Quartet - we all sat in reverential silence but Joe Morello's drum solo was mesmerising, Paul Desmond's sax solos a little too intellectual and Eugene Wright was right on the money - an early bass influence without realising it? We also saw Ray Charles, his Orchestra and the Raelettes! Wow - this was more like it - but we were still sat in the stalls and no-one danced - and Ray was also beginning his country music phase. We didn't really think of him as an R&B star because we really only knew his work from the hits and the later albums. I have seen Ray since, many years later, on a double bill at Wembley with Van Morrison - stripped down band and backing singers who couldn't be called the Raelettes for sure. Mind you Ray still rocked and put his co-star into the shade a bit, well more than a bit, although Van decided to make matters much worse by choosing Wembley to verbally attack a certain small Irish jockey who he was convinced was tupping his wife - I suppose once might have been alright, but between every song???

But I digress, back to '64 when the floodgates started to open a bit wider...

In 1964 I went to the Fairfield Hall in Croydon to see what was billed as the "American Negro Blues Festival" - a billing that wouldn't survive today. These two were organised by a German Horst Lippman in association with the National Jazz Federation who also organised the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival. The first one had only visited Manchester in 1962, the second played Croydon in 1963 but I couldn't afford to go, so I was not going to miss the 1964 tour. This still followed the 'lots of acts, two or three numbers each' format, but this was the real deal and the backing band, led by the mountainous Willie Dixon, were on stage throughout the whole show. I'd be lying if I said I could remember it all - but you can now get DVDs of the tours, mainly filmed in Germany, but the line-up was nothing short of an education in the blues...

Lightning Hopkins - I'd always like his guitar work, especially his use of slashed open strings as a rhythmic punctuation and this did not disappoint. Here is a link to a blues festival recording of Lightning Hopkins and his slashing punctuation chords - this is how I used to try to play at the time in our acoustic trio, maybe mixed in with a bit of Matt T Murphy http://tinyurl.com/c8aquoj . Sleepy John Estes was... sleepy, well a little too rural for my taste. John Henry Barbee, guitar and Hammie Nixon, harp and jug were great - we were all getting into Gus Cannon records so to see a real jug player was great, Clifton James and Willie Dixon, yes Willie Dixon, were the rhythm section, piano was played by Sunnyland Slim and guitar was provided by the truly wonderful Hubert Sumlin. Several real treats that do stand out - Sugar Pie Desanto who had just achieved chart success with Soulful Dress and, of course, Howling Wolf. OMG - the Wolf was unbelievable - his head could be fairly described as leonine and the voice was just sooooo powerful. Headliner was Sonny Boy Williamson who had also appeared on the 1963 bill. But the standout memory, thinking back, was Willie Dixon performing N-N-N-Nervous Blues.

Sonny Boy enjoyed the 1963 tour so much he stayed on touring Europe so by this time he was not new to the British Blues scene - but course he relished appearances like this - very much the showman - not only singing the songs we knew but of course performing those ridiculous tricks with the harmonica - playing with his nose, putting the harp halfway into his mouth - end first and continuing to play - he was a great influence on UK harp players but thank heavens they can't or don't perform those tricks! Here's a clip on Youtube from the '62 tour with Otis Spann piano, Willie Dixon on bass and Matt T Murphy (I think) on guitar - http://tinyurl.com/2nseod

Sonny Boy was the first of these artists I saw in a club setting - quite a tall, distinguished man with a two-tone suit, half grey, half black and a Bowler Hat and properly furled umbrella, already quite a city gent, but a very obviously drunken city gent, harp in one hand, whisky half bottle in the other. He could still please a crowd though, and by now we were seeing him in a guest spot at a club - going through, not a couple of numbers but a full 45/50 minute set. Who was the backing band? - couldn't tell you. I did see him, I'm sure, with John Mayall and the Yardbirds but on a couple of other occasions... don't know. Shows how good he was that the memory of the backing band has been completely erased. Now we didn't know then that there had been two Sonny Boy Williamsons and this man was actually called Rice Miller and had simply stolen or assumed the name of the original Sonny Boy who had died in 1948. As a result these days Rice Miller, Sonny Boy, Sonny Boy Williamson II, whatever you want to call him, is a rather neglected figure it seems to me and his influence on the blues played down. But his skills on the harmonica were immense and studied carefully by every harp player I knew.

Howling Wolf must also have stayed on after the 1964 tour because I saw him with Hubert Sumlin at Kooks Kleek in West Hampstead. Now seeing Wolf at Fairfield Hall was great - seeing him and Hubert from 10 feet or so away in a packed and sweaty club was something else again. As mentioned above his large head and voice to match looked fearsome - from this distance doubly so, and the voice was able to be heard as a separate source from the voice through the PA.

