MEETING MISTER MAYALL (2015)
(From a Facebook post)
1970, Alexandria, Virginia: John Mayall-- Godfather of the British Blues; his band, The Bluesbreakers, gave many excellent young musicians their starts-- was then dating a young woman named Nancy Throckmorton. Her younger brother, Peter, taught me to play the guitar, and we went thru a few garage bands together as kids. My love of, and attraction to, rock and roll and the blues began with Peter's patient instruction as I haltingly began learning to play the guitar. It continues to this day, and opened the door to a lifetime of musical appreciation.
Nancy Throckmorton has photo credits for some of John's album pics, and she and her sister Patty sang the backup vocals on his song "Deep Blue Sea". Her family and ours were old friends, and they lived next door to us at that time, in Fairlington, 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, and it connected us all via the shared hallway.
So, John is touring the east 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-- Thieves Market-- and Nancy admires a little vintage table, which John later buys for her, surreptitiously. He arranges for it to be delivered 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 next door at Nancy's mom's place, tiptoes out their basement door and slips into our basement, to clean and polish the table for her.
John Mayall with 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 smell wafting up from downstairs, but I 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, ornate 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 I bought for Nancy. It's a surprise for her, do you see? How are you? You must be Jef., yes? So nice to meet you! "
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 a piece of 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. He was an altogether charming fellow, and I was delighted to make his acquaintance. (Like, I'm going to kick him out..?)
I was in near-paralytic awe as I tried not to behave in gushing, idiotic, fan-boy fashion, but John was completely gracious-- and probably used to such reactions from young, star-struck fans. 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 happily about blues and furniture. Nancy absolutely loved the table (wonder if she still has it?), 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 81, as of this writing.