IN SEARCH OF THE MERSEY BLUES ©

 

THE AMERICAN-LIVERPOOL, MERSEYSIDE, UK CONNECTION

 

AN EXPLORATION OF THE ORIGIN OF THE BLUES FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO ALONG THE MUDDY BANKS OF THE MISSISSIPPI TO THE URBAN LANDSCAPE OF CHICAGO ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO THE MURKY WATERS OF THE RIVER MERSEY AND LIVERPOOL (MERSEYSSIPPI).

 

THE INFLUENCE OF THE DEEP SOUTH FROM NEW ORLEANS TO THE COUNTRY BLUES OF ROBERT JOHNSON, THE URBAN BLUES OF BUDDY GUY TO THE CONTEMPORARY RAP ARTISTS OF TODAY LIKE BUCKSHOT LAFONKE. FROM ARTHUR ALEXANDER (FLORENCE) ALABAMA TO JOHN LENNON (LIVERPOOL) MERSEYSIDE, ENGLAND.

Contact for Groovin' Records (Rhythm 'n' Blues, Funk and Folk Blues)
 

IN SEARCH OF THE MERSEY BLUES

Roger Eagle

 

     

Photograph by Spud Murphy    Photograph courtesy Michael Ochs Archive
JOHN LENNON    

John  Lennon in my opinion remains the most influential partner of the Beatles song writing team.  His classic song 'Working Class Hero ' is the most descriptive statement of the class system that still rules the lives of every British citizen and remains one of my all-time favourite 'Folk-Blues' tracks ever written.

The Rhythm and Blues connection with John Lennon goes back to the early 1960's when a friend of mine, MikeHaralambos mentioned to John during a conversation in the Grapes public house in Mathew Street, that he should listen to the American R&B singer Arthur Alexander as a possible source for new or  at least inspirational material.  At the dawn of 1962  Dot Records released Arthur Alexander's "You'd Better Move On".  This album had quite an influence on the British R&B scene.  In 1963 The Beatles released "Anna (Go to Him)" an Alexander composition on their "Please Please Me" album and The Rolling Stones released "You'd Better Move On" as a single in the same year.  

The success of both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones is well documented while the career of Arthur Alexander remains relatively unknown, although he did make an appearance at the Cavern Club, Liverpool!  Many of the bands who played the Cavern during the 60's, including my own band of that time, The Almost Blues, played "Shot of Rhythm and Blues".   The Beatles covered this exciting number on the memorable marathon sessions at the Cavern in 1963.  The posters stated "Good Friday April 12th -Great 'Shot of Rhythm and Blues' Marathon No 2  Starring The Beatles".  

 ARTHUR ALEXANDER

Arthur Alexander was born on  the 10th May 1940 (same year as John Lennon) in Florence Alabama (I was there in May 1999), about five miles from the Tennessee River which separates Florence from Sheffield and Muscle Shoals.  His father was a blues singer who played the local Juke Joints at weekends. Like so many R&B singers his career started in a gospel group (Heartstrings) and he will always be remembered for the haunting 'A' side 'You Better Move On'.  This was recorded  in 1961 at a converted tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals.  The 'B' side was 'Shot of Rhythm and Blues'.   The 'A' side was covered by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles arch-rivals throughout the 1960's, and for many teenagers this was their initial route in search of American blues music.  Florence, Alabama was also the birthplace of W C Handy known as the 'Father of the Blues', but that's another story!

For many years Alexander was forced to work outside of the music business - he was a bus driver for much of this time.  In 1993 he recorded his first album for 21 years - 'Lonely Just Like Me', but unfortunately he collapsed and died in June of that year, three days after performing in Nashville with his new band. 

RAY CHARLES

Ray Charles has very often been referred to as a 'Genius'! When you look at the British 'POP' charts today and the recent success of the likes of Geri Halliwell, the use of the word 'genius'to describe one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century is an understatement! The influence of Rhythm and Blues in all it's hybrid forms,especially on popular music in the later part of the 20th Century is unmistakable. This influence can be clearly seen behind the inspiration and evolution of 'Merseybeat' in the early 1960's through to the more contemporary Rhythm and Blues of 80/90's Merseyside band Lawnmower R'n'B. The feelings and deprivation endured by many Afro-Americans displayed in such an effective format as blues and R&B hit such a common chord with a generation of white working/middle class teenagers. This was unusual as the socio-economic conditions were not as acutely depressive in the UK!  John Lennon became aware of and recorded the likes of Arthur Alexander's, "Anna" and "Shot of Rhythm and Blues", whilst every Merseybeat band played a version of Ray Charles's "What did I say".                       


