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Legacy: John Mayall

The Godfather Of British Blues, winner of a Classic Rock Award for the Bluesbreakers’ ‘Beano’ album… How does that stuff sit with you?

It’s extremely flattering, obviously. It’s nice to get an award for anything. That Classic Rock statue sits on my mantelpiece.

You’ve done this for more than half a century. Have you ever thought: “What’s the point of carrying on?”

Absolutely not. Completely the opposite. The music is energising. The band that I have now has been together for five-and-a-half years and it’s my best ever, so I’d never think of giving up.

How does the state of the blues now compare to when you started?

Back then it was much more localised but now it’s gone completely global. There are kids taking up the blues all over the world. After this many years, that’s very encouraging.

Do you ever look back and think: “I wish I’d played a more commercial music…”?

You don’t have any choice. A musician only plays what he can play. I never learned to read or write music and I still can’t play a scale on any instrument. You learn to express yourself the way you can.

Some of the people you introduced to the world have gone on to bigger things. Do you ever get envious of their success?

Well, of course a more comfortable lifestyle would be very nice for me and my musicians. But on the flip side, I don’t envy that some of the people who have played with me are stuck with having to play huge concerts. With many mouths to feed, they’re trapped by playing their hits. I have total freedom to express myself, and I’m a lucky man in that respect.

So you don’t have an entourage for the band, or a manager?

No. It’s just the four of us. We set up our own equipment and it’s great. Hopefully it’ll stay that way. There’s no reason for it not to.

What would be the one song of yours you’d like to be buried with?

I don’t really have a favourite. I’d prefer to be remembered for my whole body of work. I hope it’s varied and interesting.

Do you have your own legacy, or are you part of the bigger legacy of keeping the blues alive?

It’s a bit of both, really, though neither is a subject I would dwell upon. We love to play music and it’s great that we have an audience all over the world to support that.

Do you ever wonder where the blues will be in 20 or even 50 years’ time?

If I gauge it by the progress it’s made from generation to generation, it won’t be going away.

Dave Ling
Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.