Cyril Davies... British Blues Harp Pioneer

Long John Baldry's Boogie Woogie

Musician's recollections of Cyril Davies
Long John Baldry's recollections
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Jeff Edmunds lives in Toronto, Canada, and works at Ryerson University. His interests include film, traveling, reading and music, particularly the music of Long John Baldry. Jeff was a good friend of Long John Baldry for 27 years and probably knows John's history as well as anyone - "John always called me his personal historian."

Jeff wrote the following for the official LJB site - "Long John Baldry's amazing musical legacy which if properly notated would fill a few pages in any rock encyclopedia. Long John's forty-five year career is a rich tapestry of recording, performing, great bands, discoverer of talent and actor. Long John is particularly known for his associations with former band members Rod Stewart and Elton John. Looking closely at LJB's musical tree you will discover that virtually every musician who came up in England during the 60's have some connection to LJB. Names like Ginger Baker, Jeff Beck, Brian Jones, Beatles, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones are cemented in LJB's musical history. In fact, Eric Clapton has stated many times that he was inspired to pick up a guitar after seeing Long John Baldry perform in the early 1960s.Undeniably, Long John was one of the founding Fathers of British Rock n' Roll in the 60s, and without his presence the scene, particularly the Blues scene, may have been quite different.

Other snippets of musical history to support this claim include Long John's presence on the seminal album 'R&B From The Marquee' released in 1962 and is considered the first British Blues album. Since 1964 Long John has released 17 albums which have explored a vast variety of musical styles from Pop to Blues to Folk to Rock…" - Jeff Edmunds

I would like to thank Jeff for his contribution to our site. Like Cyril, John's early musical sway…over his audience and other musicians is now a distant memory to most. It is so important to document the work of these men so that we all might understand and appreciate their influence…I think someone once said, "It ain't easy!" - Todd - February 25, 2007.

The most important musicians in the development of British Blues are Chris Barber, Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies, and Long John Baldry. Barber was responsible for bringing many American blues artists to England in the late fifties and early sixties which allowed young British musicians to play and learn from their idols.

Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies performed as an acoustic blues duo at a Soho pub called The Roundhouse, at the corner of Wardour and Brewer Streets, as Korner played guitar and Davies played harmonica and both sang. In 1957 a tall sixteen year old youth started coming to the weekly Roundhouse gigs and soon enough he was invited on stage to sing with Korner and Davies. This youth was Long John Baldry and for the next seven years they performed together in various musical alliances. Eventually this evolved into Blues Incorporated in 1962.

Long John always commented that Davies was very reverent about his music and was less than thrilled when others did not share his passion. Andy Hoogenboom who played upright bass once at the Roundhouse was paying more attention to a young lady in the audience and Cyril was very upset and he dragged Andy and the young lady to the exit with much slapping en route.

In March 1962 and Blues Incorporated was launched at the Ealing R & B Club in west London. Blues Incorporated initially had a weekly Thursday evening gig in the dark and damp basement below the ABC Tearooms in Ealing Broadway. It was handily situated directly opposite the underground station which was handy as most of the young musicians did not have cars or even a license. However, Cyril had a vehicle as he had prudently retained his business interests in a wrecker's yard and panel-beating shop.

Alexis had always had a very generous attitude towards other musicians sitting-in or jamming, much to Cyril's chagrin at times. Blues Incorporated was primarily a vehicle for Alexis', Cyril's and Long John's interpretations of Chicago Blues. In June 1962 Korner and Davies were booked by BBC radio to do a live BBC Jazz Club broadcast. Sadly the budget for the programme precluded and vocal involvement from Long John or Mick Jagger, so Alexis and Cyril entrusted Long John and Mick to cover for Blues Incorporated's absence at the Thursday night residency that the band was now occupying at the original Marquee Club. Baldry through together Long John Baldry and his Kansas City Blue Men and Jagger put together the Rolling Stones' very first public outing sans Wyman and Watts.

Shortly after that event Long John spent five months in Germany and when he returned in 1963 he joined Cyril Davies and The All-Stars which was decided by Long John almost at the flip of a coin as Korner also wanted him in his band. As well Korner was going in more of a jazz direction and Baldry and Davies were very much at that time Blue purists. According to Long John Cyril and Alexis split mainly because of musical differences as Cyril hated saxophones!

In early 1964 Cyril passed away and the All Stars became Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men almost immediately joined by Rod Stewart and music history was made. You can hear much of the All Stars sound in Baldry's 1964 United Artists album Long John's Blues. The album was straight R&B and Long John often stated that the record was very much homage to Cyril and his love of the blues.

Fortunately in 2006 EMI issued this record along with Looking at Long John and the collection was called the EMI Years. If you listen to Long John's Blues you can almost hear Cyril blowing his harp in the background. - Jeff Edmunds - Feb. 2007.

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