Thread: The 25 Best Blues Rock Bands

a_shell - 8/27/2008 at 07:39 PM bands

This a pretty good list. I would've like to have seen NMAS on the list though

CowboyNeil - 8/27/2008 at 07:59 PM

What no GD with Pigpen singing the Blues?

Bhawk - 8/27/2008 at 08:16 PM

I'm not a fan of this particular writer, but this list is decent. Although, I'd rearrange the order a bit...

cupofjo - 8/27/2008 at 09:11 PM

A lot of good names on that list. Order is always up for interpretation.

I am impressed with the mix of old and new. Very impressed Gov't Mule made the list.

I just wish Back Door Slam would have made that list. Then again it may take a little while as they are beginning. Same a NMAS.

hughduty - 8/27/2008 at 09:28 PM

not bad...I'd put Canned Heat higher up,tho.'s the previous post & discussion on it.... p;file=viewthread&tid=79561

dutchoneill - 8/27/2008 at 10:23 PM

not bad...I'd put Canned Heat higher up,tho.'s the previous post & discussion on it.... p;file=viewthread&tid=79561

a_shell - 8/27/2008 at 10:45 PM

quote:'s the previous post & discussion on it....

thanks, i did a quick look and search and didn't find it. sorry all for the double topic post.

KPRESTN712 - 8/27/2008 at 10:49 PM

Black Sabbath??????? I would include Savoy Brown on that list

OldDirtRoad - 8/27/2008 at 10:53 PM

Black Sabbath??????? I would include Savoy Brown on that list

I was just getting ready to mention Savoy Brown. The only band I love just as much as the ABB. Those first 4 or 5 CD's were the sh*t.

So glad you brought them up.

When I Was A Young Boy - Savoy Brown

[Edited on 8/27/2008 by OldDirtRoad]

Rydethwind - 8/27/2008 at 11:03 PM

Not a bad list but Canned heat i agree should have been higher as should Ten Years after and the Yardbirds..but not bad..

Fujirich - 8/27/2008 at 11:21 PM

Soooo good to see Robin Trower get some love in a piece like that

Robin deserves so much more appreciation. I hope that before he stops touring, his fame and ability to draw a crowd goes up a few notches so that he gets to play larger halls again. He deserves to be in bigger venuse than the club tours he's been doing. What I wouldn't give to see Robin in a hall like the Beacon, the Fox in Atlanta, the Chicago Theater, or something similar.

He deserves to once again let loose in a bigger hall. Daydream indeed!

BarrySmith - 8/27/2008 at 11:24 PM

I can't seem to figure out what NMAS is?

I consider Hot Tuna a blues rock band.

Dylan started out with the blues but got caught up in the folk/protest thing. However the blues never really left him.

David Bromberg was a bluesman.

Also George Thorogood & The Destroyers, although he apparently gets on people's nerves I suppose.

OldDirtRoad - 8/28/2008 at 12:01 AM

I can't seem to figure out what NMAS is?

I'm not sure if you mean the initials or the type music they play.

North Mississippi All Stars

LaGrange - North Mississippi All-Stars @ Bonnaroo 07'

North Mississippi Allstars - Stompin My Foot

[Edited on 8/28/2008 by OldDirtRoad]

KPRESTN712 - 8/28/2008 at 12:43 AM

Old Dirt Road. Savoy Brown is one of my favorites too. My father got me into them. I saw them a couple of times. Kim Simmonds is one good guitar player. He jammed with the Mule on a show back in the Woody days. Kim had some kind words to say about the Mule. He was also sad when he heard of Woody's passing. A Gov't Mule/ Savoy Brown tour would be awesome.

PhotoRon286 - 8/28/2008 at 12:56 AM


3) Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble: Stevie Ray Vaughan was the man who was supposed to bring the blues into the 21st Century and judging by how many Guitar Magazine covers he's been on, I'd say he's doing it even if he isn't alive to help see it through. He did so by remaining true to the tradition while still expanding the range. And by that much valued asset of playing very, very loud.


playallnite - 8/28/2008 at 01:26 AM

I love Savoy Brown: Gettin to the Point, Looking In, Raw Sienna, A Step Further all classics. BTW What ever happened to Chris Youlden? TIA

OldDirtRoad - 8/28/2008 at 02:11 AM

Old Dirt Road. Savoy Brown is one of my favorites too. My father got me into them. I saw them a couple of times. Kim Simmonds is one good guitar player. He jammed with the Mule on a show back in the Woody days. Kim had some kind words to say about the Mule. He was also sad when he heard of Woody's passing. A Gov't Mule/ Savoy Brown tour would be awesome.

