For original issue:
Britain's latest boom -R & B- has turned up a number of interesting characters." (It) has also brought forward some impressive musicians. The late Cyril Davies, Long John Baldry, Graham Bond and Steve Winwood are but four who fit into either or both categories. But the most extraordinary of all, in many ways, is John Mayall. An excellent pianist, organist, guitarist, harmonica player and singer, John is also one of the most prolific writers on the scene today. He pours out new songs at such an alarming rate that it is often extremely difficult to keep track of them. Playing and singing, as he does, in the Chicago-cum-Country style of blues, John and the Bluesbreakers, have gained both experience and following by backing such internationally famous performers as John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. For John is a keen listener and the good things by other people do not pass him by.
A tremendously powerful feeling for blues, an ability to make events from his own life into stories, and the musical gift with which to tie up these factors, these are the three major elements in John Mayall's increasing success.
There is also his audacity in attempting the things which he does. If he thought of it in these terms he might be put off, but-and here, I believe, is the basis of it all - John becomes completely carried away by the music. One only has to see him perform in order to realise that, to John, nothing matters but the music. That is why this LP is so very representative of the real John Mayall, a man who needs to be recorded LIVE!
One evening, engineers and all the equipment - also, I suspect the Brothers Gunnell of 'Flamingo Fame' - arrived at Klooks Kleek and these were the results. One of the country's finest R & B artists recorded at one of London's leading R & B clubs. The result was bound to be a success. All the feeling, all the life, all the personality came through in a way which so often is alien to the recording studio. This was what John Mayall really needed. Here he was, with the support of a truly enthusiastic audience and the knowledge that no one was going to worry about times or anything else. So he moves his head around and shouts encouragement, he pushes along on organ, pulls strange sounds out of his harmonica, plays his nine-string guitar. It all comes over the way it should. The odd words lost here and there don't really matter. What does matter is the compulsive power of the whole session.
Ranging from CRAWLING UP A HILL - a sort of potted autobiography - to RUNAWAY a surging harmonica feature, you run the gamut of John Mayall's Blues. There's CROCODILE WALK which John wrote a couple of years ago, DOREEN which is dedicated to one of John's first fans in the South (he hails from Manchester and only moved to London about 18 months ago) and a whole host of other titles. My personal favourites are HEARTACHE, a real soul-searching few minutes, and I NEED YOUR LOVE. This is a tremendously powerful Chicago-type blues with just the right sort of moody riffing to complete it.
One final word, just like his stablemates down at the Flamingo - John Mayall knows how to work. You can listen or you can dance, there is something in this for everyone; the hallmark of a real musical entertainer who makes it all mean something. And, just like his stablemates, John Mayall could well 'take off' at any moment. I hope he does.
@ ALEXIS KORNER London, 1965
(P) (C) 1965 The Decca Record Company Limited, London. Reg. Trade Mark
All rights of the manufacturer and of the owner of the recorded work reserved. Unauthorised public performance, broadcasting and copying of this record prohibited.
Printed/Made in England by James Upton Ltd. Birmingham & London
Laminated with "Claritoli" made by British Coloque Limited
Long Playing full frequency range recording
For 1988 CD Reissue:
TWENTY YEARS ON...
It was highly appropriate that Alexis Korner should put pen to paper for the benefit of embellishing the jacket of John Mayall's first album. Alexis it was who'd persuaded John to turn professional and move with his fellow group members, then collectively identified as Blues Syndicate, to London.
Come January 1963 Macclesfield, Cheshire born Mayall made that trip south from Manchester, where his band had been performing regularly at the city's Twisted Wheel club. Initially none of his colleagues wished to forsake the security of their day jobs, so upon arrival Korner introduced John to a variety of local musicians.
For several months our man fronted what he subsequently described as "some appalling bands", and apparently endured audience derision on many occasions. Their repertoire was essentially Chicago blues, along with selections from John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and a fair sprinkling of Mayall's own copyrights.
