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John Mayall

On 29/11/1933 John Mayall was born in Macclesfield, England. His father was a guitarist and jazz enthusiast. John taught himself the piano, guitar and harmonica. He was influenced by blues artists like Lead Belly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith, and Eddie Lang.
Mayall went to Korea for national service for three years. Whilst on a period of leave he bought his first electric guitar. When he returned to England, he enrolled at Manchester College of Art and started playing in semi-professional bands.
In 1956, Mayall formed the Powerhouse Four with his college fellow Peter Ward.
In 1962, Mayall joined the band Blues Syndicate, which had been formed by trumpeter John Rowlands and alto saxophonist Jack Massarik. The band also included guitarist Ray Cummings and drummer Hughie Flint who Mayall already knew. Blues Syndicate were frequent and popular artists at the Twisted Wheel cellar club in Manchester. Mayall then moved to London after Alexis Korner persuaded him to start a full-time musical career there. Korner introduced him to many musicians and helped find him gigs.
By late 1963, Mayall's band the Bluesbreakers were starting to play at the Marquee Club. The band's lineup was Mayall, Ward, John McVie on bass and guitarist Bernie Watson.
In 1964, Mayall made his first recording with producer Ian Samwell. The band with Martin Hart on drums recorded the song "Crawling Up a Hill" and "Mr James". Shortly after the recording, Hughie Flint replaced Hart and Roger Dean took over the guitar from Bernie Watson. The new lineup would then back John Lee Hooker on his UK tour. Also in 1964, Mayall was offered a recording contract with Decca. In December, a live performance of the band was recorded at Klooks Kleek. A single "Crocodile Walk" was released along with the album, but both failed to sell well and the contract with Decca was terminated.
In April 1965, former Yardbirds guitarist Eric Clapton replaced Roger Dean. The Bluesbreakers started to attract a lot more attention with their new guitarist. They recorded the single "I'm Your Witchdoctor". In August, Clapton left with a group calling themselves the Glands for a jaunt to Greece. John Weider, John Slaughter and Geoff Krivit were tried as a replacement until Peter Green was settled on as the Bluesbreaker guitarist. John McVie was also replaced with Jack Bruce from the Graham Bond Organisation for a few months. In November, Clapton returned and Green departed as Mayall guaranteed Clapton's spot in the band. A live date at the Flamingo Club, London was recorded with the Mayall-Clapton-Bruce-Flint lineup. They also recorded "On Top of the World" in the studio. Afterwards, McVie returned and Jack Bruce went to join Manfred Mann. Also in November 1965, Champion Jack Dupree got Mayall and Clapton to play on a few tracks.
In April 1966, the Bluesbreakers returned to Decca to record the second album. The sessions lasted only three days.
On 11/06/1966, the band Cream was announced in the press which was formed of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Clapton hadn't told Mayall about the band.
On 22/07/1966 the album "Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton" was released. It went to number 6 in the UK chart. It is now considered a classic album.
Mayall persuaded Peter Green to rejoin the band to replace Clapton. They recorded about 40 tracks, with various different sidemen.
In February 1967, the album "A Hard Road" was released. Mayall also released an EP with blues harpist Paul Butterfield in early 1967.
Peter Green left the Bluesbreakers to form his own project Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.
Mayall wanted to replace Green with 18-year-old guitarist David O'List. However, O'List declined and went on to form the Nice. Mayall put an ad in Melody Maker and did his own search. He recruited the 18-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor.
In May 1967, Mayall assembled a studio album by himself and drummer Keef Hartley in a single day. It was released in November as "The Blues Alone".
On 11 and 12 July 1967, Mayall, Taylor, McVie with Flint or Hartley on drums and Rip Kant or Chris Mercer on saxophones recorded the album "Crusade".
The Bluesbreakers spent most of 1967 on tour. Mayall recorded the shows and the recordings were into the album "Diary of a Band, Vols. 1 & 2", released in February 1968.
McVie left and was replaced by Paul Williams. Williams himself then quit and was replaced by Keith Tillman. Dick Heckstall-Smith came in on saxophone.
After the US tour, there were more lineup changes. Tillman was replaced by 15-year-old bassist Andy Fraser. Fraser left after six weeks to join Free and was replaced by Tony Reeves. Hartley was replaced by New Jazz Orchestra drummer Jon Hiseman. Henry Lowther who played violin and cornet joined.
In April 1968, the Bluesbreakers recorded "Bare Wires". It would reach number 6 in the charts.
Hiseman, Reeves and Heckstall-Smith then left to form Colosseum. Drummer Colin Allen joined as well as bassist Stephen Thompson.
In August 1968, they recorded the album "Blues from Laurel Canyon".
On 13/06/1969, Taylor left to join the Rolling Stones.
Chris Crane filled in briefly on guitar then left. Allen left to join Stone the Crows and was followed by Thompson.
Mayall recruited acoustic guitarist Jon Mark and flautist-saxophonist John Almond. The new lineup would have no drummer and an acoustic feel. The band moved to Los Angeles and made their US debut at the Newport Jazz Festival. They released their first studio album together "Empty Rooms" with bassist Larry Taylor playing bass on the track "To a Princess". The formations without drummers would be used on two more albums. Mayall also formed an electric blues rock R&B band with guitarist Harvey Mandel, bassist Larry Taylor and violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris. They recorded the album "USA Union". Mayall, Taylor and guitarist Gerry McGee then recorded the 1971 album "Memories".
In November 1970, Mayall started a double album recording project. It was called "Back to the Roots" and featured Clapton, Mick Taylor, Gerry McGee and Harvey Mandel on guitar; Sugarcane Harris on violin; Almond on woodwinds; Thompson and Larry Taylor on bass; and Hartley on drums. Drummer Paul Lagos was with Sugarcane and ended up drumming on five.
By the early 1970s, Mayall had relocated to the US.
In August 1971, Mayall produced a session for Albert King and took on tour the musicians present in the studio a few months later.
In 1972, the live album "Jazz Blues Fusion" was released with Mayall on harmonica, guitar and piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Clifford Solomon and Ernie Watts on saxophones, Larry Taylor on bass, Ron Selico on drums and Freddy Robinson on guitar.
In 1973, the live album "Moving On" was released with a similar lineup to "Jazz Blues Fusion". During the next decade, Mayall would change lineups and switch labels frequently releasing a number of albums.
In 1982, Mayall, Mick Taylor, John McVie and Colin Allen when on a two-year world tour.
In 1984, Mayall restored the Bluesbreakers name for a lineup with guitarist Walter Trout, guitarist Coco Montoya, bassist Bobby Haynes and drummer Joe Yuele. They had a successful world tour and live recordings.
In the early 1990s, the guitarists were replaced by guitarist Buddy Whittington and Tom Canning came in on the organ.
In 2001, the album "Along for the Ride" was released featuring twenty names listed on the cover, including some Bluesbreakers, old and new, and also Gary Moore, Jonny Lang, Steve Cropper, Steve Miller, Otis Rush, Billy Gibbons, Chris Rea, Jeff Healey, Shannon Curfman and a few others. They were credited as John Mayall and friends.
In 2003, to celebrate his 70th birthday, Mayall reunited Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber for a fundraiser show "Unite for Unicef".
In 2005, Mayall received an OBE in the Honours List.
In 2008, Mayall announced he was disbanding the Bluesbreakers. He announced a solo world tour three months later.
In 2009, the tour started with Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, Jay Davenport on drums and Tom Canning, on the organ. Since then Mayall has toured with the same backing band with the exception of Canning.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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