Some things are just meant to be. That the paths of blues singer pianist Eddie Boyd and I should have crossed so many times within the space of little more than three years, cannot, in hindsight, be considered to have been a coincidence. My late teenage years were to find me struggling to quench my seemingly unending thirst for more insight into the blues and the performers that made it, for me, and many other devotees, a passion. My record collection was growing by the week and amongst those earlier acquisitions, numbered the much vaunted and much loved UK Esquire EP release featuring four tunes by the Eddie Boyd Blues Combo. As a result of many a visit to Bexhill-on-Sea and St. Leonards, often, accompanied by my brother Richard and Neil Slaven, to spend time with the Blues Unlimited teem of Simon Napier, John Broven and Mike Leadbitter, I had become the proud owner of various earlier recordings featuring Eddie Boyd. Amongst these numbered the original JOB recording of "Five Long Years" as well as two of his early Chess recordings - "24 Hours" and "Third Degree". By the time the first edition of R&B Monthly was published in February 1964, I was already a committed Boyd fan. Indeed, the final edition of that magazine, published in February 1966, contained an article based upon two interviews given by Eddie, to both myself and John Mayall, that covered much of Eddie's early life. Most of the quotes used in these notes were indeed taken from that very magazine. As a staff Producer at Decca Records, I had already had the opportunity to record a number of visiting American blues musicians - namely Curtis Jones, Mae Mercer and Otis Spann. More were to follow in subsequent years - Champion Jack Dupree, Larry Williams, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and of course, Eddie Boyd. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Perhaps a littie background information on the man himself might help to set the stage for the full story on how the two of us finally came to work together.
Edward Riley Boyd was born 25th November 1914 on Frank Moore's Farm, Highway 3 between Clarksdale and Friars Point, near Stovall, in Coahoma County, Mississippi. "I was born when my mother was fourteen and my father was twenty-seven. My father told me I was born on 25th November - but maybe he didn't know anything about it!" Maybe not, as Eddie's birth certificate gives his registered date of birth as 13th November. So I'm a proud fella, because I got two birthdays!" William Boyd - Eddie's father - was an entertainer. He played guitar - strictly blues. "I didn't learn no blUes from him 'cause he was always out on location. He played juke joints. He would make as much money in one night as the average man would in six days. But he wasn't the one who inspired me you know, that was Roosevelt Sykes and Leroy Carr." By his own admission, Boyd's character was largely shaped during his early childhood by his paternal grandfather. "It was my grandfather who really looked after me until I was fourteen years old. I loved him, but I could not be like him." Eddie went to school until he was old enough to be called on for planting cotton. "I was about eleven then. When I'd planted the crop (for a Mr. George Crumble) I would go back to school until it was time to get it in." One of his school friends was none other than McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) - a distant relative as a result of Eddie's cousin having married Muddy's uncle. The two spent many years going to school together - learning, playing and fighting - and remained friends throughout the remainder of their lives. But at the age of fourteen, Eddie's truly independent spirit almost got the better of him. All the harvesting, in those days, would have been done mostly by hand and the ultimate cleaning-up process would have been given to the boys. This was true for Frank Moore's Farm and as Eddie recalls: "When they would see old George Crumble and his horse coming, they was scared. Well, I didn't take no notice, 'cause I was gonna work at a certain pace - I didn't want to work anyway! But I didn't never show no fear of him and he didn't like that." There was a major altercation resulting in Eddie thrusting a hay fork in Crumble's back. "I had to move. You know, between there, where I was working and the State line of Arkansas was about a quarter of a mile." God was on his side, for he managed to make it some sixty miles to North Memphis, Tennessee. "Man, there was a thousand men come looking for me. If you a Negro and you do something to a white man down there - boy, there would be ninety-five thousand white people come to look for one man - and I was only a little boy. So that's how I left my home town."
