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Chicken Shack

+ {Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack} + {Broken Glass} + {Stan Webb}

The British blues boom that transpired from the mid-to-late 60s had more than one feather in its cap (or ‘Mac), so to speak, and the likes of SAVOY BROWN, TEN YEARS AFTER, GROUNDHOGS and, of course, CHICKEN SHACK, kept the genre’s flag flying high. Apart from the groovy guitar fretwork of eccentric singer Stan Webb, the ace up their sleeve was undoubtedly pianist/singer Christine Perfect. When she bailed after leaving behind signature Top 20 hit, `I’d Rather Go Blind’, in order to marry John McVie and consequently team up with aforesaid rivals, FLEETWOOD MAC, the ‘Shack couldn’t sustain fickle fans slipping through their “40 Blue Fingers”.
Formed 1965, in Birmingham, England, blues catalyst Stan Webb (born 3 February 1946, Fulham, London); a veteran of many skiffle acts and R&B bands, including The Shades 5 and Stourbridge-based Sounds Of Blue, roped in bassist Andy Silvester and drummer Alan Morley. The trio adopted their moniker because they rehearsed in a chicken shack on a smallholding owned by Silvester’s parents, and plied their trade at the famous Star Club in Hamburg, before returning home for the 1967 National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor. The addition of said Christine Perfect was not the only personnel change that year, as a succession of drummers, Al Sykes, then Hughie Flint, frequented before the 4-piece settled on Dave Bidwell.
Producer Mike Vernon duly signed the buoyant CHICKEN SHACK to his burgeoning Blue Horizon roster, and dispatched double-A-sided, `It’s Okay With Me Baby’ (“featuring Christine Perfect”) and `When My Left Eye Jumps’ (“featuring Stan Webb”), in the first month of ’68. Neither track featured on the quartet’s slightly-delayed Top 20 debut set, 40 BLUE FINGERS, FRESHLY PACKED AND READY TO SERVE {*8}. The record was balanced between Christine’s songs (`When The Train Comes Back’ and `You Ain’t No Good’), Stan’s `Webbed Feet’ and `What You Did Last Night’, plus covers gleaned from B.B. KING, FREDDIE KING, JOHN LEE HOOKER, LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY and Rudy Toombs.
A sophomore set, OK KEN? {*7}, hit the Top 10 the following February, and saw Webb’s songs take precedence; two alongside Perfect: `Get Like You Used To Be’ and `A Woman Is The Blues’. The man also showed his versatility by uniquely introducing each of the tracks in the voice of a well-known personality: including Harold Wilson, Steptoe & Son, Kenneth Williams and John Peel. Of course, a blues album without a blues cover wouldn’t have been the done deal. Telling them apart from Webb’s originals was the interesting puzzle; among them re-treads of HOWLIN’ WOLF’s `Tell Me’, T-BONE WALKER’s `I Wanna See My Baby’, WALTER JACOBS’ `Mean Old World’ and B.B. KING’s `Sweet Sixteen’.
1969 was indeed a transitional year for CHICKEN SHACK when soon-to-be “NME Best Female Singer of the Year” Christine defected after laying down vocals for their rendition of ETTA JAMES’ `I’d Rather Go Blind’. The decision to replace her with a non-singing keyboard player; Paul Raymond (from PLASTIC PENNY), was probably the group’s commercial downfall; but that came about after another single platter, `Tears In The Wind’, furnished them with their final Top 30 fling. By the year-end, heavyweight parent set 100 TON CHICKEN {*4} was best described as one hell of a turkey.
Penned in its entirety by Webb and Raymond, 1970’s ACCEPT {*5} proved too much for Mike Vernon, who subsequently dropped the band. Nonetheless, they were now showing signs that they could bend a little with these prog-rock times. However, singles `Maudie’ and `Sad Clown’ were hardly going to stop the rot. This change of direction caused friction between band members, and as a result Raymond, Bidwell and, in turn, Silvester, jumped shack to join main rivals SAVOY BROWN.
Undeterred, the dexterous Webb roped in bassist John Glascock (ex-GODS) and drummer Paul Hancox for CHICKEN SHACK’s “comeback” set, IMAGINATION LADY (1972) {*7}. Released on the effervescent and prog/blues-friendly Deram Records, side one was almost exclusively re-treads of B.B. KING, TIM HARDIN and DON NIX numbers (with the exception of `Daughter Of The Hillside’), whilst side two starred other Webb originals `Poor Boy’ and `The Loser’, sandwiched either side of a self-indulgent,11-minute exercise, `Telling Your Fortune’.
