In the vibrant era of the 1960s, amidst the explosion of British rhythm and blues bands, one group stood out: The Artwoods, also known as the Art Woods during their tenure with Decca Records. Formed in 1963, they left an indelible mark on the music scene, despite their relatively short professional span from 1964 to 1967.

A Brief History

The roots of The Artwoods trace back to the charismatic singer Arthur Wood, the elder brother of the renowned Ronnie Wood, later of Faces and Rolling Stones fame. Arthur’s stint with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962 and his leadership in the Art Wood Combo laid the groundwork for the band’s inception. The pivotal moment came with the addition of keyboardist Jon Lord and guitarist Derek Griffiths from Red Bludd’s Bluesicians, forming the core of The Artwoods. Joined by Keef Hartley on drums and Malcolm Pool on bass, the lineup solidified, and in December 1964, they embarked on their professional journey, landing a residency at London’s iconic 100 Club and securing a coveted recording contract with Decca Records.

Musical Ventures and Challenges

Their debut single, originally intended as a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” took a detour with “Sweet Mary,” an old Lead Belly song. While not chart-topping, it garnered substantial airplay, catapulting them into the limelight with appearances on seminal shows like Ready Steady Go!. Despite subsequent releases like “Oh My Love” failing to make a dent in the charts, The Artwoods found their breakthrough with “I Take What I Want,” reaching No. 28 in May 1966. Noteworthy forays such as their tour of Poland in 1966, rare for British bands of the time, showcased their international appeal.

The Decline and Transition

However, success proved elusive commercially, as Decca dropped them by the end of 1966. A brief stint with Parlophone yielded no fruit, and their final attempt under the moniker “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” with the single “What Shall I Do” on the Fontana label marked the swan song of The Artwoods. By 1967, the band had dissolved, leaving behind a legacy that belied their modest chart success.

Critical Acclaim and Post-Band Endeavours

Despite their modest commercial success, The Artwoods earned praise from music critics, with Bruce Eder of Allmusic highlighting their early records as standing up well against those of more renowned groups like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, or the Birds, which notably featured Art’s younger brother Ronnie Wood. However, despite appearances on popular programs like Ready, Steady, Go!, their singles struggled to resonate with the record-buying public, leading to the group’s breakup in mid-1967.

Following the dissolution of The Artwoods, members pursued diverse paths in the music industry and beyond. Art Wood ventured into the graphics-art business alongside his brother Ted while maintaining a semi-professional involvement in music. Additionally, he lent his talents to bands like the Downliners Sect, ensuring his continued presence in the music scene.

Keef Hartley transitioned to playing with notable acts such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, further solidifying his reputation as a formidable drummer in the realm of blues and rock.

Jon Lord, esteemed for his keyboard prowess, embarked on a legendary journey as a founding member of Deep Purple, contributing significantly to the band’s groundbreaking sound and enduring legacy.

Legacy and Compilation Releases

Despite their disbandment, The Artwoods’ musical legacy endures through compilation releases that celebrate their contribution to the British rhythm and blues scene. In 1983, Edsel Records unveiled “100 Oxford Street,” a compilation album featuring a comprehensive selection of their mid-’60s singles and notable tracks from “Art Gallery,” providing listeners with a glimpse into the band’s dynamic repertoire.

In 2000, Repertoire Records released “Singles A’s & B’s,” a definitive compilation comprising The Artwoods’ entire single and EP output. This comprehensive collection serves as a testament to their musical evolution and enduring influence, ensuring that their pioneering contributions to the genre remain accessible to audiences old and new.

Conclusion: A Lasting Impact

While The Artwoods may not have achieved commercial superstardom during their brief tenure, their impact on the British music landscape reverberates through the annals of rock and blues history. From their electrifying live performances to their enduring musical contributions, The Artwoods continue to captivate audiences and inspire future generations of musicians, solidifying their status as unsung heroes of the 1960s music scene.