Mick's first band, KILLING FLOOR were formed in 1968 and were an active part of the British "blues boom" of the late 1960s which also produced bands such as Free and Led Zeppelin. Over the next four years the band built a strong reputation on the club and college scene in the UK, played major festivals in Europe and backed Texas blues legend Freddie King on two British tours. Two albums were produced, both of which have been reissued many times and have gained cult status worldwide. "The first album "Killing Floor" is one of Classic Rock Magazine's "20 Greatest British Blues Albums: 1967 – 1970". In 2003 the original band reformed to produce a new album "Zero Tolerance" and play selected concert dates across Europe. KILLING FLOOR released their fourth album "Rock'n'Roll Gone Mad" in early 2012 and performed at Sweden Rock Festival in June of that year. The original four piece line-up plan further festival appearances in the future.
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The band came together in 1968 when singer BILL THORNDYCRAFT and guitarist MICK CLARKE met up in a South London blues band. After one unsatisfactory gig with the band the two decided to form a new unit together..Bill suggested the name KILLING FLOOR.
Bill had already met drummer BAZZ SMITH while touring in Germany, and ads in the "Melody Maker" music paper brought responses from bass player STUART (MAC) McDONALD and pianist LOU MARTIN.
The band rehearsed hard in various South London pubs and rehearsal rooms, learning a repertoire of Chicago blues standards, but adding their own rock influences. Their first live performance was at London's "Middle Earth" with Captain Beefheart, and soon the band was playing at all the blues clubs of the time, including appearances at London's Marquee club with The Nice and Yes. Favourite venues included the Blues Loft in High Wycombe where they literally brought the house down..the footstomping of the crowd bringing down the ceiling in the room below!
The first album was released in 1969 on the Spark Label, a subsidiary of the Southern Music publishing group, and licensed in the USA by Sire Records. It got good reviews and airplay, and the band played sessions for John Peel, Johnny Walker, Alexis Korner and other national radio shows.
The band was very much a part of the developing "blues boom" of the '60's which created many great bands. Free's Paul Kossof and Simon Kirke jammed with the band while waiting for their own tour to begin, and Robert Plant witnessed their version of "You Need Love" at a club in Wolverhampton and wanted to jam. (There was no time left)! The band played concerts with Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and many other names of the time.
In May 1969 the band was offered the chance of backing Texas blues legend FREDDIE KING on his next U.K. tour. The package toured for three weeks, including concerts with HOWLIN' WOLF and OTIS SPANN. A further tour with FREDDIE followed a few weeks later, and a third tour was only called off after FREDDIE failed to receive his advance payment from the tour promoter. The band also backed up ARTHUR "BIG BOY" CRUDUP, the writer of some of Elvis Presley's early hits.
Towards the end of 1969 the frustrations of the music business proved too much and the band split, with various members finding new projects to follow. But after a while the original four-piece KILLING FLOOR came together again. Blues music at this time, having been the "in" thing for the last year was now moving out of fashion, and it was hard for KILLING FLOOR to find work in the U.K. The answer was to go abroad, with frequent trips to Germany and Switzerland. In March 1970 the band played at the Easter Festival in Hamburg with The Nice, Black Sabbath and many others, and in the summer they spent a relaxing six weeks working in the South of France.
On their return from France the band went back to Pye Studios in London to record their second album, "Out of Uranus". released on Larry Page's "Penny Farthing" label. There was also a single released, "Call For the Politicians",which received heavy airplay on BBC Radio 1, and also sold well in Germany. The band appeared on "Disco 2" on BBC Television, which was the fore-runner of "The Old Grey Whistle Test".
However, once again KILLING FLOOR failed to break through, and lacking a positive direction to follow, began to change line-ups once again. Drummer ROD DeATH was brought in and STAN DEKKER took over on bass, with LOU MARTIN back in the band.
For a while it was a happy band working regularly around the U.K., but eventually the frustrations returned, and BILL THORNDYCRAFT's place at the mike was taken over by ex JUICY LUCY singer RAY OWEN.
Again, the band prospered for a while with it's new lineup, with regular club and college dates, but soon it was time for a change again. 60's pop legend CLIFF BENNETT was looking for a new version of his band TOEFAT, and the remnants of KILLING FLOOR fitted the bill. Now with MICK HAWKSWORTH on bass and TONY FERNANDEZ behind the drums, the band finally slid into it's new identity.
In the following years the original KILLING FLOOR members went their different ways. BILL THORNDYCRAFT retired from the business and followed a successful career in the social services. MICK CLARKE worked in several bands such as DADDY LONGLEGS and SALT, before beginning his solo career in the eighties, with world wide album releases and regular touring. STUART McDONALD worked with FREE singer PAUL RODGERS in his new band PEACE, and then went on to work with MICK in DADDY LONGLEGS and SALT, finally settling in his native mid-Wales. LOU MARTIN, along with ROD DeATH, joined the RORY GALLAGHER BAND and toured the world throughout the 70's, recording several classic albums. He went on to tour with CHUCK BERRY and later joined Scottish band BLUES'N'TROUBLE, as well as appearing on several of MICK's albums. BAZZ SMITH worked in a variety of bands in Europe and America playing rock, jazz and reggae, as well as ground-breaking work with electric drums.
The two albums, meanwhile, were re-released on various labels including Repertoire, See For Miles and Akarma, and continued to build the band's cult following around the world. The first album KILLING FLOOR is regarded as a classic of British blues from the 60s and now achieves high prices for original vinyl copies. The second album OUT OF URANUS has become known as a great example of "psycho-blues". Both albums continue to be re-issued today, on labels from Germany to Japan.
Early in 2002 MICK was approached by Franco Ratti at Appaloosa Records, Milan, to record a new KILLING FLOOR album. On approaching other band members MICK found there was a real enthusiasm to make a new record, and songwriting and rehearsal sessions were set in motion. However, it seemed completely impossible to find drummer BAZZ SMITH, despite extensive enquiries, and eventually CHRIS SHARLEY was lined up for drum duties. Subsequently BAZZ turned out to be alive and very well, living in Neuchatel, Switzerland. He was able to fly in and play on two tracks on the new album.
Initial recording sessions took place at "The Moat" studio in South London in September 2002, and the album was completed and mixed during 2003. Entitled ZERO TOLERANCE the album was released worldwide in January 2004. The album received excellent reviews and airplay and is widely available through distributors in Europe and America. In 2006 the band played its first new concerts in 34 years in Germany, Belgium, Italy and Sweden, featuring their original 4-piece line-up plus Dave Lennox (Blodwyn Pig / Ginger Baker) on keyboards.
In 2012 Lou Martin, the original "hot fingered" Killing Floor pianist who had gone on to world wide success with Rory Gallagher passed away after a period of illness, greatly missed by the band and everyone who knew him for his exceptional talent and extremely likeable personality. In 2014 drummer Rod DeAth passed away - another friend and great musician much missed.
In 2012 the band released its fourth album ROCK'N'ROLL GONE MAD, featuring the full original four piece line-up of Bill, Mick, Mac and Bazz, and performed at Sweden Rock Festival in June, along with bands such as Motorhead and Blue Oyster Cult. The Killing Floor story continues..