Hubert Sumlin was incredible too - his phrasing and tone was unlike anything we had heard at that time, very long fingers, and so many bends and trills that you wondered if he bothered to tune the guitar but simply bent the strings until he found the note he was looking for. Check this out - http://tinyurl.com/d2wdofu

Now these acts had been brought over by Horst Lipmann, some had stayed on and played extra gigs, I'm sure Horst treated them very well, whether British promoters did? Don't know but what were the economics that allowed so many great players to play so many small venues?

T-Bone Walker I mentioned in an earlier part of these memories, and being backed by John Mayall, an ideal combination because he needed a more jazzy approach, given his own background in the 1940's blues, and Mayall could provide that. In addition Mayall was familiar with pretty much the whole of T-Bone's catalogue which very few British bands at the time would have been. As the R&B scene enlarged, bands were basing their arrangements on Mayall's version of a song, or the Stones version rather than sourcing back to the originals. One of the joys of the CD revolution was the production of compilations going back to the 40's and before, so by the 1980's UK bands were trawling through this back catalogue but in the 60's it just didn't exist in any coherent form.

Many of the visiting stars ended up being backed by some strange pick-up bands, but whereas Chuck did this deliberately to save money and time I'm sure some of the acts we saw were quite uncomfortable with the bands that backed them.

T-Bone was a real showman - check out this clip from 1962 on Youtube - http://tinyurl.com/cvzzuqq - he was a small dapper man, oiled hair, expansive grin, diamond in his tooth? Playing a guitar that looked too big by far he often held it horizontally with his guitar strap over one shoulder as John Lee Hooker did as well - I could never do this comfortably but it looked cool and he played well, the clip comes from the series 'The American Folk Blues Festival 1962 - 66' available on DVD, and worth every penny, which recorded many of the acts that took part in the American Negro Blues Festival that I'd seen in '64. Naturally he didn't like being upstaged by Mayall's guitarist at the time, Roger Dean, but Dean's playing, thinking back on it, was probably highly influenced by T-Bone Walker, he certainly didn't play like the rest of young British blues guitarists.

The National Jazz Federation were linked with the Folk Blues tours and also the Marquee club, but every year they organised a jazz, and latterly a jazz and blues festival at Richmond Athletic Club - if the weather was good this was a great weekend and of course from the perspective of today when festivals seem to run most weekends and even weekdays too this was a very unusual event. Quite a large stage, frankly inadequate PA - but PAs had not developed the power for outside concerts that they would just a few years later, and a tent/marquee to the left which provided a second stage. This was the line-up for 1964 - £1 for the whole weekend! - but who the f*** were the Grebbells? ( for the answer, see our Yardbirds Biography - click here)

MOSE ALLISON
THE AUTHENTICS
KENNY BALL & HIS JAZZMEN
CHRIS BARBER
GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION
ERIC CLAPTON
MIKE COTTON JAZZMEN
GEORGIE FAME
THE GREBBLES
TUBBY HAYES QUINTET

HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN (Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart)
COLIN KINGSWELLS JAZZ BANDITS
LONG JOHN BALDRY
HUMPHREY LYTTELTON

MANFRED MAN
MEMPHIS SLIM
DICK MORRISEY QUINTET
THE ROLLING STONES
JOHNNY SCOTT QUARTET
THE T. BONES
ALEX WELSH & HIS BAND
JIMMIE WITHERSPOON
THE YARDBIRDS ( WITH CLAPTON )

Now it's interesting to observe that Eric Clapton gets double billing - once with the Yardbirds and once on his own but I'm pretty certain that he didn't play solo - he would not join Mayall until early 1965 but was clearly still a considerable force even then. The line-up reflected the Jazz influence on the festival, most of whom were pretty bog-standard trad with the exception of Chris Barber, who was a considerable influence on British blues (but not during this set), Long John Baldry gets a double mention through the separate listing of the Hootchie Cootchie Men but Gary Farr has to wait until the following year to be mentioned with the T-Bones.

As I recall the Rolling Stones played a set as though they were in a theatre, a pale imitation of the band I'd started seeing a year earlier, that was the Friday night, but I can't recall who else was on this bill that evening. Given the poor PA system the contrast between seeing them from a few feet away and in this strange setting was extreme. The next time I'd see them live was in Wembley Stadium.

But look through the names and we can add three more influential Americans to the list - Mose Allison, who I loved then and still love today, Memphis Slim, suave sophistication in the blues, and Jimmy Witherspoon.

