legend John Mayall was born 29th of November 1933 in Macclesfield,
Manchester, and grew up during World War II listening to his
guitarist father’s jazz collection. Strongly influenced
by such greats as Leadbelly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith,
and Eddie Lang, from the age of 13 he taught himself to play
and develop his own style with the aid of a neighbour's piano,
borrowed guitars, and secondhand harmonicas.
John Mayall's first brush with
fame, however, was not for his music. As a teenager, he received
newspaper attention when he moved out of the house and into
his backyard treehouse. Since, upon returning from Korea with
the British Army, he brought his first wife, Pamela, to live
with him there. He later wrote the track, "Home In A
Tree" which was included on his brilliant 1971 "Memories"
album which told the story of his Manchester childhood.
From 1956 until 1962, John was
performing his music on a part-time basis fronting The Powerhouse
Four and, later on, The Blues Syndicate. It was then that
Alexis Korner heralded what was to become known as The British
Blues Boom of the late 1960's. Alexis was quick to encourage
30 year-old John and his Mancunian drummer, Hughie Flint,
to move down to London where he formed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers,
recording the debut "John Mayall Plays John Mayall"
clapton & the bluesbreakers
After a couple of years and
a constant turnover of musicians, John met Eric Clapton, who
had quit the Yardbirds in favour of playing the blues. Together
they recorded the first hit album in 1966, simply called "Bluesbreakers"
(UK No.6) before Clapton along with Jack Bruce left the band
to form Cream.
In 1966, guitarist Peter Green
joined the band whilst Hughie Flint returned to Manchester
to form McGuinness Flint. The next album, "A Hard Road",
scored Top 10 success, and drummer, Mick Fleetwood, joined
the band temporarily before leaving with Green to form Fleetwood
Mac. (Mick Taylor was recruited to replace Peter Green).
The 1967 "Crusade"
album reached Number 8, before bassist John McVie also left
to join Fleetwood Mac. A year later, John Mayall & The
Bluesbreakers released "Diary Of A Band", and "Diary
Of A Band (Volume 2)", which included new tracks, live
interviews and chat; they reached UK No.27 and No.28 respectively.
Bassist Andy Fraser left in
1968 to form Free, whilst ex-Georgie Fame drummer, Jon Hiseman,
joined the group to record the superb "Bare Wires"
album. The lp was John Mayall's finest chart moment, reaching
UK No.3 and also charting in the USA (No.59).
from laurel canyon
The "Blues From Laurel
Canyon" album in 1968 only reached a disappointing UK
No.33 and prompted John to change his line-up once again;
Mick Taylor joined The Rolling Stones and the new group shocked
everybody by playing without a drummer. The 1969 live album,
"The Turning Point", went to No.11 in the UK (No.32
in the US), spawning the rock classic, "Room To Move",
and becoming his biggest-selling album ever in the process.
In 1970 John Mayall & The
Bluesbreakers, still without a drummer, released the Double
LP, "Empty Rooms", which scored Number 9 UK chart
success (No.33 in the USA).
Moving from London to Los Angeles,
John gathered together a band of completely U.S. musicians
and in 1970 released the album, "U.S.A. Union",
which went to Number 22 Stateside (it only reached No.50 back
home), however his next albums proved that he had never forgotten
his Manchester roots.
In 1971, John released his "Back
To The Roots" and "Memories" albums, which
recalled his Macclesfield upbringing; The "Memories"
album included the title track which told of his childhood
memories and his parents divorce, "Wish I Knew A Woman"
interestingly told tales of masturbation to the posters on
his bedroom wall, "The City" relived his life at
Art College in Manchester, and "Home In A Tree"
remembered his garden hideaway. It reached Number 31 in the
By 1972, John had decided to
bring a drummer (Ron Selico) into the band, and their brilliant
live album, "Jazz Blues Fusion", was followed by
"Moving On" ('72), "Ten Years Are Gone"
('73), "The Latest Edition" ('74), and then, with
a new line-up, "New Year, New Band, New Company"
(1975). Having failed to score chart success since 1971, John's
following albums did very little to correct the failure; "Time
Expired, Notice to Appear" (1975), "A Banquet Of
Blues" ('76), "Lots Of People (live)" ('77),
"A Hard Core Package" ('78), "Bottom Line"
('79), and "No More Interviews" ('79) all failed
to sell in large quantities.
1979 proved to be an important
year for John, both personally and professionally. He introduced
his future wife to the band, vocalist Maggie Parker, however
struggled to keep his live and recording career afloat. He
also suffered severe misfortune when a fire destroyed his
Laurel Canyon home. In the misfortune he lost his vast diaries
and more tragically, his father's diaries which included many
fond memories of Macclesfield.
Determined to rise from the
ashes, John persevered. He released "Road Show Blues"
in 1981 and a year later, together with Mick Taylor and John
McVie, re-formed the original Bluesbreakers for a couple of
tours and a video concert film entitled "Blues Alive",
which featured Albert King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Etta
James, and Sippie Wallace amongst others.
By introducing impressive guitarists,
Coco Montoya and Walter Trout, John Mayall was able to recreate
the classic Bluesbreakers sound with the albums, "Behind
The Iron Curtain" (1986), "Chicago Line" (1988)
and "A Sense Of Place" (1990). His brilliant 1994
"Wake Up Call" album received a Grammy nomination,
whilst "Spinning Coin" and "Blues For the Lost
Days" also won critical acclaim with guest appearances
from artists such as Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Albert Collins,
Mick Taylor, Sonny Landreth, and Red Holloway, to name a few.
"Blues For the Lost Days"
captured John reminiscing about all the friends, family, heroes,
lovers and places he has loved and lost over the years. The
album is startling in its autobiographical approach and includes
many references to Manchester including the track, "Dead
June 1999 saw John Mayall &
The Bluesbreakers release the exciting "Padlock On The
Blues" album which featured an amazing collaboration
with the late John Lee Hooker. He followed this with the superb
2001 release "Along For The Ride", which featured
Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, as
well as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Jonny Lang, Steve Miller,
Billy Preston, Steve Cropper, Otis Rush, Gary Moore, Jeff
Healey, Reese Wynans of Steve Ray Vaughan's band and Shannon
Curfman for an amazing display of blues power at its finest.
The tour to promote the album
took in a sell-out hometown gig for John at The Bridgewater
Hall. Barely had he returned from touring and he was back
in the studio in february 2002 to record 'Stories',
which debuted the US Billboard blues charts at number 1.
John Mayall, now the father
of six and grandfather of six, at 69 years young, shows no
signs of slowing down and plans to keep the blues alive for
many years to come. He may have come along way since living
in his Manchester treehouse - but John still has the same
enthusiasm as he did back then as a young lad in the 1940's.