Interview With Blues Legend John Mayall

Photo by jeff fasano

John Mayall is a legend. His iconic band, the Bluesbreakers, also happens to be the launching pad for some of the world’s most famous music makers, like Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (of the Rolling Stones). And at 82 he’s still a creative force.

If you have any doubts, you should check him out when he comes to the Tupelo Music Hall on Sept. 13, where he will perform a tiny fraction of the music he’s recorded (more than 60 albums in 58 years). Or just pick up his latest CD, “A Special Life,” to hear his trademark harmonica and unmistakable vocals on lyrics like, “I got no plan to guide me, never plan to fade away.”

How often do you tour?

This year it’s a bit more than usual with the new album. Typically, 100 shows each year, this year 130.

Every gig we do is cross generation - it’s always been a young audience mixed with old.

You've been playing since the early ‘60s when the rock and blues and soul music scenes all exploded at the same time. Did you know then that you were part of something so big and enduring?

Yeah, you couldn’t help but notice – it was a very exciting period. Everybody had that expectation. It was a very creative time.

Is there any common thread that connects the eras? 

I don’t know. It evolves and develops as it goes along. The blues has changed since it began in the 1930s, but it matches up with the era that it’s in and stays true to its essence.

I got to interview Angie Bowie recently and found out that she had been close to John Baldry and I realized that British Isles are not that big a place. I wondered if that kind of a hothouse of music helps account for the influence of Great Britain on the world music scene and also accounts for so many great names showing up in a single band like what happened with the Bluesbreakers.

It obviously did. Blues is the root form for super groups like Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

The biggest music act with strong NH ties is Aerosmith. I know they love the blues. Ever jammed with any of them?

Never actually met any of them. I'm sure if they did we’d have lot to talk about and mutual admiration.

"Blues from Laurel Canyon" is a personal favorite of mine along with the early Bluesbreakers albums. Were you happy with that one? I know it was a kind of solo record for you after the band dissolved.

I don't see it as a transition so much as part of the continuing revolution of my lineups. It was a quartet format that followed the larger band thing. All my albums are personal and all about real life.

If you could recommend one of your albums to someone who wanted to know what John Mayall is all about, which would it be?

They are so varied. I made a count and the latest is number 62. Any of them will do, as they are all personal favorites and an exact representation of what I’m doing.

What should people who come to hear you be expecting?

A very exciting show with a lot of improvisation, a repertoire that’s wide-ranging, music from all my career right up to the current album. Everyone should be well satisfied.

Will fans have a chance to talk to you?

As soon as the doors open, I’m at the table selling CDs. I’m available before and after.


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