Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FEATURE - Back to the Shack: Bob Daisley Revisits the Blues

Bob Daisley and Stan Webb of Chicken Shack, 1974 (courtesy of

For nearly 50 years, renowned Australian bassist Bob Daisley has added his playing and/or songwriting talents to some of biggest names in Hard Rock/Metal history. In addition to Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, The Hoochie Coochie Men and many others, Daisley spent time in the incomparable Chicken Shack, the British Blues institution led by guitarist/singer Stan Webb. Forty years after last performing on stage with the group, Daisley recently released Live In Germany '75, a breathtaking CD document of a band at the peak of their powers. Daisley and Webb are joined in this particular version of Chicken Shack by drummer Bob Clouter and future Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt. Limited to 1,000 copies, the CD can be purchased on Amazon US and UK and directly from

In addition to serving as a musical snapshot of an intriguing era in Chicken Shack's long history, Live In Germany '75 boasts exceptionally clear sound – especially considering that the source tape is four decades old. As far as Daisley can remember, the show was recorded off the board.

I have lots of cassettes tapes, and that one said, 'Chicken Shack gig, 1975 Germany,' he shares. “I don't know where it was recorded... It was good, clear sound on it; the separation is really good. I was pleased with the sound quality. I did a little bit of editing on it, plus mastering it helps, but it was good quality for live.”

Not only was it a rarity for a Chicken Shack gig to be recorded at all in those days, but Live In Germany '75 represents the most complete Chicken Shack recording in Daisley's personal archives.

I played the tape and thought, 'Shit. People should hear this,' he says. “I'm proud of this; this is some good playing. I'm probably the only one who has a tape of that show. It should be heard. I didn't want to eventually go to my grave and think, 'Nobody's going to hear that.'”

The show itself was performed during an off night while Chicken Shack was touring with Deep Purple, who were on the road supporting their 1974 album, Stormbringer.

Chicken Shack was quite a big name in Germany, France and around Europe, and we were second on the bill to Deep Purple,” Daisley recalls. “We did something like an hour before Deep Purple, but when we did our own gigs in between nights at a club, that was obviously a longer show because it was just our gig. But in those days, February and March '75, bands kind of jammed. You didn't just do a song; you did the song structure, but you jammed within it. The songs that are on the album are the basic set that we did, but the songs would vary each time we played them. One song would be eight minutes one night and 12 minutes the next night, depending on what was going on between us on stage. That's how it was back in those days; everybody used to do it unless you were just an out-and-out Pop band reproducing your Pop singles on stage. But most of the heavy Rock or Blues bands did variations of their songs.”

All it takes is one listen to Live In Germany '75 to know that the band was absolutely on fire in those days.

As Daisley says, “We had a nice little rapport going on between us; it was good communication. There's some nice light and shade and just having fun within the song. I thought this Chicken Shack lineup really worked well. There was a nice camaraderie within the band; we got on well together and had such a good laugh touring around Europe. I think because we got on so well together and we could have a good laugh, the enjoyment comes out in the music.”

While things were going incredibly well within Chicken Shack at the time, the scene was not so stable for tour mates Deep Purple.

It was around the time when [guitarist] Ritchie [Blackmore] was becoming discontented,” Daisley observes. “He wanted to leave and form his own band. That didn't come across on stage, although Ritchie could be a little moody or a little difficult in his own way...I heard through the grapevine that it was because [then-Purple bassist] Glenn Hughes was very into drugs, and Ritchie was not like that. He didn't suffer people like that. Plus the direction of Purple was going away from what Ritchie wanted to do. He wanted to do hard, heavy Rock that was influenced by Classical music. It was Jon Lord and Ritchie who gave Purple their Classical influence with the heavy Rock, which was a great thing. Glenn Hughes was very into Soul and Funk and Stevie Wonder and all that stuff, and that was pushing the flavor of the band from what Ritchie wanted to do, which is why he said, 'Okay, you get on with it. I'm off; see ya.'”

Of course, Blackmore didn't leave Purple until finding a powerful vocalist to front his new endeavor. Those shoes were filled by Ronnie James Dio, whose band Elf opened the Deep Purple/Chicken Shack tour. Dio and fellow Elf members Mickey Lee Soule (keyboards), Gary Driscoll (drums) and Craig Gruber (bass) were soon selected by Blackmore to complete the first lineup of Rainbow. Interestingly, Daisley would join Rainbow himself two years later.

The funny thing is that there was Ritchie, Ronnie Dio and myself all on the same bill and the same show on the Deep Purple tour, and we all ended up in Rainbow together a couple of years later,” he says.

Live In Germany '75 showcases Daisley's second stint with Webb's Blues music machine. Looking to break into the big leagues, Daisley originally accepted an offer to join Chicken Shack on February 13, 1972 - his 22nd birthday.

It was kind of a big deal for me to join a name band and get on the scene that way,” he remembers. “It was very helpful to my career. I have a lot to thank Stan for.”

Formed in the mid '60s, Chicken Shack first gained popularity in the UK with an early incarnation fronted by singer/keyboardist Christine Perfect, later known to international audiences as Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. By the time Daisley joined the band, Webb had earned a reputation as a brilliantly gifted Blues player.

Stan knew what he was doing with Blues,” offers the bassist. “I learned a lot from him; he was very knowledgable about Blues and its history, plus artists I'd never heard of. He had a huge record collection with a lot of 78s of old Blues stuff. I was soaking that up like a sponge.”

