Long John Baldry, 1941-2005
From the London Telegraph:
Long John Baldry, who died on July 21 aged 64, was one of the leading figures on the British blues scene in the 1960s; during his career he made more than 40 albums, and is also credited with nurturing the early careers of Rod Stewart and Sir Elton John.
Baldry made his name in the early part of the decade, when his deep, rich voice accompanied Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, perhaps the best-known British blues band of the era. He had acquired the sobriquet "Long John" owing to his lofty frame: he stood 6ft 7in tall.
John William Baldry was born on January 12 1941 at Haddon, Derbyshire, but grew up in London, where he attended grammar school. As a teenager he came under the spell of American blues artists such as Leadbelly, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and was inspired to take up the guitar.
He was soon well known on the London club scene, whose leading lights at the time were Korner and Cyril Davies. Korner and Davies launched Blues Incorporated - Britain's first amplified blues band - in 1962, choosing Baldry as lead singer; he can be heard to good effect on their album R&B at the Marquee.
In those early days Baldry had a devoted female following; once, when he was performing for a 21st birthday party at a country house in Yorkshire, he caused some outrage when he was discovered writhing with a girl under the billiard table.
Among the band's fans were John Mayall and several future members of the Rolling Stones. Baldry was to perform with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Charlie Watts, as well as with the guitarists Jimmy Page and Jack Bruce; Eric Clapton was another admirer, and for their televised special in 1964 the Beatles invited Baldry to perform his version of I Got My Mojo Working.
After Korner and Davies decided to go their separate ways, Baldry joined the Cyril Davies All-Stars; but, after Davies's death from leukaemia in 1964, Baldry took over leadership of the group, re-naming it the Hoochie Coochie Men. He hired Rod Stewart as a fellow vocalist after hearing him sing on the platform at Twickenham railway station.
Towards the end of the decade Baldry led a band called Bluesology, which included as pianist Reginald Dwight, later Elton John, who took his new surname in homage to Long John Baldry. In 1971 Elton John and Rod Stewart were to repay their debt to Baldry when they co-produced his album It Ain't Easy.
When blues and R&B began to fall out of favour, Baldry made a brief excursion into mainstream pop, a move that yielded a hit in 1967 with Let the Heartaches Begin and another the next year with Mexico.
In 1973 Baldry threatened to sue a witches' coven after it sacrificed his tabby cat, Stupzi, in a "Ceremony of the New Moon" in Highgate Woods, north London, having taken his pet for a stray. Not long afterwards he moved to America, where he recorded Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock 'n' Roll.
In 1978, having lived in New York and Los Angeles, Baldry decided to settle in Vancouver, British Columbia. He became a Canadian citizen three years later, and regularly toured the west coast of Canada and north-western America.
Baldry occasionally returned to Britain to perform, most recently in 2003. Two of his most popular albums, It Ain't Easy and Everything Stops For Tea, are due to be re-issued shortly, and he had been planning an extensive tour this year, but fell ill in April with a chest infection from which he never recovered.