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Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:03 pm
by Adam Blake
Funny what you find when you're looking for something else. Today I found this. My transcription of an unpublished interview with Long John Baldry and Geoff Bradford from June 26th 2002 on the birth of British blues. The interview took place in a pub at the Angel, Islington. The interviewer was Dave Laing, with me chipping in from time to time. Long John was resplendent in a cape and carried a silver topped cane.



D.L: What was your first guitar? When did you get it?

LJB: The first one I ever got was a pre-war Harmony f-hole carved top, but oddly enough without much poke. I used it for a while, a couple of years, it was about ’55 I got that. Then Grimshaw made me the now famous D soundhole, sharp right hand, almost like a Maccaferri except with a much more jangly body. That was ’57.

DL: What were you doing in ’55?

LJB: I was at school.

DL: What led you into guitar?

LJB: There were people at school who were also interested in blues and jazz.

DL: Where was this?

LJB: Downer Grammar school, which is Queensbury, North London. And of course Monday nights I used to go to the Kingsbury swimming pool baths jazz club which was in the café there. Sonny, um, what was his name? The Crane River Jazz band. Sonny…trumpet player, oh, can’t remember. Colyer, and of course Cyril, although I didn’t know it at the time, had some involvement with the Crane River Jazz Band.

GB: I think he’s still playing, Colin Kingwell (?).

LJB: Oh yeah. Anyway that’s where I first met Charlie Watts, we were both 12 year olds going into the Crane River Jazz club on a Monday night.
(pause on tape) – discussing the death of Brian Knight and touring with the Manfreds.
Discussing Leadbelly’s last session (“the best version of Gallow’s Pole you ever heard”)

DL: Coming back to Kingsbury Baths, your introduction to all this was the Crane River Jazz Band, were there some records as well?

LJB: There were some records, yeah. I got turned on to Bill Broonzy. What had happened, Lonnie came out with "The Rock Island Line" and "John Henry" back to back as a hit, and then a neighbour of mine, just two doors down, Graham Bradbury – who later went on to become one of England’s leading painters and horse breeders, which is an odd combination, he lives in Cheltenham now – but anyway I was all knocked out by this Lonnie Donegan thing which, I guess, was ’54 I think, and I go oh! and went running out and bought it – on 78! Everything was 78 then. And then Bradbury said, ach, that’s all very well and good but come and listen to THIS man. And it was Graham Bradbury who had the first Bill Broonzy records I ever heard which was Blues In 1890 (?), with HIS version of John Henry on the back, with the (sings riff). That was the first ever lick that I learned on the guitar. I’d go and sit in the woods in Cannon’s Park and practice that you know (sings riff again). So I wouldn’t drive everyone nuts at home. And it was odd because Cannon’s park was the very woods and property that George Frederick Handel would have trodden back in the 18th C. so, er, I’m thinking of calling my biography 'From Handel To Howling Wolf'. Simply because it was local to me. The Duke of Chandos (?) had engaged Handel for awhile as kappelmeister. Now you know how very often the aristocracy would employ the musicians based on their abilities to milk cows or polish the furniture or other domestic chores, they were not engaged just on their abilities as a musician. So, apparently the orchestra that he had at this place was heavy on the recorders and all that and low on the fiddles, but he did write a lot of the music there and played the organ at St. Lawrence’s church in Edgware where I sang as a 9 or 10 year old. Just so that you get a bit of the background there. Anyway, so that’s me learning Big Bill Broonzy (sings). Then, my regular Saturday morning thing to go to Harrow-On-The- Hill market where they have a second-hand record stall and they had, lo and behold, Big Bill Broonzy records in there. But it was like trying to find gold nuggets and then I eventually came across a Leadbelly record on, I think, Vocalion, although I don’t think he ever officially recorded for Vocalion. So that’s how I first got into… and then I started buying things simply because it said Vogue Records on there, so there’d be Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan, which I was into at an early age. They were put out by Vogue here. Or Wynonie Harris, "Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me". That was also on that record. Then I found all these other… oh, there was, one of my favourite, EP’s were just creeping out, my favourite, the first EP I got actually was, oh no, there was a Bill Broonzy one, there was a Muddy Waters EP, with "Morgan’s Shuffle" and "Honey Bee".

GB: I remember that, yeah.

LJB: It was an EP. And Mahalia Jackson’s "In The Upper Room Pts 1 & 2", and a couple of other tunes, and my favourite Chris Barber EP of all time was Chris playing all Ellington stuff, with "Creole Love Call" and "East St.Louis Toodle-O" and a couple of others. So, that’s the kind of stuff I was buying as a 13 – 14 year old. And trying to make it happen on the guitar. And of course there was nobody around, that I knew of, to teach me so I literally had to learn on my own. But I learned to play more peculiarly, so instead like, thumb at the back, hands over the top which is the proper way of playing, I would allow the neck to be in the middle of my palm and using my thumb as a… with the result that I’ve often dislocated it! Mind you I’ve slowed down in recent years, I’ve got a bit of arthritis in there as you can see. Funnily enough, the more I play guitar the easier the arthritis is to combat, the less drugs one needs. So you can certainly say that guitar playing is great therapy, especially that style of guitar playing.

DL: So you didn’t know anyone who played guitar at that stage?

LJB: Not at all, not at all. It wasn’t until I started hanging around in Soho when I was about 16 that I realised that there were other people around. That’s when I first met Davy Graham. And we kind of did a double act in the folk clubs and coffee houses for a couple of years before Davy went on his own exploratory way. I mean he was a great guitarist, still is. So all the fancy bits that I couldn’t do he was great to fill in, and of course he was never much of a singer so we made a fairly decent double act.

DL: So you were singing the stuff, by now…

LJB: …’57.

DL: But how did you develop your singing? In the woods, so to speak?

LJB: More or less, yeah.

DL: And in the bedroom singing along to…

LJB: That’s right, yeah.

DL: And who were the singers you first tried to emulate?

LJB: Well I think Bill was my first influence and I think everybody’s. Not only were we listening to him on record, we actually had him here.

GB: D’you remember the first film? Broonzy with the cigarette smoke?

LJB: Yeah, I have that on video at home somewhere I think. I think that might have been recorded in Paris wasn’t it?

GB: And there was an album recorded at the same time. In Paris. He got progressively more smashed as the album goes on.

DL: But it was shown on television that little clip, wasn’t it?

AB: They had an evening of jazz and blues films on Channel 4, some years ago, and they showed it then. With an existentialist Beatnik looking girl.

LJB: Yeah.

DL: If you were going to Soho at 16 did you venture there on your own? You didn’t have a pal to go with?

LJB: I came across this coffee bar near to Charing X station, just off Viliers St, a place called the Gyre and Gimble.

GB: Remember it well.

DL: Yes, we heard about that.

LJB: From Alice In wonderland, isn’t it? Or Through The Looking Glass.

DL: Interesting place, by the sound of it.

LJB: A lot of the singers and players went down there.

DL: But you must have been the youngest of them.

LJB: Oh yeah. Even Davy was a little bit older than me I think. But people like Red Sullivan used to hang out there. A guy called Jean Van Der Bosch (?) who was the original member of the Vipers skiffle band. John pilgrim, d’you remember? Who used to sell books on Charing X Rd by Dobells?

GB: Is that the same John Pilgrim on Three Cameras (?) radio?

DL: Yes he is, he lives in Suffolk or somewhere. Because Pete Emory was telling me we ought to talk to him. Dave Peabody knows
him quite well as well.

GB: He put out a really good EP of Davy – an after gig session at a college. Might have been Hull.

DL: Yes it was, it’s that one yeah. Same guy. And he’s a washboard player.

GB: His daughter is also a presenter.

DL: So what was your repertoire with Davy? Broonzy stuff and Leadbelly stuff?

LJB: It would have all been Broonzy stuff. I didn’t really start getting into the Leadbelly thing until a) I’d met Cyril, and I think that was ’57, Cyril and Alex, and b) Tony Zemaitis made my first ever 12 string guitar, in fact the first guitar he’d ever made. Which he made for me for £15.

DL: So how did that come about? Was he a guitar repairer before that?

