Following the huge success of Merseybeat in 1963 the A&R men from all the big labels were scouring the country searching out any guitar based bands they could find. What they discovered was that there were a whole bunch of young kids who were playing the Blues and R&B. They were creating a harder sound than that of the Mersey Bands but it was a sound that was going to blow the charts away both in the UK and the USA.
You could say that they were all swinging on the coat-tails of the Beatles and Mersey but these guys were less compromising and their sound was much more authentic. Perhaps studio production had improved? Perhaps it was just a greater confidence in the bands? They knew the sound they wanted. They were covering Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and they wanted it to sound tough.
Leading this pack of R&B/Blues Beat Groups that started to break in 1964 were:
The Rolling Stones – straight out of Richmond in London, from the Art colleges and Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated – brought a real Blues sound, a casual, long-haired image and a bad-boy persona to the top of the charts. They even topped the charts with a Howlin’ Wolf number!
At the other end of Richmond was another great Blues Band – The Yardbirds (with Eric Clapton on guitar) were playing Blues at a frenetic speed with freak outs for good measure.
The Animals were plying their trade in Newcastle with their Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker covers and Eric Burdon’s great Blues voice.
The Downliners Sect were the ones that got away. If they had only stayed with their R&B and produced some better singles things would have been different. Their first album was superb.
The Pretty Things were also doing the Blues and producing singles that were raw and edgy.
Them (featuring Van Morrison) came out of Ireland with some solid Blues – like Baby Please Don’t Go.
Manfred Mann – before they went too poppy were a good jazzy R&B band.
Other Beat Groups that I really liked were bands like The Others and Bo Street Runners.