MARQUEE is one of the few internationally known jazz clubs, and is run on a non
profit making basis by the National Jazz Federation. Situated at 165,
“R&B From The Marquee”
1962 Ace of Clubs LP Liner Notes
One of the most exciting innovations on the British jazz scene has
been the formation of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. The group was first
formed in the early spring of 1962, and made its first appearances at a rhythm
and blues club in Ealing. The sessions proved so
popular that within a few weeks the National Jazz Federation offered the group
a regular weekly residence at its club, the Marquee in
Here Blues Inc. was an instantaneous and overwhelming success. Each Thursday evening over seven hundred people pack into the club to twist, jive, or just listen to the rough, virile, driving music that the group plays. The audience is probably the most cosmopolitan and enthusiastic any band could wish for, and the music not only has great appeal for the hordes of overseas tourists who slip into London during the summer months, but also appeals equally to a very wide age group of resident fans.
This L.P. was recorded shortly after Blues Inc. opened at the Marquee, and for the purpose of this recording session, Alexis Korner added to his normal front line drummer Graham Burbidge who for several years has been the mainstay of Chris Barber's rhythm section, and gained first hand experience of the idiom sitting in at Smitt's Corner in Chicago with Muddy Waters during a recent American tour. Another addition is Spike Heatley on bass, until recently a veteran of the Johnny Dankworth big band. On piano is Keith Scott, while the hard, booting tenor playing comes from Dick Heckstall-Smith – one of the most exciting and competent saxophonists on the scene today. Alexis Korner leads the group on guitar, and the wild, keening sound of the harmonica is provided by Cyril Davies. The well-known British blues singer Long John Baldry joins the group to sing three of the titles on this record – the remainder of the vocal honours going to Cyril Davies.
The numbers on this record are only a small part of the very large repertoire which the group has assembled. Particularly worthy of attention are Alexis' own compositions Finkel's Café and Down Town – the former is a soul-tinged blues titled with a friendly nod in the direction of Mendelssohn, whilst the latter drives along magnificently from opening theme to final coda. I've Got My Mojo Working has become a trademark for Blues Inc. providing a climax to their club appearances with the audience joining in with the vocal. A mojo, en passant, is a sexual amulet which still enjoys great popularity among some urban Negroes. It is mentioned again in the lyrics of Hoochie Coochie together with its other variants, the black cat's bone and John the Conqueror. Gotta Move perhaps illustrates most clearly why this music is enjoying such popularity. The strength and vigour of R&B cannot be denied, and in the field of popular music they are qualities which have been lacking for too long. To an entire generation of young people musically weaned on diluted rock and roll, the sincerity and force of Rhythm and Blues have an irresistible attraction.
“R & B From The Marquee”
2006 re-mastering CD Liner Notes
By Harry Shapiro
By the time this album was recorded –
in June, 1962 – the famous Ealing Club had
been open for four months. Since they’d turned their back on Skiffle, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies had been moving ever-closer to playing straight ahead
Chicago Blues. As Blues Incorporated
they’d had an interval slot in the Chris Barber’s traditional Jazz
band, but this wasn’t enough. Chris himself, who was so instrumental in
bringing over American Blues artists to the
It was singer Art Wood, one of the many early Blues Inc. vocalists, who suggested
they might be interested in a damp basement underneath the ABC tearooms in Ealing, part drinking
club, part Jazz venue. So, on St Patrick’s night 1962, the club opened.
Before long a steady stream of Blues wannabees were
making their way to the club, convinced that only they had stumbled upon the underground secret that was The Blues.
They came from all over the
Out went the young hopefuls and in came seasoned musicians, which in the Blues idiom of early Sixties Britain, meant Jazz players. There wasn’t anybody else. So, goodbye to a young advertising exec named Charlie Watts and hello Chris Barber’s drummer Graham Burbidge, who’d actually taken lessons from Muddy Water’s drummer Francis Clay, when the Barber band had played down at Smitty’s Corner in the South side Chicago. Alexis had told Graham that he didn’t think Charlie was up to it, an assessment with which Charlie readily agreed. He told me, when I interviewed him for Alexis Korner – The Biography. “Cyril taught me Chicago Blues, but I didn’t really understand it until I started to play with Keith Richard”. Johnny Dankworth’s bass player, Spike Heatley, was drafted in, causing Graham some problems, “Spike made me more Jazzy where I would have been more stark, angular and Bluesy. But Spike was playing this wonderful modern, rolling bass and on the album I was caught between two stools”. Keith Scott took over from Alexis’ friend Dave Stevens on piano, but Alexis retained the services of Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor sax. Alexis and Cyril both sang, but they wanted to shake up the vocal mix with some younger voices and so they chose Blues Inc’s most regular guest vocalist, Long John Baldry, and a black Soul singer Ronnie Jones, stationed with the US Airforce and discovered by Dick. Also brought in, but uncredited on the sleeve, was another bassist, Teddy Wadmore, and super session guitarist-to-be, Big Jim Sullivan.
