Alexis Korner

(1928 – 1984)

Alexis Korner was never a household name, but his influence on the British Rock scene of the 1960s continues to be felt today. As one of the first British performers to embrace American Blues, Koerner — often called the “Father of British Blues” — was a mentor to the stars of the next generation, from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin.

Born in Paris in 1928 to an Austrian father and a Turkish/Greek mother, Alexis spent his childhood in France, Switzerland and North Africa, arriving in London at age 13, at the height of the Second World War. He spent the war years hunkered down listening to American Blues records as the Germans bombed the city, developing an attachment to the music that would last a lifetime.

After playing guitar in several bands, Korner formed an acoustic Blues/Skiffle duo with harmonica player Cyril Davies in 1954. Frustrated by the lack of places to play, the pair eventually opened their own performance spot, the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, where their bookings of American bluesmen soon attracted crowds of young Blues fans. Later the pair expanded into one of London’s first electric blues bands, Blues Incorporated, and also opened the Ealing Club, which became the nexus for London’s thriving R&B scene. The list of musicians who either played the club or were regular audience members includes the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin and many others.

For the rest of his life, Korner continued to record and perform Blues. He hosted a long-running radio show, "Blues is Where You Hear It," and a television show, “Five O'Clock Club,” that introduced Blues and Jazz to yet another generation of young people. He died of lung cancer in London in 1984.