I would love that Tour. Only if Dave came back.

Kim has done the singing for a few years and on quite a few albums. His voice is okay, but plain.

At one time they held the record for most musician changes, I think they still do.

I have every studio release they have put out. Some great members in that band over the years.

Always good to see another fan.

OldDirtRoad - 8/28/2008 at 02:41 AM

I love Savoy Brown: Gettin to the Point, Looking In, Raw Sienna, A Step Further all classics. BTW What ever happened to Chris Youlden? TIA

not sure of the date of this interview

When and how were you introduced to Graham Vickery?

At the time I was getting into the Blues I would have been around seventeen and he had a chart hit with, “Smokestack Lightning” and I was immediately hooked. I went and bought every other record of his I could find. Since those days, Graham and I have kept in touch and through the years I’ve sat in with his band many times. We’ve also done the occasional gig with other bands and sporadic duo gigs as well.

Your time with Shakey Vick’s: Did your time in the band help you in your growth as an artist and in your education in the Blues? Was it a Blues “apprenticeship” of sorts?

Oh, yes! We first met around 1963. At that time, a friend, John White, and I decided to form what was to be my first band. We advertised in the musicians bible of those days, the Melody Maker, for like-minded people and Graham answered the call. We had some difficulty in finding bass players and drummers who were familiar with what we wanted to do- Chicago Blues along the lines of Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf etc. so we made do with drummers obtained from the aforementioned MM for the occasional gig or audition. Oh, by the way, we called it the Down Home Blues Band. Unusually for the time, at least as far as Blues was concerned, Graham and I wrote the material. Eventually, in 1964, we entered the R&B competition run by the National Jazz Federation at the Marquee Club and did well enough to be offered a gig there. After a while, John decided to call it a day and the band broke up.

My next move was to join an R&B band local to my home at the time in Dagenham. It included the bass player Ray Chappell who of course went on to join Savoy Brown and subsequently introduced me to the band. Graham and I had stayed in touch and after that band broke up, we formed a Country-Blues duo called, Buck & Wing and we’d do folk clubs.

When I left home in 1965 I stayed with Graham and his family in West Central London for a while before getting my own place nearby. In the same year we joined a South London R&B band led by Bill and Frances McGillivray. In 1966, we got together with Dave and John Peverett to form the Lonesome Jax Blues Band. The bass player was Jim Bailkie. We also ran a Blues club called the Stormy Monday. After that I joined a soul band where I first encountered bass player Steve Yorke and Graham formed the first Shakey Vick band (personnel Rod Price gtr, Ron Skinner bass, Mel Wright drums.)

Looking back to that time in 1967 it all seems a little chaotic. Bands formed for two or three gigs and some musicians were in three or four bands at the same time. Really, it was whoever got a gig would call the musicians he or she knew to see who was available. I can recall, for example, working with Stones Masonry (Martin Stone gtr, Will Stallibrass harp, Keith Tillman bass and Pete Thomas drums) and the great Jazz and Blues pianist Johnny Parker and also Bob Hall, Jo Ann Kelly and Dave Kelly.

I did solo spots at a West London club, worked with bands whose names I’m afraid now escape me and deputized for Bryce Portius in Savoy Brown when he was sick. When Graham had a gig at a place called, The Hole in the Ground, I’d go and do that one. I think the most off-the-wall thing I did was with a free form jazz group got together by Steve Yorke at the UFO club. My role was to declaim poetry over the music in a suitably majestic voice.

Throughout your career you’ve seemed to prefer a simpler approach to the Blues. Graham Vickery, since his days in Shakey Vick’s Big City Blues Band right up until today, has always been described as a Blues purist when it comes to his style and interpretations. In this way, it would seem that your approaches are very compatible and complimentary. Accurate?

