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Jeff Moehlis: Mobile Jukebox Featuring Spencer Davis Coming to Town

Spencer Davis of rock ‘n’ roll fame joins the multi-act Happy Together Tour, which will stop in Santa Barbara July 13, 2016. Click to view larger
Spencer Davis of rock ‘n’ roll fame joins the multi-act Happy Together Tour, which will stop in Santa Barbara July 13, 2016. (Liz Barry photo)

“Everything happened in 1966 for The Spencer Davis Group,” says someone who would know — Spencer Davis himself.

And what a year it was for the band. They started off with a U.K. No. 1 song “Keep On Running,” which knocked The Beatles’ single “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out” off the top spot.

Another U.K. No. 1 song, “Somebody Help Me,” followed a few months later.

But the highlight of the year for the band was the release of the timeless classic “Gimme Some Lovin’,” co-written by Davis, Muff Winwood and Muff’s kid brother, Steve, the band’s lead singer who also played organ and a bit of guitar.

Now, 1966 wasn’t actually the only year that things happened for The Spencer Davis Group. Their song “I’m A Man” was released in early 1967 and hit the Top 10; a couple of years later it was memorably covered by Chicago.

But Steve Winwood left the band in 1967 to form Traffic, and as Spencer Davis puts it, they “lost a huge amount of momentum.”

Fastforward a half century, and we have a chance to hear Spencer Davis perform these classic songs as part of the Happy Together Tour, which lands at The Granada Theatre Wednesday, July 13. Tickets are available here.

Also on the program will be Flo & Eddie from The Turtles, Chuck Negron from Three Dog Night, Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere & The Raiders, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap and The Cowsills.

Davis talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming concert and told some crazy tour stories from back in the day.

•        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming concert?

Spencer Davis: I should be first up. These kind of shows are what I call mobile jukeboxes.

I’ll be doing “Keep On Running,” “Somebody Help Me,” “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m A Man.” 

I don’t think I’ll be doing any more than that. Don’t forget how many people you’ve got on the tour — six acts!

JM: My favorite of your recordings is “Gimme Some Lovin’,” which is almost 50 years old now.

SD: Exactly 50 years old.

JM: I love in The Blues Brothers movie where they’re at the Country and Western bar, and they kick off with that song, and everybody throws bottles at them.

SD: [laughs] Isn’t it great? I met Belushi and Aykroyd. I’ve got a picture of me with them.

I went to see them at the Universal Amphitheatre, and they said, “Where’s that guy? ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ guy?” So I got my picture taken with them.

JM: Did you ever have an experience like that, where the audience was throwing bottles at the band?

SD: Yes! We were playing on a farm in Norway, way out in the sticks. This would’ve been in, like, ’66. The band just hit Europe like a tornado.

I mean, all over Germany, all over France, all over Britain. Never to America. I never came to America with the original band.

The replacement for Steve Winwood came, Eddie Hardin, who unfortunately passed away last July. He was just as good of a keyboard player, as you’ve probably heard from some of the material that I continued with after Steve had left.

We were playing at this farm somewhere in Norway, and a beer bottle went sailing past my head, and then went past Steve.

I looked at Steve and said, “I’m getting off,” so I got offstage. The last thing in the world I wanted to end up with was a gashed head from a beer bottle thrown by some drunken Norwegian fan.

JM: In the early days you toured with bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who. Any stories from those tours that you’re willing to share?

SD: Would you like to hear about when we were on tour with The Who in the Southampton Gaumont in the south of England?

I went back to the backstage area, to the bathroom area, obviously to take care of my toiletry. I’m sitting down, minding my own business.

The next minute, flaming newspapers are thrust under the gap, under the door. My private parts were almost barbecued. [JM laughs] I knew immediately who that was, and so do you.

JM: I’m guessing Keith Moon?

SD: Absolutely! I got my two roadies and we grabbed him, filled a bath up with freezing cold water, picked him up, threw him in it, and held him in there.

When The Who was announced, there was no Keith Moon. We were holding him down in a bath of ice-cold water. Eventually I let him go — “Let him go now.”

He squelched his way to behind his drum kit and started playing. There were droplets of water going everywhere, and you and I both know that Keith Moon was having the most wonderful time of his life.

JM: Any stories about The Rolling Stones that you’re willing to share?

SD: Oh, yeah. “Georgia [on My Mind]” was one of our highlights, and Steve did a phenomenal version. I mean, what a talent! An incredible talent. Great guitar player, a great keyboard player, a great singer.

In the middle of “Georgia” — which was a show-stopper for The Spencer Davis Group, literally a show-stopper — the piano was on stage left.

So Steve is looking out at the audience, and I’m onstage next to him, and I see this shadowy figure creeping around from behind the curtain on the stage.

We had just had some fish and chips brought into the dressing room. Mick Jagger was carefully laying cold, greasy chips — French fries — onto the upper keys of the piano.

When the time came for Steve to play his piano solo, his hand landed in the middle of all these greasy French fries.

For the full interview with Spencer Davis, click here.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, The opinions expressed are his own.

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