John Mayall is often called “The Godfather of British Blues.” Indeed, in a career spanning more than 50 years, the singer, pianist, harmonica player, guitarist and songwriter has given a musical home to blues and rock guitarists from Eric Clapton to Mick Taylor to Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington. His band, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, was always in the forefront of the musical avant garde and the musicians who played with him read like a “Who’s Who” of contemporary blues. He introduced bass guitarists John McVie and Larry Taylor, drummers Mick Fleetwood and Aynsley Dunbar and horn players Blue Mitchell and Red Holloway. Still, the spotlight has always remained on Mayall, a blues harmonica player of unparalleled talent who could also be counted on to add guitar, keyboards and vocals to his sound. A triple threat as producer, arranger and songwriter, Mayall’s imprint is found on every song.
The artist virtually created the British blues scene in the 1960s and in 1969, took his sound west to California, where he began forming bands with American musicians. His reputation was burnished by his many jazz, rock and blues innovations and a succession of albums including the Grammy-nominated Wake Up Call that featured guest artists Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Albert Collins and Mick Taylor.
Over the course of his performing career and more than 20 albums, John Mayall has always experimented with new interpretations and new vehicles for the classic blues. He sometimes appeared with tight four-man blues bands in the classic tradition, with guitar, bass and drums supporting his harmonica. Other times, he used large ensembles with horn sections and background singers. In 2008, he made the decision to permanently retire the Bluesbreakers name and in 2009, he started a new era of touring with band members Rocky Athas on guitar, Jay Davenport on drums and Greg Rzab on bass. They toured together for more than seven years, averaging some 100 shows a year and are featured players on his last four studio albums. Mayall also released some never-heard live albums from 1967, featuring Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
In August 2016, a thunderstorm prevented Rocky Athas from attending a festival. Mayall and the others performed as a trio. The sound they came up with gave a new slant to the Mayall sound and he made the bold decision to continue as a trio. The three have toured the USA and the world and they released February 2018 album, Three for the Road, recorded in Germany in 2016.
The blues has always been a man’s world, and Mayall is breaking new ground here, too, by hiring Carolyn Wonderland to perform at live shows. She is the first woman to hold the position of lead guitar in any of his bands, and she is one of the featured guitar players on Mayall’s latest studio album, Nobody Told Me, released in February 2019, that also features Todd Rundgren, Joe Bonamassa, Steven Van Zandt, Alex Lifeson and Larry McCray on selected cuts.
The “Godfather of British Blues” is coming to town with a sound that has evolved over five decades. This is a rare opportunity to hear one of the greats.
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