Help for (Guitar) heroes...

On January 15 2016, the British blues community rallied around Larry Miller at a fundraising gig for the guitarist following his stroke last August. The sold-out show at The Stables, Milton Keynes, was packed with 400 fans, who watched Miller’s bandmates Derek White (bass) and Graham Walker (drums), plus ex-keys man Ian Salisbury, back an all-star line-up that included Bernie Marsden, Oli Brown, Del Bromham and Barry Barnes. “You could feel the love for Larry,” says White. “The outpouring was quite something.”

As White tells The Blues Magazine, Miller’s stroke on August 10 was a bombshell following a boom period. “I just couldn’t believe it. We had played a great gig at the Cheese & Grain in Frome on the Saturday and Larry was on fire. Then, on Monday morning, he had a stroke while at home. He was critically ill. The hospital were unsure whether he would live.

“Larry and the band were on a high, having had our most successful year to date,” adds White. “We had tours of Europe coming up and had been asked to open for Walter Trout at The Forum for his London comeback. Suddenly, it was all taken away. But I knew, whatever the outcome, I had to help Larry and give fans hope.”

White was forced to clear the tour diary – but he set aside the date at The Stables and put out the feelers. “It wasn’t difficult to pull it together, as so many musicians wanted to help. We wanted to play songs by guitarists that Larry was influenced by: Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore. So Barry Barnes, from the Rory Gallagher tribute Sinnerboy, was an obvious choice.

“Del offered his services – and I remembered that he played a mean Voodoo Chile. Bernie was only too pleased to play some numbers by his old friend Gary Moore. Finally, Oli Brown got in touch and said he would be honoured to play some Hendrix.”

“Even if you don’t know him personally, it feels like Larry is one of your mates,” noted Bromham. “If one of your mates is in trouble, or needs help, you come out and support them. That’s exactly what happened.”

The makeshift band didn’t have time to rehearse, but that didn’t stop them pulling off a raucous two-set show. Bromham kicked off with a slide performance of Miller’s own number Klondike, and Barnes pulled out acoustic versions of Out On The Western Plain and Too Much Alcohol, before White and Walker joined him for a Gallagher mini-set that included Messin’ With The Kid and Tattoo’d Lady. The first set ended with Brown’s performance of Hey Joe and Purple Haze. “It was an honour to be asked,” the Raveneye man told The Blues Magazine. “It really was a very special evening.”

The second set was opened up with Bromham and the band’s unique fusion of Dust My Broom and Statesboro Blues. Marsden’s spot included a Moore-style reading of Need Your Love So Bad, before Miller himself brought the house down by appearing on stage to take a bow during the ensemble encore of Bullfrog Blues. “None of the audience knew he was there,” says White. “As many people said, the music was great, but it made their night to see him.”

As White explains, Miller’s condition has improved since August. “From laying in a coma paralysed down his right side, he’s back to walking with movement in all his limbs. Unlike many stroke victims, Larry just got up and walked after 10 days – in fact, he ran down the hospital corridor! Over the last couple of weeks, he has picked up a guitar. Each time I see him, he gets better, and although it will be a long time to get back anywhere near where he was, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

While fans have been quick to offer donations to the much-loved guitarist, White explains that a better way to give financial support is to buy some merchandise from, pick up a forthcoming Miller compilation or attend one of the fundraisers tentatively planned for the future. “As The Stables was such a success, we are considering doing more fundraising events.

“Larry had nearly completed his next album,” continues White, “but in the meantime, we’re planning an anthology with tracks from all of Larry’s nine CDs, plus a couple of bonus tracks. We hope to get this together for a release around April or May. Watch this space…”

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.