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Ester Phillips 8/1984

Esther Phillips amazing R&B/Jazz voiceAugust 7, 1984 – Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones on December 23, 1935. in Galveston Texas. She began singing in church as a young child. When her parents divorced, she split time between her father in Houston and her mother in the Watts area of Los Angeles.

It was while she was living in Los Angeles in 1949 that her sister entered her in a talent show at a nightclub belonging to bluesman Johnny Otis. So impressed was Otis with the 13-year-old that he brought her into the studio for a recording session with Modern Records and added her to his live revue.

Billed as Little Esther, she scored her first success when she was teamed with the vocal quartet the Robins (who later evolved into the Coasters) on the Savoy single “Double Crossin’ Blues.” It was a massive hit, topping the R&B charts in early 1950 and paving the way for a series of successful singles bearing Little Esther’s name: “Mistrustin’ Blues,” “Misery,” “Cupid Boogie,” and “Deceivin’ Blues.”

In 1951, Little Esther moved from Savoy and Johnny Otis to Federal after a dispute over royalties, but despite being the brightest female star in Otis’ revue, she was unable to duplicate her impressive string of hits. Furthermore, she and Otis had a falling out, reportedly over money, which led to her departure from his show; she remained with Federal for a time, then moved to Decca in 1953, again with little success.

In 1954, she returned to Houston to live with her father, having already developed a fondness for the temptations of life on the road; by the late ’50s, her experiments with hard drugs had developed into a definite addiction to heroin. She re-signed with Savoy in 1956, to little avail, and went on to cut sides for Federal and (in 1960) Warwick, which went largely ignored.

Short on money, Little Esther worked in small nightclubs around the South, punctuated by periodic hospital stays in Lexington, KY, stemming from her addiction. In 1962, she was rediscovered while singing at a Houston club by future country star Kenny Rogers, who got her signed to his brother’s Lenox label. Too old to be called Little Esther, she re-christened herself Esther Phillips, choosing her last name from a nearby Phillips gas station.

She recorded a country-soul reading of the soon-to-be standard “Release Me,” which was released as a single late in the year. In the wake of Ray Charles’ groundbreaking country-soul hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Release Me” was a smash, topping the R&B charts and hitting the Top Ten on both the pop and country charts. Back in the public eye, Phillips recorded a country-soul album of the same name, but Lenox went bankrupt in 1963.

Thanks to her recent success, Phillips was able to catch on with R&B giant Atlantic, which initially recorded her in a variety of musical settings to see what niche she might fill best. It was eventually decided to play up her more sophisticated side and accordingly, Phillips cut a blues-tinged album of jazz and pop standards; her string-laden remake of the Beatles song “And I Love Him” (naturally, with the gender changed) nearly made the R&B Top Ten in 1965 and the Beatles flew her to the U.K. for her first overseas performances.

Encouraged, Atlantic pushed her into even jazzier territory for her next album, Esther Phillips Sings; however, it didn’t generate much response and was somewhat eclipsed by her soul reading of Percy Sledge’s “When a Woman Loves a Man” (again, with the gender changed), which made the R&B charts.

Nonplussed, Atlantic returned to their former tactic of recording Phillips in as many different styles as possible, but none of the resulting singles really caught on and the label dropped her in late 1967.

With her addiction worsening, Phillips checked into a rehab facility; while undergoing treatment, she cut some sides for Roulette in 1969 and upon her release, she moved to Los Angeles and re-signed with Atlantic. A late-1969 live gig at Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper club produced the album Burnin’, which was acclaimed as one of the best, most cohesive works of Phillips’ career.

Despite that success, Atlantic still wanted her to record pop tunes with less grit and when their next attempts failed to catch on, Phillips was let go a second time. In 1971, she signed with producer Creed Taylor’s Kudu label, a subsidiary of his hugely successful jazz fusion imprint CTI.

