Don’t lay no boogie woogie on the king of rock and roll…

by richardflohil on 01/01/2020

Of all the people I’ve had the good fortune to work with, Long John Baldry was one of the most memorable.  He really was 6 ft. 7-inches tall, and he liked stacked-heel boots and big hats. He hated any form of mechanical transportation, except maybe trains. He hated flying, and needed a business class ticket and fair amount of alcoholic “refreshment” before getting on one; he refused to fly in prop planes, and once demanded — and got — a limo from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Halifax (400 kilometres, five hours) when he discovered that his ticket was for small plane…

Most young people don’t know that it was Baldry who discovered Rod Stewart. To quote John:  “Roddy was playing harmonica under a pile of football scarves on a railway station platform at midnight, after a gig I’d played on Eel Pie Island — I offered him an audition in my orchestra…”  And certainly not many people know that Reg Dwight, the keyboard player in Baldry’s band, changed his name to Elton John, naming himself after Elton Dean, another player in the band, and John himself.

John told lots of stories, but my favourite was one about a car wreck he was in. He and Rod Stewart had a major Indian meal in Soho (probably the Red Fort) with a great deal of wine and good spirits.  With the left overs wrapped up by the solicitous staff, the pair stumbled out into the waiting limousine. At the next intersection the car was hit broadside by a truck; keeled onto one side, bounced, and finally settled. When the crump of dented metal and the shattering of glass subsided, there was a moment of silence. “Oh God,” said Rod, lying on the floor of the car, “I’m dying; I’m covered in blood, there’s blood everywhere…”

John looked down. In his upperclass English accent he said: “Don’t be silly, Roddy. That’s not blood; that’s my chicken vindaloo…”

So here’s a taste of classic John Baldry, who left us seven years ago, and is still missed by everyone who knew him. The first video is a treatment of his only North American hit. Some of you will remember the song; the bit players here include members of Monty Python, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and more…

And here’s a song from a Beatles TV special in 1964. Not bad to have the Fab Four, and the Rolling Stones, singing backup…

John lived in Canada for a quarter of a century, he made his last records (including a wonderful tribute to Leadbelly) for Stony Plain Records, and earned much of his living doing voice-over parts for cartoons, playing pantomime productions, and touring — including annual trips back to England and to Europe.

Richard

PS: Here’s a bonus — an interview with Holger Petersen about Leadbelly. This is for hardcore folkies and guitar addicts only!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOE5deaNTC4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOE5deaNTC4

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