The Graham Bond Organization

The Graham Bond Organization was an English R&B–beat combo that released the 1965 Columbia albums The Sound of ’65 and There’s a Bond Between Us. The members, distinguished by their jazz-crossover pedigrees, achieved virtuoso status on their respective instruments.

Bassist Jack Bruce went over to Manfred Mann and relinked with drummer Ginger Baker in the power-trio Cream. Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and latter-day GBO drummer Jon Hiseman formed the brass-rock outfit Colosseum. Early member John McLaughlin became a Miles Davis sideman and led the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Post-Organization, Graham Bond cut three solo albums and collaborated with Bruce’s lyrical partner Pete Brown (Battered Ornaments/Piblokto) on the 1972 release Two Heads Are Better Than One.

Members: Graham Bond (organ, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums), Jack Bruce (bass), Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone), John McLaughlin (guitar, 1963), Jon Hiseman (drums, 1966)


Background

The Organization stemmed from Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, a revolving-door sixties R&B ensemble with future members of the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, and Led Zeppelin. In June 1962, Blues Incorporated recorded R&B from the Marquee with a nine-piece lineup that featured saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (b. 1934) and bassist Jack Bruce (b. 1943). That fall, Korner revised the lineup with Bruce, saxist Graham Bond (b. 1937), and drummer Ginger Baker (b. 1939).

Bond was fresh off a stint in the New Don Rendell Quintet, where he played alto sax on their 1961 JAZZLAND release Roarin’. On the strength of that performance, he earned 2nd place in the New Star poll by the readers of Melody Maker. Bond and Baker knew Bruce and Heckstall-Smith from an earlier (1960) unrecorded stint with the Johnny Burch Octet.

In Blues Incorporated, Bond gained notoriety for his commanding showmanship and simultaneous performances on sax and Hammond organ. Between gigs, he often jammed with the Baker–Bruce rhythm section. Bond pulled both into a break-off trio.


The Graham Bond Trio / Quartet

The Graham Bond Trio made their live debut on January 28, 1963, at the Flamingo Club in Soho, London. That winter, they played recurrently at the Flamingo and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. In mid-April, Bond hired a fourth member, guitarist John McLaughlin, a fellow Korner alumni. The lineup of Bond, Baker, Bruce, and McLaughlin gigged through the spring and summer and made multiple appearances on TV and radio.

In July 1963, the Graham Bond Quartet backed singer Duffy Power on a cover of The Beatles‘ “I Saw Her Standing There,” released as an a-side on Parlophone. In August, they played the 3rd National Jazz Festival in Richmond and the Ascona Jazz Festival in Ascona, Switzerland. In September, McLaughlin cleared out for Heckstall-Smith.

The Graham Bond Quartet held autumn residencies between London (Klooks Kleek Club) and Manchester (Twisted Wheel), where they jump-started the R&B movement up North. In Newcastle, they played the Club A’ Gogo with newcomers the Alan Price R&B Combo. At Bond’s suggestion, Price changed the Combo’s name to The Animals. On December 15, 1963, GBO played Guildford’s Civic Hall with rising stars the Rolling Stones and newcomers the Yardbirds.


The Organization

They played their first show as the Graham Bond Organization on April 9, 1964, at London’s 100 Club, where they held a Thursday night residency with support by the Groundhogs. Their show on the 30th featured a third act, Steve Marriott & the Moments. Between May and July, they gigged almost nightly with recurring dates in Edmonton (Cooks Ferry Inn) and Bexley (Black Prince Hotel).

On May 22, 1964, the Graham Bond Organization made their vinyl debut with the Decca single “Long Tall Shorty,” a much-covered Don Covay number backed with the Bond original “Long Legged Baby.” Both sides were produced by one Vernon Lloyd.

“Long Legged Baby” appears on the 1964 Decca comp R&B: Rhythm & Blues with four additional GBO cuts: two Bond originals (“Little Girls,” “Strut Around”) and covers of blues staples by Willie Dixon (“Hoochie Koochie Man”) and Tommy Tucker (“Hi-Heel Sneakers”). R&B also contains cuts by Dave Berry, Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc., John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band.

