John Mayall (b.1933) came to fame during the 1960s as leader of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the band which spearheaded the British blues boom in the second half of the decade and provided a platform for numerous instrumentalists who later found fame in other bands - notably lead guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Mayall's Bluesbreakers had chart success with several albums, most notably the 1966 LP Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, but Mayall's blues purist approach, combined with the constantly changing personnel of his bands, prevented him from achieving pop star status. Nevertheless, he built up a solid following and was able to move to the United States at the end of the 1960s. He subsequently spent much of his career there, continuing to perform with various line-ups and occasionally reviving earlier versions of the Bluesbreakers with musicians from his 1960s groups. A detailed account of his career can be found on Wikipedia.
Links to Peel
John Peel first became aware of John Mayall's records when he was working in the United States. While working under the name John Ravencroft for the station KMEN in San Bernardino, California, Peel played Mayall's records; the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton LP appeared in the station's playlist [ref] while the single "Parchman Farm/Key To Love" was number 9 in its "British Top Ten" of the week ending December 2, 1966 - an example of what Peel would later call his "fraudulent British chart", as the record never featured in the UK chart listings.
When Peel joined Radio London in March 1967 he continued to play Mayall records - especially on the late-night programme which eventually became the Perfumed Garden. A Hard Road, the current Bluesbreakers album and another chart success, became a staple of the PG playlists. He also saw the Bluesbreakers live, met Mayall and corresponded with him, referring to him with some affection during the programmes. Towards the end of the Perfumed Garden era, Peel remarked that Mayall was going to send him advance tapes of the next Bluesbreakers LP, Crusade, if they were ready in time, but this never happened and the LP was issued in September 1967, a few weeks after Radio London had closed down and before Radio One had begun. A solo LP by Mayall, entitled The Blues Alone, was issued in November, with sleevenotes by Peel.
Mayall's popularity at this time was such that the Bluesbreakers were soon booked for a Top Gear session. It went out on 05 November 1967 on a show compered by Peel with Pete Drummond, and was repeated on 11 February 1968. A second session followed, broadcast on 31 March 1968, but these were the only sessions Mayall recorded for Peel (although the Bluesbreakers' first BBC session had been for Saturday Club in October 1965). The band gigged steadily during 1968, and Peel continued to play their records, but 1968 saw the peak of the British blues boom and Mayall no longer seemed at the centre of it.
An important figure in this movement was Mike Vernon, who had produced Mayall's work and other blues records for Decca and (with help from CBS) founded his own label, Blue Horizon Records. Peel played many records from the Blue Horizon catalogue and several of the label's signings were among his personal favourites of the era. The first album by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the band formed by Green after leaving the Bluesbreakers, was as big a chart success as any of Mayall's work. Their single "Albatross" topped the charts but was the first of many departures from their blues roots. Chicken Shack, led by the guitarist Stan Webb, also gained single ("I'd Rather Go Blind") and album popularity, and were admired by Peel, as was the one-man-band Tony "Duster" Bennett. These and many other British blues artists did Peel sessions in 1968-69, and the movement was parodied by the Liverpool Scene's song "I've Got Those Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, John Mayall Can't Fail Blues".
Musically, Mayall's bands began to change, with the inclusion of horn sections and influences from modern R&B and jazz putting them at a distance from most British blues and blues-rock bands of the period, which (following the success of Eric Clapton with Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Jeff Beck Group) tended to be based around a flamboyant lead guitarist. Some of these bands developed into the hard rock and heavy metal groups of the 1970s, but most abandoned their blues influences. Mayall continued to lead different kinds of blues-based groups in the USA, but his records were less frequently heard on Peel's programmes.
As well as Fleetwood Mac, a number of bands led by former members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers recorded sessions for Peel. There were several led by drummers: Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, the jazz-influenced Jon Hiseman's Colosseum and the Keef Hartley Band, and McGuinness Flint (co-led by Hughie Flint and another band to have single chart success, with "When I'm Dead and Gone").
Festive Fifty Entries
- Two sessions for Peel, as well as others for different BBC programmes. The Live At The BBC CD doesn't contain any Peel/Top Gear session material.
- The Last Time / Suspicious / Worried Love / Supermarket Day / Snowy Wood
2. Recorded: 1968-03-26. First broadcast: 31 March 1968. Repeated: ?
- Picture On The Wall / Knockers Step Forward / The Last Time / Rock Me Baby / Unknown
Other Shows Played
(The following list was compiled only from the database of this site and is almost certainly incomplete. Please add further details if known.)
