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Ginger Baker Press Archive 1966

Ginger Baker learnt to play in six weeks

Eric Clapton Ginger Baker Jack Bruce team up

Cream sweet & sour

Cream supergroup

Bruce finds himself via the Cream

Cream - live review

Cream - I feel Free

Cream 1966


THE votes that poured in for Ginger Baker in “Beat instrumental’s” recently organised Popularity Poll proved that although he plays with a group that has yet to crack the charts, his percusion skill has not gone unnoticed. His placing, in fourth position behind Bobby Elliot, Brian Bennett and Keith Moon, stamps him as a respected drummer both by beginners and professionals alike.

His skin work with the Graham Bond Organisation has made him one of the few stixmen on the scene today able to “get away” with a drum solo. This showpiece on stage doesn’t seem so much in vogue today as it was a few years back, but with Ginger it’s different. The small but comprehensive line-up of the Organisation gives plenty of scope to his all-action brand of drumming on his miniature Ludwig kit, and when he does rattle off into a solo you find yourself really wrapped up in what he’s doing.

The story of Ginger Baker the musician stretches back to New Eltham where he lived with his parents—until he got the urge to turn pro. During his schooldays he tapped about with knives and forks, and showed interest in drummers and drumming. At the age of 16 he decided to do something about it, and bought a wooden snare drum, a bass drum and one cymbal for £3.This was the start. He received no tuition. “I really didn’t feel I needed it” he said in a manner not at all conceited. “Before I bought the kit I somehow knew I could play”.
And it was only six weeks after that he joined his first band. The Storyvifle Jazzmen were looking for a drummer and after auditioning Ginger, who kidded ‘em on that he had been playing for three years, asked him to join.

This was back in the late fifties and the Storyville was the first of many jazz outfits he was to play with. Since, he has played with Terry Lightfoot, Diz Dizley and had a spell of residency at Ronnie Scott’s during which time he played with many jazz greats.

He started off in “trad” but has also had experience in “modern” jazz and “mainstream”. And his background doesn’t stop here either. He even had a spell with an Irish showband in 1959!

Ginger was drummer with the Ken Oldham Showband at the “Galtimore” Ballroom in London and at this time decided to put his spare time to good use by building his own kit.

Since his first £3 set he had moved onto another, consisting of Beverly and Ajax accessories then with the help of a friend, he had one specially made up for about £200.

But the adventurous Ginger was never satisfied. He made up his own set with perspex and describes the finished product as “the best set of drums I’ve ever used”. But unfortunately being made of such a material, they cracked up after four years.

So from here Ginger moved onto his famous “miniature” Ludwig kit.

Specifications for his drums are:
Small tom-tom (12 by 8 inches); Big tom-tom (14 by 14 inches); and bass drum (20 inches with a 12 inch shell). The snare drum is 30 years old and made by a firm called Leedy. This is a prize possession of Ginger’s and he has had it re-covered to match the Ludwig set.

This very individual and meticulous drummer even has his own drum sticks on the market. He designed them himself. They sell at 12/6d. and very well too. He described them to me as being made of Hungarian wood, having special tips, medium in weight with a good balance.

Ginger is always experimenting and he certainly hasn’t finished. He is currently keen on acquiring two bass drums. Yes two! One will have Ginger Baker on the front and the other Graham Bond Organisalion- -but it’s the sound that Ginger wants, not the look.

He also wants more tom-toms. “I want to be surrounded by drums” he said. Ginger told me his main influence has been Phil Seaman. “He came along to watch me at the Flamingo once. I had always been a great admirer of his, but didn’t introduce myself. I seldom do to people. I must be shy. Anyway before 1 knew it he came up to me and said hello. We became friends and the advice he gave me knocked off about 10 years hard work.”

Ginger is only too pleased to help other drummers and is unsparing in his advice. “I don’t practise now” he said. “But when I started I used to spend up to nine hours non-stop at home a day. The more you play the better.
“And I didn’t just tap along with records. I used to let myself loose and play solos all the time.

“I also recommend playing in as many different types of venues, pubs, clubs, ballrooms and so on, with as many different kinds of bands playing as many different kinds of music as you can.”

And that is the way Ginger has found and developed his own individual style. It is a fusion of the lot—trad, modern jazz, mainstream, pop, rhythm ‘n’ blues—they’re the ingredients, plus of course Ginger’s own “feel”.



