The Odyssey Blues Band started life as a jump jive/Swing band called “The AlleyKats”, back in 1997. The band teamed up with American legend Mississippi John L Watson in March of 1998 to do a live session on BBC Radio 1 for the “Andy Kershaw Show”. This went out on March 23rd 1998, and was brilliantly received.
The band changed its name to THE ODYSSEY BLUES BAND just before appearances with John L at The Hackney Show (June 1998), The Irish (Dublin) Temple Bar (Guinness) Blues Festival, and (the following day) the hugely succesful Barbican Centre Blues Day (26/7/98), (on the same bill as JOE LOUIS WALKER), before making the self-produced and review-acclaimed “ASS KICKIN’ TIME” CD (Odddiscs 1001). Airplays followed on BBC Radio North, and JAZZ FM (Paul Jones’ Saturday morning show).
1999 saw the band play Exeter St George’s Hall supporting PHIL GUY (Brother of Buddy Guy) (10/7/99), and rocked at the London Fitzrovia (Charlotte St., W1) festival. Appearances followed at Rochdale, Hull, Walkenden and Gloucester (Painswick) Blues Clubs as the main act, culminating in a performance as Headline Act at the prestigious ISLE of WIGHT Blues weekend 16/10/99.
The band also had the honour of supporting SCREAMIN’ LORD SUTCH at Brixton Academy on 10th June 1999 at the Rolling Stones ’99 Convention, only days before his tragic death, and played an acclaimed set as support act to JOHN MAYALL‘S BLUESBREAKERS at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire on 21st November 1999.
The year 2000 saw a reconstruction of the act as John L left to concentrate on other things. A review acclaimed performance at the Abbeyfest 2000 Blues at the Mills (25-28/8/00) announced to the music world that the Odyssey Band was here to stay (specialist magazine “Blueprint” August 2000 or quoted on our reviews page), The guys teamed up in November 2000 with chanteuse Judy Gallimore to record the demo “Bluesy”(Oddiscs 1002), which can be heard on the band’s demo page at OdysseyBlues.co.uk.
Not without good reason the band were named “London’s 3rd best band” by editor Fran Leslie at Blueprint magazine, and they followed this accolade by making a barnstorming debut on The International Stage at The Great British R&B Festival in Colne, lanacashire, on August 25th 2001 in their own right.
The band reformed around soul singer Reuben Richards late in 2001, and developed a sound evocative of the great US Stax label. The act took on two identities, one part became “The Odyssey Blues & Soul Revue”, and the other became a strictly blues orientated quartet with a variety of members. Reuben Richards had already made a successful career in the worlds of Soul Music and professional acting, culminating in a riveting performance on TV’s “Stars In Their Eyes” show, where he was a finalist in 2001 and very nearly won the contest. His voice is a dead ringer for Otis Redding, and the band recorded a promo CD “Against The Odds” (Oddiscs 1004), which was launched at midnight on Thursday March 14th 2002 at Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues in Wardour St, London W1.
The first airplay for the CD was on Paul Jones’ Saturday Morning Jazz FM show on 9th March. “Against The Odds” (Oddiscs 1004) received great reviews (9/10 in “Blues In Britain” magazine) and was played on Jazz Fm several times, and on other regional stations, plus known airplay in Denmark and Croatia (playlists were sent to the band from these countries). The Odyssey blues and soul revue split up with Reuben in 2003, but Reuben continued with some of the band members in a renamed “Soul Train”. Pete rejoined him between 2005 and 2008.
The Odyssey Blues Band then continued as a quartet from 2003 onwards, and in 2004 produced the acclaimed CD “Look What We Done” with Dave Dix (vocals), Alan Vincent (guitar), Mimi Hajime Ueoka (Drums) and Pete Duke on Bass. The quartet became a quintet with the addition of Jamie Rowan on keyboards, and played The Abbeyfest Blues festival in 2005 and 2007, and played a brilliant set at Ealing Blues festival July 2006.
By way of a diversion, some of the original Odyssey Blues Band reformed around a Rock N’ Roll/Rhythm and Blues Band (which gigged around London in the mid nineties) called “Wylie Coyote”, with Rupert Webster back on guitar (and vocals), Alf Mitchell once more on Drums, Pete Duke on Bass, with the addition of Gary Gibson on vocals and Fred Parodi on Keyboards. This outfit played from around 2010 to mid 2012.
And so to the present. In 2012 Pete joined up with 3 guys from NE London calling themselves The Skodas. Everyone agreed this was a poor name, and Pete offered up the Odyssey Blues Band name as a means of getting more gigs on the blues circuit. Unfortunately, due to musical differences, Pete quit early this year (2015) and despite his protests the other three guys have continued to use the band name – changed slightly to reflect a blues and soul content – but this is now without any connection to the band’s history and legacy. Maybe common sense and decency will prevail.