Development of the British Blues and Rhythm--- show 52 --- 8-24-2016
Alexis Korner Memorial Concert May 21st 1985
*************************So here we are, thirty-two months after we began our look into the British Blues with a show that will pretty much take us back full circle to our very first show. It was then that we first wrote about Alexis Korner and his band Blues Incorporated. How he had been part of the first group of players when Chris Barber assembled his four piece Skiffle group from the members of his larger Trad Jazz ensemble to play the breaks between sets, thus leading to the Skiffle craze that took over the U.K. for a couple of years. As that fad began to wane, the Skiffle intermissions moved more to a straight Blues theme and built up an audience large enough to allow Korner to break away, along with his harmonica man Cyril Davies, and form their own group and the first Blues club. In those days, the idea of a music club was the getting together of like-minded players and fans to discuss and play their music and eventually came to often refer to the venue where they gathered.
Throughout his career Korner had the support of Barber, who is credited for bringing to England some of the best American Blues artists of the 50s and 60s. If not for Barber, Alexis might never have had the chance to participate in the earliest popular presentations of the American idiom by British players, an opportunity that led to him becoming the patriarch of the genre by encouraging so many artists to join him on stage and hone their skills, most notably the original Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Keith Richard), Eric Burdon of The Animals, Long John Baldry, Paul Jones, the entire Graham Bond ensemble (Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Dick Heckstall-Smith and, of course, Bond himself), not to mention the multitude of players to credit the experience of being in Alexis’ audience as an eye-opening glimpse at the Blues.
All the time that his crusading for the Blues was taking place there was not enough money to get by, so Korner’s decision to get into the radio side of music as well gave him a long, successful career as an influential BBC DJ and producer. His influence was felt up until a couple of months before his passing on New Year’s Day 1984. Billed as Buxton ’95, what we hear today was held on Sunday, May 21st at the Palace Hotel, more than a decade after Alexis’ departure.
*************************Throughout the five hour long concert, the background for most of the performers was The Norman Beaker Band, Norman having been the one who conceptualized the tribute show. Bandleader Beaker played guitar and offered vocal when appropriate and his rhythm section was made up of bass player John Price and drummer Tim Franks. Indeed, any time there was a drummer in the entire show it was Franks and the only times Price didn’t join him was when Jack Bruce took center stage with his vocals and bass and on one more tune when Colin Hodgkinson played bass behind Chris Farlowe on Stormy Monday. Dave Bainbridge provided the keyboards throughout, notably on the Hammond organ, except in the Mike Sanchez portion as noted later.
Jack Bruce opens up our show backed by a stripped down version of the Beaker band with Franks, Bainbridge and Beaker along with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. They open up with a tune that goes back to Bruce and DHS’ Graham Bond ORGANization days, Neighbor Neighbor, then follow that up with four tunes Jack recorded with Cream, beginning with the Booker T. Jones and William Bell composition made famous by Albert King, Born Under a Bad Sign. White Room, a Bruce original, and Sittin’ on Top of the World come next, the latter originally done in the 1930s by the Mississippi Sheiks, before moving on to the natural Jack Bruce set closer, Sunshine of Your Love, co-written by Bruce and Eric Clapton.
Jack is the only one to remain onstage as Paul Jones brings his harmonicas to perform, beginning with a duet version of their own composition Sonny Boy Williamson, then Bruce departs as the previous cast of players return augmented by the slide guitar of Andrew Shelley and the additional sax of Lanni. Paul starts off with a couple of tunes he wrote, Room and Board and Not Me, and then adds his version of Gil Scott Heron’s Blue Collar before the horn section of DHS and Lanni adds Ray Warleigh on saxophone and, on trombone, the man who is often credited as the earliest exponent of the Blues in Great Britain, Chris Barber, for the Memphis Slim classic Every Day I Have the Blues.