Meanwhile, London-based Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin (a fellow resident act at Ronny Scott’s) employed GBO on two 1964 singles: “Just a Little Walk (Pt 1 and 2)” (b/w “So-Ho”) and “Swing a Ling Part I” (b/w “Swing a Ling Part II”), both attributed to Ernest Ranglin & the G.B.’s and released on the Black Swan label.

On August 1, GBO played the Twisted Wheel with The Paramounts. On Sunday the 9th, they appeared at the Richmond Athletic Association Grounds for the 4th National Jazz and Blues Festival, a three-day event with sets by the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, The T Bones (with Gary Farr and Keith Emerson), and Long John Baldry & the Hoochie Coochie Men (with Rod Stewart). On September 24, GBO played London’s Goldhawk Social Club with The Clique, a band groomed by Kinks manager Larry Page.

On November 19, 1964, the Graham Bond Organization performed for UK radio at London’s Playhouse Theatre, where they played “Wade In the Water,” “My Babe,” “Spanish Blues,” “Worried Life Blues,” “Train Time,” and “The Silver Meter.” The next day, GBO backed Marvin Gaye on two tracks (“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Can I Get a Witness”) on the ITV music program Ready Steady Go!

The Graham Bond Organization became an early UK client of expat Australian music entrepreneur Robert Stigwood, who linked GBO with Indo-Brit singer Winston G., known beforehand as Johnny Apollo. They backed Winston on his 1965 Parlophone single “Please Don’t Say” (b/w “Like a Baby”). In January 1965, Winston G. and GBO embarked on a 25-date package tour with The Moody Blues, the Hoochie Coochie Men, and Chuck Berry.


The Sound of ’65

The Graham Bond Organization released their debut album, The Sound of ’65, in March 1965 on Columbia. It contains fourteen short songs, including “Hoochie Koochie Man” and “Little Girl” plus four new Bond originals: “Spanish Blues,” “Oh Baby,” “I Want You,” and “Half a Man.” The once-aired “Train Time” is credited to ‘John Group,’ the collective appellation of the four members. Two additional Group numbers, “Baby Make Love to Me” and “Baby Be Good to Me,” feature lyrics by Bruce’s wife Janet Godfrey.

The Sound of ’65 also contains Group arrangements of two traditionals: “Early in the Morning” and the much-interpreted “Wade in the Water,” a spiritual first recorded in 1925 by the Sunset Four Jubilee Singers. The album also includes a Muddy Waters cover (“Got My Mojo Working”) and the show-tune “Tammy” from the 1958 romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Nielsen.

Songwriter Alton Joseph Valier wrote “Neighbor, Neighbor,” a song also recorded in 1965 by American soul singer Jimmy Hughes and soul-popsters The Ad Libs. GBO’s version preceded 1966 UK recordings of “Neighbor, Neighbor” by Davey Graham, the Spencer Davis Group, and The Spectres (a prototype of Status Quo).

“Hoochie Coochie” is a medium-slow blues wailer with a five-note organ figure (in D) and a soaring sax solo. “Baby Make Love to Me” is a crooning, harmonized lounge number with a wailing harmonica solo. “Neighbour, Neighbour” is a mid-tempo belter (in A minor) with refined organ and sax on a Stax rhythmic pattern; midway, Bond cuts loose on the Hammond. “Early In the Morning” is a clapped, mid-tempo harmonized number with a driving sax riff (in A minor). “Spanish Blues” starts as a bolero (in G minor) and cuts to a mambo with icy organ and blaring sax. “Oh Baby” is a belted mono-key raveup (in G minor) set to a Bo Diddley beat that cuts to a post-bop drum solo. “Little Girl” is a mid-tempo 12-bar blues (in F) with belted vocals and a unison organ–sax riff.

“I Want You” is a mid-tempo 12-bar blues number (in G) with brief flareups. “Wade In the Water” is a hopping instrumental with foaming organ and hyper snare-laden drums against a four-note descending bassline (in D minor). “Got My Mojo Working” is a speedy 12-bar raveup (in G) with clipped organ and exuberant vocals, driven by a polka beat. “Train Time” is a churning 12-bar blues (in E) with gasping vocals, clipped sax, and harmonica, set to a brush-snare pattern. “Baby Be Good to Me” is a clapping, revved up mono-chord rave-up with tight sax and a darting vocal melody (in D minor). “Half a Man” is a medium-slow R&B ballad (in G) with deep crooning vocals. “Tammy” is a piano boogie ballad (ala Fats Domino) with soaring vocals and thematic sax refrains.