Like a lot of young mods I was introduced to Mose via his brilliant album - Mose Allison Sings - now here was a synthesis of blues and jazz which was direct - and he was clearly, from his vocals, a direct influence on both Georgie Fame and indirectly on John Mayall - who both included Parchman Farm in their acts. We knew that Mose was a 'Mod' - by that I mean that he was a modernist in jazz terms and that is where mods trace their look and roots to - button down shirt, knitted tie, neat suit. So to sit in a deckchair relaxing in the sun listening to Mose, you could close your eyes and dream you were in Tippo. There doesn't seem to be anything on Youtube from those days but you can catch up with the older Mose there. I have seen Mose on a number of occasions over the years, these days he visits Britain on a regular basis and can be found at Ronnie's or the Dean Street Pizza Express. The first time I saw him in the 80's he was at Pizza on the Park which was a great venue. I went with a good friend and our wives and we were lucky enough to get a table right at the front. The MC begins to announce Mose and he is standing right next to me - he gets up on stage and my wife, who must have heard the album a squillion times, says "I thought he was black! I was just about to tell him not to stand there because we wouldn't be able to see Mose Allison!" Heard it a lot, obviously never looked at the cover. On a later gig at Dean Street Georgie Fame was sat on the table behind and he couldn't resist singing along, very sotto voce, to 'Your Mind is on Vocation'. Here is Mose from 1975 by which time his piano style was becoming much busier than the late 50's early 60's which was perfectly laconic cool - http://tinyurl.com/bx355q

I must confess I can remember watching Memphis Slim but I cannot remember what he played - he was very smooth and this probably reflects the fact that he had moved permanently to Paris in 1962 - this is the description taken from wikipedia which sums up perhaps why he was so unmemorable - "he moved permanently to Paris and his engaging personality and well-honed presentation of playing, singing, and storytelling about the blues secured his position as the most prominent blues artist for nearly three decades." Says it all.

But then, late afternoon, on came Jimmy Witherspoon - Spoon's voice was incredible, like velvet and as it got darker (or is this just my imagination making it even more memorable) he sang 'Evenin Blues' - for me the perfect Witherspoon song. Here is an album version on Youtube - http://tinyurl.com/c44jdwd - but that afternoon it was simple piano, bass and drums. He also recorded the better known 'In the Evening' - different song. I spent years, before CDs came in, trying to track down the version of 'Evening' I heard that afternoon. Guitar on this track recorded in 1963 is T-Bone Walker.

I saw Champion Jack Dupree play with Mayall at the first gig at Klook's Kleek after Roger Dean was sacked in favour of Eric Clapton. Mayall employed his sidemen and like any employer (this was before the Redundancy Payments Act 1965 and the creation of an element of job security) if he wanted to replace one guitarist with another he did. Supposedly each band member was on a salary of £25 per week and Mayall kept the surplus after meeting the road expenses etc. Whilst Clapton was undoubtedly a competent guitarist who was about to take British blues into a new direction, Champion Jack was a barrel-house blues piano player and singer of the old school. He also fell in love with Britain and decided to relocate here, settling down in Halifax of all places. I'd guess that the only surprise is that more blues singers didn't do so, given the opportunity - lauded in Britain and the Continent, ignored at home. The USA was still very largely segregated as well. Val Kilmer, the jazz journalist talks about the times that she had, often bringing visiting jazz and blues stars to her home and the cultural shock of coming to England where there may have been a element of discrimination, this was only 4 or 5 years after the infamous Notting Hill riots but here there was no overt colour bar and certainly in our cities there was a much greater degree of acceptance than in the US at the time.

Jimmy Reed was probably the most laid-back blues artist, any sort of artist, I have ever seen. Again every blues band included a couple of Jimmy Reed numbers in the repertoire, usually 'Shame, Shame, Shame' and 'Honest I Do', sometimes 'Big Boss Man'. Reed had a Phil Spector wall of sound approach to blues boogie with several guitars interweaving parts and Reed's high-pitched harmonica and slurred vocals being very different from most other R&B stars of the day. This didn't transfer as well into live performance and the boogie became a lot simpler. Reed's music was deceptively simple - listen to a track now and dissect the guitar parts, they really aren't as simple as, say, Status Quo - although a number of people think they were. I'm not sure that Jimmy Reed is rated today as an influential singer and musician but... his songs are still a staple at any jam session and if no-one tries to imitate the slurred delivery and high-pitched harp any longer the songs are still great fun to play. If you were a young white singer in the early 60's, a Mick Jagger, a Keith Relf, it was a lot easier to sing Jimmy Reed's songs and your natural voice was even in the right register - there was no way that you would be able to imitate Howling Wolf! Even today the only British singers who can sing like Wolf did are Ian Siegal and Bill Hurley - Bill starts with the advantage of having a leonine head just like Wolf did. But Jimmy Reed songs - we could all sing in that register. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any live footage of Jimmy on the interweb.

