‘British Blues’ – Acoustic
During the 1960’s in Britain electric and acoustic/folk blues was raging.
Having touched upon the stars of the 50’s and early 60’s who were mainly playing ‘electric’ blues ,as their mentors in Chicago were doing, I would like to take you back to remember some stars of British Blues who were mainly playing acoustically.
I would like to start with a much underrated blues singer and guitar player who I first saw in Swansea – Jo Ann Kelly. She died too young, at only 42, but before that ,she certainly woke up fans in UK and the States with her outstanding blues voice. She was equally at home singing Skip James as she was Billie Holiday -perhaps we can start with these two.
Hard time killing floor – Jo Ann Kelly with Stefan Grossman:
God Bless the Child -unaccompanied
and to make the link with Tony McPhee -here is Jo Ann with Tony -“Oh Death”
Tony McPhee – with some nice slide work on “Write me a few short lines”
What first attracted you to the blues?
Cyril Davies I think. I used to go and see him at the Marquee Club. Somebody just said something about this R&B band and they were there every Thursday, and they were just magic. From there, I just went on to find out things about other people – Muddy Waters especially and the numbers they were doing (Howling Wolf stuff) so I went and bought stuff, especially John Lee Hooker. Although we never did any Hooker because it’s so difficult to do.
Who impressed you musically in the early 60s, both in British blues and across the water? Hooker, absolutely. Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Hubert Sumlin – amazing, odd style of guitar work which I loved. Playing with Hooker, who played with a finger saw style, as did Sumlin and from there, that’s how I did it.
What was it like playing with such greats as John Lee Hooker?
Hooker was fantastic. Great fun and a real gentleman. Little Water however was not much fun, really not a nice man at all. He’d been shot and somebody finished the job when he went back in. Memphis Slim, I did a couple of gigs with Memphis Slim. There was one particular gig where I think he was being shafted and he said “I ain’t no ignorant nigger” and he went to find the promoter to sort it out. Jack Dupree was fantastic – a lovely man.
(Alan White – Early Blues from http://www.earlyblues.com/Interview%20-%20Tony%20McPhee.htm)
and some more talk about Hooker and playing Graveyard Blues:
Although I have mentioned Davy Graham in the previous blog post on British Blues, I find him such an influential guitarist that I could not fail to add him in here as well:
Leaving Blues is the first song on his Folk, Blues and Beyond and the starting notes gives us a hint of his interest in Middle Eastern music, as well as blues :
There are those musicians who had firm roots in the blues but also embraced folk music – but often difficult to separate as in some ways early acoustic blues were a form of folk music. Bert Jansch is one of those guitarists who were influenced by guitarists such as Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGee but then moved into more of his own style leaning towards folk.
Bert Jansch – a simple blues ‘Come back baby’
John Renbourn , another guitarist sitting on the fence between blues, folk , jazz and even classical forms of guitar, but influenced in his early days by blues players such as Jesse Fuller, Lead Belly, Josh White and Big Bill Broonzy.
Here he is playing a more jazz oriented piece with another great acoustic blues player, Stefan Grossman – “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”
At the same club I saw Jo Ann Kelly I also enjoyed Saturday evenings with Andy Fernbach -a much underrated singer /guitarist:
Broke Down Engine Blues:
A great voice….
“If there is such a thing as a British ‘blues pedigree’, then Dave Kelly’s sets the standard. Dave is a blues craftsman – a journeyman who has served his time with the best. In New York he jammed with Muddy Waters. He became a friend to Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker. It was Dave’s big sister, the late Jo-Ann Kelly, who first opened his ears to the blues, although his passion for rock and roll – and especially the work of Buddy Holly – remains intact. In 1967 he joined The John Dummer Blues Band and he has continued to polish his style and technique throughout an adventurous career with some of Britain’s finest players.
Here he is with Paul Jones: Mr Estes said…..