BLUES LEGENDS LOST,
BUT NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN
"When I was 14 years old, I had the opportunity to meet Buddy Holly. I asked him how he got that big, powerful sound out of his guitar amp. He said, 'I blew a speaker and decided not to get it fixed'
There's a fascinating article written by Geoffrey Clarfield for the magazine TABLET called "ROBERT ROBERTSON WAS EVERYMAN: How a Canadian-Jewish-Mohawk Indian became the voice of poor white Americana" (click the link above to access).
If you're in the slightest bit interested in Robertson, (believe me his background alone is the stuff of legend) it makes a compelling and entertaining read, and includes a YouTube video of The Band's "The Weight" - featuring Ringo Starr, and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".
On the other hand, if you just want to see the video ...
23.03.1944 – 06.06.2023
"Tony McPhee was an absolute genius. He was the British Hendrix, y’know? He could do soaring feedback solos, and really took the whole guitar-playing thing as far as he could. And what he didn't know about the Blues wasn’t worth knowing.” (The Dammed’s Captain Sensible.)
The comic strip cover of his band The Groundhogs' 1972 album Who Will Save the World? The Mighty Groundhogs, depicts the trio as a band of superheroes – Powerful Pustelnik, Quick Cruickshank and Marvellous McPhee – battling villains determined to overpopulate and pollute the world. But there’s a sting in the tale. The superheroes are a dismal failure. Limping away from their victorious enemies, they transform into their “secret identities”: a “curiously contrived Blues and Rock group whose name coincidentally happens to be The Groundhogs”
The illustration was the work of celebrated Marvel and DC artist Neal Adams, but, with its self-deprecation and understatement, it seems very Tony McPhee, the Groundhogs’ singer and guitarist.. As guitar heroes of the late 60s and early 70s went – and even the most cursory listen to his extraordinarily inventive and powerful playing on Who Will Save the World or its predecessors, Split and Thank Christ for the Bomb, demonstrates how “guitar hero” was a soubriquet McPhee fully deserved – he was remarkably unassuming. Dressed down and resolutely unglamorous, he claimed his second wife had left him because he was “boring”.
He never seemed fond of the spotlight. The Groundhogs sold a lot of records in the early 70s: after supporting the Rolling Stones on their 1971 UK tour, they found themselves subsequently filling the same venues as headliners. But to the end of his life, McPhee maintained that the highlight of his career wasn’t their run of Top 10 albums but the time he had spent in the 60s as a sideman with John Lee Hooker.
(Extract article by Alexis Patridis, the Guardian 7 June 2023)
So where did the name The Groundhogs come from? The video below - an 'ode to Hooker', explains.
24.06.1944 – 10.01.2023
“That’s my whole thing, trying to explore the blues to the maximum, really. It’s in the blood.”
Geoffrey Arnold Beck was born in Wallington, in London’s southern suburbs, on June 24, 1944. When he was 6, he heard electric guitarist Les Paul play “How High the Moon” on the radio and asked his mother to tell him the name of the instrument. “That’s for me,” he said in response.
Beck learned on a borrowed guitar and made crude attempts as a teenager to create his own, once trying to bolt together cigar boxes for a body. At the Wimbledon School of Art, now part of the University of the Arts London, he played in R&B and rock bands, refining his technique while experimenting with genres.
His first solo recording, Beck’s Bolero, was an epic instrumental that he made in 1966 with a backing band that included Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer Keith Moon of the Who.
Beck rose to prominence in the 60s as a member of the Yardbirds, moving the group into the rock-and-roll vanguard before establishing himself as an influential, prolific and breathtakingly adventurous solo artist.
Shifting seamlessly between genres, he recorded albums that drew on hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion, blues, funk, electronic music and Indian raga. Playing a Fender Stratocaster with the amps turned way up, Beck helped unleash new sonic possibilities with the guitar, expanding the instrument’s vocabulary along with contemporaries including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and his friend Jimmy Page.
“I don't care about the rules,” Beck once said. “In fact, if I don't break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I'm not doing my job properly.”
Following a brief tenure with the Yardbirds, he formed the Jeff Beck Group, a rotating group of musicians that initially included singer Rod Stewart and bassist-guitarist Ronnie Wood. That lineup was featured on his 1968 solo debut, “Truth,” which peaked at No. 15 in the United States and showcased his blues-influenced playing style, notably on a psychedelic cover of Willie Dixon’s I Ain’t Superstitious.
Beck received eight Grammy Awards and was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, first as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and then as a solo artist in 2009.
The combination of his prodigious talent and fiery personality were such that members of Pink Floyd considered asking Beck to join the band, according to drummer Nick Mason’s 2004 memoir “Inside Out,” but “none of us had the nerve to ask.”
Excerpt from article by Harrison Smith and Brian Murphy of The Washington Post
12.07.1943 – 30.11.2022
Described as 'the prime mover behind some of Fleetwood Mac's biggest hits', legendary singer-songwriter McVie wrote, or co-wrote eight songs for the band including Don't Stop, Everywhere, Songbird, Oh Daddy and Little Lies, many of which appeared on the band's 1988 Greatest Hits album.
But in the 1960's - before she joined Fleetwood Mac and married bass guitarist John McVie - Christine Perfect was a member of several bands on the British Blues scene, notably Chicken Shack, who had a minor hit in 1969 with a smouldering cover of the Ellington Jordan song I'd Rather Go Blind (co-credited to Billy Foster and Etta James).
Their debut single, It’s Okay With Me Baby saw McVie’s evolution as a songwriter. This video features the rockin' blues number Hey Baby.
12.07.1947 – 21.11.2022
Johnson’s career started in 1971 when he formed Dr. Feelgood, one of the most influential groups of their generation.
Six years and three albums later, he pronounced himself a solo star with The Wilko Johnson Band.
In 2018 Johnson released his final studio album Blow Your Mind.
But Johnson wasn't just an extraordinarily talented musician. His acting debut in 2010 was a cameo appearance as the mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne in Series 1 of the phenominally successful Game of Thrones - a role which he reprised in Series 2.
Below: Daltry and Johnson - Going Back Home
5.12.1947 – 13.12.2022
You've gone away
We'll get by somehow
Just right now
All we can do is cry
Simmonds, legendary guitar player and pioneer of 1960s British Blues, co-founded blues/rock band Savoy Brown in 1965. The group was one of the 'Big 6', alongside John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack and Ten Years After.
Since the mid 60's when their first single was released, Simmonds was Savoy Brown’s guiding hand and continued to be so through to the release of their 40th album, Ain’t Done Yet. The band is one of the longest-running blues/rock bands in existence, headlining concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Fillmore East and West, and Royal Albert Hall.
Although Savoy Brown was popular in the UK, they achieved far greater success in the US when Simmonds moved there in 1992. He was inducted into Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame - and many regional “Halls of Fame” in the U.S. and Canada. Five decades of energetic blues has served this acclaimed musician well. Simmonds and the band were a blues/rock force with a body of work that is matched by few.
Below: Simmonds and Savoy Brown, live at Fur Peace Ranch in 2017