March 25, 2015

Key to the Highway, J.C. Smith Band CD debut
So, I got a call Monday from my very good friend Johnnie Cozmic saying he had a CD being released Friday.  Johnnie is special to me because he alternated weeks on this show for over fifteen years, not to mention he is a great guy and an excellent musician who has been able to put together and keep a tight working band.  I’m biased, of course, but I don’t think I’ve seen better stage presence from a front man in quite a while, and if I have I can’t even think who that would have been.
Johnnie’s personality comes through also right here at KKUP on Thursdays between three and five PM the first and second weeks of the month (I think).  For his band, he uses his true name as the J.C. Smith Band, but it never seems right when I hear anyone call him anything but Johnnie.  Anyway, he reminded me that I guess it’s become a tradition to debut his CDs on my show going all the way back to his days when he was the drummer for the Back to Back Blues Band, so we will take a three hour hiatus from the British Blues to check the new album out.  Yes, to me an album is a collection of songs (or photos, etc.) so a CD qualifies.   
I’ve had the opportunity to watch Johnnie progress as a guitarist and vocalist and increase the quality of the players in his band over the years with each of his releases being better than the previous, but I should warn you he might still have in his arsenal some of the worst jokes to be told and he isn’t embarrassed by telling them, even on the airwaves.  If you like what you hear (the music and the humor), you can catch his official CD release party Friday at the Poor House Bistro on Autumn Avenue near the Shark Tank, likely the last venue in the area dedicated to music every day of the week with almost all of it being the Blues.
I will also pay tribute to my mother just six days before what would have been her ninety-fourth birthday by playing some of her favorite music, most of which I purchased for her.  She was born on March 31st, but always said that was a day too early and should have been April Fool’s Day.  She passed away in July.  We’ll play some big band stuff and some Harry Belafonte but I’ll pass on her Perry Como and Dean Martin discs.

Sorry, this is last minute so there is not the usual playlist for today’s show.  Next show, right back to the Brits.

March 11, 2015

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm
 --- show 25 --- 3-11-2015 (St. Patty’s Day recap)
Nothing new this show, just a bunch of favorites from the last baker’s dozen shows.  Each of the groups presented since August of 2014 are pretty much equally represented with the exceptions being Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which are each given a set of their own.  We had enough quality material of Mac to include them in four consecutive shows and we also featured all of the first three Bluesbreakers lead guitarists on separate airings in that span, at least as far as American releases are concerned.  Eric Clapton also showed up in Cream and Peter Green in Fleetwood Mac.  Mick Taylor not only showed up on the Mayall sets but also joined the Aynsley Dunbar rhythm section backing up Champion Jack Dupree.
This pre-St. Patty’s Day show was harder to put together than I anticipated because there was just so much good material worth considering; I think the first grouping was almost nine hours before ultimately winnowing it down to some two and a half hours. It might have been easier if I just wanted to play my absolute top choices but I felt some were a little too often overplayed on shows years past (as an example, last show I mentioned that Beck’s version of I Ain’t Superstitious might be my very favorite Brit Blues tune and you won’t find it here) and I wanted to keep this fresh and had enough good stuff to make that happen. I wanted to start the show off with a tune that I just couldn’t fit into our earlier Jeff Beck Group show so that is where Hangman’s Knee comes in.  There’s probably not enough slow numbers in today’s broadcast, but when I’m trying to pick my favorite single tracks it is not surprising that they get overlooked for more raucous, up tempo tunes.  In making full sets of bands, I always fit one or two slow ones in to give a complete representation of what you would find on albums or see in concert.  
A couple of items of note are the back to back pairings of Dunbar’s Watch and Chain with the Kelly’s Buy You a Diamond Ring, essentially the same song but done differently enough to not seem monotonous, and a couple of classically oriented instrumentals, Sabre Dance by Love Sculpture and Drivin’ Bachwards by Bakerloo.  So just kick back and enjoy.

