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April 21, 2005


Rod helping with hospital bills

posted by Ian Roberts


Rod is paying the medical bills of old friend and blues legend Long John Baldry as he fights for his life.
He kept a bedside vigil last month at a clinic in London for the man who discovered him. Surrey-born John, 64, then flew back to Canada where he lives and is now desperately ill in Vancouver General Hospital with breathing problems.
Relatives from Britain have flown out to be with him.

A hospital spokesman said yesterday: "He has been in the hospital since the end of March when he was admitted with respiratory-related problems. He is in intensive care where his condition is stable."

John spotted Rod's talent in the 1960s when he heard him singing to himself at midnight at Twickenham station in South West London and he offered Rod the chance to join his band The Hoochie Coochie Men.
John later described how Rod was a shy performer "apart from when he was tracking down tarts, he wasn't so shy then".

John went on to have a No 1 hit single with Let the Heartaches Begin. He also gave Sir Elton John his first break in music when he used the then humble piano player's backing band Bluesology. And guitarist Eric Clapton said John's love of blues inspired his own career.

The Making of a Legend by Rod Stewart (Readerís Digest/Dec/ 2004)

'Long John Baldry launched me on my musical career.
I was 18 and playing harmonica and singing a Muddy Waters song in a railway station, when Long John Baldry ran over to me from the other side of the tracks. I had just been to see him play at a club; he was one of the top Bluesmen in England. But John didnít sing Muddy Waters songs Ė he knew Muddy Waters, had performed with him and with Ramblin' Jack Elliott too. And now he was asking, "Would you like to join the band?"

For me, just shaking his hand Ė knowing all the great musicians whose hand heíd shaken before was mind-blowing. But so was John. Picture this elegant man with a proper English accent, never without a tie, a towering six-foot-seven. I was a huge fan and I was intimidated by his offer. Rod Stewart wasnít in demand in those days; no one was interested. I immediately said yes. John had a knack for discovering talent. Ginger Baker, Jeff Beck and Brian Jones all worked with him early on. Elton John played piano in one of his bands, other Rolling Stones too Ė Charlie, Ron Wood, and Keith. In 1962, when the Rolling Stones were just getting started, they opened for him in London. Eric Clapton has said many times that John was one of the musicians that inspired him to play the Blues. And for their internationally televised special in 1964, the Beatles invited John to perform his version of 'I Got My Mojo Working'. In those days the only music we fell in love with was the Blues, and John was the first white guy singing it, in his wonderful voice. It was the true Blues and everyone looked up to him. I wasnít very good on the harmonica, but my gravelly voice caught his attention. He was the first person of any stature to tell me, "You really have the gift. You have what it takes". He turned some of us into musical legends, but it was never what he expected from himself. You didnít hear John on the radio or see him on TV. He just played these clubs that I started going to when I was 16. At the time I hadnít thought much about performing except as a way to meet girls. John put me on an amazing wage, close to $100 a week, which in the early Ď60s was an astronomical amount. I remember thinking, "If this lasts for 6 months Iíll be able to buy a little sports car which Iíd been saving for. Of course, that would help me get some girls". We didnít rehearse before my first performance with Johnís band and I was very nervous so I had a few drinks. John introduced me as an 'up-and-coming' new singer and I sang John Lee Hooker's classic 'Dimples', which died a death! There was a horrible silence after my performance. But John was great. Heís one of the kindest guys, reassuring and positive. He just said, "Well come away, donít worry about it."

Then he had me come to his apartment the next day and go through some songs on the guitar to get the keys worked out. He always had encouraging words, especially when Iíd mess up on stage. Heíd just say, "Oh youíre young yet; itíll all come to you". It wasnít dismissive. It was always said in a way that made me feel he believed what he was telling me. John taught me so much Ė things that apply to my life and things that made me the human being I am today. He had tremendous stage presence. "You watch any great performer and they never stand at the microphone with their legs together." he said.

"Have a manly stance. Be bold on stage Ė bold as you would be playing soccer", which I was good at then. He taught me to project with my hands when Iím singing. See me onstage today and youíre seeing what John taught me. John was really looking out for me when we were on the road. My first time in a club outside of London, we played a club in Manchester. He said, "Donít worry just get up there and sing". I was nervous. A band mate gave me a pill Ė an amphetamine called a black bomber. I got onstage and played one song for 20 minutes, the same verse over and over. John found out and reprimanded the guy, firing him for corrupting me. He was very fatherly, always looking out for my welfare. As our careers progressed, John continued playing in clubs, which heís still happily doing. He didnít write songs; heís never been ambitious that way. Although he made some albums that got radio play, he was never a huge recording star. But in the UK he did have a Number 1 hit with 'Let the Heartaches Begin'. Heís not particularly worried about financial gain or seeing himself in the papers. Heís comfortable as long as he can play his guitar. John may not be a legend in the proverbial sense, but heís a cult hero with his own following and the fans who flock to his performances. He leaves me phone messages with that accent of his: "Dear Roddy, how the hell are you?" Every time I pick up a guitar, I play the old folk song 'Mother Ain't Dead', which I learned with John in the mid 60s. We both love the Blues, and weíre tremendously in love with American Folk music. In fact next time Iím touring & heís in the neighborhood, I think Iíll ask him to come onstage and play 'Mother Ain't Dead', just the two of us. Itíll be great.

LONG JOHN has released his first two studio albums on CD...
It Ain't Easy & Everything Stops For Tea.

IT AIN'T EASY produced by Elton John & Rod BONUS TRACKS
features Rod on vocals.
features Rod on vocals and banjo.


© 2019 SMILER Magazine

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