What started off as something for singer Paul Jones to do on nights off from acting has turned into a 36-year dedication for these top musicians, as MARTIN HUTCHINSON reports
Formed to play a handful of gigs back in 1979, The Blues Band are still packing them in, 36 years later.
The band was put together by ex Manfred Mann members Paul Jones (vocals and harmonica) and Tom McGuinness (guitar), along with guitarist Dave Kelly, bassist Gary Fletcher and drummer Hughie Flint, and that line-up is still the same, apart from the drummer.
“Yes,” says slide guitarist Dave Kelly, “Hughie retired in 1982 and we got a new drummer in Rob Townsend (ex Family – and a member of The Manfreds with Paul and Tom).
“He’s the new boy, but it’s been 33 years, so I think he’s got the gig.” Kelly laughs.
“The band was Paul’s idea,” he explains. “He was an actor at the time, but his first love was the blues and he wanted to form a band to play the blues on his nights off from the theatre.
He’s the new boy, but it’s been 33 years, so I think he’s got the gig
“He had a week spare and he filled it with gigs in London pubs, most of which aren’t there any more. Every gig sold out and we thought – ‘interesting’, and here we are 36 years later.”
Pestered by record companies for records, the band released their ‘official bootleg’ album in 1980 and have since recorded nearly 20 albums. The band plays a mix of blues standards and original material in their set, and they often throw up some surprises.
“Yeah,” says Kelly. “We keep it fresh and got rid of the set-list about 10 or 12 years ago. Whoever wants to sing just calls out the song that’s in his mind and we just play it.”
Dave has a grounding in all sorts of music, as he tells me.
“I came up on skiffle and rock and roll when I was around 10 years old. In fact, I still love country, rhythm and blues, jazz – all the ingredients of rock and roll.
“Then when I was about 15 I discovered blues music and was knocked out by it, especially Muddy Waters. It just moves you.”
Paul Jones also had his roots in blues music, which he discovered at college and for a while Manfred Mann backed Sonny Boy Williamson.
And Tom McGuinness’ first band, called The Roosters, had a young guitarist called Eric Clapton in their ranks.
So the blues is in every pore of every member of the band, and their enthusiasm shines out in every note of their sell-out shows. They play the blues with feeling and expertise – and get ready to dance.
The Blues Band will be appearing at The Charter Theatre, Preston, on Friday February 5.
Tickets are available from the Box Office and all the usual agencies.