John William "Long John" Baldry
(12 January 1941 – 21 July 2005)Baldry grew to 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m), resulting in the nickname "Long John". He was one of the first British vocalists to sing blues in clubs. Baldry appeared quite regularly in the early '60s in the Gyre and Gymble coffee lounge, around the corner from Charing Cross railway station, and at the Brownsville R. & B. Club, Manor House, London, also "Klooks Kleek" (Railway Hotel, West Hampstead). He sometimes appeared at Eel Pie Island on the Thames at Twickenham and at the Station Hotel in Richmond, one of the Rolling Stones' earliest venues.
In the early 1960s, he sang with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, with whom he recorded the first British blues album in 1962, R&B From The Marquee. At stages, Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce and Charlie Watts were members of this band while Keith Richards and Brian Jones played on stage, although none played on the R&B at the Marquee album. When The Rolling Stones made their debut at the Marquee Club in July 1962, Baldry put together a group to support them. Later, Baldry was the announcer introducing the Stones on their US-only live album, Got Live If You Want It!, in 1966.
Baldry became friendly with Paul McCartney after a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in the early 1960s, leading to an invitation to sing on one of The Beatles 1964 TV specials, Around The Beatles. In the special, Baldry performs "Got My Mojo Workin'" and a medley of songs with members of The Vernon Girls trio; in the latter, the Beatles are shown singing along in the audience.
In 1963, Baldry joined the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars with Nicky Hopkins playing piano. He took over in 1964 after the death of Cyril Davies, and the group became Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men featuring Rod Stewart on vocals and Geoff Bradford on guitar. Stewart was recruited after Baldry heard him busking a Muddy Waters song at Twickenham station after Stewart had been to a Baldry gig at Eel Pie Island. Long John Baldry became a regular fixture on Sunday nights at Eel Pie Island from then onwards, fronting a series of bands.
In 1965, the Hoochie Coochie Men became Steampacket with Baldry and Stewart as male vocalists, Julie Driscoll as the female vocalist and Brian Auger on Hammond organ. After Steampacket broke up in 1966, Baldry formed Bluesology featuring Reg Dwight on keyboards and Elton Dean, later of Soft Machine, as well as Caleb Quaye on guitar. Dwight adopted the name Elton John, his first name from Dean and his surname from Baldry.
Baldry was openly gay during the early 1960s, at least amongst his friends and industry peers. However, he did not make a formal public acknowledgement of this until the 1970s—possibly because until 1967 in Britain, homosexuality was still a criminal offense that could lead to forced medication and/or jail time.
Baldry had a brief relationship with lead-guitarist of The Kinks, Ray Davies and supported Elton Johnin coming to terms with his own sexuality. In 1978 his then-upcoming album Baldry's Out announced his formal coming out, and he addressed sexuality problems with a cover of Canadian songwriter Bill Amesbury's "A Thrill's a Thrill".
In 1967, he recorded a pop song "Let The Heartaches Begin" that went to number one in Britain, followed by a 1968 top 20 hit titled "Mexico", which was the theme of the UK Olympic team that year. "Let the Heartaches Begin" made the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.
Bluesology broke up in 1968, with Baldry continuing his solo career and Elton John forming a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. In 1969, Elton John tried to commit suicide after relationship problems with a woman. Taupin and Baldry found him, and Baldry talked him out of marrying the woman, helping make Elton John comfortable with his sexuality. The song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" from “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” was about the experience.
In 1971, John and Stewart each produced one side of It Ain't Easy which became Baldry's most popular album and made the top 100 of the US album chart. The album featured "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll" which became his most successful song in the US. Baldry's first tour of the US was at this time. The band included,Mick Waller, Ian Armitt, Pete Sears, and Sammy Mitchell. Stewart and John would again co-produce his 1972 album Everything Stops For Tea which made the lower reaches of the US album charts. The same year, Baldry worked with ex-Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball.
Baldry had mental health problems and was institutionalised for a brief time in 1975. The 1979 album Baldry's Out was recorded after his release. He played live at Zolly's nightclub in Oshawa, underneath the Oshawa Shopping Centre, shortly after releasing Baldry's Out. In a 1997 interview with a German television program, Baldry claimed to be the last person to see singer Marc Bolan before Bolan's death on 16 September 1977, having conducted an interview with the fellow singer for an American production company, he says, just before Bolan drove away and had his accident.
He played his last live show in Columbus, Ohio, on 19 July 2004, at Barristers Hall with guitarist Bobby Cameron. The show was produced by Andrew Myers. They played to a small group, some came from Texas. Two years previously the two had a 10-venue sell-out tour of Canada. Baldry's final UK Tour as 'The Long John Baldry Trio' concluded with a performance on Saturday 13 November 2004 at The King's Lynn Arts Centre, King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. The trio consisted of LJB, Butch Coulter on harmonica and Dave Kelly on slide guitar.