An undeniably important figure in the history of British popular music, the folk, jazz and blues singer "Long John" Baldry passed away last weekend (aged 64) in Vancouver General Hospital, Canada.
Born John William Baldry, 'Long John' ( he was 6' 7") inspired Eric Clapton to play the blues and famously spotted a young Rod Stewart busking outside a London tube station and took him under his wing. Baldry started his career playing folk and jazz in the 1950s and became one of London's most respected music figures. He went on to become one of the founding fathers of British Rock 'n' Roll in the 1960s and appeared at The Cavern in Liverpool, becoming friends with Paul MacCartney.
Baldry was invited to perform on the Beatles' internationally televised special "Around the Beatles" in 1964, along with P J Proby and Cilla Black. He performed with influential British bands Blues Incorporated, and Cyril Davies' R&B All Stars in the 60s. Later, he fronted the Hoochie Coochie Men - who included Rod Stewart - who later joined Baldry in Steam Packet, also featuring keyboardist Brian Auger and singer Julie Driscoll. He went solo after a brief period with Bluesology, which featured Elton John on keyboards. (Indeed a young Reg Dwight took the name 'John' along with Elton (Dean) to come up with stage name Elton John).
Long John's only Number 1 in the UK - 'Let The Heartaches Begin' - is featured here. Written by the all-conquering Macaulay and McLeod, it was a massive orchestrated balled that had fierce competition for the top spot back in 1967. Although looking back now (as an old cynic) it can easily be considered as gloopy and of it's time, it was amongst the first ever vinyl given to me as a young child. It quickly helped me realise the intense emotion that could be poured into a 3 minute pop record.
After emigrating to Canada in the early 1980s he recorded for EMI Music, and since 1991 recorded five albums for Stony Plain Records in Edmonton, Alberta. The label is set to re-release Baldry's Warner Bros. albums, It Ain't Easy and Everything Stops for Tea, in the autumn. Perhaps that might be brought forward now? Since the early '90s, he was also known in Canada for his extensive voice work in commercials. He received a Grammy nomination in '98 for his work with Disney and old pal Elton John. Just to prove there's life after pop stardom, he also narrated on Winnie The Pooh recordings for Disney and was the voice for Robotnik on the popular Sonic The Hedgehog computer game.
More tributes can be found at http://www.johnbaldry.com/