As Glascock found solace with prog act CARMEN (and later, JETHRO TULL), his berth was filled by Sydney-born bassist Bob Daisley. The addition of part-timer pianist Tony Ashton (from ASHTON, GARDNER & DYKE) and saxophonist Chris Mercer (ex-JUICY LUCY), “CHICKEN SHACK featuring Stan Webb” were back on track with 1973’s UNLUCKY BOY {*6}. Heavier and eating boogie from HUMBLE PIE’s crusts, `Stan The Man’ – one of the cuts – unveiled fresh originals next to LONNIE JOHNSON’s `Too Late To Cry’, JIMMY McCRACKLIN’s `He Knows The Rules’ and the BIG MAMA THORNTON title piece.
A completely fresh outfit was hatched along with Dave Wilkinson (keyboards), Alan Powell (drums) and Bob Hull (bass); Daisley joined RAINBOW, and this was the line-up that waved er… GOODBYE CHICKEN SHACK (1974) {*5}, from a standpoint of a live at Brunel University gig on 26th October 1973.
Like his former ‘Shack-ites, Webb also succumbed to briefly joining SAVOY BROWN for their 1974 LP, `Boogie Brothers’; incidentally, Alan Powell joined HAWKWIND, Hull joined MUNGO JERRY, and Wilkinson joined STRETCH.
Stan became increasingly restless, and in the process formed BROKEN GLASS, a one-off outfit that comprised Robbie Blunt (guitar/slide guitar), Rob Rawlinson (bass) and Mac Poole (drums); with the help from top-notch guitarist Miller Anderson and keyboard work from the aforementioned Tony Ashton. Lying somewhere between a hard-rock and a blues place, Capitol Records dispatched their eponymous BROKEN GLASS (1975) {*6} set without much fuss; pick of the bunch: `It’s Evil’ and single `Keep Your Love’.
As sure as eggs is eggs (no pun intended), STAN WEBB’S CHICKEN SHACK rolled away the blues by roping in the aforesaid Robbie Blunt (ex-SILVERHEAD), bassist Paul Martinez (from PAICE ASHTON LORD), saxophonist Dave Winthrop (ex-SUPERTRAMP), and drummer Ed Spevock, for the Germany-only/Tony Ashton-produced LP, THE CREEPER (1978) {*5}.
Steve York was the substitute for Martinez on 1979’s THAT’S THE WAY WE ARE (1979) {*6}, however with an abundance of new wave of acts on the scene, the ‘Shack were up against the proverbial wall.
Enlisting another batch of recruits – by way of guitarist Paul Butler, bassist Alan Scott, drummer Ric Lee, and now “official” keyboardist Tony Ashton – the live ROADIES CONCERTO (1981) {*6} brought home to roost why Stan the man was rated so highly by his peers.
The next line-up of STAN WEBB’s CHICKEN SHACK trustees: David “Wilkey” Wilkinson (keyboards), Jan Campbell (bass), David Winthrop (saxophone) and John Gunsell (drums), were in place for 39 BARS (1986) {*5} – featuring Pete Haycock (leader of CLIMAX BLUES BAND), whilst 1989’s SIMPLY LIVE {*6} saw Gunsell move aside for Bev Smith; Campbell move aside for both Dave Wintour (ex-STEALERS WHEEL) and rhythm guitarist Gary Davies.
As it turned out, CHANGES (1991) {*6}, produced only one major personnel “change”, and that came through James Morgan side-lining Wintour. By 1993’s PLUCKING GOOD {*6}, the whole thing seemed a little confusing for the innocent passer-by. No matter who was in tow, the guitarist’s group still managed to stay grounded through sets such as WEBB’S BLUES (1994) {*6} and STAN “THE MAN” LIVE (1995) {*6}, before the inevitable STAN WEBB flourish of solo sets: BLACK NIGHT (1997) {*5} and WEBB (2001) {*6}. In the interim, bassist Jim Rudge became a long-standing member; stalwart drummer Mick Jones was added in 2002.
STAN WEBB’s CHICKEN SHACK were still hot to trot in 2004 with the release of fresh concert album, STILL LIVE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS {*6}, whilst the original group name was lobbied again for follow-up, I’D RATHER GO LIVE (2006) {*6}; the latter a recording from 2004 that has since been re-titled “Stan’s Blues”. The present line-up, as of 2019, comprises Webb, Davies, Rudge and the odd drummer; short-term Romek Parol having bailed in 2013.
© MC Strong 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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