John Mayall's bold fusion of rock and blues in the '60s, with his legendary group, Bluesbreakers, was a pivotal chapter in the history of rock. That group, which he founded in London in 1963, included at various times such future rock 'n' roll greats as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
Mayall was born 65 years ago today in Manchester, England. He began playing ukulele, guitar and piano as a youth, and worked as a window dresser before forming his first band, the Powerhouse Four.
Mayall entered the army when he was 18; art school and a career as a graphic artist followed before Mayall formed the Blues Syndicate in 1962, moving to London the next year.
The Bluesbreakers' first LP, 1964's John Mayall Plays John Mayall, featured McVie on bass and Clapton on guitar. That paved the way for 1965's Bluesbreakers -- John Mayall with Eric Clapton, arguably one of the finest blues-rock albums of all time and a record that heavily influenced the nascent British blues movement of the mid-'60s.
Green stepped into Clapton's guitar role when the latter departed the Bluesbreakers to found Cream in 1966. Green contributed his equally inspired riffs to the 1967 Bluesbreaker's masterpiece, A Hard Road.
But he soon split with Mayall to form Fleetwood Mac with drummer Mick Fleetwood, who also was a Bluesbreaker for a brief period. McVie, Mayall's longest-running bandmember, also departed to join Fleetwood Mac.
Teenager and future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, first heard on Crusade(1967), replaced Green. Also that year, The Blues Alone featured Mayall on all the instruments except drums.
The next year's Bare Wires came with the title cut, an extended blues suite that presaged a move to a more jazz-oriented sound for the Bluesbreakers. Mayall then moved to the U.S. and recorded Blues From Laurel Canyon. The acoustic The Turning Point (1969) included one of Mayall's best-known original songs, "Room to Move."
The '70s were less kind to Mayall, and by mid-decade he had lost most of his
voice and a good part of his following. Ironically, many of his former
employees were having success in their own careers.
In 1982, Mayall re-teamed with Taylor and McVie for Bluesbreakers reunion gigs
in the U.S. and Australia. Mayall has been largely absent from the music scene
in recent years. Earlier this month, BMG/Silvertone released As It All Began: The Best of
Other birthdays: Chuck Mangione, 58; Denny Doherty (the Mamas & the Papas), 57; Felix Cavaliere (Rascals), 54; Barry Goudreau (Boston), 47; Sally Timms (Mekons), 39; Greg Lisher (Camper Van Beethoven), 35; Martin Carr (Boo Radleys), 30; and Jon Knight (New Kids on the Block), 30.