Wizz Jones never knew that Bruce Springsteen had heard of him until last May, only a couple of weeks after Wizz played the Greystones.
He was surprised to hear from a German pal who had just seen The Boss open a show in Berlin with a Wizz song, When I Leave Berlin. “It came out of the blue, I had an email then it went onto You Tube the same day. I wrote it in 1972. Bruce did it pretty well.”
On Tuesday, Wizz will be back at the Greystones, where he played many times in the late ’60s and ’70s at the old Highcliffe folk club. “There were so many great gigs there. I remember appearing on the same bill as the Humblebums and being introduced by Billy Connolly to their new member Gerry Rafferty.”
Long recognised as one of the classier acoustic guitarists, many more famous musicians have cited him as an early influence on their playing, not least Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, whose autobiography praises him lavishly. “I never knew them personally. Eric Clapton was inspired by all our crowd. I knew Rod because we had the same girlfriend and our paths crossed a few times. In a way he did what we were all kind of trying to do.”
Wizz Jones was there at the beginning of the folk club scene in London. He sat at the feet of visiting Americans like Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. “When Jack hit London, we’d never seen anything like it, never seen anybody play that wonderful flat-picking style like he did. I followed him all over the south of England, went to every gig.”
Soon afterwards he formed a duo with bluegrass banjo player Pete Stanley and for several summers they drew hippies and holidaymakers to the Folk Cottage near Newquay, giving a break to a young Ralph McTell. Then the folk boom exploded and Wizz became a star of the club circuit – and a frequent performer at Les Cousins in Soho, alongside his friends Davy Graham, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, who described him as “the most under-rated guitarist ever”.
At 74 the years have done nothing to slow him down. He still swings like the clappers and rolls out great tales of a lifetime on the road. On Tuesday night his old pal Dave Deighton will be supporting. It will be just like old times in the backroom at the Greystones.