Vintage Guitar - September 2018 - Open - 83

Greeny: Bill Glassner/VG Archive. Mick Taylor 'Burst courtesy of Andy Babiuk/Rolling Stones Gear.

years later we still look back and
listen to these albums - and that
they're as fresh and vital as the
day they were made. We're still
chasing them."
"John had a run of great British
guitarists (one after another) with his
Bluesbreakers albums, and that's how
many of us in the States became aware
of them," added Joe Walsh. "Clapton,
Green, Taylor... I studied them all
for hours and became a much better
guitarist as a result. The albums were
legendary stuff."
Blues wasn't new in Britain. English
aficionados began importing American
records just after World War II. In the
'50s, British trombonist Chris Barber
led a movement called trad jazz - a
revival of '20s Dixieland and ragtime
styles that led to a folk/blues/roots offshoot called skiffle, followed by British
R&B, the Beat boom, and ultimately,
the British Invasion. Barber brought
John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Broonzy,
and Muddy Waters to England - and
the attention of band leaders Cyril
Davies, Alexis Korner, and Mayall, as
well as young enthusiasts like Mick
Jagger, Brian Jones, Peter Green, and
Eric Clapton.
The Rolling Stones became
the first significant British blues-rock group
by using songs from
Slim Harpo, Muddy
Waters, Jimmy Reed,
Howlin' Wolf, Bo
Diddley, and Chuck
Berry in their early
repertoire. In August
of 1964, Keith Richards
acquired a '59 Gibson
Les Paul Standard (serial number 9 3182)
fitted with an aftermarket Bigsby
vibrato and was
photographed
with it at a Regent Sound
session that
September.
On October 11, he
played it to
record t he
Stones' rendition of Howlin'
Wolf's "Little Red
Rooster" - the last
cover song the band re-

leased as a single. "Rooster"
climbed to #1 on December
5, and to this day remains
the only blues song to reach
the top of the U.K. charts.
Keith also used the 'Burst
during filming for T.A.M.I. Show,
for touring, and for "Time Is On
My Side" and "Last Time" during
the Stones' performances on "The
Ed Sullivan Show" - events second
in importance only to the Beatles'
playing on Sullivan.
A 'Burst was also seen in the
hands of Jimmy Page at an Andrew
Oldham session, and with Clapton
during Cream's performance at the
'66 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.
Other Brits followed, including the
Animals, Them, Manfred Mann, and
the Yardbirds, whose lineup included
Clapton as an up-and-comer. An
uncompromising blues purist, he
quit the Yardbirds in March of '65, on
the eve of their pop success with "For
Peter Green's famed '59 (left),
later played extensively by
Gary Moore and now used by
Metallica's Kirk Hammett on stages
worldwide. Mick Taylor's Bigsbyequipped 'Burst (right).

Your Love," and recommended
Page as replacement, followed by
Jeff Beck after Page declined. In
April, Clapton was recruited by
John Mayall.
Today, Mayall is considered the
godfather of British blues. A dedicated
performer since the '50s, he moved
from Manchester to London and, in
'63, formed the Bluesbreakers. In '64,
an early incarnation with guitarist
Roger Dean backed John Lee Hooker
on his British tour and recorded John
Mayall Plays John Mayall. When Clapton
joined, the band was between contracts
and cut two songs for Immediate
Records - "I'm Your Witchdoctor"
and "Telephone Blues" - with Page
producing. An incubator for blues/
rock, Mayall's organization was fluid
and transitory, a prolific environment
that groomed artists and created magical sounds, yet didn't maintain lasting
personnel.
With Clapton and his successors,
guitar became more prominent in
Bluesbreakers. When he left to tour
Greece with the Glands in August of '65,
Mayall replaced him with an aspiring
Peter Green, who in turn was dismissed
when Clapton returned in November.
The Bluesbreakers exploded with the
"Beano album" (named for the comic
book an uncooperative Clapton is
shown reading on the
cover), and the guitar
gauntlet was later run
by Green, followed by
Mick Taylor; all three
left a mark before
departing to pursue
more-diverse music; by
'68, Clapton was in his
second year of Cream,
while Green had
launched Fleetwood Mac. By
mid '69, Taylor would be
a Rol l i ng
Stone.
W h a t
did these
Brits have
in common?

BLUES
AND
BURSTS
An avatar in the
British blues movement,

September 2018

83

VINTAGE GUITAR


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