John Mayall is, at 75 years of age, tireless. With 56 albums to his credit (not including compilations), he says he will record number 57 soon and, following that, take his new band on the road. He’s been called the British godfather of the blues, but I rather fancy Mayall as the blues’ first true rock star. In the day he wore his blond hair long, sported lots of turquoise jewelry, and bought a lavish house in the midst of the fabled rock community that had settled in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon. When a devilish brush fire burned through the neighborhood in 1979, Mayall’s life went up in smoke. He lost everything, right down to his artwork, his photographs, and his studio tapes.
Mayall is again part of Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout this year, a review-style show featuring some of the best of contemporary blues harpists. Mayall has an original style, punctuated with a lot of percussive whooping and popping. “It really comes from my jazz background, those types of [harmonica] improvisations,” Mayall says via telephone. “I was very impressed years ago with what [sax player] Roland Kirk used to do with all his gadgets and his unique sounds. I guess some of that brushed off.”
The thing about Mayall is that his music, while couched within the safe harbor of the blues, is mostly his own thing, an iconoclastic stance that may have cost Mayall a pop fame that some former members of his Bluesbreakers have enjoyed. If he cares about any of this, it doesn’t show. “I’ve always felt that you never guess what’s going to be a hit or what’s going to be popular. It’s best to stick with your own honesty and do what’s right for you.”
Mark Hummel, Charlie Musselwhite, and Lee Oskar also perform.
JOHN MAYALL, Anthology, Wednesday, February 4, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 619-595-0300. $26, $33.