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Friday, 23 May 2014

John Mayall on Discovering Boogie-Woogie

Albert Ammons at the piano in a vintage photo. Redferns/Getty Images
Singer-instrumentalist John Mayall, 80, is a pioneer of British blues-rock. His new studio album is "A Special Life" (Forty Below). He spoke with reporter Marc Myers:
John Mayall
I heard my first real blues record when I was 13—just after World War II. It was a 78-rpm pressing of Albert Ammons's"Shout for Joy," with his "Bear Cat Crawl" on the other side. My family lived in Manchester, England. I can't recall what prompted me to buy the record, but as soon as I did, boogie-woogie hooked me.
Listening to that record inspired me to learn the piano—which was difficult since we didn't have one. So I went off to torture my friends to let me use theirs. They'd eventually shut the door on me when I'd turn up, so I kept moving on to new friends. Little by little, I learned to play boogie-woogie.
What captivated me was Ammons's rocking left hand and how he kept that rhythm going while the right hand worked the blues melody. It starts with this lullaby intro that he used almost like a tease—as if he was going to play something simple. But he immediately launched into a storm of boogie-woogie.
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