Al Kooper came up with the name when he was on the phone with a promoter, while gazing at a Johnny Cash album cover. The album was called, "Blood Sweat & Tears". The inspiration for the band name did not come from Winston Churchill's quote, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", as was widely reported at the time. Their first gig was at the Village Theater (which later became the Fillmore East) as the opening act for the James Cotton Blues band.
A couple of weeks later the band opened for Moby Grape at the Cafe au Go Go in New York. They were a huge success and three record labels were willing to sign the group, Elektra, Warner and Columbia. They decided to sign with Columbia, a label that Kooper already had a relation-ship with. In December 1967 they began recording their first album, "Child Is Father To The Man", which was released on February 21 1968. The critics loved it and compared it to the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" and the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds". The album was considered as a milestone in Rock music and was awarded a Grammy nomination, but only hit # 47 in the charts.
Al Kooper began working on the next BS&T album, searching for songs for follow-up material. On the first LP, Kooper was given a free hand to do what he could for BS&T. On the second album Katz and Colomby wanted to take a more active part in the development of the band and both of them wanted to get a new, better, stronger vocalist. When Kooper learned of their plan he decided to leave the band after their final gig at the Garrick Theatre in New York. Randy Brecker also left the band to join the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band. He was replaced by Chuck Winfield. Jerry Weiss left as well, his place being taken by Lew Soloff. Dick Halligan took over the organ and Jerry Hyman was added on trombone.
Now they started searching for a new singer. Laura Nyro, who happened to be dating Jim Fielder at the time, was invited to a rehearsal, but she decided not to join the band. Steven Stills was also approached, but he was busy working with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield on the "Super Sessions" album. Bobby Colomby then told the others of a virtually unknown singer named David Clayton-Thomas, and convinced them that his Blues-tinged style seemed perfect for the band. Clayton-Thomas had some success in Canada with The Bossmen and sang briefly with a band called Flying Machine.
Born in Surrey, England, on Septtember 13th, 1941 as David Henry Thomsett of British-Canadian parents, the family moved to Toronto, Canada when he was age six. David had a troubled adolescence and was jailed a half-dozen times for vagrancy, parole violations and petty theft. While other teenagers in suburban Toronto were attending high school proms, David was a street kid, a loner, sleeping in parked cars, stealing food and clothing, learning how to survive and fight behind bars. When he was at Millbrook Reformatory he learned to play the guitar. An old guitar had been left behind by an outgoing inmate and David claimed it. He began to practice alone, late into the night, and for the first time in his life he had a dream, a plan for the future. After his release, David made music his life, and steadily honed his skills in one band after another until Blood, Sweat And Tears approached him in 1969.
The band also hired James William Guercio to produce their next album. If their first effort was a loose Jazz blending melted together with Rock, this album had a clearer delineation between Jazz and Rock. Straight-ahead Rock songs with a jazzy part in the middle caught the fancy of the record buying public. The album was released on December 11 1968 and launched three Gold singles, "You Made Me So Very Happy", "And When I Die" and "Spinning Wheel". The L.P. garnered five Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year and Best Performance By A Male Vocalist. Suddenly BS&T were as big as any band could be. Offers poured in for major concerts, TV appearances and Jazz and Rock festivals from coast to coast. They even played at the original Woodstock Festival.
The month following Woodstock they began working on their next album. Before it was released, they had to make a goodwill tour to East Europe, because Clayton-Thomas, who was a Canadian citizen, didn't have a green card. The members didn't like the idea of making a goodwill tour for the Nixon-administration, but they had no choice if they wanted to keep Clayton-Thomas in the band. The tour was a major disaster. On the fist night, in Bucharest, the young Romanian audience jumped to its feet and shouted "USA." The Police responded by loosing attack German shepherds on the audience. The communist government gave orders to BS&T, "More Jazz. Less rhythm."
After returning from the tour, their third album, "Blood, Sweat & Tears 3", struck gold upon its release. The album contained a lot of high points, such as Goffin-King's "Hi-De-Ho", Laura Nyro's "He's A Runner", Traffic's "40,000 Headmen" and Clayton-Thomas' "Lucretia MacEvil", along with one of Steve Katz's finest songs, "The Battle". On the album was also a version of Jagger-Richards' "Sympathy for the Devil", with an arrangement by Dick Halligan. "Hi-De-Ho" was released as a single and reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Jazz magazines praised their precision, their arrangements and their musicianship. Contrary, Rock critics called the group "Slick and inflexible." Clayton-Thomas replied to the criticism. "This band does more free blowing on stage than practically any Rock band, but we do it within a very literate and educated framework. A lot of people say it sounds so precise. Well that's the way these guys play. If you go to Juiliard for five or six years, you learn to play precisely." In September, "Lucretia MacEvil" was released as the next single and peaked at #29. November saw the group play its first concert with a full symphony in New Orleans. They also recorded music for a Barbra Steisand, George Segal movie, The Owl and the Pussycat.
