The Blues Syndicate

info courtesy Pete Crooks

The Blues Syndicate was John Mayall's band and originally consisted of John on electric piano, guitar, harmonica and vocals, Ray Cummings (who had played in John's art school band, 'The Powerhouse Four) on guitar, John Rowlands on trumpet, Jack Masarak on alto sax and Hughie Flint on drums.

As well as gigging round town, the Blues Syndicate had a residency at the Bodega on Cross Street which was Manchester's top jazz club in the fifties and early sixties. 

Eventually John and Hughie went off to London.  John, of course, went on to form the Bluesbreakers. 

I believe that Hughie went to join Alexis Korner but that gig fell through and instead he joined the Bluebreakers. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

Jack Masarak left at the same time. He is now jazz correspondent for the Evening Standard and he regularly does reviews for BBC Radio3.

The Blues Syndicate, minus John, Hughie and Jack kept the Bodega job with a new line up which was Ray Cummings and Pete Crooks, guitars and vocals; John Rowlands; Geoff Logue, tenor sax; Roy Hilton on electric piano and Sammy Nelson on drums. 

John Rowlands, Jack and Hughie were jazz musicians and they got together with John Mayall on the presumption that they could carry on playing 'modern' jazz in the guise of blues. The story goes that for John Mayall, the big attraction of joining up with John Rowlands was that John Rowlands owned a PA. Similarly in the new line up, Geoff Logue and Roy Hilton were established jazz musicians on the Manchester scene.

Eventually the residency ended and the band broke up. Soon afterwards, Roy Hilton went to Leeds University which was the first University in the country to offer a Jazz Course. He went on to become a successful Musical Director. I believe that he's now living in Eastbourne and back playing jazz again. He recently recorded a CD with top British Jazz Guitarist Dave Cliff who was at Leeds with Roy. 

Ray Cummings and John Mayall are still close friends. John, now in his seventies, had just formed yet another version of the Bluesbreakers. John Rowlands gave up the trumpet and took up the instrument of choice of the anti-social - the drums. He was last seen cutting hair. Geoff Logue carried on playing jazz, appearing with several visiting Americans. I think that he's now given up playing. Pete Crooks (me) is now living in the Cotswolds and still playing jazz with his own and other bands.

John Mayall issued a CD some years ago that contained some (very poor) recordings of both the Powerhouse Four and the original Blues Syndicate. 


Living in Glossop where he owned a picture framing business John eventually moved to Sheffield where he opened another shop. In later years he took up the tenor saxophone.

Sadly John died a few years ago and I attended his funeral along with many other faces from the Manchester jazz scene. There was music and tributes given by several people including one by his very old friend Jack Masarik. It was a moving but also a joyful celebration of his life.

John was an archetypal autodidact. He made many valuable contributions to the nothern jazz scene both as a promotor: his all night sessions at what became the Twisted Wheel, Sunday sessions at The Leadmill in Sheffield. John was also as a very fine and dedicated musician.

Peter Maguire - 29/7/11





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