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Ginger Baker on the London jazz scene 1963 - 1965

Ginger Baker History Archive 1963-65

Alexis Korner with Blues Incorporated

Alexis Korner & Dick Heckstall-Smith

The Graham Bond Organisation

Ginger Baker Grahman Bond Jack Bruc Dick Heckstall-Smith

Ginger Baker Drum Battle

R&B Graham Bond Organisation

Sound of 65 - Graham Bond Organisation

In this archive: How Graham Bond stole the band from Alexis Korner; GBO tours the UK with John McLaughlin; gigging with the Moody Blues & Chuck Berry; The release of the Sound of 65; There's (not) a Bond Between us ...

The Birth of the Graham Bond Organisation

At the start of 1963 Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Graham Bond & Dick Heckstall-Smith were already working together constantly in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and also collaborating with other musicians & writing their own stuff in the Johnny Burch Octet, where they regularly played at The Plough in Ilford, North East London. Graham Bond had joined Alexis (playing Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker & doubling up on alto) after the departure (and soon after) untimely death of the legendary & great, blues harp player Cyril Davis. Ginger tells us in his book ‘Hellraiser’ how he predicted half jokingly ‘Blimey, you’d better watch him, he’ll nick half the band!’ when Graham came on board.....

One night in early 1963, ‘Graham got a trio gig in Manchester’ and Ginger & Jack drove up there with him ‘in a hired black Dormobile’. This gig was a great success with the crowd going wild ‘at Graham’s rendition of ‘Wade in the Water’ which began with a Bach-like fugue’. It was obvious that the seeds were sown in Graham’s mind that very night that a new band with a new sound was the way forward (even if it hadn’t quite dawned on the other two!).

Both Jack and Ginger in their biographies (Jack Bruce: Composing Himself, by Harry Shapiro) tell of the fateful Blues Incorporated rehearsal when Graham bounced over to them & said ‘we’ve all left the band!’....Ginger remembers that he and Jack ‘exchanged glances’ & Jack felt that Alexis took ’20 years to forgive him’ for Graham’s life-changing decision; tho Ginger remembers Alexis shaking their hands & wishing them well with the new venture as Ginger & Jack continued ‘to stare at each other dumbly’!

GBO tours with John McLaughlin

The Graham Bond Organisation was born. This first incarnation of the band saw John McLaughlin on guitar and Graham in his own inimitable fashion, had already been busy booking gigs with agents Don Kingswell & Robert Masters. In their Daimler bandwagon (a former ambulance with its pedigree still displayed above the cab) & its ‘fluid flywheel gearbox’ they ‘lurched’ off to their very first gig at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, North London. What they played was ‘a mixture of jazz & R&B...with Graham doubling up on alto and organ simultaneously.’ They were ‘well received’ yet the lack of financial evidence for this caused Ginger to get into an altercation with Graham. Graham had got the ‘pirate’ Radio Caroline pioneer Ronan O’Rahilly on board as their manager, but it became clear to Ginger that Ronan’s energies were being directed elsewhere & when Robert Masters introduced them to Robert Stigwood in London’s 100 Club one night, he took over the mantle & a new ‘bond’ for the future was forged.

Graham however, never lost his capacity to make the life of the band interesting to say the least as they continued to gig & gather a large following around the UK. Ginger by this time had a heroin habit that he was struggling to get under control and after one stressful tour he lost his temper with McLaughlin, who left the band, causing them to lose, in Ginger’s words ‘a great guitar player’ & himself ‘a great friend’. Nevertheless, they were all delighted when tenor sax player & former close friend & band mate Dick Heckstall-Smith agreed to step into the breach & the most successful & influential incarnation of the GBO was born.

This was the band that travelled the UK touring with some of the top names of the ‘sixties, such as The Who, The Troggs, The Moody Blues & countless others. This was the time perhaps remembered most fondly by both Jack & Ginger despite their personal differences; Times of fun & frolics & an unforgettable era when their music was influencing many who would come to the fore in the music business in future years, such as Steve Winwood & Ian Dury.

