August 27, 2014

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm
   --- show 13 ---   8-27-2014  

Zoot Money                                     1965/66
Blues Inc. w Herbie Goins                1964

My apologies.  This is an incomplete post because I rewrote it in Vancouver on my laptop and cannot locate it to transfer, but at least the playlist is accurate.  I will hopefully find the better transcript and publish it here before the next show.  Or perhaps I may have to redo the whole thing.  Whatever!

Keyboard player George Bruno Money was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire on July 17th, 1942.  After playing piano in local groups, he put his own band together in 1961.  By 1963, the musicians behind his Hammond organ were set and included drummer Colin Allen, guitarist Andy Somers, and Nick Newall who played both saxophone and flute, when Money went to London to take advantage of the opportunity to replace Graham Bond as organmaster and main vocalist in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated.  While there, he decided London was to be his new home and called on the band to rejoin him, adding bass player Paul Williams and baritone sax man Clive Burrows to the mix of the new edition of Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band.  After departing Blues Incorporated, his ensemble picked up a residency at the Flamingo and became managed by the club’s owners, the Gunnell brothers.


The band put out The Uncle Willie in August of 1964 for the Decca label, but shortly afterward signed with EMI / Columbia.  Manager Rik Gunnell financed their first album and it along with some of their singles from that period was taken from the expanded CD version to provide the material for our second Zoot set.


I was going to save the closing portion of today’s last set, the Roll Band’s contribution to a 1980 tribute to Alexis Korner, to a more appropriate spot in our timeline but…  This being our last installment to include Alexis, it seemed totally fitting to wind up thus. 

It has always amused me when listening to well known American songs done by British musicians how often the words are not quite right.  A perfect though somewhat unique example is the Rolling Stones version of Rufus Thomas’ Walkin’ the Dog.  It is natural that the phrase “didn’t come back ‘til the fourth of July” would have no relevance, but “didn’t come back ‘til a quarter to five” just doesn’t cut it.  Similarly, possibly because so many of his songs have been recorded, many of Chuck Berry’s lyrics have been misinterpreted.  Zoot explains an example that didn’t make it to vinyl but instead cover credits when he tells us that they “used to listen to the sound of the record and guess what they were singing.  If we didn’t know what they said, we just made it up.  It was so weird.  I was fanatical about getting the words right, but even the name of the band came about because I got it wrong.  Remember Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode?  He sings: ‘Someday you will be the leader of a big old band’.  I thought he said ‘a big roll band’.  So my whole career is based on mishearing the lyrics.  But I liked the idea of our band rolling rather than rocking.”  Regarding his nickname, it was chosen due to his admiration as a teenager for Jazz saxophonist Zoot Sims.



I have become increasingly enamored with Dick Heckstall-Smith as I have been digging deeper than just his experiences with Graham Bond and John Mayall, so it pleases me today to begin to follow the path of the only other British horn man whose name became familiar to my ears, that being Johnny Almond whose first recorded appearances were here with Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band back in 1966.  That is not to say that through my habit of, and interest in, reading the liner notes there are not several others who have crossed my listening path several times, but in Almond I hope to acquire enough material to understand his place in our timeline. Almond replaced Clive Burrows in June 1965, presumably departing for health reasons since he passed away before the end of the year.  


James Brown was a favorite among the G.I.s frequenting the Flamingo so it is quite natural that Zoot would pick I’ll Go Crazy to open the first album while utilizing I Got You (I Feel Good) as the opening number for the first of our live sets.  They actually had a deal set up to tour with James but Money was too eager to impress at the opening show and carried his antics a bit too far, so it was determined that the band was not a proper choice for the remaining gigs.





You might have noticed in our live Zoot set that Herbie Goins was invited to join the band and sing Stormy Monday.  Herbie was an American G.I. stationed in England during the Cold War beginning in 1957. 


Born in Florida and strongly influenced by his mother, who was a gospel singer, Herbie’s vocals were first displayed in his church.  When he moved to New York City, he had the opportunity to open for B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Band and Sam Cooke, but then the draft took him to Europe.  After his service in Germany, he joined up with the Eric Delaney Band and, while touring the U.K. with them, found London to his liking and fell into the ranks of the Chris Barber Jazz Orchestra, but by the mid-60s moved back to his roots when he joined Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated.  From there, Herbie put together his own group, the Nightimers, who became successful on the London club scene and had a popular single, Number One in Your Heart.  They were also afforded the opportunity for sessions with Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker, as well as an unknown Jimi Hendrix.  He merged his Nightimers for a short time with the instrumental Jazz/Blues group Wynder K. Frog before settling in to write songs and do behind the scenes television work.


