My Keys to The Highway

Living Magazines John Stack Blues Bar Tring

We love this brief resume from John Stack of the Blues Bar Tring. Of course all of their current events have been cancelled at present, but we look forward to receiving the new event dates as and when…

In the Beginning

Way back in the late 50’s the world changed for me as a teenager in Newcastle. Rock arrived with Bill Haley on tour playing at cinemas with seats being ripped up. Not me you understand. Post World War II still with lots of derelict bombed sites it was like a breath of fresh air.

Along came Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bo Didley and not forgetting Chuck Berry. All bursting out at the Spanish City Whitley Bay, Annual Fair ‘The Hoppins’ and of course student Rag Week. In amongst that I found the early Animals at the downbeat club, Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttelton, Lonnie Donegan so lots of cross over. An afternoon rummaging through ex juke box 45’s I found Howlin’ Wolf which blew my mind.

RAF days in the early 60’s

Had to get away so what better than the RAF and after training in radio and radar I ended up in Koln Germany. Never really thought music other than night spots open all night. Unheard of in Newcastle at that time. The Beatles, Stones et al all passed me by. I got acquainted with the RAF Germany Band who were all into Jazz of the modern ilk. So developed my love of the likes of Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ and John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’, Oscar Peterson, MJQ, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and touches of big band with the Duke and the Count. I even shared a beer with Tubby Hayes in Trudy’s bar. Germany and particularly Koln (Cologne) was hugely into Jazz.

The Lean Years late 60’s into 90’s (left RAF 1970 after stint in Cyprus)

Still loved jazz but too busy with rugby, sailing, family and lots of work and travel. So the UK Blues-Rock journey with the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, The Yardbirds, Cream, Nine Below Zero, Dr Feelgood etc all passed me by.

Started getting back into music in the late 90’s and 2000’s. I went to see Clapton at the Albert Hall – Me & Mr Johnson which started me thinking.

My Birth of The Blues 2011

I had my arm twisted to help bringing back Tring Carnival so we put on a jazz afternoon in a marquee playing New Orleans, Mainstream and Jazz Funk. There I came across Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton ‘Play the Blues’ a real cross over with blues and jazz and I had never forgotten the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf.

Tring Park Cricket Club as ever was short of cash and were looking at ways of turning up the bar takings which started me thinking blues.

Back in September 2012 I went with Blues Bar Tring helpers Malcolm and Chrys to a club in Watlington to see a band called Stuart ‘Son’ Maxwell’s Shuffle Pack. They played Chicago Blues with a front line of Harp & Vox, Guitar, Sax and a back line of drums and bass. Blues to make you jump and shout. They were good but the audience was lean. We went back again the next month and I struck a deal with Stu. You have a band with no audience, I have a venue with no money so how about I run not for profit, you play for the door and the Cricket Club gets the bar takings. It was really a win win situation – it worked.

Blues Bar Tring was born in Nov 2012 with Shufflepack going up first Thursday monthly and the audience grew. The rest is history, still going strong with two gigs monthly and that was my Key to the Highway. I found the blues!!

Oh! forgot to mention and ‘Son’ Maxwell never forgets to mention that the only blues man I know is Howlin’ Wolf. I am not ashamed by that as he stands tall among the greats along with Muddy Waters. I have moved on a tad crossing blues genre with Delta, Chicago, Blues Roots, Blues Rock and Americana.

With a fair wind and some luck, the Blues Bar Tring will be back providing quality live blues twice monthly as soon as we crack this virus.

Looking forward to seeing you all and thank you for your continued support.

The image of John used above was taken by Adam Hollier for his book: ‘Tring People – Portraits of a Town’. Adam’s photoshoots for ‘Berkhamsted People – Portraits of a Town’ has obviously had to be put on hold at present. But you can keep up with Adam and the new dates in future via Facebook: or via his website: