Bob Brunning,
Blues: The British Connection
(Cassell, 1986; Blandford, 1995; Helter Skelter, 2002)

This is an "either/or" book. To anyone who is into blues and is a bit familiar with the musicians named in these pages, this book should be quite entertaining. For other readers, however, it may be tedious to read about all the different personnel changes in unfamiliar bands. For younger music listeners, reading about how Cream was generated from Eric Clapton and the Graham Bond Organization may seem as dull as it would be for middle-aged folks studying chapters about the origins of hip-hop groups.

Having listened over the years to many of the performers listed in the book, I was very interested to read about the various permutations of bands like the Animals and Fleetwood Mac (yes, Fleetwood Mac used to be a great blues band). The book starts at the beginning, with Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, who were seminal influences on the Rolling Stones (the Stones still sometimes pretend to be a blues group).

Many of the reminiscences here are personal. Brunning played in early versions of both Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown in his extended career and knew many of the musicians in what was originally a small pool of players amidst British pop music and show bands. There was, and still is to an extent, quite a tradition of bringing blues artists from America overseas to perform. For economic reasons, they used British bands to back them up. Brunning's stories about working with many blues legends are one of the highlights of the book. Most were nice, some were not and some were well known for their liquid intake as well as their music.

As a reference work, this book does not come up to par. There are numerous misspellings of names and some outright mistakes. For example, Rod Price was the lead guitarist, not the singer in Foghat. Brunning should have known this, since three quarters of Foghat were former members of Brunning's former band Savoy Brown.

But as a picture of the blues scene in Britain, this book is superb. There are many stories of low pay, band breakups and uncomfortable travel to show that playing the blues is for love, not for money. In fact, Brunning had a day job as a teacher while he was playing at night. There are also many excellent pictures of the artists. The ending chapter on the 1990 blues scene, added for a later edition of the book, gives a positive appraisal about the future of the music in the U.K.

If you are in a situation where someone close to you wants you to finally unload those old vinyl LPs you have in the basement, this book is a great weapon to preserve them. "Throw away my Chicken Shack album? Christine Perfect became Christine McVie and joined Fleetwood Mac...."

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 24 July 2004

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