Friday, July 8, 2011

Korner and Jones

Around 1961, Brian Jones (born as Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones on February 28, 1942 in Cheltenham) moved from Cheltenham to London, with plans to form his own rhythm & blues band. Back in 1961 R&B was not common at all in London or the UK, but pioneer Alexis Korner had his band (Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated) playing the Ealing Jazz Club with various people joining him on stage.

From March 1962 on, Brian Jones sat in with Korner’s Blues Incorporated on a regular basis. A major turning point came in May 1962 when Brian put an advertisement in Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) for people interested in forming an R&B band with him. Ian Stewart turned out to be the first person to answer it. From that moment on things went fast, as Bill Wyman describes:

Stu had been born in Scotland into a middle-class family which had moved south to Cheam, Surrey, when he was a baby. In September 1956 he had been called up for National Service, but he was discharged for health reasons after a week or so and began working at the head office of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), as a shipping clerk in their export sales department in London.

Stu said: ‘Brian wanted to form an R&B group. I went and saw him. He was a strange character, but was very knowledgeable. He’d done his homework and was a little like Ken Colyer, deadly serious about the whole thing. He wanted to play Muddy Waters, Blind Boy Fuller and stuff by Jimmy Reed - whom I’d never heard of. He couldn’t find the people he wanted because not many people had heard that Chess and Vee Jay stuff. Then Howlin’ Wolf’s record “Smokestack Lightning” came out in London, and I think that was the style he was really trying to achieve.

Brian started rehearsals at the White Bear pub in Leicester Square. The first rehearsal consisted of a friend of Charlie Watts called Andy Wren (Screaming Lord Sutch’s piano player) who wanted to sing, another piano player who was playing like Count Basie and wasn’t what Brian wanted and Brian on regular and slide guitar.

When Stu returned from a holiday in Scotland, he discovered that Brian had been rehearsing two or three times a week. He joined him for a few sessions. They continued rehearsing in the Bricklayer’s Arms in Lisle Street, Soho. Alexis Korner put Brian in touch with various guitarists and singers and he and Stu spent weeks experimenting with them until they saw a semblance of a group emerging.

Stu said: ‘Then Geoff Bradford came round. He’d worked with Cyril Davies and was into ethnic blues, the sounds of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Elmore James. Geoff was a really good guitar player, deadly serious, and he drew very distinct lines between what he’d play and what he wouldn’t. His mate, Brian Knight, came round, too - a good harmonica player who later became quite a good guitarist.”

Source: Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Book, London, 1991.

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