“Tammy” appeared weeks earlier as the album’s only single, backed with “Wade in the Water,” which also appears on the 1965 Decca comp Blues Now along with cuts by Them (“Baby Please Don’t Go”), The Artwoods (“Sweet Mary”), Rod Stewart (“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”), and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (“I Need Your Love”).

Stigwood produced The Sound of ’65 and subsequent GBO releases amid singles by the Junco Partners and Simon Scott & the All Nite Workers. GBO plugged the album with resident shows at the 100 Club, supported on most Thursdays by Loose Ends.


Singles

On April 9, 1965, the Graham Bond Organization released “Tell Me (I’m Gonna Love Again),” a standalone a-side backed with “Love Come Shining Through,” both credited to John Group.

GBO played spring–summer shows with The Tridents (5/23: Eel Pie Island Hotel), Sons of Man (7/3: Rendezvous Club, Oddfellows Hall, Portsmouth), and Gery L. Thompson & The Sidewinders (7/8: Marquee, London). On July 4, GBO played Racks Close in Guildford as part of an event dubbed “Rhapsody at Racks,” which also featured The Herd, Geno Washington, and The Stormsville Shakers (a Circus precursor with Phillip Goodhand-Tait).

On August 5, GBO released their fourth single “Lease on Love,” a song credited to the London-based writing team of Mike Banwell and Rick Minas. The b-side, “My Heart’s in Little Pieces,” is a Graham Bond original. “Lease on Love” is one of the earliest rock recordings to feature the Mk II Mellotron, an electro-mechanical keyboard equipped with tape samples of strings, reeds, and choral sounds. GBO plugged this single on Ready Steady Go!

The Graham Bond Organization appear in the 1965 sci-fi musical film Gonks Go Beat, a reference to the popular gonks toy — cylinder-shaped furry critters with goggle eyes — with a plot about completing human tribes: one comprised of rock enthusiasts and one populated by crooner fans. GBO perform the R&B raveup “Harmonica” in the film, which also features The Nashville Teens and Lulu & the Luvvers.


Jack Bruce Exits

On Saturday, August 7, the Graham Bond Organization played the 5th National Jazz & Blues Festival, a weekend event with sets by the Yardbirds, The Who, The Animals, The Moody Blues, Manfred Mann, The T-Bones, Georgie Fame, Spencer Davis Group, Dick Morrissey Group, Albert Mangelsdorff, and Steampacket (with Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger & Trinity). That month, GBO made repeat appearances at London’s Marquee Club with Boz People.

By now, internal tensions plagued the band. Bond’s erratic mood swings and substance abuse prompted Baker to deputize the leadership role. Meanwhile, a rift developed between Bruce and Baker, who purportedly sabotaged each other’s equipment during live shows. In September 1965, Bruce left GBO under disputed circumstances. (Some sources claim Baker fired Bruce and threatened him at knifepoint when Jack showed up for subsequent GBO dates.)

Bruce did a brief unrecorded stint in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, where he rubbed shoulders with ex-Yardbirds guitarist Eric Clapton. In December 1965, he issued a solo single, “I’m Gettin’ Tired (of Drinkin’ and Gamblin’ Etcetera)” (b/w “Rootin’ Tootin”’), on Parlophone. He then joined Manfred Mann for six months, long enough to play on their April 1966 UK No. 1 “Pretty Flamingo” and its followup EP Instrumental Asylum.

On September 21, 1965, Bond welcomed a new member: trumpeter Mike Falana, a fellow Burch Octet alumni. The Mk II GBO lineup (Bond, Baker, Falana, Heckstall-Smith) premiered that night at Klooks Kleek Club, where (after a busy fall schedule) they returned for a December 23 holiday show.


