Martin Stone, once the guitar lynchpin in much-touted London bands The Action and Mighty Baby, and fiddle player Phil ‘Snakefinger’ Lithman – who had spent the late Sixties soaking up the flower power vibes in San Francisco – came together early in 1972 to make a country blues album for Revelation Records, an independent label established to release material recorded at the first ever Glastonbury Festival the previous summer.
Called Kings of the Robot Rhythms, Chilli Willi’s debut featured guest appearances by Jo Ann Kelly and various members of Brinsley Schwarz.
In order to do the album justice live, Stone and Lithman recruited banjo player Paul ‘Diceman’ Bailey, Paul ‘Bassman’ Riley and drummer, Pete Thomas.
By mid-1973 the band’s loose-limbed bluegrass and western swing flavoured songs were great favourites in pubs like The Kensington and The Tally Ho (in Kentish Town), as well as benefit gigs and free festivals all over the South of England, where they frequently shared stages with bands like Hawkwind.
In 1974 they signed to reggae specialist Trojan Records‘ rock offshoot, Mooncrest, for a second album – Bongos Over Balham – which they promoted on the ‘Naughty Rhythms Tour’.
The band broke up immediately afterwards with Lithman going on to become a key member of San Francisco avant-garde band The Residents, Diceman Bailey moving to Bontemps Roulez and Pete Thomas joining Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
Phil ‘Snakefinger’ Lithman
Fiddle, guitar, vocals
Paul ‘Dice Man’ Bailey
Banjo, guitar, sax, vocals
Paul ‘Bassman’ Riley