The KinksAlexis Korner & Cyril Davies
Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
*************************So, it is time once again for our annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration where I devote the show to British musicians. I know, it’s an Irish holiday, but as close as I can come is to stay within the U.K. Otherwise, all I’d play each year would be pretty much restricted to Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher!
It’s been about a year and a half since I got done with a 30 month musical expedition to the islands of the British blues Boom and I think I am able to embrace the results, but it has taken this long to get over how it just seemed to never end.
It was also when I began seriously writing this blog after a handful of attempts back in 20xX and we take our first entry from the very first pair of postings which appeared in January of 2014 because they were about the two men who founded the first electric British Blues band, Blues Incorporated, laying the groundwork for all that was to come. The write-ups for Korner and Davies are combined into this posting, so it is considerably lengthy
But they were actually the last that I chose for today’s airing, wanting to do a Rock group, The Kinks (with a couple of likely more familiar Davies), which was not Bluesy enough to fit in back in 2014, but still a favorite in a different style. And the group that stood out in my mind as a new awakening (even though I had their second LP since the 70s) after all this was the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. A new essay for the Kinks and a couple of returning favorites; check it out.
*************************Alexis Korner was born in Paris in 1928 and moved around Europe and North Africa until settling in England in 1939. He had been taught piano from age five, but as a teen he discovered Jimmy Yancey (by stealing an album) and that boogie woogie led to a lifelong love for the Blues. When his father heard him trying to play Yancey’s licks on their grand piano, he locked up the lid and forbade Alexis from ever playing the family instrument again. 1947 saw Alexis serving in the British version of the draft and stationed in West Germany where he was exposed to more Jazz and Blues through the U.S. Armed Forces radio as well as the American servicemen’s private collections of V-disks (special morale-boosting releases for the military made when there was a recording ban during WWII) and records. That experience, coupled with the opportunity to see a Leadbelly concert, made up Korner’s mind to become a musician fulltime.
With Tony (later known as Lonnie) Donegan leaving to do his National Service in 1949, Korner took his place in the Chris Barber band as a guitarist and occasional harmonica player. As Korner later put it, “I was one of the first and one of the worst harmonica players in the country”. By the time Donegan returned, Alexis had built himself a sufficient reputation to open up other musical opportunities. He could be found performing solo around the coffee houses or other night spots in London and then showing up at the afterhours clubs to seek out fellow Blues-minded musicians, but pretty soon Ken Colyer split from the Barber band and set up his own Jazz band. Alexis was immediately installed as guitar and mandolin player for their Skiffle offshoot which very shortly recorded three songs included on Colyer’s full band LP Back to the Delta in June of 1954. In July the following year they returned to the studio and Colyer’s Skiffle Group put out their own EP.
Korner’s next recording session was in November of 1956 for the Beryl Bryden Skiffle group. It was significant in part because it was the first studio session for Cyril Davies, who would be a key factor in the Korner story as his harmonica and guitar playing accompanist over the next few years.
Davies had been running the London Skiffle Club in its performances every Thursday night in the upstairs pub in the Roundhouse and in 1955 he took in Alexis as a partner, changing it to the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, which became the first club for the Blues and was visited by American bluesmen when in town including Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy, Champion Jack Dupree, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. It didn’t hurt that Chris Barber was instrumental in bringing these players to England, and Davies and Korner remained working members of Barber’s band. In February of 1957 the first of three releases that went under the title Blues from the Roundhouse was recorded, this as a seven track LP with Korner and Davies backed by Terry Plant on string bass and Mike Collins on washboard, calling the band Alexis Korner’s Breakdown Group featuring Cyril Davies. This came out on the 77 label who, in order to avoid a sales tax, limited the pressing to 99 copies which were sold only through Doug Dobel’s Jazz Shop. July 1957 found them recording Volume 1 (including Chris Capon on bass and Dave Stevens on piano), the first of two four-song EPs for Decca’s Tempo label. To the label’s demands and against the band’s wishes, it was credited to Alexis Korner’s Skiffle Group. Stevens was on hand for Volume 2 along with Collins and bassist Jim Bray for an April 1958 session. This was the first time the name Blues Incorporated was used. Personal differences had taken its toll and Korner went back to the Barber band while Davies also continued performing, most often in a duo setting with guitarist Geoff Bradford.
By the end of summer 1961, the Barber band had changed the Skiffle break to an R&B set, oftentimes backing Chris’ wife, vocalist Ottilie Patterson. This was also the first time Alexis had played using amplified equipment. The success of these performances provided the impetus to form his own electric band. Getting together
again in March of 1962, Korner and Davies opened the Ealing Club in London and formed again Blues Incorporated with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, Hoogonboom (first name unavailable) on bass and on drums Charlie Watts. Long John Baldry was brought in to allow Davies to pay more attention to his harmonica playing and was the only paid vocalist among many sit-ins, including at varying times Mick Jagger, Paul Jones, Eric Burdon and Art Wood, all of whom we shall be hearing from in the near future. Among the instrumentalists who would also join the band onstage were Keith Richard and Brian Jones and all of these would play a part in propelling the Blues to the status where it was the dominant Brit musical form of the late 60s and further.
