Legendary bluesman John Mayall still in his prime at 82
PITTSFIELD — There is no truth to the rumor that next to the word "legend" in Webster's Dictionary there appears a picture of blues master John Mayall. But it should be true.
Mayall, 82, brings his band to the Colonial Theatre on Thursday. And yes, you read that right. Mayall is an octogenarian. But he is also still touring and still recording. This year's tour began earlier this month and will continue throughout this summer.
And Mayall is touring in support of his most recent album, "The Bluesbreakers Live in 1967," released in 2015. The disc features a number of fantastic cuts from an era that many Mayall fans consider the best of the Bluesbreakers era.
On that disc, Mayall is playing with guitarist Peter Green, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. Careful (and probably not-so-careful) readers will note that Green, McVie and Fleetwood went on to form Fleetwood Mac a few years later.
If one wants to drop names, writing about Mayall is a virtual name-dropping tsunami. Mayall was born in Manchester, England in 1933. At age eight, he began listening to his father's record collection, learning to play guitar from the recorded likes of Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee and Leadbelly.
By age 14, Mayall was attracted to the boogie woogie piano stylings of Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. A few years later, he learned harmonica by listening to Little Walter, Sonny Terry and Sonny Boy Williamson.
His move to London in 1963 began the era of the Bluesbreakers, a veritable Who's Who of the top rock and blues musicians of all time. Eric Clapton, for example, joined the band in 1965 and left a year later to start Cream. He gave way to Green in 1966, who in turn was replaced by Mick Taylor in 1967.
Other musicians who toiled under the Bluesbreakers logo over the years included bassist Jack Bruce and McVie, drummers Fleetwood, Ansley Dunbar and Keef Hartley, harpist Paul Butterfield and Dr. John on the keyboards.
The irony is that this incarnation of Mayall's band is chock full of crack, but lesser-known performers.
"This is probably my best band ever," Mayall told an interviewer a year ago.
The group features guitarist Rocky Athas, a perfomer who was named one of the top guitarists in his home state of Texas while still in his 20s. Athas has been classed with fellow Texans Johnny Winter, Stevie and Jimmy Vaughn and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.
Chicago-based bassist Greg Rzak played with Otis Rush and has sat in with Junior Wells, Willie Dixon and Johnny Lee Hooker. Fellow Chicagoan Jay Davenport has drummed with Pinetop Perkins, Wells and Valerie Washington.
If recent online set lists are any indication, fans who attend this week's show are in for a potpourri of Bluebreakers songs, covers and original Mayall compositions.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
Who: John Mayall
When: Thursday at 8 p.m.
Where: The Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield
How: (413) 997-4444; berkshiretheatregroup.org; in person at Colonial box office — 111 South St.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.