Mick Inkpen, a drummer, never much cared for a daft name like Bluesology, culled from a famous 1960s song by jazz man Django Reinhardt. But how wrong he was. Not only was it Eltons first proper band, and one which catapulted him into worldwide fame, the name lives on!
It lives on, bizarrely enough, in two acts which liked the name enough, to nick it themselves. Firstly, there is Armand & Bluesology, and another act, a black soul jazz crooner who goes under a name I kind of like: King George Bluesology!
Ahead of their performance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on March 24, 2001, Mick and oreginald (sic) vocalist and guitarist Stewart A Brown, gave an interview. They were to perform together with Stewart's cousin Mick Noller on bass, to re-create the sound of Come Back Baby. They are short of a keyboardist, but the name Id recommend cant make it! Yup, George here ended up picking up the task!
Stewart was all nostalgic when I called him in March on a Spanish island resort he has called home since 1976. Stewart is a crusader against the local techno muzak, and plays in a band called Me And Him, doing cover versions of songs like Daniel. But we do them close to the original, to please the English tourists and expats. Sadly not re-interpretations, he says.
Music came early. When I was eight, I visited three cousins of mine in Ipswich, and two of whom play. I picked up their guitar, and couldnt put it down! Someone took a photograph of me in short pants (never found it again!), and soon I acquired my own guitar, Stewart says.
Stewart was dating Regs cousin. I talked to her fanatically about music, and said I needed a piano player for this Blues stuff we play. She invited him. Reg came around, and played Great Balls of Fire, my goodness, exactly like Jerry Lee Lewis!
Stewart says Elton adapted fast to Blues, the genre of the band. Both Stewart and Mick were big jazz blues fans, perhaps because it was exotic to someone living in a comfortable London suburb instead of an impoverished outback of 1930s America.
We are really looking forward to playing at the Cavern, and you will recognise something about Blues in the lyrics of a song we hope to perform, says Stewart.
But Stewart admits they had to find a commercial song to record. That spawned Reggies first song, lyrics AND music, Come Back Baby. It was his song, and his style completely, even though we didnt know what his style was back then, Stewart says. Reg wasnt a prolific writer at that time.
Bluesology also had their scrape with the Underworld! The bands fast-talking manager Arnold Tendler convinced label Fontana to record the mono song. But he later fell from grace, a man involved with the jewellery trade who had some bad luck and went to prison for a time in the early 1970s. But he was a sweet rough diamond! I really nice, sweet man, Stewart recalls.
Dave Murphy was another bad luck story, as Bluesology cranked up the legal points! The saxophonist fell out with the band, and took the tour van from London to Germany and was never seen again! I gave him the sack at Clook Clique, the railway hotel in West Hampstead, and the van vanished forever! Fortunately, no instruments inside! After that, sax was covered by Elton Dean, the half-name inspiration for Elton John.
With singers Alan Walker, Marsha Hunt and Long John Baldry, Stewart had already relinquished the lead vocals slot. But the hits came through, in November 1967 with UK chart-topper Let the Heartaches Begin, and later a solo debut beckoned for Stewart on Elton/Bernie-penned I Cant Go On Living Without You, arranged by Bluesologys replacement for Reggie, Jimi Horowitz. And a song Lulu didnt end up singing in the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. Side B of the song was Dont Call Me, by Stewart and later Elton lyricist, Gary Osborne.
Mick recalls the name Bluesology could be traced back to Reggies bedroom record collection. It was huge, about 800 LPs back then. Carefully catalogued. He had the Django album in his collection. He also had a book club collection, and no jokes please, a Dickens collection at his fingertips.
Mick remembers not being a star on guitar, when guitar bands were all the rage. Drummers were less common. Hed already formed a lacklustre band, and heard Stewarts The Corvettes were splitting. Mick sensed his moment, and, with bass guitarist Rex Bishop, joined Stewart and Reg. Salesman Mick: If I came with a bass player, its a better ready-made package.
Bluesology toured the UK. At one Scottish venue they wouldnt let punters have beer glasses for fear of trouble. Mick wonders whether that was the inspiration for the Scot on picture sleeve to Eltons Saturday Nights Alright (for Fightin).
But Elton knew how to quell a riot, even then. We were the inappropriate entertainment at an Irish wedding in Neasden, London, when a fight broke out. Reg pulled out all his sheet music, and we dropped blues numbers, switching to pub standards. Soon they ran out of furniture, said Mick.
By 1967, Mick was getting tired of the routine, and he got a further discouragement when Bluesology was asked to back Patti Labelle. Patti thought Mick couldnt manage a technique. Stewart says hes heard Mick has now perfected it!
Stewart: Born 6 Feb. 1948, Hillingdon, London. Reg joined Stewarts band The Corvettes early 1960s, then Mick Inkpen as they rename Bluesology, with Twinks Fairies Freddy Gandy later replacing Rex Bishop. In 1969 works with Nigel Olsson on Plastic Pennys last German tour. Joins Cochise with BJ Cole, a steel guitar player, for one year. Retires to travel, farm, and start a family in Wales 1972.
Mick: Born 26 January 1948, Pinner. Now lives in Devon, worked with local bands and gave up drums in 1984.