Stan Webb, Kim Simmonds
Winterland, San Francisco
June 1, 1974
Photos by David Miller
Text by Michael Collins Morton
In 1965, The Savoy Brown Blues Band (later shortened to Savoy Brown) was formed in Battersea, London, with Kim Simmonds serving as leader and main guitarist. His older brother, Harry Simmonds, served as manager for the band. After The Savoy Brown Blues Band had played gigs at a number of clubs in London, including Klooks Kleek, the Flamingo, and the Marquee, they were signed to Decca Records. Their first LP, Shake Down, which included covers of songs by Willie Dixon, Albert King, and John Lee Hooker, was released (in the UK, but not the USA) in September, 1967.
The second album by Savoy Brown, Getting to the Point, was released in 1968, followed by Blue Matter and A Step Further in 1969, and Raw Sienna in 1970. All four albums featured the unusual voice of Chris Youlden, a bluesy singer and gifted songwriter whose deep and distinctive tone added greatly to the unvarnished appeal of Savoy Brown's music. "Mr. Downchild" (from Getting to the Point), "Train to Nowhere" (from Blue Matter), "I'm Tired" (from A Step Further), and "A Hard Way to Go" (from Raw Sienna) offer examples of Chris Youlden at his best, and are among the strongest tracks that Savoy Brown ever recorded.
I had seen Savoy Brown nearly two years earlier at the Berkeley Community Theatre, with a different lineup. I believe Dave Walker was the vocalist. He soon quit to join Fleetwood Mac. Miller Anderson's band, Hemlock, with Jimmy Leverton on bass and Eric Dillon on drums, was the opening act. All three later joined Savoy Brown for the Boogie Brothers album and tour. I always wondered if the connection was made on that earlier tour.
I was a big fan of Stan Webb's band, Chicken Shack. I owned most of their albums, but I had never seem them perform. I also was a big fan of the Keef Hartley Band, which featured Miller Anderson on vocals and guitar, and I felt that Miller Anderson was underrated and overlooked. He had a long history in British rock, and was respected by other musicians, but he was not into self-promotion.
With three lead guitarists and two lead vocalists, I wondered how they would balance it. Kim Simmonds was the foundation that held the house up, while Stan and Miller took turns being up front. Stan Webb seemed to be more of a showman than the others, and took the spotlight quite often. I had heard about how he would climb down from the stage and continue playing, as he made his way through the crowd with a very long cord on his guitar. When he did this at Winterland, disappearing into the mass of cheering fans, I desperately wanted to get a photo, but I was not close enough. All I could see of him was his head, bobbing up and down in the crowd. I regret now that I didn't get a photo of the looks on the faces of the fans.
Miller Anderson gave a strong performance with his vocals and his guitar. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and even gave me a bit of a smile when I clicked off a picture. Kim Simmonds stood still in front of a wall of Fender amps that blasted out a powerful sound from his guitar. He seemed oblivious to the loudness, concentrating on every note that he played. Jimmy Leverton came out from behind with his bass and took the front of the stage for one song. It was great to see the spotlight being shared by everyone.
This was one of my favorite shows to photograph. With so much action on the stage, it was easy to get great shots. These photos are some of my best and I feel lucky to have been able to get them.
I remember that during our wait in front of Winterland before the show, Stan Webb pulled up in a rented car and unloaded some equipment from the trunk. We briefly talked to him and got his autograph. He was very polite. After the concert we also got to meet Kim Simmonds and Miller Anderson. I had to run after Miller Anderson as he was walking down the street. He stopped and gave me his autograph. When I told him that I loved his music, he replied, "I wish more people felt that way." Knowing what a great artist he was, it was a bit sad to hear that. Not being able to think of anything more to say, I thanked him, and then got Kim Simmonds to sign an autograph. He seemed very happy, and on the piece of paper he wrote, "Boogie!"
It was disappointing that they only did one album and one tour. I would like to have seen and heard more, but with three leaders, it was no surprise that they split.
The opportunity to see three of the great British blues guitarists at the same time was unbelievable. Stan Webb was very entertaining. We all liked Chicken Shack. David had a lot of their albums, even the ones with Christine Perfect, before she joined Fleetwood Mac. Miller Anderson, who I had loved hearing on the classic Keef Hartley Band albums and on Two Weeks Last Summer, the first solo album by Dave Cousins of The Strawbs, gave a solid instrumental and vocal performance.
Kim Simmonds, a brilliant blues musician, played piercing blues licks... piercing all the more because he had what looked like four Fender pre-CBS Twin Reverb amps, all wired together in a two on two stack, with all amps turned to 9 or 10. I had one of those amps myself, and I knew from experience that just ONE of them turned up that loud could damage a person's hearing. Kim Simmonds having four of them, and having them turned up to that volume and being so close to them, must have been painful for him. (I know it was painful for me that night, because I had to put my fingers in my ears many times, to protect myself.) Great playing, though.
The thing that stands out in my memory was when Stan Webb walked to the edge of the stage, and the roadies cleared out the audience in that area. Stan Webb jumped down into the audience, followed by a roadie holding an enormously long guitar cord. As the band churned out funk/blues patterns, he played as he walked the length of the Winterland floor, or at least until the cord ran out. I thought he might try to go upstairs into the balcony! He was scraping out blues patterns with deadened strings all the way. We could just barely see where he was by the commotion in that part of the audience. We couldn't actually see him or the roadie. He eventually made his way back to the stage, with the crowd parting and people cheering him on. What a performance!
Miller Anderson, a vastly underrated guitarist and songwriter, was great that night. It confirmed what we all thought, that he was a true gem of a performer. He wrote much of the music on the Boogie Brothers LP, and his songwriting is a treasure.
We stayed by the stage door afterward and got their autographs. They all were nice and thoughtful people, very different from the raw blues music that they had been blasting out.
Having three guitarists on stage meant that the performance was quite loud, even by the extreme standards of rock'n'roll. Three electric guitars being played together makes a lot of noise! The music itself was down-to-earth, played with plenty of raw feeling, in keeping with the unaffected characters of the musicians.
Kim Simmonds was the primary figure in Savoy Brown, and Miller Anderson also was a strong musician, but at Winterland it seemed that Stan Webb was the star. He had a bit more flair than the others, and he played directly to the audience. The highlight of the evening came when Stan Webb stepped down from the stage and wandered through the crowd, while still playing his guitar, which was connected to his amplifier by an unusually long lead. A roadie followed behind him, holding the lead and making certain it did not get into a tangle.
When we met the band after the show, someone mentioned to Miller Anderson that Robin Trower's band had played at Winterland the week before, and he quickly brightened up, saying, "Jimmy Dewar was here?" (James Dewar was the bassist and vocalist with Robin Trower.) Miller Anderson and James Dewar both were musicians who had started out in Scotland, and probably knew each other from the old days.
At the time, the performance by Savoy Brown at Winterland appeared to be merely one of the many shows that we attended in those days. Looking back, however, I can see that with Kim Simmonds, Stan Webb, and Miller Anderson all sharing the stage, it actually was quite a special happening.
Thirty-three years later, in 2007, I saw a performance by Kim Simmonds and the current lineup of Savoy Brown, at the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland. He was in fine form, opening the set with "I'm Tired" and never letting up.
Next: Humble Pie