Those figures, on the other hand, would also suggest a niche market large enough to support a fairly vibrant subculture, with participants who were quite prepared to lay down the readies for the latest releases. On that basis, you’d also expect the releases to fit into a discernible style which, largely, they do, and Fresh Cream covers the kind of territory you might expect from three of the most respected players to have emerged from the blues/R&B boom. It also goes a bit further than that, but let’s pause for a minute to take a closer squiz at that Blues Boom.

There were, through the mid- to late sixties, any number of bands hawking their particular brand of blues and R&B across the British countryside, from the poppier end of the spectrum (The Animals, Yardbirds, Manfred Mann) through to the out and out hard core traditionalists (John Mayall) with outfits like the Graham Bond Organisation somewhere between the two.

There was, if you struck it lucky, the opportunity to rise to something approaching stardom (a la The Rolling Stones) but for most of the practitioners who were doing it for a living it was a pretty hard slog. That changed towards the end of the decade, as other outfits (most notably Led Zeppelin) followed Cream into the American market, but until that happened we’re talking a niche market that was viable but didn’t pay all that well.

Eric Clapton was, as far as such a beast existed, the only significant name on the circuit who wasn’t an actual bandleader (John Mayall, Graham Bond, Zoot Money, for example) and the whole Clapton is God graffiti bit was kicking off when drummer Ginger Baker approached him to sound him out regarding a new band. Baker, one suspects, was looking for a better share of the gig proceeds than the hired hand wages he’d been getting to date.

Clapton, after stints in The Yardbirds, which he’d left because For Your Love was far too poppy for a blues purist to associate with and John Mayall, where he was just about on co-headline status with the nominal leader, was looking for something interesting and had noted the existence of a rather good bass player in the shape of Jack Bruce, who could also sing and also had his eye on the young Steve Winwood in the vocal and keyboards department.

Guitar, bass, drums and Hammond B3 seemed to be the default blues band lineup, aided and augmented by the odd saxophone if the finances stretched that far.


B© Ian Hughes 2012