Hagerstown to host Blues Fest this weekend

June 02, 1999

John MayallBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

Even after singing the blues for more than 40 years, John Mayall still likes the challenge of making his music speak to people.

"It's a great challenge to get up on the stage and communicate with the audience," says Mayall, 65.

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Mayall and his band, The Bluesbreakers, will get the chance to reach local listeners as the headlining act for Western Maryland Blues Fest at 8 p.m. Friday, June 4, at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.

The band also will give blues fans a sample of its latest album, "Padlock on the Blues," which was released in April in England but won't hit U.S. stores until mid-July. The album, which follows more than 50 others, features Buddy Whittington on guitar, John Paulus on bass and Joe Yuele on drums.


Eleven of the 13 songs are written by Mayall and another was done with the help of his wife. Yet another, "Always a Brand New Road," was created by Whittington and Yuele and is a bit more outrageous than Mayall says he would write.

"It's really a great song," he said during a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Keeping blues current isn't tough, he says.

"There's always something going on," says Mayall, who gets a lot of the lyrics for his songs from his own experiences. He says much of his inspiration comes while driving, so he keeps notepads in the car for jotting down ideas when they hit.

Mayall was born in Manchester, England, in 1934, and gained an appreciation for music early in his life while listening to his father's jazz collection.

He started singing in the 1950s in an Army band while traveling by ship to Korea, a duty that kept him off the firing line. Mayall formed his first band, Power House Four, in 1955, and The Bluesbreakers came into being in the mid-1960s.

Mayall and The Bluesbreakers average about 120 concerts a year.

The band recently returned from a three-week stint in England, during which it had seven gigs with B.B. King, whom Mayall has known for years. The band just played on three islands in Hawaii and will be on tour in America until mid-July. In October and November, the group will play in several European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, England, Austria and Switzerland.

The band has become known as a training ground for talented musicians. Among the big names who started with Mayall are Eric Clapton, who later gained fame with the band Cream; John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green, who went on to Fleetwood Mac; and Mick Taylor, whose name later was listed on Rolling Stones labels.

Working with many band members over the years hasn't fazed Mayall. He says it's the bandleader's responsibility to find players who can make music that fits.

He has made an impression on the music industry, being dubbed by some as the father or the godfather of the British blues.

"It's a surviving legacy," Mayall says.

But his music, not titles, is what really counts.

"The great blues man doesn't sound like anybody else," says Mayall, a self-taught musician who sings and plays piano, organ, harmonica and guitar.

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