The first Jeff Beck Group was formed in the U.K. in 1967, consisting of Jeff Beck guitar, Rod Stewart vocals, Ron Wood bass, and Aynsley Dunbar drums. Beck had unfortunately signed a personal management contract with famed U.K. singles producer and manager, Mickie Most. Beck had envisioned forming the band he eventually did, but for the first part of their existence (early ‘67), they were relegated to being a ‘backup band’ for Beck, but Most lost interest in Beck quickly, and the group floundered for the better part of a year. In fact, if it weren’t for Most’s employee Peter Grant, they would have almost certainly ended up on the scrap heap before they ever got started.
Grant’s interests were not entirely philanthropic though, as he was keenly interested in managing his own band. Having been to the States as tour manager for The New Vaudeville Band, he was well aware of a new Concert and Album trend developing in the U.S., where a band could be launched through concerts - without a hit single. Beck’s outfit was made to order for this new market. And so he tried - repeatedly, desperately, and in vain to buy Beck’s contract from Mickie Most. And although Most had lost interest in Beck, he stubbornly refused to sell. Grant however, wasn’t beaten, and in early ‘68, he arranged a six week U.S. tour for the band. It was their last chance… Dunbar had left to play ‘straight blues’, being replaced briefly by Roy Cook and then eventually by Micky Waller, and according to Beck, they were down to “literally one clothing change!!” …The gamble paid off - they took the States by storm… The response was phenominal, and Grant used their reviews (most notably The New York Times) to secure a contract with Epic records for a U.S. release. Upon return to the U.K., Most left the project in the hands of the band and a young, budding genius engineer/producer, Ken Scott, who had worked with The Beatles, and was soon to produce all of David Bowie and The Spiders From Mars records… The result was “Truth”, to this day considered a ‘touchstone’ to many musicians, and a seminal influence on all ‘Hard Blues’,’Hard Rock’, and ‘Heavy Metal’ music that was to follow, (via Led Zeppelin), often sighted as usurpers of Beck’s act, and largely (behind the scenes) responsible for its breakup.
This four piece lineup then toured the U.S. to coincide with the release of ‘Truth’ in early/mid 1968. The tour was another huge success, and they were being touted as the obvious replacement to Cream. The album climbed to number 15 on the Billboard charts and at Peter Grant’s insistence, Jimmy Page was present for most of the second tours shows - apparently studying the band, their audience and material. Many insiders claim that Grant and Page were plotting to form a similar group, which they quickly did; trying to snag the ‘gravel-sounding’ vocal stylings of Steve Marriott, Terry Reid, and Paul Rodgers among others, before settling on Robert Plant temporarily.
Late in the year, well-known session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins accepted an offer to tour with The Beck Group, although offered more money to tour with Led Zeppelin. This lineup (Beck, Stewart, Wood, Waller and Hopkins), is considered by many to be one of the finest in rock history. But they would ultimately suffer from internal stuggles, jealousies and firings (reportedly from ‘he said,’she said’ rumours, whispered into Beck and Stewart’s ears by Grant himself). Ron Wood was fired at least twice, and in 1969 Micky Waller was replaced by drummer Tony Newman, who stayed with the group until they disbanded. It really must be said that this was definitely a ‘live’ band. Their list of gigs from 1967 to 1969 is staggering… Through most of 1967 they played the club circuit up and down England, as well as short tours to Europe and Scandinavia. 1968 and 1969 saw them playing an almost unbelievable amount of shows, mostly in the U.S., but again in Europe as well.
Sadly though, for a band that stayed together almost three years, their output is lacking. They were only to produce three ill-conceived U.K. singles, and two L.P.’s. There are however, dozens of early recordings produced at DeLane Lea studios in 1967 and 1968, specifically for various BBC radio shows, including ‘Saturday Club’, ‘Top Gear’, and the “Simmonds Show’. Although bootlegged in very poor quality, these have never been officially released.
In mid 1969, after completing the admittedly rushed ‘Beck-Ola’, The JBG toured the States for the last time with Nicky Hopkins, who had to stop touring for health reasons. They were to do a bit more touring as a four-piece in ‘69, notably appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival, but unfortunately the forces working against them proved too great, and the band dissolved on the eve of the Woodstock Festival, at which they were scheduled to appear (they are listed on the promotional posters and ads). One wishes this had been their swansong, as it would have cemented their rightful place in history, and as there is virtually no known TV or film footage of this band.
After the group disbanded, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood went on to join The Small Faces, who were about to break up because of the loss of Steve Marriott. Meanwhile, Jeff Beck planned to join Vanilla Fudge Rhythm section, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, but suffered a head injury in a car wreck. Bogert and Appice would go on to form Cactus while Beck recovered.
After recovering from his injuries, Beck reformed the group with vocalist Bob Tench, keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Cozy Powell and bassist Clive Chaman. The band would go on to release two more albums, “Rough & Ready” in ‘71 and a self-titled album in 1972, before disbanding.
Edited by GrantRS on 12 Feb 2010, 15:51
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