Having fled Mississippi and knowing that he dared not return for many a year, Eddie made his new home, living with his mother, in the rural area of North Memphis. It was at this time that he truly began to take a real interest in music. "I first started to play harmonica. I didn't like it 'cause it seemed like it was such a poor excuse for a musician in those days. So then I tried a little guitar and I learned to play two melodies. I played a lot of gigs playing guitar but I wasn't really playing nothing, though. But the people went for it, 'cause the market wasn't so full of entertainment then. I picked that up by listening to Memphis Minnie records. I liked guitar but never could halfway master the instrument. But I used to holler real loud and I'd play this one real fast and the next one a little slower. This was a learning period for Eddie and getting to know many of the local musicians was all part of the learning curve. At age seventeen, Eddie met trumpeter Eddie Childs and then drummer Robert Garner, with whom he formed a small band. "We started playing in a lady's cafe in the afternoon that was close to Fisher's Plant gate. Most of the people who worked in North Memphis, lived in the rural (areas) out to Woodstock and Millington, and there were quite a few honky-tonks out there, you know." As Eddie explained to Amy and Jim O'Neal: "I started trying to play piano the little time I was in Blytheville, Arkansas. In Memphis it was working with a guy named Willie Hurd, who was a drummer. He always kept a pretty good little group - The Dixie Rhythm Boys. There was Eddie Childs and Alex Atkins playing clarinet. Willie was a good hustler, you know. He would find those gigs in Arkansas and different places for those coloured people. You had to be able to sing. He couldn't sing and none of those musicians could sing. But I could play a little piano and sing a whole lot - I would fake a lot, but I was always singing all right. That's how I got known to the musicians in Memphis." Eddie worked as many of the clubs in the area as he could - always working as a soloist. He was not alone of course. At any one time you might have been able not only to hear Eddie Boyd but, the then unknowns, Memphis Slim and Roosevelt Sykes along with P.R. Gibson, Edward Hatchett, Booker T. Laury, Snook Anderson, Bill Johnson, Albert Van Hook and a seven-fingered pianist, Jack Slack. "Used to follow him up and down the street before I learned how to play. Man, he could play more with those seven fingers much better than a whole lot of cats that had all their fingers." When the competition for clubs became too intense, he would set off, usually accompanied by his first wife, Georgia Mae, on a tour of plantation boarding houses. "I did a whole lot of that, up and down 61 Highway, like from Wilson, Arkansas up to Catron, Missouri. That used to be my beat." After a further disagreement with another white man on a farm in Senatobia, Mississippi, Eddie decided to try his luck in the North. "I had got a little confidence in myself as a musician. I heard that the market was open in Chicago and that it wasn't so racist up there."
In fact, Eddie did not make his full-time home Chicago until around 1941. He spent approximately a year and half in Caruthersville, in South Missouri, working at a 'coloured' night-club called The Blue Moon. Eddie then moved to Catron, in the midst of the Cotton Belt. The stay would appear to have only been a short one. "There wasn't much goin' on there", recalled Eddie, "so I went back to Memphis for about three months and then went on my way, by Greyhound bus, to Chicago". Eddie's uncle had been living on Chicago's West Side for some ten years and so he took the opportunity of moving in with him. "I lived with him for about three months and then I moved over to the South Side with Memphis Slim, as he had a club over there. Eddie was quick to integrate himself into Chicago's ever-growing list of 'the blues elite'. He was already acquainted with John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson and of course Memphis Slim, whom he had known back in Memphis. He initially hooked up with singer guitarist Johnny Shines (also to be featured in a future Blue Horizon Remastered Series package). One time travelling companion and friend of none less than Robert Johnson, Shines had a regular gig at Jerry's Cozy Corner on Maxwell and Morgan. Following the stint with Shines, Eddie started working with Williamson, although there appears to be some confusion as to the exact starting date of this collaboration. In any event, Eddie and John Lee worked together on many occasions in and around Chicago and Gary, Indiana right up until the time of the latter's death on 1st June 1948. They sometimes worked as a duo but more often that not in a combo format featuring such musicians as bassist Alfred Elkins and guitarists Lee Cooper and Eddie's future brother-in-law, Lonnie Graham. Of course, Eddie would work solo whenever and wherever the opportunity arose but his first ever studio job was a long time coming.
