47 Years Ago: Cream Play Their First Show
On July 31, 1966, the Sixth National Jazz and Blues Festival was held at the Royal Windsor Racecourse in England. Among the usual assortment of artists you find at things like this was a new band called Cream, who were making their debut performance.
Comprised of drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton, the new combo became the talk of the town overnight. Each member had already established himself as a key player in the U.K. blues scene, doing time in bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann and the Graham Bond Organization.
After a set by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Cream took the stage for a 40-minute set that included many songs that would end up on their debut album later that year, including ‘Cat’s Squirrel,’ ‘Spoonful,’ ‘Lawdy Mama’ and ‘I’m So Glad.’ Anticipation for the new group was high, as 10,000 fans braved the pouring rain and muddy grounds to witness the band’s dynamic debut.
In an interview with Melody Maker before the show, Clapton referred to Cream as “blues ancient and modern,” saying, “What we want to do is anything that people haven’t done before. Pete Townshend is enthusiastic, and he may write a number for us.” Bruce added, “We call it sweet-and-sour rock ‘n’ roll.”
“We’ve only been rehearsing for three days, and we could have 50 numbers if wanted, but we want to choose them carefully,” continued Clapton. “Most people have formed the impression of us as three solo musicians clashing with each other. We want to cancel that idea and be a group that plays together.”
The day after the festival, Cream were off to Cooks Ferry Inn in North East London, followed by a stop at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, where they kicked off a nationwide introduction tour. The band’s debut single, ‘Wrapping Paper’ (with ‘Cat’s Squirrel’ on the flip side) was released in October. Their debut LP, ‘Fresh Cream,’ came out in December.