Her label debut, From a Whisper to a Scream, was released in 1972 to strong sales and highly positive reviews, particularly for her performance of Gil Scott-Heron’s wrenching heroin-addiction tale “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.”

Phillips recorded several more albums for Kudu over the next few years and enjoyed some of the most prolonged popularity of her career, performing in high-profile venues and numerous international jazz festivals. In 1975, she scored her biggest hit single since “Release Me” with a disco-fied update of Dinah Washington’s “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” (Top Ten R&B, Top 20 pop), and the accompanying album of the same name became her biggest seller yet.

In 1977, Phillips left Kudu for Mercury, landing a deal that promised her the greatest creative control of her career. She recorded four albums for the label, but none matched the commercial success of her Kudu output and after 1981’s A Good Black Is Hard to Crack, she found herself without a record deal.

Her last R&B chart single was 1983’s “Turn Me Out,” a one-off for the small Winning label; unfortunately, her health soon began to fail, the culmination of her previous years of addiction combined with a more recent flirtation with the bottle. Phillips died in Los Angeles on August 7, 1984, of liver and kidney failure at the age of 48. Her funeral services were conducted by Johnny Otis.

Obviously a victim of the Music Industry’s pathetic lack of managerial direction and understanding of the art, Esther Phillips was twice nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986 and 1987, but was not inducted. Shame on them.

 

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Big Mama Thornton 7/1984

July 25, 1984 – Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born on December 11, 1926 in Ariton, Alabama. She was introduced to music in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a singer. She and her six siblings began to sing at early ages. Her mother died young, and Willie Mae left school and got a job washing and cleaning spittoons in a local tavern. In 1940 she left home and, with the help of Diamond Teeth Mary, joined Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue and was soon billed as the “New Bessie Smith”. Her musical education started in the church but continued through her observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, whom she deeply admired.

Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948. “A new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and Los Angeles, full of brass horns, jumpy rhythms, and wisecracking lyrics.” Continue reading Big Mama Thornton 7/1984

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Philippé Wynne 7/1984

July 14, 1984 – Philippé Wynne aka Philippe Escalante Wynn; born Phillip Walker (The Spinners/P-Funk) was born on April 3rd 1941 in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.

His parents, DeGree Walker and Annie (née Wynn) divorced in November 1947 in Cincinnati. Around 1952, Philippe and his three siblings — Annie Walker, who later became an opera singer, Michael Leon Walker, and Margaret Walker — were placed in the New Orphan Asylum for Colored Children (which closed in 1967), in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, on Van Buren Street. Their father, DeGree Walker, was granted custody after the divorce, tho’, he worked as a contractor in construction and had to travel. Their mother, Annie, had run off to Detroit with another man.

“ I guess the hardest part to take was being there and knowing that both of your parents were still alive.”
— Philippè Wynne, 1981.

Around 1956, Philippé and his brother, Michael, ran away from the orphanage, and headed, to Detroit, to find their mother. In Detroit, the two formed a gospel group called the Walker Singers, which lasted until Philippe adopted his mother’s surname, Wynn (initially without an “e”)

Next he became a member of the Pacesetters followed by the James Brown group, the JB’s. Prior to joining the Spinners, Wynne spent time in Germany as the lead singer of the Afro Kings, a band from Liberia, before he replaced his cousin, G. C. Cameron, as one of the lead vocalists for The Spinners. Originally formed in the 1950s, the Spinners original lineup included Bobbie Smith, Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson, George W. Dixon, and Henry Fambrough.

The group began as a quintet called ‘The Domingoes’ at a local high school in the Ferndale District of Detroit, Michigan. In 1961, they came to the attention of music producer Harvey Fuqua (and of The Moonglows), and were quickly signed to the Tri-Phi Records Label, with there new name of ‘The Detroit Spinners.’ Following the release of the group’s first Top Ten R&B hit single, “That’s What Girls Are Made For,’ George W. Dixon left the group, and was replaced by Edgar “Chico” Edwards.