I was more than a little disappointed when I first received the Red Hot from Alex CD.  Korner had done a few releases listed as at the Cavern or from the Marquee or from the Roundhouse and I presumed the Alex was another such club but, no, the Alex referred to here was Alexis Korner (silly me!) and I already had this album on American vinyl under the almost-generic title Blues Incorporated and, quite frankly, I was not impressed with it back then.  However, had I not purchased the CD version, I would never have come to realize that over the years I have gained a fondness for the Jazzier R&B style of British Blues.  Back then, what I expected was the guitar-centric Blues of the Claptons, Greens, Alvin Lees, etc. 


The album opens with Herbie’s version of the B.B. King tune Woke Up This Morning and closes with Charlie Mingus’ Haitian Fight Song, and in between the blend of Jazz and Blues shines with the twin tenor saxes of Dick Heckstall-Smith and Art Themen, bolstered by Dave Castle’s alto and flute riding on top of the rhythm section of Korner’s guitar, Ron Edgeworth’s keyboards, Barry Howton’s drumming and the bass of Danny Thompson, I believe his first appearance in a longstanding partnership with Alexis.


The Blues is strongest in Herbie’s three vocals (we opted for his live rendition of Stormy Monday on the Zoot set) which include Roberta, an excellent Korner original.



I Got You (I Feel Good)

Train Train

Ain’t That Peculiar

People Gonna Talk

Hallelujah I Love Her So

Smack Dab in the Middle

Rock Me Baby

Stormy Monday Blues

When I Meet My Baby

You Don’t Know Like I Know

Haunted House

   Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band



Brief interview

I Need Your Lovin’ (studio)

Turn On Your Lovelight

Brief interview

Please Please Please (studio)

Every Day I Have the Blues

Alright, Okay, You Win (studio)

Kansas City (studio)

   Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated

I’ll Go Crazy

Alone Came John

Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller

My Wife Can’t Cook

Back Door Blues

The Cat

It Should Have Been Me

Rags and Old Iron

Something Is Worrying Me


Big Time Operator

Zoot’s Sermon

   Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band

Woke Up This Morning


It’s Happening



Cabbage Greens

Whoa Baby (from Cavern CD)

Chicken Shack

Haitian Fight Song

   Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated

Wild Women and Desperate Men

Geneva / Good Luck Soul

Captain America

Let the Good Times Roll

   Zoot Money (at Alexis Korner Tribute)


August 13, 2014

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm
  --- show 12 ---     8-13-2014  
Geno Washington and Ram Jam Band    1966-68
John Mayall                                             1959-64

The main focus of today’s show will be on Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, another favorite in the R&B scene in and around London.  The Indiana-born Washington was deployed by the United States Air Force (one source says he was a Marine) to England beginning in 1961, and while stationed in East Anglia he began to make himself known around the London music spots.  Guitarist Pete Gage was putting together a new band when he sought out Geno in 1965, who had already decided to remain in England after his tour of duty, and invited him to join as the front man.  The Ram Jam Band seems to have had a fluid lineup, with little available notation on who played when except, as Geno explains, “Our bass player’s lungs collapsed and we had to get somebody to jump in right away.  So John Paul Jones (later with Led Zeppelin) played with us for about six months.”  Other familiar names include organist Dave Greenslade who had played in Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds and went on to a long career, saxophonist Buddy Beadle, and bari sax man and flautist Clive Burrow who had just left Zoot Money whom we’ll hear on our next show.  Under the management of the Gunnell agency, they became very popular on the R&B circuit and this was reflected in two highly successful live LPs.  Rik Gunnell, in addition to loaning the boys money for attire and equipment and booking them in his clubs, financed their first album and Hand Clappin’, Foot Stompin’, Funky-Butt ... Live! spent 38 weeks on the UK charts beginning in November of 1966, with sales proving sufficient for the Picadilly label to put out another live LP in September 1967, Hipsters, Flipsters. Finger Poppin' Daddies.  Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, especially since they both made it to the top ten in the LP charts. 

We have already seen a couple of Rik Gunnell’s agency’s acts in the Jazz-styled Georgie Fame and the more Rock / R&B oriented Chris Farlowe, and it just might be that Gunnell preferred the Soulful leanings for the performers at his Flamingo club.  We already know that the audience had a substantial contingent of black American G.I.s anxious to hear the sounds they listened to at home -- the likes of James Brown, Wilson Picket, Junior Walker and Otis Redding.  The main competition, the Marquee, appeared to favor less R&B and a little more of the Rockier side of the Blues.  In Geno Washington, the Flamingo had the only straight up Soul singer that I have come across.  Sure, some of the others put out a fair amount of Soul in their performances, but the Ram Jam Band almost entirely filled their shows with a fine representation of American Soul music such as Detroit’s Motown sound, but more strongly resembling the Soul-shouting style of Memphis-based Stax Records. 