They also got a prestigious booking on Thursday nights beginning in May at the Marquee while maintaining their Saturday night gig at the Ealing Club. By September, the Marquee was drawing 1,000 people attending the Thursday events. Even adding Monday night shows in December could not stem the overflowing crowds. In June, they recorded the studio album titled R&B from the Marquee, but by October, musical differences arose, and once again the two took separate paths, Korner still under the banner of Blues Incorporated and Cyril Davies with his All Stars.
At one point, the entire band backing Korner and Davies for Blues Incorporated were members of the future Graham Bond Organization, a four-piece group whose drummer and bass player (Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce) would later form Cream with guitarist Eric Clapton. Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith would himself join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and later help found Colosseum. In fact, these three represented exactly what Davies felt was the wrong direction Blues Incorporated was headed, just too strong a Jazz influence for Davies’ purist vision of the Blues.
When Cyril left, Graham Bond joined the band as well. While Bond was signed on as an alto sax player and to share in the vocals, he quickly convinced Korner that he should lead a trio while playing the Hammond organ (he later was instrumental in popularizing a new keyboard instrument called the mellotron) accompanied by Baker and Bruce during the full band’s breaks. The trio was received sufficiently well that Bond decided there was more money to be made on their own than with Blues Incorporated. They also invited Heckstall-Smith to join them, but at the time he wished to immerse himself a little longer in the Blues. Initially called the Graham Bond Trio, it became the Graham Bond Quartet with the addition of guitarist John McLaughlin.
Dick Heckstall-Smith had been the first of the quartet to join Blues Incorporated. The Rough Guide for Jazz considered him “a pioneer in his 1960s commuting between Jazz and Blues” and “a crucially important, if not relatively undersung, figure in UK Jazz-related music”. They list a resume that includes being co-leader of the Cambridge University’s Jazz Band in 1954 and touring with them in Switzerland in 1956. Among his accomplishments in the London Jazz scene were a 1958 stint with Sandy Brown’s band and an 18-week membership in the Ronnie Scott Quintet, also in 1958. He then freelanced until joining Blues Incorporated in 1962, then on to the Bond Organization and ultimately to Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1967.
Long before their association with Korner, Heckstall-Smith and Ginger Baker had played together in numerous of the London Jazz bands and jam sessions. Baker came into the Korner ensemble as the recipient of the bizarre situation where Watts felt Baker was the better fit for the band and offered to drop out. Watts thought himself not that good a drummer and wasn’t really ready for the professional musician’s life, but immediately after his departure he fell into a band that would soon become the Rolling Stones.
Jack Bruce came into contact with Korner (and Baker) when he approached the band requesting to sit in. Alexis was in a mood to allow him to join in only at the end of the last set. The first tune was a relatively simple one and Bruce impressed so the next ones got progressively faster and more complicated structurally and Jack continued to shine. Korner knew then that he had found the bass player he wanted. After his 1963-65 service with Bond, Bruce worked briefly with Mayall and Manfred Mann before the startup of Cream.
In January of 1963, Korner gave up his Thursday night slot at the Marquee in favor of Thursdays at the Flamingo; Davies quickly snatched up the Marquee opening. May 1963 saw the recording of an album titled Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated with only Heckstall-Smith a familiar name on the all-instrumental album. To replace the alto sax of Bond, Heckstall-Smith recommended Art Themen whom Dick had performed with, but to replace Bond’s vocal participation Korner ultimately found the fix in a black American ex-GI, Herbie Goins who had sung with BB King and Bobby Bland. Prior to recruiting Herbie, Zoot Money put some time in behind the organ, ending in October 1963 when he reformed his Big Roll Band. Both of these singers will be featured in upcoming shows.
Another revamping of the lineup occurred for their February 1964 recording, At the Cavern, including Goins, David Castle on alto sax, Malcolm Saul on organ, and drummer Mike Scott, even though only Korner, Goins and Heckstall-Smith had ever played at the club (it was a studio LP). Goins would stick through the follow-up (recording date not known, but released in 1964), Red Hot from Alex, as well as a couple of singles released in 1964 and 1965. Making his first appearance on the Alex album was bass player Danny Thompson. He and its drummer Terry Cox would form the foundation of the next era of Blues Incorporated, even performing often as a trio, before the duo went on to a higher level of commercial acceptance with the folk-rock band, Pentangle.
We took the first Korner set from the 1967 Sky High album (so named because there was apparently a copious amount of pot ingested during the session) while the second Korner set is BBC material recorded about the same time and included as bonus tracks in that same excellent CD.
While Korner was never considered a great musician, the legacy of his utilization of local Blues and Jazz talent established his reputation as the “Father of British Blues”, a title of which he did not approve. He was often known to say that the genre had been overrun by players, many of whom he had inspired, who wanted to bloviate on extended solos rather than the basics of the Blues. He never made much money from his musical efforts, so it was a wise decision back in 1955 to sign on with the British Broadcasting Corporation as a trainee studio manager in order to put food on the table for his family. It set him up for a highly successful radio career (and some television as well) leading up to 1977, when he wrote his own scripts for The Alexis Korner Blues and Soul Show. I am not sure exactly, but I believe he was still with the BBC right up to October 1983 when he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, passing away on New Year’s Day of 1984 at the age of 55. Just another way he turned people on to his love for the Blues and music in general.
Cyril Davies was born outside London in 1932 and was a more than competent 12-string guitarist and banjo player, but he was to make his mark as by far the most dominant blues harmonica man in the country. While working days as owner of an auto body repair shop, he put in four years of nights playing banjo in the Trad Jazz band, Steve Lane’s Southern Stompers. It was later, in 1955 when he ran the Skiffle club, that he began to learn the 12-string guitar.
Davies had split with Korner, who kept the name Blues Incorporated, to form his own band the All Stars in November of 1962. Their original lineup included four members from Lord Sutch’s Savages: Bernie Watson on guitar (although Jimmy Page is also mentioned as having a very brief spot to start), Ricky Brown on bass, Carlo Little behind the drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano, plus Long John Baldry handling most of the vocals. They quickly recorded two Davies originals for their first single in February 1963 for the Pye label, Country Line Special and Chicago Calling, followed in August by Preaching the Blues and Sweet Mary, and somewhere along the line they recorded Someday Baby, which Pye apparently did not release at the time, and Not Fade Away, possibly for another label.
In January ’63, to positive critical acclaim, the band added The Velvettes, a South African vocal trio who had just completed a London engagement of the musical King Kong, for at least a couple of gigs For the first month of Davies’ Thursday night Marquee engagement, the Rolling Stones played during the intermissions but were let go by the club when they asked for more money. The All Stars’ rhythm section of Little and Brown had gigged with the Stones on occasions during December and January and the Stones even offered Carlo membership in the band, but he chose to stay with Davies because the Stones appeared to be going more towards a Chuck Berry style than the All Stars. Besides, Davies was better known.
But the band did not stay intact much longer. Nicky Hopkins became ill in May of 1963 and had to be replaced by Keith Scott. Brown left in June to rejoin Lord Sutch as did Little soon afterward and Watson left to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. That amounts to the entire band save Baldry and Davies. Page returned for another brief interlude, but soon the new cast was assembled with drummer Mickey Waller, bassist Cliff Barton and guitarist Geoff Bradford joining Scott on piano. By the time Davies would pass away, Johnny Parker had taken over the piano duties and Bob Wackett was doing the drumming.
Towards the end of 1963, Cyril was suffering from pleurisy and increased his intake of alcohol to manage the pain while not significantly decreasing the band’s playing schedule to get more rest. He would die at the age of 31 in January 1964, officially of endocarditis but also often mentioned as resulting from leukemia.
*************************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 among 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.”
Although there appeared to be no animus 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, 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?
*************************The brothers Davies, Ray (born June 21st 1944) and Dave (February 3rd 1947) were born and raised in the Muswell Hill section of Northern London. At one early point, the boys’ band was called the Ray Davies Quartet, which in early 1962 even contained Rod Stewart, afterward a neighborhood musical rival. Seeking career advice, Ray approached Alexis Korner, ultimately leading to his joining a Jazz and R&B group, the Dave Hunt Band in early 1963, a group which at one time included drummer Charlie Watts. In February 1963, Ray moved on to Hamilton King’s Blues Messengers then, at the end of spring, left art school at Hornsey College, followed in June by the Messengers’ breakup, leaving Ray with only the band now called the Ravens which contained not only both Davies, but another neighborhood mate, Peter Quaiffe, and with all three playing guitar, Dave being the lead, Peter switched to bass. Being the primary vocalist, Ray quickly took over as leader and changed the name to the Kinks, also replacing their drummer with Mick Avory, who would hold that position for twenty of the band’s thirty-two year existence.
Late in 1963, producer Shel Talmy began working with the band, setting up several auditions before they hit with Pye Records and inked a contract.
