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Legends Of The British Blues: Chris Barber

In the first part of a new series, where US artist William Stout paints a portrait of the most influential British blues artists ever. First up: Chris Barber...

It was British musicians who took America’s own home-grown music and served it right back to us, initially without our knowledge, as America has a short cultural memory. Blues and jazz musicians who walk the streets unknown in their own country are household names in Europe, where they are treated like gods. Blues great Buddy Guy observed: “Somebody else has got to come from another country to tell you what you got?”

Most white blues fans of my generation first encountered the blues in the form of cover versions of American blues classics (mostly from songs written by the great Willie Dixon during his employment at Chess Records), presented to us during the first musical British Invasion by groups such as The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Animals, The Yardbirds and Them.

I was met with great scepticism from some of my fellow music-obsessive pals when I told them the book that would follow my Legends Of The Blues _would be _Legends Of The British Blues, and that it would also contain 100 blues musicians. “Fifty entries, maybe – but 100? Impossible! There just aren’t that many British blues players and singers out there of significant note.”

Listing 50, indeed, turned out to be easy. The list of 100 Brit bluesers took me longer than expected to compile, but once my research began in earnest, the list was not only completed, but it was exceeded – I actually had to cut nearly 20 musicians from the book. Ouch! Cutting them hurt. I made a set of different rules for inclusion in this book from my prior volume.

1) Except for South African transplant Manfred Mann, all of the singers and musicians in this book were born in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

2) I am not necessarily a fan of every single musician featured in this book. Having said that, my recommended songs are those that I personally do like.

3) Each chosen entry has made what I consider to be a significant contribution to the unruly body of music known as the British blues.

4) I felt free to include practitioners of the subset genre known as blues-rock.

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