Years: 1960s - 1980s
Styles: Blues Rock, Jazz Rock, Progressive Rock, Rhythm and Blues
Keef Hartley - Drums
Jess Roden - Vocals
Junior Marvin - Guitar, Vocals
Jean Rouselle - Keyboards
Mick Weaver - Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer
Phil Chen - Bass Guitar
Elkie Brooks - Backing vocals
Robert Palmer - Vocals
A Lancashire lad from birth, Keith Hartley adopted more of a ‘London’ spin on his given name as he enjoyed acclaim during the sixties and seventies. In 1963, Hartley experienced good fortune when Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) left beat group Rory Storm & The Hurricanes in order to join The Beatles: Hartley was Starr’s replacement on drums.
Although Storm’s band weren’t to reach the heights of some of their rival Merseybeat combos, he used the experience as a platform upon which to build a decent career in the UK music scene. The genial percussionist played behind John Mayall and also with The Artwoods before forming his own Keef Hartley Band - a group that earned musical (and celluloid) immortality by playing at Woodstock in 1969.
The KHB released five studio albums up until 1972 (beginning with that year’s Halfbreed), all of which sold moderately well in the US. Only The Time is Near (1970) flirted with the UK Top Forty. Adopting the ‘Big’ identity, Hartley’s group continued to prove a box-office hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
After the band’s split, Hartley issued his own solo recording - 1973’s Lancashire Hustler - an album that also featured several other names soon to make it big, such as Jess Roden (vocals), plus Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks, formerly of Vinegar Joe. (Two years later, the drummer recorded with the lesser-received band Dog Soldier.) Hartley had a lower profile during the eighties and nineties, but revamped his Big Band with a new line-up in the millennium, the group issuing their first album in over three decades, Not Foolish, Not Wise (2003).
Keef Hartley - who four years earlier had published a rollicking autobiography entitled Halfbreed (A Rock & Roll Journey That Happened Against All the Odds) - died on 26 November 2011 following surgery at a Preston hospital.
The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars - Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, page: 668
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