Merseyside is revered for its music and in recent years we’ve seen a real surge in quality bands coming through. La Vida Liverpool Bands is a series that brings you the best local bands — from ones you may know to up and coming ones to watch out for. If you’re looking to discover a new band and find out about more about them such as their biography, music videos and gig details, then check out La Vida Liverpool Bands as we introduce you to the best bands Merseyside has to offer. In this piece, we focus on The Head Hunters Blues Band.
Formed in late 2015, The Head Hunters Blues Band have quickly become a hugely respected blues band on the Liverpool club scene with a no compromise attitude of playing “nothin’ but killer blues”. The immensely talented band have gained high praise from former Beatle, Pete Best, who said the band took him back to his youth. Recently the band were joined onstage by Albie Donnely of Supercharge and Ian McNabb of Icicle Works fame. David Fishel, Jazz MC and Mersey Radio presenter said “The Head Hunters are not only the best blues band in Liverpool, they’re the best in the country — it won’t take too long for the rest of the country to figure that out”.
Further praise has come from Jim Gilespie of the Potteries Blues Club, stating: “This is now a really top blues band, certainly amongst the top ten in the UK, who are moving to a different level and firing so smoothly & easy on all five cylinders.” Muddy Waters’ social media platforms recently shared the bands version of “Got My Mojo Workin”, suggesting followers check the band out.
A comprehensive tour of the UK in February saw the band play to a standing room only audience at Blues Bar Tring, joined onstage by keys player G Lewis of Paul Rodgers band, Free and Bad Company, and by guitar player Aaron Keylock. In June the band embarked on another tour of the UK, the “Back From The Delta Tour”. This run saw The Head Hunters Blues Band rework songs from the delta, artists such as Tampa Red, Little Hat Jones, Blind Willie Johnson, Tommy Mcclennan and more, reworked to an electric sound, sticking to the bands Chicago roots with plans to record in the autumn of 2018 and tour early 2019.
La Vida Liverpool caught up with lead singer and harmonica player, Jonnie Hodson, to find out more:
LVL: So what have you been up to lately?
Jonnie: Well more recently we’ve been in and out of rehearsal rooms, which isn’t like us at all, we never really rehearse! We’re doing some pre production for an album me and Big Bill have been talking about for nearly a decade haha. We’ve toured twice this year, both runs where a blast we got some of the lower key festivals under our belt over the summer too.
LVL: How did you guys form? Are you all local guys?
Jonnie: The band started with a totally different line up, almost out of necessity I pulled a band together when Heebie Jeebies asked me to put a blues night on. I’d been in a band with Big Bill years before, and I wanted him and Bob Johnson in the same band since I’d met Bob, B.B. finally came down for a jam, I thought he was going to get up and play a couple of songs from the set, but him being him, he played the entire show. He did that for three weeks, then I felt like I had to pay him and he joined haha.
Then we went about putting the band together, Danny was the man we wanted on drums that we’d known from a previous band and the other two lads slotted into place. I gotta say very impressively too, Johny Wish came down, I met him, he played the set and we invited him to join, the same thing with Back Jack Scully, no rehearsal, just a live show. Doesn’t get better than that, flying by the seat of your pants! But that’s the acid test I guess, that’s the blues!
LVL: Who are your main inspirations?
Jonnie: Well, Muddy Waters is our main man that we hold high on a pedistal, Fathers & Sons is our Bible. But we draw from pretty much everyone in the blues I’d say. Big Bill is a big B.B. King fan, which is hugely evident in his playing, but he’s big on Hubert Sumlin and he plays slide like the love child of Derek Trucks and Elmore James. I guess like me, he takes from everyone.
I’m totally in love with Tommy McClennan at the moment, his voice is killer and his energy really come through on the records. He’s way back in the delta, the more modern stuff from Chicago in the 50s and 60s, I’d say Muddy, Sonny Boys voice and harp playing, Elmores voice, John Lee Hooker, Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Little Walter… I love them all haha. It’s an interesting thing with the blues I think, most blues fans you meet have a love for all of the artists, I think it might be one of the only genres of music where people have that.
LVL: How would you describe yourself as a band?
Jonnie: It’s feel I think, and a love for the music, there’s songs that on a night where the audience is more mellow, we’ll play the song that way, but that same song with an audience who wants to dance we’ll play with more energy, it’s all about feeling the room. Not to sound too hippy but it’s all about the audience, almost like everyone is in it together and the audience is the 6th member. That does sound hippy… true though!
LVL: What’s it like going on tour around the UK? What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
Jonnie: It’s great, I have to say there’s fewer better feelings than being on the road with your gang, turning up to a venue and playing music you love to an audience who wants to feel it too. This band is a pleasure to tour with and I have to say, we’re really starting to stack up the service stations we’ve seen too haha. We’ve thought about doing a blog about them so watch this space haha.
As for the best gig, there’s a bunch that stick out for different reasons, Tring Blues Bar was fantastic, standing room only at a place we’d never been to before. Kash 22 is always great, I love Stanleys Cask too and we’ve had some cracking nights in the Jacaranda. Harrogate Blues Bar was wicked. There’s been a lot of good ones. Looking forward to more!
LVL: Have you toured the U.S yet? Do you plan to? What are your plans for 2019 and the future?
Jonnie: We haven’t been to the states, Lord have mercy we’d love to. Just one show in Chicago would do it, one in Rolling Fork Mississippi and I’d be happy haha. For 2019 we’ll be putting out a record, we’re heading back to some of the forgotten or lesser covered delta blues artists and reworking their music to how we’d imagine a Chicago band would play it.
It has been an incredible process so far, working with lyrics and music, nearly 100 years old. Me and B.B. have listened to hours of material from the delta, which has been fantastic, narrowing it down to twenty tracks to rework has been the difficult bit, “Back From The Delta” will hopefully be out early in the year then we’ll be hitting the road…. I can’t wait! It’s an interesting thing being in a blues band, it falls strangely in between a covers band and an original band, the music is there, but it’s more of guidelines.
LVL: Where can we catch you guys locally?
Jonnie: We play Hannah’s Bar every Wednesday, 10-2, so if you’re a night owl or off work on Thursday come down and shake what ya momma gave ya! We’ll also be taking up a month residency in Evil Eye Beer and Burrito shack in December every Thursday, 8 o’clock I think we start. Beer, Burito and blues sounds like a killer combo to me haha!
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