John Lee Hooker toured Britain on a couple of occasions and had hits in the top 20 too! We're probably all familiar with the John Lee who appeared in the Blues Brothers film and went on to have astounding album success later in life but in the early 60's he was still a young man. Suited in dark mohair, he could almost have been a mod but he still had the same idiosyncratic approach to song structure that plagued accompanists throughout the whole of his life - 12 bar, 14 bar, hell it depended on what he felt like in the moment - all you could do was hang on and listen and even then odd things would happen. He was booked to tour with Mayall and they did do some dates together but I suspect Mayall preferred structure in his blues - so on many of the dates, certainly the ones I saw, most memorably at the Flamingo, he preferred playing with Tony McPhee's Groundhogs. Here's a Youtube sample of Boom Boom, with the Groundhogs if I'm not mistaken, and towards the end the bass guitar goes to the IV when John Lee doesn't, but you can't blame him! http://tinyurl.com/3agm4qd

Rufus Thomas - oh my - now here was a showman. Rufus had a big UK following from his hits as covered by the Stones - Walking the Dog, and others, Do the Dog and... even the Funky Chicken, but I don't think anyone was prepared for Rufus Thomas. Short, kind of squat, dressed in a lurid short-trousered suit, Rufus not only sang the hits but got the ladies off the dancefloor to come and learn the dances - because this was dance music. Each hit was actually a dance and we all had to learn the moves and Rufus was the man to show us. And if he could get several pretty girls out of the audience to bump and grind with him he was a happy man. Of course he was also a DJ back home and surely must have played a 1,000 dance halls. Was this the blues? Well of course it wasn't but it was amazing fun - here he is with unknown backing band - Jumpback with just a little funky dancing at the end http://tinyurl.com/dyma838 - I'm guessing the producer didn't want to focus on Rufus's dance moves; from the appearance of Cathy McGowan at the end this looks like a clip from Ready Steady Go - in club mode he looked more like the footage at Wattstax some 10 years later which you can chase down on Youtube.

The following year's line-up for the Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival, 1965, included The Yardbirds and a band called The Who supported by the Moody Blues, but I couldn't go on the Friday. Saturday and Sunday were unmissable with a line-up that includes

RONNIE SCOTT

DICK MORRISEY

NEW JAZZ ORCHESTRA

ALBERT MANGELSDORFF QUINTET

MANFRED MANN

GEORGIE FAME

BRUCE TURNER JUMP BAND

GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION

GARY FARR & the T-BONES

RONNIE JONES & THE BLUE JAYS

CHRIS BARBER

OTTILIE PATTERSON

KEN COLYER

KENNY BALL

THE ANIMALS

SPENCER DAVIS

JIMMY JAMES & THE VAGABONDS

STEAM PACKET - THE BRIAN AUGER TRINITY WITH JULIE DRISCOLL, ROD STEWART AND LONG JOHN BALDRY

Once again a fair sprinkling of Jazz but less trad - more modern - and American artists? Not there - were they now too expensive, having learned from the success of touring in 1964? - or were the organisers leaning more towards 'pop' music of the British variety? Each of the five sessions had a subtitle in the poster - the Friday night subtitle - 'Ready Steady Richmond', Saturday evening was called 'Modern Beat' and Sunday evening 'Blues and Soul'. One interesting oddity was the illness of Bruce Turner's bass player and so they persuaded Jack Bruce from Graham Bond to dep on double bass which he did very well. We thought Bruce Turner played 'modern jazz' but in fact his band was very heavily influenced by the jump blues bands of the 40's and in particular Louis Jordan - today Bruce Turner's Jump Band would be regarded as blues through and through! Of course I now know that Jack started out playing double bass and had a considerable jazz background anyway so it wasn't so surprising - however the Jack then wore a blue drape jacket and had a shaggy 'beatles' cut down below his eyebrows and looked a lot different to the jazzers he shared a stage with.

One memory that stands out is of Albert Mangelsdorf, a German bandleader whose trombone playing was a revelation - I had only heard jazz trombone in trad jazz bands - this was very much modern jazz and needed careful attention - Niiiice as we would learn to say many years later.

There is a very interesting website with reminiscences of festivals, including this one - http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/Richmond-65.html - and they observe " The history of the festival shows the organizers were willing to adapt and go with the rapid fire changes that enveloped the British music scene in the 1960s and 70s - they were after all businessmen, and although they no doubt shared a genuine love of jazz music , they were not about to let that love get in the way of profit."