Lester Melrose, who was responsible for contracting all the Victor and Bluebird blues sessions, was slow in giving Eddie Boyd that first opportunity. The Victor/Bluebird "race" records catalogue was full of Chicago based blues artists - Roosevelt Sykes, Jazz Gillum, Doctor Clayton, James Clark, Walter Davis, Big Maceo Merriweather and of course, Sonny Boy Williamson, amongst many others. In July 1945 Eddie got his chance when he worked on a Sonny Boy session, that produced "Sonny Boy's Jump" and "Elevator Woman". He was to record again with John Lee two years later. Early in 1947 Eddie cut four titles playing piano behind the redoubtable Big Maceo - by then stricken as the result of a stroke. By that time, Lester Melrose had already given Eddie the opportunity to record under his own name. "I Had To Let Her Go" coupled with "Kilroy Won't Be Back" (Victor 20-2311) were recorded on 3rd April 1947 and released as by Little Eddie Boyd, with J.T. Brown's Boogie Band supplying the backing. Melrose must have decided that Boyd himself was not up to the piano work and the chair was given to James 'Beale Street' Clark. Further session work followed three weeks later, when, once again for Victor, Eddie backed up William 'Jazz' Gillum on a session that produced "The Blues What Am" - one of my favourites from Gillum's recorded output and featuring some strong Big Maceo inspired keyboard work from Boyd. Eddie's own solo career continued through '47 and '48 with the final of four Victor sessions being held on 29th June 1949. The four titles cut remained unissued at the time. The Victor deal lapsed and Eddie signed with Fred Mendelsohn. One single was released in 1950 on the Regal label - incorrectly credited as by Ernie Boyd. The record was to be re-released four years later on Herald in an attempt to cash in on Eddie's success with "Five Long Years". Two titles were recorded for Joe Brown's JOB label in June of 1950 but only "Hard Headed Woman" was released, and that some thirty years after the recording date! Boyd was also to record a four-title session for Chess, sometime during the latter part of 1951. This was when, according to Eddie, Leonard Chess told him: "I record you to get some songs for my boy. You don't have no talent you can't sing, you can't play. I'll record this stuff and pay you for it, then give it to my boy." The 'boy' in question was Muddy Waters. Eddie was quick in response: "Well, there's one thing about it, you can't do me like Lester Melrose did. You can't record a tune and don't release them on me. I own the copyright to them." Chess never used the songs for Muddy and did not release the session. Embittered by his early recording experiences, Eddie put the 'music business' on the back burner and took to working at the Harris-Hub Bed & Spring Steel Mill, gigging at weekends. The so-called retirement period didn't last long though.
Eddie took the brave decision to finance his own recording session. Once again, the man himself recounts the story of how he came to record "Five long Years". "I started working the steel mill for eighty-eight cents an hour. I kept getting promoted and I guess I must have been making about dollar and a half then. I would save me twenty dollars a week for the recording session. I paid them (the musicians) Union scale and I rented a studio." Joe Brown released "Five Long Years" coupled with "Blue Coat Man" on JOB 1007 on the understanding that, as Eddie put it - "If you don't have it rollin' within three weeks, I take it (the master) back from you." Three weeks went by and little had been achieved. Then Art Sheridan, owner of Chance Records, got involved and the record turned around. It took off in Memphis and then in Chicago and it wasn't too long before Eddie Boyd was topping the Rhythm & Blues charts. But the relationship with Joe Brown and in particular, Art Sheridan had soured. Eddie told Sheridan point blank that he "wouldn't do anymore for him, even if I never record no more records again!" Thankfully, that scenano did not materialise, as another record label owner, Al Benson, asked Boyd to record for him. "Cool Kind Treatment" the official follow-up to "Five Long Years", but unbeknown to Eddie, Benson had sold the contract to Leonard Chess. On 10th October 1952 Eddie went into the Chess studios and cut "24 Hours" released by Chess some six months later and once again, it proved to be a sizeable hlt. Eddie found himself on the road touring with Little Walter (Jacobs), one of his stable mates at Chess Records. He also toured with Linda Hayes, who was proving to be a successful artist for the California based Hollywood label. May of 1953, Boyd was once again to be found cutting more material for a new Chess single release - and yet again, he and Chess hit the jackpot with Willie Dixon's outstanding song, "Third Degree". Under the circumstances one would have to say that, at that time, it looked as if Eddie Boyd had made the 