MEETING MISTER MAYALL
1970, Alexandria, Virginia: John Mayal-- Godfather of the British Blues-- was then dating a young woman named Nancy Throckmorton. Her younger brother taught me to play the guitar, and we went thru a couple of garage bands together as kids. Nancy has photo credits for some of John's album pics; she and her sister did backup vocals on his song "Deep Blue Sea". Her family and ours were old friends, and they lived next door to us at the time, in a brick townhouse development. The building had a long, common basement area that each unit opened into. We each had doorways downstairs that let onto this space, which sort of connected all of us neighbors via the shared hallway. So, John is touring the est coast at the time, and he and Nancy stop in Alexandria, Virginia to visit her mom. While in the area, they shop at a local antique emporium/flea market, and Nancy admires a little vintage table, which John later buys for her, surreptitiously. He arranges delivery to her mom's house, and conspires with my mother to store it in my basement bedroom, so as to surprise Nancy with it later on. He sneaks downstairs at her mom's place, tiptoes out their basement door and slips into *our* basement, to clean and polish the table for her.
John Mayall and Nancy Throckmorton, 1970
Knowing NOTHING of this particular arrangement, I come home from a tedious day at school, grab a soda in the kitchen, and descend the stairs to my room-- a teenage kid's haven with a mattress on the floor, a scrap of old carpet, some black light posters, some bookshelves and a fish tank. I am dimly aware of an unusual odor coming from downstairs, and can't make out what it is.
Looking for nothing more than a chance to kick off my shoes and relax, I step off the staircase and am greeted with the sight of JOHN MAYALL (for God's sake!) in a T-shirt and jeans, crouched over some strange, small table, furiously scrubbing at it with a cloth. The smell was the furniture polish he was using. "Oh, hello there! How do you do? My name's John! I hope you don't mind, but your Mum allowed me to use your room so I could brighten up this little table for Nancy. It's a surprise for her, do you see? How are you? You must be Jef., yes?"
I think I made the equivalent noise to "Homina, homina, homina..." as I tried to absorb what was happening. One of my all time musical heroes was in my room, polishing furniture and offering me a handshake. YOW! Well, I managed to retain sphincter control, and some sense of composure, shook his hand, and even helped him polish the table. He was very friendly, amusing, and quite grateful to me for giving him space to complete his task. An altogether charming fellow, and I was delighted to make his acquaintance.
I was in near-paralytic awe as I tried not to behave in gushing, idiotic, fan-boy fashion, but John was completely gracious. I saw him a couple more times while they were there during that visit, and I have always treasured the unique memory of a couple of guys inhaling oil soap fumes and chatting about blues and furniture. Nancy loved the table, and I got to tell this little story! (Hiya, John-- should you happen to stumble across this page on Facebook!)
Nice guy John receives the OBE (Officer of the
Most Excellent Order of the British Empire),
2005. Nothing at all to do with polishing furniture
or being very nice to an impressionable kid.
He's still touring at age 85, as of this writing.