Alexis Korner profile from "Bootleg Him" WarnerBros.USA LP 1972
Originating as far back as the slave ships which brought blacks to America, the blues grew and developed in America, survived and thrived as a British transplant, returning once again to America at the urging of British rock musicians, enabling such long-neglected artists as B.B.King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and many others to gain respect and success. Alexis Korner's contribution to that homecoming, self-evident for years in England, is now being recognised in America. Ironically, Korner first emerged on record in the United States on B.B.King's "Live In London" album. For years Korner has sought recognition for black artists in America, and now that country's best-known black blues artist has conferred recognition on Korner.
In 1961, Alexis Korner formed BLUES INCORPORATED, the first electric white blues band of its kind in the world. Cyril Davies on harmonica, Alexis playing electric guitar, drummer Charlie Watts, and the tenor sax Dick Heckstall-Smith. Jack Bruce soon joined them on bass and Mick Jagger sang vocals. Who was to know that later the history books would look back to this first grouping and find the origins of what the world later called "super-groups". Even with this group, Alexis had no place to play so he opened up his own club in Ealing in order to start the band playing regularly. Musicians who played with BLUES INCORPORATED came away with a thorough grounding in the blues, but the band felt equally at home with jazz. Korner has always had a horn section and sought out jazz-oriented musicians.
BLUES INCORPORATED went on to become a British sensation. During this time, Korner never seriously thought of himself as a stylist-singer and only sang in the band when he had to. Hardly surprising when you consider the vocal talent available to him ... Mick Jagger before THE ROLLING STONES ... Robert Plant before LED ZEPPELIN ... Eric Burdon and Zoot Money before THE ANIMALS ... Paul Jones (P.P.Pond in those days) before MANFRED MANN ... Paul Rodgers before FREE, and amongst the earliest singers, Long John Baldry before he formed STEAMPACKET with Rod Stewart, Elton John, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger. Victor Brox enrolled before he joined AYNSLEY DUNBAR'S RETALIATION (the disbanding of which found Victor with a major recording role on the original JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR album and Aynsley Dunbar off to join FRANK ZAPPA'S MOTHERS OF INVENTION).
By 1963, the rhythm and blues boom was on and its consequences were destined to affect popular music everywhere. The circumstance which produced the first appearance of THE ROLLING STONES are worth recording. BLUES INCORPORATED were asked by BBC radio to broadcast a session, but the producer only budgeted for six musicians. For the sake of a few shillings one of the singers had to be dropped. Mick Jagger (as seventh member) was asked to get together a few friends to hold down the regular gig at the Marquee instead. Mick did ... and how !.. That night, THE ROLLING STONES were born.
Korner gave THE ROLLING STONES early encouragement and advice as he did for a host of aspiring musicians during a decade when the establishment would not accept their music or life styles. For years, the Korner home has been a haven for musicians like Brian Jones who would hitchike up from Cheltenham for talks or a blow, and then wind up sleeping on the Korner living room floor. This process repeated itself frequently after musicians had become very famous. They would then return to Alexis for guidance after leaving or breaking up a group, often just to ask his help in finding new musical direction or musicians for the next group. When 16-year-old bassist Andy Fraser decided to leave John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Korner encouraged Andy to form FREE. Then he treated the new group as he would his own, taking FREE along on his own gigs until they felt ready to go it alone.
In 1967, Korner had an opportunity to go to America for the first time. Brian Epstein, THE BEATLES manager, attempted to arrange an American recording agreement, but the negotiations were not fated to be finalized. In 1968, Korner went solo and turned towards the continent to uncover new talent. He made solo tours with top outfits in Holland and Denmark, CUBY AND THE BLIZZARD and THE BEEFEATERS, recording guest spots on their album to bring international attention to Dutch and Danish music long before it was fashionable to do so.
It was in Denmark that Korner found yet another top vocalist in THE BEEFEATERS. Peter Thorup at 19 had repeatedly been voted Denmark's No.1 Blues Singer. Thorup had started his first group at 13, and at the tender age of 19 was literally The Father of the Danish Blues. The Korner-Thorup combination thus was a natural, and the liking for each other immediate. In early 1969, they decided to form the NEW CHURCH group together. Brian Jones almost joined them after publically leaving THE ROLLING STONES in May 1969, but Alexis guided Jones to follow his own musical interests. Ironically, NEW CHURCH made its public debut at THE ROLLING STONES free Hyde Park concert in front of 500,000 fans on July 5, 1969. Sadly, the debut performance turned out to be a tribute to Brain Jones after his accidental death July 3. NEW CHURCH disbanded in late 1970.
Korner-Thorup combination, however, has been hugely successful. The duo is a top concert attraction in Europe, and as co-vocalists in C.C.S. they have three European hit singles and a gold album to their credit for 1971 plus several poll awards.
Alexis Korner is recognized as Europe's leading blues authority and occasionally delivers University lectures or joins television discussions. He has yet to overcome his surprise at becoming one of the most sought – after voices in Britain for dubbing over radio – TV – film commercials. He also narrated the first Jimi Hendrix documentary.
Korner has also been invited to record by HUMBLE PIE, and is a guest artist on their first album in 1972.
