‘I never thought I would make a living out of it’

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Boris Giltburg. Picture by Sasha Gusov

Celebrate the Triumph and Passion with the BSO at Portsmouth Guildhall

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For decades John Mayall has run the best finishing school in blues and rock – The Bluesbreakers.

Since forming in 1963, the band has played host to figures who have become some of the world’s most renowned guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.

The band has also included talent such as Jack Bruce, Mick Fleetwood and John Mcvie.

Now, with John in his 80th year, the band are back with their first album in five years, A Special Life – and he’s still going strong.

But the redoubtable frontman recalls that the blues was never meant to be more than a hobby for him.

‘Listening to blues records from an early age was just something that I enjoyed doing,’ he explains, ‘I never thought I would make a living out of it because my training was in art.

‘When I was 30 years old Alexis Korner kicked off the British blues movement – that was the opportunity, not that I’d been expecting it, but it was the time to go down to London to join in with the crowd.

‘I didn’t really play much publicly in the early days, it was just for pleasure, and I was a good record collector, it was something I did as a hobby.’

And he still feels the passion for the music form that first inspired him.

‘Blues and jazz are creative music,’ he says. ‘They express through words and music real stories that people can relate to – it’s not something that’s just hammered out as a vehicle to hit the charts, it’s something that’s really heartfelt.

‘When we’re touring it’s never the same show each night, people who travel from one show to another will hear a different show each night.’

And the freewheeling nature of the band down the years was something that John himself encouraged: ‘I provided a platform for them to express themselves through the blues and it’s been a very free and open thing. I don’t want them to sound like anyone else, I want them to express themselves and give them free rein.

There’s a sense of pride, that people recognise talents that I recognised in the first place, but it’s something you don’t expect people to stay around forever - you’re providing a platform for them to express themselves.’

His band, Texan guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, alongside fellow Chicagoan Jay Davenport will join Mayall at Portsmouth Guildhall on Thursday, November 20.

He will supported by King King. Led by vocalist/guitarist Alan Nimmo the Glasgow four-piece have twice won Best Blues Band Award at the British Blues Awards.

Doors 7.30pm, tickets £29.50.

Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk or call 0844 847 2362.