Backstage with ‘Long John’ Baldry

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – May 04, 2019

John William “Long John” Baldry (12 January 1941 – 21 July 2005) was an English-Canadian blues singer and voice actor. In the 1960s, he was one of the first British vocalists to sing the blues in clubs, and shared the stage with many British musicians including the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Both Rod Stewart and Elton John appeared, before their stardom, in bands led by Baldry. He enjoyed pop success in 1967 when Let the Heartaches Begin reached No. 1 in the UK, and in Australia where his duet with Kathi McDonald You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ reached No. 2 in 1980.

Baldry’s birth was registered in Brixworth Registration District in Northamptonshire in the first quarter of 1941. He was born to William James Baldry (1915-1990), a metropolitan police constable and his wife, Margaret Louisa née Parker (1915-1989), who escaped London during The Blitz to give birth in Northampton, making East Haddon his most likely birthplace.

His early life was spent in Edgware, Middlesex where he attended Camrose Primary School until the age of 11, after which he attended Downer Grammar School, now Canons High School.

Blues bands of the 1960s

Baldry grew to 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), resulting in the nickname “Long John”. Baldry appeared quite regularly in the early 1960s in the Gyre & Gimble coffee lounge, around the corner from Charing Cross railway station, and at the Brownsville R. & B. Club, Manor House, London, also “Klooks Kleek” (Railway Hotel, West Hampstead). He appeared weekly for some years at Eel Pie Island on the Thames at Twickenham and also appeared at the Station Hotel in Richmond, one of the Rolling Stones’ earliest venues.

In the early 1960s, he sang with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, with whom he recorded the first British blues album in 1962, R&B from the Marquee. At stages, Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce and Charlie Watts were members of this band while Keith Richards and Brian Jones played on stage, although none played on the R&B at the Marquee album. [2] When The Rolling Stones made their debut at the Marquee Club in July 1962, Baldry put together a group to support them. Later, Baldry was the announcer introducing the Stones on their US-only live album, Got Live If You Want It!, in 1966.

Baldry became friendly with Paul McCartney after a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in the early 1960s, leading to an invitation to sing on one of The Beatles 1964 TV specials, Around The Beatles. In the special, Baldry performs “Got My Mojo Workin'” and a medley of songs with members of The Vernons Girls trio; in the latter, the Beatles are shown singing along in the audience.


Long John Baldry & the Beatles, I’ve Got My Mojo Workin

In 1963, Baldry joined the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars with Nicky Hopkins playing piano. He took over in 1964 after the death of Cyril Davies, and the group became Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men featuring Rod Stewart on vocals and Geoff Bradford on guitar. Stewart was recruited when Baldry heard him busking a Muddy Waters song at Twickenham Station after Stewart had been to a Baldry gig at Eel Pie Island. [4] Long John Baldry became a regular fixture on Sunday nights at Eel Pie Island from then onwards, fronting a series of bands.


LONG JOHN BALDRY – I’M YOUR HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN

In 1965, the Hoochie Coochie Men became Steampacket with Baldry and Stewart as male vocalists, Julie Driscoll as the female vocalist and Brian Auger on Hammond organ. After Steampacket broke up in 1966, Baldry formed Bluesology featuring Reg Dwight on keyboards and Elton Dean, later of Soft Machine, as well as Caleb Quaye on guitar. Dwight, when he began to record as a solo artist, adopted the name Elton John, his first name from Elton Dean and his surname from John Baldry.

Solo artist

In 1967, he recorded a pop song “Let the Heartaches Begin” that went to number one in Britain, followed by a 1968 top 20 hit titled “Mexico”, which was the theme of the UK Olympic team that year. “Let the Heartaches Begin” made the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Baldry was still touring, doing gigs with Bluesology, but the band refused to back his rendition of “Let the Heartaches Begin”, and left the stage while he performed to a backing-tape played on a large Revox tape-recorder.

In 1971, John and Stewart each produced one side of It Ain’t Easy which became Baldry’s most popular album and made the top 100 of the US album chart. The album featured “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll” which became his most successful song in the US. Baldry’s first tour of the US was at this time. The band included Micky Waller, Ian Armitt, Pete Sears, and Sammy Mitchell. Stewart and John would again co-produce his 1972 album Everything Stops For Tea which also made the lower reaches of the US album charts. The same year, Baldry worked with ex-Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball.


LONG JOHN BALDRY – SEVENTH SON

Move to Canada, later career

After time in New York City and Los Angeles in 1978, Baldry settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a Canadian citizen. He toured the west coast, as well as the US Northwest. Baldry also toured the Canadian east, including one 1985 show in Kingston, Ontario, where audience members repeatedly called for the title track from his 1979 album Baldry’s Out! – to which he replied, “I’ll say he is!”[citation needed]

In 1976, he teamed with Seattle singer Kathi McDonald who became part of the Long John Baldry Band, touring Canada and the US. In 1979 the pair recorded a version of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”, following which McDonald became part of his touring group for two decades. The song entered the US Billboard charts but was a No. 2 hit in Australia in 1980. He last recorded with the Stony Plain label. His 1997 album Right To Sing The Blues won a Juno Award in the Blues Album of the Year category in the Juno Awards of 1997.


Long John Baldry Band, featuring Kathi McDonald

In 2003 Baldry headlined the British Legends of Rhythm and Blues UK tour, alongside Zoot Money, Ray Dorset and Paul Williams. [9] He played Columbus, Ohio, on 19 July 2004, at Barristers Hall with guitarist Bobby Cameron, in a show produced by Andrew Myers. They played to a small group, some came from Texas.[citation needed][7] Two years previously the two had a 10-venue sell-out tour of Canada.

Baldry’s final UK Tour as ‘The Long John Baldry Trio’ concluded with a performance on Saturday 13 November 2004 at The King’s Lynn Arts Centre, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England. The trio consisted of LJB, Butch Coulter on harmonica and Dave Kelly on slide guitar.

Personal life

Baldry was openly gay during the early 1960s, at least amongst his friends and industry peers. However, he did not make a formal public acknowledgement of this until the 1970s—possibly because until 1967 in Britain, male homosexuality was still a criminal offence that could lead to forced medication and/or jail time.

In 1968, Elton John tried to commit suicide after relationship problems with a woman, Linda Woodrow. His lyricist Bernie Taupin and Baldry[11] found him, and Baldry talked him out of marrying her, helping make Elton John comfortable with his sexuality. The song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was about the experience.[12][13] The name “Sugar Bear” in the song is a reference to Baldry.

Death

Baldry lived in Canada from the late 1970s until his death. He continued to make records there, and do voiceover work. Two of his best known voice roles were as Dr. Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, and as KOMPLEX in Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars.

Baldry died 21 July 2005, in Vancouver General Hospital, of a severe chest infection. He was survived by his partner, Felix “Oz” Rexach, [17] a brother, Roger, and a sister, Margaret.


Long John Baldry – Walk me out in the morning dew

Video source: www.youtube.com

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