LJB: No, no, he was a furniture, cabinet maker, Tony Zemaitis, and he used to hang out at the Gyre and Gimble and he said “I’m thinking of making a 12 string guitar”, he said, “if I make one, will you buy it off me for whatever it costs me to make and sort of try it out and do things with it?” Yes, sure! It was actually quite a small one as 12 strings go, but it was a beautiful instrument. Sadly I had it pinched, together with another one he made for me. I must have been one of the very few people who actually had two 12 strings, there was this small one, the original one, and a bigger one. Ruddy pinched when…I think 1960 when… I think March or thereabouts after the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. A whole load of us had gone to picket South Africa house and both the two Zemaitis guitars got pinched. So who knows, they may still be alive and living somewhere in this world.

DL: With some anti-apartheid person. I think somebody told me on one of our tapes that you were the first person they’d seen playing a 12 string in London. Were there other 12 strings around?

LJB: There weren’t that many.

GB: Cyril.

LJB: There was Cyril. Rory McEwan of course. But before that, I think the first man playing 12 string guitar in London was a guy called John Hasted (?) who ran the Forty Four club in Gerrard Street. And I never ever saw him play but apparently he was quite…he was some kind of university don.

DL: He was, I think he was a physicist or something. And involved in CND.

LJB: And he was quite an amazing player, but I never…

GB: I couldn’t believe Cyril when I first saw him. I thought he was an Australian or a New Zealander. He had this buff coloured coat you always associate with a colonial type. First time I ever saw him play - a massive thing.

DL: So had you left the education system by this time?

LJB: By then, because I’d already realised, early on, although I had a promising academic career ahead of me, I knew what I wanted to do was go out and sing the blues. Very romantic and silly notion, but here I am!

GB: Still doing it.

DL: Was your family supportive? Or was there a problem there?

LJB: Well when they first actually saw me doing it, then my mum and dad used to show up everywhere and they were very supportive. Because I used to play quite regularly at a folk club that was being run at the White Hart in St Albans by a man called Ken Lindsay.

GB: Where have I heard of Ken Lindsay before, apart from that?

LJB: Well he ran jazz clubs around London as well.

DL: So the St Albans folk club, is that where your parents would turn up to see you?

LJB: Yeah. And anywhere else that was sort of like driveable. And of course every Thursday I used to go, eventually end up going to Alex and Cyril’s do at the Roundhouse. And on Saturday’s I used to do the Ewan and Peggy show in Soho Square.


LJB: That’s right, yeah. Which was kind of odd because Ewan was so down on British people playing American folk music but he made an exception in my case. And we remained very good friends over the years, right up to his death. I don’t know why he singled me out for any special favours, and allowed me to be on the same stage as him, I’ll never know. Because I know he was notorious for saying “no English people singing American folk music here! Not allowed!”

DL: So you never sang any English folk songs?

LJB: No, I mean, from time to time as a joke. (laughs) I think it was round about that time that I first met Geoff too. Very late 50s.

DL: Would you too have met at the Roundhouse?

LJB: Yeah probably. That was the meeting place.

GB: Yeah that would have been.

LJB: It was Cyril and Alex’s gig but a lot of regular people used to be there like Keith Scott, the piano player, umm, oddly enough Andy Hoogenboom who later was their bass player in the very first ever Blues Incorporated. But it was so funny, Cyril never remembered that he had actually thrown Andy out, down the stairs at the Roundhouse, years before, and he didn’t remember him when later he became the very first stand-up bass for Blues Inc. I mean it was so odd, so ironic, that Cyril would throw anybody out for anything. This guy was, um…

GB: Threw a flasher out once.

LJB: Yeah. I think that might have been the same incident because a girl was giving him um, er, masturbating underneath a coat. Cyril was in the middle of a song and he didn’t take that kindly to…

GB: Is that what it was, I never did find out what it was.

LJB: That was the ironic thing because I remembered who the guy was but Cyril had completely forgotten it.

DL: So you and Cyril obviously got on very well then, did you work with him for a long time?

LJB: Yeah, he was a kind of scary guy, his fits of violent aggressive behaviour could be quite overwhelming at times, but there were some softer sides to him, some kindnesses that he showed people. Me included.

AB: Did he buy you a guitar Geoff? I read that.

LJB: You’ve got all that down, haven’t you?

DL: Adam hasn’t heard it.

GB: He bought me that Telecaster.

LJB: I used to play that from time to time, Geoff’s Telecaster, and Geoff’d play harmonica. And it was one of the easiest guitars ever to play and it was so light on the shoulder. Electric guitars normally I don’t have anything to do with, a) because I’ve had shocks from them, and b) because they tend to be so damned heavy on the shoulder. But it was light as a feather that one, and the sound that came out of it was just amazing.

AB: It must have been quite unusual to find American solid-body guitars at that time.

LJB: It was one of the first Tele’s that came into the country. I mean we’d had the Stratocaster’s here and all that but the Telecaster was almost brand new in ‘61-’62.

GB: They were known as a rhythm – you know the way people think, they’d go “oh you don’t want that, that’s a rhythm guitar. You want a Strat, that’s a lead guitar.” I knew that Willie Johnson played a Telecaster and that was good enough for me. And so I stuck with it.

LJB: Well because it was such a delicate instrument, comparatively speaking to a lot of other electric guitars, it leaned itself very well to Geoff’s style which was more or less total fingerstyle, as opposed to bashing away with a pick. Geoff was, always has been, the leader in that area of fingerstyle electrical work. I notice in recent times Jeff Beck’s been getting the fingers out, as it were. I always associated him purely with a flat pick but Jeff’s been experimenting with thumb and fingers now.

DL: One of the other things that comes up when we’re talking to people about that era is the point when – ‘cos it was all acoustic playing obviously in the 1950s, in that world anyway, obviously there was electric playing going on elsewhere – but at a certain point it kind of seems that people took the plunge and decided to go amplified. Didn’t it feel like that at the time?

LJB: It seemed like a natural progression. I remember Alex and Cyril saying to me: We’re going to put a band together with amplifiers and microphones. You’ve got to be reminded that at the Roundhouse there were no amplifiers at all and not even a microphone to sing through was there?

GB: No, no.

LJB: Totally acoustic, you had to rely on the room’s acoustics. So it was either very late ’61 or very early ’62 they said: We’re going to put together this band and make it Chicago, NOW sound, and we’d like you to be part of this project. So I said OK fine. So I was down there for the very first ever one in the Ealing club, which was March ’62 I think. But like a lot of things Alex did, he wanted Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all to be part of it and he wasn’t happy unless he had a cast of thousands on the stage there so… I mean, I enjoyed meeting new people and all that but I didn’t want to share the limelight with 20 other singers, not really.

DL: The whippersnappers like Paul Jones.

LJB: Yeah, exactly. I still don’t want to share the limelight with him! (laughs)

DL: I understand that.

LJB: I don’t think Cyril really approved of that, having an open stage for whoever came along, but that was part of Alex’s thing wasn’t it: Oh, we’ll have him up! Now what was behind that, whether Alex wanted to piss off and have a drink or a joint, I don’t know, or whether he truly wanted to nurture all the talent that was out there in London I’ll never know.

GB: He used to do his Mayfair family bit, and go down to Ealing, then he’d bugger off and he’d be leading a band somewhere in Putney, so he’s have 4 or 5 Alexis Korner bands all going on the same night.

LJB: Yes.

GB: I’d dep for him on 2 or 3 occasions.

DL: You mean you’d have to pretend to be Alexis Korner?

GB: No, not really, no, but to be there as part of the band. We did a gig at Hampton Court Palace once. Big society thing.

LJB: That’s right, Alex Korner’s mark in all that.

GB: I remember Art Themen being on it, I can’t remember who else was on it, got down there, no Alex. I think he did turn up at one stage.

DL: One of the things people often say though is when the split occurred between Alexis and Cyril came it was a musical policy thing as well. Art Themen gave me this thought you know…

GB: Well he was heavily into Charlie Mingus at the time and he wanted to try and get a few things together and Cyril didn’t want to.

LJB: I think if it had been his just carrying on with the one sax player, Heckstall-Smith, I think Cyril would have gone with it, ‘cos he and Heckstall-Smith got on very well.

GB: Yeah.

