I remember my brother bringing home this album from some guy I had never heard of before back in the early 70′s. I also remember putting it on the turntable and being instantly hooked. The guy was Long John Baldry and the album was It Ain’t Easy. Baldry was a 6’7″ ( hence the nickname) British blues singer who was one of the first Brits to sing American blues in the English clubs of the late 50′s and early 60′s which led to the blues explosion there that re-ignited the dwindling careers of many American bluesmen, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and many others. Elton John and Rod Stewart and many others had started their careers in Baldry’s early bands and went on to greater acclaim than Baldry when they moved away from the blues and American folk that he so embraced. Baldry was content playing this music for most of his career, outside of a short foray into lushly orchestrated Big Band crooning that gave him a #1 hit in the UK with Let the Heartaches Begin.
Baldry lived in Canada from the late 70′s on and passed away in 2005 at the age of 64. He did a lot of voiceover work late in his life with one of his best known roles in voice acting was as Dr Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. This was news to me when I read it in his Wikipedia biography but it doesn’t take away from a really unique performer.
I dug up the a vinyl version of this album several years back when I wasn’t able to find it on CD or digitally. I was so glad when I listened to it and found that it is still a really solid group of work, not just some idealized remembrance of a 14 year old mind. Others must think so as well as it is now widely available . This was the first thing I ever heard from him, Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie ( On the King of Rock and Roll) which is introduced by an entertaining little tale from his early days called Conditional Discharge.