Bob Boucher (Bass) and
Howard Smith (Drums)
The ‘44s’ and latterly the Steve Gibbons Band rhythm section. Bob and Howard started out in the mid sixties in the Harry’s Blues House in Birmingham started by Jim Simpson. For many years they have been the backbone of the44s, backing Steve ‘Big Man’ Clayton. They have graced venues around Birmingham, the UK and Europe appearing on Radio Two’s Paul Jones Blues Show, performing as far north as the Murmansk Blues and Jazz Festival and backing Lousiana Red and Carey Bell. In recent years with the Big Man moving to Germany, the boys have been carving out their own path with the 44s gigs packing in the crowds for their special brand of 50s, 60s and 70s covers.
Visit their site www.44s.co.uk.
Most recently they are to be found as the regular rhythm section for the wonderful Birmingham legend Steve Gibbons. Not to be missed when they are in your area.
Doctor Johnny aka, ‘the Doctor’ and called Doctor John’ by musicians in Southampton and the people of Sandwell * because that is what he is…… DJ’s earliest blues tutoring came courtesy of Dennis Cotton a fellow student at the medical school, a blues enthusiast and song writer, and a veteran of the South London blues scene of the late sixties. Through Dennis, DJ got to perform his first public gigs at the Medical School music nights and the University Folk club. He also guested with top South London blues performers, Jo-Ann Kelly, Steve Rye, Simon Prager and Bob Hall. His Southampton music career took off in the Jubilee Year of 1977 playing the Roots Blues club of the Portswood Hotel, the Onslow Hotel, the Avenue, the Robin Hood and other venues with Bob Hebson, Dennis Cotton, Bob Pearce, Tex Roberg, Bruce Roberts and many more. Most notably, he formed a life long friendship and creative musical partnership with John F. Wands, the master blues musician of the Solent Delta. Between 1982 and 1987 they produced 4 albums – the first on vinyl, ‘Medicine From the Doctor, Magic from the Wands’ went ‘wooden’ in 1987, selling 300 copies. They produced 3 other tape collections for the legendary Southampton fanzine/label ‘Stick it in Your Ear’. A greatest hits compilation on CD came out in 2000, ‘Wands Upon A time’ enjoying much critical acclaim.
Since moving to the West Midlands in the late 80s DJ has mainly been found guesting with such Birmingham blues and jazz stars as ‘Big Man’ Clayton, King Pleasure, Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes and Steve Ajao. Since 1998, there have been two spells with the McKinley Electric Blues Band with residencies at the Bear and the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter. Lately DJ has been caught at the Live Box at Birmingham’s Drum- the hottest venue for live jazz and rap, jamming with Soweto Kinch, the Jazz Warriors, Abram Wilson and Eska.
In another life he is Director of Public Health for Sandwell- the bit of the West Midlands to the left of Birmingham , covering the famous old Black Country towns of West Bromwich, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury, Oldbury, Rowley Regis.
* Not to be confused with the one and only, Dr John, Mac Rebennack, of New Orleans.
(visit: www.sandwell.gov.uk and
Greg Chandler Engineer and Priory Studios Set in the peaceful rural location of Canwell, Sutton Coldfield. Priory Studio was built within the original home-farm buildings of the Canwell estate, which dates back as far as the 1800's. The studio has been designed and built to the highest professional standards and has been equipped to compete as one of the Midlands most prestigious and versatile studios. Greg Chandler, principal engineer for Dr Harp is himself and accomplished musician and is committed to sonic quality.
For enquiries contact Greg Chandler firstname.lastname@example.org
John F. Wands
John has one of the finest blues voices ever to come out of the British Isles. His life has been an embodiment of the trouble and pain of the blues- an early life of juvenile crime, borstal, prison, drug addiction followed by gradual rehabilitation combined with self deprecation, good humour and deep friendship for the people who have stood by him. He served a musical apprenticeship working with and learning from the likes of Gerry Lockran, Kevin Maryland, Bob Pearce and many more. He met up with Dr Johnny in 1977 and through the eighties they produced four albums. He was also a leading light in the legendary Skiffle Band – a six piece combo playing fully acoustic with tea chest bass and washboard. He played bluegrass music with Bitter Creek and with the electric bands Fat City, Fester and the Vomits and Press to play’. In the 90s he found his musical and personal soul mate in Ronnie Taylor ace sax player and formed the unlikely but successful blues duo Ronnie and Johnnie. They have produced two tape collections and two CDs and are a key component of Dr Harp’s Medicine Band.
John is the Birmingham musician’s musician- a perfectionist of the electric and acoustic guitar, a real student and a master of all the musical forms he takes on. He has played with many of Birmingham’s finest jazz, blues, ska and pop performers including Steve Ajao, Mick Hatton, Lupa, Saxa , Roger Hill and many more. He was a member of the Brum jazz supergroup, Into the Blue with Mick Hatton and Danny MacCormack. Over many years his blues bands have graced Birmingham pub stages. For Dr Harp’s Medicine Band, John contributed a wide range of guitar styles but he also filled the role of principal musical arranger and adviser, his cool head and skilful musicianship fashioned many of the arrangements and earned him the title ‘Professor’. John has also played with the great American blues legend Lowell Fulson.