There’s a Bond Between Us

The Graham Bond Organization’s second album, There’s a Bond Between Us, appeared in December 1965 on Columbia. It contains twelve songs recorded prior to the recent lineup change, including one song apiece by Bruce (“Hear Me Calling Your Name”), Baker (“Camels and Elephants”), Heckstall-Smith (“Dick’s Instrumental”), and three by Bond: “Baby Can It Be True,” “Walkin’ In the Park,” and “Have You Ever Loved a Woman?”

There’s a Bond Between Us also features covers of American R&B chestnuts by Jesse Stone (“Don’t Let Go”), Chuck Willis (“Keep a ‘drivin”), The Markeys (“Last Night”), and two by Ray Charles (“What’d I Say,” “The Night Time Is the Right Time”). The opening track is the theme of the 1962 Broadway play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is an uptempo 12-bar instrumental (in G minor) with billowing sax and searing organ amid hurricane drum fills. “Hear Me Calling Your Name” is a loungy mid-tempo soul ballad with odd key changes (major sevenths, chromatic progressions). “The Night Time Is the Right Time” is a medium-slow 12-bar blues (in C) with wailing sax and chants of “night and day” amid Bond’s caterwaul. “Walkin’ In the Park” is a medium-uptempo soul-jazz tune with an arching, four-note organ–sax theme (in G). “Last Night” is a mid-tempo 12-bar instrumental (in G) with sprinting bass, spiraling organ, and gruff block chords. “Baby Can It Be True” is a slow, rhythmless lounge ballad (in Cmaj7) with frosty Mellotron and crooned, romantic vocals.

“What’d I Say” is a medium-uptempo 12-bar blues (in G) with jazzy drumming, belted vocals, and frenzied organ and sax. “Dick’s Instrumental” is mid-tempo soul-jazz with thick organ behind a crunchy sax riff. “Don’t Let Go” is a jerky uptempo number (in D minor) with belted vocals, punchy sax, and a frantic organ riff. “Keep A’drivin” is a mid-tempo 12-bar blues (in F) with icy organ, soaring vocals, and a finger-snapping chant. “Have You Ever Loved a Woman?” is a loungy 12-bar organ soul-blues ballad (in F) with a fluid sax break. “Camels and Elephants” is a sprinting 6/8 instrumental (in B) with a five-note unison riff (bass, sax, organ) that cuts to a drum solo.


Late-period Activity

In January 1966, the Graham Bond Organization performed three songs (“Wade In the Water,” “Only Sixteen,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”) for the radio broadcast Jazz Beat (aired 1/22). In February, GBO did a three-day package tour with The Who, Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages, The Merseybeats, The Fortunes, and the Hamilton & The Hamilton Movement. On the 10th, GBO appeared at Leicester’s Mecca Ballroom with Jimmy James & The Vagabonds and David Bowie & The Buzz.

On February 18, 1966, GBO released the standalone single “St James Infirmary,” Baker’s arrangement of the 1943 jazz standard by Irving Mills. The b-side, “Soul Tango,” is a Bond original.

A Bruce-era GBO instrumental, “Waltz for Pig” (a Baker composition originally titled “Ode to a Toad”), appears as the b-side to the third (and most readily available) version of The Who’s March 1966 single “Substitute.” The intended b-side, “Circles” (aka “Instant Party”), was tied in litigation after The Who broke ties with their original producer, Shel Talmy, who filed an injunction that halted the single and temporarily prevented the band from recording new material. At the request of Who manager Kit Lambert, Baker sold the unused instrumental for £500. “Substitute” reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart. GBO are credited on the b-side as ‘The Who Orchestra.’

GBO played spring–summer shows with the Five Proud Walkers (3/5/66: London College of Printing), The Clique (4/23: Birdcage Club, Portsmouth), and multiple Marquee dates with Felder’s Orioles (3/7), Blues Syndicate (5/2), and The Soul Agents (6/6). On June 24, 1966, GBO appeared at the University of Durham as part of “June Ball ’66,” which also featured sets by the Yardbirds, The Roulettes (with Russ Ballard), The Action, Mandy Rice Davies, Ronnie Aldrich, The Checkmates, Ken Colyer, and Simba & The Outer Limits.