Throughout the 1960s the group released several minor releases that failed, but by the mid-1960s, Edwards had been replaced by G.C. Cameron as lead singer, and they were now recording on the Motown Record Label, following the buyout of there old label of Tri-Phi. They again had a few more recordings including, “Truly Yours”, “I’ll Always Love You”, and a success with Stevie Wonder’s, “It’s A Shame”, in 1970. By 1972, the group’s contract at the Motown Record Label was over.

That same year the group let lead singer G.C. Cameron go and replaced him Philippe Wynne. Known for his silky voice, Wynne had previously been a gospel singer, and had worked with such groups as, Catfish, Bootsie Collins, and The Pacesetters, among others. The ‘new’ reformed group signed with the Atlantic Record Label and began to work with music producer Thom Bell. Quickly becoming a first-rate soul singer, Wynne helped the group to achieve many hit chart successes inlcuding on both the R&B and pop charts.

There recording successes included, “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “Games People Play”, “One Of A Kind (Love Affair),” “Ghetto Child”, “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”, “I’ll Be Around”, “You’re Throwing A Good Love Love Away”, “Mighty Love”, and “Rubberband Man.” The group also had there share of successful albums, including some on the Top 20 and some going gold.

By 1977, Wynne decided he had enough and he left the group to pursure a solo career with Alan Thicke (RIP) as his manager. He was replaced as lead singer by John Edwards. Wynne recorded the solo album “Starting All Over”, and “Wynne Jammin”, on the Cotillion Record Label in 1980. Although none of Wynne’s solo achievements went anywhere, his fortunes turned upwards again when he joined George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in 1979. He performed with them on several recordings, and was a featured vocalist on the Funkadelic single “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (a #1 hit on the Billboard R&B chart). While associated with Parliament-Funkadelic, Wynne also appeared on the Bootsy Collins album Sweat Band. Wynne released the solo album Wynne Jammin’ in 1980, and made a guest appearance on the song “Something Inside My Head” by Gene Dunlap, and in the song “Whip It” by the Treacherous Three. Wynne’s final album was the self-titled Philippé Wynne, released by Sugar Hill Records in 1984.

He scored notable hits such as “How Could I Let You Get Away”, “The Rubberband Man”, “One of a Kind (Love Affair)”, “I’ll Be Around”, “Mighty Love”, “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”, and “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick.

On July 14, 1984, while performing a concert in Oakland, California, Wynne suffered a massive heart attackand died the next morning. He was 43.

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Z.Z. Hill 4/1984

zz hillApril 27, 1984 – Z. Z. Hill was born Arzell Hill in Naples, Texas on September 30th 1935.

He began his singing career in the late 1950s as part of a gospel group called The Spiritual Five. In 1964, he moved to California and recorded “You Were Wrong” on his brother’s M.H. record label. In 1971, he recorded the hits “Faithful & True” and “Chokin’ Kind” in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. One of ZZ’s biggest selling hits came while signed to Columbia, “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It,” which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard R&B chart in the summer of 1977. His 1982 album, ‘Down Home’, stayed on the Billboard soul album chart for nearly two years. The track “Down Home Blues” has been called the best-known blues song of the 1980s. This track plus his songs “Taxi”, “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In”, and “Open House” have become R&B/Southern soul standards.

Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard’s soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs “Down Home Blues” and “Somebody Else Is Steppin’ In” have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades). Arzell Hill started out singing gospel with a quintet called the Spiritual Five, but the output of B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and especially Sam Cooke made a more indelible mark on his approach. He began gigging around Dallas, fashioning his distinctive initials after those of B.B. King. When his older brother Matt Hill (a budding record producer with his own label, M.H.) invited Z.Z. to go west to Southern California, the young singer did.