Hangman's Knee
   The Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart)
   Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band
   Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page
She Said Yeah
   The Rolling Stones
Let Me Love You Baby
   The Savoy Brown Blues Band
Green Onions
   The Graham Bond ORGANization
Catfish Blues
   The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Remington Ride
   Chicken Shack
Go On Home
   Dave Berry
Driva Man
   Manfred Mann (with Jack Bruce)
Ever Since the World Began
   The Yardbirds
The Cat
   Zoot Money
Every Day I Have the Blues
   Alexis Korner (featuring Herbie Goins)
Bring It On Home
Watch and Chain
   The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
Buy You a Diamond Ring
   Dave and Jo Ann Kelly
Jailhouse Rock
   The Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart)
I Can’t Hold Out
No Place to Go
Hellhound on My Trail
Black Magic Woman
Evening Boogie
Preachin’ Blues
Honey Hush
Watch Out
Fighting for Madge
   Fleetwood Mac
I Tried
   The Aynsley Dunber Retaliation
Paint It Black
   The Rolling Stones
It’s Okay with Me Baby
   Chicken Shack
Spirit Feel
   Manfred Mann (featuring Jack Bruce)
Don’t Gimme No Lip
   Dave Berry
Beach Bash
   Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band
Ol’ Man River
   The Jeff Beck Group
Drivin’ Bachwards
Sabre Dance
   Love Sculpture
All Your Love
It Ain’t Right
Dust My Broom
You Don’t Love Me
The Supernatural
Checking Up On My Baby
Snowy Wood
She’s Too Young
   John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
Change Your Low Down Ways
   The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
Cat’s Squirrel
I’ll Go Crazy
   Zoot Money
Stroll On
   The Yardbirds (with both Page and Beck)
Shake ‘em on Down
   The Savoy Brown Blues Band

February 25, 2015

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 Chain
My Whiskey Head Woman
Trouble No More
See See Baby
Double Lovin’
Roamin’ and Ramblin’
Sage of Sidney Street
   The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
Hi Ho Silver Lining
Beck’s Bolero
Rock My Plimsoul
I’ve Been Drinking
Shapes of Things
Let Me Love You Baby
Morning Dew
You Shook Me
Old Man River
Blues Deluxe
I Ain’t Superstitious
   The Jeff Beck Group
Stumblin’ Block
Ain’t That a Shame
Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well
I’ll Try
Lawdy Lawdy
*Kansas City
   Champion Jack Dupree
All Shook Up
Spanish Boots
Jailhouse Rock
Plynth (Water Down the Drain)
Rice Pudding
People Get Ready
   The Jeff Beck Group
Change Your Low Down Ways
The Fugitive
Till Your Lovin’ Makes Me Blue
I Tried
Mean Old World
Tuesday Blues
Call My Woman
The Devil Drives
Low Gear Man
   The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
Stone Crazy
   The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
  (with Jack Bruce, Peter Green and Rod Stewart)

February 11, 2015

Key to the Highway, Mardi Gras edition   --- 2-11-2015 ---
   show in advance of Mardi Gras (February17th)

So, is it too early for a Mardi Gras party?  It seems like it to me because I think of it as being much closer to St. Patrick’s Day so I am too often unprepared and late; a little early is better.  Once again this year’s annual presentation features doses of good rockin’ Blues, Cajun and Zydeco, and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Jazz, just the right things to put you in the mood.  Come on, get out that French to English dictionary and start thinking about it.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans
   The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
New Orleans Bound
   Lightning Slim
Carnival Time
   Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias
It’s Mardi Gras Day
   The Gumbo Cajun Band
Chansons de Mardi Gras
New Orleans
   Gary “U.S.” Bonds
Over in Gloryland
   Glen Andrews and the Lazy Boys
Louisiana Blues
   Jo-El Sonnier

Some Iko
   Henry Butler
Who’s Afraid of Midnight
   John Campbell
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
   Buckwheat Zydeco
I Ain’t Broke
   Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit
Oh Yeh Yai
   Terrance Simeon and the Mallet Playboys
Zydeco Gris Gris

