Kim Simmonds keeps the spirit of Savoy Brown alive for ’70s-rock holdouts

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 14, 2002

By Steve Newton

It’s been 36 years since guitarist-vocalist Kim Simmonds founded British boogie-blues band Savoy Brown, and he’s kept the name alive through constant touring and steady CD releases. But the undying outfit might have been wiped out for good in a torrent of jet fuel and tumbling steel girders if its concert schedule had been a little different last summer. On August 31, Savoy Brown became the last group to perform live at the World Trade Center before those jackass hijackers made their ghastly point on September 11.

“They had a huge soundstage set up right in front of the Twin Towers,” explains the New York–based Simmonds, calling from the road outside Bakersfield, California. “Our dressing room was right behind the stage, inside, at the bottom of the Twin Towers. We had a great time there—good audience, got on well with all the crew—and then a week or so later the soundstage was just gone. We lost a couple of security guys that we had met there, so we really feel an attachment to the event, beyond the fact that [everyone] is affected by it.”

Maybe somewhere down the line Simmonds will pen a bluesy ode to the Big Apple’s doomed skyscrapers. Until then, Savoy Brown fans will have to get by with Blues Like Midnight, the all-acoustic CD released last year, material from which will be highlighted when the band plays a 5 p.m. show at the Yale on Sunday (February 17). Noted for surrounding himself with primo players, Simmonds will be in the company of Long Island bassist Gerry Serrentino (Duke Robillard, Shemekia Copeland), Hudson Valley drummer Dennis Cotton (Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen), and Schenectady, New York, guitarist David Malachowski, who is noted for putting country-pop diva Shania Twain’s first band together. So does that mean Malachowski will be lacing the bluesy proceedings with some down-home country twang?

“He could do!” says Simmonds. “He did play with a lot of country acts for a certain period of his career. But his roots are in the ’60s, so he’s a very well rounded player, just a great guitarist in his own right.”

Simmonds says that performing with a second picker makes his group sound like the Savoy Brown of old, which should make the gig a priority for any ’70s-rock holdouts who still cherish their dog-eared vinyl copies of Street Corner Talking and Hellbound Train. They should also appreciate that the 57-year-old road warrior has been keeping himself in good shape, both physically and mentally.

“My goal is to play until I’m in my 80s, God willin’,” he says, “because the guys I’ve admired all my life did just that. Buddy Guy was around when I was 15, and he’s still making records, and I’m still buyin’ them. And John Lee Hooker was around when I was 15, and up until about a year ago he was still making records. So I hope that at least I can take their inspiration and, if I’m lucky, turn it into a lifelong ambition to play music.”

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