Keef Hartley in concert this week. An artist and a band who would have become household names had their manager not insisted on being paid upfront to be filmed or recorded during the Woodstock festival in 1969. Although he already had a reputation and a following in the UK (via John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and going back as far as The Artwoods) he was an almost total unknown here in the States – and FM Radio would have bent over backwards to put anything Hartley did on heavy rotation. Hartley was played on Underground FM a lot during the early 70s – but not to the extent he would have been had he been part of the Woodstock lineup that became part of the film and the soundtrack album.
Like Mick Abrahams last night, Keef Hartley had a very solid reputation and serious fanbase throughout his career (which ended sadly in 2011). And also like Abrahams, he was a backbone to genre in general. An extraordinary drummer, Hartley’s keen musical sense put him collaborating with a vast array of talent during those earlier years, and turning out a number of highly polished and engaging albums.
Aside from the Woodstock appearance, I am trying to remember if Keef Hartley toured the U.S. with any regularity or only toured here once, but his live material is exceptional and easily showcases the major artist he was.
If you’re not familiar with Keef Hartley, or have only heard vague references to him in recent years, you might want to check this Sunday Peel Concert episode from November of 1970 as a way of getting exposed and hopefully interested enough to explore deeper through his 16+ albums representing much of his career. A lot of great material and a considerable amount to learn from. Keef Hartley had a unique and important voice – just because he’s not on everyone’s top-ten list doesn’t mean he should be obscure – some of the best things in life are overlooked. Music is not immune.
Crank it up and have a listen.