His debut single on M.H., the gutsy shuffle “You Were Wrong” (recorded in an L.A. garage studio), showed up on the pop chart for a week in 1964. With such a relatively successful showing his first time out, Hill’s fine subsequent singles for the Bihari Brothers’ Kent logo should have been even bigger. But “I Need Someone (To Love Me),” “Happiness Is All I Need,” and a raft of other deserving Kent 45s (many produced and arranged by Maxwell Davis) went nowhere commercially for the singer. Excellent singles for Atlantic, Mankind, and Hill (another imprint operated by brother Matt, who served as Z.Z.’s producer for much of his career) preceded a 1972 hookup with United Artists that resulted in three albums and six R&B chart singles over the next couple of years. From there, Z.Z. moved on to Columbia, where his 1977 single “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It” became his biggest-selling hit of all. But Hill’s vocal grit was never more effective than on his blues-soaked Malaco output.

From 1980 until 1984, when he died suddenly of a heart attack, Z.Z. bravely led a personal back-to-the-blues campaign that doubtless helped to fuel the subsequent contemporary blues boom. It’s a shame he couldn’t stick around to see it blossom.

While touring in February 1984, Hill was involved in a car accident. Although he continued to perform, he died two months later on April 28, 1984 at the age of 48, from a heart attack arising from a blood clot formed after the accident. He was 48.

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Marvin Gaye 4/1984

Marvin GayeApril 1, 1984 – Marvin Pentz Gay was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C., he later added the “e” due to childhood teasing and to appear more professional (akin to his childhood idol Sam Cooke’s addition of an “e”). His father , Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr., was an ordained minister in the House of God, a small, conservative sect spun off from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church, borrowing some elements of Pentecostalism and Orthodox Judaism, has very strict codes of conduct and does not celebrate any holidays. Gaye got his start singing in the church choir and later learned to play the piano and drums to escape from his physically abusive father. Continue reading Marvin Gaye 4/1984

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Paul Gardiner 2/1984

Paul GardinerFebruary 4, 1984 – Paul Gardiner was born in Hayes, Middlesex on May 1st 1958. In early 1976 he was playing in a band called The Lasers when Gary Numan (then using his real name Gary Webb) auditioned as lead guitarist. The two became fast friends and when Numan left the band soon after, Gardiner followed. The pair formed Tubeway Army, initially with Numan’s uncle Jess Lidyard on drums. In October 1977, the band was signed to the independent label Beggars Banquet and released their first single, “That’s Too Bad”, in February 1978. The trio used assumed names, Gardiner’s being ‘Scarlett’.

An ever-changing line-up played gigs over the next few months, Gardiner and Numan being the only constant members. Settling back to a three-piece outfit with Lidyard, the band released two albums as Tubeway Army, an eponymously titled debut in 1978 and the No. 1 hit Replicas in 1979. When Numan dropped the name Tubeway Army in mid-1979, Gardiner remained as bassist, playing on the No. 1 albums The Pleasure Principle (1979) and Telekon (1980), and touring with Numan throughout the world in 1979-81.

Following Numan’s ‘retirement’ in April 1981, after final concerts at Wembley Arena, his backing band went its separate ways. Most of the members formed a new group called Dramatis, while Gardiner elected to concentrate on a solo career. Gardiner’s debut solo release was a single co-written with Numan called “Stormtrooper in Drag” b/w “Night Talk” in 1981. It made No. 49 in the UK Singles Chart. On these tracks Gardiner and Numan were credited with guitar and bass, respectively; Gardiner also played synthesizer.

Gardiner’s recording of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” was the first release on Numan’s own label, Numa, in 1984. The single’s B-side, “No Sense”, was written by Gardiner. Aside from work on solo projects, he played with Dramatis in 1982 and, shortly before his death, worked with Marc Anthony Thompson on the latter’s debut album.

Paul Gardiner struggled with heroin addiction in his last years and died of a fatal heroin overdose on 4 February 1984 in Limetrees Park in Northolt, Middlesex. He was survived by a son, Chris.

