Blues/blues-rock band Savoy Brown. The band’s new album, “Blues All Around,” was released worldwide on Quarto Valley Records on February 17.
The release of the new album is especially poignant in that it comes after the December 13, 2022, passing from colon cancer of band founder and sole, constant, Savoy Brown member guitarist/lead vocalist Kim Simmonds. Simmonds, an early pioneer of the British blues movement and a passionate proponent of the blues, lost his hard-fought battle with cancer just a week after turning 75.
Simmonds is considered one of music’s premier blues/blues rock guitarists and songwriters and is also discussed as one of the architects of the 1960s British blues scene in London. Although he never had a big hit single, the albums “Looking In” (1970) and “Hellbound Train” (1972) were both commercially successful. The influence of Simmonds on the blues scene was immense. In the early days of 1960s London, the band was sharing a stage with Rod Stewart, and on his passing, Joe Bonomassa paid tribute, calling him “one of the kindest souls I’d ever met in this business of music.” Stateside, there was considerable success delivered through almost constant touring, and the band notably performed with legend BB King at one point (he opened for them in 1969).
“Blues All Around” follows Savoy Brown’s critically acclaimed 2022 album, “Ain’t Done Yet,” and is lovingly dedicated to the band’s families, friends, and Savoy Brown fans everywhere. In its last incarnation (post 2009) the band consisted of Kim Simmonds, Garnett Grimm (drums), and Pat deSalvo (bass). Both Garnett and Pat have been speaking up about the album, the legacy of the band, and their memories of Kim. It was Garnet Grimm that Rock the Joint Magazine sat down with to talk on a call, and we hope all those who loved the music and saw the shows will enjoy the feature.
We began by asking for Garnet’s memories of Kim Simmonds, and the last years of working with the legendary guitarist.
Garnet- I have so many happy memories. Kim, Pat, and I go back at least 25 years, and we did so much driving and hanging out. We used to talk on the road, and between tours, he used to call me every Tuesday, and we would often talk about anything; American or British football, baseball, life. But it always ended up with a talk about music and emailing an idea over. Those were some fond memories, Kim was concerned about you personally, not just about music and the band. When touring, we would eat together, travel together, and fly together, and so it brought back the memories, and you became a family in a way. Sometimes , although it’s been a few months, I am still waiting for him to call me and potentially ask if I can talk at 1 o’clock. It leaves an empty space. He would invite Pat and I to rehearsal at his place, as he had a studio at the back. On those days, he would often cook for us, he was a great Indian cook.
Drummer Garnet Grimm picture by Arnie Goodman
Of course, Savoy Brown, although a British band, always seemed to gain more success Stateside than here in the UK. We asked Garnet about this and whether he felt that the British blues feel (whatever that is) had been diluted over the years.
Garnet- It is interesting, as in America the band achieved a lot of success. I remember hearing about them decades ago, long before I was associated with them. It had all to do with timing. Kim was a pioneer in the British blues rock genre, which was popular for a short time in Britain. But then you had this huge wave of British musicians come over here in the sixties and seventies, the “British invasion.” You can talk about the Beatles, but there were so many, Steve Winwood, the original Fleetwood Mac, and so on. One thing that was key for Savoy Brown was that they were road dogs, touring constantly in the States. Of course, this was before the modern internet or MTV. There were so many US bands wanting to team with them, and if you were a new band, you wanted to connect with Savoy Brown. Doobie Brothers, ZZ Top. The first big tour Kiss did in 1974 was with Savoy Brown.
This is correct. By May 1974, Kiss had arranged to play a few shows with Savoy Brown and Silverhead before Manfred Mann took Silverhead’s place. Together, the bands performed on a tour through Canada and the West Coast. In early June, Savoy Brown and KISS performed two gigs in Alaska. This specific incident is more noteworthy for Savoy Brown getting into trouble in Lethbridge for trashing their hotel room!
Garnet- The body of work put out by Kim then and now is incredible. There is a lot of music he wrote, and I feel history should know him, as I feel both Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds are a little under the radar compared to Jeff Beck and other guitarists who came out of Britain at that time. But his body of work is comprehensive.
