Long John Baldry on Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Bowie, and not wanting to be known as The King of Rock and Roll



By Steve Newton

Long John Baldry is a giant among British blues-rockers–and that’s not only because he stands 6 feet 7-1/2 inches tall. In his 26-year career the singer has played with stars such as Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, and Elton John, among many others, and performed on over 30 albums. In the early sixties he became good friends with John Lennon and Paul McCartney; at one point the Beatles would open for his band at the famed Cavern Club in Liverpool.

Baldry was a prime motivator in the development of white electric blues, and he’s still laying down the “boogie woogie” today. Vancouver fans have the opportunity to see the man live at the Commodore Ballroom this Saturday (September 14).

He’ll be joined by a knockout band that includes longtime Baldry bassist George Ford, guitarist “Papa” John King, saxophonists Wayne Kozak and Davie Norris-Elye, keyboardist Joe Ingrao, harp player Butch Coulter, and a new drummer, 20-year-old Randy Cooke, who Long John calls the best of all the drummers he’s had over the years (which includes Mickey Waller, drummer for Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, and Charlie Watts of the Stones!).

Also appearing will be vocalist Kathi McDonald, who’s been part of the Baldry clan for ten years. She’s an amazing singer in her own right, and has been featured on records by Joe Cocker (Mad Dogs and Englishmen), Leon Russell (Shelter People), Elton John (Tumbleweed Junction), and the Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street).

Long John Baldry recently took up residence in Vancouver, shifting his home base from Toronto. I talked to him about the move, his musical plans, and his lengthy career in R&B.

Why the move to Vancouver?

Oh, to get away from the Ontario winters more than anything else [chuckles]. I’ve been living in Toronto for some years now but in February of this year, when that really enormous blizzard hit Ontario, I was out stuck in the streets with no transportation, and I had to walk home about three and a half miles–which is no big deal in weather like this, but if you’re in the middle of the worst blizzard of the year… And I made my mind up then. I said, “Vancouver, here I come.”

But I’ve always loved Vancouver very much, and it’s always been on my mind to move out here.

What will you be doing here?

Uh, living. I don’t intend to be any more a part of the music scene than I am at the moment. I wouldn’t want to be doing any more than, say, four things a year here–which is usually what I’ve done in Vancouver in the past. I’ll be commuting from here to wherever.

Are you going to be recording here?

Yes. The next album will be recorded–99 percent sure–at Mushroom Studios. And as I live a stone’s throw from Mushroom, that makes me very happy. I think to be able to live so near to a recording studio is just great.

When will you start work on it?

Umm…soon as I’ve got various things out of the way, including the Commodore, which is this weekend. Then I’ve got a college tour in the east to deal with. I would guess that we would be starting work on it mid-October onwards, but I’m in no rush because I don’t intend to release anyway until the end of April, beginning of May.

Are you on a record label?

Uh, no–not at this moment. But I have material now prepared that’s in very good preparatory state to present to a label. I did some stuff with Jimmy Horovitz, who did the Baldry’s Out album with me. Did six tracks with him down in Los Angeles a month or two back, and we’re using that as a tool, you know, a shopping thing.

What do you think of the Vancouver music scene? Do you get out and see bands much?

I like what I see and hear. Of course I’ve been out to see quite a few of the bluesy-type people. There’s a lot of very good musicians here locally. And I’ve been to see one or two of the, you know, the new wave, pop-type bands as well. I like the Images in Vogue band.

In fact I was present at one of their very first gigs ever, about three years ago in Edmonton. We shared the billing there, and I’ve become quite friendly with the guys in the band. I was down at Dale Martindale’s thing at the Luv A Fair a week or two back when he had his Naked In The Garden band on. That was quite interesting.

It says in your press kit that Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters were your biggest influences when you were starting out.

Yes, they were the very first blues players I ever heard in my life. And they still play an important part in how I think and do music.

Who are your favourite blues people these days?

Oh I like Stevie Ray Vaughan very much. Unfortunately I missed his performance at the Commodore last week. I hear it was a great evening, but sadly I missed it. I got down to see B.B. King on Wednesday though.

It also says in your bio that Eric Clapton got the urge to pick up guitar after he saw you performing.

That’s right. In fact, Eric makes mention of that in a recent Rolling Stone interview–the issue with David Letterman on the front that came out a few issues back. And he makes quite heavy mention of myself in the beginning. So that was rather nice, because a lot of what I say to the media very often is sort of regarded with cynicism, skepticism, whatever. And that was an instance where the proof was there, in Clapton saying it himself.

Is it true that at one time Jeff Beck was going to join your band, The Hoochie Coochie Men?

Yes, that would have been back in about 1964. But his wife at that time didn’t agree with people playing music full time, and she said, “No no no”. He had a daytime job then.

Were you surprised when David Bowie did a version of your hit “It Ain’t Easy” on his Ziggy Stardust album?

Yes [chuckles]. Very much so. In fact when I was on tour in ’72 or ‘3 with the Faces in England, people were yelling at me “What are you doing David Bowie songs for?” And although I didn’t write that song myself–it was written by a man from Tacoma called Ron Davis–I was the first person to record it. And of course it did subsequently get covered by a number of people actually. Three Dog Night did a version as well.

Did you write “Don’t Try to Lay no Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll”?

Partially. I wrote it with a guy called Jeff Thomas from Atlanta, Georgia. People who saw the movie Nine to Five will know Jeff’s face, because he played Dolly Parton’s husband in that movie.

In “Don’t Try to Lay no Boogie Woogie…”, is that referring to you as the king of rock and roll?

No! No, no [chuckles]. Not at all. It’s very embarrassing that, because very often people who are promoting me or advertising me put “The King of Rock and Roll, Long John Baldry”. And I’m sure there are many many others far more deserving of the title than me. It’s purely just a part of a song.

That song did pretty well for you.

Oh yeah, it’s still a song that people identify with me. From that whole early ’70s party atmosphere–I guess that was the main party record that everyone listened to back then.

One of my favourite songs that you do is “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”, from the Baldry’s Out album of ’79.

Well I actually did record it back in 1964, when I was with United Artists, on an album called Looking At Long John. And when I was preparing for a tour in ’78 here, which kicked off at the old Cave, I was saying to Kathi “Oh let’s revive ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and see how it works on stage.” And the song was received so well–the way Kathi and I did it onstage–that we thought “Well, this is definitely a song we should record on the album.” So it was very much by public demand that that song got put on the Baldry’s Out album.

How did you come to work with Bill Henderson and Brian MacLeod, who produced your ’81 release Rock WIth the Best?

Well Bill and Brian I got to know because I was with their management for about a year, Steve Propas and Neil Dixon, the Solid Gold people. Of course I left that particular organization before the rot set in and it all went tits up, when Bill, Brian, and all the rest of them were left very much high and dry. That’s how I came to work with Bill and Brian. And I’d like to do some more things with them. They’re very enjoyable people.

To hear the full audio of my 1985 interview with Long John Baldry subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 400 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
J. Geils from the J. Geils Band, 2006
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, 1997
Jason Newsted of Newsted (and Metallica), 2013
Marshall Crenshaw, 2013
Dan Hartman, 1984
Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover of Deep Purple, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

Leave a Reply