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The Quintessential John Mayall

With 65 official album releases as of 2017, sorting through such a huge catalogue to come up with a cross-section of material that best represents a five decade career no easy task. Thanks to John's help, here is what we came up with.

Listen right here by clicking the play buttons on the videos below or head to Spotify to add the playlist to your collection.


"How Can You Live Like That?"

From Blues for the Lost Days (1997). "This song has always been very special for me in that it is a song by the great jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris and I’ve always thought he was very underrated by critics. He was actually going to be my guest on the original album but he died a week before we cut it. A great track that features some great guitar and I’m particularly proud of my piano work on this one."

"Nothing To Do With Love"

From ‘Tough’ (Eagle 2009) - w/ Rocky Athas, Greg Rzab, Jay Davenport, Tom Canning "When I first heard this song written and played by Jerry Lee Williams I was bowled over by its power. I took my cue from the original rough demo and made it as meaningful and sinister as I could. A simple analysis of how love can get out of control sometimes. We’ve all been there."

"Talk to Your Daughter"

From "70th Birthday Concert" (Eagle 2003) - w/ Buddy Whittington, Tom Canning, Hank Van Sickle, Joe Yuele, Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Chris Barber "I can't tell you what a great thrill it was to celebrate my 70th birthday with this great concert which fortunately was recorded and filmed for posterity. On this classic J.B. Lenoir song, it was guitar heaven that night to have a finale that featured such a rare gathering of friends. To see and hear Buddy Whittington trading licks with Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton was a true taste of Bluesbreakers history revisited!"

"Dead City"

From "Blues for the Lost Days" (Silvertone 1997) - w/ Buddy Whittington, John Paulus, Joe Yuele "This track really rocks thanks to the great guitar of Buddy Whittington who was with with me for over fifteen years."

"Mail Order Mystics"

From "Wake Up Call" (Silvertone 1993) - w/ Coco Montoya, David Grissom, Rick Cortes, Joe Yuele "Jumping ahead to the eighties, I re-instated the name of the Bluesbreakers and hired guitarist Coco Montoya for a ten year period. Just before he launched his own solo career, we recorded this album in Los Angeles with producer R.S. Field. I love the dramatic structure of this piece which builds to a terrific climax propelled by the intense drumming of Joe Yuele."

"Good Time Boogie"

From "Jazz Blues Fusion" (Polydor 1972) - w/ Freddy Robinson, Blue Mitchell, Clifford Solomon, Larry Taylor, Ron Selico "As I now had access to the cream of the jazz elite, I tried to combine jazz and blues with this exciting blend. For our live shows this turned out to be a dynamite combination as we featured the great Blue Mitchell on trumpet and Freddy Robinson on guitar. Soon after this live recording was made, my old pal Keef Hartley took over the drums and Red Holloway replaced Clifford on saxophone."

"Nature's Disappearing"

From "USA Union" (Polydor 1970) - w/ Sugarcane Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor "After the breakup of the drummer-less Turning Point band, I moved to Los Angeles and put together my first band of American musicians. I was very aware of the comparatively new concept of ecology and wrote this song to encourage people to recycle. The searing and moving violin of Sugarcane Harris still gives me shivers."

"So Many Roads"

From "Looking Back" (Decca 1969) - w/ Peter Green, John McVie, Aynsley Dunbar "This single was recorded just one week after Peter Green took over from Eric. His guitar playing shows a ferocity that reflects his passion for the blues and for the great Otis Rush. Funnily enough, at that time, we had not as yet even seen a photograph of him. To us he was an almost mythical blues legend whose spirit we tried to capture."

"Room to Move"

From "The Turning Point" (Polydor 1969) - w/ Jon Mark, Johnny Almond, Steve Thompson. We had to include John Mayall's ground-breaking hit album featuring his drummer-less and lead-guitar-less band. It's hypnotic hit, Room To Move, has become a staple in John Mayall's live shows for four decades.


Also from "The Turning Point" (Polydor 1969) "California" expresses John's love for his soon-to-be adopted home.


From "Blues from Laurel Canyon" (Decca 1968) w/ Mick Taylor, Steve Thompson, Colin Allen "During my 1968 summer vacation in Los Angeles, I spent part of my time living in Frank Zappa's famous Laurel Canyon house (2401 Laurel Canyon Blvd.). The daily life style there and the parade of eccentric hangers-on became more than enough inspiration for this song which happened to be the street address."

