“Please note one of Kim’s last requests was to thank the fans of Savoy Brown,” they said. “Your support was and shall always be immensely appreciated.”
Simmonds announced in August that he had been battling stage-four cancer for close to a year. He’d been diagnosed with signet-cell colon cancer, a rare form of the disease that accounts for less than one percent of cases. It is often not detected early enough to provide an opportunity for recovery.
“I’ve been receiving chemotherapy and that has made it hard for me to play gigs,” Simmonds said in an official statement back then. “One of the side effects is peripheral neuropathy which has now deadened the nerves in my fingers and hands (feet too).”
Born in Wales in 1947, Simmonds began honing his skills as a guitarist while he was still a teenager by listening to his brother’s blues records. He and his sibling would often attend shows in London performed by the likes of Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Freddie King and even the Rolling Stones on one of their early tours. “I recognized as a kid, this is the future of guitar music and I wanted to be a part of it,” Simmonds told Blues Rock Review in 2020.
Simmonds formed the Savoy Brown Blues Band in 1965, when he was 18, with an original lineup that also featured singer Brice Portius, keyboardist Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Manning and harmonica player John O’Leary. Before long, the band could be found playing gigs in London alongside acts like Cream and John Lee Hooker, helping to usher in the modern blues movement in England.
Savoy Brown’s lineup changed frequently. Several members of Chicken Shack, the band Christine McVie helped to launch before Fleetwood Mac, were recruited into the group at one point, including keyboardist Paul Raymond, bassist Andy Silvester and drummer Dave Bidwell. This lineup traveled overseas to America, where they were supported on tour by Rod Stewart and the Faces.
Around this time, 1971’s Street Corner Talking spawned a few mildly successful songs, like the album’s title track, “Tell Mama” and a cover of the Temptations‘ “I Can’t Get Next to You.” Their 1972 follow up, Hellbound Train, reached No. 34 on the Billboard 200. Though high-level commercial success evaded them, Savoy Brown became a mainstay of the British blues scene.
Listen to Savoy Brown’s ‘Tell Mama’
The lineup would continue to change over the following decades, but Simmonds remained as the sole constant. He released his first solo album, an acoustic LP called Solitaire, in 1997. Four more solo records followed, as well as dozens of LPs with Savoy Brown. Their 2017 album, Witchy Feeling, reached No. 1 on the Billboard blues charts.
Savoy Brown released not one but two albums in 2020, Ain’t Done Yet and Taking the Blues Back Home. Then Simmonds’ ongoing health issues led to a cancellation of all Savoy Brown live shows in 2021.
He offered advice to up-and-coming artists later the same year: “Stick to one style. Specialize in one style,” Simmonds said. “You’ll get ahead further and quicker if you focus on just one musical style. You’ll naturally be a part of your time and place in the world, but hold on to your individuality and don’t be afraid to go against the grain.”
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