Savoy Brown Biography

Formed in 1966 as the Savoy Brown Blues Band, this institution continues to be led by founding guitarist Kim Simmonds. The original line-up, comprising Simmonds (6 December 1947), Brice Portius (vocals), Ray Chappell (bass), John O’Leary (harmonica), Bob Hall (piano) and Leo Mannings (drums), was featured on early sessions for producer Mike Vernon’s Purdah label, before a second guitarist, Martin Stone, joined in place of O’Leary. The reshaped sextet then secured a recording contract with Decca Records. Their debut, Shake Down, was a competent appraisal of blues favourites, featuring material by Freddie King, Albert King and Willie Dixon. Unhappy with this reverential approach, Simmonds dismantled the band, retaining Hall on an auxiliary basis and adding Chris Youlden (vocals), Dave Peverett (b. 16 April 1943, Dulwich, London, England, d. 7 February 2000; guitar/vocals), Rivers Jobe (bass) and Roger Earl (drums). The new line-up completed Getting To The Point before Jobe was replaced by Tony Stevens. The restructured unit was an integral part of the British blues boom. In Youlden they possessed a striking frontman, resplendent in bowler hat and monocle, whose confident, mature delivery added panache to the group’s repertoire. Their original songs matched those they chose to cover, while the Simmonds/Peverett interplay added fire to Savoy Brown’s live performances. ‘Train To Nowhere’, from Blue Matter, has since become one of the genre’s best-loved recordings.

Youlden left the band following Raw Sienna, but the inner turbulence afflicting them culminated at the end of 1970 when Peverett, Stevens and Earl walked out to form Foghat. Simmonds, meanwhile, toured America with a restructured line-up - Dave Walker (vocals; ex-Idle Race), Paul Raymond (keyboards), Andy Pyle (bass) and Dave Bidwell (d. 1977; drums) - setting a precedent for Savoy Brown’s subsequent development. Having honed a simple blues-boogie style, the guitarist seemed content to repeat it, and the band’s ensuing releases are not as interesting. Simmonds later settled in America, undertaking gruelling tours with musicians who became available, his determination both undeterred and admirable.

The reintroduction of Walker to the band in the late 80s marked a return to their original sound, before the singer left again and was replaced by Pete McMahon (vocals, harp). This line-up toured in support of a new compilation and the re-release of their (remastered) Decca CDs. The band continue, with the extraordinary Simmonds at the head of the table, to be a popular live attraction and have probably earned the title of ‘institution’ by now.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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