Despite an ever-changing lineup, Savoy Brown has been led from its beginnings by guitarist, songwriter, and sometimes-singer Kim Simmonds. Simmonds took his band to the crest of the British blues music boom, from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, and when popular enthusiasm for the genre waned, he became a perennial act performing at American blues clubs and festivals. Despite the incendiary yet never distasteful rock-inflected blues guitar playing of Simmonds, the band first gained prominence for the equally accomplished songwriting and singing of Chris Youlden and the subsequent vocal prowess of "Lonesome" Dave Peverett and Dave Walker. Following the departure of Walker, Simmonds relocated the band's base of operations to the United States, where he regularly assembled musicians together under the band's moniker. While other bands of the British blues boom such as the Yardbirds, Groundhogs, and Fleetwood Mac disbanded, evolved, or drastically altered their musical approach, Savoy Brown unabashedly remained a vehicle for electric blues and twelve-bar guitar boogie filtered through an English sensibility.
Welshman Simmonds was 19 years old when he helped form the Savoy Brown Blues Band in 1966. They quickly established a residency at the Battersea blues club called Kilroys. At the time, many British bands were in thrall to American blues music, prompted by visits by such acts as Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin' Wolf, and Muddy Waters to the British Isles. Early British purveyors of American blues styles included Alexis Korner and John Mayall, from whose bands such acts as the Rolling Stones, Pretty Things, Fleetwood Mac, the Graham Bond Organization, the Yardbirds, and Cream evolved. The members of the Savoy Brown Blues Band were too young to serve apprenticeships with Korner and Mayall, but still emerged as fully capable and accomplished blues musicians. The group came to the attention of blues impresario Mike Vernon, who was the producer for Fleetwood Mac, the Groundhogs, John Mayall's Blues-breakers, and many other notable British blues acts. Declaring that the group had "a style which took no prisoners," according to a quote in the liner notes to the The Best of Savoy Brown, Vernon signed the band to his Purdah label, a subsidiary of the British blues label Blue Horizon. The deal led the band—consisting at the time of founding members Simmonds, vocalist Bruce Portius, guitarist Martin Stone, bassist Ray Chappell, keyboardist Bob Hall, and drummer Leo Mannings—to a long-term deal with London Decca and its subsidiary Parrot label.
The founding members of the band released their debut album, Shake Down, in 1967, after which Portius, Chappell, and Mannings departed, and were replaced by Dave Peverett, Chris Youlden, bassist Rivers Jobe, and drummer Roger Earl. At this time, Simmonds and his brother and band manager, Harry, took control of the band's name and hired the band's musicians as salaried members rather than equal partners, which established the future of the band as a group of hired guns behind the guitar of Simmonds. Whereas Shake Down documented a band trying to recapture its blues sensibility in a studio setting with mixed and often pedestrian results, the new lineup released Getting to the Point, a marked improvement over its predecessor. In the liner notes to the reissue of the album, Vernon remarked: "When they found Chris Youlden they found one of the great British singers. I mean, the closest thing that we'll ever find to Bobby Bland over here. An absolute dynamite singer." Not only was Youlden an accomplished singer, but he brought an ample amount of songwriting craft to the band as well. His "Taste and Try, Before You Buy" became the band's first single on November 27, 1967. Former Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning performed on the recording, and recalled in the album's liner notes: "I think that single has outsold almost anything else that Savoy Brown ever did in terms of longevity of sales. It's like a perennial." After the release of the single, the band officially shortened their name to Savoy Brown.
For the Record . . .
Members include Ron Berg (joined group, 1972; left group, 1974), drums; Dave Bidwell (joined group, 1971; left group, 1972), drums; Ray Chappell (left group, 1968), bass; Roger Earls (joined group, 1968; left group, 1971), keyboards; Bob Hall (left group, 1969), keyboards; Rivers Jobe (joined group, 1968; left group, 1969), bass; Leo Mannings (joined group, 1969; left group in 1968), drums; "Lonesome" Dave Peverett (joined group, 1968; left group, 1971), guitar, vocals; Bruce Portius (left group, 1968), bass; Andy Pyle (joined group, 1971), bass; Paul Ray mond (joined group, 1971; left group, 1974), key boards; Andy Silvester (joined group, 1971; left group, 1972), bass; Kim Simmonds (born 1947, Wales), guitar, vocals; Tone Stevens , bass; Martin Stone , guitar; Dave Walker (joined group, 1971; left group, 1972), vocals; Chris Youlden (joined group, 1968; left group, 1970), vocals.
