Long John Baldry
Long John Baldry died aged sixty-five of a severe chest infection in Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He was survived by his partner, Felix "Oz" Rexach, a brother, Roger, and a sister, Margaret.
Long John Baldry was born on 12th January 1941 to William James Baldry, a policeman and Margaret Louisa née Parker. His early life was spent in Edgware, Middlesex, UK, where he attended Camrose Primary School until the age of eleven, after which he attended Downer Grammar School, now Canons High School. Just before his death, he attended the school's 40th anniversary celebrations.
John Baldry grew to six feet & seven inches, resulting in the nickname "Long John". He was one of the first British vocalists to sing blues in clubs. 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 1960's, Long John Baldry 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. When The Rolling Stones made their debut at the Marquee Club in July 1962, Long John Baldry put together a group to support them. Later, he was the announcer introducing the Stones on their US-only live album, Got Live If You Want It!, in 1966.
Long John 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.
In 1963, Long John 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 Long John Baldry heard him busking a Muddy Waters song at Twickenham Station after Stewart had been to a Baldry gig at Eel Pie Island. Long John Baldry became a regular fixture on Sunday nights at Eel Pie Island from then onwards, fronting a series of bands.
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, Long John 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 Dean and his surname from Baldry. When Elton John and Bluesology left Baldry without a backing group he was in the Mecca at Shaftesbury Avenue where he was watching a five piece harmony group from Plymouth, Devon called "Chimera" who had then recently turned professional. Long John Baldry approached them after their set and said how impressed he was by the vocal harmonies and that they would be ideal to back him on the cabaret circuit he was currently embarked on. This they did.
Long John 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.
Baldry had a brief relationship with lead-guitarist of The Kinks, Dave Davies, and supported Elton John in coming to terms with his own sexuality. In 1978 his then-upcoming album Baldry's Out announced his formal coming out, and he addressed sexuality problems with a cover of Canadian songwriter Bill Amesbury's "A Thrill's a Thrill".
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 USA.
Bluesology broke up in 1968, with Long John Baldry continuing his solo career and Elton John forming a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. Following the departure of Elton John and Bluesology, Baldry was left without a backup band. Attending a show in the Mecca at Shaftesbury Avenue, he saw a five piece harmony group called Chimera from Plymouth, Devon, who had recently turned professional. He approached them after their set and said how impressed he was by their vocal harmonies and that they would be ideal to back him on the cabaret circuit he was currently embarked on. This they did.
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 USA 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 USA. Long John 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 made the lower reaches of the US album charts. The same year, Long John Baldry worked with ex-Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball.
Long John Baldry had mental health problems and was institutionalised for a brief time in 1975. The 1979 album Baldry's Out was recorded after his release. He played live at Zolly's Forum a nightclub in Oshawa, underneath the Oshawa Shopping Centre, shortly after releasing Baldry's Out.
After time in New York City and Los Angeles in 1978, Long John Baldry settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a Canadian citizen. He toured the west coast, as well as the US Northwest. Long John Baldry also toured the Canadian east, including one 1985 show in Kingston, Ontario.
In 1979, he teamed with Seattle singer Kathi McDonald to record 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 made the lower reaches of the USA Billboard charts but was a top 5 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 played his last live show in Columbus, Ohio, on 19 July 2004, at Barristers Hall with guitarist Bobby Cameron. The show was produced by Andrew Myers. They played to a small group, some came from Texas. Two years previously the two had a 10-venue sell-out tour of Canada. In 2003 Baldry headlined the British Legends of Rhythm and Blues UK tour, alongside Zoot Money, Ray Dorset and Paul Williams.Long John 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, UK. The trio consisted of LJB, Butch Coulter on harmonica and Dave Kelly on slide guitar.
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