Music generally was about to get flowers in it's hair and the purist mod approach to music was going to expand into many other areas, bringing together folk and frankly 'pop' music into the stew of psychedelia. My musical interests certainly diversified at this time, although meeting the girl who was going to become my wife, and still is today, 47 years later may have had something to do with it as well.

College studies interfered with regular gig going, I think we saw Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers at the Albert Hall - but one last American artist needs to be added to this amazing roster.

September 1966, back at West London College, and an old friend and former musical partner, Carlos Ordonez, part of my trio TCP which had by then disbanded, arrived with news that he had wangled his way onto the committee organising dances and social events at Regent Street Polytechnic which he attended, studying architecture. The Committee had booked a new band who were going to appear for a reasonable fee called Cream - Clapton, Bruce and Baker of course. Did I want to go? - if so the tickets were 2/6d and would I put up a poster? Well of course I wanted to go - the money changed hands, the poster went up, the date went in the diary and in early October we made the journey to the Poly's gymnasium, located off Great Portland Street to see the band. Now between the booking having been made, when Cream had first been formed, and the day of the Freshers' Dance the hysteria surrounding Cream had grown and it was all we could do to fight our way in, fortunately the magic tickets did the job, but many people were obviously trying to pay on the door - tough, because it was sold out.

The first band up were a John Mayall cover band - they played a lot of the material which Mayall played with a similar sound and approach, even covering John's two early singles, Crawling Up A Hill and The Crocodile Walk. Hmmmm. Was this the first tribute band - you can't call it a covers band when it plays covers of covers - can you?

Next came Cream who were, without a doubt, the loudest band I had ever seen this close, extended soloing was the name of the day, and their repertoire at this time was mainly blues standards, Robert Johnson covers like Crossroads of course, I don't think that Pete Brown had started to write the Cream originals with Jack Bruce at this stage. Marshall stacks - 4 of them, 2 each side, and Ginger's enormous drum kit filled the stage produced an enormous sound, although my bass rig today puts out more watts - but as you may know what really counts is the amount of air you move and this set up was 16 x 10" either side of the stage. With a decent PA the sound was good, loud but clear enough not to be fatiguing. It was obvious that Cream were, deservedly, going to be the next big thing.

Then, just before midnight when the concert was scheduled to finish, Chas Chandler, bass player with the Animals climbed on stage, very distinctive because he was also very tall and announced that he had brought a young man from America over who was going to sit in with the band - please welcome - Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was playing a white Strat (in my memory) and launched into a high octane version of Killing Floor. Eric looked bemused, lit a cigarette and walked off the stage leaving Jimi with Jack and Ginger as a trio.

I'd like to report that Jimi was greeted with thunderous applause but I can't - my wife, as she now is, was getting increasing agitated because she had promised to be home by 12 and her father would not be a happy man - and her father not being a happy man was a sight to avoid. So, as the number was still carrying on, we left, caught a taxi and didn't incur too much wrath. I have subsequently learned that this was the second time Jimi had sat in with a band in the UK, and the Killing Floor was the only number he did, and it was the last number of the night, so we didn't miss too much. For years afterwards people would claim that this concert never happened, that I must have made it up, but it was only as the more 'scholarly' books on Hendrix appeared - Crosstown Traffic by Charles Shaar Murray for one - that the occasion was described and my memory confirmed.

I never saw Jimi at any other gig although my wife does report having waved a washing powder packet she had just bought at him a couple of years later as he was getting into a taxi - Doh!

So within a couple of years, starting at age 15, I'd seen the birth of the greatest rock n roll band in the world, the explosion of the British blues boom and some of the greatest names in the American blues scene. Even today with tours, concerts, and festivals it is difficult to imagine the impact that the visitors from America had. Unlike the trad jazz revival where only a very few lucky people got to see their idols in the flesh and so had to rely on recordings alone to try recreate the feeling of a revivalist meeting we had the real thing. The real thing made it clear that a sterile recreation of old crackling 78s was not what the blues and R&B was about. These people were, first and foremost, entertainers, they wanted us to dance, to jump about, to enjoy what they were doing. To see the humour, and the pathos as well, and that could be why there has been no trad-jazz revival. Some people today would like the blues to be austere, bleak, sorrowful, as it is on some the records they study - but that is emphatically not what the blues greats we saw in 1964 and 65 would want. That is why the Blues and R&B (of the old school) is still played, not just by us ageing mods and hippies who fondly remember their youth, but by the younger generation, the Matt Schofields, the Oli Browns and many more besides. Long live the Blues.

 

 

 

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