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October Feature: British Blues Boom

In the 1960s, a group of artists and bands began to emerge in England who were inspired by American blues. A changing world following the war, music from American servicemen and radio broadcasts, and tours, starting with Big Bill Broonzy in the early '50s, continuing with some of the major names in American blues after a key visit by Muddy Waters in 1958,and the American Folk Blues Festival tours that traveled England and the rest of Europe for a number of years all helped to inspire interest in the music.

Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies (who formed Blues Incorporated, which included at various points Long John Baldry, Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Charlie Watts), and John Mayall 's Blues Breakers (which featured Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor) were early pioneers, but soon a host of others appeared, among them: the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Spencer Davis Group, Them (with Van Morrison), the Animals, Chicken Shack (with Christine McVie - then Perfect - who would later join Fleetwood Mac) and the early edition of Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. (Green is featured in October on Strange Currency.)

Many of these bands would became part of the more pop-oriented British Invasion, and despite another wave of groups (including Cream, Ten Years After, Free, Savoy Brown, Climax Blues Band, Groundhogs and others), it was already becoming clear that the music was moving more toward rock and away from the blues roots. By the early '70s, the British Blues Boom, as such, had largely come and gone.

Though there was controversy at the time about what some saw as an appropriation of the music (which was then sold back to American audiences), for many blues artists this interest in the music offered opportunities for them that were not available at the time back home. It also helped pave the way for an explosion of music in England that would reshape popular sounds there and in the U.S. and it would leave in its wake a number of records that are still great to hear today.

And you can hear the sounds of the British Blues Boom throughout October as Crossroads highlights the artists and bands of era, along with London Sessions headed up by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf with young British players, and the American Folk Blues Festival recordings that motivated a generation of English kids to play American blues.

Rolling Stones' 1965 television performance of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster"


Yardbirds (with Jimmy Page) doing "I'm A Man"


"Need Your Love So Bad" from Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac