It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues

It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues

by Paul Myers

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Long John Baldry is considered the father of the ‘60s British blues movement. Drawing on intimate anecdotes from Baldry's legendary friends, lovers, and peers, author Paul Myers uncovers the man behind the mythic persona. An entire generation of British rock legends flourished under Baldry's tutelage, and It Ain't Easy features exclusive personal recollections from artists such as Sir Elton John, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Sir Paul McCartney, John Mayall, and Mick Fleetwood, as well as interviews with renowned music industry insiders like songwriter/producer Tony Macaulay, Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky, ex-Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, filmmaker Cameron Crowe, and others.

Extensively researched, It Ain't Easy traces Baldry's extraordinary life from his birth during the London Blitz, to his discovery of black American music, to the sexual revolution, to the musical and social upheaval of the 1960s and '70s, and to his eventual happy retreat to the tranquility of Canada's Pacific Coast.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781926685267
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 07/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 835,787
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Paul Myers is a journalist, broadcaster, and musician whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Globe&Mail, the Vancouver Sun, The Georgia Straight, Mix magazine and Electronic Musician. He is also the author of Barenaked Ladies: Public Stunts, Private Stories. As a broadcaster, he has appeared on CBC Radio and CBC Television, CTV and CanWest Global's Popstars series and contributed to U.S. music channel VH1. Mr. Myers is also an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and music producer and the former leader of the Gravelberrys. He currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Read an Excerpt

From "Introduction: The Joint's Jumpin'"

"The Thames is liquid history." - John Burns (1858-1943)

In Twickenham, England, at the point where the mighty, muddy Thames snakes through Richmond, sits a humble isthmus known as Eel Pie Island. Local history boasts that Henry VIII once made regular visits there, between frequent marriages and occasional beheadings, to partake of the Eel pies and other "junketing." As time and the river flowed, however, Eel Pie Island would become known for other delights.

By 1964, a musical revolution was fulminating in the ballroom of the Eel Pie Island Hotel. Maybe it was a reaction to the bleak, post-war greyness of British life, or maybe it was just something in the water, but the joint was, as they say, jumpin.'

For the young hipsters of the early '60's, "eelpisland" was a magical, if slightly dangerous place your parents warned you about, where surprise raids by the local constabulary were routine. The club's "sprung" dance floor had been ideal for jumping, jiving and wailing of the "trad jazz" boom of the '50's, but as the 60's kicked into gear, the new breed of groups playing R&B began sprouting up within Metropolitan London.

On one such evening, early in 1964, the sweaty club walls reverberated with the distinctly bluesy songs of Leadbelly, Muddy Waters and "Big" Bill Broonzy. And yet, the six-foot seven gentleman wailing into the microphone could not be more Caucasian or more distinctly British. As a compère, he's witty and assured, with a posh yet gravelly character voice suggesting Noel Coward doing a comic impression of Winston Churchill. But when he opens his mouth to sing, however, he is channeling the voice of a Negro sharecropper, transforming the island on the Thames into a paddle-wheeled riverboat on the Mississippi. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet your host: Long John Baldry.

Already a local legend, has only just taken over Cyril Davies' R&B All Stars after Davies' himself had died, the night before. In tribute, and in defiance, Baldry takes Davies' band through a blistering set, his gruff baritone cutting across the swampy din like a bluesy machete.

Unbeknownst to Baldry, a shy, mop-haired young man with a lager in his and a blues harp in his back pocket swaggers and staggers to the sounds coming off the stage. After the show, the pleasantly buzzed young man, his ears ringing and head spinning, shuffles over the footbridge and back to Twickenham railway station for the long trip back to the city. A little while later, Baldry approaches the same platform, waiting for the same train, when his ears pick up the distinctly authentic sound of the boy wailing the blues on his harmonica. An introduction was made and within a week, young Rod Stewart would join Long John Baldry's band on the way to launching an historic career of his own. And like many before and after him, he would have Long John Baldry to thank. For the charismatic, enigmatic, Baldry, it was merely one night in a roller-coaster career filled with giddy highs and crashing lows. Over the next four decades, however, Baldry's bluesy muse would take him halfway around the world on a journey and while it wasn't always easy, it was frequently remarkable.

But first, a couple of key questions are in order. Just who was this theatrical English dandy with a voice like a Mississippi gravel-road? And, more importantly, why did he sing the blues?

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Joint's Jumpin'
Chapter One: Born in the Blitz
Chapter Two: Have Guitar, Will Travel
Chapter Three: R&B from the Marquee
Chapter Four: The Hoochie Coochie Man
Chapter Five: Rod the Mod and the Beatles on the Beeb
Chapter Six: Launching the Steampacket
Chapter Seven: The Heartaches Begin…
Chapter Eight: It Ain't Easy
Chapter Nine: Good to Be Alive?
Chapter Ten: A Thrill's A Thrill
Chapter Eleven: It Still Ain't Easy...Even in Paradise
Chapter Twelve: "I'll Be Seeing You"

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