Well, I wouldn’t describe myself as a purist in the sense that I like all forms of Blues and some of the content of many other types of music as well; R&B, Soul, Jazz, Folk and C&W. Again, as far as my own output with Savoy Brown and as a solo artist is concerned, my intention has been to stretch the Blues a bit to incorporate other elements into it, for example, a different rhythm or chord sequence. But if you decide to do Chicago Blues as we did with Movin’ Along, then I think you have to stay true to the musical form and not mess around with it.

Did you feel that the heavier treatment being applied to the Blues, and the marathon guitar soloing that came along with it, by the Led Zeppelins and Creams etc was unnecessary and diluted the essence of the Blues?

I have to say that much though I admire the talent and ability of heavy Rock guitarists, I wish I had it!, and again it’s no mean thing to have created a whole new musical genre which was the foundation for everything in Rock that came after it- I don’t feel much of an affinity with heavy Rock music. (Ed's note: Chris Youlden clarified this later in the interview : "Speaking of sixties music, I think, on reflection, I ought to revise my earlier statement about having no affinity with Rock. In actual fact, of course, there were many artists and bands that I admired: Steve Winwood/Traffic, Steve Miller and Lowell George/Little Feat.)

What inspires your writing?

As to what inspires me to write, I guess my own personal experience of life, observations of other peoples’ lives and a mixture of the two. Also, the imagining of what other peoples’ lives and situations might be like. If you’re in love, you’ll write a love song. If you’ve just been sold a bum used car you’ll write a cynical song about used car salesmen. You might overhear a conversation or hear about somebody having a hard time and those things might provide the stimulus for a storyline. Here you inject your own experience, i.e. “What did it feel like when a similar thing happened to me?” or use your imagination, “What would I feel like if it was me?” Then again, you might construct a totally imaginary situation. I’ll try to illustrate what I’ve said.

“Stay While The Night Is Young” (penned by Youlden for the 1970 Savoy Brown album, Raw Sienna) is an example of a song that just seems to appear in the head. It was two o’clock in the morning on a beautiful summer night in L.A. I can remember looking out of the hotel window at the city lights and feeling very mellow. All of a sudden the lyrics and melody line of the first verse just came to me. I picked up the guitar, blocked in the chords and took it from there- a pure stream of consciousness thing. I had it down in ten minutes.

A big inspiration to me as far as writing Blues is concerned was Willie Dixon. His songs usually have great riffs and clever combinations of vocal lines. In the song, “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me” which I wrote for the Second Sight album (1995- Line Records), I tried to get his vocal patterns. To quote from the song, “You can smooth-talk your grocer and let him pay your bill. You can sweet-talk your banker and change his won’t to will.”

Another guy that influenced me a great deal musically was Ray Charles, particularly his keyboard playing, band arrangements and song structures. One example would be, “I’m Tired” (from the 1969 Savoy Brown LP, A Step Further) with its alternating E7-A7 pattern in the verses ending on the B7#9 chord and the stops in the middle 8. Another would be, “A Hard Way To Go” (Raw Sienna) which has a verse pattern of Gm7-C9-Gm7-C9-D7#9, Gm7-C9-Gm7, Eb9-D7#9-Gm7 followed by a change in time signature in the middle 8 with a Jazz influence. The guitar phrase in unison at the end G,F,D,C#,C,Bb,G-Bb emulates a brass line.

What was your first introduction to Chicago Blues?

As far as Chicago Blues and Country Blues were concerned, I have to thank the guy I mentioned earlier, John White, for introducing me to them. That would have been around 1962. He brought around two EPs one day which I still have today. One of them was a compilation, featuring Muddy Waters,’ “Honey Bee,” John Lee Hooker’s, “Whistlin’ and Moanin’ Blues,” Big Bill Broonzey’s, “Letter To My Baby,” and Sonny Terry and Alex Stewart’s, “Saturday Evening.” The other had, “The Road Is Rough” and “Crawlin’ Black Spider”- versions of, “Hobo Blues” and “Crawlin’ King Snake.”

Incidentally, John was also responsible or me taking up the guitar. I always sang along with Rock and Roll and Blues records, but it was his idea to form a band. He decided to make his own guitar and gave me the acoustic guitar he already had.

How did the Maxwell Street project come together?