Footnote:  Liverpool band The Lawnmower have dedicated an anti-war song 'Babylon Blues' to John Lennon on their new CD 'Rockin' Rhythm and Blues'.

The Bluesman's CD single 'No More War Blues' (Groove 07)

AL Willard Peterson  CD single 'Liverpool Blues' (Groove 08)

CD Outlets:

News from NoWhere, Bold Street, Liverpool

Record Store, 81 Renshaw Street, Liverpool

Literally Book Shop, New Brighton, Wirral

The Death of Rock & Roll

Adorning people with titles such as 'Sir' or 'Lord' perpetuates the myth of superiority. This medieval practice does not belong in the 21st Century!  

Those who hand out titles and those who 'greatfully' accept them perpetuate the structure of the class system that is endemic and peculiar to the United Kingdom. Surely it takes a far greater mortal to refuse such an accolade.  People of this calibre are very rare today!  

Paul, Elton, Mick, Cliff, Stewart and Ringo hand back your obnoxious and silly titles and keep on Rockin'!  

John Lennon would have done just that as he did with his MBE! The other Beatles did follow his initiative. 'Member of the British Empire' - Ye God's!  It is hard for some people to accept the fact that the Empire is now defunct and should be consigned to history along with the premise 'name in history man'. Nothing changes - the 'privileged' minority still control and exploit the subjugated majority so that less than 10% of the UK population owns 90% of the wealth.

Fortunately for the peoples of the world the Internet has brokered the means by which to breach the 'establishments' prohibited barriers.  

Lennon chanted 'Power to the People' and 'Give Peace a Chance' to such great effect that it helped bring about his unfortunate and early demise!

People have more power than they realise but many remain 'doped on religion sex and TV' and compromised by the 'war on terror' that really means the 'war on civil liberties' - the demise of democracy! Democracy = PR nothing less will suffice.

On a rather more promiscuous note it is gratifying to realise that the USA has Disneyland and the UK the Royal Family which helps puts things into perspective! We wish Megan Merkle all the best and hope that she will bring about change within the monarchy's out dated structure.

Diana 'The Princess of Wales' did her best before her unfortunate demise?

Rock & Roll is about rebellion and like all poetry, music and art it is there to question the established dogma and propaganda that permutates our societies as well as a great way to release the stress of modern living.

Once a rocker accepts a title that is the end of his or her rebellion and is part of the establishments way of silencing that rebellion.

ROGER EAGLE - R'n'B, DJ       (15/07/43 - 04/05/99)

'WHAT'S IN A                               NAME?'                                           

The Name = The Lawnmower 

In the early 1980's I was involved in the recording of the Frantic Elevators 'live' double album at Adam's club, Seel Street, Liverpool, for Roger's label Crackin' Up.  At that time I was managing Square One Studios (SOS), a recording studio in the city centre of Liverpool, taking a break from live performance.

As you are well aware the singer of the Frantic Elevators was Mick Hucknall (Simply Red). During the recording of this album Roger was promoting various R&B and Soul acts at Adam's club and on this particular night in question the visiting guest artist was non other than Bo Diddley!

 

Huck'n'AL at Adams Club May 1982 ©Groovin/Mayday

Photo by Jef Barnes

Penny Kiley, Norman Killon, Roger Eagle in Probe

Photo by Carol Power Courtesy of Garry Gannicliffe

 

Roger Eagle was also the resident DJ on these nights working under the name of 'Juke Box Johnson'.

Mick and myself were in the audience awaiting the arrival of Bo, listening to the R&B grooves provided by the Eagle. As a DJ, Roger said very little, he let the music do the talking!
During one of his forays into the audience he asked Mick and myself to give him a break while he went backstage to see Bo Diddley.
On this occasion Mick asked me if I would accompany him on harmonica while he sang 'Ginhouse'. I returned the compliment by singing 'Got my Mojo Working' with Mick playing frantic harmonica! The audience response was ecstatic! A great warm-up for Bo!
A memorable night was had by all.

             

                      

 

   'Dead White Man'

'Bill Drummond's Tribute'

'The Ultimate Record Rack, Collection

 

Brutality, Religion &  ADanceBeat'

The Opposition supports

Rockin' Dopsie at Eric's

Whilst continuing with the recording of the Frantic Elevators during the coming weeks I noticed posters around Adam's club advertising an appearance by a band called The Lawnmower!

