Sunday, December 09, 2012

Cyril Davies All Stars and Long John Baldry: See See Rider

On Monday, when I posted TV appearance by Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood from 1965, I said the real star of that show was Long John Baldry. So here he is again.

Baldry died in Canada in 2005. As his Guardian obituary said, he "played a key role in the growth of the British rhythm and blues movement".

A tribute quoted on the official Long John Baldry website goes further:
John had a knack for discovering talent. Ginger Baker, Jeff Beck and Brian Jones all worked with him early on. Elton John played piano in one of his bands, other Rolling Stones too – Charlie, Ron Wood, and Keith. In 1962, when The Rolling Stones were just getting started, they opened for him in London. Eric Clapton has said many times that John was one of the musicians that inspired him to play the Blues. And for their internationally televised special in 1964, The Beatles invited John to perform his version of 'I Got My Mojo Working'.
Baldry was also openly gay in an era when that was still rare and brave. Perhaps that is why, when they young keyboard Reg Dwight was looking for a stage name, he took elements from the names of two bandmates in Bluesology: Elton Dean (later of Soft Machine) and Long John Baldry.

But who, I here you asking, was Cyril Davies?

As the website devoted to his memory makes clear:
Some fellow musicians called Cyril 'Squirrel' Davies a musical genius with a purist's vision. Cyril sang, played banjo, guitar and harmonica and was among a small group of young British musicians in the late 1950's who simply became possessed by a seemingly mystical musical form - the BLUES; these like minded musicians were affected by its purity, simplicity, and by the depth and honesty of emotion that was accessible through its traditional patterns. Cyril, though, narrowly defined the acceptable boundaries of this blues tradition. 
Just as Cyril was hitting his stride musically, his failing health proved too much for this 'tough as nails', panel beating blues shouter - and he passed away at 31 year old, a few days shy of his birthday. 
Cyril left a deep impression on all who had seen him perform - whether it channelling Leadbelly, playing his Grimshaw 12 string guitar at the Round House, blowing harp on the frontline with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, or fronting his own 'force of nature', the R&B All Stars - some familiar faces remember:
The history of the British Blues gets more interesting the more you study it.

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