LONG JOHN BALDRY
adventurous souls said it was an odd thing to do, even I had my
doubts, but not so - booking Long John Baldry at the Corbett
Theatre on 4th November 1973 was really rather a triumph!
At 6ft 7ins you did get value for money!
By then he had been a star, always good for press coverage, but unlike many people who had been to no.1 he had a quality pedigree (and lots of high powered chums - get it? Ed. NB a joke!)
Born on 12th January 1941 in London, his professional career began in the late 50s and included a tour with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. He very quickly became a member of Blues Incorporated, and then Cyril Davies' R&B All Stars. On Davies' death John became the lead in the Hoochie Coochie Men, a group that also included that good Epping boy Rod Stewart. The two were to team up later with Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger in Steam Packet. There was only one more band before a solo career beckoned - that band was Bluesology with Elton John on keyboards.
He then seems to have made a conscious decision (no mean feat in itself in the 60s) to be a pop star, and with 'Let The Heartaches Begin' going to number 1 in the UK in 1967 he had made it. Top Of The Pops and all that. I still quite like that record. Another top 20 hit came in 1968 with the theme from the Mexico Olympics.
Just as easily as he had become a pop star he became a hippie with fur coats, beard and long hair replacing the snappy dresser of the hit parade. With able assistance from Rod Stewart and Elton John he produced an album called 'It Ain't Easy' which flopped.
A few years in New York and Los Angeles followed, then emigration to Vancouver where he performed on the club circuit. Now here's a gem - in the early 90s his voice was used as Robotnik on the Sonic The Hedgehog computer game. I suspect not a lot of people know that (or care maybe). In 1993 a album cleverly titled 'It Still Ain't Easy' was released. As far as I can tell he still perform and plays blues clubs in North America.
I don't remember how we came to book John. I suspect it was through a blues musician called Sam Mitchell. Sam was a well known face around Soho music clubs armed with his National Steel guitar. At our event Sam accompanied John, and as an added bonus they were joined by Nikki Barclay who was keyboard player with an American all girl band tastefully called Fanny ( it was always hard to judge whether conversations were about the band, and therefore unclear if they had become well known, or not!). The music on the night was some of the gutsiest blues ever heard. It was a great night with a very nice man!