On asking Roger 'Who's this band - The Lawnmower?' He replied "That's you and Mick- You've got two weeks to get it together!"
The Lawnmower performed from that night onwards on an ad-hoc basis with Mick Hucknall as the lead vocalist, playing regularly at Adam's club and the Left Bank Bistro, Mathew Street, Liverpool.   After approximately 10 dates with Lawnmower, Mick left Liverpool for Manchester to form Simply Red. The rest is pop history!
The Lawnmower played Blues Festivals and Jazz/Blues bars throughout the North West.

The band have a couple of CD releases on Groovin' Records:  

'Rockin' Rhythm and Blues' (Groove 01) & 'AL Willard Peterson - The Lawnmower Man - A Dozen Choice Cuts' (Groove 02) .

 For more information mailto: groovin.records@virgin.net.co.uk

The Last Trumpet

I supplied various articles as well as a running advert for trumpet tuition in the Last Trumpet and also helped Roger with the distribution.

Roger Eagle in the doorway of his beloved Eric's Club in Mathew St.

Notice Steve Hardstaff's poster copy of the Last Trumpet

  to the right of Roger.

  Photo Courtesy of Christine Purnell of Blue 'C'

 

Roger at Square One Studios

(SOS) whilst masterin of

Juke Box at Eric's

Photo Courtesy of Francesco Mellina

'Juke Box at Eric's'
This fine compilation by Roger Eagle again emphasizes his love of Rock & Roll, Rockabilly and R&B music. This was mastered at SOS studios, Liverpool.

Square One Studios was responsible for many 'Indie' recordings during the years 1980 to 1987. Some even appeared in the 'Indie' Charts! This includes work's such as the Frantic Elevators, Searchin' for the Only One', the Mighty Wah! Echo and the Bunnymen, Pink Military, Dead or Alive, It's Immaterial, A Flock of Seagulls and many more…

On a Personal Level
I have known Roger since his earlier days in Liverpool when he was promoting Chuck Berry, The Feelgoods, Beefheart and Zappa etc, at the Stadium.
During the 1970's I supplied the P.A. at Eric's on numerous occasions for the likes of
Queen Ida and Rockin' Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters. (P.A. courtesy of my deal with Chappell Music/EMI - 29th and Dearborn).
I also supplied and worked the P.A. for a mini tour promoted by Roger, with the Specials, Selector and Madness - from Eric's to the Midlands.

Roger Eagle 'Rhythm and Blues Promoter'
My last memorable involvement with Roger was in the 1980's at another of his and Zane Branson's Rhythm and Blues promotions at Bodelwyddan Castle in North Wales.
On this bill was one of my teenage heroes, a blind New Orleans street singer called Snooks Eaglin.
I had asked Roger if it would be possible to meet Snooks so he could sign a very rare single,
'Country Boy/Alberta on Storyville'. A single that I had treasured dearly since my teenage years!
Unfortunately Snooks Eaglin's wife upon seeing such a rare single declared that 'I've just got to have that!' and after much jostling and snatching I decided to sign the single from my good-self to the hapless Snooks. He was so pleased with the transaction that he stated that if I ever passed through Baton Rouge (Louisiana), he would gladly put me up at his place! (I just so happened to be in Mississippi and Alabama directly after the funeral, continuing my quest, 'In Search of the Blues' and I had hoped to travel further south to Louisiana earlier this year but that was not to be).
It was Roger Eagle's reaction to this transaction that I will always remember. He held his hands to his head and called me a bloody idiot! 'Do you know how much that single is worth? It's rare man! I don't believe it! I don't believe it!'
Snooks Eaglin  waiting

patiently for me to sign

the single in question!

Notice the Storyville album

"Blind New Orleans Street Singer"

Roger Eagle was first and foremost a 'Music Man'. His love of music from the R&B, Blues, Rock & Roll, Soul, Reggae and Dub catalogue was his driving force, monetary gain was secondary. He would often be found looking through new and second hand record collections throughout the northwest, searching for previously unreleased tracks or specialist and imported rare releases.
He was so passionate about the music that swamped his living quarters, that on one occasion in his Sefton Park flat, whilst under the influence, I couldn't help but give him my rare copy of Little Richard and the Buck Ram Orchestra, a 10 inch album on Camden!
His need seemed far greater than mine did at that time!
Where is the equivalent enthusiasm combined with that generosity of spirit found in Liverpool today?
Where are those in the Music Industry whose passion for music is inspirational?
We will miss him! I will miss him!

