Legend bound for Bluesfest
FIFTY-SEVEN albums in 50 years.
That’s the latest count for pioneering English blues singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Mayall.
Mayall founded the legendary John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in the early ’60s, performing with a roll-call of industry greats, including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and John McVie.
Over the years, Bluesbreakers gained worldwide status before Mayall disbanded the group in 2008 after a heavy touring schedule took its toll on him physically, causing a stir in blues circles with rumours of a total retirement.
But Mayall came back after a break, forming a new group with Rocky Athas, Greg Rzab, Jay Davenport and Tom Canning and will play Bluesfest at Byron Bay this April.
“I am looking forward to playing Bluesfest with the new band. We are looking forward to the whole Australian tour,” Mayall says.
“The only drag about Australia is that it is so far away, but we will be doing a good comprehensive tour this time, as well as Bluesfest. We love the sunshine. Australia has got my kind of weather.”
Mayall’s love of sunshine probably stems from growing up in a small village near the cloud-covered city of Manchester, England.
His love of music was instilled by a father with an extensive jazz collection. He picked up the guitar at 13 – but was only inspired to turn professional after Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated pioneered what was to become known as the British Blues Boom of the 1960s.
“It was a recognition of the kind of music I had been playing all my life,” Mayall says.
“This all happened when I was aged 30. I moved to London, inspired by Korner, and secured enough club work to be able to turn professional under the name John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.”
After a couple of years and a constant turnover of musicians, he met his soul mate in Eric Clapton, who had quit the Yardbirds in favour of playing the blues. This historic union culminated in the first hit album for the Bluesbreakers and resulted in worldwide legendary status.
“Eric Clapton was the first guitar player I heard in England that really had a feel for the blues,” Mayall says.
“He had a sensitivity that nobody else had at that time and, of course, he is one of the all- time greats. I am glad he is still with us.”
Clapton soon left to form Cream, but it didn’t stop Mayall’s popularity from blossoming.
In 1969 he released his classic live album The Turning Point. Over the years, Mayall has released several albums that have set new standards in rock blues, including Behind The Iron Curtain, Chicago Line, A Sense Of Place and the Grammy-nominated Wake Up Call.
Last year he released his 57th album, Tough, and, as for the man himself, Mayall plans to keep the blues alive for many more years to come.
“It doesn’t seem like that much to me,” Mayall says when asked about his prolific album output.
“I always have plenty of new ideas flying around and with the new band there is a wonderful opportunity to produce something different. The new line-up is absolutely brilliant. We have done several tours all over the world and the reception everywhere has been truly marvellous.
“I’m very proud to be bringing the band to Australia.”
Catch John Mayall and band at Bluesfest 2010, being held from Thursday, April 1, through to Monday, April 5. Tickets are on sale now. Call 6685 8310, or visit the Bluesfest website: www.bluesfest.com.au. For more information on John Mayall visit www.johnmayall.com