True to form, organizers of the Bay City Blues Fest have saved the best for last, as legendary British Blues Rocker Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown take to the stage on Saturday, May 19th in the final show of this inaugural series at the historic State Theatre in Bay City.
For the uninitiated, Savoy Brown was one of the pioneer British Blues Bands of the 1960s, who along with other fore-runners like Fleetwood Mac, helped usher the pop-laden weight of rock 'n roll into a truly transitional phase. As British musicians emulated American blues, they polished their guitar techniques, roughed up their singing, and focused on notions of irony and emotional extremes in their lyrics. And Kim Simmonds was there in the beginning.
In 1971, founding members Dave Peverett, Roger Earle, and Tony Stevens departed Savoy Brown to form their own group, Foghat, leaving Simmonds to pick up the pieces after singer Chris Youlden decided to forge a solo career.
Simmonds rebuilt the band using former members of the blues band Chicken Shack and vocalist Dave Walker. That landmark year, the album Street Corner Talking was releasing, delivering the band its best chart success up that date with songs like Tell Mama and the title track.
Talk about groundbreaking. When Kim Simmonds formed The Savoy Brown Blues Band it was one of the first British Blues Bands to record in 1966. They were the opening act for the legendary Cream, featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker) at their very first London gig in 1967, and have performed over 5,000 concerts. Simmonds & Savoy Brown have released over 33 albums and Simmonds has been inducted into Hollywood's Rock Walk of Fame, joining the likes of Aerosmith, Jimi Page, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Kiss.
With such a sizeable legacy behind him, today Simmonds is glad to be still gigging and doing what he loves. "The music in America is taken more seriously than in Britain," he notes. "But then we don't have the hassles here that you have. I mean most of the people in the States aren't leading the kind of lives that they want to lead. In England, It's a far more secure life. The social system is different, and you sense that between the audiences."
"Before I got into the business, I felt that music might be a way of changing the social structure. And I still do, but not so strongly. Many people are just living a sham of a life. At times I start feeling like a part of a great machine, because what I do is essentially a job."
At the State Theatre show, Simmonds will be showcasing his latest solo album, entitled Struck by Lighting.
When asked how he came up with the name for the band, Simmonds explains, "Savoy Brown. I formed the group with an Irishman called John O'Leary. I'm Welsh and he was Irish and we wanted to name the band. We couldn't call it Kim Simmonds Blues Blues Band or John O'Leary Blues band. That would have been too presumptuous, so we thought we'd take a fictitious name. Savoy was an old record label from the '20s and '30s. It had a lot of historical connection. Brown was Charles Brown, James Brown, lots of artists. So we just made up the name Savoy Brown."
When asked what distinguishes his music of today, Simmonds reflects, "Hopefully it's not a whole lot different. The best music I've made always has continuity to it. It's been blues and rock-n-roll mixed with the right blend. The worst records I've made were too way one or the other. The most successful period has an authentic base to it with something added on top, and I think the best Savoy records have been that. They have an authentic element, but also an extra bit of melody or something added. That's what I strive to continue all of the time."
At the May 19th show at The State Theatre, Savoy Brown will be preceded by show openers The Burdons, a legendary local act that has shook people out of their seats for over 30 years with their unmistakable original sound. This appearance will additionally benefit the Johnny Burke Children's Foundation. Doors open at 7 PM, the show starts at 8 PM, and you can phone 892-2660 for ticket information.