It was 1983 or 1984 (almost 30 years ago I realise to my horror as I write this), and I had just moved into my own house, a small two-bedroom house in a small close of 33 houses in Kings Heath, Birmingham, and was coming to terms with splitting up with my girlfriend (Sian, Pete, though I’m sure you already guessed), the first I should have married. I was living alone in the sparsely furnished house and generally feeling down in the dumps, smoking quite a bit of dope (though I now realise that as I wasn’t officially ‘a smoker’, I was regularly lighting up joints as much if not more for the nicotine rush as anything else) and drinking quite a bit of cider.
Every Sunday I used to tune in to Robbie Vincent’s soul show on Radio 1 as he was the only DJ on Radio 1 playing the kind of music I liked, and that’s where I heard for the first time a lot of the singers and bands I came to like: The S.O.S band, Cameo, Freddie Jackson and a lot of others.
One night, I heard a song which was just great, which hooked me immediately. I didn’t hear the title but just caught that it was by someone (or as I first thought some band) called J Blackfoot. And I heard if only once. But once was enough. Years later when we got the internet and you could look up such things, I tried to track it down by googling one or two of the lines I remembered from the song but got nowhere.
Once, a few years ago going through a bin of old cassettes in Trago Mills, near Liskeard, I came across City Slickers by J Blackfoot, bought it and found out it wasn’t a band but he was a guy, though not a singer who also played guitar, but just a singer. One of the songs on it was his hit Taxi, but that elusive song wasn’t on it. Damn.
Two days ago, I found it, and as I had got through the best part of a bottle of port (horribly moreish, is port), I can’t even remember how. But we were reunited after all those years. And here it is, a great, great song.
Then there’s Taxi, J Blackfoot’s hit. See if you like it.
Around about the same time I got to hear Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and bought several of his albums. He did a lot of touring in Europe, but I don’t think he was well-known in Britain. But he should have been. He is one of the best unknown guitar players I know. He also has a wicked sense of humour and a great voice and died in some style: suffered a heart attack on stage in Japan (so up yours, John Lennon).
I might well have heard him for the first time on Robbie Vincent show, but I really can’t remember (too much dope and cider?) But like him I did. I had about four or five of his albums but they got lost over the years and I have no idea where they are. You can still get one or two of them on CD, but not all. See if you like this track. And listen to the guitar at the end of the song: it’s not for nothing that this guy’s reckoned to be one of the great guitarists. Blues or straight pop guitar it ain’t.
First Timothy Six