Their early R&B style explored
Although known for their lavish MOR ballads and prog-rock symphonies, The Moody Blues began playing R&B on the British blues scene of the early 60s. Formed in Birmingham in 1964, the original line up featured Ray Thomas (percussion, flute, vocals), Michael Pinder (keys, vocals), Clint Warwick (bass, vocals), Graeme Edge (drums, vocals), and Denny Laine on guitar (who would later form Wings with Paul McCartney). Their second single, Go Now, was a UK Number 1 and Top 10 in America, establishing the band as A-listers among the British Invasion bands. Their debut album, The Magnificent Moodies, was a mix of R&B covers and original songs (written by Laine and Pinder). Unfortunately, further singles failed to match their initial success and, with the band facing debts and management issues, Warwick and Laine quit in 1966. Bassist John Lodge and guitarist Justin Hayward were swiftly drafted in as replacements, and the famous Moody Blues MkII line-up was formed.
This period of change offered the Moodies a chance to change direction; they moved away from their R&B roots and focused on their classical influences instead. New single releases followed, but these were met by a lukewarm response from critics and punters alike. However, this provided an opportunity
Hayward's solid rhythm work and pioneering use of open tunings became an important part of the group's new 'prog rock' sound.
for further experimentation and space to develop their style out of the limelight. It was around this time that Michael Pinder started playing the Mellotron (a complex analogue sampler), an instrument responsible for creating the Moodies’ trademark lush string sounds. In 1967, the band released their second album Days Of Future Passed, a heady fusion of orchestral arrangements, poetry, and rock ’n’ roll; a pioneering album now recognised as a milestone that launched the prog-rock movement. The Moody Blues were instantly established as ‘serious’ album artists. The album also contained Justin Hayward’s epic ballad, Nights In White Satin, one of the band’s most iconic songs.
Hayward is equally proficient on acoustic and electric guitars. The percussive qualities of acoustic (six- and 12-string) are perfect for laying down rhythm parts. His solid rhythm work and pioneering use of open tunings became an important part of the group's new prog rock sound; but the roots of his style are steeped in 50s rock and roll. “My idol was always Buddy Holly, and the way he played was truly the greatest influence on me. It’s the music that you love when you are young that's the most enduring, and the way Buddy played had everything I aspired to as a guitarist.”
Other influences include James Burton (evident in his preference for the Major Pentatonic); Roy Buchanan (a clear influence on Hayward’s expressive soloing); and Hank Marvin (pioneer of melodic electric guitar). Justin’s main axe, a Cherry Red Gibson ES-335, provided the rich tones that can be heard soaring above the band's dense symphonic arrangements.
If you’ve never explored the music of The Moody Blues, you’re in for a treat! Grab your electric (and acoustic) and prepare for a journey in search of the lost chord…
Justin Hayward and John Lodge of The Moody Blues