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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

Savoy Brown's Simmonds proud of band's longevity

The members of Savoy Brown are, from left, Gerry Sorrentino, Kim Simmonds, Dave Malachowski, and Dennis Cotton. The members of Savoy Brown are, from left, Gerry Sorrentino, Kim Simmonds, Dave Malachowski, and Dennis Cotton.
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Savoy Brown has been at the top and at the bottom, but guitarist Kim Simmonds is proud that the British blues band has been around for four decades.

“Any career, or even to be married 40 years, you've got to be prepared to sacrifice,” Simmonds said in an interview this week from his home in New York. “I've been rich and I've been broke at times, and during those times you have to dig deep,” he said. “It depends what really means something to you. And I suppose in the end, I do feel that music has been the only thing I've hung in there with for 40 years. And I'm glad I hung in there.”

Formed in London in 1966, Savoy Brown was among the forerunners of the British blues-rock movement. The group backed U.S. blues legend John Lee Hooker on his U.K. 1967 tour, then opened for such artists as Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Burdon.

“I was in awe of those musicians,” said Simmonds, now 55. “I was younger but I had a lot of self-confidence and I wanted to be as good. So I thought long and hard about how I could interpret the same music, basically, and come up with something fresh to say.”

Savoy Brown's breakthrough album was “Shakedown” in 1969, and the group soon was playing major concert venues alongside such stars as Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, and Fleetwood Mac.

“It was a great time,” said Simmonds. “Such commercial success doesn't come to everyone and I also felt we were making important music, too, which was doubly satisfying.”

After his fellow band members Dave Peverett, Roger Earler, and Tony Stevens left to form their own group, Foghat, Simmonds regrouped. He added more rock and roll to Savoy Brown's blues mix and the group's 1971 release, “Street Corner Talking,” became a million-seller.

Simmonds said that he's learned that longevity also depends on an ability to adapt. Savoy Brown's low point came in the 1970s, he said, when punk rockers relegated bands like his to “dinosaur” status.

“Things can change in a hurry in this business,” he said. “And you've got to be prepared for the long run. You have to make some changes.

“That's why the Rolling Stones have done so well, because they were able to adapt. You have to dig deep. I think I dig deep, but the Rolling Stones dig deeper. Some people can scratch the surface, some dig a foot deep, and others, they have a tunnel under them.”

Savoy Brown's 30th disc, “Strange Dreams,” was released this year on Blind Pig Records, and Simmonds said it's the first time he has been able to record an album in his home studio without the pressures of a time clock or production concerns. “All of a sudden I had much more control. I actually think that some of the magic from the old days has been caught on this record,” he said.

Savoy Brown performs at 9:30 tonight in Headliners, 4500 North Detroit Ave. Doors open at 9; tickets are $15. Information: 419-269-4500.

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