The Front Room Blues Band


The Front Room Blues Band (FRBB) was formed in the late 60s in Kendal Cumbria at the time of the British blues boom. Originally christened "The Front Room" by inspirational bass guitarist Michael Jones, who took the name from a Brother Jack McDuff album "Live at the Front Room". The band`s style and line up was originally based on the Paul Butterfield Blues Band from Chicago.. Their version of Nick Gravenites "Born in Chicago" kicked it all off for the Kendal lads who quickly adapted their name to avoid confusion for the punters.

The original line up was, Peter Day ( vocals and harmonica ), Michael Jones ( bass guitar), Chris Malkin ( drums ), Tony Porter ( Guitar ) and Howard Stevens ( guitar ). They practiced in a cellar in Highgate Kendal before unleashing themselves on an unsuspecting public in ale taverns and public halls, primarily in South Cumbria. The band later was augmented by Peter Major on Hammond organ and their style changed perceptibly to become a little more soul orientated. Swirling Hammond tones roaring through Lesley speakers now underpinned the up until then predominant dual guitar/harp sound giving the FRBB more diversity but without sacrificing their basic love of the blues.

Mike Jones had by now switched places with Howard Stevens and shortly after Chris Malkin left the band to be replaced by ex Hellions drummer Alan Steadman. Further shuffling of the pack then saw Roger Newby fill the bass guitar spot as Howard Stevens took his leave. The band began to realise that perhaps the FRBB had run it's course and disintegration was not far away. A dismal gig at Millom Public Hall was the nadir for the band but two weeks later at the Tow Bar Inn, near Whitehaven, they hit the heights again with two blistering sets in front of a capacity crowd. Shortly after, the group folded as Tony Porter emigrated to New Zealand and the restless Mike Jones moved to London where he continued in the music scene as a session musician until his untimely death in 1983, at the age of 36.The other members also continued to play music around Kendal in various formats and styles.

On Saturday 12th September 1988, in order to welcome Tony Porter, who had missed decent beer, home from New Zealand, a reunion gig took place at the Sawyers Arms pub in Kendal. At this rather shambolic affair, founder members Day, Malkin and Porter were joined on stage, among others, by bassist Steve Edgar, and guitarists Neil Tatum and Alan Wildridge who were now to become established band members of the new Front Room Blues Band. Gigging re-commenced after fast and furious practice and the introduction of many new numbers which re-established the band`s original style and direction. Peter Day was by now living in Newcastle upon Tyne but as gigs were fairly infrequent he made the 200 mile round trip just for the hell of it. Tony Porter declined to actively continue playing but he has taken over the role of chief mentor and is always on stage in spirit.

You might still catch the Front Room Blues Band in or around Kendal, most recently at the Rainbow Tavern. Go and buy them a beer. They deserve it for staying the course.

 

Many thanks to Chris Malkin
for the photo and Pete Day for the writeup