A SENSATIONAL new “Groups’ Group” starring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker is being formed.

Top groups will be losing star instrumentalists as a result. Manfred Mann will lose bassist, harmonica player, pianist and singer Jack Bruce; John Mayall will lose brilliant blues guitarist Eric Clapton, and Graham Bond’s Organisation will lose incredible drummer Ginger Baker.

The group say they hope to start playing at clubs, ballrooms and theatres in a month’s time. It is expected they will remain as a trio with Jack as featured vocalist.



A THUNDER of blues in a church hall complete with Brownies and caretakers was the bizarre setting for the first tentative creations of the Cream — Britain’s most exciting new group, featuring star instrumentalists Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

The group are feverishly rehearsing for their debut this weekend at the sixth national jazz and blues festival at Windsor.

Fans all over the country are excitedly looking forward to their first chance to hear the fiery three, who built tremendous reputations when they were sidemen with other groups. Eric with the Yardbirds and John Mayall, Ginger with Graham Bond, and Jack with Bond and Manfred Mann.

With the eyes of thousands of fans, and rival groups upon them, and the burning of boats behind them, how does Cream feel now?

“N e r v o u s very nervous,” said Eric Clapton, sideboards bristling, guitar slung at the hip.

For rehearsal the trio were using the minimum of equipment, but still managed to produce enough sound to deafen Brownies and caretakers and rock the church hall to its foundations. “I’m only using snare and bass drums,” said Ginger. “BUt with the full kit I'll have seven drums, including two bass drums.'

"We've only here” added Eric, “So you can imagine what it’s going to sound like with full ampilfication and Ginger’s tom toms as well.”

The boys stood around in a sea of cigarette ends and prepared to run through a few numbers. Ginger, sporting a villainOUs looking beard, crouched over his drums, stool in its lowest possible position and right hand top cymbal sloping like a 1 in 2 hill.

Jack, wearing brown lace-up boots and a harmonica harness gripped his bass guitar for Eric to count them in.

Eric, wearing white bell-bottomed trousers, paused to shout i few coarse cries at some girl fans hanging about outside — not Brownies — then counted in the first explosion.

Eric and Jack sang in harmony, Ginger rocked, and Jack blew unison harmonica with Eric’s guitar riff. It was a frightening sound. They only played a few choruses of each number, with breaks to work out bass drum and bass guitar patterns, sort out tempos and guitar and drum breaks.

Ginger, wielding a pair of enormous sticks — “Phil Seamen calls ‘em Irish navvy poles” — suggested doing their “comedy number.” This proved to be a jugband tune called “Take Your Finger Off It” with very traditional “Ja Da” type chords. At the end Eric looked at Jack and grinned “You mucked up the end.”“Yes, I did, didn’t I,” said Jack coolly. It was rather like a confrontation between Rommel and Montgomery, with the mutual respect of two generals.

Deciding on a tea break, the trio drove off in their hired van, Jack at the wheel, managing to block main road traffic in both directions, while attemntin a U-turn.

In a nearby cafe we talked about the group’s musical policy. Enthusiasm Was high. Everyone wanted to talk at once. “It’s Blues Ancient and Modern,” said Eric. “We call it Sweet and Sour Rock and Roll,” said Jack.
“Yes, that’s a good headline,” said Eric. “What we want to do is anything that people haven’t done before. Pete Townshend is enthusiastic and he may write a number for us.”

“At the moment we’re trying to get a repertoire up for all the gigs we’ve got to do,” said Ginger. “We’re digging back as far as we can, even 1927.”“And we’ve got a lot of originals we want to do,” said Jack. “Some are very strange. And there’s numbers like ‘Long Haired Unsquare Dude Called Jack’ which Paul used to sing with Manfred.

Will there be any jazz feel to the music?
“I’d say jazz was definitely out,” said Eric, “and sweet n’ sour rock and roll is in. Actually promoters are predicting that Sinatra will be the biggest draw in ‘67, ever since his sensational appearance at Ealing blues club.”

How ready are they for the public?
“We’re half ready,” said Jack. “We’ve only been rehearsing for three days, and we could have 50 numbers if wanted, but we want to choose them carefully.”
Said Eric: “Most people have formed the impression of us as three solo musicians clashing with each other. We want to cancel that idea and be a group that plays together.”

