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Black Girl

Long John Baldry

Long John Baldry was tall – 6 feet 7 inches (about 201cm). His influence on British music was immense.

His profile doesn’t seem to match either his influence or his stature.

He was right there at the “birth of the British blues” – he appears on the very first British Blues album: R&B From The Marquee a recording from Alexis Korner’s Blues IncorporatedDespite the title and the fact they played regular spots at the venue, the album was not recorded at The Marquee but at Decca Studios in North London.

The band didn’t have great commercial success but it was a very fluid outfit that gave some big talent a kick along. Led by the co-fathers of British Blues – Alexis Korner & Cyril Davies – at various times the line-up included Long John Baldry, Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Danny Thomspon, Graham Bond, & Ginger Baker.

But others who got the nod from Alexis to take the stage with the band included Brian Jones, Paul Jones, Keith Richard, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Eric Burdon, & Eric Clapton.

Long John Baldry was right in the mix of all this and became even more central with the bands he led, especially Steampacket (Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger, Mickey Waller, Vic Briggs, Rick Brown (Fenson)) & Bluesology (among others – Reggie Dwight, Caleb Quaye, Elton Dean, Neil Hubbard, Marsha Hunt, Marc Charig).

Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger (Photo: DEZO HOFFMANN)

This album – It Ain’t Easy – is Baldry fifth release. It was released in 1971. One side was produced by Rod Stewart and the other side by Reg Dwight (who by this time had renamed himself Elton John … taking the first names of two of his colleagues from Bluesology, John Baldry & Elton Dean).

I am pretty sure I bought It Ain’t Easy in 1973 – and there were two tracks I played incessantly – the brooding Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield and this great version of Black Girl.

Black Girl – or In The Pines or Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – is a traditional song that dates back to the late 19th Century. It tells a harsh and haunting story.

My Daddy was a railroad man
Killed a mile and a half from here
His head was found in the driver’s wheel
And his body ain’t never been found.

Maggie Bell joined Baldry on vocals for this track. The lead singer of the Scottish band Stone The Crows added another dimension – on the CD re-issue of the album one of the bonus tracks is Black Girl sans Maggie Bell – there is no comparison.

The link connecting Black Girl Take This Hammer is …

Lead Belly is the connection. Apart from Lead Belly making this song his own, Long Jogn Baldry was a Lead Belly tragic.

Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Interview with Long John Baldry about Leadbelly. (Audio – 6m 37s)

Photography & Music blog – post on British Blues.  

* Cyril Davies – this website includes a great biography of Cyril “Squirrel” Davies. Well it’s more a history British blues – very interesting.

* Tribute Site For Long John Baldry

* A performance from Steampacket – circa 1965 – that’s Rod Stewart & Julie Driscoll on backing vocals, Brian Auger (keyboards) also gets some good screen time.

* Cyril Davies Allstars – C.C. Rider – circa 1963 – LJB lead vocals.

* Black Girl Playlist – YouTube – 13 versions of the song (apart from the one posted above). They are from: Lead Belly; Long John Baldry & Kathi Macdonald live in 1993; Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys; Nirvana; Dave van Ronk; Bob Dylan; Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright & Renee Fleming; Tiny Tim; Odetta; Joan Baez; John Phillips; Susheela Raman; Grateful Dead

Destination next?

North:   Indian Rope Man by Julie Driscoll, Brian Augur & Trinity.
East:     Morning Dew  by Jeff Beck
South:   Blind Prayer by Rod Stewart
West:    Take This Hammer is back there

Crossroad 27