'big time'. Unfortunately, subsequent releases failed to click and although he continued to record for the Chess brothers up until the end of 1957, the writing was on the wall. Sad to say, he never had another chart record. In total, Eddie recorded thirty-eight titles for Chess - some of which still remain unreleased to this day. A major car crash in 1957 just outside Waukegan, Illinois hardly helped. His station wagon was written off and Eddie spent three months in a cast and accumulated hospital costs of some $4,500. The driver at the time was James 'St. Louis Jimmy' Oden. He'd been on the road with Eddie and was helping out with the driving at the time. "That's where I got this scar on my face - and some teeth knocked out. Jimmy came out in a worse shape than I did. Now he's walking with one stick leg and he's got a plastic kneecap. He partly broke his eardrum and all his teeth got shattered. So the chips were down. Leonard stopped releasing records on me and I was too proud to beg."
In the seven years between his last session for Chess and his first European recordings - which were to include yet another remake of the erstwhile "Five Long Years", Eddie recorded for no less than nine different labels. These numbered Oriole, JOB (again), Bea & Baby, Key Hole, La Salle, Mojo, Art-Tone, Push and Palos. Four of the titles recorded for La Salle were licensed to Carlo Krahmer's Esquire label in London and appeared on the Extended Play aforementioned release. This was Eddie Boyd's first British vinyl release and a gem. The very last two titles lain to tape in Chicago, during August of 1965, were produced by Willie Dixon. "Where You Belong" and "The Big Question" had Eddie accompanied by Buddy Guy, Jack Myers and Clifton James. Both items were to find their way onto a Decca compilation released in early 1966 and entitled "Blues Southside Chicago" (LK 4748). This particular release was a collaboration between Mike Leadbitter, Willie Dixon and yours truly with a little extra help from Paul Oliver.
Little could Eddie have known that within the space of three months his lifestyle was to be utterly transformed. Prior to his first European visit in October of 1965 as part of the fifth "American Folk Blues Festival", fast becoming an annual package promoted by German agents Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau, Eddie Boyd was dealing with life in his usual indomitable style. "In the winter time I work in clubs in Chicago, and in the summer time, well - I have a little farm there, sixty miles out of Chicago at Momence. I raise vegetables. I got my own little tractor and I keep chickens. I have a contract to sell a thousand chickens at least every six weeks. I take my corn and grind my own meal for my cornbread. That makes life beautiful, you know." The ever-growing army of blues fanatics flocked to that year's Festival to see and hear many of their idols. Eddie was pitched alongside one of his greatest influences, Roosevelt Sykes, Doctor Isaiah Ross, J.B. Lenoir, Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Buddy Guy, Walter Horton, Jimmy Lee Robinson and Fred Below completed the artist roster. I remember the Croydon Fairfield Hall concert as if it were only yesterday. The performances were quite outstanding - despite one or two sound problems. I, along with other journalists, photographers and blues aficionados visited most of these musicians at their London Hotel for interviews and just to be part of the experience. It was at that time that I was first introduced to Eddie, in person, by promoter Horst Lippmann. I learnt that barely two weeks prior to our meeting Eddie had recorded whilst in Germany and a deal had been made to record a whole album in London. Would I be interested in handling the production, enquired Horst? Little could he have known how my heart jumped. You know the one about the bear and the woods? Anyway, session time was booked for the complete day of 20th October at Wessex Sound Studio, Old Compton Street, in the heart of London's Soho district. The day's endeavours were to be shared with Big Mama Thornton, who was scheduled to record her own album for Arhoolie under the direction of label boss, Chris Strachwitz. "Five Long Years" - Eddie Boyd's first ever album - was released on Fontana, (FJL 905) to some critical acclaim, although to some little degree spoilt, in my mind at least, by the use of a Farfisa electric organ on three tracks. At the time, I had thought to suggest to Eddie that the sound of the instrument was not the most pleasing known to man, but he seemed to be so enamoured at the time, I left well alone. In any event, it was he that had requested that an organ should be made available for the session. He had, incidentally, only ever recorded playing organ on one previous occasion - lucky we were not able to get a Hammond B3 up the flights of stairs. I think he might have been slightly phased by all those bars and pedals!
