Although commercialisation of British rhythm and blues movement occurred after that of Merseybeat, its growth began earlier, in the mid-195Os; when Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner opened London Blues and Barrelhouse Club for Thursday night sessions at Roundhouse pub in Soho.
Two years later, in 1957, jazz bandleader Chris Barber made the first of a series of tours with visiting American Bluesmen, backing Bill Broonzy and subsequently Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters.
Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with Ottilie Paterson on Morecambe & Wise Show – 1962
By 1960 Barber had introduced R & B set into his own band’s repertoire, featuring Ottilie Patterson as singer, backed by Korner on guitar and Davies on harmonica. These short spots with which Barber ended his gigs became so popular that Korner and Davies decided to form a R & B band of their own.
At that time, club circuit was dominated by traditional jazz (or as it became known in its debased form-‘trad’) and Korner and Davies found strong opposition to their amplified music, as Muddy Waters had when he had played electric blues in 1958.
Their solution was to open their own club, where their band, Blues Incorporated, could play regularly. Ealing Rhythm And Blues Club was opened 17 March 1962, in a basement beneath the ABC Teashop near Ealing Broadway underground station.
Blues Incorporated’s line-up that first night was Davies (hrmnca, vcls), Korner on guitar, Keith Scott on piano, Andy Hoogenboom on bass, Charlie Watts on drums and with Art Wood as singer.
Wood soon left to form Artwoods, and other changes followed. By midsummer, band consisted of Davies, Korner, tenorist Dick Heckstall-Smith, pianist Johnny Parker, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums. John Baldry alternated vocals with Davies, and regular visitors to the club, like Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, and Paul Jones would sit in.
By then, in addition to weekly appearances at Ealing, Blues Inc. had been given residency at the Marquee Club (then in Oxford Street).
Near the Marquee, another jazz club, the Flamingo in Wardour Street, was developing its own brand of R & B. Under influence of predominantly black audience, Georgie Fame, Billy Fury’s ex-pianist, was playing mixture of American and West Indian styles which ranged from James Brown through Mose Allison to Ska.
Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames at the New Musical Express Poll Winners concert – 1965
By end of 1962, four styles of British R & B had been established. Cyril Davies had left Blues Inc. to lead own band (which included John Baldry as singer and Nicky Hopkins on piano) in an attempt to recreate sound and style of Muddy Waters. Korner had replaced him with Graham Bond on alto, giving Blues Inc. a jazzier sound than before; the Rolling Stones had been formed by Jagger, Richard, Jones (who called himself Elmo Lewis when he played blues) and Ian Stewart, to play the rocking guitar led R & B of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley; and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames had created a style unique to the Flamingo.
Almost without exception, bands that sprang up later directly followed one of these four styles.
Popularity of R & B grew, replacing trad in clubs and ultimately making charts. In a stroke of tragic irony, Cyril Davies died January 1964 in same week Stones reached Top 10 for the first time with a Lennon-McCartney song, I Wanna Be Your Man.
In fact, few of the instigators of British R & B enjoyed the success of those who followed them. Barber was branded as a jazzer; Korner looked as if he would never make it; Baldry enjoyed some success as a live performer with Davies’ band, which he took over after his death and later with Steampacket, but sadly achieved no success on record until he tried a schmalzy ballad, Let The Heartaches Begin, in 1967 and had a No. I hit.
Of the original Stones, Ian Stewart was kicked out when Andrew Loog Oldham took over the band because he didn’t look the part, and Dick Taylor formed the Pretty Things only for them to be put down as ersatz Stones.
Although the Liverpool bands received most of national attention. R & B was eventually shown to be a stronger foundation for subsequent development of rock music.
For while the Authentics, Cheynes, Downliners Sect, Ronnie Jones and the Nighttimers, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Paramounts, Roosters, Hogsnort Rupert, Stormsville Shakers, T -Bones, and Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds may have been forgotten along with the Crawdaddy Club, Eel Pie Island, Klook’s Kleek, and the Scene, there’s hardly a British musician from this generation, from Eric Clapton to John McLaughlin, Jimmy Page to Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck to John Renboum, Albert Lee to Gary Brooker, Pete Townshend to Keith Emerson who didn’t start out playing Mojo or Smokestack Lightnin’ or Route 66 or another of the classics of British rythm & blues.
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