Sunday, November 14, 2010

Folk Blues at the Fairfield Hall

Browsing in a charity shop yesterday I came across an LP by Memphis Slim called Broken Soul Blues on the United Artists label. It was released in 1963 - the year that blues really took off in the UK with the visit of the first Folk Blues Festival (or American Negro Blues Festival as it was called at the time) to the UK, with an appearance at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon with a cast that included Memphis Slim. I was there, as I was for subsequent folk blues shows at the Fairfield Hall in the following few years, and it was a star studded line up, including Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Otis Spann, Lonnie Johnson, Big Joe Williams, Matt Guitar Murphy and Willie Dixon. The following year was just as good, with Howlin' Wolf, Sunnyland Slim, Lightning Hopkins, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Sleepy John Estes on the bill.

I already had an interest in the blues, but the show awakened me to a range of blues artists that I had previously had little knowledge of. It certainly helped to boost the blues boom in the UK, with every British act from the Stones downwards trying to emulate their heroes. It created a new phase in the careers of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, and we even had the likes of John Lee Hooker's Dimples, Jimmy Reed's Shame Shame Shame and Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightning in the pop charts. It also boosted the careers of the artists featured on the show: I remember seeing Sonny Boy Williamson a couple of times around that time, including a show at the Bromley Court Hotel (with whisky bottle close at hand at all times).
In the end it was the UK which led the worldwide revival of blues at a time when the music was increasingly being neglected in its homeland. The Memphis Slim album is a cracker, by the way. Here's Memphis Slim and Matt Guitar Murphy from the time


At 7:07 pm , Anonymous Hornsey Howler said...

I'm not familiar with this Memphis Slim's UA recordings. I have material recorded for Vee-Jay and Chess and some European labels. One of my first blues purchases was the one he recoded in London in 1960 with Alexis Korner.

At 6:30 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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