LJB: I think it was Alex – and I must admit that I was at fault for doing this very often, I’d load the stage up with saxophone players thinking I was Count Basie or something (laughs) – and The Hoochie Coochie Men, I tell you the talent that used to be up on that stage from Bruce Turner to Don Rendell, I mean there were some amazing players that we had up there – but that was Alex’s thing, he wanted to load the stage up with saxophone players and I think that got up Cyril’s nose.

GB: Yeah.

LJB: Quite why Cyril chose a rock’n’roll oriented band to go with kind of amazed me. ‘Cos I’d been away in Germany and came back and they were both ringing me frantically: Oh, will you join my band, will you join my band. That’s Alex and so on. And I literally joined Cyril’s band on the toss of a half-crown. I was on the phone to one of them, no actually I was on the phone to Malcolm Mixen (?) the agent, he’s going: So which band do you want to perform with? Was it Malcolm Mixen or was it Cyril? So I toss up and anyway…It’s such a long time ago, 40 years ago.

GB: I think you’re doing very well, better than me.

LJB: It came down on Cyril’s side anyway so I rang up and I said I’m sorry Alex, Cyril’s won and actually in some books it’s said that it was kind of unfair on Alex that Baldry went with Cyril because Alex had paid Baldry’s airfare home from Germany which was not true at all.

AB: I’ve seen that.

LJB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Alex hadn’t paid any airfare at all I came back from Stuttgart on the train. Alex hadn’t paid for that so I don’t know where that myth comes from. But anyway, so I joined up with Cyril and I go down to this, the first ever gig was at that place which used to be the Cy Laurie club – the Scene.

GB: Matt’s (?) rehearsal room.

LJB: No, no an actual gig. I came straight in off the train to do a gig, it wasn’t even rehearsed or anything.

GB: No, no they called it Matt’s rehearsal room.

LJB: Oh I see, OK.

DL: That’s what it was originally.

GB: There was a salt beef shop opposite, remember?

LJB: Yeah, yeah. But no the yard behind the salt beef place was a club that later became called The Scene. Anyway, that was the first gig I did with Cyril and I was kind of amazed that all these kids who would have been more at home accompanying someone like Billy Fury or something like that, I thought: Ooh dear, what has the toss of a half-crown landed me in here?

AB: A bunch of rock’n’rollers?

LJB: Yeah, yeah. Mind you, they were enthusiastic. It was a kind of odd combination and to this day I can’t tell you why Cyril would have chosen them other than that they were all close neighbours, weren’t they?

GB: Most of them were local to that area, weren’t they? Sutch and all them.

DL: They used to play with Sutch, or that’s what I’ve read anyway. They were Sutch’s backing band.

GB: That’s true, yeah.

LJB: And Neil Christian and the Crusaders.

GB: Carlo still had the leopard skin on his drum kit. (laughs)

LJB: And then the band started to become more of a bluesy outfit when Bernie left, and Geoff came in and Nicky Hopkins got sick and in fact nearly died that time, didn’t he?

GB: Yeah, he was sick for years.

LJB: And then the beanhead came in, Keith Scott.

GB: (laughs) yes!

LJB: We called him beanhead not for being rude but his head was shaped like a bean. If anything, if you ever see pictures of Reinhardt Heidrich – the Reich’s protector of Moravia, the one who got assassinated in Czechoslovakia – the beanhead looked exactly like him: blond hair and, like, elongated cranium, and a fairly sharp longish nose, that was Keith Scott. But actually a great piano player, and not a bad singer too.

GB: No, he was alright.

DL: I didn’t know he sang.

LJB: I don’t think he ever recorded which was a shame because he knew the Big Maceo Merriweather catalog inside out.

AB: We were talking about that just before you came.

GB: I’ve got Mike and Keith doing some Maceo kind of stuff.

LJB: He knew that inside out, and the Leroy Carr stuff, what else did you need to know?

GB: We did it, Keith and myself, when I had the National. I used to do a Scrapper Blackwell to his Leroy Carr. Or an imitation Scrapper Blackwell.