"A Hard Road"

From "A Hard Road" (Decca 1967) w/ Peter Green, John McVie, Aynsley Dunbar. "Producer Mike Vernon was reportedly apoplectic when Mayall and band - which also featured the dynamic rhythm section of bassist John McVie and drummer Aynsley Dunbar - first showed up at the studio without Clapton, but ... Green makes his presence felt within the first few seconds of A Hard Road's eponymous opening track, complementing Mayall's pleading vocal with a tightly-coiled restraint that exemplifies the tension and subtlety that he consistently brought to his work with Mayall" (Scott Schinder, 2003 reissue liner notes)

"Steppin' Out"

From "Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton" (Decca 1966) (Affectionately called "The Beano Album") w/ Eric Clapton, John McVie, Hughie Flint. "When Eric joined the Bluesbreakers, he brought this instrumental to our repertoire. From the first day we began performing it live, it changed the way audiences perceived the role of the electric guitar in rock and roll. It also launched the tradition that continues to this day whereby my guitarists choose a showcase for their versatility." 

John's Essential Blues Listening

Here are John's 10 essential blues tracks from his personal collection that he would want you to have if you were interested in learning the blues.

Listen right here by clicking the play buttons on the videos below or head to Spotify to add the playlist to your collection.


essential blues
Big Maceo: "Chicago Breakdown" 

"I first heard this powerful track when I was in the army in 1952 and Maceo has been one of the heaviest influences on my piano playing. He played and recorded mostly in Detroit and was usually accompanied by Tampa Red on guitar. He was left-handed, which accounts for the relentless drive of all his songs. He wrote "Worried Life Blues", which is probably more familiar to fans of Eric Clapton, who included it on "From The Cradle".

Ray Charles: "What'd I Say?"

"Ray Charles is probably more widely known as a soul singer but this track from the early album "Ray Charles Live" shows his wonderful blues piano and gospel influences. The whole album is a classic from start to finish!"

Robert Johnson: "Hellhound On My Trail"

"If ever there was a definitive sound of the Delta blues evoking the nomadic lifestyle of the depression era, this stands for all time as one of the true classic."

Cannonball Adderley: "Work Song" 

"I love just about everything that Cannonball Adderley ever recorded! This live cut, from one of many albums, was written by his cornetist brother Nat and is yet another example of roots music connecting up with jazz in an unmistakable way. It really cooks"!

Art Blakey: "Moanin'"

"As I have been recognized as a bandleader over the years, so was the great drummer leader Art Blakey, whose Jazz Messengers were a springboard for many many major jazz men. This track features pianist Bobby Timmons, again showing the big influence that blues has when integrated into a modern funky jazz framework."

Freddy King: "Going Down"

"There was no one quite like Freddy when it came to tearing up an audience whether live or in the studio. This searing cut, written by Don Nix, from a live album, defines modern rock blues."

J. B. Lenoir: "Alabama March"

"This beautiful acoustic version of one of the truly unique bluesmen features a chilling commentary on the early civil rights movement, as it began to stir in the late 1950s. J.B.'s high pitched voice and slinky guitar shine like gold."

Albert Ammons: "Shout For Joy"

"Albert Ammons was my first major boogie woogie exponent and this cut was the inspiration that drew me to the piano when I was 14 years old. His timing and rock steady beat and melodic ideas illustrate how the ultimate examples of boogie can build to great creative heights."

Sonny Boy Williamson: "Don't Start Me Talkin"

"Sonny boy was a tough man to get along with but from our first meeting in the London early sixties, we got along just fine and he taught me alot about harmonica. This cut has one of my favorite pianists in the ensemble, Otis Spann, who was best known in his lifetime as Muddy Waters' pianist and he can be heard on most of Muddy's classic recordings."

Cripple Clarence Lofton: "Streamline Train"

"Cripple Clarence was a legendary unorthodox pianist entertainer from Chicago. His original composition, "I Don't Know", was later recorded by many other bluesmen, including a rendition by The Blues Brothers, which was reworked as "Hey Bartender". "Streamline Train", however, is a classic example of boogie woogie stride piano in its purest form."

The John Mayall Musical Tree

"For devotees of Spotify I was asked to put together some songs that I’d like to share with you all. They cover a wide range of styles; jazz, blues, folk and all the tracks hold a special place in my listening pleasure.  I hope you will enjoy the variety and excitement. Music is everlasting." - John

This playlist is available only on Spotify


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