I first came across the name of Alexis Korner in the late 70s. I was in my teens, and I had already been turned onto the blues by the likes of Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones. When I stumbled across Alexis Korner's Blues & Soul Show one saturday afternoon, the blues was not exactly a revelation. What was a revelation was the richness of the blues; how it was not just a guitar based music from Chicago, but that this music had a history in which it embraced many different varieties of the form: The Delta Blues singers, boogie-woogie, free-form jazz, folk blues,work and prison songs. Rock was just one variant. Included amongst all this was gospel, soul and modern funk music. The programme was an eye-opener. It was Korner who first introduced me to the music of Charles Mingus and Muddy Waters, who first made me see a direct connection between the traditional music of Burundi and the avant-garde jazz of Oliver Lake. The richness and diversity of the blues, and black music generally, was opened to me by listening to this show. The man's knowledge of his subject was inexhaustable, and it was presented in such a warm rich voice that, as a listener, I felt drawn to him, curious to know who he was. I had no idea he was a musician until I came across a re-released EP he recorded with Davy Graham called 3/4 AD.(This is on a CD called 'The Guitar Player...plus' by Davy Graham, currently available from Amazon.)This remains Korner's most satisfying piece. He was not a great recording artist and a limited musician. His importance lies in his knowledge and love of the blues that he disseminated through his broadcasts, journalism and playing. He was a generous man, always ready to give someone a helping hand and encouragement, and never became jealous of their success.
This highly readable book captures the essence of this interesting man.If I have any criticisms of the book, I would say that we never find out what Korner though of how rock music was developing, and it was afterall developed from the blues which he pioneered in Britain from the 50s onwards. Ofcourse, Harry Shapiro may simply not know what Korner thought, but it is a question that should have been asked. Korner's importance to the British blues boom is well documented here, along with the people he encouraged and helped, including Plant, Eric Burden, the Stones, and many more too numerous to mention. Whenever I remember Alexis Korner, it is always as a great broadcaster, opening the ears of his listeners to the rich variety of sounds that form the basis of so much modern music. We need him today. Afterall this time, a replacement has not been found - not by a long shot.