Howlin Wolf and Freddie King

Roy Tempest's incredible gig that never was

Well, sort of......

Now there'll be some of you out there who are thinking you've obviously lost it because you were at the gig in 1969 but can't for the life of you remember seeing Howlin' Wolf.

That's because he wasn't there. Mick Clarke of Killing Floor says that he was never actually booked but that promoter Roy Tempest "never let reality get in the way of advertising a good tour".

Obviously. Not only did the main act not appear but the rest of the ad is a bit suspect as well, take for example the All-American bit. Killing Floor and John Dummer's band were British.

 

Howlin Wolf and Freddie King Advert

Howlin Wolf and Freddie King Advert

 

Howlin' Wolf was too exhausted to appear

Dunstable Gazette 6 June 1969

Despite the absence of Howlin' Wolf and John Dummer at the California last week, the evening was a success.

Between them Freddie King and Killing Floor tore the house apart. Killing Floor opened the show with a set which was far too loud for anyone to appreciate. But then the King came on.

Right from the first number, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. He tortured his guitar into producing sounds I didn't think were capable of coming from strings. Surprisingly, Killing Floor toned right down while backing him and except for a few whines, Freddie came over with great clarity.

Only after the audience had been persuaded that Freddie had another gig following would they let him off the stage, but we didn't know that even better was to come.

Howlin Wolf news report

News report of the gig

Wolf was supposed to play the next sets with John Dummer, but various conflicting rumours spread around the hall, saying he would or would not be playing. In the end, the rumour with the most following was that Wolf had collapsed after a gig in London. I later found out that Wolf was physically exhausted by his British tour and as he had three dates left, he decided to miss one out. The "Cali" happened to be the unlucky one. Wolf instead went straight to Manchester.

Killing Floor played another set, again too loud, but this time gaining a more enthusiastic reaction. The first half had been incredible, but it was nothing to what was to come in Freddie's second set. His guitar work was so superb that it made Clapton's look like the first lesson in the Bert Weedon Guitar Primer.

Most people would have been quite happy to listen until the proposed finish at 2 a.m., but Freddie was already an hour late for his next date and the show closed down just after midnight.

I was rather disappointed with the size of the crowd. There was room for a lot more people. It was a tremendous evening which makes British so-called blues look very anaemic. It will be many years before the British scene gets anything remotely similar to this standard.