The British Blues Invasion started in London in 1964, well after the Liverpool scene got into swing, way back in “61. The audiences in the London Blues scene were middle class folk, mainly university and art school students. The material they came to her was the American blues artists like Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon and the like.
Cyril Davis, Alexis Korner and Chris Barber were the artists who who were the founders of the British Blues Invasion.They were the ones who first made the Blues popular in London. It was actually Chris Barber, well known skiffle player, who first started playing adaptions of some American Blues songs. Although this was not pure blues , it was the first time London folk heard the blues.
Two members of Barbers band Cyril Davis (below left) and Alexis Korner (right) left the band and formed Blues Incorporated. These two musicians eventually parted, and Davis formed his All Stars. In the photo above, Cyril Davis is on harmonica, with Alexis Korner seated on guitar. The young vocalist is none other than Mick Jagger. All these musicians were in the forefront on the British blues invasion.
Two members of Barbers band Cyril Davis (above left) and Alexis Korner (right) left the band and formed Blues Incorporated. These two musicians eventually parted, and Davis formed his All Stars.
So, the three founding bands of the British Blues Invasion scene were these two bands and Georgie Fames Blue Flames. From these bands, the Blues scene flourished, with clubs opening around the city. So, what was to become The British Blues Invasion had begun.
The first of these was the Roundhouse, opened by Davis and Korner where they ran the Rhythm and Blues Barrelhouse Club. They also opened the Rhythm and Blues club in 1962. Here is where the Rolling Stones, as well as Manfred Mann and the Pretty Things first played in public. The most famous club, The Marquee, featured the Stones, (where they played their first paid gig) The Yardbirds and Sony BoyWilliams. Blues Inc. and the All Stars regularly played there. Klooks Kleek, West Hampstead, was where John Mayall made his live album, before the famous Beano L.P.
So, began the growth of British Blues, and the emergence of the bands that took the music back to where it started, back to America.
Long John Baldry, and original Blues singer, was gigging way back in the 50’s, and joined the Alexis Korner/Cyril Davis group at the Roundhouse pub in 1961.He then joined Blues Incorporated who played regularly at the Crawdaddy Club, where Keith Richards and Mick Jagger often sat in for a jam. He was featured on on Korners album "R&B"mfrom the Marquee
In 1964, Baldry formed the Hoochie Coochie Men, featuring one Rod Stewart on vocals, and one Reg Dwight on keyboards. The band were popular on the club scene right up to their break up in 1965.
Rod Stewart with the Hoochie Coochie Men, 1965
From there, Steam Packet was formed which included Reg Dwight, (later changing his name to Elton John.) Graham Bond was another original blues player, who never attempted to achieve commercial success. He worked with great musicians who later went on to be major players in the English beat scene. Dick Heckstalll-Smith played sax, and later joined John Mayall and Colleseum. Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker both later worked with Eric Clapton in Cream.
John Mayall and the Buesbreakers contributed two vital things to the British music scene in the 60’s. Good blues music, unconcerned with commercial ambitions, and a breeding ground for great talented young musicians.
Above, John (right) is with Peter Green, guitar, later to form Fleetwood Mac with John McVie, seen here on bass, and Aynsley Dunbar, one of the UK.'s best known drummers. Other great members of the British blues inversion who achieved success both in the U.K. and the U.S.A were The Yardbirds, (who produced three of the greatest guitarists ever), Manfred Mann, The Animals, and, just when we thought we had seen everything……The Pretty Things!