From February 1964-66 The British ruled the US airwaves. The movie A HARD DAYS NIGHT made LONDON appear cool while Carnaby Street fashions sold like hotcakes in The States. The Mersey Beat sound, as well as the (American) blues influenced London groups, were TOP OF THE POPS in the colonies as well as the Motherland. In the UK THE BEATLES were the most successful artists with 17 singles hitting #1, on top of the UK charts for 69 weeks during the 1960’s with SHE LOVES YOU being the best selling UK single for the entire decade.
The Beatles started as THE QUARRY MEN SKIFFLE BAND in 1957. SKIFFLE style music (guitar, washboard, tea chest bass) was popularized in England by LONNIE DONEGAN who was influenced by American HUDDIE LEDBETTER better known as Lead Belly who had a hit with ROCK ISLAND LINE in1956) . BIG BILL BROONZY, another American artist was also an icon in England.
BIG BILL BROONZY aka Lee Conley Bradley was a true mystery man, a story teller to the Nth degree. He fabricated many a monologue using each as introductions to his tunes. Usually his “tales” were at best an amalgam of stories told to him by others. But according to most who saw him, BIG BILL was a great story teller and performer nonetheless. A farm hand born to slaves he played violin and fiddle, later as an itinerant preacher he became Bill Broonzy for unknown reasons. He moved to Chicago in the 1920’s learned guitar and started recording as BIG BILL in 1927.
(broonzy.com)On 23 December, 1938, Big Bill was one of the principal solo performers in the first “From Spirituals to Swing” concert held at the Carnegie Hall in New York City. In the programme for that performance, Broonzy was identified in the programme only as “Big Bill” (he did not become known as Big Bill Broonzy until much later in his career) and as Willie Broonzy. He was described as:”…the best-selling blues singer on Vocalion’s ‘race’ records, which is the musical trade designation for American Negro music that is so good that only the Negro people can be expected to buy it.” The programme recorded that the Carnegie Hall concert “will be his first appearance before a white audience”.
In the fifties, folk blues (acoustic blues) gained popularity in England as Big Bill Bronzy toured the countryside. He was followed a few years later by the electric blues of MUDDY WATERS, SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON, JOHN LEE HOOKER, SISTER ROSETTA THARPE, BLIND GARY DAVIS, SONNY TERRY, and OTIS SPAN. In 1963 MELODY MAKER declared London “the NEW CHICAGO”. American Black artists felt a bit more comfortable touring Europe than they did in the USA.
Also in June of 1963 The STONES release their first single which is a remake of CHUCK BERRY’S 1961 tune “Come On”. Chuck’s original did not chart in the US yet The Stones hit #21 in the Mother Country. The Stones B-side was a remake of WILLIE DIXON’S “I Want To Be Loved”.
CHUCK BERRY was a pioneer of American rock n roll. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist of some renown to say the least. Berry developed a unique guitar sound with a few moves stolen from T-BONE WALKER and together with the addition of the amazing pianist JOHNNIE JOHNSON the two wrote some of the greatest rock songs: “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958).
In 1964, a tune written and recorded by JOHN LEE HOOKER’s (“DIMPLES”) was released in England as a single and stays on the UK charts for 10 weeks peaking at #23. Immediately THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP adds the tune to their set and recorded their version which charts. The Animals also add it to their set. Next HOWLIN WOLF’S “Smokestack Lightning” charts at #42 but more importantly THE YARDBIRDS, MANFRED MANN, THE ANIMALS and THE WHO add that song to their set lists.
The most significant UK single was a WILLIE DIXON (1961) penned tune “Little Red Rooster” originally recorded by HOWLIN’ WOLF, reworked ever so slightly and released in 1964 by THE ROLLING STONES. Their interpretation charts as #1, the first blues record to top the British charts. London Records THE STONES US record company refused to release the 45 in the states.
Within short order THE ANIMALS release LED BELLY’S “House of the Rising Sun”, THE MOODY BLUES record BESSIE BANKS “Go Now”, THE YARDBIRDS do the same with SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON’S “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, and THE ANIMALS “steal” NINA SIMONE’S “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. And ALL becoming huge hits in England and as well as in the States where the naive record buying public assumed these were original songs for the recording artist.
See you next time….Chapter12-POST WWII- THE BRITS and THE U.S. Comments? email@example.com