Daisley would appear with Chicken Shack (then featuring drummer Paul Hancox and augmented by pianist Tony Ashton and saxophonist Chris Mercer) on the classic 1973 album, Unlucky Boy, a scorching Blues Rock Rock collection that has stood the test of time. The album is perhaps best known for the gorgeous, string-heavy ballad “As Time Goes Passing By.”

That was the only song off that album that got some airplay,” recalls Daisley. “I remember being with Stan somewhere when that album came out, and the song came on the radio. It was a great feeling.”

Of course, Unlucky Boy is also remembered for its infamous cover, which features a smiling Webb surrounded by a crowd of music industry types (and, for reasons Daisley can't quite recall, a little person). On the back cover, a now-forlorn Webb is left sitting at the desk with only the cleaning lady there to pay give him any attention.

That was our roadie, Phil Carlo, on the front cover with the denim shirt,” Daisley explains. “The idea of the cover is kind of like, here's the star roadie, the big name record company guy, the manager... the picture of success. And then on the back, [there's] Stan with the cleaning lady; he's the real unlucky boy... he didn't quite get there!” (laughs)

Despite being involved with such a strong album, Daisley soon departed Chicken Shack to explore other opportunities. But after an 18-month stint with Mungo Jerry (best remembered today for their colossal 1970 hit, “In The Summertime”), he was invited back into Webb's world for a new band initially called Stan Webb's Broken Glass. By the time the band hit the road with Deep Purple and Elf, they had been re-christened Chicken Shack.

Although he greatly enjoyed his time with Webb and the rest of Chicken Shack, Daisley decided in late 1975 to leave the band for good.

I had no problems with being in Chicken Shack,” he offers. “It was enjoyable, but I did want to get on more, if you know what I mean. I think that lineup of Chicken Shack deserved better. We didn't have a record label at that stage, the management was floundering a bit and I just didn't think it was being handled right. I loved the band; I loved Stan, Robbie and Bob. We got on great together, but I was looking to expand my horizons.”

Fortunately, Daisley was not out of a steady gig for very long.

As he tells it, “One night, I was actually out with Phil Carlo in a pub in London in King's Road called the Roebuck. That night, there was Luther Grosvenor; his stage name was Ariel Bender. He was Luther Grosvenor in Spooky Tooth and 'Ariel Bender' in Mott the Hoople. Phil introduced me to him, and we got chatting. He said, 'I'm putting a new band together.' He ended up coming 'round to Phil's, and we talked further. I said, 'Let’s hear some of the stuff you've got.' He had a drummer called Paul Nichols at the time. He'd come out of a band called Lindisfarne; they had some big hits as well. Paul, Luther and I had a little meeting and a little talk, and there was a bit of a chemistry there. We were going to be just a trio at first, with Luther playing guitar and singing lead, but it didn't quite come off as well as it should have or could have. We thought, 'Let's get serious and we'll get an out-front lead singer.' We asked around and we got in contact with Steve Elis, who was a good singer. He had been in a band called Love Affair, who had a big hit with a song called 'Everlasting Love.' Steve Ellis brought in Huw Lloyd-Langton from Hawkwind on guitar as well. That was the beginning of Widowmaker.”

Widowmaker's tumultuous two-year run – as well as Daisley's subsequent career with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Uriah Heep, Gary Moore and a host of others – is chronicled in depth in his extraordinary 2013 autobiography, For Facts Sake. As previously discussed on this site, the 325-page book (which also features a slew of great Chicken Shack stories) is one of the most fascinating and in-depth Rock tomes ever published. Nearly two years after the book's release, Daisley continues to be blown away by the tremendous response it has received from fans around the world.

People really love it,” he says. “I get so many comments coming through my professional Facebook page and my website; people are just raving about it. They say, 'God, I've read a lot of Rock autobiographies, and this one's the best I've ever read.' If you go into Amazon US or UK at look at the reviews on the book, people have taken the time and trouble to write that they love it. Some of [the reviews] are extensive, where people talk about the whole thing and just rave about it. I'm so pleased with that, because you don't know... When you write a book, you think, 'People could hate this' or just not bother with it. But people are just raving about it. It's really, really satisfying for me to read all those comments and reviews. I had one bloke write in to the website and say, 'I hardly got any sleep for the last four nights reading your book. I could not put it down – and my wife's pissed off at me because I kept her awake laughing!”

While Dailey went on to enjoy a long and celebrated career, Webb continued his work as one of the world's foremost Blues guitarists and performs under the Chicken Shack banner to this day. Daisley remains incredibly proud of his musical experience and long-running friendship with this one-of-a-kind man and player.

The names 'Chicken Shack' and 'Stan Webb' have reached legendary status,” he says. “It's good to see Stan still out there and still doing it. It's an honor for me to have been a part of that; at the time, we had commercial success, but not in a commercial way as far as having hit singles and all that. We had a following and Stan was great on stage and people loved him. Everywhere we played, we brought the house down. There were two, three, sometimes four encores. They just wouldn't let us go sometimes. A lot of it had to do with Stan's personality – not just being a good player and entertaining [the audience] musically, but we'd get on stage sometimes and it would be 20 minutes before we played a note. Stan would be talking to the audience, doing impressions or telling them jokes and clowning about – and they loved him. It gave the band a real unique personality. If you went into a pub with Stan, by the end of the night, he'd chatted up the landlord, the doors were bolted and he'd have a crowd of people around him holding court in a pub he'd never been to before – telling jokes, doing impressions and making people laugh. That's how he was; that was his personality.

Live was where he really cleaned up,” he adds. “Stan was funny and entertaining. People knew that when they went to see Stan Webb with Chicken Shack, they were going to be entertained not just musically, but all around. He was a funny bugger!”


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