John Mayall could have rested on his laurels years ago. He has helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest rock musicians in the world. Dropping a few names would include Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Coco Montoya and Walter Trout. Undoubtedly these are some of the finest guitarists in the blues-rock world. Add Mick Fleetwood, John McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Aynsley Dunbar (Journey, Jefferson Starship, UFO, Zappa, Bowie, etc.) and Andy Fraser (Free) and you have quite an alumni group. Even Jack Bruce had a brief stay before leaving with Clapton to form Cream.
Nearing his 80th birthday, John has continued to record and tour non-stop. John’s website states his catalog has 56 official releases as of 2007. It also states that with compilations, re-titled albums and bootlegs that there is no telling how many different recordings are out there.
John was born in a village just outside Manchester in England on November 29, 1933. His father’s 78 rpm record collection provided John with his first exposure to blues and jazz. He was determined to learn to play. At 14, he attended Manchester’s Junior School of Art. Here he had access to a piano and soon learned the basics. He continued learning guitar and soon added the harmonica.
After two years at art school, he took a job in the art department of a major department store, and then spent three years of National Service in the Royal Engineers in England and Korea playing whenever he could. Not many people were interested in the blues until 1962 when a club devoted to blues music opened in Ealing.
John quit his graphic design job and moved to London. He started putting together musicians under The Bluesbreakers banner. Things took off and soon they were backing up John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Sonny Boy Williamson on their first trips to England.
After a couple of years and many personnel changes, John offered Eric Clapton the gig as guitarist after he quit the Yardbirds. The result was the album “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton”. By the time the all time best selling album had reached the charts, Clapton had already left the group to form Cream.
In 1969, John released the all acoustic live album called “The Turning Point”. It included their classic hit “Room to Move”. He received a gold record for this album.
John was attracted to the lifestyle and climate of California and moved permanently to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. John now began playing with American musicians in the 1970s. Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel quit Canned Heat to join The Bluesbreakers. John also recorded with saxophonist Red Holloway and trumpeter Blue Mitchell.
In the 1980s Coco Montoya and Walter Trout shared the stage as guitarists for The Bluesbreakers. Both guitarists eventually left to go on to form their own bands. In 1993, Buddy Whittington replaced Coco.
In 2008 John decided to retire. After years of heavy touring, he reluctantly announced he was taking an indefinite break and retiring the “Bluesbreakers” name.
Fortunately in 2009 Eagle Records approached John about doing another record. Having a few months off seemed to rejuvenate John and he agreed to put another band together to do the album. The album they released is titled “Tough”.
The band he put together includes another Texas guitar slinger named Rocky Athas. Rocky was introduced to John by former guitarist Buddy Whittington a few years earlier. Completing the band is Greg Rzab on bass and Chicagoan Jay Davenport on drums. This group has also put out a live London show on CD and DVD.
Come out and help John start celebrating his 80th birthday at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg, Ill. on Oct. 19, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are still available for $38.00. Seniors and students pay only $36.00.