Chris Wood (rock musician)

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Chris Wood
Wood in 1969
Wood in 1969
Background information
Birth nameChristopher Gordon Blandford Wood
Born(1944-06-24)24 June 1944
Quinton, Birmingham, England
Died12 July 1983(1983-07-12) (aged 39)
Birmingham, England
Years active1963–1983
Formerly of

Christopher Gordon Blandford Wood (24 June 1944 – 12 July 1983) was a British rock musician, best known as a founding member of the rock band Traffic, along with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason.


Born in Quinton,[5] a suburb of Birmingham, Chris Wood had an interest in music and painting from early childhood. Self-taught on flute and saxophone, which he began 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.[6] Wood played with Perfect in 1964 in the band Shades of Blue and with Kellie during 1965–1966 in the band Locomotive.[7]

He attended the Stourbridge College of Art,[5] then the Birmingham School of Art (Painting Dept.)[5] and subsequently was awarded a grant to attend the Royal Academy of Art starting in December 1965.[5]

Aged 18, Wood joined the Steve Hadley Quartet, a jazz/blues group in 1962.[5] 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.[6] A well-known Birmingham club, the Elbow Room, was an after-hours haunt of local bands and musicians and it was here that Wood used to meet up with Winwood and Jim Capaldi. At the age of 18, Winwood abandoned the Spencer Davis Group at the height of their popularity and, along with Wood, Capaldi and Dave Mason, formed Traffic.[8]

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 released their first single, "Paper Sun".[8]

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 Winwood and Capaldi), of "Dear Mr. Fantasy".[9]

Wood introduced the 17th century traditional song "John Barleycorn" to the band after hearing it on The Watersons album Frost and Fire.[citation needed] It became the title song of their 1970 album, "John Barleycorn Must Die."[10]

Wood played with Jimi Hendrix in 1968, appearing on Electric Ladyland. When Winwood temporarily formed 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.[11] 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.[12]

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 Traffic's 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.[6] His wife was unfaithful while he was on tour, leading to an increased drinking, culminating in liver disease. He cut down on drinking, but his medication caused further complications.[8] His wife Jeanette, from whom he had separated, died in 1982, at the age of 31, from the effects of a seizure. Wood was profoundly affected by her death.[6]

Death and legacy[edit]

The death of two close friends, Free's Paul Kossoff and former bandmate Rebop Kwaku Baah, along with that of his (by then, estranged) wife lay very heavily on Wood.

In 1983, Wood died of liver disease at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

At the time, he was working on a solo album that was to be titled Vulcan, and had recorded material for the album over the previous few years, mostly in London at Island's Hammersmith Studio, The Fall Out Shelter, with engineer Terry Barham, as well as at Pathway Studios in London.[6] 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.[13]

Traffic recorded one additional 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 Wood's 69th birthday, the Chris Wood Estate (run by his sister, Stephanie) announced that a commemorative box set was being prepared – in collaboration with contemporary music archivists HiddenMasters, to properly honour Wood's life in music. Among other music, the set would include the album Vulcan as Chris originally sequenced it in 1978. The box set Evening Blue was finally released three and a half years later in early 2017, in a special deluxe first edition limited to 1,000 copies.[5][14]



  • 2008 Vulcan (compilation)
  • 2015 Evening Blue (box set)

with Traffic[edit]

with Ginger Baker's Air Force[edit]

  • Ginger Baker's Air Force (1970)
  • Ginger Baker, Do What You Like (Compilation of Ginger Baker's first three albums, including Ginger Baker's Air Force) (1998)

with Others[edit]


  1. ^ "Locomotive". Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  2. ^ Paul Reeslast (30 March 2017). "Traffic's Chris Wood: Gifted, troubled and perpetually overlooked". Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Official Site". Steve Winwood. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  4. ^ "The Official History Arhcives of the Legendary Ginger Baker". Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Stephanie Wood
  6. ^ a b c d e "Steve Winwood Fans' Site: Chris Wood". 24 April 2005. Archived from the original on 24 April 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  7. ^ "Locomotive". Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  8. ^ a b c Dan Ropek, author of Chris Wood biography (Tragic Magic: The Life of Traffic's Chris Wood, 2015, Oakamoor Publishing, ISBN 978-1910773192)
  9. ^ 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; 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"; AllMusic
  10. ^ Dan Ropek
  11. ^ Mick Weaver History, The Musician's Olympus.
  12. ^ "Christopher G B Wood, "England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008"". FamilySearch.
  13. ^ "Esoteric Records : Chris Wood". 15 October 2008. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  14. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]