What sort of presentation will the group have? “We want a turkey on stage while we’re playing,” said Eric.

I made a choking noise through a mouthful of tea that meant: “Would you repeat that?”

“Yeah, we just want a turkey on stage while we’re playing. We all like turkeys and its nice to have them around. Another dada thing — I was going to have this hat made of a brim with a cage on top and a live frog inside. It would be very nice to have stuffed bears on stage. We’d ignore them—not acknowledge their presence at all.”—Chris Welch



A guitarist, a drummer and a singer—three musicians we know well, but who never made it alone. Now they’re The Cream. Dawn James talks to the group as, at last, things begin to stir’.

In a world where one hit record can earn an artiste of no exceptional musical ability up to ten thousand pounds, it Is surely time the outrageous talent of guitarist Eric Clapton made him some big money.

Everyone in the business raves about Erics playing. He is brilliant. He makes the guitar a beautiful, expressive piece of equipment, he pours his soul into it. It is something as moving as a symphony played on a full orchestra. But praise alone is no longer enough for Eric. He wants other, more material rewards.

He sat with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, the other Cream members, in a pub in North London, and talked about the new group.

“We formed the group because we wanted to play together,” Eric said, plainly. “We get on well, we respect each others music, and we want to make it in a big way.

“I know I'm a well thought of guitarist, and Ginger is a well thought of drummer, and Jack a well thought of singer, but we are tired of having talent that doesnt make any big money. Personally, I’d like some big money. I’ve lived in dingy rooms long enough, Ive given all I've had to my music. Now I want something back.”

Eric left the Yardbirds about eighteen months ago, because he disapproved of their music.

"I never wanted to make money from the wrong kind of music,” he said, “and I was so sure about that, that I almost didn’t want to make money. I was right to leave the Yardbirds, but I’d like to make some money now.”

Jack and Ginger are both seasoned jazz musicians. Jack has played with Mike Cotton, Graham Bond and Alexis Korner. Ginger was previously with Graham Bond. They are all three nervy, sensitive, and wholly immersed in their music.

Jack is perhaps the most obviously nervy, biting his fingers and smoking one cigarette after another.

“Tonight I am not enjoying the performance,” he said, in a soft, Scottish accent. “The P.A. system is no good here, and that makes me very upset.”

“As well as wanting to play together, which is very important, we think we can succeed commercially with our music,’ Ginger said. I asked them why, and if they intended to simplify their music?

“No,” Eric said definitely, “but the fans are ready to hear something more genuine, they are looking for depth and truth. They want to be given something with substance, that has more to it than Just a nice noise.”

“We are in fact doing more and more complicated pieces,” Jack explained. “I’m writing a lot of them. I won’t write a song unless it has a difficult pattern because there Is no enjoyment playing it.’’

Eric named the group “Cream” because they are a group’s group. “I didn’t mean it like we are the cream of groups,” he said. “Just like thick rich cream.”
He is the only bachelor of the three, but the other two don’t look married, if you know what I mean.

“Well, we aren’t tied to conventional wives” they said with pride. “Our wives are as eccentric as we are! We keep strange hours, and have no routine. There is plenty of time for all that when we are older and have to conform.”

Two fans came up and requested “Sleepy Time” and “Stepping Out”. “Sure, we’ll be glad to,” Eric said, and the fans went away, happy. Love for their music, there is no star aura about them. Their followers listen enraptured when they play, but they don’t bother them when they sit in the public bar during the interval and drink.

“That is the relationship we like between our fans,” Eric said. “We don’t want to be idolised as boys, we want to be listened to.”

The way to make the Cream laugh, and forget the second session and talk freely, is to mention motor cars. Mind you, Ginger isn’t allowed to talk about his motoring experience. He'd like to, but the others feel they can be more expressive about him than he could be. So they tell him to shut up!

“He Is the world’s worst driver,” they say. “He had a Rover 2000, but he wrecked it. He’d ruin any car.”

“I have a Lotus racing car,” Jack said. “it does seventy-five miles an hour in third gear.”

Later, upstairs in the ballroom above the pub, about two thousand young people packed together like sardines, listening, entranced, to Eric and Ginger and Jack. The voice was good, the drumming rhythmic, and the guitar made you catch your breath and slightly shiver.