Time came for the incumbent members of the blues package to return to the States. Eddie Boyd however decided not to make the journey. He had made many friends in Europe during the short stay and felt that he was due a change in fortunes. At that time Peter Chatman - better known professionally as Memphis Slim - was living and working in Paris. There were several other top-notch American musicians also living in Paris at the time - Mickey "Guitar" Baker being but one. I feel certain that Eddie would have very much felt at home in a city where he was given respect and where he was also surrounded by admiring fans and familiar faces from his native country. Paris became Eddie's new base until he moved and settled in the Netherlands, where he was to stay for approximately one further year. The Dutch have always had a penchant for both tradnional jazz and the blues and when Eddie Boyd appeared in Den Haag as part of the aforementioned Blues Festival, members of the recently formed blues band, Cuby & The Blizzards, were amongst the audience. Some eighteen months later, and following a period of time when Eddie lived with members of the band in the small Drenthen village of Grollo, in the north Of the country, he got his chance to cut his second album. "Praise The Blues" was recorded on 9th March 1967 and released later that year on Dutch Phillips (LP 655.033). It featured Eddie with three members of The Blizzards - Eelco Gelling, Willy Middel and Hans Waterman. Amazingly enough, five days later Eddie was in London to record yet another album - this time for Decca.
John Mayall was never one to be shy in coming forward to champion many-a US bluesmen. Otis Rush and J.B. Lenoir were two high on his personal list of priorities - Eddie Boyd was another. I am not sure when John and Eddie actually met for the first time, but I have to assume that it was during that first UK visit in 1965. They stayed in touch and finally, a short British tour had been arranged where Eddie would do his own set backed by The Bluesbreakers - Peter Green, John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar. I actually never got to see any of those gigs but I did get to produce my second album with Mr. Boyd during March 1967. Listening to it as I write this particular section of these notes, I am reminded of yet more wonderful hours spent in the studio helping to create music that, hopefully, will last forever. "Eddie Boyd & His Blues Band" (Decca SKL 4872) was released in September 1967 and featured Messrs. Green, McVie and Dunbar with additional help from John Mayall and Tony McPhee. The album sold reasonably well and remained on catalogue well into the mid-70s. And at long last, we have now arrived at the point where we can look at the contents of this particular release.
In total, sixteen titles were recorded at the West Hampstead studios for the Decca project over three separate evenings covering a seven-day span - not three weeks as Eddie told Jim and Amy O'Neal. Two of those sixteen titles however, did not make it to the album. "It's So Miserable To Be Alone" and "Empty Arms" were 'held over' for use at a later date - or "junked stuff" as I referred to them when speaking with Bob Brunning for his book 'Blues - The British Connection' (Blandford Press). At that time, of course, the fledgling Blue Horizon label was gaining attention and I was constantly on the look out for suitable material that could be released in our then, strictly, limited edition catalogue. We had already released material on John Mayall and Eric Clapton, Tony McPhee, Savoy Brown Blues Band, Doctor Ross, Howlin' Wolf's guitarist Hubert Sumlin, J.B. Lenoir, Hound Dog Taylor, Jimmy McCracklin and Champion Jack Dupree. I took the decision to put those two "junked" titles out (Blue Horizon 45-1009) and in so doing, added the name of Eddie Boyd to the growing catalogue of artists on the Blue Horizon label. I even took the step of having a quiet word with my immediate boss at Decca, Hugh Mendl, as to whether there was need to sanction this move. He gave me a knowing look and a nod of the head as much as to say: "you didn't ask me that question, did you?" Nothing more was ever said about the matter. The Decca album was a one record deal and so, taking advantage of the situation, Eddie was not slow in getting back into the studio three weeks later, In Lausanne, Switzerland, for Emil Knudsen. He recorded yet another album - on his own this time around - for Knudsen's Storyville label. Quite a feat, one would have to say - three completed albums within the space of five weeks and all for different labels. But such was the demand for the talents of the likes of Eddie 'Five Long Years' Boyd.
It must have been during the latter part of that same year that Eddie went back to the US to visit, and doubtless to make a decision as to where his future lay. Up until that time, he still had an apartment on South Rhodes, In Chicago, Illinois. It was whilst he was away on that sojourn that he and I corresponded with a view to recording him again when, and if, he decided to return to the UK. I did my best to explain the twists and turns that had been happening in my life. That I was no longer working as a staff producer at Decca and the once specialist blues label, Blue Horizon, was about to become a commercial undertaking with the help of a marketing and distribution deal courtesy of CBS Records. From memory, I recall that Eddie told me he was keen to record again, and indeed, had more or less made the final decision with regard to his long-term future. He was to make Europe his permanent home. Now, search as I might, I have not been able to find those few letters that I received from him all those years ago. Like so many, my home and business addresses have changed many times and some things get discarded or mislaid when you move. That's life, I guess.
Peter Green and I discussed the possibility of Fleetwood Mac working with Eddie when, and if, he did in fact return to England. Peter had enjoyed the experience of recording and working some club dates with him at the time we recorded the Decca album. We would try to persuade the Gunnell Agency to book a few club and college dates for the band, with Eddie doing a 'guest' spot, which would help defray the costs of bringing Eddie back to these shores. Everything was duly set up and following a handful of dates - mostly in the London area - the proposed sessions took place at CBS Studios, New Bond Street on 25th January 1968. Whether by accident or not, the timing could not have been better. Fleetwood Mac's debut single had already hit the street and the final touches to their eponymous debut album had been completed during the previous month. By the time this brand new Eddie Boyd album hit the shops, that Fleetwood Mac album would have created a huge stir and in doing so reached the #4 spot on the UK album charts. The Boyd album was to be entitled "7936 So. Rhodes" and would sport the by-lines in Eddie's own hand writing, now the only surviving piece of all that earlier correspondence.
The morning of that particular day, over thirty-six years ago, proved to be frustrating, as I recall. We could only find a one day 'window' for the album recording. This was partly due to the tour schedule and of course, to Fleetwood Mac's own diary dates. They were always very busy. Lady luck was not in our corner as the studio itself was also very busy. We had to find a way around the problem, but in truth, failed to do so. I would have wished for at least two full days to get the very best performances and have the opportunity of choice. But it was not to be. I can only speak for myself, but I was disappointed that we could not get more time - I felt we owed it to the artist. Eddie did not seem bothered, stating quite plainly that three hours would be enough time to get the material down on tape. In any event, the gear arrived at around mid-day. The remainder of the afternoon was taken up with setting-up, tuning of the grand piano and getting something to eat and drink before 'kick-off'. As I wrote in my original sleeve notes in respect of song selections: 'Eddie had worked extremely hard on the programming of the material and only a quick glance at the list of numbers was needed to confirm their acceptance'. A few of the tunes had already been aired in the course of the previous few days 'out on the road' so the band were somewhat familiar with the repertoire. Of course, both Peter and John had the benefit of also having recorded with Eddie before. I was not in the slightest bit worried about the musicians coping with the job. I had no worries about studio or engineer and I most certainly was not worried about Eddie pulling the rabbits out the hat. My only concern was that six hours - or thereabouts - did not seem a very long time to cut twelve titles. But knowing that such had been achieved many times before by many others less well equipped to do so, led me to believe that we could carry this one off! And so it was. Not only did we manage to get an album's worth but we also got to cut two further titles that were designated for a single release. Most of the songs were caught in one take, following a number of rehearsals where Eddie would 'lay back' on the vocals. Once everyone felt that they had a 'handle' on the format, the tape machine would roll and that was it - over to the musicians. But not everything went smoothly - there were one or two hiccups. Regrettably I did not ask for a further take on the one instrumental "Back Slack" to cover a minor indiscretion on Eddie's part, where he misses the tail end of a solo piano run midway. It may have been that in the euphoria of the moment no one noticed it and, if they did, (which is likely), then they said nothing. There are also a few occasions where the endings and turnarounds falter or are slightly untogether, but it wasn't really a problem for us then and so it is hoped that it will not be a problem now. Two of the selections feature Eddie accompanied solely by Peter - giving a very passable impression of Hudson Whittaker (aka Tampa Red) without the use of the bottleneck. Indeed, Peter Green's contribution to that album should not be underestimated. We all get the opportunity of hearing his deft touch and sympathetic approach to the business of working with the featured artist and not drowning him out. Only once does he step on Boyd's vocal, and then only momentarily. At the end of verse two of "Be Careful" it sounds to me as if Peter believes it to be solo time as he jumps off into a pick-up, only to be silenced by Eddie and verse three. When solo time does come around, interestingly enough, the pickup is repeated. Must have been planned that way.
It is to be hoped that this was an album that Eddie Boyd was proud of. It surely must rank amongst his best. Of course, for the real '78's only' blues fanatics, we were on a loser right from the start. But we really didn't make it for them. First and foremost, this was an album for Eddie Boyd. Everyone involved made their contribution and the final performances must stand or fall on their combined merits or failures. I know plenty that cherish the original vinyl, and it still commands good prices whenever it appears on the auction lists. When interviewed for Record Mirror not long after the completion of the sessions, Eddie remarked that: "Peter's a great bluesman. He's a Negro turned inside out. He is the best blues guitarist in Europe and he has the best blues group I've ever heard this side of the Atlantic." Hard to argue with on the aural evidence presented here.
During the course of that exhausting day back in January '68, Eddie took me to one side and handed me an acetate dub of two titles that he said he had produced some eight years previously. The gist of the ensuing discussion was that if we, at Blue Horizon, could find a way to release it, then Eddie would be pleased for us to do so. We shook hands on the principle and went back to work. When I got back to my home that night I gave the dub a spin. The vocal track proved to be something quite special, featuring not only a great performance from Boyd but also some fine guitar work, somewhat reminiscent of B.B. King. At the time I did not think to ask Eddie, who had actually played on the recording date and, even now, all these years later, we still do not have a clear picture of the musicians' identity. Only saxophonist Ronald Wilson and drummer Billie Stepney have been indentified - presumably by Eddie himself. Both Chicago record producer Dick Shurman and another blues aficianado, Steve Wisner, felt that the sax player might have been Jim Conley - but the guitarist, in particular, still remains unknown. In any event, the acetate was duly filed in my collection and I banked a note in my memory not to forget it was there and, when and if the opportunity ever arose, to make use of it as had been suggested. My memory failed me. Those two titles lay hidden amongst a load of other audition and session dubs and promo pressings - they were, to all intents and purposes, out of sight and out of mind. Truly, it was not until we started to put together "The Blue Horizon Story Box Set" that it came back into view. Try as I might, I could not trace the whereabouts of Eddie's widow, Leila Boyd. Consequently, neither of these two exceeding rare recordings found their way onto that package. But now, the time seems right. We have still been unable to make contact with Mrs. Boyd, but it is to be hoped that she will approve of the inclusion here. If not here, then where else?
We never planned to make a follow-up album with Eddie Boyd. Yes, we talked about it but nothing ever materialised. Eddie went back into Europe and lived in Antwerp, Belgium before briefly moving to Switzerland and thence to Denmark, where he was based up until the end of 1969. He was booked to appear at the opening of the Safari Club in Helsinki, Finland in March 1970. It was there that he met his future wife, Leila. Eddie settled permanently with Leila in Finland in June of that year and married her seven years later. Between 1974 and 1984 Eddie recorded extensively, the results equating to some ten European album releases, many of which were made in Finland where he was accompanied by several of that country's leading blues and jazz musicians. On 14th October 1980, Eddie underwent heart surgery for the replacement of a defective valve. Two weeks later, a pacemaker was implanted. Following his convalescence, he continued to work, touring Europe on a regular basis and even making one last trip to his homeland, where he made an emotional appearance at the 1986 Chicago Blues Festival. As the 1980s closed out, Eddie turned evermore to gospel music. His last recorded work was released on cassette in 1983 featuring Charles Knox, containing such songs as "I Testify", "Dark Was The Night" and "In My Father's House". Following a number of years of failing health, Eddie Boyd, who had been cared for at home in Helsinki, by his wife Leila, was finally admitted to Meilahti Hospital and subsequently died on 13th July 1994 at the age of eighty. He was finally lain to rest at Helsinki Parish Church, Vantaa, Finland on 28th July.
My personal memories of Edward R. Boyd are still vivid. He was always courteous, but would speak his mind when he felt it necessary. In this respect he was outwardly honest, but would only ever ask anyone else to be the same toward him. Rather than pick an argument, his preference would be to discuss the matter in question. He usually won. Eddie was not a man to bear grudges. He was positive in everything that he did. He dealt in realities, however hard that might have been for him. In 'The Blues Collection' series it was suggested that Eddie Boyd might be "the quintessential blues singer - the majority of his songs deal with affairs of the heart in which he is the eternal loser." The quality of his lyrics and his impassioned vocal delivery should not be overlooked however. His two major hit songs have been covered by, amongst many others, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Steve Marriott, Johnny Winter, The Yardbirds, Freddie King, Bobby Bland, Buddy Guy and West, Bruce and Laing. Do not doubt that Eddie Boyd played an important role in the development in a musical art form that has become so important in the lives of so many people, the world over.
Throughout his life, Eddie Boyd had been outspoken in defence of his personal and professional freedom. The efforts he took to protect his song copyrights and to ensure payment of royalties due, especially at a time when neither were likely to be granted to black recording artists, may have hindered his career. His ultimate relocation to Europe was to give him a whole new perspective on how people can live together. He liked that. I sense this gave him pleasure and a peace of mind that had, up to that point in his life, eluded him. He and his music gave us pleasure, that's for sure. I can only say that to have worked with such a blues giant as Eddie Boyd was a privilege. To have actually produced three albums and two singles - forty-four titles to be exact - was more than I could ever have dreamed of. I hope I did my job well. I know Eddie did.
Digitally mastered and edited at Sound Mastering by Duncan Cowell
Front cover photograph: Heikko Lehtonen courtesy of Mike Rowe/Blues Unlimited
The Producer would like to thank the following for their help in the completion of this release: Cilia Huggins; Alan Balfour; Dick Shurman; Neil Slaven; Alasdair Blaazer; Jacques Perin; Jean-Pierre Leloir; Brian Smith; Valerie Wilmer and to my wife Natalie, for proof reading my notes - time and time again - a message: "There will be more to come!" And last, but by no means least, a very big 'thank you' to Samuel Palma Diaz of Rasnet, Villanueva del Rosario, Malaga for his valued assistance in all things relating to computers and e-mail. Gracias!
Special thanks also to those at Sony BMG Music Entertainment for their valued assistance: Phil Savill; Alison Calvert; Richard Bowe, Steve Walsh and Trevor Williams.
The booklet notes were, in essence, taken from two interviews conducted by myself and John Mayall in 1965, the contents of which were originally published in R&B Monthly No.24 (Jan/Feb. 1966). Other sources of information are as follows: "The Blues Collection" Edition No. 58, written by Tony Russell and Neil Slaven and Published by Orbis Publishing Ltd. An 'in depth' interview conducted by Jim and Amy O'Neal during July 1977 for "Living Blues" and published in the March/April 1978 edition. An obituary written by Bob Eagle for "Juke Blues" and published in edition No.32 and finally, a promotional release sheet issued hy the offices of A.J. Heerma Van Voss, manager of Cuby & The Blizzards.
Thank you, one and all.
Blue Horizon Remastered
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