King Pleasure is a giant of the contemporary international blues scene. A native of Birmingham and a soul mate of Kansas City. With his many incarnations of the ‘Biscuit Boys’ he has wowed audiences across the UK, Europe and North America. The band provide a high-octane, high-energy jump jive blues rock and roll that defies anyone to stay in their seats. The band formed in the early eighties and have shared a stage with the legendary Cab Calloway and played Dan Ackroyd’s House of Blues in Cambridge Massachusetts. Even working the bars and lounges with a piano player KPs energy is hardly less charged. With Dr Harp he gives a taste of the energy, the charm and humour of his stage presence. He is the embodiment of all the best in the Big Joe Turner tradition of the ‘blues shouter’. ‘Rough, Tough and always rocking, the legendary King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys' zany stage show sometimes belies the fact that here is the finest, most authentic Rhythm & Blues band ever to come from outside the USA.’
Visit KP on
Matt is by far the youngest and most promising of the Dr Harp line up. A 22-year-old musician from Birmingham who has been playing piano for over ten years. He has played toured and recorded with some of the biggest Blues, R 'n' B and Swing bands in Europe such as King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, Otis Grand and The Big Blues Band, The Jive Romeros, The Giant Killers, Sophie Garner, Jimmy Thomas and Sugar Ray Norcia (both from the US) and many more.
Matt has been working with Tom Farnell throughout his musical career, and they have both recently embarked on the recording and production side of the industry. With Tom Farnell, he founded Doodle Studios in 2003. He appears with Dr Harp’s Medicine Band as the most recent in the line of distinguished piano playing Biscuit Boys.
Patsy Fuller is well known to the jazz circuit in Birmingham and the Midlands. She has also performed in London, at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery and at the St Lucia Jazz Festival 2004, with the Emerson Nurse Quartet.
She started her career in music in 2002, when she persuaded Alan Cross, the then promoter of Jazz at the Drum, to give her band Rhapsody a chance to bring something new! He did just that and from that point hence, Rhapsody, together with Patsy Fuller has entertained people in all types of settings, with an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, spirituals and soulful reggae that emanates a new and refreshing sound. She has worked with the likes of Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes, Steve Ajao, Edgar Macias, and James Renford to name but a few; and shared a set with the famous Gwen Dickey of the ‘Car wash’ fame!
Her music is best described as soulful and spiritual, with a repertoire of music that ranges from Ellington to Miles. She believes the ‘Blues’ is the carrier for the original gospel music, bringing a message that remedies hope, liberation and freedom to a weary and downcast soul and attempts to project this within her original compilations. With the earthiness of Nina Simone, influences of Ella, and a hint of Dakota Staton, she delivers a gospel message in her own unique style. ‘Delightful’ The Guardian.
Ronnie Taylor is an outstanding alto sax player from Southampton. His musical career started in the early sixties with the soul band The Globe Show, backing top artists like Ben. E King, with whom he played 350 gigs, Patti La Belle, Joe Tex and Jimmy Ruffin. He also shared the same stage jamming with the likes of Little Richard and Tom Jones. He went on to play with the bands Iguana and the Jess Roden Band in the 1970s.
He struck up a lasting partnership with John F. Wands playing first with the electric band Press To Play and subsequently as the duo, ‘Ronnie and Johnny’. He is particularly attached to his saxophone which once belonged to Southampton bandleader Gil Hume. He has been playing it since 1965.
Steve ‘Big Man’ Clayton
Born in Birmingham, England, 1962, He began to show an interest in music about the age of 10. He appeared on Otis Grand’s ‘He knows the blues’ CD. He subsequently added singing to his repertoire which gave him his breaks as a band leader. He recorded his first album, ‘Can’t stop the boogie’ with the 44s in 1991. His second album for German label, Hot Fox, was recorded in Chicago in 1993 featuring Lester ‘Mad Dog’ Davenport and S.P. Leary. Three more albums have followed- ‘I got to sing these blues’, ‘You know what I mean’, and ‘Dirty mistreater’. Each of these albums demonstrated new facets of the Big Man both in the innovation of his piano styles and in his developing craft as a song writer. The Big Man was honoured as the best Blues piano player by British Blues Connection in 1995, 1997, and 1998. Steve moved to Germany –‘the boogie woogie capital of the world’ and was awarded the South German prize for best artist in 2001. The Big Man has been playing in the big league for over 20 years. He has taken the old style and added his own personal touch to it. His occasional returns to the UK prompt huge turn-outs of the loyal following. Dr Harp is fortunate to have captured him on one of the rare gaps in his busy schedules. His enthusiasm for the Dr Harp Medicine Band project got the album started in October 2004, and one of his performances gave it its title.