The British National Jazz Federation launched its annual National Jazz & Blues Festival in 1961. At first concentrating solely on British and American jazz groups, by the mid-1960s the festival was increasingly becoming a showcase for the burgeoning British electric blues scene. By 1967, only one of the five shows scheduled jazz acts at all, with the remaining shows devoted to homegrown blues and blues-rock groups, many of whom are now legendary.
Friday night’s show was headlined by the Small Faces—featuring Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and Kenny Jones—and The Move, who eventually morphed into the Electric Light Orchestra. Saturday afternoon was a showcase for the jazz acts, and the headliners were Al Cohn and Zoot Sims‘ group, plus Yusef Lateef’s edgy band. Singer Jeannie Lamb highlighted a lineup of British jazz stars augmenting the American headliners.
Saturday night’s show was a monster. Pink Floyd—still using an article in front of their name—were the nominal headliners but the Crazy World of Arthur Brown was on the cusp of a short-lived but massively successful period on the charts as well. Pink Floyd wouldn’t hire David Gilmour until later that year, but Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and company had already scored a hit with their very first album earlier that year. Drummer Aynsley Dunbar, recently fired by John Mayall, brought his new band—the aptly-named Retaliaton—and Alvin Lee fronted Ten Years After just as the band was becoming an international success with their mix of modern rock, swing and blues.
Sunday afternoon featured two singer-songwriters: the just-hitting-his peak Donovan (Leitch) and Al Stewart, better known later for his 1976 hit The Year of the Cat, but it was Sunday night’s show that brought out the big guns. Cream—rock’s first “super group” and less than a year old at this juncture—headlined with its lineup of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Jeff Beck, recently departed from the Yardbirds, brought his new group featuring Ron Wood on bass and a little-known new vocalist named Rod Stewart.
The British press had been touting the formation of another blues-rock group almost as much as Cream, and that evening’s show marked the debut of that band, Fleetwood Mac. Years before their 1970s incarnation with Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the band became a huge success with this lineup featuring guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and hits like Black Magic Woman. Rounding out the evening’s entertainment was the band that was the springboard for many British blues musicians, including Clapton, Green, Dunbar, Harvey Mandel and countless others, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Mayall’s band at this point featured guitarist Mick Taylor, a couple of years before he joined another British blues act, the Rolling Stones.
These early festivals eventually evolved into the Reading Festival, an annual rock festival that continues to this day. This 1967 show, perhaps little-remembered today, certainly showcased the best of British rock of that era. This is a re-creation of the actual poster used to promote that weekend’s performance.