The group also had a handful of moderately successful singles sandwiched around the two live LPs, all included on the extended 2CD version of their third album, Shake a Tail Feather Baby! (January 1968), the CD set subtitled The Sixties Studio Sessions.  The band did release a fourth album, their third live set, in 1968’s release by Pye (I believe the parent company of Picadilly) Live - Running Wild before the band broke apart in the autumn of 1969.  Washington remained in London a while as a solo act before returning to the US, coming back to the UK in 1976 with a new studio release, Geno’s Back, and another simply titled Live, plus in 1979 That’s Why Hollywood Loves Me.

Away from music, Geno has written children’s stories and a war story, The Blood Brothers, as well as appearing as a motivational speaker.  He has also become a member of the Guild of Hypnotists, even occasionally including that as the first half of his shows before he gets into his musical portion.

As far as celebrity hookups, Geno met his wife Frenchie at London’s Bag of Nails nightclub, the same place her sister met husband-to-be Peter Noone (Herman of Hermits fame), making the two singers unlikely brothers-in-law.  That also happens to be the same club where Paul McCartney met his wife Linda Eastman.

Trivialities aside, we start today’s program with some of the singles the band put out between 1966 and 1968, with four of them hovering around #40 on the charts.  Their first release, Water, reached #39, followed here by the later album version of the B-side, Understanding, which was the last song on side one of the vinyl release and therefore had the additional repeated phrase Turn It Over included in its title.  We chose their next three B-sides, Beach Bash, All I Need and (I Gotta) Hold on to My Love (in order, from Hi Hi Hazel which stopped at #45, Que Sera Sera #43, and Michael matching Water at #39), all recorded in 1966 before the first live LP.  We finish off the set with more singles from 1967 and 1968.
We made our middle set with music from the 1968 Tail Feather album plus a pair of tracks unreleased at the time.  The last tune Dirty, Dirty is labeled on the CD as from 1967 but shows up on the singles listing as a 1972 A-side, so it is also likely unissued until long after the band fell apart..

Saving the best for last, we take a step back in time to close with a typically up-tempo live set from the album No Holds Barred (shared with Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, not represented here), which appears to be tunes lifted from the 1966 Funky Butt Live LP, an album pretty much unavailable for a reasonable price.  Geno was out of his element in the recording studio; “recording actually meant nothing to me, because you take me into a studio and I become somebody else suddenly.  There ain’t no crowd there, it’s just a (expletive deleted) wall up there.”  It just didn’t feel natural, so Gunnell arranged to have an invited audience brought into Pye’s Marble Arch Studio, enabling the combination of excitement and sound quality to come through in a fine representation of the Ram Jam Band and its lead singer.

I like a term Richie Unterberger used in his profile of John Mayall for the All Music Blues edition.  I used to think of Mayall as the father of the British Blues, and he actually billed himself as such, but that just showed my ignorance regarding the stature of Alexis Korner.  Unterberger fittingly referred to Mayall as the elder statesman of the Blues.
John was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire on November 23rd, 1933.  Early on, he would select music from his father’s collection to listen to, often including Leadbelly and Albert Ammons.  He started playing in his teens, moving from guitar to piano to harmonica while maintaining proficiency in them all.  After time in art school and military service in Korea, he worked as a graphic designer and began putting his musical abilities to use, presumably around Manchester.

We are fortunate to have in our collection an extremely rare CD entitled Time Capsule in which Mayall personally introduces us to his own recordings with the Powerhouse Five in 1957 and the Blues Syndicate dating from late 1962 or maybe 1963, precursor of course to his Bluesbreakers which he formed upon moving to London.  He rightfully states that the recording quality is atrocious, but the best of the bunch are instrumentals and we include a half dozen of them here along with his commentary.  Personally, I find particularly the earliest of these pretty listenable especially considering their historical value, but as the band expanded the sound quality drops, and there were a couple of classic Blues tunes I would have liked to include (Maudie, Got My Mojo Working) but found them truly unlistenable for radio purposes.  I acquired the disc many years ago from a cab customer / friend who worked at a company that printed discs and have never seen mention of its availability to the public.

John left Manchester for London in 1963 and pretty quickly decided to make the capitol his home, partially on the advice of Alexis Korner.  He tried to get his old band to join him but the security of their day jobs kept them in place, and Mayall claims that he spent a significant amount of time fronting some pretty lousy ensembles.  It couldn’t have been that long because by February 1963 he had the earliest formation of the Bluesbreakers.  The vinyl version of Looking Back was a nice foldout cover filled on the inside with photos of many of the various players who passed through the ranks, while the CD version lacks this but provides a full list of the members of each incarnation of the band including dates while they were together.  The first entry reports Bernie Watson on guitar, John McVie on bass and a returning player from the Powerhouse Four in Peter Ward playing drums.  They lasted until April 1964 when Mayall and McVie were joined by guitarist Roger Dean and his former Syndicate drummer Hughie Flint, this group staying intact through May 1965 when Eric Clapton took over on guitar. 

