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BLOODROCK. The group Bloodrock was formed in 1969 in Fort Worth, Texas. The original members consisted of Jim Rutledge (vocals and original drummer), Lee Pickens (lead guitar), Nick Taylor (rhythm guitar), Ed Grundy (bass), and Stevie Hill (keyboards). Drummer Rick Cobb III came on board beginning with the group's second album.
Before the band formed, Pickens had begun appearing on television and radio with groups in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as did Rutledge. The story is similar for the other members prior to Bloodrock. They were influenced by musical contemporaries such as Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Deep Purple, as well as blues players such as Freddie King. The band signed with Capitol Records and worked with Grand Funk Railroad's producer Terry Knight on their first three albums, Bloodrock, Bloodrock 2, and Bloodrock 3. Their first album, Bloodrock, was released in February 1970 and rose in the charts. In their early days, the band opened for Jimi Hendrix several times. In fact, they performed for their largest audience, a crowd of 350,000, at the second Atlanta International Pop Festival headlined by Hendrix. Bloodrock also did sessions at Electric Lady Studios in New York with producer Mitch Mitchell (drummer for Jimi Hendrix) and engineer Eddie Kramer. They had some contact with the jazz world and played festivals that featured such jazz luminaries as Miles Davis and Roland Kirk.
Bloodrock played its own homogenization of primarily hard rock and some blues and also worked with songwriter John Nitzinger who wrote and/or contributed to such songs as "Jessica," "Lucky in the Morning," "You Gotta Roll," " and "Kool-Aid Kids." One interesting note on songwriter contribution—on their 1971 release of Bloodrock USA, the song "It's a Sad World" was cowritten by Warren Ham, future member of the band.
Characterized sometimes as southern prog rock with a dark side, their music reflected the news headlines of the day. They achieved some success in the United States and reportedly were popular among troops in Vietnam. Their best-known song, "D.O.A.," about an airplane crash victim finding himself in the emergency room dying, reached Number 36 on Billboard in early 1971. The song was included on the band's second album, Bloodrock 2, which eventually earned a Gold Record Award. Upon the release of Bloodrock 3, they toured with Grand Funk Railroad and played thirty-eight sellout performances over fifty-two days from March to May 1971. They recorded a live album, Bloodrock Live, at the Chicago Amphitheater in 1972.
Noted for their super-amplified, imposingly loud live performances, Bloodrock seemed on their way to achieving continual rock notoriety when in 1972, with the departure of Jim Rutledge and Lee Pickens, Warren Ham came to the group as the vocal replacement. Ham, a technically-proficient and creative saxophone and flute player, replaced biting lead guitar as the band's mainstay with saxophone and flute solos. While Stevie Hill's keyboard work remained a staple sound in the band, it too had taken a stylistic change. In a sense, one band with one style was replaced with a different band and a different style. Bloodrock took a turn away from hard rock towards more progressive rock, pop, and jazz. With the new lineup they released Passage in 1972 and Whirlwind Tongues (with new drummer Randy Reeder) in 1974.
The group's divergence from its original sound into the Warren Ham era produced a more poppy sound which drew comparisons to Jethro Tull and Todd Rundgren. This change alienated much of their original fan base, thereby cutting the group's career in two. As a result, the group disbanded by 1975. Compilation albums were released in 1975 and 1989, and in 2000 Triptych included Passage, Whirlwind Tongues, and Unspoken Words on two CDs.
On March 12, 2005, five of the six original members—Rutledge, Pickens, Grundy, Taylor, Hill, and Chris Taylor (drums in place of Cobb), held a reunion concert in Fort Worth. This was a benefit concert for Hill, stricken with leukemia, to a sold-out audience. A film of the concert, along with personal interviews with the band members, was subsequently released on DVD. Rhythm guitarist and founding member Nick Taylor (born Doyle Taylor in Slayton, Texas, in 1946) died on March 10, 2010, after a car accident in Cleburne. After Bloodrock, Taylor had continued various music endeavors and had most recently played in his own group, the Nick Taylor Band. Other individual members of Bloodrock, including Hill, Rutledge, and Ham, continued to play active roles in music.
Bloodrock USA, Liner notes (Capitol Records, 1971.) Dallas Morning News, March 15, 2005. Stevie Hill (http://www.steviehill.com), accessed September 4, 2011. Stevie Hill, Telephone Interview, September 25, 2011. Irwin Stambler, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977).