If there is any justIce in the music business, the Cream must have a hit. Music must give them back something material at last.



Melody Maker, November 1966

WELL they finally made it. The much pubilcised, talked-about, raved about,
and listened to group—the Cream—are in the chart.

They’ve overcome all obstacles—including a big hang-up in the manufacture of the actual disc, “Wrapping Paper”. Despite its late arrival in the shops though, the Cream had whipped-up enough enthusiasm among their followers to assure a good sale. All that had to be done now, was to overcome a lot of prejudice!

Well, look at the facts, Eric Clapton—he used to be a Yardbird, and then a Blues- breaker — a blues purist through and through. Then there’s drummer Ginger Baker—early days with the Alexis Korner Band, lots of jazzers, and Graham Bond’s Organisation. Another A1 bluesman. Finally bassman Jack Bruce—again a developing blues embryo with Korner, John Mayall, Graham Bond and many more.

Cream them well and you have one of the best blues bands in Britain, that’s for sure. One snag—Clapton, Baker and Bruce weren’t happy just to be the best blues band in the land. They wanted extensive popularity and atentive audiences that went beyond satisfying a minority group of blues fans. They had absorbed music that soared beyond the standard blues realms and it was this they needed to play.

“I must admit that we wanted to shock people,” said Bruce thoughtfully, “there was a feeling of that.”

Jack was referring to “Wrapping Paper”. “We knew what everybody expected us to release. Then we started doing weirder, newer things and the shouting starts. ‘The Cream have sold-out.’‘They’ve gone commercial.’‘They’re not playing blues’ — and all the rest. If only people weren’t so prejudiced. Why can’t they accept something for what it is? Not for what it was, or used to be like, or what they want it to be like!

“Naturally we’re pleased at the success of the record! Let’s face it — it’s damn easy for Eric Ciapton to play blues. I can’t tell you what I think of Clapton — he’s probably the greatest blues guitarist in the world. It flows out of him.

“So it’s easy for him to play blues—but far more difficult to go out and find his own music. Find yourself! Your own personality. The Cream’s own music!

“This is what we’re out to do — and I think we’re succeeding,” smiled Bruce mischievously. ‘The trouble with most group's is they grab at things like horns, saxes, strings, relying on the outside for musical content. We want to work inwards, towards ourselves, playing music that has come out of us—like Indian music which works inwards all the time.”

There was no stopping this Bruce in midstream! “You know what I mean. If you have a large group with five or six people the best you can do is get one thing going—one neat interpretation of a number—whereas with us nothing is the same. The best you can do -is to perfect what somebody else has written. Therefore improvisation is very necessary, vital, and popular.

“Do a hundred takes of a number in the studio and the best one will be exactly the same as the worst—only it’ll be the ultimate version of the same number.”

As is obvioUs from what Jack has said, his role in the Cream is fulfilling all his musical ambitions. Playing bass, harp and singing calls for “Independence”, three different instruments, different lines, coming from one person—a quality Jack has always aãmired in Indian drummers, “they have independence of each finger..”

He’s writing imaginative and complex numbers: “I like to build up word pictures—because then it’s up to an individual’s imagination as to how he interprets a song. Also I use sentimentality — I think it’s a good thing and I believe in it. Personally I think I can go no further than the Cream — and I’ve worked with a lot of musicians. — NICK JONES

Excerpt from The Melody Maker - August 6, 1966

SUNDAY: Music returned to the festival when Dick Morrissey picked up his tenor on Sunday afternoon, and blew the first set with Ian Hamer, Phil Bates, Harry South and Bill Eyden.

Ernestine Anderson was given a warm reception for her delicate artistry with songs like “More”, “The Telephone Song”, and “There’ll Never Be Another You”. And she swung like the clappers!

Bobby Wellins was featured with the Stan Tracey Quartet, doing extracts from their “Under Milk Wood” suite. Then came the tremendously exciting Tracey Big Band on “Alice In Jazzland”, with Kenny Baker on trumpet. The crowd, sitting it out In the pouring rain went mad, and cheered Stan to the echo. It was fine writing and fine playing, and deserves to be aired again soon where the audience aren’t likely to be drenched continuously during the performance.

In the evening after Diane and Nicky’s powerful ‘River Deep, Mountains High” came the moment thousands had been waiting for—the debut of the Cream starring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.