Gary Numan wrote the song “A Child with the Ghost” (from the 1984 album Berserker) in memory of his friend and former bass-player. He also paid tribute to Gardiner on the 10th and 20th anniversaries of his death by playing, respectively, “Stormtrooper in Drag” on his 1994 tour (released on the 1995 live album Dark Light) and “Night Talk” at a 2004 charity gig.

During the 2009 Pleasure Principle tour Numan paid tribute to Gardiner on his 25th anniversary of his death by playing “Complex” (the demo version) with a picture of Gardiner displayed on the large screen background.

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Jackie Wilson 1/1984

Jackie WilsonJanuary 21, 1984 – Jack Leroy “Jackie” Wilson, Jr. was born on June 9th 1934 in Detroit. Jackie often visited his maternal family in Columbus, Mississippi and was greatly influenced by the choir at Billups Chapel. Growing up in the rough Detroit area of Highland Park, Wilson joined a gang called the Shakers and often found himself in trouble. Wilson’s father was frequently absent, as he was alcoholic and usually out of work. Wilson began singing at an early age, accompanying his mother, once a choir singer, to church. In his early teens Jackie joined a quartet, the Ever Ready Gospel Singers, which became a popular feature of churches in the area. Jackie was not very religious, but enjoyed singing and used the money he and his group earned performing to buy cheap wine which he began drinking at the age of nine. Jack Sr. and Eliza separated shortly after Jackie turned nine.

Wilson dropped out of high school at the age of 15, having already been sentenced to detention in the Lansing Corrections system for juveniles twice. During his second stint in detention, he learned boxing and started performing in the amateur circuit in the Detroit area at the age of 16. His record in the Golden Gloves was 2 and 8. After his mother forced him to quit boxing, Wilson got married to Freda Hood and became a father at 17. It is estimated that he fathered at least 10 other children prior to getting married and was forced to marry Hood by her father. He gave up boxing for music, first working at Lee’s Sensation club as a solo singer, then forming a group called the Falcons (not to be confused with The Falcons Wilson Pickett was part of), that included cousin Levi Stubbs, who later went on to lead the Four Tops (two more of Wilson’s cousins, Hubert Johnson and Levi’s brother Joe, later became members of The Contours). The other members joined Hank Ballard as part of The Midnighters. including Alonzo Tucker & Billy Davis, who would work with Wilson several years later as a solo artist. Tucker and Wilson collaborated as songwriters on a few songs Wilson recorded.

Jackie Wilson was soon discovered by talent agent Johnny Otis, who assigned him to join a group called the Thrillers. That group would later be known as The Royals (who would later evolve into R&B group, The Midnighters, but Wilson wasn’t part of the group when it changed its name and signed with King Records). LaVern Baker, Little Willie John, Johnnie Ray and Della Reese were acts managed by Al Green (not to be confused with R&B singer Al Green, nor Albert “Al” Green of the now defunct National Records). Al Green owned two music publishing companies, Pearl Music and Merrimac Music, and Detroit’s Flame Show Bar where Wilson met Baker.

After recording his first version of “Danny Boy” and a few other tracks on Dizzy Gillespie’s record label Dee Gee Records under the name Sonny Wilson (his nickname), Wilson was eventually hired by Billy Ward in 1953 to join a group Ward formed in 1950 called The Dominoes, after Wilson’s successful audition to replace the immensely popular Clyde McPhatter, who left the Dominoes and formed his own group, The Drifters. Wilson almost blew his chance that day, showing up calling himself “Shit” Wilson and bragging about being a better singer than McPhatter.

Billy Ward felt a stage name would fit The Dominoes’ image, hence Jackie Wilson. Prior to leaving The Dominoes, McPhatter coached Wilson on the sound Billy Ward wanted for his group, influencing Wilson’s singing style and stage presence. “I learned a lot from Clyde, that high-pitched choke he used and other things…Clyde McPhatter was my man. Clyde and Billy Ward.” Forties blues singer Roy Brown was also a major influence on him, and Wilson grew up listening to The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Louis Jordan and Al Jolson.

