Legend brings the blues Wednesday to Fairfield's StageOne
In the mid 1960s, young musicians in England were becoming fixated on playing the blues, a most American style of music. One of the leaders of the movement was John Mayall, who learned of the genre from listening to the jazz records collected by his father, Murray, who also played guitar.
His father's influence led to Mayall playing guitar -- as well as harmonica and keyboards -- and starting his own bands, even before the blues craze hit.
"I had a good head start on things," Mayall said during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. "I was 30 years old when the so-called `British Blues Boom' started, so I had a good 10 years on most of the people playing at the time."
While Mayall's music has always been very well-respected, especially in hardcore blues circles, what has cemented Mayall's place in music history is his selection of band members, especially guitarists.
A look at the roster of Mayall's early Bluesbreakers lineups included many young players who would go on to greater things after serving an apprenticeship with Mayall's band.
Most notable was Eric Clapton, who joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers after he left the Yardbirds and played on one Mayall album, "Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton," in 1966. Jack Bruce, who was the bassist in Clapton's band Cream, also was a Bluesbreaker.
More InformationJOHN MAYALL StageOne at the Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford St. Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m. $100, $93 FTC members. 203-259-1036, www.fairfieldtheatre.org.
Other famed musicians to come out of Mayall's group included Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, who would go on to form the early version of Fleetwood Mac, and a 17-year-old Mick Taylor, who would later join the Rolling Stones from 1969-74 and perform on some of their greatest records.
"It was a pleasure as a bandleader to make those choices," Mayall, 78, said. "They were all pretty young at the time. ... And I always believed in keeping it fresh.
"It's great history to look back on and I'm really glad that people in the general public have recognized their talents, because I totally believed in them."
Mayall, Taylor and McVie reunited for a while in the early 1980s, and Clapton and Taylor played a fundraising concert for Mayall's 70th birthday in 2008, but other than the occasional meeting, Mayall said he doesn't keep in touch with his most famous alumni.
"Not really; I don't have their phone numbers," he said, with a laugh. "Occasionally, if you're in a festival or something, you might run into somebody you worked with before. That happens fairly often with (guitarists) Coco Montoya and Walter Trout, as they kind of work the same circuit."
The flipside of having such famous sidemen is that, outside of the blues world, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that he's in his sixth decade of being a successful working musician, playing to packed theaters and clubs all over the world.
"Well, it depends who you listen to, I suppose," he said. "Some people do dwell on that, and some people don't. But you take whatever you can get -- it's all good publicity."
Mayall, who plays StageOne at the Fairfield Theatre Company Wednesday night, Feb. 15, shows no signs of slowing down, as he still keeps up a heavy touring schedule.
"Every year, it averages about 125 (shows). That's all over the world, so we do get about," he said. "But it's very manageable. Everybody says it's a lot, but if you have the right people with you, it's a pure pleasure. It's very stimulating to play. It's nice to get out there and be with the guys, so it works.
"And whenever we do a concert or a club show, the age difference (in the audience) is just tremendous. You can get people coming there with their sons and daughters and sometimes their sons and daughters bring their offspring. The (age range) is pretty much across the boards."
Mayall's last studio album was "Tough," which was released in 2009 on Eagle Records. He has no plans to enter the studio anytime soon, but he has put out a DVD and two-CD set that captured a November 2010 concert.
"The problem is that Eagle Records has not asked me for a new album in quite some time, so I'm not sure I'm even with them anymore," he said. "In the meantime, we put out a live DVD and double-CD of `Live in London,' which is only available from our website, johnmayall.com" (and at his live shows).
"It's only one year old, so that's the one that has all of the fireworks on it."
StageOne at the Fairfield Theatre Company, 70 Sanford St. Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m. $100, $93 FTC members. 203-259-1036, www.fairfieldtheatre.org.