‘The Stroller’ Eddie Boyd / Fleetwood Mac BBC Session
Though I would have included it had I known about it, I consoled myself with the thought that not having a write-up of the “new” tricked out version of ‘Stone Crazy’ https://smilingcorgipress.com/alternate-version-of-stone-crazy/ in the book was not much of a loss, as neither the musicians nor the producer of the original recording had anything to do (for obvious reasons) with the redo.
My sigh of relief morphed into a Homer Simpson-esque “DOH!” three weeks later when I found a link* to a track from the January 16, 1967 BBC session with Eddie Boyd backed by Fleetwood Mac that I did not know existed.
Boyd first cut the song at a self-financed session circa 1960 (see below)
The first released recording comes from a session commissioned in 1960, by an English label, Esquire Records.
Six titles were cut, with four seeing release on an EP titled “Boyd’s Blues” in 1962 (U.K. only).
The recordings were credited to the Eddie Boyd Blues Combo: Boyd, piano and vocal; Eugene Pearson, guitar; Robert Lockwood Jr., bass and frequent collaborator Jump Jackson on drums.
Side One featured new recordings of ‘Nothing but Trouble’, ‘Her Picture in the Frame’; two songs originally paired for a Chess single in 1951.
The only new composition recorded at the session, ‘Stroller’ (as it was listed on the EP), was placed with ‘Five Long Years’, one of Boyd’s most enduring numbers, on Side Two.
Boyd had first traveled to Europe in 1965 with the American Folk Blues Festival. He cut an album for Mike Vernon, with Buddy Guy on guitar, during that tour and having found a new level respect for himself and an appreciation for his music that he felt lacking back in the States, he moved to Belgium soon after.
He also found far more recording opportunities. In March of 1967 he recorded an LP in the Netherlands with Cuby + the Blizzards and ten days later cut another LP in England backed by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, with Peter Green on guitar and Mike Vernon once again behind the boards.
In January of 1968, Boyd again teamed up with Peter Green, now the leader of Fleetwood Mac, to do three songs for the BBC: ‘Blue Coat Man’, ‘Where You Belong’ and ‘The Stroller’ (with the newly attached article).
This seems to have served as a “warm-up” for their session nine days later to cut the LP “7936 South Rhodes” for Blue Horizon.
Interestingly, not one of those three songs will be recorded at that session.
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)
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 2006 release “Eddie Boyd – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions” contains the self-produced recording of the song mentioned earlier.
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 well worth seeking out.
*Posted to SoundCloud by Colin Harper, https://soundcloud.com/colinh-1/s13-side2
Almost Simon posted the link on The Ledge message board on February 17, 2017.