Development of the British Blues and Rhythm--- show 24 --- 2-25-2015
Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation 1968 & 1969+ Dupree 1969
Jeff Beck Group 1967-69
I do believe this show will wind up being one of my very favorites for this entire British Blues project. I’ve had the second Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation album in my collection since the early seventies and played the bejeezus out of side one, but those were the days of vinyl so I seldom flipped it over to the other side. When I saw a CD of their first two albums for a reasonable price I jumped on the opportunity and consider it one of my wisest decisions. As you likely know by now, my preference is for uptempo, rockin’ Blues but these guys do such a good job on the slow burners that there isn’t anything for me not to like on the entire disc, but the best of the lot are still Change Your Low Down Ways, Fugitive and I Tried from that first side of Doctor Dunbar’s Prescription.
As of 2001, the year my favorite reference book (Blues-Rock Explosion) for this project was published, Dunbar had appeared on more than 110 albums with over 30 going gold or platinum. Born January 10th 1946 in Liverpool, Aynsley started his musical experience with the violin at age nine before switching over to the drums by the age of twelve. He started a Jazz trio after dropping out of school when he was fifteen, then joined the trad Merseysippi Jazz Band, all the while falling under the influence of more modern drummers like Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich.
From August 1963 to January 1964 he was with Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen which would mutate into the Flamingos with Dunbar being one of five members from the Pressmen, the new band spending enough time at Hamburg’s Tanz Club to put out a German language single. Returning to England, April 1964 saw the band backing up Freddie Starr, whose previous band included drummer Keef Hartley who would succeed Dunbar years later in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Starr took the Flamingos back to Germany for a few months but by the time the group broke up in late 1964 Dunbar had moved on for a brief stint with the Excheckers.
Aynsley joined a revamped Mojos, a group that already had three singles that made the top 30 in the UK charts but split because of personality conflicts. With Dunbar holding down the drumming, Stu James and the Mojos put out another two 45s before Aynsley’s departure in September of 1966. Having moved to London with the Mojos, Aynsley sat in with Alexis Korner for an audition, and while not getting that job did get an invitation to try out for the band of one of the audience members, John Mayall. The next day, Dunbar was a member of the Bluesbreakers along with Peter Green and John McVie. “John Mayall put me into the Blues thing. It built me up, because I was playing with good musicians, and hearing all types of Blues. When I heard about him, I was told he was playing just country Blues. I thought, ‘Jesus, here we go.’ But it wasn’t like that. It was good – solid and full.”
During his time with the Bluesbreakers, two singles were released in Britain as well as the international LP A Hard Road. They also backed the American pianist on his LP Eddie Boyd and His Band (Fleetwood Mac would back him on anther album) and put out a very hard to find EP with Paul Butterfield. All that accomplished in about six months with the band. In that span, Dunbar also auditioned for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but at least partially because Mitch Mitchell was prepared to take a smaller salary Mitchell got the job.
Although there appeared to be no animous between the two (“I was grateful to John. He introduced me to the musicians I wanted to play with, although I eventually got the sack for playing too advanced. He wanted me to sit in the background and just play away. I didn’t think I would progress until I left.”), the name of Aynsley’s own band was in retaliation to his termination.
Gone from the Bluesbreakers in March of 1967, in mid-April Aynsley first teamed up with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood in the Jeff Beck Group featured in the other half of today’s show, although only for a brief stay as he gave notice that he wished to start his own group right after the 45 Tallyman / Rock My Plimsoul was released in July. He was around long enough to be behind his drum kit as the Beck Group backed Donovan on his Barabajagal album, but Dunbar wanted to be the one setting the direction for his music: “My group will still be playing the Chicago style of Blues but we’ll be moving towards a more modern rhythm. Not towards Jazz, we have to stay commercial. That’s very important.” On August 12th 1967, Aynsley pulled double duty at the Seventh Annual Jazz and Blues Festival at Windsor when his Retaliation debuted and he also fulfilled his commitment to play with Beck until they could find a replacement. Mickey Waller took over at their next gig.
Aynsley had been working at putting together a lineup for his new band. Victor Brox would handle most of the vocals as well as playing keyboards, cornet and violin, guitarist John Moorshead also took over on some of the vocals and bassist Keith Tillman rounded out the ensemble. Tillman, who had previously played with Stone’s Masonry before Martin Stone left to join the earliest recorded version of Savoy Brown, would be short-lived with the Retaliation as Alex Dmochowski played bass on all but the first of the band’s recording sessions.
Brox had his own band going since 1964, the Victor Brox Blues Train, which included Tillman and Brox’ bride-to-be Annette Reis, and the couple also performed as a folk Blues duo. Concurrent to the band, Victor was putting his Manchester University philosophy degree to use as a teacher until giving up the day job to work as a Blues duo with Alexis Korner for nine months through early 1968.
