Boz Burrell

Bass guitarist with Bad Company
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The Independent Online

Raymond Burrell (Boz Burrell), bass guitarist: born Holbeach, Lincolnshire, 1 January 1946; married; died 21 September 2006.

Boz Burrell was a singer and bass player who played with the progressive rock band King Crimson and was a founder member of the stadium band Bad Company. Although Bad Company had considerable UK success, it was in the United States that they became a major force with such songs as "Can't Get Enough", "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Rock'n'Roll Fantasy" in the mid-1970s.

Raymond Burrell was born in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, on New Year's Day 1946. He acquired a passion for jazz, enjoying both the cheerfulness of Fats Waller and the complexities of John Coltrane. Burrell first sang with beat bands in the Norfolk area; he turned professional with Lombard & the Tea Time Four, which featured a young Ian McLagan, and then the Boz People. "I was sure I didn't want to be in a band called the Boz People," says McLagan, "but really they were more into jazz and I wanted to play blues."

The Boz People released several singles for EMI's Columbia label. In 1968 Boz recorded cover versions of "I Shall Be Released" and "Light My Fire", both of which featured the guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. He met Robert Fripp when he played in Keith Tippett's Centipede.

In 1970, Fripp asked Burrell to be the new vocalist in a reconstituted King Crimson and, when the proposed bass player, Rick Kemp, decided against joining, the guitarist Robert Fripp offered to teach Burrell how to play bass. This put Burrell under considerable pressure, but it enabled the band to continue. They made the album Islands in 1971, but Fripp's relentless experimentation wore them down, and he was left with the King Crimson name while the others joined Alexis Korner's blues-based band Snape.

In 1972 and after leaving Free, Paul Rodgers was forming a new band, which would be named after one of his songs, "Bad Company". It would include Simon Kirke from Free and Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople but they had problems finding a suitable bass player. They auditioned Burrell and had success from the start, making six million-selling albums, Bad Company (1974), Straight Shooter (1975), Run with the Pack (1976), Burnin' Sky (1977), Desolation Angels (1979) and Rough Diamonds (1982). Burrell was always critical of his own playing:

I sometimes hear "Can't Get Enough" and think I should never have played a fretless bass on that. The pitch is so out of tune.

"Rick Danko played fretless bass all over the Band's album Cahoots in 1971, and that encouraged many bass players to get hold of one," says Tony Bacon, co-author of The Bass Book (1995):

Boz Burrell was one of the best, but, like many musicians, he was ultra-critical of his own work. It doesn't matter if the pitch is out of tune on "Can't Get Enough": it is what you do with the instrument that counts, and he knew what to do with it. I thought of him as a very melodic bass player, which is unusual in a rock context.

Bad Company had UK Top Twenty hits with "Can't Get Enough" and "Feel Like Makin' Love", but had many more in America, including a revival of the Coasters' novelty "Young Blood". Paul Rodgers recalls,

"Young Blood" was Boz's idea and a really good one. It was such a great stage number and the audiences loved us doing that "look-a there", "look-a there, look-a there" bit. It was a big single in America and we were part of an exclusive set in the States, travelling by private jet and limousines. I thought it was crazy and, in the end, I wanted to get back to the roots.

For four years from 1986, the band continued without Rodgers, and then Burrell had had enough:

The cherry bombs were flying and I thought, "Jesus Christ, if this is music . . ." I saw a young girl with half her face blown away and it didn't seem worth it to me. I mean, how much money do you need to live? Not only that, the old body was also giving out.

In the 1990s, Boz worked with Alvin Lee, being part of his "Best of British Blues" tour. The original members of Bad Company reformed for a very successful reunion tour in 1999. In recent years, he had worked with the Scottish singer Tam White, and also with the entertainer Kenny Lynch, on jazz dates. "I met Boz on Ready, Steady, Go! in the 1960s," recalls Lynch,

and he was a wonderful bass player. He had some beautiful instruments and, like me, he preferred the wooden ones to the red paint jobs. He was always very enthusiastic about his music and he was always saying, "I've got a better idea." It could drive me mad as I didn't need to be backed by Charlie Mingus, but he was always right.

Spencer Leigh

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