This blog began in 1997 as a single news page called Nucelus. In 2005, during a long wait to move into a new house, I decided to learn some php and MySQL and write my own blogging system, which became inkyBlog and which now powers this, my own Webbledegook blog.
Thank you to my brother, Murray Ewing, for help with some of the more challenging aspects!
I wanted a decent record of all the work I did, so I've made a one-off art book (through Blurb), a portfolio, just for my own archive. Although there are no other copies (the art remains the copyright of Maschinen-Mensch), I did make a little video of a flip-through the book, so you can have a peek for yourself.
I can't remember how I discovered The Groundhogs for myself. I was heavily into blues, both American artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker, and the British scene - particularly John Mayall, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Rory Gallagher (yes, Irish), Free and Cream. I spied the double-album Groundhogs Best 1969-72 and it blew me away. Then a friend informed me the band were still going and sometimes played locally. Sure enough, just a few months later I think, The Groundhogs appeared at The Shelley Arms, Nutley, a venue I'd played many times with my own band.
It remains the best gig I've ever been to. The Shelley Arms was not a big venue, and I was stood right at the front, with McPhee standing directly in front of me, raised only a little by the tiny stage. It was almost like a private show and the energy was outstanding. I came away in shock.
I saw them several more times, from Brighton to London and in between. I got a job as a conference porter at a local hotel and was shown the ropes by the outgoing porter, Aaron. One day, as we sat down to lunch he asked me who my favourite bands were. "You've probably never heard of them", I said, "but I really love a band called The Groundhogs". He laughed - "Oh, Tony McPhee? He's my uncle!". And it was true - we went up to London together to see Tony play and I got introduced, a thrill (thanks, Aaron!).
Our band covered two Groundhogs songs - 3744 James Road and BDD, the first from the 1972 album Hogwash , and the latter from 1969's Blues Obituary . Both remain terrific classic albums, but even better are Thank Christ For The Bomb (1970) and the incredible Split (1971). Along with 1972's Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs (complete with Neal Adams artwork), these five albums are the pinnacle of Tony's work (in my opinion), but he didn't let up, with many more gems on more albums from 1974 right up to the turn of the century and 1999's Muddy Waters Songbook and beyond - not to mention a rich library of official live recordings and solo projects.
Tony McPhee worked incredibly hard, put out strong, quality material, but undoubtedly did not quite have the wider reputation and recognition he deserved (though Paul Freestone's excellent Eccentric Man - A Biography & Discography of Tony (TS) McPhee is a worthy tribute). Maybe if he'd have joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1965, when he was asked to replace Eric Clapton, things might have been different, but I suspect not - McPhee was too much of an individual who had to do his own thing to thrive. He did that, and maybe with his sad passing some wider recognition will come. But his wonderful work is available, and if you haven't heard it before, now's the time.