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Long John Baldry

John Baldry – born 12 January 1941 in London – was a giant on the early 60s British blues scene in more than one sense – He was six foot seven inches tall (hence the “long” moniker).

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In 1958 he toured the UK alongside Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and sang with Alexis Korner and then led Cyril Davies’ R&B All Stars after Cyril’s death in 1964, changing the name to The Hoochie Coochie Men.

In 1965 he formed Steampacket, which included Rod Stewart, Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll in the line-up.

Within a year, that band had also split up, whereupon Baldry joined another influential band, Bluesology, this time featuring Reg Dwight (later to become Elton John) on keyboards.

With commercial success constantly evading him, Baldry decided to try a solo career and became a Pye Records artist in 1967. He abandoned his blues roots to record a ballad, produced and penned by Tony Macaulay and John McLeod – Let The Heartaches Begin.

The single stormed to #1 in December 1967, where it stayed for two weeks, later also becoming a minor American hit.

longjohnEveryone wanted this new lanky discovery but found it difficult to believe he’d spent his musical upbringing entrenched in R&B.

Another ballad, When The Sun Comes Shinin’ Through, followed in September 1968 but stalled in the Top 30. The third release fared better, and rightly so, because it was Mexico – the theme to the BBC TV coverage of the 1968 Olympic Games.

But the record-buying public was fickle and Baldry enjoyed his last hit in 1969 with It’s Too Late Now. Accepting that his pop career was dead, the singer dumped his sharp suits and trimmed haircut to grow a beard and don stage clothes more befitting an audience outside the pop market.

longjohn_1968Baldry joined Warner Brothers and recorded the LP It Ain’t Easy. It bombed in Britain but was a hit in America, whereupon he undertook his first tour over there. Thus began a new – albeit short-lived – career, after which the singer was admitted into a mental institution.

After time in New York City and Los Angeles in 1978, Baldry settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a Canadian citizen.

By 1980 Baldry was confined to small low-key performances in Canada and America, with his British career long-forgotten.

Baldry died on 21 July 2005 in Vancouver General Hospital (in British Columbia, Canada) of a lung infection. He was 64.

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Blues star Long John Baldry dies