Postcard from Roger 22 July 1982

in commemoration of the re-opening of Eric's 10th September 2011

Bill Sykes Book - a very commendable read

It was a privilege to say something and play a little blues harmonica

for those paying tribute to Roger.

Jayne Casey, Bill Sykes, and host Angie Sammons at the

Picket Book Launch 09/08/12

AL Peters

The Lawnmower Man

© Groovin'Records/Mayday Music 09/08/1999/2005/2011.

P.S. Roger took the name 'Lawnmower' from a country blues number inspired by the line 'She's got ways like a mowin' machine' -

Hence The Lawnmower!


In Search of the Mersey Blues - Mississippi and Alabama - May 1999

  

Hazelhurst, Mississippi    

 I always wanted to be an engine driver or brakeman, as epitomised by Jimmie 'T for Texas' Rodgers

Birthplace of Robert Johnson  (1911-1938) one of the most influential Blues Singers who wrote 'Sweet Home Chicago', 'Cross Road Blues', 'Come into my Kitchen' and 'Love in Vain'

Tutwiler, Mississippi, Old Prairie Church, Sonny Boy Williamson's (Rice Miller, 1899-1965) resting place. 'Help Me' and 'Nine Below Zero' became standards for Merseybeat R&B bands

The Crossroads near Tutwiler Station where it is alleged that W C Handy upon hearing a knife blade being drawn across the strings of a guitar coined the term 'The Blues'

 

 

Email from Bill Harry Editor of Mersey Beat

Dear Al,

 

I'd appreciate your opinion.

In his book ‘Liverpool: Wondrous Place,’  Paul Du Noyer  wonders why there was no blues scene in Liverpool and  asks: “Why did the art school R&B bands of South-east England become the new aristocracy, while the Liverpool boys (the Beatles, as usual excepted) got consigned to cabaret or civvy street?”, while Spencer Leigh, in the same book, says that the blues passed Liverpool by.

 Yet Alexis Korner told me in August 1963:  “The only place in England that a blues guitarist would be able to find recognition is Liverpool”.

 What do you think. Was Liverpool devoid of blues music as DuNoyer and Leigh say, or were they wrong?

 Incidentally, I now have a second site www.merseybeat.co.uk

 Best

 

Bill.

 Mersey Beat - Merseyside's Own Entertainment Paper
The Beatles, The Liverpool Sound, The Swinging Sixties...
It's still happening, man: http://www.mersey-beat.net

 

Dear Bill

 

 Good questions?

 I remember goin for a meal with Roger Eagle and Alexis Korner at Reno's Taverna off Duke St after he had played Adams Club in Seel St in the 1980's.

 As far as the Blues is concerned in relation to the Liverpool music scene it has always been there but more in a background capacity.

To me when asked about the lack of Blues in the city I always refer to Liverpool's preference of popular music and on many occasions when playin live have been asked to bring a more varied style to my live performances by pub landlords and promoters.

 I think that there is a general fear about the term 'Blues Music' as that of a genre that is laden with sadness and pathos and not conducive to a 'happy clappy' night out.

To me Blues is a wonderful medium that portrays the Truth about life in all its glory and remains the most potent vehicle for political protest. 

Working Class Hero by Lennon in my opinion is one of the most poignant Folk Blues songs ever written!

Blues or should I say Folk Blues survived throughout the 1960's to day in the Folk Clubs and on many occasions I would go to see The Spinners because of Hughie Jones's performance and appreciation of the Blues.

Blues also survived in its heavier format on the Pub Rock circuit at the Moonstone and Liverpool Stadium in the 1970's.

But it is the 'Music Men' the likes of the late Roger Eagle and Zane Branson who have always been in favour of adding the Blues to their promotions - men who are not afraid to buck the trend putting on people like Honey Boy Edwards, Homesick James, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, Snooks Eaglin, Blind Boys of Alabama etc

Buddy Guy has recently played the Philharmonic the very place that I saw Muddy Waters who signed my programme with a 'MW' in the early 1960's.

Many Jazz Clubs did pay homage to the Blues promoting the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White and Brownie & Sonny etc and in particular the Cavern that saw the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker backed by John Mayall.

