That grainy picture above is from my camera phone. Mouse over it – or any of my pics – and you’ll get color. That’s Mayall of course, dead center playing one of three instruments (keys, harp, guitar). To his left, guitarist Ricky Athas, bass Greg Rzab, somewhat hidden is drummer Jay Davenport.
Mayall is one of the last of that cohort of British bluesmen who were part of the blues vortex that was Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. According to Wikipedia, Korner persuaded Mayall to opt for a full-time musical career and move to London, where Korner introduced him to many other musicians and helped Mayall to find gigs.
Ultimately Mayall went on to form the highly influential band Bluesbreakers who in their own way, were every bit as impactful as The Yardbirds. The seminal album from that time is called Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka the Beano album. That said, the album they’re touring behind – the recently released John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967 – featured Peter Green.
The band sounded great but I thought that Mayall’s voice had lost some power. The blues genre demands that you have a strong, strong voice up front and he didn’t have it. That said, I will cut him a break. I want you to note that the video below is from 2012 when Mayall was EIGHTY YEARS OLD. (When I’m 80 I plan on sitting on the couch and yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn).
I can tell you that while Mayall is not exactly running around the stage these days, he stood up for the whole show, going back and forth from keyboard to harp to guitar. He could certainly sit down for keyboard but he chooses not to.
Anyway, check this out. Same band, filmed live a couple of years ago. It’s called “The Sum of Something.” Athas continues Mayall’s long trend of featuring outstanding guitarists:
Mayall’s signature song is one he released back in the ’70’s on a live album. It’s called “Room to Move.” Didn’t do it when I saw him but what the hell. Same band
One of the nice things about these shows – especially when I go alone – is that I always wind up talking to people. (Actually they usually wind up talking to me). We were sitting at a shared table and there were as many people by themselves as with someone. (If we have learned one thing at our age it’s that if you wait for others to share your interests you’ll spend a lot of time sitting at home and miss a lot of good stuff).
One of my tablemates – who had bought himself an entire bottle of wine – clued me in to Mayall’s 70th birthday party album. Apparently Clapton and Mick Taylor – also a Mayall protege – played on it. It’s pretty damn good so I’m stealing a track from that. Here’s Mick on “Somebody’s Acting Like a Child.”
John, thanks for all the blues and I look forward to your 90th birthday album.