Updated December 2017
Stan Webb guitar, vocal
Andy Silvester bass guitar
Dave Bidwell drums
Christine Perfect (McVie) vocal, piano (left in 1969)
Paul Raymond piano, organ (joined in 1969)
Chicken Shack evolved from a Stourbridge based band called 'Sounds Of Blue' who were performing in the West Midlands area by early 1964. The original members included lead guitarist/vocalist Stan Webb, vocalist/pianist Christine Perfect, bass guitarist Andy Sylvester, and saxophonist Chris Wood.
Talented guitarist Stan Webb is regarded by many as one of the great un-sung heroes of British blues music. He was born in Fulham, London on February 3, 1946 and moved to Kidderminster with his parents after leaving school. He started playing guitar during the "skiffle" craze of the late 1950s and formed his first group in 1962 called "The Strangers Dance Band" with whom he played instrumental versions of the hits of the day at pubs and youth clubs.
Stan Webb started to earn money in his first professional band called "Shades Five". Like many local groups at the time, they found regular bookings on Joe and Mary Regan's circuit of venues. He recalled in an interview; "Shades Five was my first crack at being a professional musician working for Mrs Regan in Birmingham doing the Old Hill Plaza, the Plaza in Handsworth, and The Brumbeat Cavern. If you didn't do those, you weren't anyone!"
A record shop in Birmingham on Hurst Street changed Stan's outlook on music. He recalled; "I started hearing all the blues stuff at this record shop called The Diskery. That was wonderful. Went up there on a Saturday, they had all these American records playing, covers all over the ceiling. And that's when I first got 'Freddie King Sings'. I took it home and listened and thought, I don't believe this!"
It was local blues singer David Yeates who convinced Stan Webb to join his group called "The Sounds Of Blue". By this time, Webb was heavily influenced by American blues and R&B music. The Sounds of Blue line-up included Andy Sylvester on rhythm guitar and saxophonist Chris Wood who lived in nearby Cradley Heath.
Chris Wood had attended Stourbridge Art College in 1963 and learned to play the flute before later graduating to saxophone. By March 1964, he was performing with Sounds Of Blue although he left the following year before they went over to Germany as Chicken Shack. Chris Wood then joined Jim Simpson's jazz influenced band called "The Kansas City Seven" (see Locomotive) and later became a founding member of the highly acclaimed and internationally successful Traffic.
Stan Webb recalled; "We did some of the Shades Five circuit, but the main thing was this one gig on a Sunday at Dudley Liberal Club, every Sunday for a year and it was absolutely packed. On bass and harmonica sometimes was Christine Perfect and Andy Sylvester played rhythm guitar. Then Phil Lawless took over on bass and Christine switched to piano, Chris Woods played sax."
Piano player Christine Anne Perfect was born born July 12, 1943 in Bouth, Lancashire and grew up in Bearwood, Birmingham. Coming from a musical family, she learned to sing and play piano at an early age. She later attended Moseley College of Art where she played in a group called "The Bobcats" who later became The Rockin' Berries.
Christine also played in a duo with Birmingham University instructor Spencer Davis and they became regulars on the Birmingham blues circuit, often appearing at the Golden Eagle pub on Hill Street (see The Spencer Davis Group). Christine said; "I didn't have a clue as to what to do on piano. Stan bought me a Freddie King album and that was the beginning of my absolute love for the blues".
Sounds of Blue eventually disbanded with the various members going their seperate ways. Andy Sylvester and Stan Webb decided to form a new blues-based group and selected the name "Chicken Shack" in reference to an old blues expression meaning "road house". Meanwhile, Christine Perfect headed down to London where she worked for several months in the West End as a window dresser. Andy Sylvester remained in contact and kept writing persistently asking her to join the new Chicken Shack line-up. Finally, she agreed and took a train back to Birmingham.
In April 1967 the group headed over to Germany for an extended engagement at Hamburg's famous Star Club. Many British acts, including The Beatles, had got their start performing in the Hamburg clubs resulting in some bands attracting a large German following. This was certainly the case with Chicken Shack who stayed for an extended period and remain popular in that country to this day.
Stan Webb recalled; "We did about a six week stint at the Star Club in Hamburg. That was brilliant, some of the best times I've ever had. Tony Ashton and Ritchie Blackmore were there and we all used to meet up at Kurt's Beer Shop. We were the only band doing the sort of stuff we were doing. The Star Club at that time wasn't getting many people in. Inside a week we started packing them in and they were so pleased with what was happening they put the money up and cut the hours. We couldn't do any wrong."
Chicken Shack performed throughout the West Midlands and most often at the Seven Stars Blues Club in Stourbridge. An early fan of the band was a young Robert Plant who often hung out at the club and would sometimes persuade groups there to let him go on stage and sing a few blues songs with them. Robert was later singing in The Crawling King Snakes before fronting the Walsall-based group Listen.
There were various drummers in the line-up during this period before Dave Bidwell from London joined them. The combination of Stan Webb's bluesy guitar virtuoso and Christine Perfect's emotionally charged vocal gained Chicken Shack many followers and they soon caught the attention of London producer Mike Vernon who operated his own Blue Horizon record label. Vernon signed the group to a contract and their first album entitled 'Forty Blue Fingers Freshly Packed And Ready To Serve' was released to critical acclaim in 1968.
Chicken Shack had toured the U.K. during 1967 which included performing at the Windsor National Jazz & Blues Festival along with label-mates Fleetwood Mac whose bass guitarist John McVie struck up a friendship with Christine Perfect. The pair kept in touch after the tour and a long-distance relationship developed. In September 1968, Chicken Shack performed for the first of several times at the influential 'Mothers' club (formerly the Carlton Ballroom) in Birmingham.
During the next year, Chicken Shack recorded a few singles and a second album entitled 'OK Ken?' but it was not until the release of the Etta James cover 'I'd Rather Go Blind' in May 1969 that the band had their first chart success. The record featured a lead vocal by Christine Perfect and won the group many admirers.
By this time, Fleetwood Mac had experienced considerable success in the record charts and were attracting an ever-growing international audience. After they returned from an American tour, John McVie proposed to Christine and she accepted after deciding to leave Chicken Shack to become a housewife. Ironically she had just been voted best female vocalist for 1969 by the NME reader's poll, but her "retirement" from music was not to last long.
Paul Raymond from the group Plastic Penny was chosen as Christine Perfect's replacement with another Chicken Shack single 'Tears In The Wind' making the charts in September 1969. However, the next few Chicken Shack albums met with less interest and in 1970 Stan Webb had a falling-out with Mike Vernon resulting in the group being dropped by their record label. There were also disagreements within the band leading to the departure of Dave Bidwell and Paul Raymond who then joined the famous London blues outfit Savoy Brown.
Undaunted, Stan Webb continued with a new line-up to include bass guitarist John Glassock from Jethro Tull and Paul Hancox on drums but by the mid 1970's and after various other personnel changes, Chicken Shack finally disbanded. Since that time, the group's 1960's recorded legacy has attracted the interest of many British blues fans.
Christine Perfect (now known as Christine McVie) went on to become a pivotal member of her husband's group Fleetwood Mac in 1970 when she joined after the departure of their brilliant guitarist and founding member Peter Green. That band achieved massive and worldwide success during the 1970's, particularly in the U.S.A. where they continue to maintain a huge following.
Stan Webb remains a much respected guitarist whose contribution to early British blues music continues to gain recognition. He still occasionally performs today as a solo act and also sometimes with various new line-ups of Chicken Shack.
(highest UK chart position in brackets)