I don’t feel the need to say a lot about Jack Bruce, except that his career has spanned from maybe the late 50s until his recent passing. We have previously chronicled his time in the 60s with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond ORGANization, and Cream and followed much of his solo career throughout this study; definitely one of my favorite bassists and vocalists. We also presented Paul Jones’ work with Manfred Man in the 60s and recently joined him again as a member of The Blues Band for about the last 35 years and still going strong.
Chris Farlowe was another singer whose material we presented way back, beginning with his first recordings from 1963, and then again in the seventies when he joined DHS’ band Colosseum. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today is an a cappella number but Price plays bass on Love Me Baby and then Hodgkinson on Stormy Monday, the T-Bone Walker tune that became a signature song for Farlowe Beaker, Franks, Bainbridge, Lanni and DHS are joined by a couple more guitarists, Mick Abrahams most notable for his time with Jethro Tull) and James Litherland as well as Pete Brown on additional percussion.
I came across the name of vocalist Brian Knight when it was mentioned that he was an employee of Cyril Davies’ auto body shop but could not locate music by his band, Blues By Six, which also featured soon-to-be Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and Geoff Bradford, who was Davies’ first choice as guitarist for The All Stars. Knight adds his slide guitar here with the guitar of his partner Toni Vines on Meet Me in the Bottom and Hard Travellin’. I’m sorry, but I know nothing of Vines, not even gender. There were two more numbers by the duo that did not make our cut due to time restrictions. To wind up this acoustical set, Tony McPhee presents solo versions of classic tunes created by Blues greats Muddy Waters (I Can’t Be Satisfied), Son House (Death Letter) and John Lee Hooker (Groundhog Blues). McPhee took the last tune’s title for the name of his 1968 group The Groundhogs and when Hooker toured England they were his choice for backup band. We did a couple of shows with the Hogs and by the time we got done with their 1972 material it was probably the closest to psychedelic that we heard. But long before that we were exposed to some of his earlier acoustic work as well as when he was a member of The John Dummer Band and The Brunning-Hall Sunflower Band.
I can’t tell you much about Blues Shouter, but an online write-up about the concert informs us that she was born Val Harris and later went by the stage name Connie Lush. I will presume that the Beaker band backed up her powerful voice, along with guitarist John Lewis, for Three Hundred Pounds of Joy, one of the many songs Willie Dixon wrote for Howlin’ Wolf, and I’m pretty sure Bull Moose Jackson did the original of Big Ten Inch Record, but Don’t Play That Song is just a familiar song that I probably should be able to tell you more about, but all in all a good, strong set.
When DHS and drummer Jon Hiseman took the initiative to start Colosseum, James Litherland was the original vocalist and one of two guitar players in the group. I believe he was gone before their second release, but he is here on his original Another Time Baby after previously being heard with Chris Farlowe. After he steps down, The Norman Beaker Band (Franks, Price, Bainbridge, Lanni and Beaker, with Shelley replacing Litherland’s guitar) remains to take a turn in the spotlight. They perform three of Beaker’s compositions, Cry To Me, No Reason to Believe in Me and Cross Me Off Your List. Bainbridge steps out from behind the keyboards to make room for Mike Sanchez for the next three numbers. Sanchez was a part of Jeff Beck’s Crazy Legs, which was a tribute album to Rockabilly star Gene Vincent, and also was a guest performer at Eric Clapton’s wedding. His portion of the set commences with Be Careful, followed by the Lowell Fulson standard Reconsider Baby and closes with Down the Road a Piece, a tune written by Don Raye but possibly first popularized by pianist Freddie Slack with vocal by Ella Mae Morse or perhaps by Amos Milbourne, but anytime you hear it, be it by Paul Jones’ with Manfred Mann or The Rolling Stones, it’s just a great Boogie Woogie stomper.
