Development of the British Blues and Rhythm--- show 26 --- 4-8-2015
Savoy Brown (episode #2) 1968-69Brunning Hall Sunflower Band 1968-70
For quite a while now I have been aware that Bob Brunning was the original bass player with Fleetwood Mac, but much more than that was out of my realm of knowledge. It appears that prior to that, he was part of the band Five’s Company which released three singles in 1966 on the Pye label.
In July of 1967, he auditioned for the Mac gig and helped them get established but it was agreed that he was just holding down the bass job until John McVie would leave John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which happened in November. He immediately found work with Savoy Brown, but that gig became short-lived as well when he questioned the band’s manager, bandleader Kim Simmonds’ brother Harry, about financial matters. He was there long enough for two things to occur. He was included on one single (I have no verification, but the timing seems to make it Walking By Myself) and he struck up a friendship with the band’s piano player, Bob Hall.
As far as the other half of today’s second band’s namesake players, I was much more familiar with Hall if for no other reason than his appearances on the first four albums of Savoy Brown. It was natural for Bob to pick up playing piano as his father was also a piano player, and he became interested in Boogie Woogie in the early fifties. This extended into the Blues after listening to records as well as the Voice of America radio broadcasts. His first band was the Bob Hall Quintet in 1956 and about the same time he could oftentimes be found in the audiences of Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies when they were with Chris Barber’s band or listening to the Yardbirds as they backed up Sonny Boy Williamson, among other performances.
Sometime late in 1963, Hall answered a Melody Maker ad and joined the Dollar Bills, whose guitarist Tony McPhee would morph the band into John Lee’s Groundhogs, whom we already heard backing up John Lee Hooker and are coming up on their own, most likely the first half being two shows from now. Bob also began to gig regularly with guitarist/vocalist Jo Ann Kelly, a musical synergy that lasted years despite his popularity as a part-time performer in several bands.
Hall joined John Dummer’s band early in 1966 but left to join Savoy Brown later in the year and thus was not involved in their first LP recorded in 1968, but he did join them for part of the related tour and appeared on their second album. Another band we’ll be hearing from soon.
To Brunning’s surprise, in 1968 Saga records accepted his offer to have his band record for them so he had to hastily throw a band together. Bob contacted Hall for the project as well as Colin Jordan, formerly Brunning’s guitar mate from his college band Five’s Company, and drummer Jeff Russell. He actually got guitarist Mick Halls and vocalist Peter French to join by pretending to be auditioning as bassist for their band.
The resulting LP Bullen Street Blues was issued under the name Brunning Sunflower Blues Band. “Big Sunflower” was in reference to a fictional character Hall had created whose musical story was even the subject of an article in a reputable Jazz magazine. The album received mediocre reviews and French was disappointed and answered a Melody Maker add to join the Black Cat Bones, taking his cousin Halls with him.
In November of 1968, Savoy Brown wanted Brunning to rejoin the band for an upcoming U.S. tour but he declined. For their next album, Peter Branham took over on drums and Brunning used his friendship with Peter Green to get the guitarist to lay down four tracks; I have those on a different album so did not feel the need to purchase the Trackside Blues album. All four open up our second Brunning set and are followed by selections from the third album, I Wish You Would.
Besides the Trackside sessions, Hall managed to stay busy in the studio throughout 1969 with the eponymous second Dummer album, Blue Matter and A Step Further for Savoy Brown and Dave Kelly’s first solo release, Keeping it in the Family. But perhaps the most noteworthy was another project with Brunning that was called Tramp because, as Brunning explained, “We wanted a name in which we could utilize the skills of any musician who felt interested enough to work with us”. First to be invited was Peter Green, who declined, but Fleetwood Mac was well represented by drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Danny Kirwin. As if that wasn’t enough, there was also the Kelly siblings, Jo Ann and Dave. I have not been able to come across the album and, if I did find it I’m sure it would have a heavy price attached to it. The same cast cut a second Tramp album in 1974 and that might find its way into a future show.
