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Live Review:

Cyril Davies Tribute Concert & the 50th Anniversary
of British Electric Blues

The Dome, Tufnell Park, March 1st 2008

Review Roger Trobridge

This great evening of music and nostalgia mirrored the struggle to put this concert on. Originally one of a series put on by Henry’s Gigs celebrating The Marquee Club and the artists who played there, a Cyril Davies night was a natural.

The concert was moved to The Dome at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, London N19, when the Marquee Club & Bar was suddenly closed down by its freeholders Shaftsbury Estates plc on February 12th following a demolition and closure notice, which they served upon the leaseholder and Marquee brand owner Nathan Lowry, some seven days earlier – just two weeks before the gig was due to take place!

The last minute change and tube closures on the Northern line no doubt contributed to a low turnout but an enthusiastic audience of 175 made it to celebrate the start of the UK blues boom – 50 years after Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner’s first blues recordings at the legendary Roundhouse pub (in Soho) - 50 years after Muddy Waters touched down to tour with Chris Barber,  and 50 years since the Marquee opened its doors as a venue at 165 Oxford Street, London W1.  

Pete Brown, Jack Bruce’s song writing partner in Cream - and the original Marquee in-house poet - started off the show with a mix of ‘original’ material both new and old. He was accompanied by Phil Ryan on piano.

Following some great archive footage of Cyril Davies, Dave Ball who had played with Long John Baldry, and Procol Harum, took over with his trio,  Richard Simmons (kb), playing alongside Desmond Dekker’s original rhythm section, Sly (b), Sam Kelly (d), augmented by excellent solo performances from Alan Glen on harmonica, alongside Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated Saxophone player Art Themen. They played some fine modern blues versions of Tail Dragger, Wee Baby Blues, Stormy Monday, I’m Ready, Kansas City, and many more.

The evening was brought to a close with a great set of traditional Chicago Blues played by John O’Leary (voc, h), Laurie Garman (h), Alan Glen (h, voc), Art Themen (sax), Dave “Munch” Moore (kb), Spy (b), and Sam Kelly (d). They included some of the Muddy Waters tracks which had been part of Cyril’s inspiration to move to amplified harp. The set finished with Laurie Garman leading the group into Cyril’s big hit record in 1963, Country Line Special to rapturous applause from the audience and an encore of Go My Mojo Working.

The Tribute brought out a lot of fans who were there when this music was being played for the first time. Some brought their membership cards from Cyril’s Blues and Barrelhouse Club at the Roundhouse pub; others brought their memories and photographs. As well as Art Themen, two other members of Cyril’s band, Keith Scott (p), and Rick Brown (b), were in the audience.

It ought to be done again.

Cyril Davies web site -
Henry’s Gigs web site -