Savoy Brown in Concert – Chicago (tracks 1- 5) Connecticut College (tracks 6-9) – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Savoy Brown this weekend. One of those bands often cited as a major influence and a band which certainly saw more than its fair share of musicians come and go and often going on to great success in other bands or solo careers. Formed in Battersea, south west London in 1965. Part of the late 1960s blues rock movement, Savoy Brown primarily achieved success in the United States, where they promoted their albums with non-stop touring. After leaving Savoy Brown, musicians became members of groups such as Yes, Fleetwood Mac, UFO and Foghat.
The band was formed by guitarist Kim Simmonds and harmonica player John O’Leary, following a chance meeting at Transat Imports record shop in Lisle Street, Soho, in 1965. In naming themselves, the group put together two words that conveyed an interesting balance of opposite sentiments and approaches. The word “Savoy” came from an American blues label, Savoy Records, as the members of the band thought the word “Savoy” sounded elegant. They added “Brown” because they thought it was an extremely plain word. Overall, the group called itself the Savoy Brown Blues Band to tell listeners that they played Chicago Blues-sounding music.
The original line-up included singer Brice Portius, keyboardist Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Manning and harmonica player John O’Leary (O’Leary appeared on record with the band on its initial recordings for Mike Vernon’s Purdah label). Portius was one of the first black blues musicians to be a part of a British rock band. Jeavons was replaced by Bob Hall shortly after the band’s formation and the arrival of Martin Stone on guitars. Not long after Stone’s arrival, O’Leary left the band as a consequence of a dispute with Manager Harry Simmonds. This line-up, sans O’Leary, appeared on the band’s 1967 debut album, Shake Down, a collection of blues covers.
Further line-up changes ensued, with founding members Portius, Chappell and Manning departing along with recently recruited guitarist Stone over a short period of time. Chris Youlden and “Lonesome” Dave Peverett would become the band’s new vocalist and 2nd guitarist respectively. Initially Bob Brunning and Hughie Flint (from John Mayall’s Clapton-version Bluesbreakers) filled the bassist and drummer positions on the single “Taste and Try (Before You Buy),” but they were subsequently replaced by Rivers Jobe and Bill Bruford. Within a fortnight of Bruford’s arrival in the band, he had been replaced by Roger Earl (Bruford went on to huge success later as Yes’s drummer). This line-up recorded two albums in 1968, Getting to the Point, and Blue Matter, which demonstrated Youlden’s rise as a songwriter alongside Simmonds. It was this line-up that released the single “Train to Nowhere” in 1969. A Step Further was released later that year, and introduced bassist Tony Stevens replacing Jobe. They developed a loyal core following in the United States, due to songs such as “I’m Tired,” a driving, melodic song from the album.
Following the release of Raw Sienna (also released in 1969) Youlden departed the band. Raw Sienna had marked the first time that a single line-up of the band had recorded successive albums without any changes in personnel. The band recorded their next album, 1970’s Looking In, as a four-piece, and following this album Peverett, Stevens, and Earl left to form Foghat with guitarist Rod Price.
If you missed them the first time around, they are still here – only Kim Simmonds remains the original founding member of the band. In 2015 they released Devil To Pay which shot to #4 on the Billboard Blues albums Chart. And their latest album came out just last year.
But for a taste of the band early on – hit the Play button and crank this one up.