Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
It was February 8, 1969, when what may arguably be the first, true “supergroup” announced their existence to the world at large; the day Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood (Ric Grech was still three months away from joining) unveiled BLIND FAITH.
Traffic and Cream had both folded around the same time, leaving Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood without bands or clear plans for their futures. The two friends began jamming together and quickly discovered they had incredible chemistry, but not really thinking about forming an actual band. Clapton was pleased with the jam sessions but was hesitant to start a serious group after his recent experiences within the internal conflict-laden Cream. There was no denying that there was musical magic between him and Winwood and at one point, the pair thought they might record with Duck Dunn and Al Jackson Jr., the rhythm section of Booker T. & The M.G.’s.
An unplanned jam session would ensue one night at Winwood’s English cottage, after an unannounced Ginger Baker happened to show up, much to Winwood’s excitement and Clapton’s chagrin. Eric voiced each of their feelings in his later published memoirs, saying: “Steve’s face lit up when he saw Ginger… while my heart sank because up until that point, we were just having fun, with no agenda.“
Baker’s presence turned the for-fun duo into a real band, with the eventual addition of Family bassist Ric Grech shortly thereafter rounding out the group. In almost no time whatsoever, the quartet yielded such now-classic songs as “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Presence Of The Lord“, as events quickly fell into place. The band took the name BLIND FAITH, inspired by Clapton who thought it described everyone’s self-belief that they would be successful no matter what happened.
Mere months after their announcement to the world, BLIND FAITH delivered their self-titled, studio introduction later in 1969, via Polydor Records in the U.K. and Europe that June, and on Atlantic Records in the United States that August. The album soon topped charts all over the world, but it came with a heaping dose of controversy due to the original front cover featuring a photograph of a topless 11-year-old girl. This led to the album being banned in the U.S., but the upset could not tarnish the contents of the record itself, as it was speedily adorned with an alternate cover and continued to resonate with music fans worldwide.
Two months prior to the eponymous album’s arrival, BLIND FAITH had made their live stage debut in front of 100,000 fans at a free concert at London’s Hyde Park on June 7th, 1969. The setlist contained all six numbers that would appear on the debut album, along with covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb“, Traffic’s “Means To An End“, and Sam Myers’ “Sleeping In The Ground“. The performance was well-received by fans, but troubled Clapton, who thought that the band’s playing was sub-par. He spent much of the gig close to his amplifiers and not coming forward on stage; only Baker supplied any showmanship and theatrics during the set.
Though the group was still developing, their management insisted they continue touring to provide income. Clapton was reluctant to tour, as he knew the band had not rehearsed well enough and were unprepared, but agreed to do so since he could collaborate with Winwood and had no better work offers. A short tour of Scandinavia followed once the album was issued, where the band played smaller gigs and rehearsed their sound in preparation for bigger audiences. After Scandinavia, the band toured the United States, making their debut at Madison Square Garden on July 12th, 1969.
Clapton’s disdain and resentment over the way things were headed continued to build. Firstly, the band’s limited catalog of songs forced the quartet to play old Cream and Traffic songs, to the delight of crowds preferring the old songs to the new BLIND FAITH material. Clapton, in particular, was against any lengthy jamming (a Cream trademark) that would have allowed them to stretch out a set of finite numbered songs to a sufficient length. Secondly, Clapton wanted this newest endeavor to be low key and not garner exuberant attention, although it is documented that he wished to play the Woodstock Festival, which coincided with their U.S. tour, he was outvoted by the rest of the group.
After nearly three more weeks of touring in the U.S., BLIND FAITH ended the stateside run in Hawaii on August 24th, 1969, which was also the effective end of the band. After the gig, Clapton and Winwood decided to end the group immediately, informing Grech, but Baker did not find out until he had returned to England following a short holiday. When he returned home to the U.K., he met with Winwood and was given the news, which by all accounts greatly upset Baker.
Each musician’s post-BLIND FAITH years are well documented within the annals of rock music history, each going on to achieve statuses as legends derived from further work in or for acts like Derek & The Dominos, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Plastic Ono Band, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart Band, Gram Parsons, Baker Gurvitz Army, Hawkwind, Public Image Ltd., and countless more.
Ric Grech passed away in 1990, followed by Ginger Baker earlier this year in October (2019), leaving Winwood and Clapton as the only two surviving members of BLIND FAITH.
In the years since its release, the group’s sole, self-titled hit album has been released in varying formats and reissues. The arrival of the CD version, in 1986, added two previously unreleased tracks, “Exchange And Mart” and “Spending All My Days“, recorded by Ric Grech for an unfinished solo album. An expanded edition of the album was released in January 2001, and contained previously unreleased tracks and “jams”, while previously unreleased live or alternate studio versions of songs like “Sleeping In The Ground” were also released, like those on the four-disc Eric Clapton box set, ‘Crossroads‘ (released 1988, recorded 1963–1987).