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Author Topic: The British Blues Boom  (Read 6725 times)

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Offline Rivers

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The British Blues Boom
« on: November 22, 2010, 06:39:22 PM »
Anyone interested in this topic? I mean, what are your impressions about went down in the UK in the 60's and early 70s, before everyone got too out of it and it turned into drug-fueled, nicely played bluesrock-mush, like everywhere else.

This assumes you'd been born at that point and were in your teens in the UK, or are younger / were elsewhere, and have been on some rediscovery jag. Secret pleasures perhaps.

I thought I'd test the waters before posting anything in detail and making a fool of myself. Since this is the 'Other Musical Interests' board anything goes pretty much and the subject is a lot more on-topic than most, since the Brits did a lot to boost blues in the USA during that period.

Personally I'm proud about the minuscule part I played in all that, knocking back Guinesses in the Nag's Head at High Wycombe Blues Society gigs and other dives, mostly London clubs, Top Rank ballrooms and university student unions, listening to the luminaries of time, Aynsley Dunbar, John Mayall, Keef Hartley, Savoy Brown, etc. Never caught the Stones at that time, sadly. Where did I leave that time machine?

So I thought it's time we had a thread and reminded the yanks, even though I am one mostly these days since I live here on a green-ish card, exactly what was happening back then, how it felt, how significant it turned out to be, and maybe rewrite and correct some history.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2010, 06:46:48 PM by Rivers »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2010, 11:19:57 AM »
For my birthday in 2007 I was given a humungously expensive book by Roberta Freund Schwarrtz entitled How Britain Got The Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style In The United Kngdom (Ashgate 2007, 365pp, 52GBP). It didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know but it was a good dose of nostalgia for me. The plus is the that the author relied upon Paul Oliver, John Cowley and Bob Groom for some of the knowledge.

I loaned the book to a work colleague and his reaction after reading it was astonishment that somehow he lived in London throughout the entire "happening blues scene" without being aware of its presence.

Worth borrowing from a library but not shelling out hard cash for. The main chapters headings are:

1 Jazz Reception in Britain: Misunderstandings and Recordings in Exile   
2 The First Time I Met the Blues: Blues Arrives in Britain
3 1953-1957:The Problem of the New
4 1957-1962: The Blues Revival, Part I
5 London: The New Chicago!": The R&B Boom of 1963-1965
6 Blues at the Crossroads: The British Blues Revival Part III, 1965-1970

Offline dj

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2010, 11:39:06 AM »
Quote
For my birthday in 2007 I was given a humungously expensive book by Roberta Freund Schwarrtz entitled How Britain Got The Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style In The United Kngdom (Ashgate 2007, 365pp, 52GBP).

Sounds interesting.  Great gift idea!  My birthday is listed in my profile.   :P

Rivers, if one was in ones teens in the USA during the mid '60s, one couldn't help but be influenced by the same UK blues boom.  I've talked elsewhere about it, but 2/3 of the music on the radio, at least in the Northeastern US, in 1964 - '65 - '66 was British, and the path that everyone in my high school who was into the blues took was the same:  Beatles to Stones (Little Red Rooster) to Animals and Yardbirds.  Then, when Eric Clapton from the Yardbirds turned up on a John Mayall LP in 1966, we all got into the "harder" stuff (relatively speaking).  And finally, Mayall made the ultimate gesture on the back cover of the Crusade LP in 1967 and actually listed his sources, which sent us off in search of Buddy Guy and Sonny Boy Williamson and the like.  Then we graduated to buying Arhoolie LPs, and it seemed like all the liner notes were written by Paul Oliver. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't drinking ale in British pubs, but without those guys playing and writing about the blues in the UK, I might never have gotten the bug.  So yes, I'm very interested.

   

Offline Richard

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2010, 02:36:05 PM »
dj I just peeped at your profile, the first thing I saw was 1610 and thought you couldn't be that old   :D  then I put on me bins and saw your real age!

I grew up in Bristol which was a fantastically musical (jazz in particular) city. In the 60s there was on Tuesday nights "Chop Chop Uncle Bonnies Chinese Jazz Club" it was run by an English bloke in straw boater! He booked everybody he could find in the jazz\blues line, my menory fails me but there were amongst the likes of The Animals, Graham Bond, Long John Baldry various black American blues artists all interspiced with jazz old and new. Fantastic and all very laid back if you wanted to talk to the artist you just wandered up.   Arrr, all them days is gone now , but fun while they lasted :(
« Last Edit: November 23, 2010, 02:41:57 PM by Richard »
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline onewent

