British Blues Legend John Mayall Hits Canyon Clubs Jan. 23-25

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Greg Rzab, John Mayall, Jay Davenport and Carolyn Wonderland at the Canyon Santa Clarita, Nov. 18, 2018. Screen cap by Stephen K. Peeples.

After burning up Canyon Club stages in November 2018, legendary British blues singer, keyboardist, guitarist and harmonica player John Mayall and his smokin’ hot band will return to Southern California for a series of encore shows this weekend.

Backed by the Chicago rhythm section of drummer Jay Davenport and bassist Greg Rzab and Texas guitar-slinger Carolyn Wonderland, Mayall will play the Canyon Clubs in Agoura Hills on Thursday, January 23 and Montclair on Friday, January 24, then The Rose in Pasadena on Saturday, January 25.

In Agoura Hills, Alastair Greene and Mama Spanx are set to open the show.

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Carolyn Wonderland, Greg Rzab, John Mayall and Jay Davenport, February 2019.

Mayall’s Canyon Club dates will kick off the latest leg of the octogenarian’s 85th Anniversary (Plus One) world tour, backing his 38th studio album, “Nobody Told Me,” out in February 2019 and featuring his touring trio plus special guests Joe Bonamassa, Larry McCray, Todd Rundgren, Alex Lifeson (Rush) and Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band, Disciples of Soul).

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John Mayall’s 38th studio album, “Nobody Told Me,” released February 22, 2019.

Health issues last fall forced Mayall to postpone a planned two-month Europe-U.K. tour until later in 2020. But he took it easy and was soon back at work, recording tracks in L.A. (where he’s lived since the late ’60s) with his band and special guests for a new studio album due later this year.

john mayallMayall’s autobiography “Blues from Laurel Canyon: My Life as a Bluesman,” written with Joel McIver, was also published in the U.K. and the States during his extended holiday from the road.

“John is now in fine health,” according to Mayall’s website, which Wonderland – an award-winning blues-rocking solo artist and bandleader in her own right – confirmed in a phone conversation last week from her home in Austin.

“John’s basically a tank being driven by an angel,” Wonderland quipped. “He beats us all to the merch table at the end of the gig every time.

“He’s so joyful about playing music that he doesn’t want to waste his time doing anything else,” she said. “If I go on the road with my band and we stop somewhere, it’s like, ‘Let’s go look at the largest ball of twine for a minute.’ But he’s not interested in that kind of stuff at all [laughs].

“A day off for me is like, ‘All right! I’ll get a little rest and do some laundry,'” she said. “For John? He’s like, ‘I am so bored! Let’s play some music!'”

Here’s the John Mayall Band at the Canyon Club Santa Clarita in November 2018:

Mayall’s Blues Roots

A white kid born in Cheshire in 1933 and son of a jazz guitarist, Mayall dug into the roots of jazz and discovered black American blues. Growing up, he taught himself to play piano, guitar and harmonica. After three years’ service in Korea, he attended the Manchester College of Art and started performing, playing in semi-pro bands.

Mayall went all-pro in 1963, moving to London, where, over the next several years, his seminal Bluesbreakers band famously featured and then launched the careers of guitarists Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones). Green and bandmates John McVie and Mick Fleetwood in fact split the Bluesbreakers to form the first iteration of Fleetwood Mac.

John Mayall wails on harmonica, 2015. Photo: Cristina Arrigoni Photography, via Mayall's Facebook page.
John Mayall wails on harmonica, 2015. Photo: Cristina Arrigoni Photography, via Mayall’s Facebook page.

With albums like “The Blues Alone” (1967), “Bare Wires” and “Blues from Laurel Canyon” (1968) and “Turning Point” (1969), Mayall also helped set up the late ’60s blues explosion in the U.K. and the States, as a new generation of white rock fans re-discovered rock’s roots and black blues legends like Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker – the latter three while they were still alive.

It’s no stretch to view Mayall as British blues-rock royalty. In fact, Her Majesty the Queen does; she named him to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2005.

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OBE John Mayall, 2005. Photo: Mayall’s Facebook page.

More recently, Mayall received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Blues Matters (2015) and an Independent Blues Award (2016) and been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (2016).

Carolyn’s Career Capsule

Houston-born in 1972, Wonderland launched her music career full time after dropping out of high school there and gaining early success on the club scene and numerous awards from the local music press. Along with the electric guitar, she learned to play lap slide, mandolin, piano, and trumpet, and belt a blues song on a par with the best singers of yore.

Wonderland moved to Austin in 1999 and quickly became a key player in the thriving music scene there. She’s fronted bands, collaborated with others, and led her own. And she’s toured the world, earning a faithful following in Europe and Japan.

As someone who’s experienced homelessness, Wonderland is an advocate for aid to people in need, for social justice and for legalizing marijuana. She often adds her voice and instruments to fundraisers and benefits supporting those and other causes she’s passionate about.

