Chris Wood died aged thirty-nine of pneumonia on 12th July 1983 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, U.K.
At the time, he was working on a solo album that was to be titled Vulcan, and had recorded material for the album over the previous few years, mostly in London at Island's Hammersmith Studio, The Fall Out Shelter, with engineer Terry Barham, as well as at Pathway Studios in London. Following Chris' death, the Vulcan recordings remained in the possession of his sister, Stephanie. In 2008, with the consent of Stephanie Wood a CD titled Vulcan, consisting of selected material Chris had recorded while working on the incomplete album was released by Esoteric Recordings.
Traffic recorded one additional studio album, Far from Home , after Chris Wood's death. The album is dedicated to him, and the central figure on its front cover is a stick figure of a man playing flute.
Chris Woood was born in Birmingham, U.K. and had an interest in music and painting from early childhood. Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he commenced playing at the age of fifteen.
Chris attended the Stourbridge College of Art, then the Birmingham School of Art and subsequently was awarded a grant to attend the Royal Academy of Art.
Aged eighteen, Chris joined the Steve Hadley Quartet, a jazz/blues group in 1962. His younger sister Stephanie designed clothes for the Spencer Davis Group, based in Birmingham, and it was through her that Chris was first introduced to fellow Birmingham native Steve Winwood. A well-known Birmingham club – the Elbow Room – was an after-hours haunt of local bands and musicians and it was here that Chris used to meet up with Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, and with Dave Mason, the four eventually formed Traffic.
To focus his fledgling band, Island Records' founder Chris Blackwell arranged for Traffic to retreat to an isolated farmhouse on the Berkshire Downs near Aston Tirrold. A concrete outdoor stage was built with the band's stage equipment set up to overlook the surrounding fields. After six months honing their music, Traffic released their first single, "Paper Sun".
In Traffic, Chris Wood primarily played flute and saxophone, occasionally contributing keyboards, bass and vocals. He also co-wrote several of Traffic's songs, particularly during the earlier period of the band's recording career. His most notable contribution is as the co-writer, with Winwood and Capaldi, of "Dear Mr. Fantasy".
Chris Wood introduced the seventeenth century traditional song "John Barleycorn" to the band after hearing it on a Watersons album. It became the title song of their 1970 album, "John Barleycorn Must Die."
Chris Wood played with Jimi Hendrix in 1968, appearing on Electric Ladyland. When Steve Winwood formed supergroup Blind Faith in 1969, Chris Wood, Mason and Capaldi joined Mick Weaver otherwise known as Wynder K Frog, to become Mason, Capaldi, Wood and Frog. He then went on to tour the United States with Dr. John, where he met singer Jeanette Jacobs . Chris and Jeanette married in November 1972, at Kensington Registry Office.
In 1969, Chris Wood also appeared on the eponymous second album of Free and the Small Faces' The Autumn Stone. In 1970, Chris Wood and his wife, along with Steve Winwood, joined Ginger Baker's Air Force, releasing one album before reforming Traffic. Chris Wood remained with Traffic from the time of its 1970 reformation until its 1974 breakup. He played on John Martyn's Inside Out in 1973. Throughout Traffic's life, Chris was also in demand as a session musician with his immediately identifiable flute or saxophone playing cropping up on albums by Rebop Kwaku Baah, Tyrone Downie, Fat Mattress, Gordon Jackson, Crawler, The Sky, Bobby Whitlock and others.
Through much of his life, Chris Wood suffered from addiction to drugs and alcohol, which were initially attributed to a fear of flying. Tortured by his wife's serial infidelity while immersing himself in musical experimentation, Chris turned to more drink and drugs for solace. When a liver disease was identified, indulgences were cut down. His wife Jeanette, from whom he had separated, died in 1982, at the age of 30, from the effects of a seizure and Chris was known to be profoundly affected by her death.
In June 2013, Chris Wood's 69th birthday, the Chris Wood Estate, run by his sister, Stephanie, announced that a commemorative box set was being prepared – in collaboration with contemporary music archivists HiddenMasters, to properly honour Chris Wood's life in music. Among other music, the set would include the album Vulcan as Chris originally sequenced it in 1978. The box set Evening Blue was finally released three and a half years later in early 2017, in a special deluxe first edition limited to 1000 copies.
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