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November 30, 2022

Australian blues legends Chain to play Bluesfest 2023

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Chain

What do blues folk Muddy Waters, Roy Buchanan, Albert Collins, BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Robert Cray, George Thorogood, Ash Grunwald, Jeff Lang, Juzzie Smith, Geoff Achison and even Buddy Guy, all have in common? They can all say they’ve met Phil Manning.

Manning is one of the four original members of the legendary blues band Chain, and if you haven’t heard their song Black and Blue then you are not only in a tiny minority but you have missed out on the best Australian blues song ever.

The song and the band are ingrained in our psyche like kangaroos, hot summers and oranges at half-time, and last week Seven spoke to Phil Manning, who is proving, during the band’s 55th anniversary, that he is still one of the hottest guitarists in the country.

On hanging out with the blues greats of this and last century, Manning says he feels very fortunate. ‘I got to do all these wonderful tours with these great artists and that’s been a huge influence on me. And what, of course, was great, was the fact that when I was 16 and 17 I heard all the records by people like Muddy and BB and then a few years later I was touring with them. It was very exciting.’

Manning says Buddy Guy would probably be his biggest influence as an electric guitar player. ‘I mean, obviously, the era that I came through with people like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Mike Bloomfield, they’re the people that really influenced me back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but Buddy Guy stood out as the guy that really influenced me big time and he also influenced all those others too –  Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, they were all influenced by Buddy Guy. In a lot of ways, Buddy is almost the grandfather of modern electric, blues guitar playing.’

Manning says they always play Black and Blue and it’s not hard to keep it fresh. ‘We have a sort of a fixed version of it that we perform on stage, but within that version there are also areas that are a bit loose. For instance, Matt won’t play the same harmonica solo two nights in a row – I never play the same solo ever – my memory is not that good! So there’s a degree of flexibility.’

Manning says he never gets sick of Black and Blue: ‘We owe that song a lot. Because, if it hadn’t been for that particular song, it’s very likely neither Matt nor I would have had the careers that we’ve had. People love it. They love to sing along with it and we’re really happy to be able to get out there and play it.’

Manning says the funniest thing is that it’s so mournful. ‘It’s such a bloody dirge. When we recorded it, we laughed our heads off. At the time, we just thought this thing is going to be the biggest flop known to mankind, or it’s going to be a hit – it turned out big.’

Manning says that at the 2023 Bluesfest he is hoping to catch the likes of Christone Kingfish whose show he hasn’t yet seen, but he’s also very happy to catch up with his mates. ‘There’s loads of our friends on at the festival. It’ll be a great chance to catch up with people. Especially after this bloody stupid two years of lockdown – one thing that I’ve really missed is just catching up with music and musical mates. It’s been very disappointing to not be able to get out and see your peers play – that’s such a great thing about music.’

For more information about Bluesfest, visit: bluesfest.com.au.


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