Peter Green & Eddie Boyd – The Stroller
He had recorded his first session as a leader almost twenty-years earlier and in the ensuing decades had released records on nine different labels. The labels had become progressively smaller over the years, their distribution more limited.
The respect that he was accorded, both as an artist and as a human during the two months of the tour must have come as something of shock to Boyd.
When the tour came through London, the tour’s promoters, Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau brought Boyd into the studio to record his first LP, backed by Buddy Guy on guitar, Jimmy Lee Robinson, bass and Fred Below, drums. The session’s supervisor was Mike Vernon.
When it was time for the musicians on the tour to return to the States, he chose to stay, taking up residence in Antwerp, Belgium, continuing to tour Europe for another sixteen months.
By 1967, he had settled in Paris, France and was ready to embark on a new phase of his career and a new life.
On March 09, 1967 he cut an LP “Praise the Blues” with the Dutch blues band Cuby + The Blizzards in the Netherlands.
Five days later, he was in London for the first of three sessions with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, produced by Mike Vernon, recorded during a ten-day tour of Britain Boyd undertook with Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.
Peter Green had joined the Bluesbreakers in August of 1967 and his seven months with the band earned him separate billing on the LP’s cover. (Note: it was not until the first CD release of the LP in 1994 that the other musicians on the session, including John Mayall, were also listed on the cover)
Boyd was said not to have been too impressed by most of the British blues guitarists that he heard, but he only had good things to say about Peter Green.
Green’s playing on this number is one reason why. Despite the billing as “Pt. 1”, this was their second try at this number, having recorded it the day before. Having played the number before greatly benefits the number and everyone, including Boyd, seem more energetic and focused.
On the earlier take, Green’s energy was an ill-fit for the other musician’s seemingly downbeat mood.
Here, his solo buoys the others, especially Boyd; Boyd happily tickles the keyboard beneath Green’s solo and Green responds in kind during the last verse, with feathered fills supporting Boyd’s playing.
Eddie Boyd: piano & vocal / Peter Green: guitar /
John McVie: bass / Aynsley Dunbar: drums /
Albert Hall: trumpet / Rex Morris, Bob Efford: tenor saxophones / Harry Klein: baritone saxophone
Recorded March 17, 1967
Released on: Eddie Boyd and His Blues Band Featuring Peter Green (Decca)
Eddie Boyd and his Blues Band – Too Bad, Pt. 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du1DYjibypk
When Boyd reunited with Green nine months later, in January of 1968, Green is leading his own band and they recorded three numbers for broadcast on the BBC.
Surprisingly, all three are fast-tempo, upbeat numbers: ‘Where You Belong’, ‘Blue Coat Man’ and ‘The Stroller’.
Boyd had originally recorded ‘Where You Belong’ back in 1959 for the tiny Key Hole label. The original recording seemed aimed at the burgeoning market for “rock n’ roll” with honking sax in place of the piano during the break.
‘Blue Coat Man’ was the B-side of his breakthrough single ‘Five Long Years’; he had also recorded it for “Eddie Boyd and his Blues Band”.
The third number was an instrumental titled ‘The Stroller’.
It was the only “new” composition (the other three were re-recordings of earlier numbers) that appeared on a British only four song EP “Boyd’s Blues” in 1962 (the session was done in 1960).
At the time that I wrote my book, the only track from the session that I was aware of a rough quality bootleg of ‘Where You Belong’.
As (bad) luck would have it, within weeks of accepting the first printing, a post by Almost Simon appeared on The Ledge message board on February 17, 2017, on The Penguin fan site, with a link to a post on SoundCloud by Colin Harper.
w/ Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Eddie Boyd: piano /
Peter Green: guitar / John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums
BBC session, Radio One “Top Gear”
Recorded January 16, 1968 – Aeolian Hall Studio 2, London –
broadcast January 21, 1968
The Stroller (incomplete) (2:36)
w/ Tommy Vance’s outro (2:45) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO6m-MScdxQ&fbclid=IwAR1EaIdX8gO1p-S0scGDgbOgz4jHcH5-0J1PtMvqxzk8tZz2p-gzb7nzclI
The Stroller – the number is already in progress when the track fades up, building towards Green’s guitar break, which now begins sixteen seconds in.
Even had the number been appreciably longer (highly doubtful), Green’s early entrance and exit (the break is just over thirty seconds) badly distorts the piece.
Green’s vamping, channeling B.B. King’s early to mid-fifties RPM recordings (i.e. ‘Take a Swing With Me’, ‘Boogie Rock’) combines with Boyd’s boogie woogie piano to pleasantly evoke an ambience of urbane swing.
After Green drops out, it is left to Boyd and the rhythm section to maintain the listener’s interest, and while McVie does his share laying down an undulating pulse for Boyd to play over, Fleetwood remains stuck in first gear, slapping down the same slurred beat for the duration of the number. He does add cymbal half-way through, but it is too little, too late.
Boyd too finds himself trapped in a cul-de-sac, returning to the same patterns time and again to diminishing return.
Placing Green’s break in the middle of all this might have helped break up the sense that the number is simply repeating itself.
The sound is again rough as is the performance, but it remains a worthy addition to Green’s catalog. Hopefully, we will eventually see a “Complete BBC Recordings” (with sound quality up to the standards of the 2001 compilation “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac Live at the BBC” (currently out of print) that will contain this and the many other BBC tracks now only available on bootleg
The 2006 release “Eddie Boyd – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” contains two previously unreleased numbers taken from an acetate given to Mike Vernon by Boyd himself when they were recording “7936 South Rhodes”. Said to have been recorded in 1960, the musicians are different than those who played on the version released on the British EP.
Eddie Boyd – The Stroller – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2QUFKs5MBY
Dominated by Ronald Wilson’s smooth toned saxophone, the number looks back to the jump blues of the late forties; Boyd takes a swinging break halfway in (he rarely sounded this at ease and joyful on his later recordings) and then cedes the spotlight to a guitarist (unknown) whose sound (a harder charging T-Bone Walker) looks forward to early rock ‘n roll.
Motoring the band throughout the number is Bill Stepney on drums, pushing each of the players without ever becoming intrusive.
For those who have all of the Blue Horizon recordings on other collections, this track is still well worth seeking out.