Tag Archives: john mayall

42. THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND at THE BEAVERWOOD CLUB, Chislehurst. Tuesday, 31st March, 2015

 

BUDDY WHITTINGTON - The 'Six-String Svengali' (Photo: PTMQ)

BUDDY WHITTINGTON – The ‘Six-String Svengali’ himself, with his ‘Deadwood And Wire’ Gibson Les Paul (Photo: PTMQ)

I’ve seen the big Texan Bluesman, Buddy Whittington a number of  times in the past few years; and he’s never failed to impress me; so I’ll always try to see him play live if I can. My son James came with me too as he’s a big fan, and has seen the big man more times than me. This time, Buddy and his band had just returned from a tour of Europe where they’d all unfortunately picked up a cold bug. This gig at the Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst (another of promoter Pete Feenstra’s excellent venues), was booked at fairly short notice upon their return; but no cold virus was going to stop them playing!

We arrived quite early. Buddy was alone on stage tuning up; and then went off to get changed. At about 9pm, he returned with his band and climbed on stage. They consist of fretless bass maestro Peter Stroud (ex Peter Green’s Splinter Group); and well respected skin-beater Darby Todd – both excellent musicians; and always present as Buddy’s UK and European backing band. Tooled up with a Strat, it was a very relaxed Buddy who casually approached the mic  and asked ‘What would you like to hear first – something kinda easy?’  That set the tone for what was to be a very low-key and friendly show throughout. I think that’s Buddy’s style. His gigs are like having a few mates round for an informal jam – and in a place like the Beaverwood, that is entirely feasible. That’s a vibe that I like.

The band began their two-part set with the mellow instrumental: ‘A-Flat Tyre’ (otherwise known as ‘For Crystal Beach’)  – it certainly was ‘kinda easy’; and it was a kinda superb opener too! We were then treated to a fine show of both Buddy’s own compositions; and old classics – but with a unique Whittington twist. Highlights of this first half were:  ‘I Had To Go See Alice’ (the amusing song about Viagra); ‘Pay The Band’ (during which Buddy’s sore throat failed to stop the high notes); ‘Greenwood’ (another fine instrumental, dedicated to one of Buddy’s heroes – Peter Green); and ‘Deadwood And Wire’ (about an experience whilst buying a guitar). The finale of the first part was a phenomenal cover of the classic Freddie King instrumental ‘Hideaway’. This is often covered, of course, but I was quite amazed by this version. It show-cased Buddy’s incredible skills. He took elements of other Blues classics as well as incorporating amusing licks that imitated everything from a clucking hen to a police siren! And at all times, Pete on bass and Darby on drums were tight and reliable. Brilliant!

Part-Two was, if anything, better than Part-One. We were treated to a mixed-bag of covers; Blues classics; and Buddy’s own compositions. These included a blindin’ cover of  ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Back From Baby’s’; a high-calibre take on  Savoy Brown’s ‘Tell mama’ (haven’t heard this one for yonks); and a rousing version of the Bluesbreakers’ ‘All Your Love’. Some Blues classics sublimely covered were: ‘Maydell’; and ‘Help Me Through The Day’ (both featured on the band’s covers album, A Bag Full Of Blues, 2010). Several of these tunes hark back to Buddy’s days with John Mayall. We were treated to more of his own work too; including ‘Texas Trios’ (in which he name-checks every three-piece Blues band from his home state); the splendid ‘Pay The Band’; and finishing (after shouted requests from the crowd) with the amusing ‘Second Banana’.

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND - 'Second Banana' to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

THE BUDDY WHITTINGTON BAND – ‘Second Banana’ to none! (Photo:PTMQ)