It seems to be the case, in our perspective, that when bands lose a lot of original members, they continue to tour, but the recording seems to cut back (in the case of Queen or Kiss, to zero), but the last incarnation of Savoy Brown was no tribute act, they were active in the studio getting great new blues albums written. There was no letup in the music or the passion to create new material. The band, post 2009 seemed to have a new lease on life.
Garnet- Kim liked the band approach. What you often see today is a principal songwriter or performer, and the focus is really on that one person. They may use a different band in the studio, take a different group of musicians on the road in the States, and then hire some different ones for Europe. What you are actually seeing and hearing are different bands, and you get diminished returns from that. Kim wanted the band to tackle new music and grow as a band. For nearly fourteen years, I performed and recorded with Pat and Kim, and it became like telepathy, I knew what the other musicians would do on stage. You felt that you were in a bubble together, and that single unit became tight. Kim never lost that and liked the idea of being a band and not just a solo artist. Kim was the principal writer, but he brought us into the creative process for the music. I recorded a few albums with Kim, and “Witchy Feelin” (2017) was a standout for me, the band was so tight, and it was number one on the Billboard blues chart.
The new album “Blues All Round” has such an upbeat feeling, seeing that the band was going through a difficult time. It has had so much positivity surrounding it, great reviews, and is a really enjoyable listen.
Garnet- Kim was very optimistic in his music, and I think he wanted to record another record, but his body wasn’t healthy enough. There was a sense of urgency, and it was done differently. We always recorded live with Kim, then went back and made corrections. But this time Kim couldn’t spend the hours in the studio. So he sent in the demos to us and the engineer, and over the phone we would talk. Kim went ahead of us, and then Pat and I went in together and recorded over his basic tracks. Kim came in the second day we were in the studio, gave advice, added a little. But this time the recording was different, for sure.
The album is a solid, traditional sounding blues rock album.
Garnet- You get some different forms of music, “Texas Love” has this crunchy, raw sound that I like. But there is some R&B in there, there is a lot of flavour in the creative mix. You can see Kim’s life in that bubble.
Now for a drum question! As Mark’s son is learning drums (his drum teacher has him doing “Come Together” at the present), what drum tracks would Garnet recommend a young drummer get to grips with?
Garnet- I would say there are a couple from different periods, so you get a sense of change. One of my favourites was Louis Bellson, he is not from this era. He was in the big band time frame. Also check out the beat on Bo Diddley, when you pick things up. One of the coolest drum tracks to learn is “Ticket to Ride,” and check out what Ringo was doing there. For the time, it was very creative, with a sort of stumbled beat that he does. It is patterned through the whole thing. Replicating Ringo as a drummer is very hard to do. John Bonham was another huge influence on me too, his bass drum was like a cannon. So everyone from John Bonham onward was looking back, but they looked back to the likes of Charlie Watts and Ringo. It is easy to be critical of them, but they were so creative, and we are all looking over our shoulders. You’re lucky to have got those electronic drum kits for the home now, my parents were muffling the kit with pillows and blankets to not annoy the neighbours!
Bass Player Pat DeSalvo by Arnie Goodman
And what happens now for Garnet Grimm? For sure, he will continue as a spokesperson for Savoy Brown, but without Kim Simmonds, the end for the band has arrived, hasn’t it?
Garnet- On the Savoy Brown level, there has been some talk of tribute shows, and I hope that I am a part of that. Pat and I are still in close contact with Kim’s wife, and Kim left a lot of near complete demos, so there could be another album one day. But Pat and I are still playing together, and we started working with a Florida based blues guitarist called Sean Chambers. It’s interesting, as we know Sean from an Iowa festival, he wanted to meet Kim, and we all hit it off. When it became obvious that Kim couldn’t tour, Sean asked us to tour with him. We asked Kim, and he thought it was a good idea, and there we are.
We wish everyone connected to the band all the best for the future and our sincerest condolences to the family of Kim Simmonds for their loss.
The link to the band’s website is here where you can get loads of info, merchandise, art, and all kinds of Savoy Brown material
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C. Chambers
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