John Mayall has been keeping the blues alive for more than 50 years. He will perform at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater on June 25. Image courtesy the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Blues singer and songwriter John Mayall has honed his music craft for 70 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

He will bring his band of Texas and Chicago musicians, with Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and Jay Davenport on drums, to play an intimate concert at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, June 25 as part of the Tobin Studio Sessions.

The show will begin at 8 p.m. and take place inside the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater. General admission tickets cost $49.50 and VIP tickets are $75, which include seating in the first two rows.

To buy tickets, call 210-223-8624, visit the Tobin Center website here, or stop by the Tobin Center Box Office, located at 100 Auditorium Circle, which is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Born in Cheshire, England in 1933, Mayall inherited an interest in jazz, blues, and boogie-woogie from his father, Murray Mayall, who played trombone and guitar and collected old brittle 78 RPM records from the United States. Listening to a variety of American bluesmen paid off for Mayall, who plays the guitar, piano, organ, and harmonica.

“I’ve been making music since I was 12 or 13,” Mayall told the Rivard Report during a recent phone interview. As far as major music influences in his life, he said, “there’s too many to discuss.”

While British youth subcultures Mods and Rockers battled each other for supremacy in the early 1960s British musical landscape, Mayall stood apart.

“I was neither,” he said.

The list of musicians who have performed with Mayall reads like a who’s who of the blues. More than 50 years ago, a young Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds to join up with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Buddy Guy Otis Rush, Albert Collins, Albert King, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and hundreds of other legends also have shared the stage with Mayall, who is humble about his numerous, noteworthy collaborations.

Many purists believe blues music originated from Mississippi. But San Antonio’s Sheraton Gunter Hotel was the recording site for early blues pioneer Robert Johnson‘s first songs back in 1936. Mayall regrets that he will not be able to pay homage to the site, just blocks from the Tobin Center, during his visit next week.

“I don’t think we can do it,” he said. “We travel around so fast.”

Mayall was honored by the Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for making a lasting contribution to the arts. More recently, he was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, along with Elvin Bishop, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson by a group of blues scholars and industry veterans.

“It was a great honor,” Mayall said.

From the Bay Area to the British Isles, from the backwaters of the Mississippi Delta to the back streets of Chicago, the blues are universal. Mayall said the biggest fans of the blues can be found “anywhere we are booked to play.”

The musical genre not only changes from one location to another, he said, it changes over time.

“Blues is a universal medium,” Mayall said. “It’s a testament to what’s going on. It’s always contemporary.”

Mayall has produced more than 100 albums, but for someone new to his music, he’d recommend listening to his latest album, he said. Mayall’s love for playing the blues is something he wants to share with his fans. On the liner notes of his album, Crusade, in 1967, Mayall conveyed this idea by writing: “I have dedicated my life to the blues…I hope you’ll join forces with me.”

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Top image: John Mayall has been keeping the blues alive for more than 50 years. He will perform at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater on June 25. Image courtesy the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. 

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Don Mathis

Don’s life revolves around the many poetry circles in San Antonio. His poems have been published in many anthologies and periodicals and broadcasted on local TV and national radio. In addition to poetry,...