‘Godfather of British Blues’ comes to the Egyptian Theatre
John Mayall will play four nights next week
August 4, 2017
Blues pioneer and icon John Mayall, who will perform four nights at the Egyptian Theatre next week, doesn't know why he got into blues and jazz while growing up in England.
"I've no idea how to answer that one," Mayall told The Park Record during a phone call from his home in Los Angeles. "I think everybody develops a taste in the music that appeals to them, you know. I was interested right from the earliest stage in jazz and blues. That's the way it is."
That interest launched a five-decade career that included recording and performing with an array of artists including — but not limited to — Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Walter Trout and Coco Montoya.
With that resume — which includes his seminal band the Bluebreakers — Mayall has earned the title "Godfather of British Blues," something the musician downplays.
"I've always had my own style, so I don't sound like anybody else," he said. "I think people recognize that. I think they enjoy the honesty of it and the spontaneity of it.
That's the way it's always been for me.
"I didn't know how to dissect how you play. I'm self-taught, so I don't have the technique that other people have. I just play the way I feel, I suppose, from being brought up with blues and jazz."
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When Mayall plays in Park City on Aug. 9-12, he'll peform with his band: bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport.
Mayall said each night will be different.
"We never play the same set every night like a lot of bands," he promised. "Even the songs take on a different meaning and approach from night to night."
Switching up the set is an easy feat for Mayall, who was knighted with the class of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or OBE in 2005.
"We have a current repertoire of about 40 songs we can play, so it's not uncommon for people to attend two or three shows if they have the opportunity, because they know they will hear completely different sets," he said.
Some of those songs will come from Mayall's 66th album, "Talk About That," which was released last January.
The album features 11 original songs and three covers: Jimmy Rogers' "Goin' Away Baby," "It's hard Going Up" — made popular by Little Sonny — and Jerry Lynn Williams' "Don't Deny Me."
The recording sessions only took three days.
"We have a couple of days before to run through things to make sure we're on the same state of mind," Mayall said. "If I record an album, I want to make sure the tracks are different from each other and have their own different moods.
"Sometimes bands will put together albums where most of the songs are in the same three keys and the same steady tempos. But I don't like that. I want to make an album that sounds like there are a bunch of singles."
Guitarist Joe Walsh, known for his work as a solo artist and leader of the James Gang and member of the Eagles, sat in on a few of the songs.
"I didn't know anything about his blues chops, but he was the one who wanted to play on the album," Mayall said about Walsh. "Obviously, if he wanted to do that, he must have had some feeling about it, and it was great to have him come by."
Walsh showed up at 11 a.m. one day and the songs were completed by 1 p.m.
"Everything we do is quick like that, so we catch the spontaneity of the takes," Mayall said.
The spontaneity is only part of the things that keep Mayall going at age 83. He'll turn 84 in November.
"This is my career," he said. "So as long as I'm in good health and have the energy to put on an exciting show, that's the way it should be."
Mayall said the rewards of playing music are many.
"Fortunately, I have a large audience that allows me to do 100 shows every year around the world," he said. "It's not uncommon for people to bring their kids to the shows. Those kids, in turn, become the next generation who will come to the show, so it's a constantly revolving platform on onlookers and supporters. And that makes it a great pleasure to play."
In addition to playing the concerts, Mayall enjoys meeting his fans.
"I will be signing autographs and selling the new CD in Park City," he said. "So I encourage people to come and see us."
John Mayall will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 9 through Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Wednesday and Thursday tickets range from $29 to $45. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $35 to $55. Ticket prices will increase $5 when purchased at the door 30 minutes before the show. For information and tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.