Chris Wood (rock musician)

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Chris Wood
Chris Wood - Traffic - 1974.jpg
Chris Wood in 1974.
Background information
Birth name Christopher Gordon Blandford Wood
Born (1944-06-24)24 June 1944
Quinton, Birmingham, England
Died 12 July 1983(1983-07-12) (aged 39)
Birmingham, England
Genres Rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion
Occupations Musician
Instruments Saxophone, flute, keyboards
Years active 1964–1983
Associated acts Shades of Blue, Locomotive, Traffic, Mason Capaldi Wood & Frog, Dr. John, Ginger Baker's Air Force
Website http://www.lunarmusic.co.uk

Christopher Gordon Blandford 'Chris' Wood (24 June 1944—12 July 1983) was a founding member of the English rock band Traffic, along with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Dave Mason.

Career[edit]

Born in Quinton,[1] a suburb of Birmingham, Chris Wood had an interest in music and painting from early childhood. Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he commenced playing at the age of 15, he began to play locally with other Birmingham musicians who would later find international fame in music; Christine Perfect (later Christine McVie), Carl Palmer, Stan Webb, and Mike Kellie.[2] Wood played with Perfect in 1964 in the band Shades of Blue and with Kellie during 1965-1966 in the band Locomotive.[3]

He attended the Stourbridge College of Art,[1] then the Birmingham School of Art (Painting Dept.) [1] and subsequently was awarded a grant to attend the Royal Academy of Art starting in December 1965.[1]

Aged 18, Chris joined the Steve Hadley Quartet, a jazz/blues group in 1962.[1]

His younger sister Stephanie designed clothes for the Spencer Davis Group, based in Birmingham, and it was through her that Wood was first introduced to fellow Birmingham native Steve Winwood.[2] A well-known Birmingham club – the Elbow Room - was an after-hours haunt of local bands and musicians and it was here that Chris used to meet up Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi. At the age of only 18, Winwood abandoned the Spencer Davis Group at the height of their popularity and, along with Chris, Jim and Dave Mason, formed Traffic.[4]

To focus his fledgling band, Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell arranged for the four to retreat to an isolated farmhouse on the Berkshire Downs near Aston Tirrold. Initially without electricity, telephone or running water The Cottage (as it became universally known) was so remote that a generator had to be installed to power the group’s equipment. A concrete outdoor stage was built with the band’s stage equipment set up to overlook the surrounding fields. After six months honing their music, Traffic presented their complex mixture of influences – success was instant from their first single release, Paper Sun. [4]

In Traffic, Wood primarily played flute and saxophone, occasionally contributing keyboards, bass and vocals. Wood also co-wrote several of Traffic's songs, particularly during the earlier period of the band's recording career. His most notable contribution is as the co-writer (with Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi), of "Dear Mr. Fantasy".[5]

Chris introduced the 17th century traditional song "John Barleycorn" to the band after hearing it on The Watersons album. It became the title song of their 1970 album, "John Barleycorn Must Die."[6]

Wood played with Jimi Hendrix in 1968, appearing on Electric Ladyland. While Winwood temporarily joined supergroup Blind Faith in 1969, Wood, Mason and Capaldi joined Mick Weaver otherwise known as Wynder K Frog, to become Mason, Capaldi, Wood and Frog.[7] He then went on to tour the United States with Dr. John, where he met singer Jeanette Jacobs (formerly of the 1960s girl group The Cake). Wood and Jacobs married in November 1972, at Kensington Registry Office, when he was 28 and she was 22. Jacobs listed her occupation as a record company publicity booker.[8]

In 1969, Wood also appeared on the eponymous second album of Free and the Small Faces' The Autumn Stone. In 1970, Wood and his wife, along with Steve Winwood, joined Ginger Baker's Air Force, releasing one album before reforming Traffic. Wood remained with Traffic from the time of its 1970 reformation until its 1974 breakup. He played on John Martyn's Inside Out (1973). Throughout Traffics’ life, Chris was also in demand as a session musician with his immediately identifiable flute or saxophone playing cropping up on albums by Rebop Kwaku Baah, Tyrone Downie, Fat Mattress, Gordon Jackson, Crawler, The Sky, Bobby Whitlock and others.

Through much of his life, Wood suffered from addiction to drugs and alcohol, which were initially attributed to a fear of flying.[2] Tortured by his wife’s serial infidelity while immersing himself in musical experimentation, Chris turned to more drink and drugs for solace. When a liver disease was identified, indulgences were stopped, though the medication produced even more devastating effects that most people (and even close friends) wrongly interpreted – none knowing the internal agony Chris was living with.[4] His wife Jeanette, from whom he had separated, died in 1980, at the age of 30, from the effects of a seizure. Wood was profoundly affected by her death.[2]

Death[edit]

The death of two close friends, Free’s Paul Kossoff and former band-mate Rebop Kwaku Baah followed by that of his (by now, estranged) wife laid very heavy on Chris. While working on a solo album that was to be titled Vulcan, Wood died in 1983 of pneumonia in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. Material for the album had been recorded over the previous few years, mostly in London at Island's Hammersmith Studio – The Fall Out Shelter with engineer Terry Barham – as well as Pathway Studios in London.[2] Following Wood's death, the Vulcan recordings remained in the possession of Wood's sister, Stephanie. In 2008, with the consent of Stephanie Wood a CD titled Vulcan, consisting of selected material Wood recorded while working on the incomplete album (plus an unreleased Traffic live performance of one of Wood's compositions), was released by Esoteric Recordings.[9]

Traffic recorded one more studio album, Far from Home (1994), after Wood's death. The album is dedicated to him, and the central figure on its front cover is a stick figure of a man playing flute.

In June 2013, on Chris' 69th birthday, an announcement was made by The Chris Wood Estate (run by his sister, Stephanie) that a commemorative box-set is being prepared – in collaboration with contemporary music archivists HiddenMasters – that will for the first time ever, properly honour Chris' life in music. Among other music, the set will include the album, Vulcan, as Chris originally sequenced it in 1978.[1]

Discography[edit]

Solo[edit]

With Traffic[edit]

With Ginger Baker's Air Force[edit]

  • 1970 Ginger Baker's Air Force (Island/Polydor)
  • 1998 Ginger Baker, Do What You Like (Polydor; compilation of Ginger Baker's first three albums, including Ginger Baker's Air Force)

With others[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Stephanie Wood
  2. ^ a b c d e Ellie Iglio and Stephanie Wood, Chris Wood Biography; www.winwoodfans.com.
  3. ^ Biography of Locomotive; www.brumbeat.net.
  4. ^ a b c Dan Ropek, author of Chris Wood biography
  5. ^ Wood's contributions to certain songs may have initially been overlooked. For example, some songwriting credits on Traffic changed between the original LP issue and the more recent CD reissues. The credits for "Vagabond Virgin" changed from Mason/Capaldi to Mason/Wood, and the credits for "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?" changed from Winwood/Capaldi to Winwood/Capaldi/Wood. See Stephen Smith (ed.), The Smiling Phases Compendium: Traffic; www.winwoodfans.com. BMI lists "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?" as by Winwood/Capaldi/Wood, while Allmusic (page retrieved 09-06-21) still lists "Vagabond Virgin" as being co-written by Capaldi and Mason. Matthew Greenwald, Review of "Vagabond Virgin"; www.allmusic.co.
  6. ^ Dan Ropek
  7. ^ Mick Weaver History, The Musician's Olympus.
  8. ^ marriage certificate
  9. ^ Esoteric Recordings News Release, October, 2008; www.cherryred.co.uk.

External links[edit]