The Name Was Bond, Graham Bond ~ British R’n’B Pioneer & Keys Innovator

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Today (May 8th) is the 35th anniversary of the tragic and early death of British blues pioneer and keyboard innovator Graham Bond. He was only 36 when killed (assumed suicide) under the wheels of a tube train at Finsbury Park station. An undiagnosed bipolar sufferer, its manic mood swings and depressions, when mixed with drug addiction, a belief in the occult and the sort of bad management and poor luck that dogged many a musician in those days took its toll.

I know not a great deal about Bond, but his was one of those names (like Cyril Davis, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Alexis Korner and John Mayall) that kept cropping up when reading about The Rolling Stones and those early r’n’b days, as I did voraciously as a teenager. A time before I was born, all I knew was that this band of brothers out at Ealing had forged their own sound from the influence of Chicago and Mississippi bluesmen. Bond came to the movement from a jazz background (originally as a saxophonist), as had a few of the others.

Troubles aside it would appear that his legacy rests more with his ability as a catalyst, conduit or networker for others rather than his own music. He saw through both blues booms either side of psychedelia. Musicians who played with Bond in his Organisation include Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce (pre Cream), John Hiseman and John McLaughlin.

As a keyboard pioneer though, he is credited as the first on the r’n’b scene to use the Hammond organ and Leslie speaker combination, the first to split the instrument for transportation, the first to build an electronic keyboard and the first rock musician to use a mellotron.

The GBO are one or precious few highspots in the risible 1965 movie Gonks Go Beat playing the track Harmonica.

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