It was this second ensemble that recorded on December 7th 1964 at Klook’s Kleek and released an album in the UK in March 1965 as John Mayall Plays John Mayall.  The optimistic liner notes were written by Alexis Korner.  Four of its dozen tunes also included Nigel Stanger on trumpet and slide saxophone.  I have inquired among horn players because this is not the only time I have heard reference to slide sax but no one has any knowledge of such a thing and I can’t even imagine how the instrument might look because it pretty much requires both hands on the keys to play a normal saxophone, although I have seen players going with two instruments simultaneously. Another curiosity I have stems from occasional references to a bass trumpet.  A tuba, perhaps?  No idea.

The same grouping actually put out its first single on May 8th before the LP and a second the following April.  Selections from the live LP form our second Mayall set while some of the single sides are dispersed through the two sets

Seemingly always overshadowed by his personnel, John was a hard taskmaster with lots of turnover, but I’m pretty sure each of them found their tenure a strong learning experience.  John McVie stayed with Mayall the longest, lasting four years, but Mayall felt his drinking negatively affected his playing so, when Jack Bruce became available after his stint with Graham Bond, McVie was given the hook.  When Bruce abruptly departed to join Manfred Mann, Mayall reinstated McVie.  It was bass player Cliff Barton who suggested McVie, who was at the time a pop bass player so Mayall handed him a stack of LPs to take home and get the feel of the Blues.

When Clapton joined the band, they made some 1965 recordings for the Immediate label as well as some for Purdah before Decca re-signed Mayall in early 1966.  Details on these will be given when we use some on our next Bluesbreakers entry showing Clapton’s contributions to the Mayall legacy.  But without doubt what catapulted Mayall upon the music world was the “Beano” album, Decca’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, also being the first Mayall release in America.  Totally unexpected, the album reached the UK Top Ten and set the stage for Mayall’s continued success in the LP market while failing to have any impact with his 45s.

It was during Clapton’s tenure that Jack Bruce was with the band and, when Eric decided to take what turned out to be about a three-month break in Greece, Peter Green was installed in his place for only the last week before EC’s unscheduled return.  After Clapton announced his desire to leave to form Cream, drummer Flint decided a change of pace was in order as well, resolving that by joining Alexis Korner.  He will also show up with some other familiar faces almost a decade and a half later when we get to the excellent group with the simple name Blues Band.

Due to Mayall’s quick dismissal of Green upon Clapton’s return, Peter was not very anxious to accept the bandleader’s request to rejoin the Bluesbreakers, but Mayall’s persistence saw his return on September 18th (or maybe June as another source represents) along with drummer Aynsley Dunbar, although Mick Fleetwood also spent some time in the span ending in May of 1967 when Green left to form Fleetwood Mac.  McVie would join him in August.  While with Mayall, only the album A Hard Road was released, but perhaps two LPs worth of other tracks have surfaced over the years so there will be much to choose from when we get to their portion of our series.
Adding to the list of Mayall’s notable guitarists Mick Taylor, the nineteen year old replacement for Green, actually remained long enough to appear on two studio LPs (Crusade and Bare Wires) as well as the two LP set of Mayall’s own recordings released as Diary of a Band, Volumes 1 & 2.  While Mayall had employed horns on specific tracks previously, it was on Crusade that they were made official members of the Bluesbreakers.  Crusade is my favorite of the first three albums, each with a guitarist who would go on to much more prominent bands; not because Taylor’s playing was the best but because as a concept of a full album I found it more listenable.  Taylor left in mid-69 to join the Rolling Stones just before the death of their previous lead guitarist, Brian Jones.

Always trying out new ideas, Mayall put together an album, Alone, where he played every instrument (overdubbed, obviously) with the exception of a few tracks requiring Keef Hartley to provide the drumming.  Hartley also appeared on the Crusade and Diary albums and upon his departure quickly formed his own group.  His predecessor was so upset over the way he was axed by Mayall that he titled his group the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, one of the strongest straight Blues sets we will hear when its time comes around.

I believe that goes as far as I wish to go in my writing about Mayall, but there will be a few albums past what was mentioned today that we will be hearing in the months to come and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of relevant things to say about those albums and their players.  The man is still recording and his CDs sell and his guitarists still go on to successful careers on their own, it’s just that his voice has gotten more irritating to me the longer his career goes on.  Beyond doubt, he is the most prolific of all the Brit Blues proponents.


