Dear David,  [...] It's certainly very exciting to hear about your project.

Murray is of course a legend and I must have half a dozen of his films adorning my shelves. It's also good to hear that you have spoken to John already (that will save me the trouble) although, as you may find out, he may prove the best source of any photographs of his younger self, although I understand that there is some distant family remaining in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK (e.g., his nephew, the musician Tony Grey hails from there). Over the years, I have certainly spent quite some time in discussion with other aficionados (principally on the ONE WORD mailing list - details below) in the search for new media, studying every snippet to come our way. I haven't been part of that mailing group for a few years, so I don't know whether something new has cropped up. You're right about John's early introduction to the guitar, aged about 11 years. His elder brother David played a large part in that. John pays tribute to his memory with the piece "David" on Music Spoken Here (1982). If there are any family photographs of John's parents and siblings from his early days, then it will likely be a matter for him to agree to their use. Otherwise, and as you know, the earliest photograph in general circulation is the one on the front of Electric Guitarist, likely from about that time.

After that there is quite a jump in the record to those taken at Joe Moretti's, in 1966

and the one that you have seen on my website from 1967 

It's worth reading Joe's (meandering) account of those early days to get an idea of the vibe and some of the groups that John played with (here follows the original version. There's an edited version at  http:// begin --> "John Mc Laughlin ……by Joe Moretti   The Incredible John McLoughlan { This article also contains The Truth about the Jet Harris Tracks } Johnny Mac we called him. I first heard of John around1962/3. I was working with " The Man with the Golden Trumpet " - Eddie Calvert at the time. I, like many guitarists, was involved mainly in Rock, C&W, and various other styles of Music. But this name McLaughlin kept popping up. " Have you heard McLoughlan, have you heard McLoughlan" was the cry. And ,the voices were filled with genuine excitement and admiration for this as yet unknown guitarist. Of course I had never heard of him. Most people hadn't. So I forgot about the name until it started popping again up in London. The first time I met him was on a gig at a U.S Army base with Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys, sometimes affectionately known as "Johnny Duncan and His Blue Assed Flies." Anyway, we didn't have a double bass player for the gig and at the last moment we picked up this Guy who was working as a salesman at "Selmers" music store in Charing Cross Road. "Hi, I'm Joe Moretti" I said. "Hi, I'm John Mclaughlin " He replied. And that's how we met. John borrowed a bass from the music store for the gig and off we went. John wasn't a steam bass player by any means, but he needed the money which was about seven pounds. The great drummer Johnny Butts was with us too. I didn't connect the name McLoughlan with the guitarist I'd been hearing so much about, and he gave no indication that he played guitar, so after the gig I forgot about the guy. On Saturday mornings all the guitarists would flock to the music stores to try out new guitars, talk shit, and invariably show off what they could do. Then word started getting around that a certain guitar salesman at " Selmers" was blowing everybody away. Guys would go in there full of themselves and leave totally destroyed by what this Gentleman was laying down. But he sure sold a lot of guitars for the store. John was already into Tal Farlowe, Jimmy Rainey, Django, Wes, and just about anyone who had something of value to say musically. His hand co-ordination was incredible. No one else had that blinding technique,and he used a little fat plectrum called a pear drop as opposed to the usual flat pick. Combined with the great technique was an insatiable appetite for Harmonic development. John was never satisfied. He knew even then that musical devlopment was literally infinite and as he got a grip of one thing he just kept moving on. Oh, don't get me wrong. John could play Rock, R&B, and jam in any style, but these were tributaries, all leading to the the Great Ocean that incorporates all music. Just--- Music. One of his early influences was Dick Morrisey, that wonderful sax player who, with Jim Mullins, formed the Morrisey/ Mullins band. A terrific band. Actually Dick would pass the info to Glenn Hughes, and from there Glenn would pass it on to John. Glenn was a terrific