LJB: And then gradually people started getting replaced, there was, um, dear Cliff came in, that was a shame we lost him, Cliff Barton (?) Actually it was very embarrassing, just recently on tour there was some old family friend of his who said: ooh, I wonder if you could tell me how my dear old friend Cliff Barton is. And I haven’t had the heart to reply to this man and say well he died, like 30 years ago. Over 30 years ago. ‘Cos one of the funniest things with Cliff was, when he was in the band there, I think it was Graham Bond who got him into heavy drugs and whatnot, and I’m not speaking ill of the dead, Graham did what he did in life, but thing is Cliff was a person who was easily led.

GB: Thing is everybody, without exception everyone had a go at him, to try and stop him. ‘Cos we all knew what was going on.

LJB: Oh yeah. We knew how it would end up, which it eventually did. But it was so funny, ‘cos it has a funnier side too, ‘cos I remember I said to Cliff, you gotta ease up man, half of London is talking about this ,which they were, and he said, who’s Arthur Plunden? He says, do I know ‘im? (laughs)

GB: I remember coming out of a hotel, we were loading up to go to the next gig, it was up north somewhere, and him getting in the car to go to the next gig, I remember that so well.

LJB: So we did an instrumental: “Who Is Arthur Plunden And Why Is He Talking About Me Blues". (laughs)

GB: Oh yeah, I remember that very well.

LJB: But I mean he was an amazing bass player, probably, I think he was better than Jack Bruce, quite honestly.

GB: He would have been. Since then I’ve played with a young guy, like Jaco Pastorius, and I’ve never heard of him since, late 70’s early 80s. A guy who was as good as Pastorius.
(tape end)

LJB: … man had a tremendous row and suddenly Carlo was not there anymore.

GB: So Micky Waller did…

LJB: In came Micky, yeah.

GB: … the second single, I was on that one.

DL: Yes.

LJB: Yes, in came Micky. And then of course there were the Bell Dell (?)

GB: D’you remember that row in the bus?

LJB: Oh yes. These women used to fight each other, punch each other out, like, real dukin’ it, y’know.

DL: But they’ve ended up in London as part of a theatrical show.

LJB: King Kong. All of the cast asked for political asylum after the run of that show and no wonder because it was not long after Sharpeville and conditions for black people in South Africa were atrocious.

GB: Johnny Parker married her, that woman. Yeah they were… d’you remember that, coming back in the coach and one of them thought she was dying, d’you remember that?

LJB: (laughs) Yes. We had to take her to the hospital in Middlesborough. Johnny McCoy still talks about all that. I saw him just recently, Johnny and Jo, d’you remember his attractive wife Jo? She’s still a good looker, yeah. So he’s doing well up there on Teeside.

GB: I think they were running a club.

LJB: Well the club, the Purple Onion, he knocked that on the head, but he’s doing all kinds of other, y’know, posh upscale restauranting and all that, as is all his brothers.

GB: I‘d forgot all about him.

LJB: Johnny, he was great. I mean all of those people…

GB: Even Stringfellow was, wasn’t he, in those days…he used to work for Henry Mann (?) in…

LJB: …in Sheffield, yeah, at the Mojo Club.

DL: I was going to ask about working outside London because presumably in the earlier days no-one really got any gigs further than St Albans or somewhere like that.

LJB: Surprisingly, I went up to Liverpool as long ago as 1958, went up to do gigs with the Spinners. On Samson and Marlow’s Grill on the London Road. And then I went up with Jack Elliott to Bradford to do… and I was billed as the world’s greatest white 12 string guitar player! That wasn’t my idea, I guess they’d never heard of anybody else playing 12 string.

DL: That’d be that famous folk club in Bradford that was going.

LJB: Yeah. It was actually a theatre show that was going, The Mechanics Institute.

DL: Not the topic Folk Club?

LJB: Ooh gosh, remember that? The Topic Folk Club? That was run by a guy who was a friend of Davy Graham’s.

DL: I can’t remember the name now but he was well known in the folk world, on the sort of Ewan McColl circuit. But when Blues Incorporated started touring more?