Well, the project was originally conceived by Graham and Mel (Wright, drums)). The idea was to try and recreate the sort of music we were interested in when we started out. Pete (Moody, bass) and Bernie (Pallo, lead guitar) got involved and we took it from there.

There are some seasoned pros providing some fine musical accompaniment on this EP. It’s got a raw and gritty feel to it. How did the tracks come together?

Well, when the idea was put to me I didn’t have any songs in the Chicago Blues genre to hand so we decided to use Graham’s material. Bernie and I went round to Graham’s place and we had an acoustic rehearsal; we worked out guitar parts, how the vocals were going to be approached etc. We then had a day in rehearsals with Pete and Mel followed by a day in the studio and another one for mixing. It was great. Everything, including the vocals, was recorded at the same time in one or two takes. It helped immensely that the engineer, Mick Wigfall, is a fine musician in his own right who had a knowledge of what we were trying to achieve.

You contribute vocals on two of the four tracks. Did you approach your vocal takes any differently given who you were playing with or the nature of the project?

The type of song, the style of music and even the key to the song all influence the vocal approach as do, of course, the lyrics. If I’d done a solo version of, say, “Movin’ Along,” I would have sung it the same way.

It’s a fun listen. The CD photos show a lot of smiling faces too. Were the recording sessions pretty laid back and a good time?

Yeah, the experience was very enjoyable. Mind you, when I’ve got the time, I sit down and play things like, “Honey Bee” and “Hobo Blues” for my own amusement. They were two of the first Blues I ever learnt.

This is the first time you’ve had the chance to record with Graham Vickery. How different would the music have been if you had the chance to record in the 60s as opposed to now?

In the 1960s the results would have been very much worse!

Future plans for Maxwell Street? Gigs? Further recording?

As far as Maxwell Street is concerned we’re taking it one step at a time. Originally, it was conceived purely as a recording project. However, we’ll consider any offers for live gigs that come in.
Future plans for Chris Youlden?

I consider everything that comes in and I am always open to offers.

Generally speaking, especially early on, audiences in North America were more receptive to Savoy Brown than those in the UK, but they also demanded a lot more from performers too. What are some of your memories about your first performances in front of audiences in America and the differences between the two.

I think one of the reasons why American audiences tended to be more receptive to Savoy Brown was precisely that they were more demanding, which consequently brought out the best in us. In a sense, what became the Savoy Brown ‘act’ evolved during our first US tour and the set tightened up considerably. For the first three or four gigs we didn’t make much of an impression. Then the “Savoy Brown Boogie” and “Louisiana Blues” were developed and extended-fifteen to twenty minutes of length for each of them- more with an encore. Kim and the band put the “Purple Haze” and “Rock’n’Roll” inserts into the “Boogie” and I developed a more extrovert stage persona which invited audience participation (a ferocious twenty-two minute version of the “Savoy Brown Boogie” was recorded live and released on the A Step Further LP in 1969. This version of the “Boogie” medley featured, “Feel So Good,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Little Queenie,” “Purple Haze” and “Hernando’s Hideaway”). I also reintroduced the top hat and cigar, which I had previously dropped, and the whole thing struck a chord with audiences and just took off.

Of course, what I’ve said makes it sound as if it was planned but in fact most of it was just spontaneous and improvised. Kim’s solo guitar work, for example. For myself, the stage act emerged as a kind of feedback effect with the audience.

It was in Detroit at the Grande Ballroom that the whole thing came together for the first time. As the set progressed we were getting an increasingly enthusiastic reception. Then, Kim and the band really won them over with, “Louisiana Blues” and we finally got on to the “Boogie.” As the song went on the people at the front began to stand and jump around-some clapping their hands and I responded to that by encouraging more of the audience to do the same. By now the band was really hitting its stride and then there was a fever-pitch atmosphere in the place. Then I invited the audience, or as many as there was space for, on to the stage to dance and the room erupted and we all went nicely insane. Again, this wasn’t planned on my part, I was just responding to the reaction of the audience.

From then on the tour became successful and we took that act around the rest of the USA. Here I must give honourable mention to a guy who used to get up and dance with us at the Fillmore East in New York. He was called John Ford Noonan, usually known only as ‘Noonan’ and could he dance! 'Noonan' was also a playwright and I still have a copy of his play, “The Day Boston Won the Pennant” to this day. I believe he’s now living in California.

