Stevie King writes:
On Tuesday 6th October 2011, The Blues came calling at Loughton's Methodist Church Hall, in the shape of popstar, actor, broadcaster and award-winning harmonica player Paul Jones. Before an audience of Jazz and Blues fans of all ages, ex-Manfred Mann member Paul was interviewed by our founder Peter Harvie.
After an introduction from the ever-ebullient Digby Fairweather, Paul spoke entertainingly and at length about his career and his interest in The Blues. He recounted his earliest fascination with Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton, and how the chart success of Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line" in 1956 led him to seek out the recordings of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Joe Turner, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. But it was when he heard an LP of T-Bone Walker featuring the harmonica of Chicago blues-harp maven Junior Wells, said Paul, that he was inspired to play the mouth organ.
Paul went on to talk about his first days learning the instrument, pulling a harmonica from his pocket to demonstrate playing in both the first and the second position- for the uninitiated, the difference between Jimmy Reed and Little Walter. After we heard a snatch from his old hit "Do Wah Diddy," Paul recalled his time with Manfred Mann, or as they used to be, the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. He also told the story of how he was invited to leave his first band, Thunder Odin's Big Secret, to help Brian Jones form The Rolling Stones- an offer he said he's never regretted refusing.
Peter then brought Paul up to the present day, and discussed his new CD "Starting All Over Again." Paul told us about his experiences recording with American Soul star Percy Sledge and British Rock icon Eric Clapton, and we listened to a minute of music from his re-working of Van Morrison's "The Philosophers Stone" which drew a spontaneous round of applause. As Peter observed, "That's what I call The Blues." There were a few more reminiscences about The Blues Band, their self-bootlegged first album, and gigging at The old Bridgehouse in Canning Town , before the time for talking ran out, and it was time to let the music speak for itself.
After a short break for refreshments, Paul returned, accompanied by Digby on trumpet, John Altman on soprano sax, and Dominic Ashworth on guitar, and showed us exactly why he's been voted best Blues harmonica player of the year in 2010 and 2011. The quartet gave an informal but excellent performance that mixed jazz, funk, soul, and gospel into a bluesy set, punctuated by Paul's entertaining announcements of introduction and explanation.
We were treated to "Back At The Chicken Shack," "If You Love Me Like You Say," "The Bad Boy," "Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Resting On Jesus," and, most appropriately "Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues," before four o'clock rolled round and our celebrity event had to draw to a close. But though this wa s only the beginning for the British Blues Archive, I'm sure that the archive will go on to both celebrate our past and make its mark on the future.
Paul Jones, Peter Harvie and Stevie King