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John Mayall
Pride of Manchester's guide to...  
JOHN MAYALL
born in Macclesfield, in 1933
Biggest Hits...
Bare Wires - UK no.3 (Jul 1968)
Empty Rooms - UK no.9 (Apr 1970)
Turning Point - UK no.11 (Nov 1969)
Looking Back listen to soundbites - UK no.14 (Aug 1969)
 
 
 
 
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John Mayall

Guitar 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" album.

eric 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).

blues 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.

memories of manchester

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 UK.

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.

road show blues

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 City".

stories

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.

 
 
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