A Brief history of White Boy Blues (UK) on ZANIWritten by Cameron K
Americans GIs and British youths mixed mostly in the coffee bars and new blues dance clubs which were springing up. In London and Birmingham, there were large West Indian populations and clubs like The Roaring Twenties and the Marquee brought Jamaican blue beat (ska) which would evolve into reggae) and this gave the developing UK blues scene a unique spin.
Working class teenagers were fascinated with everything American, but rationing prevented them from dressing the same; however it did not stop youths from adopting an American demure and delinquent attitude. GIs, going home were guaranteed extra income by selling their cotton T shirts, Levi's, and much valued record collection which were snapped up in the clubs. More and more African American artists like Muddy Waters and BB King were successfully touring Europe and were backed by local musicians, all keen to learn the tricks of the trade. The fan base for Blues grew and it was only a matter of time before a new order would appear. The four most influential people in the UK Blues Movement were: Alexis Corner, Cyril Davis, Long John Baldry and John Mayall. Between them they legitimised the White Boy Blues (or blue eyed blues) movement and in doing so set countless number of musicians, many of which are now very rich and famous, on their way to stardom.
(The Father of British Blues), Alexis Korner (1928 - 1984) was born in Paris in 1928 and started his career with Chris Barber's Jazz Band in 1949. Alexis met Cyril Davies and they wanted to play electric blues so became a duo making the rounds of London’s pubs and clubs. Soon they opened their own club, The London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, and then in 1962, the pair formed Blues Incorporated becoming residents at the Marquee Club, Soho, London. The Marquee Club was to London what the Cavern was to Liverpool. Literally dozens of musicians passed through Blues Incorporated, notably: Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce (Cream), Hughie Flint (Manfred Mann), Robert Plant (Led Zepplin aka NewYardbirds), Ginger Baker (Cream), Charlie Watts, Graham Bond (organ), and Long John Baldry. Prior to the formation of the Stones, Keith Richards and Brian Jones frequently jammed on stage with Blues Incorporated but were never considered formal members of the band. Despite the obvious talent Blues Incorporated enjoyed no commercial success, remaining predominantly a live club act. Alexis insisted on working with a brass section of jazz musicians which caused of friction between the two musicians and Cyril left the group in 1967. Alex formed a jazz –rock band called C. C. S. (Collective Consciousness Society), and had several chart successes including an instrumental version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" which was used for many years as the theme music for Top Of The Pops (BBC).
Cyril Davis (1932 - 1964) and the R&B All Stars consisted of Bernie ‘Strawberry” Watson (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (guitar), Carlo Little (drums) and Rick Brown (aka Fenson) on bass. They took over the residency at the Marquee Club. Carlo and Rick occasionally played with the embryonic Rolling Stones, but despite impressing Keith and Brian, Carlo earned too much money with Cyril Davis to become a permanent Stone so he suggested his friend, Charlie Watts. Bill Wyman was so impressed with the “walking bass” style of Ricky Fenson on stage he took it for his own. At first The Stones supported Cyril and the All Stars at the Marquee, but when Mick and the boys demanded more money they were replaced by Long John Baldry and The Velvettes. Cyril Davies and the All Stars only enjoyed modest recording success until his death in 1964 when Long John Baldry took over and relaunched the group as, The Hoochie Coochie Men.
Long John Baldry (1941 – 2005) was 6 ft.7 in tall and had a deep, rich voice, ideal for singing the blues. Like Korner and Davies, the gentle giant inspired many artists to perform including Eric Clapton. On vocals for the Hoochie Coochie Men was a relative unknown called, Rod ‘The Mod’ Stewart. When the group were renamed the Steampacket, Julie Driscoll (vocals) and Brian Auger (organ) became permanent members. Despite being a tremendously popular club act they broke up in 1966.
Baldry then formed Bluesology with Reggie ‘Hercules’ Dwight better known as Sir Elton John, on keyboards. Apart from one excellent live blues album (recorded at the Marquee), and an army of followers, the group had little commercial success. Bluesology, split in 1968 but Baldry continued his solo career. He became a balladeer and had a couple of commercial singles, with “Let the heartaches begin’ and ‘ Mexico.’ Long after chart success he continued to make records and tour as a blues singer until he died in 2004. Baldry dulcet tones can still be heard as the voice over for Dr. Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Elton John formed a song writing partnership with Bernie Taupin and Rod the Mod fronted the Faces (a revamped Small Faces) and the rest as they say is more or less history. Long John Baldry encouraged John Mayall to come to London and form The Bluesbreakers.
The band became a proverbial clearing house for talented musicians and had many different line ups, including Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), John McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac), Mick Taylor (Stones), and Aynsley Dunbar, plus many, many more. Their first commercial success was with Eric Clapton and the famous Beano Album. Clapton left soon after and was replaced by a myriad of talents. Late in his career John Mayall relocated to the US and encouraged many US musicians to play the blues. He continues to perform (aged 70 plus).
Other talented musicians who turned their attention to blues were Chris Farlowe and Georgie Fame, both played at The Flamingo Club. The movement which had been started with the Moldy Figs and Trad Jazz moved swiftly through Skiffle to produce a critical mass of young musicians eager to show their mastery of the genre. From Belfast to Brisbane, from Manchester to Melbourne, and from Newcastle to New Zealand kids were playing their own version of the blues.
The Marquee Club The original Marquee club was located at the basement of the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street, London. The Academy Cinema's premises included the Pavillion, a restaurant, and the Marquee ballroom in the basement which hosted the first Marquee club. It was opened in 1958 and ballroom had already hosted dance orchestras and big bands during the early 50's without much success. By the end of 1957 the ballroom held a series of Saturday and Sunday jazz nights which proved very popular. Regular "Jazz at The Marquee" nights started and featured all the well known bands. In 1962 the Marquee club, re-affirming it's spirit for new music values, had started a series of rhythm and blues nights on Wednesdays and Fridays featuring Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. From that moment onwards the Marquee became the most important club for the British rhythm and blues scene of the 60's. The club was relocated to 90 Wardour Street, Soho and the original building in Oxford Street was demolished (now a bank). The new Marquee Club opening featured Sonny Boy Williamson, Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men (featuring Rod Stewart) and the Yardbirds, who recorded their debut album "Five Live Yardbirds" on that night. The constant vibration of thousands of watts at the club over a thirty year period caused the building’s façade to slip and need to be demolished. The new Marquee closed its doors on the 18th of July, 1988. The club was relocated to 105-107 Charing Cross and ran until 1995. A new Marquee Club opened in 2002 at the Islington Academy, 16 Parkfield St. but closed four months after it's opening. The Marquee returned to Soho at 1 Leicester Square and ran until 2005.
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