Record Mirror Magazine ~April 24, 1971~


Record Mirror Special by Jimmy Craig


After 23 years as a professional musician, "the Guv'nor" Alexis Korner has finally found his ideal working niche. He plays solo concert and club dates; tours with fellow vocalist Peter Thorup and a small backing band; satisfies his urge to be in a big band as lead vocalist with C.C.S. and has a degree of financial security recording many 'voice overs' for commercial TV advertisements.



His story is an extremely interesting one. Born in Paris in 1928, his family settled in Britain and in 1938 he become a British citizen. As a child he had learned to speak fluent German, French and English, establishing himself very early as a complete individualist. In fact, it was his determination not to conform which resulted in his being asked to leave St. Paul's Public School, Hammersmith, the Boy Scouts and the Air Scouts. His parents finally decided on Finchden Manor School (for extremely disturbed boys with high I.Q's) and it was there, in defiance of his father's wishes, that Alexis constructed his first guitar from plywood and a shaved-down table leg.

Alexis got his first contact with music by joining Melodisc Records as an A&R man and went to Decca as a publicist and later to BBC radio as a studio manager.

In 1949 he decided to play professionally. As a musician Alexis got his first job with the Chris Barber Jazz Band, playing three nights a week (at 5/per night) first playing piano and eventually guitar.

In the mid-fifties he played with Ken Colyer Skiffle Band and briefly formed his own skiffle group during the 1957-59 skiffle craze. Alexis then met Cyril Davies and they began developing Country and Blues music together. They decided to open a club in Soho, but Britain was not ready for the Blues then and their Roundhouse club was immediately closed.



They were both undaunted and simply became more determined than ever to make blues a valid form of music in Britain, so they invited visiting American Bluesmen like Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Memphis Slim and Muddy Waters to sit in with then at small clubs.

Alexis and Cyril then decided to pioneer the Blues further by playing on electric guitars, in a Rhythm and Blues style, which was a louder and a less subtle form of music.

At this stage the laughter of the critics got even louder. Electric guitars for the Blues was considered outrageous.

The critics were not foreseeing what was to happen in the sixties – only a small band of musician fans in front of the bandstand named Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Brian Jones, P.P.Pond (Paul Jones) and several others knew.

Alexis and Cyril decided to open up an R&B club at a small pub in Ealing. They formed a band which Alexis called Blues Incorporated and on March 17, 1962 the band began with Alexis on guitar, Cyril Davies blowing his harmonica, Dick Heckstall-Smith sporting his famous leather cap and playing tenor sax and a slightly nervous drummer named Charlie Watts.

A month or so later, Alexis was asked to take over Thursday Night at the Marquee with Blues Incorporated. Thursday had been a notoriously bad night for the Marquee and on the bands opening night, May 3, 1962, there were only 127 people. By the beginning of September they had developed a regular audience of 1,000 people in this small club and by the beginning of December they were having to close the doors after half-an hour.

The Marquee management then decided it would be worthwhile for them to have Monday night so Alexis could even out the audience into a comfortable number. This didn't happen – both nights became packed out and the R&B boom was on its way.



Blues Incorporated at the Marquee were joined by a young Scotsman, Jack Bruce, lugging with him a bass of almost fungoid whiteness.

In the new year of 1963 Charlie Watts left the band and was replaced by another aspiring drummer named Ginger Baker. The band then moved over to the Flamingo and their lead singer was Mick Jagger.

Alexis and Cyril split up at the Flamingo and Cyril was replaced by Graham Bond. Musicians began arriving from all over Britain, eager to play. The line-up on stage consisted of singers like Mick Jagger, Paul Jones, Eric Burdon, Long John Baldry and musician like Zoot Money, Herbie Goins, Davy Graham, John Marshall, Chris Pyne, Alan Skidmore, Danny Thompson, Ray Warleigh and Phil Seaman.

Soon veterans of Blues Incorporated began to form other groups and a whole new wave of music evolved as The Rolling Stones and Manfred Mann hit the scene.

John Mayall visited London and saw what Alexis was doing and was so influenced that he moved down to London and formed his now famous Bluesbreakers in 1962.

In the mid-sixties Alexis decided to give up performing full-time while his three children were growing up and branched out into other fields, becoming the first individual performer to come out of the beat scene.

Alexis began broadcasting on British TV and radio. He then became the show-biz interviewer on the "Today" radio programme and had his own spot in the "Roundabout" programme called "Korner's Corner".

He also became musical director for "Gadzooks" and "Heartsong" before spending a year at Rediffusion as musical director for "Five O'Clock Club".



