Blue fire on Eel Pie - April 10
The bridge to Eel Pie
Info about the old hotel on Eel Pie on a board showing scenes from Eel Pie's heady days
CLICK ABOVE FOR VIDEO OF STEVE
Steve reminisces about Eel Pie Island and its
famous blues club.
All the great advances in the '60s guitar sounds centred on the blues. For me around 1966 the earthly centre of blues delights was at the old hotel on Eel Pie Island in the middle of the River Thames at Twickenham. Here a small enclave of devoted drinkers and listeners gathered...
On many a freezing foggy Sunday evening I'd wander over the small footbridge towards the enticing strains of a slow blues wailing in the distance, promising a blue heaven that delivered every time. On several occasions I had the good fortune to witness John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with the young Peter Green, Eric Clapton's equally fluent successor exhibiting great passion and prowess. Blue fire streamed from his fingers as his face lit up with a smile whilst playing a dazzling version of Freddy King's The Stumble.
But the surprise of them all was watching the Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing to a handful of people yet burning up a lightning storm that I'll never forget. Mike Bloomfield, Dylan's guitarist, and Elvin Bishop were fabulous. As they played they reminded me of two wild dogs baying at Butterfield the Master harmonica player. Paul Butterfield with that tiny instrument in his hands could give any guitarist a run for his money with a sound that ripped yet was perfectly controlled. I found out later that he and Hendrix often jammed into the small hours of the morning. It's a pity no-one ever recorded them. There is no more exciting sound in blues or rock 'n roll for that matter than a Butterfield harp solo. Check out East West - a cornerstone of psychedelia and urgent urban blues.
Eel Pie Island in 1966 felt like the centre of cutting edged blues based music, an invisible caldron was bubbling away as the music matured and developed. I'll always remember the heady smell of Newcastle Brown Ale, smoke, disinfectant, sawdust and blues power to the end of my days.
Thank you Mister Mayall and Butterfield for setting my heart and fingers on fire on many a cold night in the twilight of my frustrated musical youth.
Steve looks over to the island