Wilson was the group’s lead singer for three years, but the Dominoes lost some of their stride with the departure of McPhatter. They were able to make appearances riding on the strength of the group’s earlier hits, until 1956 when the Dominoes recorded Wilson with an unlikely interpretation of the pop hit “St. Therese of the Roses”, giving The Dominoes another brief moment in the spotlight. Their only other post-McPhatter/Wilson successes were “Stardust”, released July 15, 1957, and “Deep Purple”, released October 7, 1957. In 1957 Wilson set out to begin a solo career, leaving the Dominoes and collaborating with cousin Levi and got work at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar. Later, Al Green worked out a deal with Decca Records, and Wilson was signed to their subsidiary label, Brunswick.

His solo career began with 1957’s “Reet Petite,” written by the then-unknown Berry Gordy, Jr. and recorded on the Brunswick Records label. His dynamic stage performances earned him the nickname “Mr. Excitement” and his performance of “Lonely Teardrops” on the Ed Sullivan Show is considered one of the show’s classics.

Due to his fervor when performing, with his dynamic dance moves, singing and impeccable dress, he was soon christened “Mr. Excitement”, a title he would keep for the remainder of his career. His stagecraft in his live shows inspired James Brown, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, as well as a host of other artists that followed. Presley was so impressed by Wilson that Elvis made it a point to meet him, and the two instantly became good friends. In a photo of the two posing together, Presley’s caption in the autograph reads “You got you a friend for life.” Wilson was sometimes called “The Black Elvis”. Reportedly, when asked about this Presley said, “I guess that makes me the white Jackie Wilson.” Wilson also said he was influenced by Presley too, saying “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.”

Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy. His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins, back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, removing his tie and jacket and throwing them off the stage, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience,” Wilson often said, “they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.” Having women come up to kiss him is one reason Wilson kept bottles of mouthwash in his dressing room. Another reason was probably his attempt to hide the alcohol on his breath.

He recorded over fifty hit singles in a repertoire that included R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening before lapsing into a coma following a collapse on stage during a 1975 benefit concert. By the time of his death in 1984, he had become one of the most influential soul artists of his generation.

He had been in care ever since suffering the heart attack in 1975. His medical costs were paid for by Elvis Presley and soul singer Al Green was one of the very few artists who regularly visited a bed-ridden Jackie Wilson.

He was 49 years old when he died on 21 January 1984 at age 49.

A two-time Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee, Jackie was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jackie Wilson No.68 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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Alexis Korner 1/1984

Alexis KornerJanuary 1, 1984 – Alexis Korner/Alexis Andrew Nicholas Koerner was born in Paris on April 19th, 1928 to an Austrian Jewish father and a Turkish-Greek mother. His early childhood years were spent in France, Switzerland and North Africa and he arrived in London in 1940 at the start of World War II. One memory of his youth was listening to a record by blues jazz pianist Jimmy Yancey during a German air raid. Korner said, “From then on all I wanted to do was play the blues.”

In 1949, he joined Chris Barber’s Jazz Band and in 1952 he became part of the much larger Ken Colyer Jazz Group, which had merged with Barber’s band. Among those whom Korner crossed paths with during this era was Cyril Davies, a guitarist and harmonica player. The two found their interests in American blues completely complementary, and in 1954 they began making the rounds of the jazz clubs as an electric blues duo. They started the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, where, in addition to their own performances, Korner and Davies brought visiting American bluesmen to listen and play.

Very soon they were attracting blues enthusiasts from all over England. Korner and Davies made their first record in 1957, and in early 1962, they formed Blues Incorporated, a “supergroup” (for its time) consisting of the best players on the early-’60s British blues scene. Korner (guitar, vocals), Davies (harmonica, vocals), Ken Scott (piano), and Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone) formed the core, with a revolving membership featuring Charlie Watts or Graham Burbridge on drums, Spike Heatley or Jack Bruce on bass, and a rotating coterie of guest vocalists including Long John Baldry, Ronnie Jones, and Art Wood (older brother of Ron Wood). Most London jazz clubs were closed to them, so in March of 1962 they opened their own club, which quickly began attracting large crowds of young enthusiasts, among them Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones, all of whom participated at some point with the group’s performances; others included Ian Stewart, Steve Marriott, Paul Jones, and Manfred Mann.