They kicked off with “Spoonful’‘, “Sleepy Time”, and Jack Bruce’s harmonica and vocal feature “Train Time”. Eric’s incredible guitar induced the audience to shout and scream for more, even while he was playing more!

And Ginger’s solo using two bass drums said everything. Called “The Toad”, it sent the crowd potty.

The Action roared through “Harlem Shuffle” and ‘Land Of A Thousand Dances’, then at the end of the evening came Georgie with Harry South’s Band romping through “Keep Your Big Mouth Shut”, “Down For The Count”, ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, ‘Lil’ Darling” and “Roll ‘em Pete”. Georgie sung beautifully and the band played with bite and fire.

Despite everything the Festival was worthwhile musIc-wise, and we hope the organisers won’t be deterred from having another go next year.




by Richard Green
RECORD MIRROR, Week ending November 5th, 1966

WE did it because we didn’t want people to put us into a category straight away. We play soft numbers on stage, maybe we'll change it next time”

Thus Jack Bruce on the Cream’s first single, first hit “Wrapping Paper. Quite a number of people had commented that the number was not really like the sort of material the Cream perform on stage.

Manager Bob Stigwood informed me that “Fresh Cream’, the group’s first LP, is to be issued by Reaction December 1.

“It’s almost finished.” Jack revealed. “There’s just one number to do." — “He hasn't learned to sing it properly yet," cracked Eric Clapton. — “It covers a wide range of material." Jack continued. "Eric plays two guitars on one track.” — “There’s one where I play the bass with a stick after playing it the ordinary way.” Ginger Baker put in.

You shouldn't be limited by only recording material that you can play on stage.” Jack opined. “If we had four tracks like America we’d use them. People who come to see us in clubs may not buy records and record-buyers may not only go to clubs, so we please them both.”

I wondered if the Cream had ever considered using session men, perhaps including some brass.

“No. We couldn’t use session men.” Ginger replied. “Session men couldn’t follow us if we improvised, you have stick to the arrangement.”

“We often improvise during a number.” Eric said, taking up the theme. "One of us will play something and the others will catch on to it. We’re developing all the time, we haven’t got anything planned. We’ll just see what happens.”

“Indian music like the Ravi Shankar type is mainly only for instruments, has been going for 2000 years and that’s still developing—inwards,” Jack explained. “People said we would need another man but we don’t."

“Some groups spoil themselves by trying to do what they can’t.” said Eric. Members of the Cream often lead on from one another’s remarks, demonstrating a strange kind of linked thinking among them. “They add strings because they think it’s the modern sound. But it doesn’t always work. The Troggs are a good group. I don’t necessarily mean I like them but what they’re playing is getting down to the basics. They’re playing the sort of thing that they can play”.

What did Eric think of the current trend for so many guitarists to try and imitate his guitar style? Or that of Jeff Beck?

“It’s no good guitarists listening to me and Jeff Beck,” he told me. I always listened to the American artistes. Peter Green has a good head, he knows which direction he’s going in, but on the new John MayaIl record he sounds like me.”

As three musicians in entirely different outfits, did Jack, Eric and Ginger have any fears about forming the Cream in the first place? Why, in fact, had they taken the step? Bob Stigwood answered for them: “They had all reached a point where they were dissatisfied with the position they were in.”

Nods of agreement all round. Ginger went and sat behind Mr. Stigwood’s desk, picked up a money box and announced: “Right. You’re all fired.”

“Don’t take that, it’s all I've got.” cracked the manager.
“Go upstairs and clean my flat,” Eric told him grinning all over his face.

Returning to the sane scene for a moment, Ginger remarked: “I went to see Eric at Oxford when he was with John Mayall and asked him if he’d like to join me in a group. He said okay as long as Jack would join. We asked Jack and he agreed."

Jack had never been the main singer with a group before and had some small doubts as to his capabilities in that field. However, Eric and Ginger soon convinced him that he could be the lead singer. He says he has two voices—one for rousing numbers and one for more bluesy songs.

“We weren’t worried about the music, we knew that’d be alright, just the personalities, " Eric added. “We didn’t really know each other and we weren’t sure how we’d get on.”

“It was a calculated risk, which is why we took it,” Ginger stated, nicely settling the matter.