“King” George Clemons in Harlem, 1966

January 29, 2014

king george2“King” George Clemons grew up in Virginia. During the 60’s he moved up to New York and started singing in clubs in Harlem. In 1965 he performed several times at the legendary Apollo Theatre with Don Covay. George sang background vocals on the Don Covay single “Have Mercy”. After leaving Don Covay and the Good-Timers, George started his solo career as King George. He recorded “Drive on James” with part of the Ray Charles Band including Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums. About this time George was going around jamming in small clubs (Smalls Paradise Harlem, etc.) with among others the King Curtis Band The Kingpins. On one of those occations, George met Jimi Hendrix. At the time Jimi had left the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. Jimi was playing on and off with King Curtis and Curtis Knight during that period.

Jimi and George hung out quite a bit. Together they saw the Mc Coys; George once jammed with Jimi, together with drummer Jimmi Castor (later of Castor Bunch “fame”; George was also present when the Rolling Stones came to see Jimi perform in New York City on 2 July 1966 after the Stones concert at Forest Hills Stadium.

Scandinavian agents heard King George and offered him a contract to come to Europe to sing with an all-black soul band, called the Harlem Kiddies. They arrived in Stockholm in 1966 for three months but ended up touring around two years instead. At that time Chas Chandler brought Jimi to England. George was proud of the fact that he did have a contract, while Jimi didn’t. Later, of course, it turned out that Jimi did a lot better than him. Jimi and George ran into each other in Scandinavia, where the Harlem Kiddies warmed up for Jimi Hendrix. George met Jimi again when the Experience played in Copenhagen (21 May 1967). George had two bands during the period: the Harlem Kiddies (playing R&B) and the King George Discovery (playing more psychedelic stuff). After that, George met Jimi a few times in Sweden. George claims that he wasn’t too found of Noel Redding, but liked Mitch Mitchell a lot more. George also knew Buddy Miles from his Wilson Pickett period, and also met Billy Cox. When George asked Billy where he came from Billy answered, “we’re a band of Gypsies, we come from everywhere.”

After Harlem Kiddies, Clemons built around him the King George Discovery, which consisted of an older musician Lennart Bergman and two 20-year old fellows Anders Nordh and Paul Sundlin. Discovery took their name from the Charles Lloyd album, but their music was particularly influenced by Jimi Hendrix Experience and soul artists. Discovery was a well-celebrated live band, and they performed for instance at the Sweden’s biggest festival of 1968 in Timrå. Also their self-titled LP released in 1968 got an excellent reception.

Right then when everything seemed to look bright, the bassist Sundlin left the group because of differing musical opinions, and besides singing, Clemons began now to play the bass. King George Discovery eventually broke up in 1969 when the guitarist Nordh left them to join a pop band called Blond. King George continued as a solo artist, and he also did some recordings in the early 1970s mostly with his backing group Red White & Blues. During the years, he has worked with countless musicians both in Europa and America, and he’s also kept on doing new recordings as King George Band and King George Bluesology (source).

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