Baritone sax player who featured with many of the top UK bands including Georgie Fame at the " Flamingo Club" in Wardour St. But don't let me get too far ahead. In 1963 I quit Nero and the Gladiators after recording " Bleak house" -the follow up to " Hall of the Mountain King" and joined The Jet Harris/ Tony Meehan Band . And here's a bit of info. Just to keep the "records " straight. Jet didn't feature on "Scarlett O'Hara " and " "Applejack" -l did. Jet was too " ill " at the time. He just couldn't function any more, and was going through a lot of personal problems including a divorce. Why did I do it ? Well, I really felt sorry for Jet. He was a helluva nice guy and the danger was that if I hadn't cut those tracks the whole band could have fallen apart, and six guys would have been out of work. I got an extra five pounds a week to keep my mouth shut, and I needed the Money to support my Wife and Child. Also I was never proud of those crummy tunes. As far as I was concerned it was shit music. The hurtful thing about that period is that in his articles Meehan doesn't even mention that I was a member of the band. As if I had never existed. So I got a wage while Meehan laughed all the way to the bank. I never did like that motherfucker. Anyway, the original lineup for that band was :T.Meehan-Drums, Jet-6 string bass guitar, John Paul Jones { né John Baldwin }- bass guitar, Glenn Hughes- Baritone sax, Chris hughes- Tenor sax/ flute / arranger, and myself on guitar. Now comes the interesting part. Eventually Jet had to quit, so I went out front on lead. It was too late to do anything about the situation, short of blackmailing that fucker Meehan, and as I say Jet was on the skids and I didn't want to hurt him any more. But we needed a rhythm guitarist and Glenn came up with the name of a guy who was looking for a steady money- paying gig, so guess who came in on "rhythm guitar" ? You got it - John McLaughlin ! Oh what a change came over that band. Within a month we had transformed our Repertoire, apart from our two chart hits. " Jazz " took over from the pile of Shite we were playing up until then. Of course the kids came to hear our pop music, and when they didn't get it they started to stay away. Within a couple of months there were no more bookings. John, like everyone else { apart from Meehan} hated the fucking gig. I remember coming off the stage one night to find Johnny Mac crying in a corner out of sheer musical frustation. I wept with him and made up my mind that night to quit and take my chances in the session business. The band folded soon after that. I've heard numerous people, mainly guitarists, put Johnny Mac down. For various reasons including : " Too Technical " " Too Busy " and other such stupid statements. Want my opinion ? They don't deserve to lick his boots. His music goes right over their fucked up heads. McLoughlan can be a Master of understatement when it's required. Minimalism is one of John's greatest assets, witness that first LP with Miles. Sheer Musical Understatement, and he gets that message across. But when it's required he can lay down a string of Hemi, Semi, Demi fucking quavers enough to blow your mind. The guys who criticise him just don't know where he's at. You can say you don't LIKE what he's doing but NO Way is he a BAD Guitar Player. That's just ignorant crap. Let me give you a small example. If one wants to stay in the 3 chord bag then ok. There's nothing wrong with that. John will play mind blowing music on one mode if that's what's going down. But if you want to get into altered changes, scales, then Baby you better do your homework or get the fuck off the stage. Take this example. A piece of music may contain changes like : Bm7b5, E7#5#9, Am9, D7b5b9 resolving to Gmajor #11. How the fuck can you get through these changes if you don't know what's going on ? And these changes are the norm for the average "Jazz" Musician. If you don't know these changes, OK. there's no shame in that. But don't put a guy down because of your own ignorance ! John has paid his dues many times over. He has banged his head against the wall and suffered musical heartbreak to get to where he's at today. I worked and learned from him for a number of years and I know what his contribution to pure musical development has been. And still is. Why should anyone go through all this ? Like the proverbial Mountain- because it's there. Because you owe it to THE MUSIC. But once you are on that path there is no way back. You just keep going.  John walked around for months with a " Squash" ball in his hand. Actually He would exercise his hands and fingers just squeezing gently on the ball, but for hours every day. Of course he would have periods of rest. But that was it, squeezing for months, until he built up amazing strength in his wrists and fingers. But He never hurt his fingers by overdoing it. Anyone who tries this should be very careful. He had also to retain that incredible agility. As his career grew He also exercised so that he became extremely Physically Fit. Combined with this was a Great Spiritual Awakening for John. So there you have the necessary ingredients for an exceptional talent to explode onto the music scene. Superb Physical fitness, a technique second to none, an insatiable appetite for music, and a spirit that was totally relaxed and calm and yet could turn the power on to an astounding degree. John was always amazed and delighted by the miracle of being alive. My doorbell rang one morning, and it was John on one of his visits back to the UK . He was with "Lifeline"at the time. When I opened the door He was standing with a "Gibson " guitar around his neck. London was reasonably safe in those days, and John just went everywhere with his guitar. On the Metro, walking in the streets, - everywhere.