LJB: Well there were all kinds of clubs that opened up it seemed in the ‘62-’63 period, Eel Pie Island went over from totally trad jazz to what we called r’n’b at that time – I don’t know how it all ended up being called r’n’b – um, there was Eel Pie Island then there were all the Ricky Tick clubs that were run by a man called Philip Hedley who sadly passed away in recent times, only a young man still. Then there were all the gigs that Giorgiou Gomelsky ran, there was another man called Leo de Klerk who operated sort of south-west at the time.

GB: Ron Lesley?

LJB: Ron and Nanda (?) Lesley, they had the clubs in Ipswich, what were their places called? Blue something or other.

GB: They had one in Aylesbury.

LJB: They were the people who nicknamed Rod Rod the Mod, they started putting it on posters, Rod the Mod Stewart, Ron and Nanda Lesley, they had the Manor House ballroom, um, who else was there? I mean there was no shortage of gigs, Jesus Christ no, within the space of a couple of years, you could go everywhere.

GB: D’you remember the Slipper in Nottingham?

LJB: The Dancing Slipper, for Bill Kinell.

DL: So the time that Cyril formed the band, it sort of coincided with all that happening?

LJB: Yes, all over.

GB: I remember the first gig with Cyril, it was in Guildford.

LJB: The Wooden Bridge?

GB: Yeah.

LJB: That was another one-armed man in there wasn’t there?

GB: They were queueing right round the block. I couldn’t believe it.

LJB: What was that man’s name, Jack? With a red beard, and one hand, or one arm.

GB: See your recall is so much better than mine! I must have been stoned as a hog. I know I was there. I know how long the queue
was. I couldn’t believe it.

LJB: We actually, we were the first out of the box to start travelling about, and in fact Cyril always laid on a Timson’s coach for us so it was comfortable.

GB: Oh yeah.

LJB: But back then there were not the motorways that we have now so we’d end up leaving at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to get up north because it was a whole day’s safari.

GB: Once you got to the Blue Boar that was it, no more motorway.

LJB: But we did Middlesborough, we did, um, did we ever do Scotland with Cyril?

GB: With Cyril?

LJB: With the Hoochie Coochie Men we certainly did.

GB: Yeah, we did Scotland.

LJB: But, er, we went all over so we were already well travelled compared to, say, Alexis who tended to stick around in the London area at that time. Well he was getting all the society gigs, Alex.

DL: And I don’t know if he was getting his radio things then but he had his other… What about recording? I mean Cyril did get a recording contract. When was the first recording you made?

LJB: Well actually the first thing I ever did was for John R T Davies, a thing with Red Sullivan, it was called 6 out of 4, which was an ep – 6 out of 4 meaning 6 tunes out of 4 people – and it’s very much a collector’s item.

DL: Sounds like it, I’ve never heard of it.

LJB: It was on Dobell’s 99 records - it meant 99 records were ever pressed so it meant we didn’t have to pay any taxes because it was only 99 records.

DL: It’s only after 100 copies!

AB: So there were only 99 copies in existence?

LJB: Yeah. And I had two at one time, they’ve disappeared now, they’d probably be worth more to you now. That was with Red Sullivan and Marion Gray and all that. That was in ’59 or ’60 and then the first band thing I did was with Alex and Cyril, the R’n’B At The Marquee which is still selling by the bloody barrel full! I mean they even put it on a Japanese Audiophile thing now, gold-plated and all that. You know it’s been digitally enhanced, sonically this, and the other, and I’m saying it was only a mono record in the first place!

GB: D’you remember once we did a session at the Marquee? And Buddy Guy came down, and it was all recorded by the guy with the club foot?

LJB: Oh, John, um, John – he was a friend of Giorgiou Gomelsky…

GB: They just had at the back of the Marquee, they had a small studio.

DL: They used to record everything without getting permission.

GB: That’s right. Exactly. And that was all recorded.

LJB: Buddy, and Jimmy Cotton was over as well.

AB: I’ve got some photos of a Blues Incorporated recording session.

LJB: I’ll have to get my glasses.
(adjourn and leave restaurant)

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:14 am
by john poole
Most interesting, thanks for posting Adam.

btw the "Bell Dell" = the Velvettes, the South African vocal group.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:04 am
by Adam Blake
Thank you, John. I really appreciate your corrections of proper names etc., and I'm very glad you read it and found it interesting. I hope Alan Balfour and Pete Fowler might look at it too.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:05 am
by Alan Balfour
What an amazing interview.

[quote] there was a Muddy Waters EP, with "Morgan’s Shuffle" and "Honey Bee".

Indeed there was. Mississippi Blues: Muddy Waters and his Guitar (London RE-U 1060). Sleeve designed by Paul Oliver in August 1956. The cover which is reproduced on the dust jacket of Oliver's book Blues Off The Record: Thirty Years Of Blues Commentary (Baton Press 1984).

That said, it's "Evan’s Shuffle" not Morgan's but after all this time not a bad stab at recalling the title.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:49 am
by NormanD
Lovely interview, pity there's not more of it, or it never made it to publication.

I much prefer reading oral histories, conducted by knowledgeable and sympathetic interviewers, than "as-told-to" autobiographies. We need another dedicated Studs Terkel - or a series of them - travelling the world, commemorating our musical histories, and before too many of the originators pass on.

"I knew that Willie Johnson played a Telecaster and that was good enough for me"
I can't see this claim by Geoff Bradford holding up, can you?

Back to that archive, Adam, and more please.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:59 am
by Adam Blake
NormanD wrote:
"I knew that Willie Johnson played a Telecaster and that was good enough for me"
I can't see this claim by Geoff Bradford holding up, can you?

What's your problem with it, Norm?

Thanks, Alan. I thought it was "Evans Shuffle" at the time but you did not interrupt Long John in flow!

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:39 pm
by NormanD
Adam Blake wrote:
NormanD wrote:
"I knew that Willie Johnson played a Telecaster and that was good enough for me"
I can't see this claim by Geoff Bradford holding up, can you?

What's your problem with it, Norm?

If we're talking about Blind Willie Johnson ("Dark Was The Night...."), he died in 1945, and the Telecaster wasn't marketed until 1950. His recordings, up until his last ones around 1930, were all acoustic. I haven't read about his life as a street singer, which took up the last part of his life, but I've not heard of him as an electric blues player.

Unless he was talking about the other Willie Johnson?

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:21 pm
by Adam Blake
Ah, no, he's talking about Howlin' Wolf's guitarist!

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:38 pm
by NormanD
Trouble with our Willies then. I had this image in my head of BWJ busking on some street corner with a collection can attached to the Tele headstock.

[An aside: Is there an expression that might describe names such as Guy Chapman or Willie Johnson? It's not exactly nominative determinism]

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 3:03 pm
by Adam Blake
NormanD wrote:[An aside: Is there an expression that might describe names such as Guy Chapman or Willie Johnson? It's not exactly nominative determinism]

Well I remember a mate of mine describing Buddy Guy as Friend Bloke but I don't think that's quite what you're after...

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 4:02 pm
by uiwangmike
NormanD wrote:If we're talking about Blind Willie Johnson ("Dark Was The Night...."), he died in 1945, and the Telecaster wasn't marketed until 1950.

It's interesting to find NW9 having a claim to be the Birthplace of the British Blues. Kingsbury Baths had a very nice open air pool, but I didn't know it ever hosted a jazz club. Some years after the time that LJB talks about, in early 1965, the Kingsbury Folk and Blues Club opened at the Prince of Wales pub. The opening night was graced with the presence of Bert Jansch, but it folded after a few weeks.
As everyone says, a lovely interview. And a slightly belated happy New Year to all here.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 4:55 pm
by Adam Blake
I've found Part 2! Coming up very soon.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 5:16 pm
by alister prince
Looking forward to it Adam. It brought back memories of seeing Cyril, Alexis and LJB in various guises. CD naturally became something of a legend after he died, deservedly so.

Re: Long John Baldry on the birth of British Blues

PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 10:23 pm
by NormanD
LJB: It was on Dobell’s 99 records - it meant 99 records were ever pressed so it meant we didn’t have to pay any taxes because it was only 99 records.
I think LJB's right about the tax, but Dobell's record label was called "77 Records", not 99. It was named after the address of the shop, then at 77 Charing Cross Road.

I may be wrong (again). I feel like I'm correcting a ghost.