A Rockapaedia Obituary
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Alexis Korner died aged fifty-five on 1st January 1984 from lung cancer. He was survived by his wife, Roberta, a daughter, Gillett, and two sons, Nicholas and Damian.
Alexis Korner was born in Paris, to an Austrian Jewish father and a Greek mother. He spent his childhood in France, Switzerland and North Africa and arrived in London in 1940 at the start of World War Two. One memory of his youth was listening to a record by black pianist Jimmy Yancey during a German air raid. Alexis Korner said From then on all he wanted to do was to play the blues.
After the war, Alexis Korner played piano and guitar and in 1949 he joined Chris Barber's Jazz Band where he met blues harmonica player Cyril Davies. They started playing together as a duo, started the influential London Blues and Barrelhouse Club in 1955 and made their first record together in 1957. Alexis Korner made his first official record on Decca Records DFE 6286 in the company of Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group. His talent extended to playing mandolin on one of the tracks of this rare British EP. Alexis Korner brought over many American blues artists, previously virtually unknown in Britain, to perform.
In 1961, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies formed Blues Incorporated, initially a loose-knit group of musicians with a shared love of electric blues and R&B music. The group included, at various times, Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Long John Baldry, Graham Bond, Danny Thompson and Dick Heckstall-Smith. It also attracted a wider crowd of mostly younger fans, some of whom occasionally performed with the group, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Geoff Bradford, Rod Stewart, John Mayall and Jimmy Page.
Although Cyril Davies left the group in late 1962, Blues Incorporated continued to record, with Korner at the helm, until 1966. However, by that time its originally stellar line-up had mostly left to start their own bands. "While his one-time acolytes the Rolling Stones and Cream made the front pages of music magazines all over the world, Alexis Korner was relegated to the role of 'elder statesman'.
Although he himself was a blues purist, Alexis Korner criticised better-known British blues musicians during the blues boom of the late 1960s for their blind adherence to Chicago blues, as if the music came in no other form. He liked to surround himself with jazz musicians and often performed with a horn section drawn from a pool that included, among others, saxophone players Art Themen, Mel Collins, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Lol Coxhill, Dick Morrissey, John Surman and trombonist Mike Zwerin.
Later Alexis Korner began a media career, working initially as a show business interviewer and then on ITV's Five O'Clock Club, a children's TV show. He also wrote about blues for the music papers, and continued to maintain his own career as a blues artist, especially in Europe.
In October 1967, Alexis Korner interviewed The Jimi Hendrix Experience for the BBC radio show Top Gear. Some of these tracks, including audio of Alexis himself, appear on the Hendrix double-CD BBC Sessions, including Alexis playing slide guitar on "Hoochie Coochie Man".
While touring Scandinavia he formed the band New Church with guitarist and singer Peter Thorup. They subsequently were one of the support bands at the Rolling Stones Free Concert in Hyde Park, London in1969.
In 1970 Alexis Korner and Thorup formed a big-band ensemble, CCS – short for "The Collective Consciousness Society" – which had several hit singles produced by Mickie Most, including a version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", which was used as the theme for BBC's Top of the Pops between 1970 and 1981. Another instrumental called "Brother" was used as the theme to the BBC Radio 1 Top 20/40 when Tom Browne/Simon Bates presented the programme in the 1970s. It was also used in the 1990s on Radio Luxembourg for the Top 20 Singles chart. This was the period of Alexis Korner's greatest commercial success in the UK. In 1973 he provided a voice part for the Hot Chocolate single release Brother Louie.
In 1973, he and Peter Thorup formed another group, Snape, with Boz Burrell, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace, who were previously together in King Crimson. Alexis also played on B.B. King's In London album, and cut his own, similar "super-session" album; Get Off My Cloud, with Keith Richards, Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, Nicky Hopkins and members of Joe Cocker's Grease Band. In the mid-1970s, while touring Germany, Alexis Korner established an intensive working relationship with bassist Colin Hodgkinson who played for the support act Back Door. They would continue to collaborate right up until Alexis Korner's death.
In the 1970s Alexis Korner's main career was in broadcasting. In 1973 he presented a unique 6-part documentary on BBC Radio 1, The Rolling Stones Story, and in 1977 he established a Sunday-night blues and soul show on Radio 1, Alexis Korner's Blues and Soul Show, which ran until 1981. He also used his gravelly voice to great effect as an advertising voice-over artist. In 1978, for his 50th birthday, an all-star concert was held featuring many of his above-mentioned friends, as well as Eric Clapton, Paul Jones, Chris Farlowe, Zoot Money and others, which was later released as The Party Album, and as a video.
In 1981, Korner joined another "supergroup", Rocket 88, a project led by Ian Stewart based on boogie-woogie keyboard players, which featured a rhythm section comprising Jack Bruce and Charlie Watts, among others, as well as a horn section. They toured Europe and released an album on Atlantic Records.
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