In late June, Baker left GBO and teamed with Eric Clapton in Cream, a power-trio with Jack Bruce, invited at Clapton’s insistence. Baker and Bruce set aside their differences for the new band, which lasted thirty months and made three studio albums. They scored transatlantic hits with “I Feel Free,” “Strange Brew,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” and “White Room.” Their first album, Fresh Cream, contains Baker’s “Toad,” a rearranged “Camels and Elephants.” Cream’s 1967–68 albums Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire were catalysts for the ensuing hard-rock boom. After their breakup, Bruce launched his solo career with the 1969 album Songs for a Tailor while Clapton and Baker teamed with singer–keyboardist Steve Winwood (Traffic) and bassist Ric Grech (Family) in the supergroup Blind Faith. After one big 1969 album, the project folded and Baker reteamed with Bond in Ginger Baker’s Air Force.

The Graham Bond Organization carried on with drummer Jon Hiseman, a onetime colleague of Heckstall-Smith in the New Jazz Orchestra. The Mk III GBO lineup (Bond, Falana, Heckstall-Smith, Hiseman) played August 1966 shows with The Misunderstood (8/8: Marquee), Wynder K. Frog (8/10: Eel Pie Island Hotel), and Paul & Barry Ryan and the Mike Stuart Span (8/19: Metropole, Brighton)

That fall, GBO trimmed to the trio of Bond, Hiseman, and Heckstall-Smith. In November, they played the Union Rowing Club in Sunderland with the John Evan Band, a precursor to Jethro Tull.


Final Months

On January 13, 1967, the Graham Bond Organization performed four songs (“Long Legged Baby”, “I Couldn’t Stand It Anymore”, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” and “You Gotta Have Love Baby”) at Studio 4, Maida Vale, for the UK radio show “Rhythm & Blues 67′” (broadcast on February 6th).

In February, GBO released their final single: “You’ve Gotta Have Love Babe” (b/w “I Love You”), both Bond originals produced by Larry Page for the mogul’s Page One label.

On February 7, GBO played the Winter Gardens in Malvern with newcomers Pink Floyd and The Move. On Monday the 27th, GBO partook in the Manchester & Salford Students Rag Ball ’67, which also featured sets by Cream, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, Jimmy James & The Vagabonds, The Nashville Teens, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Tubby Hayes Quartet, and The Ian Campbell Group.

On April 29, 1967, GBO played the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream, a psychedelic extravaganza at London’s Alexandra Palace with sets by Pink Floyd, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Soft Machine, The Move, Tomorrow, The Pretty Things, Pete Townshend, John’s Children, Alexis Korner, Social Deviants, The Purple Gang, Savoy Brown, The Creation, and numerous other acts.

Notable late-period GBO dates include a May 22 show at Chester’s Wall City Jazz Club with The Syn (a Yes precursor who made a song about the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream) and repeat appearances with Procol Harum at London’s UFO Club (May 12 and June 9, the second with Pink Floyd).

The Graham Bond Organization folded when Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith jumped ship to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for the 1968 Decca release Bare Wires, which also features bassist Tony Reeves, a onetime Hiseman colleague in The Wes Minster Five (with keyboardist Dave Greenslade). The four players (Hiseman, Heckstall-Smith, Reeves, Greenslade) formed Colosseum, which made the 1969–70 albums Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, Valentyne Suite, and Daughter of Time. The first contains a remake of “Walking In the Park.


After GBO

Graham Bond went to the US, where he recorded the 1968–69 solo albums Love Is the Law and Mighty Grahame Bond on the LA soul label Pulsar Records. Back in the UK, he cut the 1970 Vertigo album Holy Magick and played on the two albums by Ginger Baker’s Air Force. In 1972, he teamed with Bruce’s lyrical partner, singer–poet Pete Brown (of the Battered Ornaments and Pete Brown & Piblokto!) on the Chapter 1 release Two Heads Are Better Than One.

Bond struggled with addiction and depression in his final years. In 1974, he was tapped to replace Swiss keyboardist (and Yes draftee) Patrick Moraz in the symphonic trio Refugee, a partially reformed Nice. However, Bond was found dead on May 8, 1974, from an apparent suicide on the tracks of Piccadilly Line. He was 36.


Discography:

  • The Sound of ’65 (1965)
  • There’s a Bond Between Us (1965)

Sources:

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