Mojo Hannah
   Aaron Neville
Your Mama Don’t Know
   Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas
You Can Have My Husband
   Irma Thomas
Zydeco Sont Pas Sale
   Keith Franks
Shoo Fly
   Bo Dollis, Monk Boudreaux
       and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Tonight’s a Good Night
   Morris Francis
J’ai Reveille Ce Matin 
   Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys

Junco Partner
   James Booker
Roll Me
   Zachary Richard
Give ‘em Cornbread
   Beau Jocque and the Zydeco High Rollers
Do Whatcha Wanna (Part Three)
   The Rebirth Brass Band

Working in a Coal Mine
   Lee Dorsey
Sugar Bee
   Cleveland Crochet
Shoo Rah
   Allan Toussaint
I Hear You Knockin’
   Smiley Lewis
Sweet Stoup Shuffle
   Wayne Toups and Zydecajun
Eh Petite Fille
   Clifton Chenier
I Got Loaded
   Li’l Bob and the Lollipops

Li’l Liza Jane
   The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Storm Warning
   Dr. John
Tu Casse Mon Couer (You Broke My Heart)
   Terrance Simeon and the Mallet Playboys
Out of Nowhere
   Snooks Eaglin  
How You Carry On
   Marcia Ball
When the Saints Come Marching In
   Louis Armstrong
I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday
   Bobby Mitchell and the Toppers

You Ain't Nothin' But Fine
   Rockin’ Sidney   (added time permitting)
Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Part One)
   Jessie Hill
Lonesome Whistler
   Lonesome Sundown
Meet de Boys at the Battlefront
   The Wild Tchoupitoulas
I’m Wise (Slippin’ and Slidin’)
   Eddie Bo
The Promised Land
   Johnny Allan  (added time permitting)
Dancin’ at Double D’s
   Zachary Richard

January 28, 2015

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm --- show 23 --- 1-28-2015

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm
   --- show 23 ---     1-28-2015  
Fleetwood Mac BBC                    1968-1970
Jo Ann Kelly                                   1968 on

Am I getting bored with Fleetwood Mac?  Are four shows to many?  Or am I just blown away by the stunningly powerful vocals of this lady they share today’s show with?  I was aware of Jo Ann Kelly very early on from her version of Big Bill Broonzy’s I Feel Good when it appeared on one of the Immediate compilation LPs, Blues Anytime, which came on the market back around 1968 and, while I very much liked her rendition, it was not enough to make me delve much deeper into her apparently acoustic Blues leanings.  This impression was strengthened when she was one of the main contributors to another pair of compilation discs for Liberty Records, Me and the Devil and I Asked for Water She Gave Me Gasoline, because I again thought the whole albums were more country Blues oriented than I enjoyed; funny how my opinion has changed as almost all of these tracks made it into today’s show.  Shame on me!  I had the same opinion of her younger brother Dave but do not feel the same remorse because I had very little of his music in my collection (only two songs plus one with Jo Ann, Buy You a Diamond Ring, all on the Me and the Devil LP mentioned above) and he remained an acoustic guitarist until 1969, well into the urban-oriented Blues boom.  It should be noted, however, that he was voted the Best Acoustic Artist in the BBC polls for the years 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998 as well as making himself into an excellent electric guitarist.

Jo Ann was one of a group of Blues players who became acquainted as they hung around at Carey’s Swing Shop, the only store at the time to import American R&B records in their South London neighborhood.  Obviously Dave was among them as were T.S. “Tony” McPhee and Steve Rye and they will appear together in some combination in a handful of groups I am anxiously awaiting presenting to you in the next few months.  Another common accompanist for Jo Ann was Bob Hall, again part of the record store crowd.  When he went with Miss Kelly to a club that did not have a piano, he would accompany her on mandolin.  In late 1967, Dave accepted Hall’s invitation to join the John Dummer Blues Band.  Guitarist McPhee joined Dave as they recorded on the first Dummer album and Rye was the harp player in the band until just before its recording session.  One obvious advantage of having Dave in the band was that Jo Ann often added additional vocals both on stage and in the studio.  Dave stayed with Dummer until late 1969 and that year he also put out his first LP in his own name, Keeping it in the Family, accompanied by Hall and guitarist / vocalist Adrian Pietryga, also from the Dummer band, former Mayall bassist Keith Tillman and, of course, Jo Ann.  Both the Kellys also performed on the 1969 album Tramp along with Brunning and Hall and a couple of members of Fleetwood Mac, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Danny Kirwan.  All in all, sounds like a busy year.