There are a number of things I like about Buddy Whitt. (1) Firstly, his obvious and phenomenal skills at playing the geetar: He plays with a consummate, confident, and relaxed style that makes guitar-playing look effortless; playing some very complex parts with apparent ease. As a bit of a guitarist myself (albeit not a very good one) I sometimes watch famous axe-men and think to myself ‘Yeah, I know what he’s doing, and I know how he’s doing it’ (but I just can’t do it myself!) In Buddy’s case there were a number of times when I didn’t even know how he did what he did – I suppose that’s why he was on the stage and I’m just sitting here writing about it! (2) Song construction: We all know that Blues has its rules; and that those rules can be stretched by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. But Buddy often pushes the Blues boundaries to new limits; taking in some very inventive fresh ground – yet never becomes wild or weird; and still remains firmly within the realms of the Blues. (3) Lyric writing: In subject his songs are often very deep and highly insightful. His skill with the English language produces tongue-twisting lyrics that are clever, meaningful, and at times amusing. And he never seems to sing these complex lines wrong – whilst simultaneously playing some tasty riffs too! And finally (4) Having met the man on a couple of occasions (including half-time at this gig), I know him to be a thoroughly genuine, approachable bloke who always makes a point of meeting and chatting to his fans, before, during and after his show. Top banana!

Thanks to the ‘Chislehurst Trio’ of Buddy, Peter and Darby for another great show; and to Pete Feenstra for making it happen! PTMQ

Here is a video from the gig by Steve Dulieu of Buddy and his boys playing their instrumental tribute to Peter Green, ‘Greenwood’ ….

 

17. JOHNNY WINTER 1944 – 2014: A personal remembrance and tribute.

I was saddened to hear this morning that the albino blues guitar legend JOHNNY WINTER had passed away yesterday (16th July), at the age of 70. He had been dogged by health problems for years (the details of which I am not qualified to discuss; and are outside the scope of this article). I first became aware of him back in the ’70s when a mate of mine called Mark (wonder what ever happened to him?) lent me the ‘Johnny Winter And’ (1970) album. It was blues the likes of which I’d never heard before – it was wild, aggressive, progressive, and loud! At the time I wasn’t a massive blues fan, although I always acknowledged it as the progenitor of the heavy rock / prog rock genres – my sole musical interests in those narrow-minded days!

Years later I moved home, and found myself living next door to the well-known blues expert RAY TOPPING (now also sadly deceased) of ACE RECORDS. Ray was a personal friend of Johnny’s and had been to his home in Texas on numerous occasions. (Ray counted many famous people including BB KING; ZZ TOP; and JOHN MAYALL among his friends). He lent me Johnny’s first album ‘The Progressive Blues Experiment’ (1968), and I got really into it. At the time, blues and blues-orientated rock was experiencing a great resurgence with the likes of JEFF HEALEY and WALTER TROUT making headlines; and GARY MOORE famously going back to the blues. So I went out and bought Johnny’s latest album ‘Let Me In’ (1991), and I was hooked!

Then soon after that, Ray told me that Johnny had been in touch with him and had invited him to a gig he was due to play in London at the TOWN AND COUNTRY CLUB in August ’92; and did I want to tag along? (Mmmm, let me think about it for a while – OK then!). We arrived at the stage door of the T & C nice and early, but found our names missing from the guest list (even though Ray + one had been invited). Johnny’s manager was called down by the doorman, but he wasn’t the most helpful or accommodating of people, and he didn’t know Ray. Ray persuaded him that we had indeed been invited by Johnny, but the manager said we would only be allowed into the gig, gratis; but not back-stage. Ray (never the calmest of men) was incensed by this; but no power on Earth (including Ray’s shouting and swearing) could persuade the manager and doorman to let us in. Personally I was content just to get into the gig for nothing! So there we were in the mosh-pit with the rest of the punters, when Ray saw a bouncer come out through a door to the right of the stage. ‘Come on!’ he said as the door slowly closed. We went through and found ourselves back-stage, unchallenged!

Ray was determined to find Johnny and sort it out. But the first person we bumped into was the support act OTIS GRAND another friend of Ray’s! He invited us into the ‘Green Room’ where Ray was warmly received by all present due to his reputation as a blues expert. Otis told us that Johnny wasn’t feeling too good and wasn’t receiving visitors at that time. But soon Otis was due onstage, and he invited us to watch his band from behind the mixing desk, stage-right. Otis played a grand set. Seeing a larger sized gig from the side of the stage was an eye-opener for me – especially as the soundman let us play with the desk controls a little.