Despite enormous success at broadcasting and television commercial work, 1968 found Alexis restless for "live" performances so he began performing again solo in small blues clubs and universities. Suddenly the "cult thing" started again, and Alexis began to find other musicians showing up at his performances to play with him and seek advice on their music.

Victor Brox was one of the first, before Victor joined Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation. Alexis started to sing for the first time while playing clubs with Victor, and for the first time in his career began getting interested in singing after years of just playing.

Alexis then made his first singing album "New Generation Of Blues" in 1968 backed by Danny Thompson, Terry Cox and Ray Warleigh. Marsha Hunt then told Alexis about her desire to break into the pop scene, so Alexis brought Marsha along on gigs.

Marsha initially had a great problem with shyness on stage, but developed enough stage confidence to land a part in the English production of "Hair". Now Marsha has become one of London's top fashion models and a dynamic rock singer.

As Marsha went off to "Hair", Alexis met another unknown singer in Birmingham named Robert Plant. Alexis was so impressed with Robert's voice range that ha immediately Robert to London to work with him.



Alexis and Robert traveled the club and university together. Jimmy Page heard of Robert's singing with Alexis and invited Robert to join Led Zeppelin.

Robert had to leave for California right away, and did not get to finish an album he was making for Alexis Korner along with Steve Miller. A few of the competed tracks will be included in an anthology album of Alexis Korner's former bands.

Many now famous artists including Charlie Watts, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, etc. will be included from tracks of performances while they were in Alexis Korner groups.

During this time, Alexis' training as a broadcaster made his speaking voice highly popular, and he began doing voice-over commercials for radio and television becoming one of Britain's most sought after commercials artist. The voice—overs encouraged Alexis to begin singing on stage, and since 1968 has begun to sing as well as play on records. (In 1970, Alexis has returned to performing full time and has begun duo singing with Peter Thorup, a promising new singer discovered by Alexis.)



As Robert Plant went off to join the new legendary Led Zeppelin in the fall of 1968, Andy Fraser, 17-year-old veteran bass guitarist from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, joined Alexis.

Alexis encouraged Andy to form his own group as Alexis had not returned to performing full time. With Alexis' guidance, Andy formed his group called Free, but like most new groups had great difficulties getting bookings so Alexis took them along on his performances.

Free was the first group to win Alexis' public support since The Rolling Stones, and they were very successful. Now they have become one of Britain's top club and university acts.

In the spring of 1969, Alexis was asked to Denmark to tour with Denmark's number one blues group, The Beefeaters. The lead singer was Peter Thorup who at 20 had already topped the polls of the Danish Press as Denmark's top singer twice.

Peter and Alexis' liking for each other was immediate, particularly singing together, and by May 1969, they had decided to form their own group, The New Church. The group name was not taken to select fixed musicians, but more as a symbolic expression for a philosophy for musical freedom and diversification.

While both artists are heavily involved in blues music, they were only going to use blues as a base, not a style, and The New Church crossed into everything, Gospel, Jazz, Country, or Pop depending on the way they felt the music was to be played, and not dependant on what the audience expected.

Brian Jones heard what Alexis and Peter were doing, and just after his public announcement about leaving The Rolling Stones asked to join. Brian, however, was particularly interested in Moroccan music and switching to saxophone, so Alexis convinced Brian to form his own group and they worked together selecting musicians while New Church rehearsed at Brian's Surrey estate.



Ironically, The New Church interrupted its debut German tour to return to England to make its London debut at The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969, little realizing that fate would step in and the performance would be a tribute to Brian.

The New Church has been highly acclaimed by music critics in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, and England. During the 1969 December tour of Germany, New Church consisted of Alexis and Peter on vocals and guitars, Ray Warleigh on sax and flute, and Colin Hodgkinson on bass, and the group generated a fanatical following, selling out major German concert halls including Berlin's Philharmonic Hall.

At the final performance in Hamburg, fans rushed the doors of the auditorium maximum (as it was sold out), and 300 fans were allowed to sit on stage with The New Church while they performed to avoid a riot.



Performing for "live" audience is Alexis' first love, and therefore, he never made more than one album per year between 1962 and 1968.

In 1967, Brian Epstein went to New York to arrange for an American recording contract, but negotiations were not completed. Now, however, Alexis is quite enthusiastic about making albums having just produced albums for British blues guitarists Jim James and Rafael Calaghan and Austria's Jack Grunsky.

Alexis was one of the first pathfinders in 1960 to realize blues music could become immensely popular, and now instead of playing in small clubs, Alexis is able to bring his music to thousands in such halls as Berlin's Philharmonic, obviously a fantastic reward in itself to a man dedicated to music.