LONG JOHN BALDRY: BLUES MENTOR/ROD STEWART & ELTON JOHN
Long John Baldry was one of the first to sing blues in British clubs. His bands contained many musicians who would go on to great success; he discovered Rod Stewart and Elton John is named after him. Baldry was 6’7”, and thus his nickname, was “Long John”. In the early 60’s, while singing with Alex Korner’s Blues Incorporated, they recorded the 1st English blues album”, Live at The Marquee, at the club where the future Rolling Stones and Cream’s, Jack Bruce, were some of the musicians sharing the stage with him.
In 63’, he was with the Cyril Davis All Stars, which included pianist, Nicky Hopkins, who would later play on Stones’ and Beatles’ albums. Baldry had befriended the Beatles at the Cavern and appeared on their 1964 TV special, Around the Beatles.
Baldry discovered Rod Stewart, one night busking at a train stop after one of Baldry’s shows, and made him part of his band, The Hoochie Coochie Men. He creates an almost-7 minute opus song about this, “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie on The King of Rock ’n ’Roll”, for his album, It Ain’t Easy. In 1965, the band became known as Steampacket, with Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger (later to form Trinity). Also in the band was a piano player named Reg Dwight, who changed his name to Elton John, after “Long John” and after Elton Dean (later of Soft Machine) who was in it too. The It Ain’t Easy album, in 1971, was produced, one side each, by Rod Stewart and Elton John, and is a real classic blues-rock record, with Ron Wood, Doris Troy and Madeline Bell also on it. Stewart and Elton John would also co-produce Baldry’s album, Everything Stops for Tea in ’72.
Baldry had a big hit in England with “Let the Heartaches Begin” in ‘67. The Elton John song “ Somebody Saved my Life Today” was about when Elton almost tried to commit suicide, after his failed relationship with a woman, and Baldry had helped talk him out of it(them both coming to grips with being gay), at a time when in England it was still illegal. Baldry was also supposedly the last person to see Marc Bolan of T-Rex alive, before he was killed in an accident in 1977.
In 1968, Long John Baldry moved to Vancouver and became a Canadian citizen. He continued to put out Canadian Juno Award-winning albums and toured and did voice/acting roles. He had another hit with in 1979 with American vocalist, Kathi McDonald, with a re-make of the Righteous Bros., “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. Baldry died in Vancouver in 1995 at the age of 64.
But he left behind a record of being one of the very first to do blues on the British scene and he had a big influence on a whole generation of later well-known English musicians and recorded some classic songs like his signature, ”Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie on The King of Rock ’n’ Roll”.
In that sense, as a bandleader, he was like another adopted-Canadian, Ronnie Hawkins from Arkansas, who discovered and trained the Hawks (who would later be known as Dylan’s The Band) and also The Sparrows (later Steppenwolf), and several others. Leaders, like Baldry and Hawkins, didn’t always achieve the fame of their once-recruits, but they recognized their potential talents and nurtured them.
LONG JOHN BALDRY below doing his classic, “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”:
See amazing jam below with: Long John Baldry, Eric Burdon, Stevie Winwood, Julie Driscoll and Rod Stewart –“ I Feel Alright” (The Fifth National Jazz and Blues Festival, Richmond, August 8th 1965)