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2010, 05:05:59 PM »
I'm in that demographic, too..Cream's Disraeli Gears with Clapton's lead work opening my brain to 'guitars are cool'.  Heard tons of British 'blues-rock' on the pop radio back in the day here in Pennsyltucky.. AM radio I might add, for the most part..discovered John Mayall, Muddy, Wolf and the like, while living in Germany in 70-71.  The old blues guys played all over Frankfurt in the 60's into the early 70's, to packed houses of thousands.  Fast-forward to the early 1980's in No Cal, I attended an outdoor 'blues fest' at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds where  John Lee Hooker was the headliner, and I was one of about 30 people left in the tent, standing 5' away from him while BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM blasted out of the speakers..John Lee Hooker!  ..go figure!  But I will add that the Folk Festivals of 60's and early 70's period included many of the surviving blues guys to an appreciative audience.
Does the Schwarrtz book go so far as to suggest the Brits 'saved' the blues?  ..one could almost make a case; most certainly served it up to a larger audience  Interesting thread about some wild and crazy times!  ..Tom

Offline Rivers

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 05:40:33 PM »
Exactly :-*

I've been nervous about checking back into this thread all day, but the responses were what I had hoped for. It was a definite movement, it did happen, some great music came out of it, and it at the very least helped to revitalize the blues back where it had originated and gone underground. Pretending it didn't happen is revisionist.

The later developments were a distraction so I'm going to try keep this focused on the pre-crazed era if I get a chance, even though it's a very fuzzy line.

Interesting hearing what was being played on the radio in the States. In the UK, at least in my area, we were well into any new bluesy albums that hit by Ry Cooder, Taj, Hooker, Canned Heat, Hot Tuna, so it wasn't all one way, but that was at the end of the decade. DJs John Peel & Mike Raven were definite instigators.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2010, 05:45:54 PM by Rivers »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2010, 11:04:59 PM »
Does the Schwarrtz book go so far as to suggest the Brits 'saved' the blues?  ..one could almost make a case; most certainly served it up to a larger audience  Interesting thread about some wild and crazy times! 
The implication is there.Schwarrtz, a professor of Historical Musicology and advising director of the Archive of Recorded Sound, Kansas University begins a lengthy forward thus:

It's sometimes a little embarrassing to admit, especially to my professional
colleagues, but my love affair with the blues began with Led Zeppelin. 1 read
everything I could find on the band and their influences and was particularly
intrigued by blues artists they referenced: Bukka White, Howlin' Wolf, Robert
Johnson, and Elmore James. I was a devoted enough fan to seek out information
about these unknown musicians and purchase their records. I was drawn first to the
Chicago blues, and through explorations of its foundations, to the rest of the genre.

I am not the only person to have discovered the blues through British bands of
the 1960s and 1970s. Bruce Springsteen found Muddy Waters through the music of
the Yardbirds and the Animals. Robert Cray first learned the blues from the records
of Eric Clapton, Cream and Jimi Hendrix. Rock journalist Peter Guralnick found
himself drawn to the music of the Rolling Stones, at first because they seemed to
have same musical tastes that he did, and they also introduced him to music he had
previously ignored. "Whatever else they have been," he has said, "The Stones have
always proved the best advertisement for American black music outside of the
music itself .... the Stones, from the first, have paid their respects."' Like many of
their countrymen, the band had a deep love for the blues, which generated a market
and fan base for the music that that was wider and more diversified than ever before

It has always seemed to me ironic that the blues found new audiences in the
United States, and recharged rock and roll, after young singers and guitar players
from across the Atlantic focused attention on the genre. Though the American folk
revival of the early 1960s also embraced the blues, the British invasion bands,
through their advocacy, had a far greater impact. The Beatles berated reporters for
not knowing who Muddy Waters was. The Rolling Stones refused to appear on the
American pop program Shindig! unless Howlin' Wolf was invited as well, and the
image of Britain's second most popular import sitting at the feet of an obscure
black musician had a powerful affect on both African American and white viewers.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2010, 11:30:51 PM »
I grew up in Bristol which was a fantastically musical (jazz in particular) city. In the 60s there was on Tuesday nights "Chop Chop Uncle Bonnies Chinese Jazz Club" it was run by an English bloke in straw boater!
When Little Brother Montgomery was in Britain in August 1960 he performed there. My mind's eye can visualise an entertaining Derrick Stewart-Baxter review of the event. I'll see if I can trck it down.

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2010, 02:02:20 AM »
It's interesting that the people writing about blues - and especially country blues - seemed to be British: Paul Oliver, Simon Napier, Mike Ledbitter, Bob Groom, etc.

