LACONIA — It’s not a tour, and it’s not a tribute band. Those are two things Denny Laine wants make clear.
The appearance in Laconia of the British legend who co-founded the Moody Blues and was a central figure with Paul McCartney in Wings offers an update of the music made famous by those two bands.
The Putnam Fund is bringing Laine and the Moody Wings Band to Laconia High School for a free concert on Friday at 7 p.m. Joining Laine onstage will be Brian Pothier on lead guitar, Erik Paparozzi on bass, Alex Jules on keyboards, and Ben Lecourt on drums. Special guest Julie Grant will join them for one song.
“We started out with some people Peter Asher had in his band,” Laine said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. Asher is a British singer, guitarist, manager, and record producer who became famous in the 1960s as part of the duo Peter and Gordon. “We changed a few members, and have some younger guys, as well. They just have great attitudes.”
Attitude is important to Laine, who said his career has always been about the music, and not so much about the money.
Growing up in post World War II Birmingham, England, Laine said he was exposed to music from Jamaica, India, and China, as well as blues and rock’n’roll. He also grew up in a musical family. It was a factory town, but music was a big part of life there.
“I just ended up picking up a guitar, and music was my thing,” Laine said.
He liked gypsy jazz, being a big fan of Django Reinhardt, but also ran into the music of Buddy Holly, and “I was into rock’n’roll at 15.” Skiffle was becoming popular in the United Kingdom, led by Lonnie Donegan, moving interest from British jazz to traditional jazz and blues in the style of Leadbelly. “So we were performing skiffle,” Laine said, “and started becoming part of the blues scene.”
When he formed the Moody Blues with Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, and Clint Warwick, they originally took the name M&B 5. Laine explained, “M&B [Mitchells & Butlers], the local brewery, was going to sponsor us. We were working in the Blues Cavern at the time.” The sponsorship did not work out, and M&B became Moody Blues.
There were a lot of cross-influences among the bands playing at the time, some of it occurring at the parties taking place after the shows.
“Everyone was working really hard, with most bands coming from out of town, and they would be working at night, and party after,” Laine said. “They all had day jobs, and when you had a day off, they would come to our house in the country. We were working every night, but during that time, we met the Beatles, and got friendly with them.”
He said the Moody Blues had to work hard to become professional enough to get discovered and do the circuits, and his best memories of those days were about getting to number one with their hit song, “Go Now.”
He left the Moody Blues to do something a little different, he said. “I wanted to continue writing, and formed the Electric String Band, and did a show with Jimi Hendrix, and was with Ginger Baker.”
He said he has no regrets about leaving the Moody Blues before their huge hit album, “Days of Future Passed,” and he is still friends with his old bandmates to this day. When the Moody Blues were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, he was part of the recognition.
“It’s nice to know we all made it, and into the Hall of Fame. It’s a good feeling, and flattering to some degree,” Laine said.
Paul McCartney had seen Laine’s performance with the Electric String Band at the show with Jimi Hendrix, and when he was ready to put together the band Wings, he called on Laine to join him.
“I was kind of sitting around, waiting for my band to get together again,” Laine said, “and I got the call to join Paul in Scotland.”
It came together pretty quickly, he said – in a year or two — “and it took another year before it got anywhere, to the point when you’re ready to fly,” Laine said. “It all began by singing a few harmonies.”
Through several iterations of Wings over the next decade, the only three members to remain with the band were Laine, McCarney, and McCartney’s wife, Linda. “She had no musical experience,” Laine said, “so really it was me and Paul at the nucleus, and we brought in other people as we went.”
There have been several stories about the reasons for Wings disbanding shortly after John Lennon was killed. Was it because Paul was concerned about touring after his former partner had been shot? Or was it because of Paul’s arrest in Japan for marijuana possession?
“It was a little of that, but I wanted to go on the road, I had an album of my own coming out, and the Japan thing was the end of an era,” Laine said. “We couldn’t get visas, and that would be a problem for a couple of years at least. So I started recording a lot, and recorded a lot of my own albums in the ’80s, carrying on with what I do. I also took some time off, mainly because I needed time to do something different.”
Eventually, he got back into performing live shows — a tradition he carries on today.
Asked whether there is anyone he wishes he had a chance to play with, Laine said no.
“I’ve played with some great musicians — Stevie Wonder, Carl Perkins … I’ve worked with a lot of these people. I just go with the flow. If something happens, you bump into people as you go.”
As for musical influences, Laine said he could name 20, or 50 people — Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ray Charles ….
He disputed Ginger Baker’s reputation as something of a madman, saying, “He’s very much a musician first, and didn’t like the show-biz thing. He gets a reputation as being ill-tempered, but he’s always been a close friend to me. The side I know is a warm-hearted person.
“It’s really about the music,” he said. “I work with someone for the music.”
Laine currently splits his performances between solo shows where he shares his thoughts as well as his music, and the shows with the Moody Wings, putting a fresh spirit into the songs that have been part of his life for the last 50 years and more.
The free Putnam Fund concert will begin at 7 p.m. Friday in the auditorium of Laconia High School.