Another reason why American audiences were more favourable to Savoy Brown was probably because of the advent of FM radio in the 1960s. These stations played almost exclusively ‘underground’- anything that was wasn’t AM Pop music- and the DJ didn’t have to work with a playlist. It was up to him what he played. That meant Savoy Brown could go into any town or city in the US, talk to the local FM jock, tell the people about the gig that night and get the band’s records played. Contrast this with the situation in the UK where the government had made the ‘pirate’ offshore radio stations of the early 60s illegal. These stations had been responsible for breaking what was the new music of the era. So, you were left with the monopoly the BBC exercised and apart from one weekly program, Alexis Korner’s R&B Show, there was very little, if any, airtime available for anything that wasn’t chart single material. Speaking of sixties music, I think, on reflection, I ought to revise my earlier statement about having no affinity with Rock. In actual fact, of course, there were many artists and bands that I admired: Steve Winwood/Traffic, Steve Miller and Lowell George/Little Feat.

A third reason for Savoy’s greater success in America might have been that, for US audiences, that particular line-up of the band was the first they had seen and experienced whereas in the UK that hadn’t been the case. In Britain, the Shake Down band (Savoy Brown’s 1967 debut album, Shake Down, with vocalist Bryce Portius) had been the original Savoy Brown and they had emerged in the mid-sixties at a time when the sort of Blues they and John Mayall played was far more of a cult thing, although there was a thriving Folk-Blues club scene played by people like Jo Ann Kelly, Dave Kelly, Tony McPhee and Bob Hall. In fact, Mayall with Eric Clapton and later Peter Green was by far the most successful of the British Blues players back then and, if my memory serves me right, the Bluesbreakers were the only band apart from Savoy to regularly play the circuit.

The new big thing on the scene at the time was the music of people like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett etc- ‘sixties soul.’ I remember having a conversation with Savoy’s manager before I joined the band in which he attributed some of their success to the stage act of the original singer Bryce Portius. Because Bryce had a performing style that soul audiences could relate to they could get booked at a lot of places that other Blues bands couldn’t get into.

What became, after a period of confusion and disruption, the new Savoy line-up was very different in personnel, programming and presentation. Consequently, we probably alienated the mainstream fans who had been attracted by Bryce’s image and performance. This meant that whereas we did well on the emerging Blues club and college circuit, the reverse was true of some of the places the 'Shake Down' band had previously played. However, by mid ‘68 we were beginning to overcome the problem and at the end of my period with the band we did a UK nationwide tour with Jethro Tull and Terry Reid and appeared on the flagship chart TV show Top Of the Pops promoting the single version of “A Hard Way To Go.”

The early days weren’t all gloom and doom- there was a humorous side, too. Picture the scene- it was the day before Christmas Eve, we’d been working solidly six nights a week for a few months and were looking forward to a few days off over Christmas. This particular night we were scheduled to play in a place called Bellingham. To appreciate what follows you have to bear in mind that although the UK is a small country, dwarfed in size by most US states, the road system at the time was virtually undeveloped so that it took longer to travel half the distance from, say, New York to Boston, and also the date-sheets usually only specified the name, address and town of a venue , not the county, or, as in the US, the state. So, in American terms, the sheet would read, the Alambra Theatre, Atlantic City, without mentioning New Jersey. So, it was left to the roadie to verify the exact location and work out the route.

Anyway, Brian Wilcox, our roadie, had located Bellingham in a very rural area of England called East Anglia- the main grain producing area of Britain- a mini mid-west- and had calculated that we might do the trip in four hours. So, we met up at Charing Cross station in London, our usual pick-up point, at 4pm and started off. It was a bitterly cold day, it was sleeting and snowing, and the weather conditions were atrocious. We weaved our way through the narrow country lanes and farm tracks of East Anglia, finally arriving at 10pm, a journey of six hours. Bellingham turned out to be a one-street village with a few lights and nothing happening to speak of. Casting around for a venue, Brian woke up the caretaker of the church hall, the only likely looking place, who told him there was far from anything going on. Brian phoned Harry (Kim Simmonds’ brother) the manager and alerted him to the situation. “There’s been a misprint on the date-sheet,” Harry replied. “It’s not Bellingham but Billingham. It’s a college gig in Northumberland, which is about as far north in the UK you can go before hitting Scotland.” So, Brian did a quick calculation and said, “There’s no way we can reach that now. It will take us another six hours at least.” “No worries,” said Harry, “It’s a college all-nighter. I’ll call and explain the situation and they’ll put you on last.” Back in the van we went and reversed our journey, heading west and finally hitting the great highway to the north- ‘The Great North Road.’ We got to this college at 4am, set the gear up and did an hour set. Then, after a momentary pause, we set off on the long journey home. Allowing for stops for meals and refreshments along the way, fried pork rolls in Northumberland and two chickens on a raft (eggs on toast) in Birmingham, we arrived back at Charing Cross at 1pm Saturday. All in a day, or maybe two days, work!

A general comment to end this question: probably the biggest difference between British and American audiences was that, at least as far as Blues was concerned, it took on the persona of modern Jazz- it was serious music to be listened to. Also, British people were far more reserved in those days. In America, in contrast, the audiences were far more influenced by the spirit of West Coast Acid-Rock, with its ethos of getting out of your head and as the phrase then went, “Letting it all hang out.” These days, British audiences are very much more like American ones.

[Edited on 8/28/2008 by OldDirtRoad]

playallnite - 8/28/2008 at 03:16 AM

Thanks so much ODR you are a wealth of information, it's apreciated.

fast43 - 8/28/2008 at 03:21 AM

The White Stripes & Black Sabbath ?

leafsfan - 8/28/2008 at 03:23 AM

ABB Behind Sabbath??? Sabbath in the list at all??? Who's 26th on the list Metallica????

jszfunk - 8/28/2008 at 11:45 AM

I think alot of those bands are more rock first then the blues, but with Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac I feel they were a little more blues first than rock.If that makes any sense. Probably the best of them all.

OldDirtRoad - 8/28/2008 at 12:10 PM

Thanks so much ODR you are a wealth of information, it's apreciated.

Your welcome my friend.

BIGV - 8/28/2008 at 12:54 PM

Here are the top 17 from that list...(I stopped @ Rory Gallagher)

1) Cream
2) Led Zeppelin
3) SRV
4) Rolling Stones
5) Hendrix
6) Trower
7) Paul Butterfield
8) Fleetwood Mac
9) Jeff Beck
10) Animals
11) Black Sabbath
12) ABB
13) Yardbirds
14) ZZ Top
15) Gary Moore
16) Gov't Mule
17) Rory Gallagher

What would you change?

BarrySmith - 8/28/2008 at 12:54 PM

What obnoxious comments Rob O'Connor makes about Johnny Winter. He is basically saying that albinos are freaks that deserve ridicule and rejection. WHo does he think he is?

As far as Johnny Winter is concerned, I have a lot of admiration for him. He's one kick ass blues guitarist, definitely one of the masters of blues guitar. His so-called disabiliity hasn't held him down. Neither his brother Edgar who is a musical genious in his own right.

CowboyNeil - 8/28/2008 at 01:27 PM

i don't know I'd have to have put Roy Buchanan up there, he seems to get overlooked but He was a master of the telecaster!

playallnite - 8/28/2008 at 03:01 PM

Quote: don't know I'd have to have put Roy Buchanan up there, he seems to get overlooked but He was a master of the telecaster!: Unquote

I agree he certainly belongs there but maybe Roy isn't considered a "band" . However they did forget the J. Geils Band more of a blues band than Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer, this is why I HATE all these stupid lists,ughh.

bluedrummer - 8/28/2008 at 09:56 PM

Middle period Spooky Tooth with Mike Harrison's vocals always tripped m out...I still think their cover of I Am The Walrus is the definitive version(app.To the Fab Four) And Harrison and Gary Wright are damn well scary on Tobacco Road.
And put me on the Savoy Brown train Hellbound or not.
Joe Cocker and the Grease Band

jszfunk - 8/29/2008 at 12:56 AM

I think alot of those bands are more rock first then the blues, but with Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac I feel they were a little more blues first than rock.If that makes any sense. Probably the best of them all.

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