The aforementioned Mike Raven and the late great John Peel were are great influence on my listening habits. Also, for whatever reason, by imagination was captured by the bands playing blues-based music, such as the Stones, Yardbirds, Animals, etc. I had no time for the Beatles.

When I moved to Sussex in the 1970s, it was great to get to know Simon Napier on my frequent visits to Flyright Records in Bexhill-on-Sea, where Blues Unlimited magazine was started by Simon and Mike Ledbitter.

This year it was just as great to meet well-respected blues writer Alan Balfour - aka our own Bunker Hill - at the Euroweenie weekend.

The Brits may not have "saved" the blues, but they certainly went a long way towards keeping up the interest and sparking the interest of many new fans.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2010, 03:26:01 AM »
When I moved to Sussex in the 1970s, it was great to get to know Simon Napier on my frequent visits to Flyright Records in Bexhill-on-Sea, where Blues Unlimited magazine was started by Simon and Mike Leadbitter.
Mike died 1974, age 32 and Simon in 1990 age 51. BU, as it was affectionally known, published its last issue in April 1988 having managed to keep going since April 1963. It was the world's first English language blues magazine only beaten by the Belgian Rhythm & Blues Panorama which commenced in 1960 and contained fantastic blues contributions from Georges Adins.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2010, 07:09:53 AM »
I'm sure BH's expensive book doesn't fall into this trap, but people tend to ignore the acoustic side to the blues boom that thrived in 'ballads and blues' clubs and in folk clubs throughout Britain from the late fifties to the very late sixties. If you wanted to hear pre war styles presented and preserved, you went to a folk club. Sometime around 1970 it became uncool to play blues in folk clubs. They'd gone all traddy. Sea shanties were in, blues were out. Increasingly too were guitars. In were concertinas, fiddles and bodhrains! So starting out with the obvious ones, in the fifties and sixties we had some folk club performers who incorporated some acoustic blues in their repertoires: Peggy Seeger/Ralph McTell/Wizz Jones. Then there were those who played acoustic blues exclusively and toured widely: Jo Ann Kelly/Mike Cooper/ Stefan Grossman. Still others who maybe toured less widely but had strong regional followings: Prager and Rye/ Steve Phillips/ Dave Speight/ Ray Stubbs/Roger Hubbard/Graham Hine/ Sam Mitchell. There were countless more, and others will be able to add to the list from their own localities.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2010, 07:33:58 AM »
Very Interesting subject. I'd like to expand it however and invite others from across the pond, Belgium comes to mind for some reason  :P, as does Finland to talk about their local Blues scenes and what local influences got them on the path. Hearing from Germany might also be instructive, Japan too. Were the sources of transmission primarily via British sources?
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Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2010, 08:22:29 AM »
As far as the Brits saving the Blues, some of us in the states came to the Blues via the Great Folk Scare of the early 60's, and had nothing whatsoever to do with you folks across the pond.  Some of us learned about these guys from the originals themselves, or second generation bluesman.

I remember the first time I heard Clapton play, and thinking, wow, he sounds like B.B. King.

Mike

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2010, 10:55:39 AM »
I'm sure BH's expensive book doesn't fall into this trap, but people tend to ignore the acoustic side to the blues boom that thrived in 'ballads and blues' clubs and in folk clubs throughout Britain from the late fifties to the very late sixties.
Essentially it does fall into the trap and glosses over the "acoustic" Brits choosing to discuss Alexis Korner, Ian A Anderson and Jo Ann in terms of their roles as "movers and shakers" (my expression) of the genre.

I have to admit that had I not been given the book it is highly unlikely I would have purchased it because, without wanting to sound pompous, it doesn't tell me anything I don't already know.

Offline Stuart

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Re: The British Blues Boom
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2010, 11:46:23 AM »
Thanks for the tip, Alan. The UW library has it in its holdings and I've placed a hold.

I have to admit that had I not been given the book it is highly unlikely I would have purchased it because, without wanting to sound pompous, it doesn't tell me anything I don't already know.

Not pompous sounding at all. It's a very interesting topic with many facets. My guess (and it's just a guess, not having read it) is that the book was written with a readership who is unaware of this slice of history as its target audience. It's just too bad that she couldn't find a publisher who could have brought it out on both sides of the pond for an affordable price and with wider distribution. That way it would be more widely available for purchase and accessible via the public libraries. IMHO, it's an important part of modern British and American cultural history that more people should be aware of. But I'm preaching to the choir, as usual.

P.S. She teaches at Kansas University and did her diss at the University of Illinois on "En busca de liberalidad: Music and musicians in the courts of the Spanish nobility, 1470--1640."

http://music.ku.edu/programs/musicology/faculty/schwartz/

 


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