John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers are a pioneering English blues band, led by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist John Mayall, OBE. Mayall used the band name between 1963 and 1967, but then dropped it for some fifteen years. However, in 1982 a 'Return of the Bluesbreakers' was announced and the name was in use until the band again dissolved in 2008, to be resurrected again in 2009. The name has become generic, without a clear distinction which recordings are to be credited just to the leader, or to leader and his band. The Bluesbreakers have included musicians such as:
- Eric Clapton (April–August 1965, November 1965–July 1966) and Jack Bruce, both later reuniting in Cream,
- Peter Green, who had replaced Clapton, played until August 1967, when he departed with Mick Fleetwood and then also enticed Bluesbreaker John McVie a few weeks later to form Fleetwood Mac,
- Mick Taylor (August 1967–July 1969) who later joined The Rolling Stones, and reunion tours in 1982–83 and 2004,
- Harvey Mandel, Walter Trout, Larry Taylor (Mandel, Trout and Taylor left Canned Heat to join Mayall),
- Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Randy Resnick, Aynsley Dunbar, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser (Free), Chris Mercer, Henry Lowther, Johnny Almond and Jon Mark (later of Mark-Almond).
The band that would evolve to the Bluesbreakers in 1965 was formed in January 1963 and became an ever-evolving lineup of more than 100 different combinations of musicians performing under that name. Eric Clapton joined in April 1965 just a few months after the release of their first album. Clapton brought guitar-led blues influences to the forefront of the group; he had left The Yardbirds in order to concentrate on the blues.
The first single released by John Mayall and his band, in May 1964, was the song "Crawling Up a Hill" with "Mr. James" as the b-side, the band on the single were Peter Ward, John McVie on bass, Bernie Watson on guitar, and Martin Hart on drums. After the single release Bernie Watson was replaced by Roger Dean and Martin Hart was replaced by Hughie Flint. This line-up played with John on John Mayall Plays John Mayall. After this the band released a single called "Crocodile Walk" with "Blues City Shakedown" as the b-side. The single was produced by Decca producer Tony Clarke. Roger Dean then left the group and was replaced by Eric Clapton.
The group lost their record contract with Decca that year, which also saw the release of a single called "I'm Your Witchdoctor" (produced by Jimmy Page) in October 1965, the first credited to John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, followed by a return to Decca in 1966. Then in August 1966 The Bluesbreakers released the single "Lonely Years" with the b-side "Bernard Jenkins", which was released by Purdah Records. The album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton was released in July; it reached the Top Ten in the UK.
Shortly after Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton was released Eric Clapton went to see Buddy Guy in concert, and being impressed by his trio, the idea for Cream was formed and he left to form this new group with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. Clapton was replaced by Peter Green for A Hard Road, after which he left to form Fleetwood Mac.
Then Mick Taylor joined the group and they recorded Crusade on 12 July 1967. Soon after, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac and was replaced by Tony Reeves for the album Bare Wires which was their highest charting UK album. Taylor then left to join The Rolling Stones and the name "Bluesbreakers" was dropped from John Mayall albums.
By the time the 1960s were over, the Bluesbreakers had finally achieved some success in the United States.
With some interruptions, the Bluesbreakers have continued to tour and release albums (over 50 to date), though they never achieved the critical or popular acclaim of their earlier material. In 2003, Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber reunited with the band for John Mayall's 70th Birthday Concert in Liverpool — the concert was later released on CD and DVD. In 2004, their line up included Buddy Whittington, Joe Yuele, Hank Van Sickle and Tom Canning, and the band toured the UK with Mick Taylor as a guest musician.
In November 2008, Mayall announced on his website he was disbanding the Bluesbreakers, to cut back on his heavy workload and give himself freedom to work with other musicians. A 2009 solo tour with Rocky Athas (formerly of Black Oak Arkansas) was the first musical venture Mayall undertook after disbanding his former band. Former band member, Johnny Almond died on 18 November 2009 from cancer, aged 63.
However, in 2009, Eagle Records asked Mayall for a new album, and he put together a new band including Rocky Athas (guitar), Tom Canning (keyboard), Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (percussion), and produced the album Tough the same year. After a year Canning left for other priorities.
- 1982: Blues Alive VHS (re-released on DVD in 2004 as Jammin' With the Blues Greats), a concert filmed in June 1982 at New Jersey's Capitol Theater with a lineup of Mayall, Mick Taylor, John McVie, and Colin Allen, and guests Etta James, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and Albert King
- 2003: 70th Birthday Concert CD & DVD (with Eric Clapton)
- 2004: The Godfather of British Blues/Turning Point DVD
John Mayall's website only
- Private Stash limited releases
- 2000: Time Capsule (JM's private archive, 19 tracks 1957-62)
- 2001: UK Tour 2K (live)
- 2001: Boogie Woogie Man (11 live solo concert performances, 2000)
- 2003: No Days Off (live)
- 2004: Cookin' Down Under (DVD)
- 2011: Live In London (Nov. 1, 2010, 2CD and DVD)
- 2012: Historic Live Shows vol. 1 (6 tracks 1970-71, Germany + 4 tracks 1990, Japan & Germany)
- 2012: Historic Live Shows vol. 2 (12 tracks 1990-1995, Usa & Germany)
- 2012: Historic Live Shows vol. 3 (4 tracks 1997, Usa + 6 tracks, 1998, Holland)
- 1964: "Crawling Up The Hill / Mr. James" (Decca F11900)
- 1965: "Crocodile Walk / Blues City Shakedown" (Decca F12120)
- October 1965: "I'm Your Witchdoctor / Telephone Blues" (Immediate IM012) first single as John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
- August 1966: "Lonely Years / Bernard Jenkins" (Purdah 453502)
- September 1966: "Parchman Farm / Key To Love" (Decca F12490)
- 1966: "Looking Back / So Many Roads" (Decca F12506)
- 1967: "Sitting In The Rain / Out Of Reach" (Decca F12545)
- 1967: "Curly / Rubber Duck" (Decca F12588)
- 1967: "I'm Your Witchdoctor/ Telephone Blues" (Immediate IM051)
- 1967: "Double Trouble / It Hurts Me Too" (Decca F12621)
- 1967: "Suspicions Pt.1 / Suspicions Pt.2" (Decca F12684)
- 1968: "Picture On The Wall / Jenny" (Decca F12732)
- 1968: "No Reply / She's Too Young" (Decca F12792)
- 1968: "The Bear / 2401" (Decca F12846)
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Image from Discogs