John William Baldry, popularly known as Long John Baldry (January 12, 1941 – July 21, 2005) was a pioneering gay blues singer from England. He sang with and influenced many notable British musicians with Rod Stewart and Elton John appearing in bands led by Baldry at various stages of the 1960s. He enjoyed pop success in the UK where "Let The Heartaches Begin" reached #1 in 1967 and in Australia where his duet with Kathi McDonald "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" reached the top 5 of the charts in 1980. Baldry lived in Canada from the late 1970s until his death, where he continued to make records and do voiceover work. He is known and loved by a younger generation as the voice of Dr. Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Blues bands 1960s
Born John William Baldry in England, he grew to a towering 2.01 m (6 ft, 7 in) that resulted in the nickname "Long" John. Blessed with a deep, rich voice, he was one of the first British vocalists to sing blues music in clubs.
In the early 1960s, he sang with Alexis Korner's band Blues Incorporated with whom he recorded the first British blues album in 1962, R&B at the Marquee. At various stages, Mick Jagger, Jack Bruce and Charlie Watts were members of this band while Keith Richards and Brian Jones played on stage with them although none of these musicians played on the R&B at the Marquee album. The Rolling Stones supported Baldry in their first concert at the Marquee Club.
Eric Clapton has said that he was inspired to become a musician after seeing Baldry play live. Baldry became friends with Paul McCartney after playing a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in the early 1960s leading to an invitation to play on one of The Beatles 1964 TV specials.
In 1963, Baldry joined the Cyril Davies R&B All Stars with Jimmy Page on guitar and Nicky Hopkins playing piano. He took over the group in 1964 after the death of Cyril Davies which became Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men featuring Rod Stewart on vocals and Geoff Bradford on guitar. Rod Stewart was recruited after Baldry heard him busking a Muddy Waters song at Twickenham railway station after Stewart had been to a gig at Eel Pie Island.  In 1965, the Hoochie Coochie Men became Steampacket with Baldry and Stewart as male vocalists, Julie Driscoll as the female vocalist and Brian Auger on Hammond organ. After Steampacket broke up in 1966, Baldry formed Bluesology featuring Reg Dwight on keyboards and Elton Dean, later of Soft Machine. Reg Dwight decided to adopt the name Elton John, taking his first name from Dean and his surname from Baldry's first name.
In 1967, he recorded a pop song "Let the Heartaches Begin" that went to number one in Britain followed by a 1968 top 20 hit titled "Mexico", which was the official theme of the UK Olympic team in that year. "Let the Heartaches Begin" made the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.
Bluesology broke up in 1968 with Baldry continuing his solo career and Elton John forming a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. In 1969, Elton John tried to commit suicide after having relationship problems with a woman he was engaged to. Taupin and Baldry found him and in a conversation Baldry talked him out of marrying the woman and helped make John more comfortable with his sexuality. The hit song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was written about the experience. 
In 1971, John and Stewart jointly produced It Ain't Easy which became his most popular album and made the top 100 of the US album charts. The album featured the song "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll" which became his most successful song in the US. Stewart and John would again co-produce his 1972 album Everything Stops For Tea which made the lower reaches of the US album charts.
Unfortunately, Baldry would then suffer from mental health problems resulting in his being institutionalised. The 1979 album Baldry's Out was recorded after his release.
Long John Baldry played his last live show in Columbus, Ohio on July 19, 2004 at Barristers Hall with guitarist Bobby Cameron. The show was produced by Andrew Myers. On that occasion, John and Bobby played to a small intimate group of people. Some came from as far away as Texas to witness this blues legend. Two years previously the two had also completed a 10-venue sell-out tour of Canada together.
After spending time in New York City and Los Angeles, California in 1978, Baldry chose to settle permanently in Vancouver, British Columbia where he became a Canadian citizen. He regularly toured the Canadian west coast as well as the U.S. Northwest.
In 1979, he teamed up with Seattle, Washington singer Kathi MacDonald to record a version of The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin," following which MacDonald became a permanent part of his touring group for the next two decades. The song made the lower reaches of the US Billboard charts but was a top 5 hit in Australia in 1980. He last recorded with the Stony Plain record label. His 1997 album Right To Sing The Blues won a Juno Award in the Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year category in the Juno Awards of 1997.
Long John Baldry died on July 21, 2005 in a Vancouver hospital of a severe chest infection.
References and notes
- Heckstall-Smith, Dick and Grant, Pete. Blowing the Blues: Fifty Years Playing The British Blues. Clear Press, 2004, page 241. ISBN 1-904555-04-7. (R&B From The Marquee lineup)
- "The Making of a Legend" by Rod Stewart ~ LongJohnBaldry.com, originally published in Reader's Digest, December 2004.
- In summer 2007, Rod Stewart will headline in front of 55,000 at Twickenham Stadium, less than a mile from the spot where he was discovered.
- Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day: Elton John. Routledge UK, 2002, Page 214. ISBN 0-415-29161-5.
- "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" ~ AllMusic.com
- Official website
- Long John Baldry at the Internet Movie Database
- Profile at GTA agency
- London Free Press report of death published 23 July 2005
- Long John Baldry ~ VH1 profile
- Long John Baldry: Biography ~ AllMusic.com
- Billboard report on Baldry's death July 22 2005
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