British R&B artist “Long John” Baldry died last night (July 21) in Vancouver after battling a chest infection for four months. He was 64.
Having begun his career playing folk and jazz in the late 1950s, Baldry was one of the founding fathers of British rock’n’roll in the ’60s. Eric Clapton has stated many times that he was inspired to pick up the guitar after seeing Baldry perform.
While appearing at the Cavern in Liverpool in the early ’60s, Baldry became friends with Paul McCartney. For their internationally televised special “Around the Beatles” in 1964, the Beatles invited Baldry to perform, along with P.J. Proby and Cilla Black.
Later in the decade, Baldry performed with the influential British R&B bands Blues Incorporated and Cyril Davies’ R & B All Stars. He later fronted the Hoochie Coochie Men, which included Rod Stewart, who later joined Baldry in Steam Packet.
“‘Long John’ Baldry launched me on my musical journey,” Stewart tells Billboard.com. “He always had encouraging words when I was just getting out there as a performer at 16. He might not have been a legend in the proverbial sense, but he was a cult hero with his own following and has definitely been my mentor.”
After a brief period with Bluesology (with Elton John on keyboards), Baldry went solo and scored a No. 1 U.K. hit with the ballad “Let the Heartaches Begin” in 1967. With production assistance from Stewart and John, Baldry recorded the 1971 album “It Ain’t Easy” for Warner Bros., which featured his signature song, “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock’n’Roll.”
After immigrating to Canada in the mid ’80s, Baldry recorded for EMI Music Canada, and since 1991 recorded five albums for Stony Plain Records. Stony Plain is slated to re-release “It Ain’t Easy” and its follow-up, “Everything Stops for Tea,” this fall.
Since the early ’90s, Baldry also was known in Canada for his extensive voice work in commercials. As well, he provided the voice of Robotnik on the “Sonic the Hedgehog” computer game and narrated “Winnie the Pooh” recordings for Walt Disney Records.