United Kingdom Blues Report: Shock and Sadness in Glasgow

The tail of the police helicopter that crashed into the roof of The Clutha Vaults Pub in Glasgow

Editor’s note: This is the first in a new series appearing the first of every month on what’s happening in the blues in the United Kingdom. 

At the time of this writing, the Blues community and indeed all the people in the United Kingdom are still in shock and mourning over the tragic events of Friday evening, November 29 when at 10:30 PM police helicopter patrolling Glasgow suddenly lost power and crashed through the roof of The Clutha bar. Thus far nine people have been confirmed dead, including all three occupants of the helicopter.

The Clutha has long been recognized as one of the top music venues in Blues-loving Glasgow. In the recent past it has featured such acts as Luke Jackson, The Fraser John Lindsay Blues Incentive, and the Country-Blues band Full Tonne Kidd. Specializing in UK and particularly Scotland-based talent, The Clutha (also known as The Vaults) has always believed in breaking new talent in front of the always boisterous Glaswegian audience.

In a statement released by the owners, they said: ‘Our thanks go out to all the goodwill messages and prayers for those who tragically lost their lives in the accident last night. An event Beyond comprehension and belief. The customers who could showed the true spirit of Glasgow along with all the Emergency services. Our heartfelt sorrow to all of the families of those who perished.’

It has not been determined at this time if or when The Clutha may re-open for business. The pub building dates back to the 19th century and a full reading must be taken of its structural solidity. In the meanwhile, all our thoughts and prayers also go out to the survivors of this tragedy.

Ironically, given the events of Friday night, on Sunday December 1st, the television channel BBC4 featured a full evening’s programming devoted to the Blues. Readers and Blues-lovers will enjoy any of the following documentaries, available on the BBC iPlayer service.

Up first was ‘The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain’, the story of Big Bill Broonzy. Broonzy emigrated to Britain in the 1950s and became a key influence on the careers of Long John Baldry, John Mayall and Keith Richards to name just three. Richards in particular is in delightful form when interviewed about Broonzy amidst some wonderful archival footage.

Speaking of archival, the second program was ‘Blues at the BBC’. This was a clip show compiled from ‘Aunty’s’ attic. (For those who do not know, the fond nickname for the BBC is Aunty.) Including The Yardbirds, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker, upon viewing one understands how the support of the commercial-free public broadcaster was instrumental in developing the waves of great British acts.

Finally, there was the first episode of the new documentary series, ‘Blues America.’ Going back to the time of Bessie Smith and Charlie Patton, the first episode entitled ‘Woke up this Morning’ lays the groundwork for both the music and this piece of impeccably researched television that will delight and inform all Blues fans worldwide.