Date: Friday 3rd August 2018
Wizz Jones in Concert
Wizz began his musical career at the age of 18 leading a Country and Skiffle band called “The Wranglers” in his hometown of Croydon, Surrey in 1957.
He had been inspired to take up the acoustic guitar a year or so before this after hearing such guitar luminaries as Big Bill Broonzy, Rambling Jack Elliot and Muddy Waters playing at a club in London organized by Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner (The Roundhouse in Wardour Street).
Having learned most of his blues licks from Long John Baldry and Davy Graham while playing in the coffee bars of Soho, Wizz followed the time honoured trail – busking throughout Europe with many different musicians including at one time a budding young blues-man named Rod Stewart.
On returning to Britain in the early sixties, Wizz formed a bluegrass duo with banjo-picker Pete Stanley, a partnership which was to last for four years during which time Wizz and Pete recorded a single and LP Album for EMI. (Now available on CD with previously unreleased bonus tracks on the Rollercoaster label).
Wizz and Pete went their separate ways at the end of 1967 and Wizz returned to solo work collaborating with songwriter Alan Tunbridge (an artist friend from the Soho days) and occasionally with guitarist Peter Berryman.
He enjoyed considerable success throughout the 70’s in Europe and Scandinavia both as a touring soloist and together with his wife Sandy in the group “Lazy Farmer” (the group’s album due to be released on CD autumn 2005).
However back in England and several albums later – in spite of being often mentioned as an important early influence by artists such as Eric Clapton, John Renbourn and Ralph McTell, Wizz retained a certain “musician’s musician” reputation, only occasionally playing club gigs and the odd festival spot sometimes with son Simeon on Sax, Harmonica and Flute. (As Billy Connolly says in the “Acoustic Routes” TV Documentary on Bert Jansch – “My friend Wizz has had a somewhat wispy career – now you see him now you don’t!”)
It was possibly as a result of Wizz’s appearance in this film, and the re-issue of some of his long lost classics during the 90’s that Wizz began to enjoy a bit of a come-back!
More recordings followed notably on the U.S. based Scenes of label which led to Wizz’s first trip to America (see review “Wizz Jones – 1st show in the U.S.) and later on an appearance in the documentary film “The Ballad Of Rambling Jack Elliot”.
Wizz celebrated his 65th birthday on April 23rd, 2004 in London, together with Simeon and guest musicians at The Half Moon Putney and 2006 saw the release of a new DVD featuring Wizz and Simeon playing and talking to Martin Carthy.
More than a decade on and now hurtling towards the age of 80, Wizz continues to plough his singular furrow leaving a trail of gigs and recordings behind him as he goes!
After touring with the late great John Renbourn, a duo album on CD and Vynl were produced to much acclaim followed by Wizz’s latest CD “Come What May” which features guitarist Pete Berryman and of course Simeon Jones.
Lately, Wizz has been reunited with his old busking friend from the Cornwall days Ralph McTell and tours, and recordings have also followed.
This well-used quote still rings true in 2018 – ‘With his unique guitar style, an eclectic repertoire and “a right hand worthy of Broonzy” Wizz continues to tour on the acoustic folk and blues circuit’.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot, a surprise performance of Wizz’s 1972 song “When I Leave Berlin” by Bruce Springsteen in Berlin in 2012.
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