Having just finished reading the above great Harry Shapiro biography of one of Scotland’s all time great musicians Jack Bruce I have been inspired to finally blog my own overview of the man and his work.
Whilst the “celebrity” star for Jack no doubt peaked with his period in Cream, his ability as a cross genre musician has never faded and it is his means of dealing with the retreat into a state of comparative obscurity from the “rock star” years that gives the book an added edge.
You can buy this great book by clicking HERE, however, in the meantime here is a brief musical journey through the career of Jack Bruce.
John Symon Asher “Jack” Bruce (born 14 May 1943, Bishopbriggs, Scotland) had musical parents who moved frequently, resulting in the young Bruce attending 14 different schools, ending up at Bellahouston Academy.
Bruce began playing the jazz bass in his teens, and won a scholarship studying cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, while playing in Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband to support himself, though on joining in 1962 he replaced Mr McHarg himself!
The Academy disapproved of its students playing jazz, however. “They found out and said ‘you either stop, or leave college.’ So I left college.”
Thus it was later in 1962 when he became a member of the London-based band Blues Incorporated,led by Alexis Korner, in which he played the double bass. The band also included organist Graham Bond, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and drummer Ginger Baker, all of whom were to play big parts in his musical destiny.
They were the first amplified R&B band in the UK, however, Jack wasn’t part of the group when they recorded the classic “R&B From The Marquee” album.
In 1963, the group broke up and Bruce went on to form the Graham Bond Quartet with Bond, Baker, and guitarist John McLaughlin.
They played an eclectic range of music genres, including, bebop, blues and rhythm and blues.
As a result of session work at this time, Bruce switched from double bass to electric bass. The move to electric bass happened as McLaughlin was dropped from the band; he was replaced by Heckstall-Smith on sax and the band pursued a more concise R&B sound and changed its name to the Graham Bond Organisation.
They released two studio albums and several singles.
Whilst not commercially successful a factor for this could have been Bond’s rough, growling singing voice, which was an acquired taste. Another was the decided lack of conventional star appeal of the four members: Bond, Bruce, Baker, and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Jack was compelled to leave this band after three years by Ginger Baker, who said his playing was “too busy”!
Jack had to turn down Marvin Gaye’s offer to join his U.S.-based band because of his impending first marriage. He then joined John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, where he first met Eric Clapton, and although he did not appear on what many regard as the best British Blues album every recorded, ”John Mayall Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” (also known as The Beano album), he can be heard on a few of the live tracks which were added to the recent expanded edition.
What followed next was a short lived and ill advised attempt at some commercialism via a stint with Manfred Mann. Jack played on the groups second No1 hit “Pretty Flamingo” and also featured on the ”Instrumental Asylum” EP which was all cover versions of other bands hits including The Rolling Stones and The Who.
“My Generation” – Manfred Mann
Check back Next Week for Jack Bruce Part Two (The Hedonistic Rock Years)
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