By July, however, the first line-up of the Bluesbreakers could be said to exist: through Cliff Barton, a cohort of Alexis's, promising bass player John McVie was introduced to our north country refugee, and although he'd only at that time played in out-and-out pop bands, Mayall converted the four-string aspirant by providing him with, a pile of blues discs and requesting he listened to them. Thus was a handsome career initiated. Completing the personnel was guitarist Bernie Watson, formerly of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages, and drummer Peter Ward. He had originally been stick man with John's first ensemble, the Powerhouse Four, which existed during its memberships' internment at Manchester Art College.
This stability lasted but briefly, Ward making way for one Martin Hart before the first Decca pacting was agreed. Recording in March '64, this quartet waxed a single of two of their leader's compositions: CRAWLING UP A HILL/MR. JAMES (Decca F 11900, Released 8th May; U.K. Only). Although a small seller in its own right, the growing interest in this music style witnessed both titles being included in August that year on a compilation set christened simply RHYTHM AND BLUES (LK 4616, Mono Only; U.K. Only). Others contributing were The Graham Bond Organization, Dave Berry, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated.
In the meantime though, the Bluesbreakers had already disbanded. Our brace of John's decided to stay together. Skin beater Hughie Flint finally realised he wanted to become a pro. musician more than retaining a cozy lifestyle through more conventional employment in Manchester, so bought a ticket enabling him to re-unite with his former Syndicate inspiration. The fourth place was occupied by guitarist Roger Dean, who unusually remained seated while working on stage.
Thus we arrive at the combination responsible for creating John Mayall's first twelve inch release, recorded on the night of Monday December 7th 1964. Kingpins of the important Flamingo Club mentioned by Alexis earlier, John and Rik Gunnell, were also blessed of artist managerial talents; they had negotiated a deal with Decca which made this possible. Tony Clarke, who in later years would gain fame for overseeing the multi-million retailing Moody Blues extravaganzas, directed matters from the control desk.
This set pre-dates Mike Vernon's joint association with John and Decca, but he recalled for Bob Brunning's book BLUES -THE BRITISH CONNECTION (Blandford Press, 1986), how the album was preserved for posterity. Because Klooks Kleek was so close to Decca's studio complex in Broadhurst Gardens, microphone cables were merely draped over a roof between the two locations. How's that for sophistication?
Issued at home on 26th March the next spring, in mono only, as LK 4680 (U.K. Only), it did not crack the LP ratings. Nevertheless, the be-suited group boosted their following and saw the album become a strong steady seller. Despite Mayall's later criticism of certain elements of it - mainly the 'time-warp' introductions to the numbers - the music is undeniably raw and innovative. Four tracks included either tenor or slide saxophone appendings from Nigel Stanger.
Gigging constantly, the boys entered the studios in a slightly more conventional manner once more shortly before the unveiling of this package on vinyl - February 26th to be precise - for a four track liaison. Popular reaction to CROCODILE WALK had decreed that it should be re-cut for 45 purposes, along with its proposed 'B' side, BLUES CITY SHAKEDOWN. ANOTHER MAN DONE GONE, which has never been issued for technical reasons, and a work-out of Willie Dixon's MY BABY IS SWEETER completed the date.
The single debuted in Britain only as F 12120 on 2nd April, but as was to be the case with every Mayall release on the seven inch mode to date, it regrettably avoided intrusion on pop charts.
For reasons best known to themselves, those in authority at 'The Supreme Record Company' decided against taking up any option on the Bluesbreakers contract. The combo were temporarily without a label, but after considerable persuading, John's ever-alert disposition availed him of Eric Clapton's services, following the latter's decision to quit the Yardbirds on the grounds of their deliberate commercial image expansion.
A short-term agreement under Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate logo produced a single in October 1965, I'M YOUR WITCHDOCTOR/TELEPHONE BLUES (IM 012), and Mayall and Clapton cut two sides for producer Mike Vernon's own fledgling Purdah company: LONELY YEARS/BERNARD JENKINS, which eventually saw light of day in August '66 (3502). Both titles were ultimately purchased by Decca.
