As a teenager in 1950s Britain, Long John Baldry was one of the first local musicians to sing folk and blues music. In the ’60s, he was a vocalist with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated with whom he recorded the first British blues album.
At times the band included Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce and Charlie Watts and on occasion Keith Richards and Brian Jones played with the band. When the Rolling Stones made their debut in 1962, it was Baldry who organized a group to support them.
Baldry struck a friendship with Paul McCartney, and sang on one of the Beatles’ BBC television specials. Baldry added a young Rod Stewart to his band after hearing the artist busking a Muddy Waters tune. In his band Bluesology, Baldry featured a young Reg Dwight on keyboards. When Reg went solo, he drew his stage name partially from Long John Baldry, becoming Elton John.
After recording a UK number one pop song in 1967, Baldry found resistance in his band to performing a song so far removed from their blues roots. The band refused to perform the song, leaving the stage to Baldry who sang to pre-recorded accompaniment.
Baldry’s biggest record came in 1972 in a return to blues on It Ain’t Easy. The album was produced by Elton John and Rod Stewart, who each produced one side of the record.
In 1978, Long John Baldry relocated to Canada, where he continued to record and tour. He also performed voiceovers, including the role of Dr. Ivo Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. A severe chest infection that Baldry fought for months finally killed the musician in 2005.