John Mayall

While John Mayall has never been a household name or achieved significant mainstream success, his influence on contemporary British music has been massive. As one of the fathers of the British blues movement, Mayall has effectively been the catalyst for many great guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. The son of a jazz guitarist, he was inspired by hearing American blues icons Leadbelly, Pinetop Smith, Albert Ammons and Eddie Lang to teach himself to play guitar, piano and harmonica and, after a spell at Manchester College of Art, he joined the Blues Syndicate and was persuaded by Alexis Korner to move to London to pursue a career in music. Korner introduced him to other like-minded musicians and out of that came the first incarnation of his band, the Bluesbreakers, which included John McVie (who went on to form Fleetwood Mac) on bass. They backed John Lee Hooker on tour and earned a recording contract with Decca, releasing their first single Crocodile Walk in 1964. Eric Clapton joined Bluesbreakers the following year and created much interest as a result of bluesy jazz tracks like I'm Your Witchdoctor leading to, in 1966, the classic and massively influential Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton album. Other important musicians who spent time in Mayall's band included Peter Green (later of Fleetwood Mac), Jack Bruce (Cream), Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), Andy Fraser (Free), Jon Hiseman (Colisseum) and Hughie Flint (McGuinness Flint). By the 1970s, Mayall had moved to the US and put together a new band, although he reformed one version of the Bluesbreakers in 1982 and celebrated his 70th birthday with an all-star charity show in 2003. He split the Bluesbreakers finally in 2008 but continued recording and touring with other musicians up to his 80th birthday.

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