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Carolyn Wonderland. Photo: Kerry Langford, via CW’s Facebook page.

When we spoke the first time, in late 2011, Wonderland had just released “Peace Meal,” her fourth solo album (following five albums fronting The Imperial Monkeys in Houston from 1993-1997).

It was her second album produced in Austin by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, who had also helmed sessions for Wonderland’s third solo album, “Miss Understood,” in 2008. She invited Benson to guest with her band when she made her first appearance on “Austin City Limits,” taped that June.

Most recently, she’s released “Live Texas Trio” (2015) and then “Moon Goes Missing” (2017), both self-produced and backed by her band (drummer Kevin Lance and bassist Bobby Perkins).

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Carolyn Wonderland’s “Moon Goes Missing” album, 2017.

Jaw-Dropping Call from Mayall

In spring 2018, Mayall connected with Wonderland via his bass player, a mutual friend.

“I was actually up in Woodstock. We’d just come from visiting Levon [Helms’] grave,” she said. “And I got a call out of the blue from my friend Greg Rzab, who’s played bass with John for the last – oh, golly, forever, let’s just say.

“Greg and I had met when I was a kid and he was playing [with] Buddy Guy’s band and we’d gone on the road with him,” she said. “So Greg asked if I might be interested in playing guitar on a couple of [John Mayall] tracks, and I was like, ‘Sure, that’d be fun.’

“Then John got on the phone and asked if I might be interested in coming on the road with him, too,” she said. “I pretty much picked my jaw up off the ground and said, ‘Yes, sir!’”

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Blues icon John Mayall made Carolyn Wonderland an offer she couldn’t refuse. Via Mayall’s Facebook page.

Mayall announced her addition to his band in a Facebook post on April 6, 2018:

“Here’s some great news for you, my followers and fans. Having operated as a trio for the last year, I felt it was time to once again feature the fire of an electric guitar. This time around, Greg, Jay and I are very excited to welcome noted Texas guitar-slinger Carolyn Wonderland to our ranks.

“This will be quite a historic move forward in that I have never before had a female lead guitarist in any of my numerous band lineups. She will make her powerful presence felt when she joins us on the 29th of April at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and many more shows to follow.

“When not with my band on the road she will still be performing shows with her regular lineup, so we all have something exciting to look forward to. See you there!”

The Carolyn Wonderland Band’s regular lineup now includes her longtime drummer Kevin Lance and, sharing bass duties depending on who’s available, Bobby Perkins or … Greg Rzab.

“It’s sometimes difficult to book our tours between John’s because he books big ol’ tours,” she said. But with Rzab now in her band when they’re both between Mayall outings, it’s a shade easier.

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Carolyn Wonderland finds her happy place. Photo: Per Ole Hagen, via CW’s Facebook page.

What to Expect in Agoura Hills, Montclair and Pasadena

“The most fun thing about [touring with] John is you never know what the songs are gonna be till you show up and you see them written down on the piano,” Wonderland said when asked how Mayall constructs their sets.

With 38 albums to draw from, he certainly has plenty of … room to move.

“Basically, I got a chartbook, it’s about 85 songs thick; it kind of goes through the entirety of his career, and he picks from those typically,” she said.

“But sometimes he’ll go, ‘Yeah, this one’s not on the list, but go listen to it real quick,’” Wonderland said, laughing.

“It’s a little scary, because he’d much rather you be taking a chance up there than not,” she said. “But he makes it all fun and easy. John has such a good time, and he wants [the band] to have a good time, too. It’s difficult to match his level of joy.”

Get tickets via Ticketmaster:
* Canyon Agoura Hills
* The Rose Pasadena
* The Canyon Montclair

For more info, visit

The Road Ahead

From Pasadena, the John Mayall Band heads for points south and east:
* Sunday, January 26: The Coach House – San Juan Capistrano
* Tuesday, January 28: Belly Up Tavern – Solana Beach
* Thursday, January 30: Musical Instrument Museum – Phoenix
* Friday, January 31:  Orpheus Theater – Flagstaff
* Saturday, February 1: Rialto Theatre – Tucson

After the Left Coast dates, Mayall and his bandmates are set for shows on the Right Coast in March (including half a dozen dates with Dave Mason), and Down Under in Australia and New Zealand in April.

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John Mayall, May 2018. From his Facebook page.
And here’s a gallery of pics from Jan. 25, 2020 show at The Rose, all by Stephen K. Peeples.
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Santa Clarita journalist and Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. He earned a Grammy nomination as co-producer of the “Monterey International Pop Festival” (Rhino/MIPF, 1992) box set with Lou Adler and Geoff Gans. Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990. His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983) and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). In the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). He is now a News Editor at SCVTV’s, SVP/New Media Emeritus for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and developing a biography of Texas artist Boyd Elder. For more info and original stories, visit exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.

Article: British Blues Legend John Mayall Hits Canyon Clubs Jan. 23-25
Category: News and Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
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