Long John Baldry
(1941 – 2005)
Although he never achieved the fame of such contemporaries as Rod Stewart and Elton John — both of whom were members of his early bands and championed him after they became successful — 6'7" vocalist Long John Baldry was a key figure in the Blues revival that hit England in the early '60s.
Baldry was one of the first on the London scene to perform American Blues material, and was an early member of the Alexis Korner’s seminal group Blues Incorporated. He was featured on Korner's 1962 LP R&B from the Marquee, which is generally regarded as the first British Blues album. Various members of the Rolling Stones were also members of Korner's band, and when the Stones made their debut at the Marquee Club in July 1962, Baldry assembled a band to open the show for them. He also performed in the Beatles' 1964 British TV special Around The Beatles, singing "Got My Mojo Workin'."
In 1963, Baldry joined the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars. After Davies' death the following year, the group reorganized as Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men, whose lineup included Rod Stewart, whom Baldry hired after seeing him busking at a London train station. Later Baldry formed Bluesology, whose keyboardist Reg Dwight would adopt the stage name Elton John in honor of Baldry and the band's saxophonist Elton Dean. In 1967, Baldry scored a No. 1 hit in Britain with "Let the Heartaches Begin" – a foray into Pop. A 1971 record, It Ain’t Easy, was co-produced by Stewart and John.
After relocating to Canada in the late 70s, Baldry developed an acting career, and was particularly successful as a voice actor. In 1979, he teamed with singer Kathi McDonald to record a cover of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," which became a Top Five hit in Australia in 1980. Baldry's 1997 album Right To Sing The Blues won a Juno Award as Blues Album of the Year.
Baldry was one of the first prominent Pop performers to be openly gay (though he never made a public statement on the issue in the 60s, when homosexuality was still a criminal offense in Britain). He acknowledged his sexuality in the title of his 1979 album Baldry's Out (whose punning title also referred a recent stint in a mental hospital). Baldry was instrumental in helping Elton to accept his sexual orientation and back out of marrying a woman with whom he’d had a troubled relationship; the incident inspired John's 1975 hit "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
Baldry remained in Canada until his death in 2005, which followed a severe chest infection.