- (JP: This is John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and this is from the album “A Hard Road.” Incidentally, John has recorded a whole two new albums, and there is one of them with the brand-new group, and that should be released very, very shortly indeed. In the meantime, this is from their eldest one, oldest one, latest one – something, one or the other – and it’s Dust My Blues.)
- 12 July 1967: Dust My Blues (LP - A Hard Road) Decca LK 4853
- 16 July 1967: Dust My Blues (LP - A Hard Road) Decca LK 4853
- (JP: And here’s John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield, and one of John’s favourite stage things, Riding on the L&N.)
- 18 July 1967: (featuring Paul Butterfield) Riding on the L&N (EP - John Mayall/Paul Butterfield) Decca (JP: There you go, John Mayall playing one of his strange homemade guitars there, along with the Bluesbreakers and Paul Butterfield on a Decca EP, called – well, that called Riding On The L&N actually.)
- (JP: These are John Mayall from the LP A Hard Road, Another Kind of Love. Is there another kind?)
- 18 July 1967: Another Kind of Love (LP - A Hard Road) Decca
- 19 July 1967: It Hurts Me Too (single - Double Trouble b-side) Decca F 12621
- 22 July 1967: Double Trouble (single) Decca
- 07 August 1967: Curly (single) Decca F 12588 (JP - "dedicated to young Eric Clapton, you see.")
- (JP: "Anyway, it’s nice to have Uncle John Mayall on the programme next week, and this is his latest single.”)
- 06 August 1967: It Hurts Me Too (single - b-side of Double Trouble) Decca F 12621
- (JP: "Here’s another fellow that’s given me an awful lot of pleasure both as a person and as a musician over the past months. And this is my favourite track from his LP.")
- 14 August 1967: Dust My Blues (JP: "Unfortunately we didn’t get the tapes of John’s LP out here in time, but when it does come out it is going to be called Campaign -- Crusade! There you are. I know it was one or the other. When it does come out, buy it, because there’s a lot of very beautiful on there that I think you will enjoy – that I know you will enjoy as a matter of fact.") (final Perfumed Garden)
- 14 August 1967: Double Trouble (final Perfumed Garden)
- 14 August 1967: Top Of The Hill (final Perfumed Garden)
- 29 October 1967: Man Of Stone (LP - Crusade) Decca
- 31 December 1967: Oh Pretty Woman (LP: Crusade) Decca LK 4890
- 04 February 1968: Jenny (single) Decca F 12732 (JP: "It would be nice if that sold, because then we could see them on Top Of The Pops, you see. Which is a clever way of saying I’d like to thank Jimmy Savile, because I was on Top Of The Pops earlier in the week.") (Peel’s first solo-presented Top Gear)
- 11 August 1968: Killing Time (LP - Bare Wires) Decca LK 4945 (Peel quip about John Mayall being "entered for the 7:45 at Kempton Park this evening" – a reference to the Sunbury National Jazz and Blues Festival taking place that day at Kempton Park Racecourse)
- 03 November 1968: 2401 (single) Decca F 12846
- 11 October 1969: Don’t Waste My Time (single) Polydor 56544
- 25 October 1969: Supernatural (LP - A Hard Road) Decca LK 4853
- 01 November 1969: Don't Waste My Time (LP: The Turning Point) Polydor 583 571
- 15 November 1969: Saw Mill Gulch Road (LP – The Turning Point) Polydor 583 571
- 31 January 1970: The Hoot Owl (LP - John Mayall Plays John Mayall) Decca LK 4680
- 19 December 1970: You Must Be Crazy (LP - USA Union) Polydor 2425 020
- 28 August 1971: Television Eye
- Radio Luxembourg Tracklistings 2 (1972, unknown date): The Stumble (LP - A Hard Road) Decca
- 19 April 1973: Little Girl (LP – Blues Breakers) Decca
- 18 August 1975: Ramblin' On My Mind (LP - Blues Breakers) Decca
- 16 August 1976: Steppin' Out (LP-Blues Breakers) Decca (Cream retrospective show)
- 23 August 1977: (Intro) Maudie (LP-Primal Solos) Decca
- 18 August 1996: The Supernatural (LP - A Hard Road) Decca
- 22 September 1999: The Supernatural (LP: A Hard Road) Decca
- 30 January 2002: Dust My Blues (LP-A Hard Road) Decca (JP: "That's my original copy of the LP...My copy's actually autographed by all of the members of the band: Peter Green, and John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and so forth. There's also a note from John Mayall saying, "Good luck with future work scenes." That's a bit of a collector's item, I like to think, these days, if anybody would like to make me an offer for that.") (Final Perfumed Garden Revisited)
- 11 November 2003: All Your Love (LP - Blues Breakers) Decca