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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Rock > FREE Sample Issue > In the Blues Korner

In the Blues Korner

NOT SO LONG AGO MUCH OF BRITISH SOCIETY THOUGHT R&B WAS AN EVIL FORCE – BUT FOR BLUES FANS, ALEXIS KORNER WAS ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS. IN 2005 DAVID GALLANT MET HIS SON DAMIAN KORNER…

It was a damp November evening back in 68 when this writer first caught up with Alexis Korner. The Bedford Cellar was typical of the jazz and blues joints where the cream of the scene would perform for the faithful; small, dimly-lit and filled with smoke. Korner was clearly in his element, delivering some of the very best, most authentic rhythm and blues ever produced outside America.

In the late ’60s, Korner was hardly a new face on the jazz and blues scene. Back in the mid-’50s he had been playing in ‘trad’ bands with the likes of Ken Colyer and Chris Barber, sitting in on banjo and piano, and later guitar.

However, both he and Colyer wanted to embrace the new American jazz and blues, but things weren’t easy, as R&B and jazz were still regarded as genuinely depraved by a large section of British society. Alexis Korner had real, direct experience of this diseased and warped point of view.

‘I think this was what made him the rebel he was,’ recalls Korner’s son Damian. ‘I’ll never forget the time he told me about the occasion when he was practising a blues on his parent’s piano and his father walked in; the lid was slammed down and that piano was never played again, because “the devil’s music” had been played on it.’

Korner was in fact a very proficient boogie-woogie player, a side to his musical talents that was rarely aired. But it was the banjo that became his first instrument and the place he learnt the ‘scratch and pick’ technique that was to become the basis for his highly individual style of guitar playing, punching out the rhythm with one part of the hand while soloing with the other.

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Vintage Rock: Winter issue 2011 features: 50 Greatest Rockabilly tracks - Prepare yourself for the greatest party tape in history with our essential cuts. The Roots of Rock’n’Roll - The definitive lowdown on how it all began The stars - Fantastic features on Elvis, Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and many more Rockabilly Hair - Tope stylist Mr Ducktail tells all, ably assisted by Levi and Bernie Dexter All Mama’s Children - News, reviews and events for the incorrigibly beat-minded