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British Blues

© Fran Romero

This month Foz previews a couple of blues nights he’s pulled together. The first features one of the most important figures on the British blues scene while the second pays tribute to a much missed blues-rock great.

This month Ipswich gets a long awaited visit from legendary record producer Mike Vernon and his band The Mighty Combo. It would be hard to imagine the British blues scene of the 1960s without his enormous contribution. He produced classic albums by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown among many others. Mike also ran his own label, Blue Horizon, which also saw him record some of the American blues masters most famously with Fleetwood Mac. He took the group into Chess Studios in Chicago in 1969 to work with the likes of Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and Willie Dixon.

Mike’s production credits also encompass work with Dutch rock masters Focus, Canvey’s finest rhythm and blues band Dr Feelgood, The Hoax and more recently Norwich’s very own Oli Brown and US singer Sari Schorr.  For the past few years Mike has also been out and about himself singing his beloved jump blues with the aptly named Mighty Combo.

Mike and his excellent group are at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre on Friday, February 24 for what I can assure you will be a rip roaring evening of blues-based rock’n’roll and swing. There’ll be some familiar figures in his band as at least two of them, drummer Mike Hellier and bassist Ian Jennings, backed the magnificent Mud Morganfield at the same venue a couple of years ago. Also joining Mike on stage will be guitar sensation Kid Carlos so this promises to be one of East Anglia’s blues nights of the year.

Just over a fortnight later on Saturday, March 11 I’ll be bringing the blues-rock trio Band Of Friends back to Venue 77 in Ipswich. Formed a few years ago by the late great Rory Gallagher’s long standing bassist, Gerry McAvoy, this is as close as we are going to get to seeing Rory who passed away in 1995. Rory’s superb shows at the Ipswich Gaumont in the 1970s and his headlining appearance at the Mildenhall Rock And Blues Festival in the late 1980s will stay with me and hundreds of others forever.

In the Band Of Friends engine room is ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Michael Schenker Group and Gary Moore drummer Ted McKenna.  The Scot was also part of Rory’s rhythm section with Gerry McAvoy between 1978 and 1981 providing the backbone to the studio albums Photo Finish and Top Priority and the live set Stagestruck.

The man with the task of recreating the trademark Gallagher guitar sound and singing is Dutchman Marcel Scherpenzeel. Just like his hero, Marcel is quietly spoken off stage but once he gets in the spotlight he comes alive.

Band Of Friends recently released an all originals album called Repeat After Me and I dare say songs from that will feature in their set. Of course it’ll be Rory’s classics that will take pride of place in a show of powerhouse blues-rock by one of the best trios in the business.

On the same weekend Band Of Friends are part of the Legends Of Rock Festival being held at the Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth. They’ll be in action on the Sunday.