An Interview with Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown: "Blues, for me anyway, is a bit like Religion"

"Blues, for me anyway, is a bit like Religion…it’s hard to do it…well." 

KIM SIMMONDS

An independent bluesman

Kim Simmonds is heading into 4 decades of playing the Blues. Kim founded legendary British Blues band, Savoy Brown, in 1965. He has continued making new albums and taking worldwide tours and ranks among the all-time greatest guitar players. 

One of the earliest of British blues bands, Savoy Brown, with founder guitarist Kim Simmonds at the helm, helped launch the 1967 UK blues boom movement that brought blues music back to the USA invigorating the style forever. In the process, the band became part of the framework that launched the rock and roll music of the 1970’s. Their influence now stretches into modern rock as we know it today. 

From London’s Soho night clubs in 1966 to headlining the world’s most famous venues (Carnegie Hall, Fillmore’s East and West, Cobo Hall, etc) Savoy Brown has done it all and as the band continues to tour worldwide they give a glimpse into the past and also inspire new listeners with their personal brand of rocking boogie, blues and rock.



Kim Simmonds began his solo acoustic career in 1997 with the release of the CD, “Solitaire”. An album of traditional blues, “Solitaire” was the starting point of Kim’s rediscovery of his love of the acoustic guitar. In the truest sense of the word, “Solitaire” was a true solo album and an encouraging beginning for Kim and a fine addition to the acoustic music world.

Expanding upon the traditional foundation of “Solitaire”, “Blues Like Midnight” was one of 2001’s pleasant surprises as Kim’s songwriting depth and vocals shined right along with his always stellar guitar playing. A favorite of both fans and critics, “Blues Like Midnight” provided Kim with a firm foothold on the acoustic live music circuit including his first solo tour of the U.K.

 

With his third release in 2004, "Struck By Lightning", Simmonds pulled out all the stops with an album again full of superb guitar playing but this time fully augmented with a powerful acoustic rhythm section. The CD was well received and as one reviewer stated, "Kim's other solo albums were good, but this is probably his best". 

Kim's release, "Out Of The Blue", is a collection of varied material that places him in a new setting, that of the singer/songwriter. This time around the guitar playing is understated with more emphasis on the song. His baritone voice has aged well, matured perhaps and now stands out throughout the CD's eleven songs. The lastest Savoy Brown release "Songs From The Road" (Ruf Records) is a CD/DVD-Set and was recorded in May 2012 in the Musiktheater Piano in Dortmund, Germany.  All those who did not see them live do now also have the chance to watch them perform songs from various decades that brings back the feeling of the 60's

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

 

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues?

I was brought up by my brother on rock and roll music.  I loved Elvis Presley and his mix of blues and rock and roll.

When I was 13 I started listening specifically to Chicago blues and realized that was want I wanted to play.

 

Who were your first idols?

Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker


What have been some of your musical influences?

The guitarist Billy Butler who played with The Bill Doggett Band in the 1950’s and the jazz guitarist Grant Green are two of my biggest influences.

 

What were the first songs you learned?

The first thing I learnt to play was the Bo Diddley beat.

 

Is “blues” a way of life?

Blues, for me anyway, is a bit like Religion…it’s hard to do it…well. 

You have to be hungry to really play blues with any kind of feeling.  You have to carry a cross.

 

Which of your work would you consider to be the best?

Street Corner Talking

 

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

1969 was a highlight year playing at the Fillmore East.  Worst part was when I was bankrupt in the 1980’s and had lost my feeling for the guitar.

 

Is there any similarity between the blues today and the blues of the sixties?

Not much.  The talent isn’t as strong as in the 1960’s. 

 

From the musical point of view is there any difference between Europe and US?

There are more similarities than differences.  And different countries in Europe have there own personalities and cultures of course.  America is more of a free wheeling country that allows you to live more independently and that’s why I emigrated here years ago. ..and it helps being a blues musician when you live in the country from whence the music came.

 

What do you think were the reasons for the blues boom of the sixties?

People wanted more from music than the dance music from Motown records.

 

Did you help many artist in the meantime did you found any gratitude from them?

I have helped lots of younger musicians by trying to inspire them.  I get lots of compliments from musicians of all ages.  That’s more gratifying than any other part of my career.

 

How was your relationship with the other british blues musicians from ‘60s?

Quite good although I am very shy and could not get past that when meeting other musicians. Because of my shyness, I would mask it and people thought I was something I wasn’t.

 

Why did you think that Savoy Brown continued to generate such a devoted follower?

Not going for the money

 

What does  BLUES mean to you?

Blues is a music form that enables to express my feelings and express my deepest emotions.

 


What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Carnegie Hall.  Moondogs Blues Club

 

What is the “think” you miss most from the ‘60s?

Being surrounded by incredible talent

 

Three words to describe Savoy Brown

Blues rock band

 

Why do you play the blues?

It’s in me and it’s got to come out!

 

What does GUITAR mean to you?

Too deep  for even me to understand

 

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

Bad experiences

 

Three words to describe your sound & your progress

An independent man

 

How do you want to be remembered?

As one of the best white blues guitarists.

 


What does Blues offered you?

I have been able to follow my heroes such as Buddy Guy from when I was 13 ‘til now.  I’m 63.  That’s 50 years of following an artist who has never let me down.

 

What do you learn about yourself from music?

That life is only as important as you make it.  Guitar playing can be very shallow or very deep.  It’s what you make it to be.

 

How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

I think they understand it is about the music I play and not about myself.

 

Were there any places for gigs where you did especially well?

It changes from year to year…..working class areas seem to be the best

 

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

The music business hasn’t changed at all apart from the technological side. 

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The last 20 years because I’ve lived life on my own terms.

 

Do you prefer playing acoustic guitar now?

Acoustic playing helps my electric playing…it’s all the same

 

What turns you on?

A good cigar

 

What mistake of music you want to correct?

Generally speaking……take foot pedals away from guitar players

 

Give one wish for the music

Generally speaking again…..That it is kept out of politics

 

Which of historical music personalities would you like to meet?

Frank Sinatra

 

How do you feel now that you got more fame and celebrity?

It makes me work harder.  I like where I’m at in life….I’ve fought very hard and have sacrificed to be my own man and not be beholden to anyone.  Fact is, I don’t like huge success.  It’s a trap.


Are your music dreams fulfilled?

Yes

 

Do you know anything about Rembetiko music (aka Greek Blues)?

Not yet

 

Do you have a message for the Greek fans?

Wish I could meet you all!

 

What were your favorite guitars back then?

Gibson Flying V

 

What are some of your favorite blues standards?

Stormy Monday Blues by T-Bone Walker

Red House by Jimi Hendrix

Smokestack Lightning by Howling Wolf


Have you recorded your new CD using a more old fashioned sound because you believe that there are no new paths of sound?

I use a guitar sound that I like.  It’s more traditional because I’m that style of player.

 

Which is the price of publicity?

Less freedom and more people to have to try to please.

 

How is your relationship with Mike Vernon?

Excellent.  I have great admiration for him.  He deserves more credit.

 

Do you be live that as far as the blues are concerned, Europe has the “brains” and America has the “soul”?

You don’t need brains to play the blues….you need suffering somewhere in your life.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring  musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Don’t follow the carrot.

 

What do you feel is the key to your success as a musician?

Taking chances


What are your plans for the future?

Another solo CD for next year (2012) and another band CD for 2013.  And continued touring ‘til I drop

 

The Virtual Home of Savoy Brown & Kim Simmonds


 


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