In June 1971, blues fans were delighted when Alexis recorded in London with B.B.King, certainly the prodigal son if not the Father of American Blues. King further honored Korner by including his composition "Alexis Boogie" on his hit album "B.B.King In London" with both King and Korner on acoustic guitars. The meeting of these two was indeed a great moment for the blues.
During the 1960's, as a guitarist, a composer, and a band leader, Alexis Korner has created and re-created the blues and all its derivations.
BLUES INCORPORATED, his first band, provided a valuable training ground for blues, jazz, and rock musicians at a time when the general public was not yet ready to accept them.
For over 30 years country and urban blues as well as jazz, created and performed by black Americans, was confined in a cultural ghetto in the United States. Aside from the infrequent collector, records by black artists were purchased almost exclusively by a black audience, while pale imitations by white artists found a wider market. Europeans, however, were able to see this unique art form for what it was, without prejudice and preconceptions, and imported 'race' records in comparatively large quantities.
British rock has proven to be a mirror for Americans, enabling them to see the beauty and significance of their own original cultural force, The Blues.
British musicians like Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon, visiting America for the first time, were astonished to discover that their counterparts were ignorant of the blues in their own backyard. In interview after interview, white British artists declared their debt to America's black musicians.
Despite never having set foot on American soil, Alexis Korner's awakened knowledge of the blues is fundamental. It was from Alexis that Jagger and Burdon and so many other British musicians gained an appreciation for the flatted 7th and the 12 – bar frame of the blues which soon came to be used as a vehicle for communicating their own creativity. The son of an Austrian army officer and a Greek – Turkish mother, he grew up over 6,000 miles away from the Mississippi Delta, but found a universal chord in the blues and spends his life teaching others to hear it.
Quite simply, Korner never left Britain during the sixties when there was a general exodus of British groups to America. Instead this music rebel stayed unprofitably at home in England, including himself by playing a blues/jazz based style of music that was not yet generally popular with the public, but proved an absolute magnet to Britain's new generation of young musicians. Now, in taking a retrospective look at the sixties, it is evident that Korner attracted what turned out to be the cream of Britain's new pop stars ... Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Paul Jones, Eric Burdon, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Charlie Watts, Long John Baldry, Dave Holland, Zoot Money, Victor Brox, Brian Jones, Marsha Hunt, Steve Marriott, Alan Skidmore, Ray Warleight, Mick Taylor, Graham Bond, Paul Williams, Chris Pyne, Keith Richard, Danny Thompson, Terry Cox, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers, and so many many more.
Certainly the bootleggers, so infamous during the sixties, could have had a field day with any one of the groups which evolved around Alexis Korner, particularly the legendary BLUES INCORPORATED. In fact, it would have been a bootlegger's dream to discover that the then unknown talents with Alexis were to mature into such groups as THE ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN, THE CREAM, THE ANIMALS, MANFRED MANN, GRAHAM BOND ORGANISATION, GEORGIE FAME, THE NICE, SMALL FACES, THE PENTANGLE, FREE, BLIND FAITH, HUMBLE PIE, JUICY LUCY, SPENCER DAVIS, JOHN MAYALL, THE FACES, AIRFORCE, KEEF HARTLEY, SAVOY BROWN, AYNSLEY DUNBAR RETALIATION, CENTIPEDE, JOHN&YOKO’S PLASTIC ONO BAND, DUSTER BENNETT, FOTHERINGAY, ATOMIC ROOSTER, COLOSEUM, C.C.S., etc.etc.etc.
Many others who sprang from the Korner bands inclined towards the jazz idiom and went on to win virtually every category of award in 'Melody Maker' jazz polls. They became the backbone of British jazz, joining band like RONNIE SCOTTS, HUMPHREY LITTLETON, ERIC DELANEY, CHRIS BARBER, and even America's MILES DAVIS. Some just keep creating their own individual jazz combos, some form groups ... NUCLEUS ... LIFETIME ... THE TRIO ... CHRIS McGREGOR’S BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH.
In fact, artists who can trace their musical roots to Alexis can be found performing on many diverse albums ranging form JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to HUMBLE PIE.
The mantle "FATHER OF THE WHITE BLUES" is not to be misunderstood if there is any unspoken implication that Korner may want to sit back and watch.
His own development is nowhere near complete. Since the very beginning of his performing career, Korner has displayed the uncanny knack of making new music based on old forms. He synthesized and built upon combinations of jazz and rock long before it became fashionable and slick.
Korner found affinities between urban and country blues, and was not afraid to mix Muddy Waters and Charles Mingus in his repertoire. In the tradition of Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington, whose alumni moved on to make names for themselves in jazz, Korner has always chosen young musicians with talent not yet recognized until they were able to create their own music. In the early sixties, the white bluesmen based their own music input for performance on black man's music, but in the mid-sixties the output began to very considerably. Finally, as artists turned to themselves as composers, it happened. The output became a whole new form of white blues. Carried first by the musicians from the ranks of BLUES INCORPORATED, the British blues movement just fanned out until groups like THE ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN, THE WHO, THE FACES, TEN YEARS AFTER and other British groups made this new form of white blues heard around the world.
The wheel it seems does turn full circle.
Printed in U.S.A.
© 1972 Warner Bros. Records Inc.