The Early Years of Peter Green/ "A Hard Road" with John Mayall

Robert Russell By Robert Russell, 18th Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Music History

Peter Green is one British guitar giants that emerged in the 1960s. He stepped into the spotlight when he was selected by John Mayall to replace Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers. Mike Vernon, who was the Mayall's producer, was shocked that Clapton wasn't at the session. Mayall informed Vernon that Green was just as good and would eventually be better than Clapton. "A Hard Road" is the album that put Green on the map.

History and Background

When Mayall chose Green in 1966 to replace Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers, the choice was met with doubt and skepticism. Mike Vernon was not the only one to be surprised and skeptical. Clapton already have numerous fans at this early point of his career.. Clapton's legend began after he recorded the Beano album with Mayall. Clapton's Les Paul and cranked up Marshall, his aggressive playing and vibrato initiated a new era in rock guitar. Clapton's playing made everyone stand up and take notice and this is the time that the infamous Clapton is God graffiti began appearing around London. Clapton's performances with the Bluesbreakers, as well as the album, secured Clapton's reputation as best guitarist in England. Anyone selected take Clapton's slot in the Bluesbreakers would have encountered the same skepticism that Green encountere

A Hard Road was recorded in four days, October 11th, 12th, 19th, and 24th, 1966. When the album was released, Green's own prowess as a blues guitarist began to rival Clapton. B.B King, in fact, famously said: "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats." Clapton always had respect for Green's playing. One of Green's first band's prior to the Bluesbreakers was Bobbie Denim and the Dominoes. Clapton paid homage to Green by naming his post-Cream band Derek and the Dominoes.

Green played with Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for slightly less than a year before leaving to form Fleetwood Mac with John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Jeremy Spencer in 1967. The original Fleetwood Mac were heavily steeped in the blues and Green's work with the band secured his reputation as a British guitar giant. Unfortunately, Green's promise and potential was cut shot by severe mental illness. Green experienced several bouts of mental illness which sidelined him for years. He as emerged periodically from time to time to resume his career. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

The "Hard Road" Album

A Hard Road consists of fourteen songs. The structure of the album is similar to the Beano album that featured Clapton. Mayall handles the vocals, keyboards, harmonica and plays slide guitar on a couple of numbers. John McVie played bass on the Beano album and handles the bass guitar duties the Hard Road album as well. In addition to Peter Green, who replaced Clapton, Aynsley Dunbar replaces Hughie Flint on drums.

The album features two Freddie King songs. The first song is an instrumental called The Stumble and this is the fourth song on the record and it is the song that made listeners, in 1967, realize that Green was staking his claim on Clapton's territory. The Stumble is similar in feel and attitude to Clapton's version of the Freddie King instrumental Hideaway that he recorded on the Beano album. Someday After A While is the other Freddie King number. It is a slow blues with Green playing very Clapton-like licks on his Les Paul. Hit the Highway is a duo between Mayall on vocals and piano and Green on guitar. Mayall and Clapton played a couple of piano/guitar duos as well. The highlight of the album is The Super-Natural which is an instrumental composed by Green. Santana fans will easily recognized the debt the Carlos owes to Peter Green's guitar style and tone when they listen to this tune.

In addition already mentioned songs, A Hard Road contains an interesting assortment of songs ranging from blues shuffles, to slow blues, to more soul like tunes. Green's guitar isn't up front on every tune but this, in fact is a hallmark of his style. Green's rhythm accompaniment is as skillful and tasty as his lead guitar work. He is very much a team player on this album as he was on the Fleetwood Mac records. His guitar blazes on certain songs while hanging back and making interesting musical interjections and comments on the other songs.


Electric Blues Guitar, Eric Clapton, John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, Peter Green

Meet the author

author avatar Robert Russell
I play guitar professionally in a Cajun/zydeco band named Creole Stomp. We are a nationally touring band that have been together ten years. I also have a PhD in philosophy.

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