At the interval we spoke to various music industry bods, some of whom Ray knew. Then it was time for Johnny himself to go on. Still placed by the mixing desk, we saw the great man come down the stairs from his changing room clutching his headless ERLEWINE LAZER guitar that seemed to be no more than a fret-board with pick-ups! He certainly didn’t look well – frail, and not quite with it. Ray was shocked by his appearance. At the bottom of the stairs He took a wrong turn away from the stage and had to be ushered back on course; and this reminded us of the famous scene from SPINAL TAP where the dozy band can’t find their way to the stage!

Well Johnny may not have been feeling too well, but he was a professional; and as soon as they plugged him in, his demeanour changed completely – he became the blues axe-hero that was expected of him. He played a fantastic set of old favourites, covers, and material from his latest album ‘Hey, Where’s Your Brother?’ (1992). I seem to remember two well deserved encores. Then he was led back off stage. On the way he spied Ray and they greeted each other warmly. I was introduced, and we were both (+ some others) invited to join him in his room.

In spite of being ill, Johnny was a very warm and friendly; quietly spoken and knowledgeable; although obviously out of sorts. He was underweight and covered in tattoos (including a map of Texas on his right shoulder that he referred to often). We spoke for ages about guitars and the Texas blues scene. He let me play the Erlewine which he had tuned to Open-E for slide-work of which he was of course, a recognised maestro. But my attempts were embarrassingly pathetic – and no better now, I must say! He joked that he’d teach me if he had the time!

Well after a while, JW said he was very tired; so he and his entourage suddenly decamped for his hotel. Before we left, Ray and I went to the toilet; but when we came out the place was in darkness. Now it was our turn to be Spinal Tap looking for the exit! Just when we thought we’d never get out, we bumped into the same doorman who’d refused us entry earlier. ‘Well you two are persistent!’ he remarked, before showing us the door.

I never met Johnny again; but I’m very glad I did that once. I was even inspired enough for a while to borrow Ray’s Dobro guitar and practice some slide-work. (I often wonder what happened to that Dobro after Ray died). Unfortunately there were no photos taken that night of our meeting; but I got him to autograph a CD for me.

They say that Johnny Winter was the only white man who ever really understood the blues. That may be so, but he also took it to new places and heights. We lament the passing of one of the greatest bluesmen – there must be one humdinger of a blues jam going on up there right now! RIP Johnny.

Here’s a taste of Johnny’s ‘Medicine Man’ from the ‘Let Me In’ album (1991):-

Phil The Music Quill.

14. COCO MONTOYA (+ LAURENCE JONES) at THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, Surrey. Friday, 23rd May 2014

'LAURENCE JONES - The future of British blues-rock' (Photo by PTMQ)

‘The future of British blues-rock’ Laurence Jones (Photo by PTMQ)

I hadn’t been to The Boom Boom Club for a few months. Although I like it there, I don’t live that close, so it has to be an exceptional artist that brings me along! So when I heard that promoter PETE FEENSTRA had booked the great bluesman COCO MONTOYA (who I’d never seen live before), I had no hesitation in getting a place booked (via cousin Charlie who lives nearby). To add icing to the cake LAURENCE JONES was to be the support act – had to be a winner of a gig!

Charlie and I arrived early and found ourselves a place at the front of the stage; eagerly awaiting the show. Support act Laurence Jones was soon climbing unpretentiously on stage, and launched into ‘Can’t Keep Living Like This’ from his new album “Temptation”. It was a whirlwind start to a breath-taking set of exceptionally good music from a young guitarist, who music writer NIGEL FOSTER describes as ‘the future of British blues-rock’, and I think that’s a fair comment. Its quite a compliment considering he’s up against the likes of: DAVY KNOWLES; OLI BROWN; and VIRGIL McMAHON.