Understanding / Turn It Over
Beach Bash
All I Need
(I Gotta) Hold on to My Love
She Shot a Hole in My Soul
I’ve Been Hurt By Love
Different Strokes
You Got Me Hummin’
I Can’t Quit Her
I Can’t Let You Go
Bring It to Me Baby
   Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band

Introduction to the Powerhouse Four
Art School Boogie
The Narrow Path
Comments of John Mayall
Classroom Blues
   The Powerhouse Four
Introduction to the Blues Syndicate
The Hucklebuck
No Rolling Blues
   The Blues Syndicate
Slow Train Crawling Up a Hill
Mister James
   John Mayall

Raise Your Hand
Three Time Loser
Use Me
Knock on Wood
Bonie Moronie
Never Like This Before
Who’s Foolin’ Who
Going Back
Listen to My Love Song That Ain’t Got a Rhyme
Dirty, Dirty
   Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band

I Wanna Teach You Everything
When I’m Gone
The Hoot Owl
R&B Medley: Night Train, Lucille
Crocodile Walk
What’s the Matter with You
Chicago Line
Blues City Shakedown
My Baby’s Sweeter
   John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Philly Dog
Land of 1,000 Dances
Willy Nilly
Get Down with It
Que Sera Sera
You Don’t Know Like I Know
   Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band 

July 8, 2014

Development of the British Blues and Rhythm
  --- show 11, recap ---     7-9-2014  
Because I’ve had a last minute change of musical direction on the eleventh show in this series, but mostly because I’ve fallen a little bit behind on my research and writing for these profiles, I figured a good way to get around it would be to do a show filled with some of my favorite choices from what we’ve heard so far.  The extra two weeks should put me back on course hopefully through the second half of the year, not that we won’t be continuing right on past the New Year.  I had always planned on the first show of next year to be a kind of refresher course for what we’ve discovered to that point anyway, so now we’ll just do it bi-annually.  (Semi-annually?  I always get those prefixes mixed up!  Anyway, twice a year.)

You might have noticed I have extended our title to Blues & Rhythm.  That is because I have allowed myself to fit in things I don’t think of as a purist’s definition of Blues but feel many are essential and some are just interesting or fun additions to complete the picture.  And we will even be following the careers of several of the “legitimate” Blues players as time pushes them to more radical Rock-like repertoires while they develop their styles, although Blues never is that far away and often returned to.  Also, on the back of my business card I have for twenty years defined my show as Blues and Rhythm.

So this blog entry is pretty much useless banter except for the following playlist for today’s show.  (Who said I was getting too full of myself?)

   The Animals
Times are Getting Tougher Than Tough
   Duffy Power
Hoochie Coochie Man
   Manfred Mann
I’m Ready
   Long John Baldry
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime
   The Artwoods
Lonely and Blue
   Downliners Sect
Easy Rider
   Alexis Korner’s Skiffle Group
Rock Island Line
   Lonnie Donegan
Long Black Train
   Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated
Midnight Train
   Spencer Davis Group
Smokestack Lightning
   Eric Clapton’s Yardbirds
Tobacco Road
   Nashville Teens
I Love the Life I Live
   Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
Susie Q
   The Rolling Stones
Bye Bye Bird
   The Moody Blues

Early in the Morning
   The Graham Bond Organization
Can You Hear Me
   The Artwoods
It’s Got the Whole World Shaking
   Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
It’s Gonna Work Out Fine
   Manfred Mann
Everybody Needs Somebody
   The Rolling Stones
When a Man Loves a Woman
   The Spencer Davis Group
A Shot of Rhythm and Blues
   Johnny Kidd and the Pirates
Why Don’t You Smile Now
   Downliners Sect
It Ain’t Necessarily So
   Duffy Power
Ride Your Pony
   Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
Fifteen Past Three
   Jack Bruce

Old Time Religion
   The Clyde Valley Stompers
Up Above My Head
   Long John Baldry (with Otilie Patterson & Rod Stewart and Chris Barber’s Band)
Bury My Body
   The Animals
Where Could I Go
   The Chris Barber Skiffle Group
Lord Remember Me

Can’t You Line ‘em
   The Chris Barber Skiffle Group
County Jail
   The Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
Parchman Farm
   Duffy Power
Work Song
   Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
Bring a Little Water, Susie
   Lonnie Donegan
Pick a Bale of Cotton
   The Vipers

   Jon “T-Bone” Tyler’s Bop Brothers
   Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds
Come See Me
   The Pretty Things
Woman Made Trouble
   Duffy Power
The World is Round
   Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames

Roll ‘em Pete
   Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men
Sun Dog
   The Nashville Teens
Kid Man
   The Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
Georgia on My Mind
   The Spencer Davis Group
Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
   The Pretty Things
One Ugly Child
   The Downliners Sect
Just Stay Blue
   Duffy Power
Mystic Eyes
Talkin’ ‘Bout You
   The Animals

June 25, 2014

Development of the British Blues --- show 10 ---

Animals                                           1964-66
Georgie Fame                                  1964-66
Moody Blues                                   1964-67

I’m finalizing this show’s verbal entry Monday after an exhaustive weekend of participation in our 23rd annual Blues Marathon so my apologies if it still seems a little rough; I can’t imagine why I’m still tired!  Anyway, this is some music that I have been immersing myself in for the past two weeks, thoroughly enjoying it and looking forward to presenting it to you.  The Animals have been a favorite ever since they showed up on American AM radio, but Georgie Fame was a newfound treat as I discovered his music, and then there is a smattering of the earliest incarnation of the Moody Blues.