 I think you probably know the story about Bob Wooler getting in touch with me saying that 'there is someone you'd love to meet at the Cavern this afternoon' so I sagged off from Liverpool Junior Art School to meet a well oiled Sonny Boy Williamson.

I just didn't know what to say to the man on this occasion but what a charismatic harmonica player! 

In 1999 I visited his resting place in Tutweiller Mississippi as well as Robert Johnson's Hazlehurst, Muddy's Clarksdale Arthur Alexander's

Florence Alabama,  Howling's Natchez etc,etc

 At the time of the 'Almost' Blues there were guite a few Blues based bands spurned from the Art College fraternity like the Roadrunners and another Hope Hall favourite the St Louis Checks. 

The 'Almost' Blues supported Alexis at Hope Hall on one of their earlier gigs and as usually the case were persuaded by EMI to move away from their original Blues format into a more soulful outfit that put paid to my vocal input with me transfering to trumpet. 

I have now reverted back after all these years.

So you can see external as well as internal influences working against the Blues.

 Having said that there is now a proliferation of 'Jam Nights' that often produce a lot of Blues Players and venues that have Blues Nights throughout the city.

There are many fine Blues Players around Liverpool like Raphael Callaghan & Christine Purnell of Blue C, Joey Sheils and the Wheels, Xander Brothers, Neil Partington's Forty Four etc

 Another point of interest is that when American Blues Artists arrived in this country they always had British musicians backing them either from London or Manchester never from Liverpool.  Manchester produced a televised Gospel & Blues Train Extravaganza from a train station on a typical rainy day featuring Muddy, Cousin Joe, Sister Rosetta Tharpe etc - a show that bucked the trend and passed into Blues Folklore.

This once again shows the position of the Blues in the popular culture of these major cities with Manchester and London producing the more sought after session musicians. 

What a great pity that Liverpool has not nurtured the same respect for this most influential of music forms that so inspired the early Beatles especially the likes of Arthur Alexander.

 

Kind Regards

AL 

a.k.a.
AL Willard Peterson
GROOVIN' RECORDS
'The Merseyside Home of the Blues'
CHECK OUT The Bluesman's Artwork & Gigs
Web:
www.groovinrecords.co.uk
GROOVIN RELEASES:-
'Rockin' Rhythm & Blues' - Lawnmower R'n'B (Groove 01)
'The Lawnmower Man - A Dozen Choice Cuts' - Lawnmower Classics - The Cat, Lawnmower Man,

Messin' with the Blues, plus an Anti-War Blues Trilogy dedicated to John Lennon (Groove 02)
Willard & The Poor Boys - Five 'Live' Deep Blues Classics (Groove 03)
The 'Almost' Blues - Abbey Road Sessions (Groove 04)
'The Mount Street' Tapes - The Opposition (Groove 05) available 2008
'The Canon Tapes' - 29th & Dearborn EP (Groove 06)
'No More War Blues' - The Bluesman - CD Single (Groove 07)
'Liverpool Blues' - AL Willard Peterson's CD Single depicts The Leavin' of Liverpool & New Labour (Groove 08)
'Liverpool Beat Poets' - Adrian Henri & Craig Charles (Groove 09)
'Great Rock & Roll Swindle' - 29th & Dearborn (Groove 10)

'Craig Charles & the 'Mighty' Lawnmower (Groove 11)

'Greenfish Cafe Blues' AL Willard Peters (Groove 12)

'The Last Trumpet' - AL Willard Peters (Groove 13)

The Ballad of AL & Janine - AL 'Bluesman' Peters & The Chained Collective (Groove 14)

The Chained Collective - Al ' Bluesman' Peters & The Chained Collective (Groove 15)

 

The Merseyside Home of Rhythm & Blues, Groovin' Records Releases, The Lawnmower, Willard & the Poor Boys,The Bluesman, The Almost Blues, Al Willard Peterson, No More War Blues, Abbey Road London, Liverpool, Mersey Beat, CD's, Gigs, Reviews, Adrian Henri, Craig Charles & Mick Hucknall (The early years)

 

Web site: www.groovinrecords.co.uk

Email: groovin.records@phonecoop.coop

Al Willard Peterson  ©1999/2015 Groovin' Records/Mayday Music

'The Merseyside Home of Rhythm and Blues'

Groovin' Records 

"In Search of the Mersey Blues" To Top of Page  

This is an ongoing labour of love!
But at the moment 'I just got the Blues'

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