The Artwoods were formed in 1963, and over the next two years became an extremely popular live attraction, rivaling groups such as the Animals, although, despite releasing a clutch of singles and an album, their record sales never reflected this popularity. Singer Arthur Wood, from whom the band took their name, was the elder brother of The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood. He had been a vocalist with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated for a short period during 1962, simultaneously fronting his own group, the Art Wood Combo..
When keyboardist Jon Lord and guitarist Derek Griffiths joined from Red Bludd's Bluesicians they re-christened themselves the Artwoods. Keef Hartley, formerly with Rory Storm & The Hurricanes, joined on drums in '64 and the band turned professional, secured a residency at London's 100 Club and gained a recording contract with Decca Records.
The intended debut single, a cover of Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man" was shelved in favour of a version of an old Leadbelly song, Sweet Mary". Although it didn't reach the Charts it got sufficient airplay to bring them a lot of live work, including an appearance on the first live edition of Ready Steady Go! The second record, "Oh My Love", was another blues cover. Like its predecessor, and subsequent releases, it failed to chart.
The Artwoods were dropped by Decca at the end of 1966 and signed a one record deal with Parlophone, but "What Shall I Do" also flopped. Later in 1967 a final "one-off" single appeared on Fontana under the name "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" but by the time of its release the Artwoods had effectively ceased to exist.
The Artwoods' early records today stand up well against the work of more successful groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds or ironically, the Birds, who included Art's younger brother Ron. But at the time they came out, despite appearances on programs like Ready, Steady, Go! their singles never seemed to connect with the record-buying public. In live performance, on the other hand, it was a different matter. They had a virtuoso lineup, Lord's piano and organ sound was a great complement to Wood's singing, Griffith's guitar work was tastefully flashy, and Keef Hartley was animated as well as powerful, with a big sound on the drums. Club audiences always knew they were good for a great show and the band loved playing live. Ultimately, in fact, the group's success in touring and their love of playing live may have hurt them.
The group broke up in mid '67 with Hartley going on to play with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers,Malcolm Pool played with Colosseum and Lord becoming a founder member of Deep Purple.
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