Bri­tish R&B

Thisquar­teten­joyedas­tringofhuge­hitsinthemid-60s;theyno­tonly de­finedthe­sound­ofBri­tishR&B,bu­tal­so­pi­oneeredanex­cit­ingnew or­gan-base­drock­soundthat­would­in­flu­ence­fu­ture70s­su­per­stars.

Guitar Techniques - - • Contents • November 2014 • -

Phil Capone checks out the Spencer Davis Group’s pre­co­ciously giften Steve Win­wood.

in­stant­lyre­cruit­edthe­broth­ers, addingPeteYorkon­drum­sto com­pleteth­e­o­rig­i­nalline-upof thisle­gendaryR&Bout­fit.Afew month­s­later,Is­landRecords ex­ec­u­tiveChrisBlack­well­caught the­band­play­inglive,and im­me­di­atelysignedthem­to­his fledglinglabel.In1964,The SpencerDav­isGroupre­leased theird­e­butsin­gle,acoverofJohn LeeHooker’sDim­ples,which failed­tochart.Un­de­terred,dur­ing 1965the­ban­dis­suedthree­fur­ther 45s,allofwhichon­lyjust­man­aged to­scrapein­tothe­bot­to­mofthe UKs­in­gleschart.

Then,seem­ing­ly­outof nowhere,came­onetheir­most icon­ic­songs,KeepOnRunning. The­com­bi­na­tionofinno­va­tive fuz­z­gui­tar­in­tro,an­in­fec­tious Mo­town-style­groove­andSteve Win­wood’svo­calper­for­manceto diefor(heal­so­playedthe­cool gui­tar­riffs),sent­thesongstraight to­thetopoftheUKcharts.

Th­esong­waswrit­tenby Ja­maicanSkaartistJackie Ed­wards,an­dar­ranged­bySteve on­piano.Fur­ther­hit­sand Amer­i­can­chart­suc­cess­fol­lowed, but­thiswasn’tenoughto­pre­vent SteveWin­woodquit­tingto­form Traf­ficin1967(with­his­brother Muf­fal­soleav­ing­top­ur­suea high­ly­suc­cess­ful­ca­reerasA&Rex­ec­u­tive­and pro­duc­er­forIs­land).

The­fi­nals­in­glethis­line-up­woul­drelease wasI’mA­Man,one­ofthe­firstor­gan-ledrock an­thems,pre­ced­ingPro­colHarum’sWhiter ShadeOfPale­bysome­four­months.

TheSpencerDav­isGroup­w­ere­ina dif­fer­entleague­fromtheirR&Bpeers.Th­ese guysweren’tsolely­blues­men;th­ey­could­play cool­jazz,too.Ev­i­dence­ofthis­can­be­foundon theirs­in­gleB-sideswith­track­slikeBluesInF (the­flip­side­ofGim­meSomeLovin’),an up-tem­pobluesthat­no­ton­ly­demon­strated SteveWin­wood’sabil­i­ty­to­playscorch­ing Jim­mySmith-style­or­gan,butalso high­light­edSpencerDavis’jaz­ztech­nique,a swing­ing,melod­ic­stylen­odoubt­in­flu­enced byAmer­i­can­jaz­z­gui­tar­giantssuchasGrant GreenandKen­nyBur­rell.

But­thetrack­that­pack­s­the­most un­ex­pect­ed­pun­chisSte­vie’sBlues(theB-side ofSome­bodyHelpMe)sin­ceit­show­cases SteveWin­wood’sin­cred­i­ble­gui­tar­tal­ent.This slow,soul­ful­bluescouldeasi­ly­pass­forthe workofEricClaptonorBud­dyGuy,and prob­a­blyqual­i­fieshi­ma­so­ne­ofthe­most un­der­rat­ed­mu­si­cian­soft­heera.Likeother out­stand­ing­multi-in­stru­men­tal­ists,Ste­vieis of­te­nasked­howhecanex­celon­dif­fer­ent in­stru­mentsto­suchahigh­level.“IfIpickup the­gui­tar,Ibe­comea­gui­tarplayer;Idon’ttry toplay­gui­tar­likeanor­gan–and­vicev­ersa whenI­play­or­gan.It’sad­if­fer­en­tkind­of­skill. You­justhave­towear­ad­if­fer­en­that.IfI’m play­ing­bass,I’mabass­player;ifI’mplay­ing man­dolin,I’ma­man­dolin­player.”

Win­wood'suseof aS­trat­tempted MrClap­ton­away fromhisGib­sons

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