“Beware of Mr. Baker”, Garland Jeffreys, and The Heat

by Chris Murray on January 31, 2013

Long time friend Jay Bulger wrote, directed, and produced the compelling new documentary film on Ginger Baker, one of the great drummers of our time who is well know, among other things, for his two years with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Cream. Beware of Mr. Baker premiered in Washington last Saturday and Jay Bulger participated in a Q&A with the audience after the screening. The film and Jay were terrific.

An Outsized Talent for Drums and Trouble, ‘Beware of Mr. Baker’ Traces the Rock Drummer Ginger Baker by A.O. Scott for The New York Times, November 27, 2012.

Govinda Gallery has enjoyed presenting some remarkable photographs of Ginger Baker over the years including images by Robert Whitaker, Barrie Wentzell, and Art Kane, among others. Here is a captivating photograph of Ginger Baker with Cream taken by Art Kane in 1968 for LIFE Magazine’s June cover story, “The New Rock”. Baker’s first child was born the day this photo was taken.

Cream: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce, 1968. Copyright © Art Kane. All Rights Reserved.

I personally had a memorable encounter with Ginger Baker in 1989. My R&B/Funk band, The Heat, were opening for a show at the Bayou on K Street in Georgetown for Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce that many were calling ‘the first Cream reunion’, even though Eric Clapton was not playing that night. The Heat’s charismatic drummer Jordan Layton had just received a beautiful percussion instrument, a Brazilian rain stick, from Martha Graham principal dancer extraordinaire Maxine Sherman. After Baker and Bruce’s soundcheck Jordan gave his rain stick as a gift to Ginger Baker. Baker was delighted with his gift and demonstrated it to his band members, repeatedly saying; “This is it… this is it… this is it!”… Ginger found a groove!!! Jack Bruce also stopped by our dressing room telling us how much he loved the saxophone when he saw The Heat’s Jim Sivard with his sax. We were all very happy indeed that Ginger and Jack enjoyed our band.

The Heat getting pumped up before going on stage. Copyright © Chester Simpson. All Rights Reserved.

The Heat opening for Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce at the Bayou, Washington, DC, 1989. Copyright © Chester Simpson. All Rights Reserved.

The Heat in their dressing room after the gig. Back row L to R: Andy Rapoport (lead guitar), Michael Hall (bass), Jim Sivard (saxophone), Jordan Layton (drums), and Chris Murray (rhythm guitar and vocals). Front row L to R: Whitney Smith (lead guitar), Lizard Downer (dancer and percussion), and Ayiko Von Varga (dancer and percussion). Copyright © Chester Simpson. All Rights Reserved.

Here is a review of Baker and Bruce’s show from the Washington Post written by Mike Joyce in 1989. Baker and Bruce had terrible problems with the sound that night. Guitarist Blues Scaraceno did a great job in Clapton’s place.

Performing Arts
November 30th, 1989
by Mike Joyce

Jack Bruce
Bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, two-thirds of the ’60’s power trio Cream, teamed up again at the Bayou Wednesday night. Ironically they formed the nucleus of a quintet that sorely lacked power for much of its 90-minute set.

The problem wasn’t entirely their own doing, however. The sound mix was so poor in the early going that Baker’s double-bass drum kit could have been mistaken for a pair of bongos, and Bruce’s operatic tenor kept shifting in and out of focus on “White Room” and a cover version of the Albert King hit “Born Under a Bad Sign,” both recorded by Cream.

Later on, the technical problems weren’t so noticeable – at least they seemed secondary to rather lackluster performances of “No surrender,” “Politician” and some rambling blues excursions. in fact, apart from Bruce’s singing, which hasn’t lost its distinctive edge, the highlights were mostly sentimental. But then what would you expect from a concert that showcased Bruce’s trademark bass riffs, a virile 10-minute solo by the otherwise stoic Baker, Claptonesque solos by guitarist Blues Saraceno and largely faithful versions of “Sunshine of Your Love” and other Cream classics?

-Mike Joyce

Garland Jeffreys enjoying Dick Waterman’s book on the blues in the green room at the Hamilton Live. Copyright © Carlotta Hester. All Rights Reserved.

The day after the premiere of Beware of Mr. Baker Jay Bulger joined me at the beautiful Hamilton Live to see Garland Jeffreys and the Coney Island Playboys. We went backstage to the Hamilton Live ‘green room’ and met Garland Jeffreys. The Coney Island Playboys’ drummer was delighted to meet Jay Bulger, as he had just seen his film twice and was raving about it. I presented Garland with an autographed copy of Dick Waterman’s beautiful book on the blues, Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive, which I had the pleasure of editing. Garland loved the book and made a point of showing members of the band Waterman’s photo of Chuck Berry. Bob Marley’s guitarist, the amazing Junior Marvin, also joined us. Jay Bulger left to catch a night train to NYC with an autographed copy of David Burnett’s book Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley under his arm.

Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive by Dick Waterman, and Waterman’s photograph of Chuck Berry at Carnegie Hall, New York, 1965. Copyright © Dick Waterman. All Rights Reserved.

Director Jay Bulger with The Coney Island Playboys’ drummer. Copyright © Carlotta Hester. All Rights Reserved.

Special thanks to Tom Meyer, Holly Anderson, and Chester Simpson.

Category: Blog, Events, News & Updates   
  • Comments

    • Larry Pryluck

      Interesting post. I was at the Bruce-Baker show at the Bayou, and enjoyed it; I figured it was as close to seeing Cream live as I would ever get (little did I know I would see them at the Garden in 26 years later). Little did I suspect that Chris was in the opening band! I’d love to hear a snippet of The Heat’s music.

    • Chris Murray

      Larry,
      That’s great you were at the Bruce-Baker Bayou show. The Heat made one five-song recording, it’s pretty cool. Your comment has inspired me to put it out there… I still have it in its original cassette format! I’m going to do it and send it to you. May take a couple of weeks.
      Best,
      Chris

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