When we did our third show in this series about the British Blues, which paired the Animals and Manfred Mann, I made the determination to go only with what Animals material I had on CD rather than delve into my scratchy old LPs.  This decision has proved to be wise, since plugging the gaping holes in my Animals library has provided the opportunity to again present the band to you.

The only tune in our first set that I was not familiar with from those vinyl editions was Talking’ ‘Bout You.  The song actually was included on their first album (and our earlier show) in about a two minute snippet and was among my two favorites from their first LP (the other being Baby Let Me Take You Home) and was a great example of a song leaving you wanting so much more, especially as the last entry on the first side of the LP.  We heard a seven minute version a month ago when Eric Burdon shared the vocals with Sonny Boy Williamson; still, it was a long period of anticipation before I heard the seven minute original recording from which the short version was taken.  I swear I must have kept repeating the track almost ten times in the car before I even listened to any of the rest.  Similar to Johnny Kidd’s version of Shakin’ All Over, it took almost exactly half a century before I heard the full version.  Yup, I had to use it to start off the show rather than make you wait any longer.  The rest of the set consists of their take on some now-classic R&B and Blues tunes done by the likes of Ray Charles (The Right Time), Little Richard (The Girl Can’t Help It) and a couple by John Lee Hooker (I’m Mad Again and Maudie).  In fact, from the entire eponymous first album, there is only one tune that hasn’t gotten played on these two shows.  Likewise, their follow-up album On Tour was so well represented on our first show that only one tune has not been aired after we today added She Said Yeah, another favorite.  But these are the Animals; I have lots of favorites.  The same can be said for Animal Tracks when we here included Take It Easy Baby.  That’s only three songs of the 34 from the first three albums which we omitted.  Shows why I consider the band to have rarely, if ever, recorded a bad track.  Due to time restraints, that first show ended before their next albums, but we round out today’s show with a few tracks from succeeding releases.

Weirdly enough, I consider it a high tribute that my old Animals LPs are maybe the scratchiest in my library, a condition earned by the amount of time played on turntables of dubious quality combined with being the choice at parties where it was commonplace for my rowdy friends to bump into the furniture that housed the record player.  The good times were almost worth the damage done and must be a part of why it is so endearing to hear these songs again.  CDs, gotta love ’em, they just don’t get scratched easily.

Personally, I find  many similarities between Georgie Fame and Chris Farlowe.  To begin with, while I have been familiar with the names since the 60s, I was only aware of one song by each artist; for Farlowe it was Out of Time and Yeh Yeh is likely all I was exposed to by Fame.

  Therefore it was a pleasant surprise that, after purchasing one CD for each of them, I followed my desires for more and was able to make a couple of strong sets for their shows.  They were both close enough in age to have lived through much of the hell that was England during and after World War II and they are both pictured seated in front of a keyboard (I believe Farlowe always had a keyboard player in his band so perhaps it was just a comfortable place to sit!).  Their musics are not truly Blues but rather a combination of R&B and Jazz stylings and definitely not a part of the guitar-dominated trend that was what I had really been used to. 

Because of their proximity in age, many of the names and places appear in both profiles.  Fame also was managed by Rik Gunnell and played his nightclubs.  A 1966 ad for the Gunnell agency lists Fame at the top followed by Zoot Money, Chris Farlowe, The Alan Price Set, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as well as some lesser knowns.

Born Clive Powell in Leigh in Lancashire (near Manchester) on June 26th 1943, he was taking piano lessons by the age of seven.  In the mid-50s, Georgie heard and embraced the music of Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Little Richard.  After leaving school in 1958, he worked days and played in the Dominoes by night.  He left his job to join Rory Blackwell and the Blackjacks but the band quickly broke up.  The Powell family had moved to London in 1959 when he was 16 years old, so Georgie stayed on and was introduced to the musical impresario Larry Parnes, who made him pianist for many of his stable of singers.  Regarding his name change, Fame related, “(It) was very much against my will, but he said, ‘If you don’t use my name, I won’t use you in the show’.”

That year, he toured playing with Parnes’ people and others, including Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.  In 1961 Fame and three others, the original Blue Flames, were extracted from the larger band specifically to back Billy Fury; then Fury (and Parnes) dumped them in early 1962.  In the meantime, they had already recorded on Vincent’s Pistol Packin’ Mama single.

Georgie soon met his manager-to-be Rik Gunnell, who gave him Sunday afternoons at his Flamingo Club on London’s Wardour Street.  He then reformed the Blue Flames with Red Reese, bassist Ted Makins, guitarist Colin Green and sax player Mick Eve with Georgie’s B-3 and vocals headlining the ensemble.  Fame credited his early audiences at the Flamingo as being both an inspiration to his repertoire and also a great sounding board for his interpretations.  As he told Record Collector, “Until the Mods came in, the Flamingo was a black club.  It was full of West Indians, pimps and prostitutes – Christine Keeler and those – and black American servicemen.  It was their base in London for the weekend.  They could dance all night to Jazz and R&B and they used to give me the latest records.”  If it passed well on their ears, it was likely both quality and authentic.  Through them, Georgie became hooked on the sounds of Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes and Booker T. and switched from piano to the more robust sound of the Hammond B-3 organ late in 1962.  Another Soulful influence was his 1965 UK tour with the Motown Revue.

Fame was also influential in the UK’s acceptance of Ska and I would like to pursue that at some time, if not Georgie’s music then others’ because it fits our timeline, but his earliest album Soul of Africa and two related singles, J.A. Blues / Orange Street and Stop Right Here / Rik’s Tune, are either hard to find or, more likely, never put out on CDs.  I presume them all to be Jamaica oriented.

After his 1963 signing with EMI Columbia, his next release was the live album Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo from early 1964 and we played a couple of chain gang-related tunes, Parchman Farm and Work Song (including lyrics I was unfamiliar with even existing).  Neither it nor the ensuing three singles fared all that well, but the Blue Flames’ stature as a club band was ever increasing.

Success came in late 1964 when his single Yeh Yeh / Preach and Teach charted #1.  His follow-up single Something (authored by John Mayall and Jon Mark) / Outrage charted in October and his earlier 1965 album Fame at Last hit the Top Twenty.  The year also included a couple of solid EPs – Fame for Fats which grouped together No, No / Blue Monday / So Long / Sick and Tired followed by Move It On Over / Walking the Dog / High Heel Sneakers / Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu.  We included Blue Monday, Sick and Tired and Move It On Over, but I’d really like to hear the rest of that second EP.  1966 saw another UK chart topper in Getaway / El Bandido and the May album Release Sweet Things went as high as #6 in its 22-week run.  This would be the final recording lineup (guitarist Colin Green, Cliff Barton on bass, John Mitchell behind the drums, Speedy Acquaye providing percussion, Glen Hughes & Peter Coe on saxes, and Edward “Tan Tan” Thornton playing trumpet) before Fame disbanded the Blue Flames to pursue a solo career.  Before signing with the CBS label, he took a bold step in recording Sound Venture (also 1966) with the big band backing of Harry South’s Orchestra, reaching #9 and setting the stage for a 1967 tour with Count Basie.

Georgie’s first album for the CBS label was Two Faces of Fame with a live half backed again by South’s ensemble.  There were more successful singles, but when his Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde went to #1 late in 1967, CBS began reigning in his artistic control of content and their choices were obviously based on salability.  The interesting-sounding 1971 collaboration with Alan Price, Fame & Price, was considered a middle of the road Pop waste of time.  He did again put together the Blue Flames in 1974 while with the Island label, but was more successful with jingle writing than his recordings.

Fame had a re-emergence with Van Morrison beginning in 1989 when he began a highly respectable run as the organ player (including a stint as Van’s musical director) on Avalon Sunset and every following Morrison album all the way through 1997 with The Healing Game.  When we took our break for St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year, we used the 1996 album How Long Has This Been Going On, with the shared billing of Fame and Morrison, as a major portion of the show. 

Georgie, once again having earned the respect he was due, still recorded under his own name and shared a duet of Moondance with Van on Fame’s 1991 Cool Cat Blues LP.  His 1995 Three Line Whip allowed him the extra pleasure of recording with his sons Tristan (on guitar) and James (drums) Powell.  Also critically acclaimed was his 1996 release, The Blues and Me.

In 1998, Fame ended his lengthy association with Morrison and signed on with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings as vocalist and organist on several albums.  By 2000, he was under Ben Sidran’s Jazz label, Go, where he put out another well respected album, Poet in New York.