In January 1971, the group begin recording its next release in San Francisco. They recruited jazz writer / saxman / composer Don Heckman to co-produce. The sessions seem to drag on, with takes mounting up to the dozens. In a brief break from the recording, Blood, Sweat & Tears became one of the first Rock bands to play in Las Vegas, for which they received a lot of criticism. The band was charged with being hollow and pretentious, swapping its original Rock audience for older, cabaret-oriented listeners. They were called "a lounge act" and critics said that they had sold their soul for money.
Back in the studio again, they asked Al Kooper to come and help out with the album. Kooper, Colomby and Roy Halee co-produced the rest of the sessions. "BS&T 4" was released at the end of June and was the first album with mostly original tunes. It turned Gold in a month. This time even the Rock critics were impressed. Two singles were released from the LP, "Go Down Gamblin'" and "Lisa, Listen To Me", neither of which did well on the American Pop charts.
About this time, the band seemed to split into three separate fractions: the rockers, including most of the rhythm section; the jazzers, Colomby and most of the horn section; and the Vegas star, Clayton-Thomas. Each believes that the band has gone too far in the other direction. January 1972 brought a total split. David Clayton-Thomas left the band for a solo career. The decision was mutual, as their musical ambitions were too different. Fred Lipsius also quit the band. The following month David Clayton-Thomas was replaced by the blind singer Bobby Doyle, once leader of the Bobby Doyle Trio. Joe Henderson replaced Fred Lipsius and guitarist George Wadenius, a member of the Swedish group Made In Sweden, joined the band. The new lineup failed to gel and the group was forced to look for yet another lead singer.
Vocalist Jerry Fisher was recording in New York with New Design, a subsidiary of Columbia Records (the BS&T label). His newly tracked recording session prompted an invitation to have a jam session with the group, after which he was invited to join the band. Prior to BS&T, Fisher performed the nightclub circuits in Las Vegas, Tahoe, parts of his native Oklahoma and Texas. He had a sizeable following and was considered by one Texas music critic as "Probably the greatest white Blues singer in the business".
All these changes meant time rehearsing and reorganizing instead of recording and Columbia Records released a "Greatest Hits" package which contained seven previously released singles plus two album tracks from the celebrated debut LP when Al Kooper led the group, and two more from the Grammy-winning multi-platinum second album.
The personal changes continued. Joe Henderson was replaced by Lou Marini Jr. Dick Halligan called it a day and Larry Willis took over as keyboard player. In the summer of '72, Blood, Sweat & Tears went in the studio again to record a new album. This time they choose mostly covers. At the end of August, the first new material to be released in 13 months, the single "So Long Dixie" is released, but stalls out at #44. The album is released a month later. A discouraged Steve Katz leaves the band along with Chuck Winfield, who is replaced by Tom Malone. There was no replacement for Katz.
As touring continued, Blood, Sweat and Tears began gathering material for yet another album and in the Spring of 1973 they are once again in the studio to record. The result, "No Sweat", was released in June the same year and contained both originals and cover songs. The album this time is more rocking with "Roller Coaster" released as a single. The LP peaks at #42 and another single, "Save Our Ship" was released from the album. The touring continued and so did the personal changes. Long time member Jim Fielder left and was replaced by Ron McClure, Lou Marini Jr. was replaced by Bill Tillman. Tom Malone also left, replaced by Tony Klatka. Lew Soloff also quit the band. Jerry LaCroix, formerly a member of the Edgar Winter group, joins the band on sax and flute. He also sings, but Jerry Fisher was still the lead singer.
In March and April 1974 the band spend most of the time in the studio for their forthcoming album and in July, "Mirror Image" was released. A song called, "Tell Me ThatI'm Wrong" was issued as a single but only reaches #83. The album flops at #149. Jerry LaCroix didn't feel comfortable within the band, and he couldn't' handle Bobby Colomby. Basically he didn't care for Blood, Sweat And Tears style and he did not like to share lead vocal duties. He was more interested in his solo album "The Second Coming", that he recently had recorded. He once said that one of the reasons for him to join was that they were going on a world tour and he hadn't seen the world. While they were in Australia he decided to quit and when they came back, he left the group after a gig in Central Park. Luther Kent, a Blues singer from New Orleans was recruited as a new lead vocalist, together with Jerry Fisher. Luther Kent had been singing with The Greek Fountains, a busy, popular band in demand regionally, then criss-crossed America with his own, 9-piece R&B band, Blues, Inc. His voice could be described as powerful, rough and whiskey-drenched. Blood, Sweat And Tears never did any recordings with Luther Kent, who eventually quit to form Trick Bag with guitarist Charlie Brent.