On the road with The Moody Blues & Chuck Berry

Ginger’s autobiography ‘Hellraiser’ details these times on the road with The Moody Blues & Chuck Berry. Tour bus games of ‘snape’ and gigs galore where riotous fun & outrageous behaviour ensued. At the same time, Ginger’s reputation as a drummer gathered apace. The Melody Maker of December 12th 1964 ran an article by Chris Welch which labels Ginger as ‘one of Britain’s great drummers.’ ‘I know I’m a bit of a monster’ the tag line proclaimed.. His reputation as a ‘Hellraiser’ was growing! In this article Ginger says, ‘we’ve had our rows, but the music always holds us together’, showing that even then a pattern of personal discord & musical harmony was Ginger’s accepted way.

In this article Ginger also speaks highly of his friend Charlie Watts who was now with The Rolling Stones & is already discussing his own ideas of ‘independence’ & ‘splitting the brain into four’ as ways of explaining his technique as handed down to him by his mentor, the great jazz drummer, Phil Seamen.

Decca Records then released the ‘R&B’ album on which the GBO had 5 tracks, 3 written by Bond; produced by Vernon Lloyd & engineered by Gus Dudgeon, these were, 1. Hi-Heel Sneakers (Higgenbotham), 2. Long Legged Baby (Bond), 3. Hoochie Coochie Man (Dixon) 4. Little Girl (Bond) & 5. Strut Around (Bond). The other artistes on the LP were Dave Berry, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. This gives a clear indication of just where the music scene was at in those days, music Ginger was playing & influenced by & the other types of bands on the road with the GBO.

The Sound of 65

The beginning of 1965 saw the release of their ‘Sound of 65’ album (E.M.I. Records), for which Ginger did the artwork & journalist Chris Welch wrote the sleeve notes. The ‘blurb’ announces ‘this record marks the break-through of the unique and exciting music of The Graham Bond Organisation.....which until now, only club and concert audiences have experienced.’ There were 7 tracks on each side which give an indication of the set-lists of the time.

Side One:

1. HOOCHIE COOCHIE (Dixon)
2. BABY MAKE LOVE TO ME (Group-Godfrey)
3. NEIGHBOUR NEIGHBOUR
4. EARLY IN THE MORNING (Trad-an Group)
5. SPANISH BLUES (Group)
6. OH BABY (Group)
7. LITTLE GIRL (Group)

Side Two:

1. I WANT YOU (Group)
2. WADE IN THE WATER (Trad-an Group)
3. GOT MY MOJO WORKING (Morganfield)
4. TRAIN TIME (Group)
5. BABY BE GOOD TO ME (Group –Godfrey)
6. HALF A MAN (Group)
7. TAMMY (Evans-Livingstone)

Tammy was put out by Stigwood as the single, but though it certainly encapsulates the musical mood of the then ‘pop’ charts, it did nothing to really showcase the talents of the band apart from Graham’s soulful voice.

Record Mirror of December 18th 1965 carries a review of their last album ‘There’s a Bond Between Us’ (Columbia) featuring the tracks, Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Hear Me Calling Your Name: The Night Time is the Right Time: Walkin’ in the Park: Last Night: Baby Can it be True: What I’d Say: Dick’s Instrumental: Don’t Let Go: Keep a Drivin’: Have You Ever Loved a Woman? & Ginger’s arrangement (& first recorded drum solo), Camels & Elephants.

Though as Ginger says in ‘Hellraiser’ the title "proved to be unfortunate because soon after its release, the ‘bond’ began to unravel." One ‘altercation’ with Jack too many led to Graham asking Baker to 'sack' Bruce from the band, thus shifting the blame & laying the foundation of more problems for the future. Jack then joined Manfred Mann & the GBO brought in Nigerian Trumpet player Mike Falana, plus Graham’s famous Mellotron, that he mislead the band into thinking he had the use of for ‘promotional purposes’!

After a wild adventure getting stranded in the snow at Kirkstone Pass in England’s Lake District, followed by a motorway crash with an unlicensed Ginger at the wheel, this last incarnation of The Graham Bond Organisation headed with its bandwagon lights picking out the bleak motorway dawn’s of England, into 1966.....................