Vernon, who by now worked in a production capacity for the London-based major, managed to persuade our son of Macclesfield that he should return to Decca and its burgeoning roster of top class blues acts. John was convinced, a contract drawn up, and the next significant stop would be the legendary BLUESBREAKERS set, an item which would focus the international spotlight firmly on its main protagonists...
For 2006 CD Reissue:
JOHN MAYALL was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire on November 29th 1933. Discovering the worlds of blues and jazz at a young age through his father, an avid collector, Mayall pioneered the acceptance of the Blues as a valid musical art form in Britain at a time when there were few musicians brave enough to do so. Always remaining true to his beliefs and values and eschewing commercial considerations, he single handedly nurtured some of the finest popular musicians to emerge from the British Isles. Notable members of the Bluesbreakers included such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Keef Hartley and Aynsley Dunbar. Without Mayall it is doubtful if they would have scaled the musical heights many of them later reached. John Mayall's recordings for Decca records between 1964 and 1968 are perhaps some of the finest examples of the blues and R & B ever committed to tape by a British musician and serve as a continual reminder of his innovation and musicianship.
John discovered blues and jazz music at early age after being exposed to his father's record collection which featured recordings by Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian et al. By the age of thirteen he had become proficient on guitar, ukulele and piano, being particularly fond of musicians such as Meade "Lux" Lewis, Josh White, Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters. A keen artist John enrolled at Manchester Junior School of Art in 1945 where he remained until 1949. At the age of 15 John gained his first public exposure when he appeared in The Manchester Evening News due to his taking up residence in a self-built tree house at the bottom of the family garden (his penchant for living in tree houses would continue on and off until his early twenties with a wooded residence even serving as the marital home for John and his first wife Pamela}.
Following a spell working as a window dresser Mayall spent three years in the Army and served in the Korean conflict. Whilst spending leave from duty in Japan he purchased his first electric guitar. Upon his return home John became a student at Manchester College of Art and whilst there formed his first group, the Powerhouse Four, comprising fellow student Peter Ward on drums and a rotating number of other part-time musicians. By 1959 John had secured gainful daytime employment as an art director for a graphic design company in Manchester. His evenings were spent performing with various musicians on the North West England club circuit. His life was to change one night in 1962 when he opened for Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated at the Bodega Jazz Club. The musicians befriended one another through their mutual love of the blues and by Mayall's own admission, Korner acted as his musical mentor. The same year John joined The Blues Syndicate, a Manchester based group formed by trumpet player John Rowlands. The group also featured an inspired young drummer, Hughie Flint. Remaining in constant contact with Alexis Korner, Mayall was eventually persuaded to journey south to London to become a professional musician. In January 1963 John left Manchester to live in London.
Through Korner he was introduced to like-minded musicians seeking to play in a Blues band and by February 1963 Mayall had established his first group which he named The Bluesbreakers. For the first three months of the bands existence line-ups changed with bewildering speed, with some member's tenure lasting just one performance. A notable fleeting member of The Bluesbreakers in those early months was the innovative folk and blues guitarist Davy Graham. Bass guitarists included Ricky Brown and Pete Burford. By April that year John Mayall had recruited a bass guitarist who was to remain a cornerstone of his group for the next four and half years, John McVie. McVie had made Mayall's acquaintance whilst performing in a group more akin to British pop acts such as Cliff Richard and the Shadows rather than a bona fide blues outfit. Mayall insisted that McVie borrow some of his Blues records to get a feeling for the music he was performing and after tuition from his new mentor McVie became a member of The Bluesbreakers.
