Rock Flashback: Long John Baldry
Seventy-one years ago, John William Baldry was born in East London. He would grow to be six feet, seven inches tall, which would lead to the nickname by which he’s known: [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Long John Baldry[/lastfm]. He’s also known for helping to launch the careers of several prominent rock figures.
Baldry was one of the top blues players in England from the late ’50s, the homegrown hero to a generation of fans, most of whom were almost the same age. [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rod Stewart[/lastfm] credits Baldry with discovering him: “I was 18 and playing harmonica and singing a [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Muddy Waters[/lastfm] song in a railway station when Long John Baldry ran over to me from the other side of the tracks. I had just been to see him play at a club … And now he was asking, ‘Would you like to join the band?'” Members of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rolling Stones[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Cream[/lastfm] played in Baldry’s early-’60s bands. [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Elton John[/lastfm] did too, and when he was adopting that stage name, he took the surname John as a tribute to Baldry.
Baldry scored pop hits in the UK as a performer and producer throughout the late ’60s, but it was 1971 before he got much traction in the United States with the album It Ain’t Easy, which marked a return to his earlier blues-rock sound. Side one of the album was produced by Rod Stewart and featured [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ron Wood[/lastfm] on guitar. Side two was produced by Elton John.
The song for which Baldry is best known in the United States comes from Stewart’s side. “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” is introduced by a long monologue titled “Conditional Discharge,” and it’s something you’ve got to hear.
Rod and Elton produced a second album for Baldry in 1972. Baldry continued to record and perform as a singer and voice-over actor until his death in 2005.