Many musicians have come and gone from British blues legend John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers outfit. Musicians such as John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Jack Bruce have all been involved with the Bluesbreakers. But when it comes to guitar players, the list is perhaps even more remarkable. Over the course of just a coupe of years in the late sixties, Mayall managed to recruit Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Peter Green as lead guitarists for his band. Later he played with Coco Montoya and Walter Trout simultaneously, and his most recent lineup, featuring the brilliant Rocky Athas on the Gibson Les Paul isn’t half bad either. Here we take a look at some of the most prominent guitarists that have been part of the lineup of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.
It is probably fair to assume that John Mayall owes a lot of his career to blues guitarist extraordinaire Eric Clapton. The 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, or the “Beano” album as many fans refer to it, was John Mayall’s major breakthrough, reaching number six on the British charts. Songs like “All Your Love” and “Hideaway” became instant classics. Clapton’s guitar playing is aggressive and fluent at the same time. Clapton took care of the vocal duties on the Robert Johnson classic “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” foreshadowing his fascination with the late blues master that would become more apparent decades later.
The now reclusive Peter Green filled in as guitarist in the Bluesbreakers for a period in 1965 while Clapton was involved in another project. When Clapton left the band to form Cream in 1966, Mayall persuaded Green to join the band full time. Peter Green appear on the 1967 album A Hard Road. However, Green was to leave the Bluesbreakers in 1967, evetually taking both John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood along to form Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Continuing his tradition of finding amazingly gifted guitar players, John Mayall ended up replacing Peter Green with 18 year old Mick Taylor. The young guitarist had gotten the chance to fill in for Eric Clapton during a Bluesbreakers gig in 1965, so when time came to find a replacement for Green, Mayall new where to look. Taylor spent two years as a member of the Bluesbreakers, appearing on the albums Crusade, Bare Wires, and the Mayall classic Blues From Laurel Canyon. His stay with the band allowed Taylor to develop his blues-based style, that he is known for to this day. Mick ended up leaving the Bluesbreakers in June of 1969 in favor of a little band known as the Rolling Stones. In 1982 Taylor joined forces with Mayall once again for a two year tour.
Walter Trout and Coco Montoya
For a period in the mid eighties John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers had two guitarists (three if you count Mayall himself) - Walter Trout and Coco Montoya. Prior to hooking up with the Bluesbreakers, Walter Trout had played in John Lee Hooker’s band, and served as the guitarist for Canned Heat. Trout and Montoya would take turns playing lead, with energetic and aggressive performances as the result. Trout left the Bluesbreakers in 1989, and has since had a relatively successful solo career in the world of blues rock. Coco Montoya started out playing drums for Albert Collins, and in the process honed his guitar style from the prolific blues guitarist. Montoya’s style is interesting because he is left-handed and plays upside-down right handed guitar, which basically means that you take a right-handed guitar, and flip it over so that you fret with your right hand, with the low strings on the bottom instead of the top.
After Montoya ended his ten year tenure with the Bluesbreakers he was replaced by Buddy Whittington. Since 2009, Mayall tours as a solo act backed by a band that includes the previously mentioned Rocky Athas. Since Mayall is turning 80 later this year, maybe we will see a reunion concert similar to the one that coincided with his 70th birthday, where Mayall was joined on stage by many of the previous guitar players from the Bluesbreakers.