Updated October 2014Stan Webb guitar, vocal
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 London on February 3, 1946 and at a young age moved to Kidderminster with his parents. During the 1950's, he started playing guitar in local skiffle bands and eventually formed his first group called 'The Blue Four'. By this time, Webb was heavily influenced by American blues and R&B music. His next band was a line-up named 'Sounds Of Blue'.
Also in Sounds Of Blue was saxophone player Chris Wood who lived in Cradley Heath. He 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.
Christine Perfect (born July 12, 1943) was from Bearwood, Birmingham. Growing up in a musical family, she learned to play piano at an early age and was also a talented singer. She later attended Moseley College of Art where she played in a group called 'The Bobcats' who later became The Rockin' Berries. After leaving this group, Christine Perfect formed a blues duo with well known local performer 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).
By 1964, Christine Perfect had joined Sounds Of Blue and remained with them until 1965 when they changed their name to 'Chicken Shack' and 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.
By 1967, Chicken Shack had returned from Germany with Christine Perfect then re-joining the line-up. They played 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)