The album was titled R&B From
The Marquee, but was actually recorded at
But it was the growing audiences at the Ealing Club which attracted TV’s ‘Mr Rock’n’Roll’, Jack Good, to badger Decca into recording the band. Good had introduced Rock’n’Roll to British television with the innovative BBC series 6.5 Special, which ran from 1957-58, showcasing Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan. He then moved to ITV, launching Oh Boy! In June 1958 and the careers of young Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury, while Rock’n’Roll fans got their first glimpse of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent on Good’s next show, Boy Meets Girls.
So, on a steaming June day, Blues Inc. went into the studio tracked by Alexis’ good friend and Jazz critic Charles Fox, who wrote up the proceedings for Jazz News.
“A recording session demands patience even more than genius. First you spend what seems like hours getting a good balance. Often it means splitting musicians up, putting some on their own behind screens, destroying the physical unity of the group. Here, however, everybody is in touch.
Only Keith Scott, the pianist has any troubles. He has to turn his head right round to see when the singer stops – for there’s no amplification inside the studio.
Cyril Davies makes the platform beneath him shudder and shake as he plays harmonica, then sings, ‘I Got My Mojo Working’. Around another microphone sit Long John Baldry, Dick Heckstall-Smith and onlooking guitarist Jim Sullivan, exchanging ginger biscuits and shouting responses.
On this title the bass guitar is being used, played by Teddy Wadmore. The group’s regular bassist Spike Heatley seizes the chance to catch forty winks.
A snatch of conversation filters from the control room:
‘Well, what the hell is a Mojo, anyway?’
Halfway through the afternoon they all troop off to the canteen for tea.
The last stretch is always the toughest, Bottles get raised slightly more often. Dick Heckstall-Smith crouches over his tenor sax, a cross between Sonny Rollins and the eagle outside the American Embassy. Alexis Korner sits placidly, guitar resting on his tartan trousers…
Surrealism creeps into most human
activities. This time it enters during the third ‘take’ of ‘Finkle’s
Café’, just as the tenor
sax and guitar are swapping phrases. Despite the glowing red light, the studio
door opens and in walks a little girl dressed in grey. It’s like
The end, of course, like most finales, had a quality of anti-climax. Yet fifteen titles – good for one day, more than enough for an LP – have been put on tape. Now for the handing out of money, the packing up of instruments, the telephoning for taxis.
Jack Good, the A&R man, a City-type bowler jammed on his head, looses his last shaft of repartee, then strides out of the control room. Drums are trundled, bottles are discarded. Nobody can quite believe, its still 73 in the shade.”
The songs on the album mix Chicago Blues standards [mainly Muddy Waters] with some original compositions. As Graham Burbidge hinted, the heavy Jazz influence on the album does tend to dilute the raw, gutbucket power of Chicago Blues … and like so much of British Blues and R&B to come, Blues Inc’s milieu was the stage, not the studio. But at this distance, and with songs like ‘Got My Mojo Working’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ long since consigned to the dustbin of R&B cliché, it is worth reflecting on just how revolutionary and controversial it was for British musicians even to be playing these songs. Incredibly, the argument about can or should the white man play The Blues rages on this day, now the subject of interminably bouts of cyber-sparring.
marvelously meandering solo on the bonus cut ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’,
and John Baldry’s vocals throughout, are worthy
of special mention. But not even the sterile atmosphere of a studio could
undermine the power of Cyril Davies’ harp playing and singing, which are
the stand-out features of this album. Cyril’s tragic death at the age of
32, in 1964, robbed
Included among the bonus tracks is a novelty collaboration with journalist and broadcaster, Nancy Spain. Alexis met her when they both worked for the BBC. She became a star columnist for the Daily Express and was a radio regular on Woman’s Hour and My Word! Courageously, for those times, she lived openly in a lesbian relationship with the editor of She, Joan Werner Laurie, and was a friend of the famous, including Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich, She died in a light aeroplane crash on her way to the Grand National in 1964.
The period between the recording of this album, and its release in November ’62, saw the band at its peak. As Alexis explained later, “I’m sure that one of the reasons why so many great musicians chose to work with me was because there was simply no alternative. There wasn’t another R&B band that played regularly twice a week to at least a thousand people. But we never thought of ourselves as being popular, in the sense that The Tremeloes or some group like that is. We didn’t play at thr Pop ballrooms, and so I don’t think that the development of Pop music had much to do with us.”
But by the time the album came out, and