McPhee left the Dummer band to reform his Groundhogs and Rye was there with him, but left after their first album.  Dave and Jo Ann joined Hall in time for the third Brunning Sunflower Band album (1970), Sunflower being Hall’s nickname, and Rye played harmonica there as well.  Dave’s next solo release was in 1971, Black Blue Kelly, featuring the same cast as above among its numerous guest performers but most notably Peter Green.  Neither Tramp nor Dave’s two solo LPs are readily available but you will be hearing the other albums mentioned fairly soon.

But really, even though much of her career was in support of her brother, our focus should be on Jo Ann herself.  The Kellys were born in Streatham in the South London area, Jo Ann on January 5th 1944 and Dave in 1947.  “I started playing guitar when I was about 13.  I played just about anything, from Skiffle, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers to Lonnie Donegan.”  She became enamored of the Blues when she was 19 after hearing it at the Swing Shop and met Bob Hall there in 1962.  They formed a Blues duo and gained regular gigs playing the intermissions at the Star club in Croydon, Surrey.  One of the headliners were the Yardbirds, who started a residency in November 1963, and Jo Ann often joined them as a guest vocalist.  Remembering the first meeting, “I went down to the rehearsal and Eric Clapton was there.  I had a background of Everly Brothers and the song we did was Baby What You Want Me To Do, which is a Jimmy Reed tune.  At the rehearsal I did an Everly Brothers swing while Clapton’s guitar work just knocked me out”.

In 1964 Jo Ann put together four songs from a session at McPhee’s home on a limited edition EP and three of those open up our first set.  (We learned about a year ago in our Alexis Korner discussions that there was some kind of tax benefit to limiting a release to less than 100 copies so again the number here was 99.)  In 1965 she added the use of a 12-string guitar for some of her material and in November she made her first true studio recordings.  “Mike Vernon approached me to do a couple of tracks for his Purdah label, which have since come out on the Immediate Anthology of the British Blues albums.  The peeving thing about that is that I haven’t had any royalties despite them selling 99,000 in the States – they must owe me about 500 pounds.  Anyway, I did two tracks for Vernon and he put me off recording for a long time.  The atmosphere was all wrong and he was very unhelpful … I wasn’t used to studios at all and I hated the whole thing.”  McPhee and Rye accompanied Jo Ann on both songs while Hall added piano along with two Groudhogs Pete Cruikshank on bass and Vaughn Rees on drums on I Feel So Good; McPhee, Rye and the two Kellys were the makeup of Ain’t Seen No Whiskey.

In addition to having a full docket of her own gigs, Jo Ann could be found sitting in with McPhee’s Groundhogs or the Dummer band.  She accepted the offer to join Dummer in the studio for their first LP, Cabal, where she contributed vocals on two songs.  “Jo Ann Kelly is really great, she knocks me out.”  As Jo Ann put it, “I do like singing with a band though, but I wouldn’t have a group of my own.  There are so many hang-ups with a band.  I have a lot of musician friends … and I can always jam with them when I want”.

Despite her growing acclaim, Jo Ann was not looking for a recording contract.  “I’m just not interested. … For making money I suppose records are great.  But I can earn a comfortable living from folk clubs and I would rather do that and get better as a singer than have myself on record.  After all, most of the Blues greats didn’t record until they were over 30.”

