More Steve Winwood. Hope you’re enjoying this week’s music. I’m a HUGE Winwood fan, in all his band permutations.
Stephen Lawrence Winwood was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. His father, Lawrence, a foundryman by trade, was a semi-professional musician, playing mainly the saxophone and clarinet. Young Winwood became interested in swing and Dixieland jazz as a boy and started playing drums, guitar and piano. He first performed with his father and older brother, Muff, in the Ron Atkinson Band at the age of eight. Winwood was a choirboy at St John’s Church of England, Perry Barr. He later admitted to having “sneaked a few plays” of the organ there. While he was still young the family moved from Handsworth to the semi-rural suburb of Great Barr at the northern edge of the city. Winwood attended the Great Barr School which was one of the first comprehensive schools, where a teacher recalled him being a conscientious and able student who displayed ability in mathematics. He also attended the Birmingham and Midland Institute of Music to develop his skills as a pianist, but did not complete his course.
The Finer Things
Whilst still a pupil at Great Barr School Winwood was a part of the Birmingham rhythm and blues scene, playing the Hammond B-3 organ and guitar, backing blues singers such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Eddie Boyd, Otis Spann, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley on their United Kingdom tours, the custom at that time being for US singers to travel solo and be backed by pickup bands. At this time, Winwood was living on Atlantic Road in Great Barr, close to the Birmingham music halls where he played. Winwood modelled his singing after Ray Charles.
Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group at age 14, along with his older brother, Muff, who later had success as a record producer. Steve’s distinctive high tenor singing voice and vocal style drew comparisons to Ray Charles. At the end of 1965 the group had their first number one single with “Keep On Running” and the money from this success allowed Winwood to buy his own Hammond B-3 organ.
During this time Winwood joined forces with guitarist Eric Clapton as part of the one-off group Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse. Songs were recorded for the Elektra label, but only three tracks made the compilation album, What’s Shakin’. Winwood co-wrote and recorded the hits “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man” before leaving the Spencer Davis Group. Winwood met drummer Jim Capaldi, guitarist Dave Mason, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood when they jammed together at The Elbow Room, a club in Aston, Birmingham. After Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic. Soon thereafter, they rented a cottage near the rural village of Aston Tirrold, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) to write and rehearse new music. The period at the cottage proved important in the band’s development.
Early in Traffic’s formation, Winwood and Capaldi formed a songwriting partnership, with Winwood writing music to match Capaldi’s lyrics. This partnership was the source of most of Traffic’s material, including popular songs such as “Paper Sun” and “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”, and outlived the band, producing several songs for Winwood and Capaldi’s solo albums. Over the band’s history, Winwood performed the majority of their lead vocals, keyboard instruments, and guitars. He also frequently played bass and percussion up to and including the recording sessions for their fourth album.
Can’t Find My Way Home
Gimme Some Lovin’