Rumors and the Road

(Here are a few more tenuously connected tales from Christopher Hjort’s Strange Brew: Eric Clapton and the British Blues Boom 1965-1970, in which bands contemplate changes and things come to their ends.)

In the spring of 1970, Peter Green made the decision to leave Fleetwood Mac. That fall, he took off for a long visit to the States, and rumors promptly began to spread that Green would be joining some existing American group. Several possibilities were mentioned. Only one wasn’t completely insane.

In early October, Disc magazine reported that the manager of the Rascals was interested in having Green replace Eddie Brigati as the band’s lead singer. Their source wasn’t some random dude, it was the president of the Rascals’ UK publishing company, who did not explain why Green would replace Brigati and not guitarist Gene Cornish. Green’s manager, Clifford Davis, quickly shot down the whole idea. “[Green]‘s gone over for a holiday, and to see if there are any musicians around he likes. I know for a fact he will not join any other band.” A week later, Davis had to repeat himself when Melody Maker reported that Green was considering joining the James Gang. “These rumors are wearing a bit thin,” he said, “and groups seem to be using them to gain publicity for themselves.”

Wearing thin with Davis maybe, but not with the people spreading them. Green was next rumored to be joining Santana. Unlike the Rascals and James Gang rumors, this one is at least halfway believable in retrospect. In the spring of 1970, Santana began playing Green’s song “Black Magic Woman” in concert, and it would appear on the band’s forthcoming album. In April, on a visit to London, Carlos Santana sought out Green, and the two guitarists jammed in the studio one night. But nothing was going to happen beyond that. Santana’s Gregg Rolie would tell New Musical Express in January 1971, “We like Peter a lot, and in fact he’s played with us a couple of times, but it was just a rumour about him joining the band, but a nice one at that.”

Santana did get a new guitarist in late 1970, a 16-year-old kid named Neal Schon—but not before Schon got another offer. In mid-November, Schon was jamming with Santana at a studio in Berkeley, California, when Eric Clapton dropped by. Impressed with Schon’s playing, Clapton first casually invited Schon to sit in with the Derek and the Dominos but then formally asked Schon to become a member of the band. Not ready to leave home yet, Schon turned Clapton down.

Derek and the Dominos had been playing in the states for a little over a month by then. They had started in the Northeast before reaching Florida in early November. After that, the band headed for Nashville. There, they taped a performance at the Ryman Auditorium to be broadcast on The Johnny Cash Show in January. Cash brought on Carl Perkins to perform, and if Clapton had his way, he would have brought a guest, too. He told a journalist that he had wished Duane Alllman could have joined them for the show. While in Nashville, Clapton went guitar shopping. He bought several, and would put parts of three together to make the one he named Blackie. It became his favorite guitar, and would be sold at auction over 30 years later for a million dollars. After Clapton briefly returned to England because his grandfather was seriously ill, the band played a string of shows in California, during which he offered Schon a place in the band.

In late November, after the California dates, the tour headed for the Midwest. For a show at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, the opening act was a little-known English singer/songwriter named Elton John. The next night, B.  B. King joined the band onstage in Cincinnati. In early December, Duane Allman finally caught up with them and sat in during shows in Tampa and Syracuse (with Elton John again on the bill, along with Toe Fat). After shows in Detroit and Port Chester, New York, the tour ended at a community college on Long Island. It was the last time Derek and the Dominos ever played in concert, and marked the end of Clapton’s last full-blown tour for nearly four years, owing in part to the drugs that had taken a powerful hold on the band during their two months in America.

All of this happened to Derek and the Dominos before their lone album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, was released. It came out five days after the tour ended.

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  1. [...] Rumors and the Road (jabartlett.wordpress.com) [...]

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