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Ginger Baker's Air Force how he got the big band together

Ginger Baker History Archive 1970

Ginger Baker with Air Force

Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker & Air Force

Phil Seamen

Phil Seamen & Ginger Baker's Air Force

In this archive: How Ginger got together with Steve Winwood to start the next big band; Air Force's incredible line up; Air Force play the Royal Albert Hall and tour the UK and Europe; the band changes line up and starts another tour; Jimi Hendirx dies; Ginger and Elvin Jones drum battle, and Air Force's final line up and gigs; Africa caling...

Ginger Baker's Air Force - 1970 - 71

It was on Ginger’s first visit to Steve Winwood after his extended holiday following Blind Faith’s final concert date in Honolulu, that he learned of Blind Faith’s demise. Ginger tells us in ‘Hellraiser’ that Steve mentioned wanting to reform Traffic & that Eric had decided to team up with Delaney & Bonnie. So Ginger discussed with Steve his own plans to put ‘a big band’ together for ‘a couple of gigs, and Stevie and Chris Wood (Traffic’s sax & flute player) agreed to do it.’

Thus in January 1970, Ginger’s Baker’s Air Force Mark One was born, with an impressive line-up. Former friend from the GBO ‘on the road days’ & Moody Blues front man Denny Laine came in on guitar & vocals, Rick Grech was on bass & violin, Harold Macnair: sax & flute (along with Chris Wood), Graham Bond on alto, the great Phil Seamen on drums, Winwood on organ & vocals, Jeanette Jacobs: vocals & Remi Kabaka: percussion.

This was a powerful & eclectic mix of some the best musicians that Ginger had known, admired & worked with over the years & it resulted in a fantastically strong (& underrated) output.

Their first gig was at Birmingham Town Hall on 12th January & such was Ginger’s standing that they went on to fill London’s Royal Albert Hall on the 15th. Rat Scabies (drummer with Iconic 70’s punk band The Damned) remembers the impact this band had when he saw them live & that this was the first time that African music had been brought into the mainstream.

The encore of this gig was recorded & released as a single in France where it was number 1 for a few weeks. This success prompted the RSO ‘office’ in the guise of Robin Turner to urge Ginger to keep on with the band. However, Steve, Chris & Rick had new projects they wanted to get underway; so Ginger recruited some new personnel & Air Force Mk II (March - May ´70), took to the road with the following line up:

Ginger Baker - drums
Phil Seamen - drums
Alan White - drums, keyboard
Denny Laine - guitar, lead vocal
Graham Bond - organ, sax
Harold Mc Nair- sax, flute
Colin Gibson - sax
Rick Grech - bass
Jeanette Jacobs - vocals
Diane Stewart - vocals
Remi Kabaka - percussion
(For some of the time they also featured the singer Eleanor Barooschian)

They played the following dates:

MARCH
20th Victoria Hall, HANLEY
21th University, LEEDS
28th Music Evolution`70 at Le Bourget Airport
29th Lyceum, LONDON

APRIL
19th Daily Mirror´s London-to- Mexico Car Rally, Wembley Stadium, LONDON
25th Roudhouse, LONDON
28th Greens`Playhouse, GLASGOW
29th Usher Hall, EDINBURGH
30th City Hall, NEWCASTLE

MAY
1st Caird Hall, DUNDEE
15th Joint Meeting Festival DÜSSELDORF Germany
23rd Hollywood Festival, Madeley, STAFFORDSHIRE
24th Plumpton Race Course, SUSSEX

A gig was then planned for New York’s Madison Square Garden on June 20th but was cancelled & then the third & final incarnation of the band came into being consisting of the following line up:

Graham Bond - vocals, Hammond, saxes
Ken Craddok - organ, guitar, vocal
Steve Gregory - tenor sax, flute
Bud Beadle - saxes
Colin Gibson - bass
Aliki Ashman - vocals
Diane Stewart - vocals
Speedy Acquaye - congas

They took to the road in September... with

5th “Love & Peace Festival, FEHMARN Germany
8th Fairfield Hall, CROYDON
10th Free Trade Hall, MANCHESTER
11th City Hall, NEWCASTLE
15th Guildhall, PLYMOUTH

On 18th September Jimi Hendrix died; a blow to Ginger who had been planning to put some music together with him as well as cementing their friendship socially. Air Force continued the tour at.......

20th City Hall LEEDS
23th Town Hall BIRMINGHAM
29th Colston Hall BRISTOL
30th Victoria Hall HANLEY

& on October 24th they did the “Beatclub TV Show” BREMEN, Germany.
After which Ginger took off on his drive to Africa in his white Jensen FF, driving it over a cliff en-route, jumping out unscathed & filming the retrieval of his car with a triumphant thumbs up sign! He returned in December & Air Force played:

7th City Hall, SHEFFIELD
8th Guildhall, PORTSMOUTH
18th Stadthalle, OFFENBACH Germany
20th Messehalle, HAMBURG Germany

Then on the 21st Ginger flew his family out to a holiday in Jamaica, returning to the UK for a gig on 29th January 1971 at LEEDS Polytechnic. In February Air Force played their last gigs starting with the Drum Battle with Elvin Jones on the 1st, at the LONDON Lyceum, followed by...

4th Southsea South Parade
5th University, READING
6th University, SHEFFIELD
11th Memorial, Hall BARRY
12th Melody Rooms, NORWICH
13th University, HULL
15th Locarno, BLACKPOOL
18th Festival Hall, PAIGNTON
19th Market Hall, HAVERFORD
20th Coldfield Belfry, SUTTON

Now Africa & its music was calling Ginger & he wanted to realise his dream of setting up a recording studio in Nigeria & working with African musicians such as his new-found friend, Fela Kuti. He also found that the climate & unavailability of hard drugs there were beneficial to his health.