The Moody Blues were essentially a throw in for today’s presentation because I generally like to use three bands for a bit of diversity on the shows.  I have never been a fan of orchestrated music when it comes to Rock ‘n’ Roll or Blues and that is definitely what I consider the Moody Blues to be.  I came across a copy of the Days of Future Passed LP at a Flea Market a long, long time ago and felt that I owed it to myself to spend the 25 cents and most likely never even got around to listening to it.  It is just not my style.  But this was an earlier iteration of the band; I always liked their song Go Now, and there had to be some redeeming quality to a band that used Blues as part of their name.  (By that logic, I should go see the Blue Man Group!)  And we have become more expansive as the series progresses as to what was influencing the Blues players.  After all, no one grows up in a vacuum.  And with fourteen bonus tracks added to the original album (representing the entire output of the band before personnel changes), there must be a fair amount to like.  And they do one of my all time favorite Blues tunes that I will play for you every chance I get, Sonny Boy Williamson’s Bye Bye Bird.  Boy, was I disappointed!  Even though Bye Bye Bird was a decent Blues track (and the only one in the CD), it bears no resemblance to the original except that the lead instrument is harmonica.  From the 26 tracks, only Bird and Go Now plus four others were suitable for this show, including two from James Brown’s repertoire.  Still, it makes an enjoyable (albeit short) set and this was before they decided to throw in woodwinds, violins, etc.

The band was assembled in May of 1964, but Ray Thomas (flute, harmonica and vocals) and Mike Pinder (keyboards and vocals) had first played together in El Riot and the Rebels.  They got together again in 1963 in the Krew Cats and, like so many others, honed their skills in Germany, as Thomas later recalled, “We went to Germany and endured the madness and diabolical living conditions of the Hamburg and Hannover clubs”.  Upon their return home, they decided to pool the most suitable of the Birmingham talent.

First addition was Jazz drummer Graeme Edge, who had known Thomas since their participation in Birmingham’s Youth Choir back in the mid-fifties.  Next recruited was Denny Laine

(real name Brian Arthur Hines; guitar, harmonica and vocals), who had been fronting the Diplomats for about a year and a half.  The last acquisition was bassist Clint Warwick.

Now the band needed a name.  There was a brewery that had a few venues that provided playing opportunities for bands and the guys thought they might be able to wangle extra gigs if they used the initials of the beer company, Mitchell & Butler.   As Blues was the current musical fad the second part of the name was chosen and apparently they were all pretty moody, so … More blatantly, they abbreviated the name to the M & B 5.  When the desired response didn’t come through they reverted back to the full name, the Moody Blues Five.

They first played at Birmingham’s Carlton Ballroom, then got a manager, soon acquired a recurring gig at the Marquee in London and ultimately a recording contract with Decca.  Their first single got them a spot on BBC’s Ready, Steady, Go, but it was the second release, Go Now, which reached the charts, and strongly, as it stayed there for 14 weeks in both the UK starting in November (topping the charts) and the US beginning in December (although my trusty reference book tells me it was released in February ’65) peaking at #10.  It was truly an international hit as it charted #8 in Holland and #14 in Australia, selling over a million copies.  Their next single reached #33 and the next one got to #22, but this ensemble never had anything more than Go Now of any consequence, including this July 1965 12-track LP, The Magnificent Moodies.  The band did participate in the 1965 concert for the New Music Express’ poll winners amid the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Seekers, Searchers, Cilla Black, Donovan and Tom Jones.

Though these guys never made a US tour, the band was recorded in concert at the Richmond-on-Thames Jazz Festival and portions were presented on American television’s Shindig program.  Strictly coincidentally, the Animals and Georgie Fame appeared on the same December 4th show.

Laine and Warwick departed the band by August with Denny going solo and eventually playing in Paul McCartney’s Wings between 1971 and 1979.  By November, their places in the band were taken by Justin Hayward providing guitar and vocals and John Lodge doing bass and vocals, Lodge having been one of El Riot’s (Thomas) Rebels.  Within a year, the altered group would release Days of Future Passed in November of 1967 and massive success ensued.

Regarding the original Moodies, as Graeme Edge put it, “We were tagged one-hit wonders.  We had nine months of glory and then went back to fifty pounds a night on the road.”

Key to the Highway
June 25th, 2014

Talkin’ ‘Bout You
The Right Time
The Girl Can’t Help It
She Said Yeah
I’m Mad Again
Club a-Go-Go
I’m in Love Again
   The Animals

Parchman Farm
Work Song
Get on the Right Track
Yeh Yeh
Do Re Mi (Forget About the Dough)
I Love the Life I Live
It’s Got the Whole World Shaking
Let the Sunshine In
   Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames

Inside Looking Out
Blue Feeling
See See Rider
Gin House Blues
Baby What’s Wrong
Don’t Worry Much
Don’t Bring Me Down
   The Animals

I’ll Go Crazy
Something You Got
Go Now
Bye Bye Bird
I Don’t Mind
And My Baby’s Gone
   The Moody Blues

Sick and Tired
Move It On Over
In the Meantime
Soul Stomp
See Saw
The World is Round
Last Night
El Bandido
Dawn Yawn
Ride Your Pony
   Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames

Memphis, Tennessee
Sweet Little Sixteen
I’m Gonna Change the World
Take It Easy Baby
That’s All I Am to You
Mama Told Me Not to Come
Squeeze Her, Tease Her
   The Animals