Jack Bruce – Bassman Extraordinaire
Video of Jack Bruce with Buddy Guy and Buddy Miles in 1969.
Jack was born to musical parents in the shipbuilding city of Glasgow, Scotland on 14 May 1943. His parents travelled extensively in Canada and the U.S.A. Jack attended 14 different schools, finishing his formal education at Bellahouston Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, to which he won a scholarship for cello and composition. He left the Academy and his homeland at the age of 17, because of poverty and discouraged by his professors’ lack of interest in his ideas.
Jack travelled to Italy and then England, playing double-bass in dance bands and jazz groups, and joined his first important band in 1962 in London. This was Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. with whom Charlie Watts, later to join the Rolling Stones, was drummer. Jack left Alexis in 1963 to form a group with organist Graham Bond, guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Ginger Baker. This group became the seminal Graham Bond Organisation after John left, and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith joined. Jack was compelled to leave this band after three years by Ginger Baker, who said his playing was “too busy”!
Jack had to turn down Marvin Gaye’s offer to join his U.S.-based band because of his impending first marriage. He then joined John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, where he first met Eric Clapton, followed by Manfred Mann in an ill-advised attempt at commercialism. It was Ginger Baker who initially asked Jack to form a trio with Eric Clapton. Eric insisted that Jack be the singer.
Cream went on to sell 35,000,000 albums in just over two years and were awarded the first ever platinum disc for Wheels of Fire. Jack wrote and sang most of the songs, including “I Feel Free”, “White Room”, “Politician” and perhaps the world’s most performed guitar riff, in “Sunshine Of Your Love”. Cream split in November 1968 at the height of their popularity; Jack felt that he had strayed too far from his ideals and wanted to re-discover his musical and social roots.