A brief history of SALT..
SALT was a great hard hitting rock blues band which was a big success in London and on the UK college circuit in the 70s. We played at the Reading Festival in 1977, opened for Muddy Waters in London and had long residencies at the top London clubs. It was a four piece lineup which featured singer /harp player Stevie Smith with Stuart (Mac) McDonald on bass.
The band came together around 1974 when I walked into the Two Brewers pub in Clapham and found the usual Wednesday night jam going on. It was, I think, Steve Waller on vocals/guitar, Mick Hawksworth on bass and Steve Smith on drums..that's Steve (Arthur Wilson) Smith so you're not confused.. Anyway, after a while Steve Smith the singer / harp player got up to play. I'd met him before briefly and got up to jam. We played "Going Down" and it was great! Steve, (in case you didn't know) is a great musician with a dynamic approach to the job. There was definitely something happening here.
So SALT was formed with Arthur (Steve Smith) Wilson on drums , Stevie, and my friend and Killing Floor man Stuart (Mac) McDonald on bass. Immediately every gig we played was an event and we started to attract a following. Before long we were approached by management (aaagggh!) and found ourselves with a professional booking agent. College gigs followed and we progressed to the better clubs around London town.
We played at London's Marquee Club on a regular basis and always had great nights there. We had a strong regular following and the Marquee gigs were always a buzz. We also played regularly at Dingwalls and at the Music Machine, which was a large converted theatre in Camden. We continued to play the pubs as well, and had a long residency at the famous Bridgehouse in Canning Town, appearing on the album "A Week at the Bridge".
Between club dates we travelled up and down the country playing at colleges and universities. Certain areas had stronger support than others..at Braintree or Farnborough Tech we could be assured of a packed house and a frenzied reception. In 1977, now with Alan Platt on drums, we secured the opening spot for Muddy Waters at his big London concert at the New Victoria. Playing to what we assumed would be a "purist" blues audience we were delighted with the enthusiastic response and ended by encoring with "Johnny B Goode!". Lou Martin joined us on piano, and the gig received an excellent review in The Times newspaper.
The same year we appeared on the Reading Festival, at the time the biggest annual rock event in Britain. Headliners that night were Thin Lizzy. We played in the afternoon and got a tremendous reception. John Peel's review in SOUNDS confirmed this and noted that our music was "enlivening" and set his feet "most furiously to tapping". Bless him.
The one thing that SALT could not achieve was a decent record deal, despite the best efforts of our management. The A&R people would come and see us and report that they'd had their best night out for years, but no, they weren't interested in signing the band. Eventually we got an offer to record an E.P. (a four track vinyl single for you youngsters) with Raw Records. Raw Records were actually a punk label so I don't know how we ended up on it - confused times. The record was recorded at Pathway Studio, (where most of Elvis Costello's hits were recorded), with "Slash" on drums and Matt Ervin guesting on piano on "Key to the Highway". The result was a raucous bit of rock blues which still sounds good today. However by the time the record was released most of the steam had gone out of SALT's short career.
It was punk time, and although SALT had more energy and was more exciting than most punk bands, we didn't fit the category. On one memorable night we played at the 100 Club in Oxford St with the Sex Pistols, who were booked as our support band. We played first to our audience of denim clad longhairs, and then a whole new audience of strangely attired punks took over for the Sex Pistols slot. It was an historic and symbolic evening as punk took over from bands such as ourselves. As one fan told Steve.."we really like SALT but we can't pogo to it!"
Around this time our friends Lou Martin and Rod DeAth finished their spell working with the Rory Gallagher Band, and were once again available. We decided to form up as RAMROD, with Steve, myself and Mac. The original plan was to take the band to the States but it didn't work out that way. RAMROD played some great gigs in and around London including a second appearance with Muddy, this time at The Rainbow. We also toured Ireland. Following a lot of hard work by Rod, where he flew all over America in a weekend to set up record company interest we had a major showcase at the Music Machine. It was a great night, but no deal was forthcoming - it was simply the wrong time.
I decided to go to the States anyway, and ended up living in Los Angeles for the whole of 1979, while the band carried on with Dave Edwards on guitar before finally splitting. When I returned to England the following year I found that the music scene had changed considerably. Whereas in America I'd been listening to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allmans, British radio and television was dominated by acts like Madness and the Police. It felt very strange.
However, Stevie was still around and after a while we decided to reform SALT with a local bass player, Geoff Brown, and Steve Sinclair on drums. Once again the gigs became events, and we soon had two regular residencies pulling in good crowds.. one at the Star in Croydon, the other at the Kings Head in Fulham. However the band never took off again in the way that it had, and eventually we drifted in to new ventures. The band, now with Len Davies on bass and Ron Berg on drums was finally over.
Stevie Smith has had great success with the band Ruthless Blues, becoming one of the strongest acts on the UK and Scandinaviam scene, while I've been busy with the Mick Clarke Band. Mac settled back in his native mid-Wales, currently plays with the Electric Blues Reaction, and is featured on the new Killing Floor album. SALT is stll remembered by many as one of the highlights of the London scene of the 70's.
Live photos from the Greyhound, Fulham, 1976 with Steve, Mick, Mac and Alan. Photos by courtesy of David Cooper.
Catch Stevie Smith's blues rock radio show at RETROSMITH
Contact Stevie here or check his Facebook page at Stevie Smith Music
More info on Reading 77
Postscript: SALT's long time roadie was one Chris Ranson.. originally an early fan of the band who began helping out after the gigs and soon became a skilled and valuable kingpin of the band's operations. Chris went on to tour the world and work with many bands including Status Quo, Yes, Gary Moore and Captain Beefheart, and is currently working with Deep Purple.
SALT's part time soundman Pete Murdoch shared his time between us and his other band.. a pub rock group from Deptford called Dire Straits. I last saw Pete at the Roxy in Hollywood as he escorted his band on their first world tour. Get in touch Pete!
And finally .. Alan Platt was SALT's drummer in our most productive period throughout 1977, playing at the Reading Festival and the Muddy Waters concert in London. Sadly we have recently learned that Alan died back in 2005 from a street accident leading to a coma. Alan was a great drummer and a great character, always a lot of fun to be with, and with a great love for good music and good times. Deeply missed by us all.