Aside from McVie's involvement, the group continued to undergo further line-up changes whilst performing regularly on the South Eastern R&B circuit at venues such as the Ealing Club, The Flamingo and the Six Bells. The Bluesbreaker's first major breakthrough came with an appearance at The Marquee club in Wardour Street where the band supported Manfred Mann. This led to a further performance where the band headlined at the legendary London club on 4th November 1963, by which time the line-up of the Bluesbreakers had settled with John Mayall (vocals, keyboards, harmonica), Bernie Watson, formerly of the Cyril Davies All Stars, (guitar), John McVie (bass) and Mayall's friend from Manchester, Peter Ward (drums). John Mayall's Bluesbreakers soon became a regular attraction at The Marquee Club and received enthusiastic coverage in the magazine R&B Monthly. The publisher of the magazine, Mike Vernon, was also a fledgeling producer for Decca records and thanks to his championing, Decca awarded the band a one-off single contract. On April 20th 1964 the Bluesbreakers entered Decca studios in West Hampstead to record their first vinyl offering, "Crawling up a Hill" and "Mr. James". By the time of the session Peter Ward had returned to a job as a graphic artist in Manchester to be replaced by Martin Hart. Released as Decca F 11900 in May 1964, the single gained favourable reviews but achieved sales of only 500 copies.
The Bluesbreakers underwent yet more changes with the departure of Martin Hart followed by that of Bernie Watson. To fill the vacant drum stool Mayall called upon the services of Hughie Flint, who had previously played with Mayall in Manchester as a semi-professional musician. Guitarist Roger Dean proved a more than able replacement for the departed Watson. This new line-up of the Bluesbreakers then undertook a four week British tour supporting the legendary John Lee Hooker, also acting as Hooker's backing group. This extensive series of concerts brought the band to the attention of a wider public and resurrected Decca records' interest in the group.
This interest led to an offer to record a live album at Klook's Kleek, a well known R&B club night which took place at The Railway Hotel, West Hampstead (co-incidentally next door to Decca studios). The close proximity of the club to Decca's recording centre made location recording simpler, as recording cables were run through an open window of the studio into the venue. Thus, the 7th December 1964 saw the recording of John Mayall's first LP. The set list that night comprised mostly John Mayall original compositions, with the exception of cover versions of "Lucille" and "Night Train". The band was joined by Nigel Stanger on saxophones for the set which captured the magic of an early Bluesbreakers live performance. Buoyed by an enthusiastic audience, the recordings made that winter's night were an example of British R&B at its best. Thanks to the undaunted enthusiasm of Mike Vernon, Decca records commissioned a further studio session by the band on February 26th 1965, during which four songs were committed to tape; "Crocodile Walk", "Blues City Shakedown", "My Baby is Sweeter" and "Another Man Done Gone". The session was soon followed with a notable TV appearance by The Bluesbreakers backing T-Bone Walker on the legendary TV show "Ready Steady Go!" in early March which served as a precursor to a UK tour as a support act to Walker.
Prior to deciding which tracks to issue as a single, Decca released the live recordings made at The Railway Hotel as "John Mayall Plays John Mayall" (Decca LK 4680) in March 1965. April 2nd saw "Crocodile Walk" and "Blues City Shakedown" released as a single (Decca F 12120). Of the remaining tracks, "My Baby is Sweeter" remained in the archives until it appeared as part of the compilation "Thru the Years" (Decca SKL 5086) in October 1971. "Another Man Done Gone" remains unreleased, despite an exhaustive search for the elusive master tape, thought to have been relocated in 1989.
In April 1965 John Mayall was to make one of the most momentous decisions of his musical career. He happened to hear the B-side of the latest single by The Yardbirds, an instrumental entitled "Got to Hurry". The piece featured a blazing performance by their recently departed guitarist, Eric Clapton. Convinced that Clapton was the musician he had been seeking all along, Mayall invited him to replace Roger Dean in the Bluesbreakers. Over the ensuing twelve months the fortunes of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers would change and some of the finest British R&B ever recorded would be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
Digitally remastered from the original master tapes at The Audio Archiving Company, London
Grateful thanks to Jayne Byrne for assistance with tape research and to Ben Wiseman and Craig Thompson at The Audio Archiving Company.
Thanks to Azi Eftekhari, Simon Li and Andy Street
This Compilation: (P) (C) 2006 Decca Music Group Ltd. A Universal Music Company
The copyright in these sound recordings is owned by Decca Records (London) Ltd., a division of Universal Music Operations Ltd.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised copying, reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited.
Made in the E.U.
Compact Disc Digital Audio
6 024 9