During the thick of the late 60s British blues boom there was the band Savoy Brown, which was headed by guitarist extraordinaire, Kim Simmonds…After 60 band changes and 47 albums later… they still have the “piss and vinegar to bring boogie to the masses”. The British press voted that “Savoy Brown” had two albums in the list of the 20 greatest British blues/ rock albums of all time! Mind you, Zeppelin had 1.. Hendrix had 1… Cream had 1..Fleetwood Mac had 1… Ten Years After had 1.. John Mayall had 1.. you get my point! In the 50 years since Savoy Brown released their debut, Simmonds has never stood still. Sometimes it got better and admittedly at times it didn’t. But one thing is for damn sure.. after he climbed one mountain there was another one left to conquer! As a self-contained form Savoy Brown would show the legions of musicians the imbecility of their purist attitude. Musically they never stood still! As a blues band they incorporated bottleneck slide, acoustic guitars, keyboards, horns, and strings that would lead other rock bands in dismay.
Oddly, in the early days Savoy Brown never reached the level of popularity in England while they developed a loyal core following here in America. With some of their albums scoring in the Billboard album charts. Their legacy has survived and flourished over the decades. Metal bands, whose styles are largely built on a simplification of loud distorted riffing would attribute their greatest influences to the imminent Kim Simmonds.
Many of the newer American rock bands.. Rival Sons, Gretta Van Fleet and the new L.A. band, Dirty Honey… point to the black blues masters as their beacon of influence; much as the British blues guitar pioneers that had become a tour de force decades earlier. Besides Simmonds mastery at the guitar he can hold his own with vocals, piano and harmonica. The strength of his prowess and his willingness to hang tough, when weaker players would toss in the towel. This pathos has carried him through five decades in a music business where it tis’ sink or swim . His love of the blues began after he heard the black American blues pioneers.. Lead Belly, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters in his brother’s record collection.
There were major flashes of great American blues artists..Canned Heat, The Allman Brothers, Paul Butterfield and Stevie Rae Vaughn but they didn’t have the life experience that the Brits had; surviving the inhalation of London during the WWII. Following the war, America had prospered with new opportunities for war vets returning to the work force; while London was decimated by the Nazi Blitzkrieg. There was much catching up to do. Britain was in a musical time warp.. Throughout the war, Skiffle and jug music were played on the radio in between the speeches given by Winston Churchill. But once Elvis and The Beatles broke through, authentic blues from Black America became part of England’s musical mojo.
Savoy Brown’s newest effort, “City Night” is scheduled for an early June release. Backed again with the most consistent line-up in the band’s history with the return of Pat DeSalvo on Bass and Garnet Grimm on Drums. The album’s captivating arrangements makes this a superb listen. Throughout the record, there’s a pleading strain for redemption transformed through Simmonds’s signature guitar work. Saturated with authentic British blues sound, “City Night” sets up for a galloping pace. With marbled strands of bubbly instrumental interludes that fill it with lust. Sturdy guitar playing with an exuberant mixture of British blues and boogie rock prevails. The album romps with Its opening track, “Walking On Hot Stones”.. which tells the story of dodging the devil and to continue to rock and roll. While preparing for this interview with Kim Simmonds I learned that he was a solid painter. His artwork is mainly of guitars, but it’s the colors and textures which makes it great..
We had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Simmonds.. We talked about everything form the rock and roll following WW2… and his love for painting…
Rock Bands of L.A.com: It’s hard to believe that Savoy Brown has released 47 albums! (How do remember all of them?) “City Night” sounds a bit subdued at times. Don’t get me wrong, “Walking On Hot Stones” romps but the album has a “stayed” boogie tempo… At times, I think I’m listening to Billy Gibbons and Jeff Beck (not such a bad thing). No guitarist has the pastiche of Kim Simmonds…. Your playing style is always evolving.
Kim Simmonds: Currently I lost count.. and don’t don’t remember many of the songs. Someone looked on Wikipedia and they said this would be my fortieth album so we took their word! (It’s probably many more than that).
Rock Bands of L.A.com : You’re doing all the vocals on this album. Interestingly, over 40 albums. you’ve chosen Chris Youlden, “Lonesome” Dave Peverett and Dave Walker… They gave different “vibes” to Savoy Brown… How would describe your vocals as far as the evolution of the band?
Kim Simmonds: I’m not such a good singer as those mentioned but I feel I have a certain character that I can bring to my own songs. It helps to be great as a musician, but without personality it’s for naught.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:Describe the “blues” scene in London during the mid-sixties? I can only imagine seeing early Hendrix and Clapton? There were many great guitarists at that time… Who were your favorites and why? You were light years ahead of the rest…
Kim Simmonds: It was a wonderful time in a London in the 1960’s. A mixture of war torn 1940’s and future full of promise. The Beatles showed the way and a lot of artistic people, including myself, were inspired by them to pick up instruments. In my case, to play blues as that was the music I was studying via American imported records. In the early part of the 1960’s I liked Mick Green when he played with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. I used to watch Richie Blackmore, pre-Deep Purple days. As guitarists, they had a more American rock sound than others I heard at the time. Eric Clapton was astonishing when he joined John Mayall, though he was great with the Yardbirds. He had tone, technique and could swing like a jazz musician.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:During the glory years of British guitar players, they all claim they were influenced by the blues master from America… At this exact time there were no blues-based bands happening in America. Americans loved British blues/rock bands and still do… We now see a plethora of bands copying the British bands who were copying the American black bluesman… Bands like Rival Sons, Greta Van Fleet and Dirty Honey (a new L.A. band). It seems like a complete turnaround.
Kim Simmonds: We must not forget the Paul Butterfield Blues Band who were blazing a trail in the USA in ‘65. I was influenced a lot by Michael Bloomfield in that band. And Booker T and the MG’s with Steve Cropper influenced me. But, yes, the British bands brought in a different guitar tone and sensibility to the mix that American listeners loved. I’m glad the British sound is being kept alive by a new generation of younger players. It is and was meaningful, needless to say!
Rock Bands of L.A. com:You did the artwork for “City Night”. how long have you been painting? How can you paint when you’re always touring?
Kim Simmonds: I paint when I’m inspired. Most of my artistic energy goes into song writing and guitar playing. I also like writing. I read a lot. I’m a restless person with an active mind and I need artistic outlets. If there is no gig, I paint! I’m also close to finishing my autobiography.
We at Rock Bands of L.A.com want to thank Peter Noble (the best) and Kim Simmonds for their time and contributions.