1970’s third album again had the Kellys, Dave providing guitar and vocal work but Jo Ann only singing, Steve Rye on harmonica, drummer Mel Wright and John Altman blowing the sax, flute and clarinet. Hall and Dave Kelly also recorded a duet album, Survivors, in 1970 and we may include some of it in some later show but not today.
For the band’s final album, Hall’s true name actually made it into the group’s name with the 1971 album title finally being the Brunning Hall Sunflower Blues Band. Throughout the band’s existence, neither of its leaders was a fulltime musician and instead opted for more financial stability from their chosen professions, Brunning being a teacher and Hall earning his living as a patent attorney. Just before his July 1967 audition with Fleetwood Mac, Brunning graduated from Marjons College of Education in London.
There were a few American connections for the band in 1972 as they backed up Eddie Burns in concert and in the studio for his album Bottle Up and Go, and then one of my old favorites, bottleneck master J.B. Hutto for his Live in London LP. I’ve loved J.B.’s raspy vocals ever since 1967 when I was exposed to Vanguard’s vinyl trilogy, Chicago, The Blues: Today, but this London album is no longer available.
Also in 1972, harmonica player Johnny Mars joined the group. Johnny is an American, more specifically from the San Jose area who put together a Blues band based out of San Francisco in the 60s. I had gotten to know his guitarist from that group and he brought Johnny to the studio when he was visiting from the U.K. very early in my radio show’s history. I’ll get more into that story much later in this series when our timeline hits 1984 or so and we feature a couple of albums he turned me on to, but since we are still in the late 60s that is quite a while away.
I would like to close out this segment with the fact that just about everything in this portion came from my favorite reference book, the Blues-Rock Explosion. Their write-up of Brunning Sunflower was less than three and a half pages, the shortest article in the book despite the fact that the authors got Brunning to write the foreword.
*************************As we mentioned already, Bob Hall’s piano playing was included on the first four of the Savoy Brown albums (on the first LP and previous recordings they went by the longer name Savoy Brown Blues Band), three of which are represented prominently on today’s show. Rivers Jobe was the bass player on the Getting to the Point album and played on the first two tracks on the studio side of Blue Matter (Train to Nowhere is heard today), but Tone Stevens took over bass duties on the rest as he joined drummer Roger Earle and guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett, both of whom were already on the Getting to the Point album, as was vocalist Chris Youlden. Youlden who would depart the band for a relatively unsuccessful solo career before the Looking In LP which, along with the album Raw Sienna and likely some live material from their tour promoting the Jack the Toad LP and their Boogie from A Step Further, will all be presented on the next edition of Savoy Brown currently scheduled for July 8th. The three instrumentalists would remain at Kim Simmonds side through all of these albums, Kim being the only constant in the Savoy Brown saga.
*************************Stay with Me Baby
The Incredible Gnome Meets Jaxman
Give Me a Penny
Getting to the Point
Walking By Myself
Big City Lights
You Need Love
Gone Back Home
Hit That Wine
Bullen Street Blues
Shout Your Name and Call It
Take Your Hands Off Me
Something Tells Me
Big Belly Blues
The Brunning Sunflower Blues Band
Cry Me a RiverFeelin’ Alright
Love Is Alive
High Time We Met
Train to NowhereShe’s Got a Ring in His Nose
and a Ring on Her Hand
*Vicksburg Blues (add if time permits)
All Around the World
Don’t Turn Me Away From Your Door
Made Up My Mind
Sitting in the Bamboo Grove
I’m Tired / Where Am I
Ride with Your Daddy TonightIf You Let Me Love You
It Takes Time
I Wish You Would
On the Road
I’m a Star
Mean Old 57
All Right with Me
Good Golly Miss Kelly
The Brunning Sunflower Blues Band
Louisiana BluesSavoy Brown