In January 1964, the four went into the studio as the Ravens and came out as the Kinks with their first single, a version of Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally. Neither it nor its follow-up, You Still Want Me, made it to the charts, and Pye was ready to nullify the contract if the next release didn’t have some commercial impact. Their next session was recorded at Pye’s studios on June 15th 1964, but Ray was dissatisfied with the result and wanted to redo it in a more raw style but Pye refused to foot the bill. Eventually, Talmy covered the costs at an independent studio a month later and, thanks in major part to the distortion brought about by Dave’s slicing the cone of his speaker, in August the release of You Really Got Me (b\w It’s All Right) became one of the early British Rock anthems as it powered it’s way to #1 in the UK in its first month, then to #7 US. Two months later the band released the LP The Kinks (#3UK) which went out in America as You Really Got Me (#29).
October ’64 also saw their next single, All Day and All of the Night (b/w I Gotta Move) which again hit #7 US, but only #2UK. The new year began with the January release of Tired of Waiting for You (b\w Come on Now) which, despite its lack of the power chords that made the last pair of 45s so successful, actually climbed to the highest combining of the two charts at #1UK/6US.
In March, the presses were rolling as, first, the US-only LP Kinks-size reached #12, followed by Kinda Kinks, which reached #3UK but was held back in the US until August when it only reached #60. The month was closed by the single Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy reaching #11UK, but its flip side, Who’ll be the Next in Line, being the dominant US side hit #34.
May’s Set Me Free (b/w I Need You), #9UK\22US, and July’s See My Friends (b\w Never Met a Girl Like You Before), did not fare as well, with the latter pairing reaching only #10UK and not even charting in America. But the biggest blow to the group was when, after their 1965 summer US tour, the band was banned (for unspecified reasons) from the States and would not be allowed to return until 1969, segregating them from their largest market.
Ray remembers the event in his autobiography as having occurred around their appearance on one of the American television Rock ‘n’ Roll shows. "Some guy who said he worked for the TV company walked up and accused us of being late. Then he started making anti-British comments. Things like 'Just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself.'" Someone threw a punch and the music union sent the boys packing.
The November ‘65’s Kinks Kontroversy (#9UK/95US) must have been my favorite of their albums, one of those LPs that I rarely turned over. Opening up with what is still my favorite arrangement of the classic Milk Cow Blues, then the Bluesy Gotta Get the First Plane Home, and later on the side a return to their power chord leanings with Till the End of the Day, what reason was there to swap sides? This was also the first of four successive albums that the Kinks brought in keyboard studio man extraordinaire Nicky Hopkins, appearing also on some live BBC sessions before he signed on with the Jeff Beck Group.
Earlier in the month, Milk Cow Blues had been released as the B-side to A Well Respected Man on the US-only single (#13) and Till the End of the Day was released with Where Have All the Good Times Gone? (#6UK\50US). Since the Kontroversy album was held back in the US until April ’66, American Christmas shoppers first saw the December LP Kinks Kinkdom which would peak at #47. Quaife was in an auto accident and was sidelined through the end of the year.
This is where I stopped following the Kinks. Their music was getting more cerebral than rhythmic, in my opinion, what with songs like the February 1966 single, Dedicated Follower of Fashion (b\w Sitting on My Sofa) going #4UK & 36US. I must admit, however, that their massive hit from June 1966, Sunny Afternoon (#1UK/14US), was backed by one of my very favorite numbers, I’m Not Like Everybody Else. In August of 1966, they released another US-only LP, the Kinks Greatest Hits, which charted at #9.
This period of time, just about two years since their first hit, was probably as productive as any group that comes to mind with a likely exception of the Beatles. They would continue to find success in future (it wasn’t until the spring of 1968 that one of their singles, Wonderboy, failed to make the UK Top Ten) with a totally different style of music, but since I haven’t any quotes or interesting sidelights to brighten this somewhat drab essay, I think this is as good a place to stop as any.
*************************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.
I Ain’t Gonna Worry No More
National Defence Blues
Alexis Korner’s Breakdown Group
featuring Cyril Davies 24mins
Watch and ChainMy Whiskey Head Woman
Trouble No More
Roamin’ and Ramblin’
See See Baby
Sage of Sidney Street
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation 31mins
You Really Got MeIt’s All Right
Bald Headed Woman
All Day and All of the Night
I Gotta Move
Come On Now
Things Are Getting Better
I Gotta Go Now
The Kinks 23mins
Long Black TrainI’m So Glad (You’re Mine)
Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting
Let the Good Times Roll
Big Road Blues
I Got a Woman
Going Down Slow
Blues a la King
Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated
Featuring Duffy Power 25mins
Change Your Low Down WaysThe Fugitive
Till Your Lovin’ Makes Me Blue
Mean Old World
Low Gear Man
The Devil Drives
The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation 23mins
Milk Cow BluesGotta Get the First Plane Home
When I See That Girl of Mine
Till the End of the Day
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Got My Feet on the Ground
Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight
It’s Too Late
I Need You
The Kinks 27mins