So what to say about a man who at nearly the age of 78 (this November) still has a great bluesy voice and performs—in sneakers and jeans—in some 120 concerts per year and also has the spirit of a 20 year-old rocker? Simply the best, as Tina Turner once sang. The musician in question? None other than the father of British blues himself, the great John Mayall!
Mayall—in absolutely splendid form—performed in Rome’s fairly new Auditorium’s outdoor stage (designed by Italy's most famous architect, Renzo Piano, the same who's designed the new hqs of the New York Times in NY) area in front of over 2,000 blues fans of all ages under a typically beautiful Roman evening sky. Mayall this time was not with his historic Bluesbreakers band, a band so historic that it once had in its ranks the likes of Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor of Rolling Stones fame, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood who went on to become Fleetwood Mac.
And as Clapton once said, "John Mayall has actually run an incredibly great school for musicians” (there’s also a fellow by the name of Jeff Beck who once played with Mayall!)! He was instead joined on stage by just three other musicians: Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums (a student of the great Billy Cobham).
Could this man’s incredible perseverance and immense admiration for music be also due to an extreme misfortune he once had in the States? A brush fire destroyed his hand-crafted and legendary Laurel Canyon home, taking with it his scrupulously-kept diaries, his father's diaries, master recordings, extensive book & magazine collections, Mayall artwork, and much much more. Determined to rise from the ashes, Mayall persevered. And aren’t we all glad that he did!
One tune that he played in his 90-minute Rome concert, “Have You Heard About My Baby”, is part of the pic 2003 DVD that Mayall shot in Liverpool for his 70th birthday. There on stage with John is his Bluesbreakers’s band and two very special guests who play simply phenomenally on this particular song: Clapton, Taylor and also another veteran of British blues, Chris Barber!
As for the man himself, the father of six and the grandfather of six, John Mayall, at 77+ years of age hopes (and ALL his adoring fans too) to keep the blues alive for many more years to come!