As 1975 began, David Clayton-Thomas returned to Blood, Sweat And Tears. Joe Giorgianni was added on trumpet and flugelhorn, and in sessions during February they recorded new songs for their next LP. The effort was made up of 50 percent cover tunes (Janis Ian, Randy Newman, the Beatles, Blues Image) and 50 percent originals, including a song from one of Clayton-Thomas solo albums ("Yesterday's Music"). The L.P. called "New City" was released in April, and on the cover it says "Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring David Clayton-Thomas", to let people know that now it's the same band that made all those hits a few years ago. It's the first BS&T album in many years to get favorable reviews. Live bookings began to increase in quality and quantity, and the band experienced renewed popularity. Their revival of The Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life" peaked at #62 in America and the album hit #47. During this period, a 'live' album was recorded and released in Europe and Japan as "In Concert". It's the same album that later was released as "Live and Improvised" in the U.S.A.
In August 1976, an LP called "More Than Ever" was released, but it was a disappointing seller, often described as the weakest album they ever put out despite guest vocals by Patti Austin. After it stalled at #165, Columbia Records dropped the band. At this time, Bobby Colomby, BS&T's sole remaining original member, quit the group.
The following year the band was signed to ABC Records and in November they recorded the album "Brand New Day". The effort garnered positive reviews, but was not a major seller.
The group continued to tour and personnel continued to change. In January 1978 they toured Europe with Clayton-Thomas on vocals, Dave Bargeron on tuba, Anthony Klatka and Chris Albert on trumpet, Gregory Herbert on saxophone, Randy Bernsen on guitar, Larry Willis on keyboards, Neil Stubenhaus on bass and Bobby Economou on drums. After a concert in Amsterdam, Gregory Herbert took an overdose of cocaine and died. The band promptly returned home and splintered.
In late 1979, David Clayton-Thomas formed a new Canadian version of Blood, Sweat & Tears with Bobby Economou. He recruited Robert Piltch, one of Canada's finest young guitarists, and his brother David on bass. The other members were: Bruce Cassidy from The Bruce Cassidy Band on trumpet, Earl Seymour on saxophone and flute, Vernon Dorge on alto and soprano sax, and Richard Martinez on keyboards. Signed to MCA Records in 1980, this incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears' first album was called "Nuclear Blues" and featured cover versions of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and Henry Glover's Blues classic, "Drown In My Own Tears". But the face of music had drifted away from the style that made Blood, Sweat And Tears popular and the band disbanded again later the same year. The Group faded from view for pretty much the next five years, getting together for a few live shows here and there.
In 1985, Clayton-Thomas teamed up with hard-driving young manager, Larry Dorr, formerly a tour manager with he band. Larry convinced David that there was still life in the once proud name Blood, Sweat & Tears, and that with the right musicians, good management, and strong leadership, it could once again be an attraction on concert stages around the world. They recruited musical director / trumpeter Steve Guttman, graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and Blood, Sweat & Tears began performing with prestigious American symphonies like the Detroit, the Houston, and the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestras. Larry Dorr was right. A revitalized BS&T under his direction and David's leadership came storming back to the concert stages of the world, playing international Jazz festivals, symphonies, concert halls and casino show rooms. In the late '80s the personnel of the band stabilized and they became a solid group again.
In 1994, David Clayton-Thomas and Blood Sweat & Tears horn section: Jerry Sokolow - trumpet, Steve Guttman - trumpet, Tim Ries - Sax and Charlie Gordon - Trombone, made a record with the Hungarian jazz drummer Leslie Mandoki called "People" billed as Leslie Mandoki And Friends.
In 1996 David Clayton-Thomas was induced into the Canadian Music hall of Fame. Later that year he recorded a solo LP called "The Uptown Album", recorded 'live' at Ornette Coleman's Harlem studio and produced by David himself. It was released in Canada in November 1997 and in the US and the rest of the world in January 1998. In 1997 he issued another album called "People In Room no. 8". Later in 1998, David recorded an LP called "Bloodlines" that featured some of the musicians that had been in Blood Sweat And Tears over the years.
Finally, after 40 years in the business, David Clayton-Thomas retired from the road in 2004 and moved back to his native Toronto. A band calling itself Blood, Sweat And Tears continued to tour and in 2007 they were sharing the stage with Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, in a series of shows across the US. 2011 saw BS&T and Chicago co-headlining a Jazz festival in Stuttgart Germany. From 2008 through 2010, guitarist Steve Katz returned to appear at BS&T's shows as a special guest. In 2013, they were still working a heavy schedule of concerts across America. David Clayton-Thomas was kept busy by his Pine River Foundation, an organization that helps street kids. He rarely appears on stage, booking only a couple of shows a year.
In the Spring of 2015, the band brought in American Idol alum Bo Bice on vocals, and was busy playing one-nighters across America. A tour of Australia was booked for the first half of September before wrapping up back in the US for the remainder of the year. For 2016, the band was still heavily booked across the United States at theatres, casinos and cruise ships.
For more, be sure to read Gary James' interviews with
David Clayton Thomas