In May of 1962, Blues Incorporated was invited to a regular residency at London’s Marquee Club, where the crowds grew even bigger and more enthusiastic. John Mayall later credited Blues Incorporated with giving him the inspiration to form his own Bluesbreakers group.

Record producers began to take notice, and in June of 1962 producer Jack Good arranged to record a live performance by the band. The resulting record, R&B from the Marquee, the first full-length album ever made by a British blues band, was released in November of 1962. The album consisted of largely of American standards, especially Willie Dixon numbers, rounded out with a few originals.

At virtually the same time that Blues Incorporated’s debut was going into stores, Cyril Davies left the group over Korner’s decision to add horns to their sound. Korner soldiered on, but the explosion of British rock in 1963, and the wave of blues-based rock bands that followed, including the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Yardbirds undercut any chance he had for commercial success. His more studied brand of blues was left stranded in a commercial backwater — there were still regular gigs and recordings, but no chart hits, and not much recognition. While his one-time acolytes the Rolling Stones and Cream made the front pages of music magazines all over the world, Korner was relegated to the blues pages of England’s music papers, and, though not yet 40, to the role of “elder statesman.”

For a time, Korner hosted Five O’Clock Club, a children’s television show that introduced a whole new generation of British youth to American blues and jazz. He also wrote about blues for the music papers, and was a detractor of the flashy, psychedelic, and commercialized blues-rock of the late ’60s, which he resented for its focus on extended solos and its fixation on Chicago blues. He continued recording as well, cutting a never-completed album with future Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant in early 1968.

Korner’s performing career in England was limited, but he could always play to large audiences in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, and there were always new Korner records coming out. It was while touring Scandinavia that he first hooked up with vocalist Peter Thorup, who became Korner’s collaborator over the next several years in the band New Church. After his dismissal from the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones considered joining New Church; Korner, however, rejected the idea, because he didn’t want his new band to be caught up in any controversy.

In 1972, he became peripherally involved in the breakup of another band, inheriting the services of Boz Burrell, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace when they quit King Crimson. It was during the ’70s that Korner had his only major hit, as leader (with Peter Thorup) of the 25-member big-band ensemble CCS. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” charted in England, and led to a tour and television appearances.

In response, Korner released Bootleg Him, a retrospective compiled from tapes in his personal collection, including recordings with Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, and Charlie Watts. Korner played on the “supersession” album B.B. King in London, and cut his own, similar album, Get Off My Cloud, with Keith Richards, Peter Frampton, Nicky Hopkins, and members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. When Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1975, Korner was mentioned as a possible replacement, but the spot eventually went to Ron Wood.

In 1978, for Korner’s 50th birthday, an all-star concert was held featuring Eric Clapton, Paul Jones, Chris Farlowe, and Zoot Money, which was later released as a video. In 1981, Korner formed the last and greatest “supergroup” of his career, Rocket 88, featuring himself on guitar, Jack Bruce on upright bass, Ian Stewart on piano, and Charlie Watts on drums, backed by trombonists and saxmen, and one or two additional keyboard players. They toured Europe and recorded several gigs, the highlights of which were included on a self-titled album released by Atlantic Records.

In contrast to the many blues-rock fusion records with which Korner had been associated, Rocket 88 mixed blues with boogie-woogie jazz, the group’s repertory consisting largely of songs written by W. C. Handy and Pete Johnson. After a well-received appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the early ’80s, there were rumors afterward that he intended to become more active musically, but his health was in decline by this time. A chain smoker all of his life, Korner, sometimes referred to as, “The Founding Father of British Blues”, died of lung cancer on January 1, 1984