Forty Below Records Signs Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall
Forty Below Records announces the signing of the legendary “Godfather of British Blues,” John Mayall, and a May 13 release date for his first studio album in five years, A Special Life, distributed by Sony/RED. The new album was recorded in November, 2013, at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood and was produced by Mayall, with co-production, engineering and mixing by Eric Corne. A Special Life also boasts original cover art and design created by John Mayall.
The aptly-titled A Special Life serves as further testament to John Mayall’s boundless talent, vitality and ever-dynamic personality. Along with his accomplished band, he goes back to his roots on the new album with an eclectic mix of songs centered in the blues, but with diversions into rock and Americana.
Backing Mayall on the new album are Texas guitarist Rocky Athas and a Chicago-based rhythm section of Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums. The current band lineup came together five years ago for his last studio album, Tough, and has developed an amazing chemistry over the years through consistent touring both in the U.S. and around the world. Athas came on the recommendation of Mayall’s former guitarist Buddy Whittington, and quickly asserted himself as a major force in the band. After Rzab came onboard to play bass, he recommended Davenport for the drum spot and the group was complete.
Since 2009, the new, leaner four-piece lineup has given John more room to stretch out as an instrumentalist. After being invited to do a guest spot on Walter Trout’s latest album, John met engineer/producer Eric Corne. John was so impressed that he asked Eric to record his new album. Greg, Jay and Rocky flew in for the sessions which took less than a week to record and the end result is one of John's best albums ever, with its deep devotion to blues and roots music. Accordion legend C.J. Chenier makes a powerhouse guest appearance on a couple of tracks, including the opener, “Why Did You Go Last Night,” written and previously recorded by his father, Zydeco icon Clifton Chenier. A Special Life also includes three new songs penned by John and a reworked Mayall classic to go along with covers of Jimmy Rogers (“That’s All Right”), Albert King (“Floodin’ in California”), Sonny Landreth (“Speak of the Devil”), Jimmy McCracklin (“I Just Got to Know”) and Eddie Taylor (“Big Town Playboy”), plus a new song written by Greg Rzab and Rocky Athas.
John Mayall and his band are scheduled to start a major two-month tour of Europe in mid-February and will return to the U.S. to begin touring around the country with the album’s release, headlining major concert venues as well as performing at festivals throughout the spring and summer. John Mayall is booked by Monterey International.
John Mayall’s place in music history has been assured ever since he put together the first of his bands, known as the Bluesbreakers in 1963. Besides his own work, John also backed blues greats John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Sonny Boy Williamson on their first English club tours.
When Eric Clapton quit the Yardbirds, John quickly offered him the job as his new guitarist and the band recorded the all-time best-selling classic album, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton. However, by the time it was entering the charts, Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce had left to form Cream. So began a succession of future stars who would define their roots under John's leadership before leaving to form their own groups. Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood became Fleetwood Mac. Andy Fraser formed Free, and Mick Taylor joined the Rolling Stones.
In 1969, with his popularity blossoming in the USA, John caused somewhat of a stir with the release of a drummer-less acoustic live album entitled The Turning Point, from which his song, “Room to Move,” became a rock classic. He received a gold record for this album. Attracted by the West Coast climate and culture, John then made his permanent move from England to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles and began forming bands with American musicians. Throughout the ‘70s, John became further revered for his many jazz/rock/blues innovations featuring such notable performers as Blue Mitchell, Red Holloway, Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel.
In 1982, John decided to re-form the original Bluesbreakers. Mick Fleetwood was unavailable at the time so John hired drummer Colin Allen to join with John McVie and Mick Taylor for a couple of tours and a video concert film entitled Blues Alive. Featured greats were Albert King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Etta James. Public reaction convinced Mayall that he should honor his driving blues roots and he quickly selected his choices for a new incarnation of the Bluesbreakers. Officially launched in 1984, it included future stars in their own right, guitarists Coco Montoya and Walter Trout.
Throughout the eighties and nineties, John's popularity went from strength to strength with a succession of dynamic albums including the Grammy-nominated Wake Up Call that featured guest artists Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Albert Collins and Mick Taylor.
In 1993, Texas guitarist Buddy Whittington joined the Bluesbreakers and for the next ten years energized the band with his unique and fiery ideas. Making his recording debut on Mayall's Spinning Coin album, he proved to be more than equal to following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. Padlock on the Blues featured a rare collaboration with his close friend John Lee Hooker. On Along for the Ride, Mayall re-teamed with a number of his former mates, including Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, as well as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Steve Miller, Billy Preston, Steve Cropper, Otis Rush, Gary Moore, Jeff Healey and Jonny Lang. In 2002, Stories debuted on the Billboard blues chart at #1.
At a 70th Birthday celebration in aid of UNICEF in Liverpool, a concert was filmed, recorded and released as a DVD and double CD in December 2003. Along with the Bluesbreakers, it featured old friends Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber. The BBC also aired an hour-long documentary on John's life and career entitled The Godfather of British Blues and to coincide with the release of Road Dogs in 2005, John was awarded an OBE by The Queen's Honours list. In the spring of 2007, John Mayall's 56th album release, In the Palace of the King, was an entire studio album that honored and paid tribute to the music of Mayall's long-time hero of the blues, Freddie King.
Over the last ten years, Mayall has additionally released live recordings on his own online label, Private Stash Records (some still available on his website). They include Time Capsule (containing historic 1957-62 live tapes), UK Tour 2K (from a 2000 British tour), Boogie Woogie Man (a selection of solo performances), Cookin' Down Under (a live DVD from Australia), No Days Off (another British live show), Live in London and Historic Live Shows.
To download a hi-res color photo of John (photo by Maureen Clark), click here: John Mayall