Moorshead’s first known group was the Moments when, in 1964, he replaced John Weider who left to join Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. The other guitarist in the band, which broke up near the end of the year, was Steve Marriott. By September of 1965, Moorshead was himself in Kidd’s Pirates, again replacing Weider. Moorshead and two other members left Kidd to become the Pirates, but that only lasted three months before the group dissolved and John took over in Shotgun Express (featuring Rod Stewart) when Peter Green departed, again a short stay as in November John left in favor of Julian Covey and the Machine where he remained until signing on with the Retaliation.
The Retaliation’s first single (Warning, b/w Cobwebs) was released in September 1967. It was around this time that Dmochowski took over for the departing Tillman, who was on his way to the Bluesbreakers in time to record on the Bare Wires LP. The band rarely played their second single live, the opening number on their first LP and our show today, because they found it difficult to perform the whistling without cracking up on stage, which is too bad because it’s a great old standard. Apparently the album was delayed because of three failed attempts to record at the Blue Horizon Club but finally hit the record bins in July 1968.
The reviews were good. About the 45 taken from the album, Beat Instrumental considered it “a very unusual and really rather clever performance. Lots of off-beat drumming early on; a sort of African atmosphere and then whistling and good singing. Even if it doesn’t make it as a single then it will help boost the album …” and saying, “The group has now developed into one of the most meaningful and original Blues groups in England.”
But likely nothing meant as much to Dunbar as Mayall’s comments to Melody Maker. “The Retaliation are a fine band. They are one of the few British groups playing contemporary Blues music reflecting the world today and not just reproducing Blues from years ago that the audience have on record at home.”
Reviews for their second LP, Dr. Dunbar’s Prescription, were relatively good with Beat Instrumental giving a five star rating, but Melody Maker’s Chris Welch was not so pleased, suggesting that perhaps “all bands who are going to associate themselves with Blues to listen hard to themselves, maybe buy each other’s LPs, and ask themselves if they are going to be content with a scene that is rapidly becoming one of the biggest bores of the day.”
Despite Welch’s condemnation of the entire Blues genre in England, record companies were actively signing up as many bands as they could to take advantage of the lucrative market, and this was reflected by the fact that the magazine he worked for opted to put on a one day concert at the London Royal Festival Hall on November16th 1968. Billed as the Blues Scene ’68 with a lineup including Muddy Waters, John Mayall, Champion Jack Dupree, and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, the show was so successful (despite the hall’s 3,000 person capacity there were many more turned away at the door) that Melody Maker followed it up by cosponsoring six tour dates in February billed as the Blues Scene ’69. Along with the Retaliation and Dupree, the tour also featured John Lee Hooker, Jo Ann Kelly, and the Groundhogs.
The Retaliation hit the American circuit in March 1969 with Mick Weaver (aka Wynder K Frog) brought in as organist for the six week tour. In order for Brox to put more emphasis on his piano and vocal skills along with playing the 12-string guitar and cornet, Tommy Eyre took on the organist duties upon their return to the UK. Eyre was best known as a member of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band.
With Dunbar informing Melody Maker that their next album would be “more advanced”, the John Mayall-produced To Mum from Aynsley and the Boys was released in September. “It’s a struggle because in England the Blues fans expect you to just bang away, or it’s not Blues. In America, you’ve got to be advanced. Perhaps the fans here will like it more in the end.”
Since we don’t have room for the album today, I’m sure most of it will appear as a brief segment in one of the coming month’s shows. I don’t agree with the comparisons, but Disc and Music Echo related that “Dunbar’s third LP for Liberty is undoubtedly his best … Despite the limited eight tracks, there’s something for every Blues fan”, while Melody Maker considered it a “great improvement on his previous albums … with better recording quality and more original ideas”.
In 1970, Liberty put out a fourth Retaliation album but Aynsley appeared on only four outtakes of its ten tracks. In the meantime, Dunbar and Eyre had left to form Blue Whale in November 1969. As Dunbar told Modern Drummer, “The band’s ego got too much for me to cope with and I had to dump them. They couldn’t see any farther than where they were at. They thought that because we had got to the point we were selling out everywhere and making quite a bit of money, that we had reached stardom. … So I decided it was time to get rid of that band and start another one”.
Blue Whale would be very short-lived, lasting only two months mostly due to difficulty in holding members together. Beginning January 1st 1970, the band embarked on a five day Scandinavian tour followed by their London debut on the 20th but ultimately broke up when Dunbar left at the end of February to join Frank Zappa and the Mothers. The eponymous LP Blue Whale was released after the band’s breakup, but mixed reviews make it too insignificant to pursue (meaning I’m not going to waste my money. I’ve spent enough already!)
After the sixties, Aynsley went on to a long, diverse and successful career as evidenced by the afore-mentioned gold and platinum records. After six records with Zappa (including the LP Somewhere in the City with John Lennon and Yoko Ono), he left at the end of 1972 with Flo and Eddie, who had been with the Mothers but perhaps better known in the Bay Area as The Turtles, just after Zappa was pushed off the stage by an exuberant fan and became restricted to a wheelchair.
Aynsley was with David Bowie in 1973 and 1974 and recorded two albums with him and, also in 1974, joined Jack Bruce and Stevie Winwood in recording Lou Reed’s LP Berlin. All in all, Dunbar recorded on twelve LPs in two years, leading him to be considered the best session man in the music industry. Again in 1974, Aynsley joined the bay Area Rock-Jazz fusion group Journey, staying with them through four albums and leaving when they changed their focus to more pop-oriented balladeering.
Dunbar went back to being a session drummer in 1976, most notably recording for Sammy Hagar and then with Nils Lofgren. In 1978 he joined the Jefferson Starship on stage and in the studio for four albums and stayed with them into 1982, his longest stint so far. Ready for some time off, Aynsley retired in San Francisco until Whitesnake recruited him in 1985, staying with them through their breakthrough LP Whitesnake ’87. Aynsley then tried for another retirement session, but in 1994 the allure of being in bands brought him back out on the road and into the studio with the likes of Pat Travers, UFO, John Lee Hooker, and Michael Schenker. He was also active on tribute albums to Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Queen, and Metallica
In 1996, Dunbar joined Alvin Lee and Eric Burdon for a tour under the name Best of the British Blues, then entered the studio with Mother’s Army for the progressive Metal-Rock album Fire on the Moon. In October 1996 he was back with Burdon on the world touring stage and, as one of the New Animals, recorded three albums and a live DVD. In 2000 they appeared with John Mayall and Spencer Davis at the Grammy Awards and later in the year with Davis at the Democratic National Convention.
In 2003 Aynsley was awarded a Bammies Walk of Fame Award (created by our local magazine Bay Area Musician) along with the other members of Journey and similarly in 2005 a Hollywood Walk of Fame Award in recognition of the band’s album sales of over 75 million. According to his official website, Aynsley “continues to play hundreds of live shows all over the world as well as his session work.”
Familiar names on a long list of artists that Aynsley played or recorded with that did not show up elsewhere in my reading were Herbie Mann, Keith Emerson, Shuggie Otis, and Little Chrisley. Would it be presumptuous of me to think that last one is our own local harmonica product, Little John Chrisley?
And the other half of today's show ain't too shabby, either. Jeff Beck might be my favorite guitar player when he’s not playing his avant garde Jazz stuff. Loved his innovations with the Yardbirds but his stuff on the first Jeff Beck Group’s two albums (he soon afterward formed another band with the same name) was more of a heavy Blues-influenced guitar for the most part, but he wasn’t afraid to throw in an acoustic traditional British tune like Greensleeves. His version of Willie Dixon’s I Ain’t Superstitious just might be my favorite British Blues number, period and, together with Rod Stewart’s vocals, Morning Dew and Old Man River (from the opera Porgy and Bess) provide counterpoints to the rest of the Truth album. His long-awaited first 45 after leaving the Yardbirds, Hi Ho Silver Lining, is not what I was so anxiously anticipating but remains one of my guilty pleasures while the instrumental flip side Beck’s Bolero brings to my mind the pomposity of a conquering general returning through the gates of Rome If the musicians would have remained together after that song’s session, it could have been another “supergroup” with Jimmy Page (I believe future Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones as well) and the Who’s drummer Keith Moon taking part. I believe this must be the single version because it has a different intro than I am used to from the LP. Other than a couple of Elvis tunes the second album, Beck-ola, contains only original tunes that, while obviously less familiar than the songs on Truth, still provide us with some fine musicianship.
Along with Dmochowski, Dunbar also added a few tunes to Champion Jack Dupree’s album From New Orleans to Chicago. I have misplaced the liner notes to the disc so cannot tell you who was playing guitar but, nonetheless, this might be my favorite album by the transplanted American pianist and he is probably my favorite pianist and personality-intense showman. The album also includes backing by members of the Keef Hartley Band, Free, and Stan Webb from Chicken Shack, but I think this portion is, once again, my favorite.
In mid-1967 Dunbar assembled what would have amounted to another super group featuring Jack Bruce on bass (in the midst of Cream’s popularity) and Peter Green on guitar (this would have been about the time Green left the Bluesbreakers and likely just before the earliest Fleetwood Mac performances) while bringing vocalist Stewart in from the Beck Group for a session that produced our closing number, Buddy Guy’s Stone Crazy. Although it closes out our show, this was the earliest formation of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.
Watch and ChainMy Whiskey Head Woman
Trouble No More
See See Baby
Roamin’ and Ramblin’
Sage of Sidney Street
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
Hi Ho Silver Lining
Rock My Plimsoul
I’ve Been Drinking
Shapes of Things
Let Me Love You Baby
You Shook Me
Old Man River
I Ain’t Superstitious
The Jeff Beck Group
Ain’t That a Shame
Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well
Champion Jack Dupree
All Shook Up
Plynth (Water Down the Drain)
People Get Ready
The Jeff Beck Group
Change Your Low Down Ways
Till Your Lovin’ Makes Me Blue
Mean Old World
Call My Woman
The Devil Drives
Low Gear Man
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
(with Jack Bruce, Peter Green and Rod Stewart)