When vocalist Dave Berry comes onstage, Lanni steps down and the band of Beaker, Franks, Price and Shelley add Bainbridge’s Hammond organ to complement Sanchez on piano. Playing lap steel guitar, Brian Wood makes his only appearance of the concert as the ensemble performs two standards, beginning with Bobby Troup’s Route 66, first recorded in 1948 by The Nat King Cole Trio. That is followed by a tune recorded more than a decade afterward when, in 1959, Roscoe Gordon recorded his composition of Just a Little Bit. While it has been put out by too many artists to try to name, the late 60s version by Magic Sam may still be my all time favorite Blues track. It only makes sense that Berry would choose two numbers that each registered simultaneously on the R&B and the Pop charts as Berry began his career as an R&B singer who transmogrified into a Pop crooner through a long and successful career. But he never forgot his roots and when he heard about this concert he contacted Beaker and implored him to be included to show his respect for Korner.
The closing set is probably the most representative of what Korner himself was trying to put across. Having been drafted in the late 50s, Herbie Goins served in Germany as a U.S. Army medical corpsman and wound up in England after his discharge. Following a brief stint with Chris Barber’s band (who is heard here on trombone) the African-American Goins became the vocalist for Alexis’ Blues Incorporated between 1963 and 1965, including the recording of two LPs, Live at the Cavern and Red Hot from Alex. In addition to Barber, the horn section has one of the sax players from Herbie’s time with Korner, Dick Heckstall-Smith, as well as Lanni, all backed by the Beaker, Franks, Price, and Bainbridge ensemble as well as guitarist Umberto Sacchi.
Herbie puts together an excellent set here, perfect to close out the show. Even though the Blues Incorporated favorite Hoochie Coochie Man, written by Willie Dixon for Muddy Waters, sounds to me as though Goins is thanking the band and saying goodnight to the audience, I kept it as the set opener, the same way it is placed on the CD. That is followed by Shuffle, a nice jam with the authorship credited to Beaker, before the band breaks into B.B. King’s Woke Up this Morning which, had I placed it first as I wanted to do, would have left dead air between the first two songs.
AS I mentioned, time restrictions caused the exclusion of two tracks by Knight and Vines and we also omitted a solo performance by Abrahams and a three song set by a group called the Detonators. Zoot Money did perhaps the set that most attempted to play tunes from Korner’s repertoire (although Goins did a good job on that by picking a couple of numbers he sang while with Alexis). Otherwise, a lot of artists wanted to show off their own stage fare. Anyway, we had aired that Money set a long time ago but it was impressive enough as bonus tracks on one of Zoot’s discs that it led me to this three individual disc purchase. I hope you enjoy all you hear.
*************************Sometime after I tried to breathe new life into this blog that I had tried briefly a few years back, I began to have one concern. By providing as much information as I had time to put together for you online with the goal of playing as much music as I could fit on the air, was I leaving a void by omitting interesting commentary that used to enhance my earlier shows; after all, even if I had a lot more readers, the KKUP airings should be the priority. I believe I will alter that beginning next show by maybe putting together one eighty minute CD (instead of two), maybe one or two highlighted artists about whom I will probably study in some depth here, as a compromise so I can tell you as much as I feel appropriate and pick other artists to round out the show. I don’t know, just thinkin’. . . . Any feedback would be appreciated. I had a request last show for some Freddie King and he sounds like the perfect subject for our first show officially back to the normal routine
*************************Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word. I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access. If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE. By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile. I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed. As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time. I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening. (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.) Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada. Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
Born Under a Bad Sign
Sittin’ on Top of the World
Sunshine of Your Love
Sonny Boy Williamson
Jack Bruce, Paul Jones
Room and Board
Everyday I Have the Blues
Paul Jones 56min
I Think It’s Going to Rain TodayLove Me Baby
Chris Farlowe 12min
Meet Me in the BottomHard Travellin’
Brian Knight, Toni Vines
I Can’t Be Satisfied
Tony McPhee 17min
Three Hundred Pounds of JoyBig Ten Inch Record
Don’t Play That Song
Blues Shouter 12min
Another Time BabyJames Litherland
Cry to Me
No Reason to Believe in Me
Cross Me Off Your List
The Norman Beaker Band
Down the Road Apiece
Mike Sanchez 39min
Route 66Just a Little Bit
Dave Berry 6min
(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie ManShuffle
I Woke Up This Morning
Herbie Goins 21min