Now I last saw Jones at this same venue almost exactly a year ago, supporting the veteran bluesman WALTER TROUT (who as I write is unfortunately seriously ill back in the USA – and no doubt all blues fans are praying for him). I remember being impressed at the time by this young lad; but what a difference that year has made! He is noticeably far more confident than he was last May; and his chops are greatly improved – his Strat’s fret-board was his, to be used as gently or as roughly as he saw fit – with equal precision. It was a nice touch when he dedicated the title track ‘Temptation’ to Trout, his hero, who guests on the new album; and I must say, he did the old master proud. Another highlight for me was his version of Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’. This is often covered, of course, but Jones didn’t slavishly stick to the Hendrix format; rather making it his own, with a lengthy but interesting solo that show-cased his considerable skills. And a bloody good job he made of it too! I also liked ‘Fall From The Sky’ a lot; and ‘Soul Swamp River’ which he sang (partly) without a mic at the front of the stage.

Mention must be made of Jones’ excellent band too. I think these are a different bassist and drummer to those I remember from a year ago. Finnish drummer MIRI MIETTINEN was a reliable powerhouse at the back of the stage; and ROGER INNISS was exceptional with his monstrous 6-string bass, the size of a scaffold-board! But, Christ, could he play it!

I spoke briefly to LJ after the show, and found him to be a very nice bloke – modest and affable. Now that the tour with Montoya is finished, he tells me he’s off to the RORY GALLAGHER FESTIVAL in Ballyshannon, Ireland; along with another old veteran favourite of mine, BERNIE MARSDEN. With the company he keeps this boy is going far! I notice he’s back for a gig at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB here in Essex in June – that’s one for the diary. (Just realised, its only a couple of weeks away!) Anyway, good luck to you, LJ!

Half-time was unusual: normally the intervals at gigs are filled with beer and music blah blah (and fair enough too!); but after Pete Feenstra had finished plugging the next two gigs over this Bank Holiday weekend, Nigel Foster got up on stage to present him with a special award for all the hard work he’d done in promoting all sorts of music acts over the years. It was well deserved, and Nigel summed it up excellently with some very well-chosen words. Charlie and I also got talking to the photographer JENNIFER NOBLE of BLUES MATTERS magazine and her husband. She is a big blues fan; very knowledgeable; and quite a character.

Coco Montoya -  now that's what I call the blues! (Photo by PTMQ)

Coco Montoya – ‘now THAT’S the blues!’ (Photo by PTMQ)

Now for the main event. I’d been waiting a long time to see Coco. In my mind I always lump Montoya, Trout and BUDDY WHITTINGTON together – all big American bluesmen from the prolific JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS stable. I’ve seen Trout and Whittington several times (and my son James and I have had the honour of meeting them both too. Unfortunately James couldn’t make it tonight), but I’ve been waiting for Montoya for years; having never seen him live. Tonight was to complete the trinity.

Coco Montoya and his band; consisting of Nate Brown on bass; Brant Leeper on keyboards; and Rene Beevers on drums; took to the stage to great applause. Brandishing a brilliant blue left-handed Strat, fitted with a right-handed neck; the big bluesman kicked off his set with ‘Wish I Could Be that Strong’. It was a great opener, and was quickly followed by ‘Hey Seniorita’, with its latin feel. Various favourites followed, including: ‘Too Much Water Under The Bridge’; the funky ‘Don’t Go Makin’ Plans’; and finishing with ‘Three Sides To Every Story’.

Coco’s repertoire is a blend of various well-known bluesy vibes – both traditional and modern in style; yet all of it with Coco’s personal stamp of genius at its core. The influence of his original mentor, the late great ALBERT COLLINS, is manifest; and the tutorship of JOHN MAYALL is apparent; but his feeling and understanding of the blues obviously comes from deep down inside. Jennifer Noble summed it up succinctly to me half-way through the set: ‘Now THAT’S the blues!’ she said.

I met Coco after the show and had a brief chat with him. We talked about his blue lefty Strat; and about flying back to the USA next day. He is like many great musicians: modest and approachable; and has a genuine love of, and gratitude towards his fans. He told me he’s not going to leave it so long this time before returning to the UK for another tour – let’s hope he means it as I think everyone there would be up for another Coco gig ASAP! Thanks Coco – it was a fantastic night!

A final word should also be said about the hard-working bar staff at the Boom Boom Club – you never have to wait long for a pint, and you are always served with a pretty smile – A BIG THANK YOU LADIES!

Here is a vid of Coco in action at this very gig…..

May the Blues be with you! Phil The Music Quill