Playing,playing,playing. And when all is said and done it's simply because you love Music. That's the bottom line. John's contribution to Music is immense. Immeasurable. And when I listen to Him one thing stands out above all else. The sheer joy of playing. It's as simple as that. Beyond the incredible technique, the superb musical construction there is that The Sheer joy of making Music. I love the Guy. May he continue to play for many years . Through his diligence and perseverance he has influenced the lives and music of countless musicians. Long may he cotinue to do so. God Bless John McLaughlin, A True Musical Phenomenon. (Check out his discography). Joe Moretti. November 2001. © Copyright BNC2000& all rights reserved "  <-- end As you will know, Joe also payed with Georgie Fame and may have more photos of John from that time. He has a contact page on his website Also from 1967, there is a similarly short-haired photograph of John recording The Koan for Big Jim Sullivan's Sitar Beat ( (In fact, his changing hair style has often proven the best way to identify the different periods). 

BJS is also contactable ( and may have some more material that has never seen the light of day. In August 1967, John recorded Experiments With Pops with Gordon Beck. 

Here his hair is growing out, but he is still clean shaven. I'm not sure from which source these session photographs came, the publisher or Gordon Beck direct. Perhaps it's an idea to ask [...] at Art of Life Records ([...]). A year later, in August 1968, he seems to have reverted back to a shorter hairstyle if this next photograph is actually from Jack Bruce's Things We Like sessions (based on the model of guitar).

But, I am not convinced of this, as the direction he's otherwise going in with his image is more in keeping with vogue, wearing longer hair and facial hair, and that is certainly how he appeared by the first Tony Williams' Lifetime recording sessions in 1969. 

Some confusion arises because a short time afterwards, he is clearly sporting the same hairstyle, but he has switched to a solid body electric for the first time.

Of course, by now, we're in the USA, and by early 1970, and the Live-Evil Miles Davis era, John has grown his hair and is also wearing quite a full beard.

Jumping back to the pre-USA period, the earliest definite footage I know that exists is of John playing with Gunter Hampel (9th January, 1968 Gruga Halle, Essen, Germany) filmed for German TV.

I have an audio recording of John with Gunter Hampel performing free jazz. It's pretty crazy and very exciting. Gunter ([...]) last told me that he had more recordings that he wants to release with John plus (I think) he mentioned some footage too, perhaps even this TV show. (It's worth noting that Zappa's Mothers of Invention were also playing the same venue on the date, so their fans may be able to help track this down). I also have a home recording of John jamming with [...] trying to get Follow Your Heart from Joe Farrell Quartet on piano and (I think) John is learning [...], both pieces appearing a few years later on My Goals Beyond (1971). While there's plenty of live audio recordings, the video is scarce. However, the next available is after arriving in the USA and Steve Gebhardt's excellent movie of Carla Bley & Paul Haines' Escalator over the Hill sessions filmed from November 1970-June 1971. I am sure Steve ([...]) will have more footage than that which made the final cut. 

There is one more possibility that I'd like to add, mainly because I think it's been overlooked: there is a small chance that John is somewhere in Gonks Go Beat from 1965, which would therefore pre-date the German footage. John was in the Graham Bond Organisation at the time, and everyone else is in one or more scenes. Bruce, Baker, Bond and Dick Heckstall-Smith all appear in one particular scene, a sort of rock music class in an exotic island setting. 

There's no explicit identification of John, and all the other band members are quite obvious, but could that be John dancing on the left of Jack Bruce with guitar and harmonica. The nose and jawline seem to match, but it's hard to say, especially as there are no other photographs with which to make comparisons (especially that hairstyle!). There more information about Gonks.." at

Other avenues that you might try are: 1/ The ONE WORD mailing list run by Dave Marshall ([...]), 2/ [...] - John McLaughlin expert and musician  3/ Walter Kolosky ([...]) - John McLaughlin expert and author of Power, Passion and Beauty: The Story of the Legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra and Follow Your Heart: John McLaughlin Song by Song - A Listener's Guide.

As a footnote, you mentioned the Hendrix-McLaughlin jam. There is a lot of myth about this, so much so that most of the time people are listening to the wrong recordings! Here is what I could find out about it http:// [...]

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful