Delaney Bramlett: Singer, songwriter and producer who worked with Lennon, Harrison, Clapton and Hendrix

For a couple of years, in 1969 and 1970, Delaney & Bonnie, the gifted duo comprising the singer-songwriter and guitarist Delaney Bramlett and his vocalist wife Bonnie, were the names on the lips of the rock cognoscenti.

Eric Clapton enthused about the Bramletts' blue-eyed soul after hearing The Original Delaney And Bonnie – Accept No Substitute, their 1969 album, and asked them to open for Blind Faith, the supergroup he had formed in the United States with Steve Winwood of Traffic and the former Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

"For me going on after Delaney and Bonnie was really, really tough, because I thought they were miles better than us," Clapton recalled in his autobiography last year. "Their band was made up of all these great Southern musicians, who had such a strong sound and performed with absolute confidence ... Needless to say it wasn't long before I dropped all my responsibilities as being part of Blind Faith and started to hang out with them.

"There was something infectious about their approach to music. They would have their guitars on the bus and would play songs all day. I took to travelling and playing with them. The truth is I was the man in the hallway, who has come out one door, only to find it has closed behind him while another one is opening. Through that door were Delaney and Bonnie, and I was irresistibly drawn towards it."

In 1969, Clapton guested on "Comin' Home", Delaney & Bonnie and Friends' sole British Top 20 hit, and appeared on the On Tour live recording, which made the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in June 1970. Delaney Bramlett also convinced the British guitarist to sing lead more – "I told him he had a pretty good voice, and if you don't use it, God will take it away from you!" said Bramlett, who was a soulful singer and an accomplished rhythm and slide guitar player.

He also acted as co-writer and producer on Clapton's eponymous solo album recorded in Los Angeles with Bonnie and the aforementioned Friends and issued in September 1970, most notably contributing to the track "Let It Rain".

"I was totally in awe of Delaney," Clapton wrote. "He was the first to instill in me a sense of purpose. Delaney brought out something in me that I didn't know I had. My solo career really began there. I'll never be able to repay Delaney for his belief in me. He saw something I had stopped looking for."

When the Friends broke up, Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos with the former Friends, bassist Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, and Jim Gordon on drums, as well as Duane Allman, another Bramlett associate. Delaney Bramlett's role as a catalyst in Clapton's career is paramount, since he also introduced the British guitarist to the music of J.J. Cale, who had been in his backing band.

A musician's musician, Bramlett worked with some of the biggest names in rock and pop, including George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Gram Parsons, Billy Preston, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Dr John. With Leon Russell he co-wrote the yearning ballad "Groupie (Superstar)", which became a standard following The Carpenters' hit in 1971 (under the title "Superstar"), and has been covered by Joe Cocker, Bette Midler, Luther Vandross and even Sonic Youth. Another of his compositions, "Never Ending Song Of Love", a US hit for Delaney & Bonnie in 1971, has been recorded by Ray Charles, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Patty Loveless and Dwight Yoakam.

Born in Pontotoc County, Mississipi, he was the son of a sharecropper who ran off leaving his mother, nicknamed Mamo, to raise him and his brother. She loved singing and playing and made the best of their reduced circumstances. "We lived in a log house," he recalled. "We didn't have no bathroom or electric lights. She worked for 30 cents a day, pickin' cotton, and me and my brother picked cotton right along with her. She taught me to play and sing from the time I was a little bitty boy. And there was a black guy that lived with us named R.C. Weatherall, and he taught me about the blues."

Bramlett was making up songs by the time he was eight, and later appeared on local TV after winning a talent contest. In the late 1950s he joined the Navy for three years then moved to Los Angeles, where he became a budding songwriter, collaborating with Jackie DeShannon among others, and writing "Searchin' For Somewhere" for Clint Eastwood in 1962. "It's the woooorst song," Bramlett said. "Sounds like a guy sittin' by a cactus bush, and it's terrible! But I tell you what, it's a classic, [on] the only album he ever put out! That song made me a grand total of $4.57!"

Bramlett also became a regular member of the house band on the TV show Shindig. In 1967, he met Bonnie Lynn O'Farrell while playing the Carolina Lanes Bowling Alley in Los Angeles. She had been a member of Ike and Tina Turner's Ikettes and had also backed Fontella Bass and Albert King. Five days later they were married and began assembling their first group.

For two years, they played clubs in Los Angeles, and were the first white act to sign to the Stax label, though their first album, Home, only found an audience when it was repromoted after their early burst of fame. By 1969, Delaney & Bonnie had moved to Elektra Records and seemed on their way to becoming a major attraction thanks to their sterling musicianship and their friendship with Clapton.

In Europe, Harrison joined the touring party and offered to sign them to the Beatles' Apple label. Delaney & Bonnie and Friends attracted the cream of British musicians to their concerts, with the Rolling Stones also enthusing about their heady mix of blues and Southern soul. Following a hectic 18 months the Bramletts took a break, their former musicians becoming part of Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, as well as Derek and the Dominoes. They released two more albums, on Atco, To Bonnie From Delaney (1970), recorded with Duane Allman, and Motel Shot (1971), and also appeared in Richard C. Sarafian's cult 1971 film Vanishing Point.

They scored another US hit with "Only You Know And I Know", before signing to Columbia in 1972. By then, though, their career had lost momentum and their marriage was on the rocks. They divorced, Bonnie becoming a born again Christian. She made several gospel albums, while Delaney went solo. In 1977, he teamed up with guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T & The MGs and Stax fame for the Class Reunion album on Motown. Bramlett spent time on his ranch and in the late 1990s went back to his blues roots with the Sounds From Home album.

Bramlett, who died from complications following gall-bladder surgery, mentored many musicians and was always keen to share his talent and spur others on to greater heights. For instance, he was credited with showing Harrison how to play slide guitar and inspiring the former Beatle to write "My Sweet Lord". Bekka, his daughter with Bonnie, was a member of Fleetwood Mac in the mid-'90s and recorded the Time album with them in 1995, co-writing the track "Nothing Without You" with her father. His most recent album, A New Kind Of Blues, was released earlier this year.

Pierre Perrone

Delaney Bramlett, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer: born Pontotoc County, Mississipi, 1 July 1939; twice married (three daughters); died Los Angeles 27 December 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most