Group formed in London, 1966; released debut album, Shake Down, 1967; released Getting to the Point, 1968; released Blue Matter and A Step Further, 1969; released Raw Sienna and Looking In, 1970; released Street Corner Talking, 1971; released HellboundTrain, 1972.
Addresses: Booking—Steve Ozark, Ozark Talent, 718 Schwarz Rd., Lawrence, KS 66049, phone: (785) 841-0055, fax: (785) 841-0707; Savoy Brown Productions: Debbie Lyons, P.O. Box 855, Oswego, NY, 13126, email: [email protected] Website—Savoy Brown Official Website: http://www.savoybrown.com.
The new lineup quickly coalesced into a blues force of note, releasing two classic albums, Blue Matter and A Step Further, in 1969. Both albums brought them widespread recognition in the United States, where the group toured extensively, drawing audiences with such concert favorites as "Savoy Brown Boogie," "Train to Nowhere," and the single "I'm Tired," a hit in the United States. Youlden participated in the 1970 set Raw Sienna before departing to pursue a solo career. While most bands would have panicked and folded upon losing their lead singer and primary songwriter, Simmonds and company pared down to a quartet and roared back with Looking In, which promoted Peverett to lead vocalist, writing partner, and onstage foil to Simmonds. The quartet format was short-lived, however, as Peverett found his footing and set off to form Foghat with Savoy bandmates Earl and bassist Tone Stevens. Simmonds promptly recruited vocalist Dave Walker, keyboardist and guitarist Paul Raymond, bassist Andy Silvester, and drummer Dave Bidwell. This incarnation added two classics to the band's body of work, 1971's Street Corner Talking and 1972's Hellbound Train. The former album contained the concert and album-oriented rock radio staple "Tell Mama," and a bluesy reworking of the Temptations's Motown classic "I Can't Get Next to You." The latter album featured a nine-minute workout on the title track, which also became a concert favorite and the template for Love & Rockets's "Bound for Hell."
Following Hellbound Train, Silvester and Walker departed, and the band's momentum was diminished. They released a series of unremarkable albums, including Lion's Share, Jack the Toad, and Boogie Brothers, to an increasingly underwhelmed audience. While Simmonds's guitar playing remained as fiery as ever, the ever-changing band lineup made it nearly impossible for the band to break new creative ground, and it appeared resolved to relive past glories with less identifiable journeymen musicians. Simmonds and his hired hands, however, have remained a draw at blues clubs and festivals.
Shake Down, Decca, 1967.
Getting to the Point, Parrot, 1968.
Blue Matter, Parrot, 1969.
A Step Further, Parrot, 1969.
Raw Sienna, Parrot, 1970.
Looking In, Parrot, 1970.
Street Corner Talking, Parrot, 1971.
Hellbound Train, Parrot, 1972.
Lion's Share, Parrot, 1972.
Jack the Toad, Parrot, 1973.
Boogie Brothers, London, 1974.
Wire Fire, London, 1975.
Skin 'n' Bone, London, 1976.
Savage Return, London, 1978.
Rock 'N' Roll Warriors, Town House, 1981.
Greatest Hits in Concert, Accord, 1981.
Just Live, Line, 1981.
Live in Central Park, Relix, 1985.
Slow Train, Relix, 1986.
Make Me Sweat, Crescendo, 1987.
Kings of Boogie, Crescendo, 1989.
Live 'n' Kicking, Crescendo, 1990.
Let It Ride, Roadhouse, 1992.
Bring It on Home, Viceroy, 1995.
Solitaire, Blue Wave, 1997.
Blues Keep Me Holding On, Blue Storm, 1998.
Blues Like Midnight, Blue Wave, 2001.
Strange Dream, Blind Pig, 2003.
George-Warren, Holly, and Romanowski, Patricia, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside, 2001.
Beat Instrumental, July 1970. Georgia Straight, September 1970.
"Savoy Brown," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 14, 2005).
Savoy Brown Official Website, http://www.savoybrown.com (June 21, 2005).
Additional information was obtained from liner notes by Dave Thompson for The Best of Savoy Brown: The Millennium Collection, Universal, 2002; and liner notes by John Tracy for the reissue of Getting to the Point, Deram, 1990.
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