Brit blues pioneer John Mayall, 78, returns

Monday, October 22, 2012 12:00
Posted in category LIVE MUSIC, Upcoming Shows

Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, many more owe musical debt to this tireless blues champion

By George Varga |

John Mayall had a sound reason to announce his retirement in late 2008. He was approaching his 75th birthday and had been touring the world, seemingly with few breaks, since the 1960s.

Happily, the man who played a key role in launching the English blues-rock revolution is not the retiring kind. In 2009, he formed a new band and hit the road. It was the latest chapter in his storied career of this veteran singer, songwriter, keyboardist and harmonica player.

As the leader of The Bluesbreakers, Mayall helped introduce a generation of young Brits and Americans to the endlessly rich legacy of American blues. Equally important, The Bluesbreakers served as a vibrant aural incubator for some of the hottest young talents in the United Kingdom.

A list of notable Mayall band alums would fill half this page. It includes Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, who would soon form their own band, Cream. Clapton’s role on lead guitar in the Bluesbreakers was filled by Peter Green, who became a charter member of Fleetwood Mac with two other Mayall band veterans, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. Green was in turn replaced by teenaged guitar wiz Mick Taylor, who was soon asked to replace Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones.

Other notable English bands that can trace their origins (at least in part) to the Bluesbreakers include Free, Colosseum, McGuiness Flint, Stone The Crows, Keef Hartley Band and Mark-Almond (whose saxophonist and flutist, Johnny Almond, later settled in North County and led his own group here for years).

Mayall’s latest band teams him with three American musicians, Chicago bassist Greg Rzab (who has worked with Otis Rush and Jimmy Page), Texas guitarist Rocky Athas (a former member of Black Oak Arkansas, but let’s not hold that against him) and Chicago drummer Jay Davenport (who has worked with Pinetop Perkins and Sugar Blue). At 78, Mayall still — to invoke one of his best-known songs — has room to move.


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