At the end of September 1969 she played on the same bill as Canned Heat (as well as jamming with their harp man Alan Wilson earlier in the month) and lead singer Bob Hite invited her to join the band.  She later regretted turning down the opportunity.  “I now think it would have been great to do a year with Canned Heat because then I would have had the experience and made my name.  I was just so much into acoustic Blues – a bit of a purist, I’m afraid.”

She did strike up a deal with Nick Perls, founder of the old-timey Blues label Yazoo, and Perls set her up with a five year deal with CBS.  Picking a music convention to launch the contract, the Los Angeles Free Press described her as “a blues singer from England who looks Mary Hopkinish and sounds like a cross between Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton”.  

CBS wanted to team her up with their rising star, Johnny Winter.  She spent four days at Winter’s retreat in the hills of New York State jamming with Johnny and his brother Edgar with the idea of combining them on a tour where they would each do an acoustic set, then a duet and winding up with Jo Ann joining in with Johnny’s electric band.  Everything fell through when CBS was only willing to pay expenses of $80 a week.  “I said, ‘Man, that won’t even take care of my plane fare, let alone my hotel’.  So the tour didn’t come off, largely because they weren’t prepared to sink any money into it, and they expected the management to.  They were lazy about the whole thing, really, and I was too ignorant to push for anything.”  CBS was done with Jo Ann after her self-titled debut album, recorded live in clubs, failed to sell up to their standards.

She did get an American tour of sorts (only three gigs) in 1970 with the New York Times opining, “When you think of girl folk singers, you tend to find sweet voices with perhaps a touch of Jazz.  With this girl you find an old stovepipe with a touch of rust.  A fine Blues singer”.

Over the next few years Jo Ann maintained her active performance schedule as well as recording sessions for Brunning Hall’s albums released in 1970 and 1971.  She also joined folk singer John Fahey on a highly respected LP in 1972 and actually formed her own band that year. Spare Rib, but that project folded after about a year because of the high cost of keeping a band on the road.

In 1973 she got another American tour, this time with Taj Mahal and Larry Coryell, and the next year participated in a second Tramp album, Put a Record On.  She met guitarist Pete Emery, who had been in Dummer’s Oobleedooblee Band, and the two of them put out a 1976 album, Do It for Red Rag, but surely their greatest accomplishment was their daughter Ellie.

Remaining popular through the 80s, she recorded for her brother’s combo, The Blues Band, as well as Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, and Stefan Grossman.  There was another Jo Ann Kelly album in 1984, Just Restless, on the Appaloosa label out of Italy.

Jo Ann went in for surgery on a brain tumor in September of 1988, leaving with a prognosis of two years life expectancy, too true of a prediction as she passed away on October 21st 1990 at the age of 46.

You Never Know
Honey Hush
Buddy’s Song
Can’t Believe You Want to Leave
Tallahassee Lassie
When Will I Be Loved
Hang Onto a Dream
   Fleetwood Mac

Long Black Hair
New Milk Cow Blues
I Look Down the Road and I Wonder
Same Thing on my Mind
I Feel So Good
Buy You a Diamond Ring
When You Got a Good Friend
   Jo Ann Kelly

Jeremy’s Contribution to Doo Wop
Every Day I Have the Blues
Watch Out for Yourself, Mr. Jones
Man of Action
Someone’s Gonna Get Their Head
     Kicked In Tonight
        (credited as Earl Vince & the Valiants)
   Fleetwood Mac

Oh Death
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
Rock Me
Black Rat Swing
Walking Blues
Just Like I Treat You
Keep Your Hands Out of My Pockets
*Levee Camp Holler
*Early Morning Come (add if time permits)
   Jo Ann Kelly

A Fool No More
I Can’t Hold Out
Preachin’ Blues
Man of the World
Farewell (demo version)
Before the Beginning
   Fleetwood Mac

Sugar Babe
The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair
     (Going to Brownsville)
Special Rider Blues
Someday Baby Blues
Moon Going Down
Sweet Nuthins
Big Boss Man
   Jo Ann Kelly
Rattlesnake Shake
   Fleetwood Mac