Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album cover
John Mayall was born November 29, 1933 in Macclesfield, England. His father was a guitarist and jazz music enthusiast and John was drawn to the sounds of American blues players such as Leadbelly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith and Eddie Lang, and taught himself to play the piano, guitars and harmonica. Mayall served three years of national service in Korea, where, during a period of leave, he bought his first electric guitar. Back in Manchester, he enrolled in the Manchester College of Art and started playing with semi-professional bands. After graduation, he obtained a job as an art designer but continued to play with local musicians. In 1956, he formed the Powerhouse Four with college mate Peter Ward, which consisted of them and other local musicians with whom they played at local dances. In 1962, Mayall became a member of the Blues Syndicate. The band was formed by trumpeter John Rowlands and alto saxophonist Jack Massarik, who wanted to try a blend of jazz and blues in a vein similar to Alexis Korner. It also included guitarist Ray Cummins and drummer Hughie Flint. It was Alexis Korner who encouraged Mayall to pursue music full time and move to London, which he did in 1963. It was in London that Mayall formed the Bluesbreakers, which started playing at the Marquee Club. The lineup was Mayall, Ward, John McVie on bass and guitarist Bernie Watson (formerly of Cyril Davies and the R&B All-Stars). In Spring 1964, the Bluesbreakers had their first recording session, and with Martin Hart on drums, they recorded two tracks: “Crawling Up a Hill” and “Mr. James”. Shortly afterwards, Hughie Flint replaced Hart, and Roger Dean replaced Watson. This lineup backed John Lee Hooker in his 1964 British tour. Mayall was offered a recording contract by Decca Records in December 1964, but a subsequent live album and a single were commercial failures and the contract was terminated. In April 1965, former Yardbirds guitarist Eric Clapton replaced Roger Dean. The band began to attract considerable attention with their new guitar player. The Bluesbreakers signed with Decca again and in April 1966 recorded an album with the Mayall-Clapton-McVie-Flint lineup. In the U.S., two tracks from the album “Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton” (1966) were released as a single: “All Your Love” b/w “Hideaway”. This is today’s featured single.
“All Your Love” is a cover version of a song written by Willie Dixon and Otis Rush; Rush’s recording of the song was released as a single on Cobra Records in 1958. This version is somewhat different than the original: the tempo is slowed, and there is no saxophone. The piano has been replaced by Mayall’s Hammond organ, which remains in the background, as Clapton’s guitar-playing is the driving force on this track. The song is a slow blues tune in A minor. The main rhythm goes Am-Dm-Em. There is a Clapton guitar solo that begins 1 minute and 21 seconds into the track. At 1 minute and 48 seconds in, the second part of the solo begins, and the song sounds like an up tempo shuffle. This continues until about 3 minutes into the track, when we get a reprise of the beginning part as the tempo slows down again, which lasts another thirty seconds before the song comes to a halt. Mayall’s velvety vocals complement this arrangement of the song quite well, especially on the mono mix of the song, where his vocals echo resoundingly. On the whole, this track is not a bad introduction to the Clapton era Bluesbreakers.
The B-side, “Hideaway”, is a cover version of the Freddy King/Sonny Thompson composition. The late Freddy King recorded the song, and it was released as a single in 1961, peaking at #29 on the Billboard singles chart and #5 on the R&B chart. It is an instrumental song in which the rhythm changes quite often. The main chords are the E blues chords (E7/A7/B7). Again this song provides a good showcase for Clapton’s guitar talents, but at 41 seconds in, we also get a bass solo by McVie (and another one at 1 minute and 45 seconds into the track). Mayall’s Hammond plays a more prominent role on this track. Freddy King was a fairly substantial influence on Clapton – he covered all of King’s major hits – and he works his way through this song with a considerable flourish.
This single was released on Deram in 1966. No picture sleeve was issued with the single. The single and album would eventually become a critical success (Rolling Stone ranked it 195 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time), but soon after it was recorded, Clapton left to form Cream, and Mayall was left scrambling for a replacement guitarist. He eventually settled on Peter Green. Mick Fleetwood and Aynsley Dunbar replaced Flint on drums, and this lineup recorded “A Hard Road” (1967), another album that is considered a classic. Afterwards, Green left to form Fleetwood Mac, and Mayall replaced him with Terry Edmonds and Mick Taylor. By mid-1967, the Bluesbreakers became a six-piece band, with Mayall, Taylor, McVie, Hughie Flint or Keef Hartley on drums, and Rip Kant and Chris Mercer on saxes. By 1968, John McVie had left, and Taylor left in 1969 to join the Rolling Stones. By the time “Diary of a Band Vol. 1 and Vol. 2” (1968) was released, Mayall had retired the “Bluesbreakers” name, releasing albums in his name, although he would remain a prolific artist, averaging a studio album a year throughout the 1970’s. In 1984, Mayall revived the Bluesbreakers name for a lineup featuring guitarists Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. In November 2008, Mayall announced on his website that he was disbanding the Bluesbreakers to cut back on his heavy workload and to give him the freedom to work with other musicians.
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers performing All Your Love live in 1987