Best remembered for the 13 studio albums which he made as singing organist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for Uriah Heep (1970–1980), Ken Hensley died peacefully at home in Spain on November 4th, 2020, aged 75.
“I am writing this with a heavy heart to let you know that my brother Ken Hensley passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening”, wrote Ken’s brother Trevor in a statement on Facebook. “His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us.” Ken Hensley will be cremated during a private ceremony in Spain but the cause of his death was not revealed.
According to a statement, Hensley’s death took place after a “very short illness.” Uriah Heep guitarist Mick Box was “in deep shock at the news” and added that his “sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica. Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever.”
Hensley was working on a new solo album at the time of his death, less than two months after the death of Lee Kerslake, the drummer that he played with in The Gods, Toe Fat, Head Machine and Uriah Heep. In addition to making several solo albums and performing with John Lawton and John Wetton, Hensley also recorded with Weed, Blackfoot, W.A.S.P., Cinderella, Ayreon and Therion. Hensley’s “My Book of Answers” is set for release in March of 2021.
Kenneth William David Hensley was born in Plumstead, London on August 24th of 1945. In 1955, his family moved to Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and Hensley learned to play guitar from a Bert Weedon manual at the age of 12. He did his first gig in September of 1960, going on to play with The Blue Notes, Ken and the Cousins and Kit and the Saracens. In 1963, the latter band evolved into The Jimmy Brown Sound, a Stevenage based R&B outfit which recorded some now lost songs and almost got to back American soul singer Ben E. King during a British visit.
The Gods were formed in 1965 when Hensley joined up with a trio from The Juniors, a band which had released a single (“There’s a Pretty Girl” b/w “Pocket Size”) in 1964. The Juniors featured Malcolm Collins (vocals) and Alan Shacklock (guitar) but also three schoolmates from Hatfield that had been playing together as The Strangers since 1962. Mick Taylor (guitar) and the Glascock brothers Brian (drums) and John (bass/vocals) were the original Gods, along with Hensley who wrote most of the material, sang and played the Hammond B3 organ. The latter mainly because the band already had a guitar talent in Mick Taylor.
“I was living in a town called Stevenage, to which my father had been re-assigned”, Hensley recalled on his childhood as one of five children to William Hensley (the general manager of an engineering company) and Evelyn, who ran an employment agency. “I went to school there and met my first ‘jamming buddies’ there. But London was the place to be and, as soon as I left home I hooked up with the guys that formed the earliest incarnation of The Gods, Mick Taylor, Tony Munroe, Brian Glasscock and his brother John.”
In 1966, The Gods opened for Ginger Baker‘s Cream in London and a single (“Come On Down To My Boat Baby” b/w “Garage Man”) was recorded for Polydor Records in early 1967. Hensley wrote the B-side (credited as “Hennersley”) and The Gods were listed as Thor, Hermes, Olympus, and Mars.
John Mayall then asked future Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor to replace Peter Green in The Bluesbreakers. Taylor left The Gods in June 1967, thus effectively putting an end to The Gods. Ken Hensley moved to Hampshire and met up with future Uriah Heep bassist Paul Newton, putting together a new version of The Gods with Lee Kerslake and singing guitarist Joe Konas. Having built up a good following on the college circuit, Newton soon decided to leave the band.
After replacing Newton with future ELP frontman Greg Lake (ex-Unit Four, the Time Checks, the Shame, the Shy Limb), The Gods secured a residency at London’s The Marquee, as the successors to The Rolling Stones.
“I played probably in 1966 already for John Gee, who was the manager of The Marquee Club”, recalled Joe Konas. “I played quite a few gigs there with one of my bands who were The Mark Barry Band. When I joined The Gods we ended up of course playing there as an opening act for Peter Frampton, The Herd, and all these other bands. Then, we got a house gig on Wednesdays, you know, Wednesday nights. We were very popular in the clubs in London and all those areas: Manchester, Birmingham. In London itself, we did a lot of gigs. They loved us a lot because we were different.”, “We were loud, rude and obnoxious.” “I lived with Lee Kerslake and his mum and dad, Eric and Doris, in Bournemouth”, Konas continued, “and I played a lot at the Bournemouth Pavilion, where Pink Floyd and everybody played. Ken Hensley’s friend was Mick Taylor (guitar) and when Mick Taylor left, I joined up with The Gods, because he went with John Mayall. We used to live at 44 Dukes Avenue in Chiswick, London. So, they used to come over on Sundays when we were all off, like Robert Fripp from King Crimson who were good friends with Greg Lake. I used to share a bedroom with Greg Lake, there was a big room there, everybody would hop in, in one or two. So he had his room, that it was also mine. We lived there because the bedroom was really big; maybe it was a living room, I don’t know. Robert Fripp came over and jammed together, Mick Taylor, all sorts of people hopped in and out.”
Rod Evans was the singer for Deep Purple and we went to school together, recalled Konas. “So, I knew he was in that band because we were still rehearsing at our community center. So, of course I ‘d go over and see Deep Purple in their apartment and Ritchie Blackmore was there and all the guys, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. They were all wonderful. So, Ritchie Blackmore was amazing. My favourite was always Jeff Beck. I loved Jeff Beck when he played! I saw Alvin Lee at Marquee Club in 1966. Ah, he just blew everyone away!! And I went home and I started practicing. Because that’s what you do. You have those icons, you can’t buy that gift that they had. They were different than anybody else. They were just amazing players like Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. There were so great players out there. Also, a part of that era were The Gods.”
Having signed a contract with EMI’s Columbia label, The Gods next lost Greg Lake to King Crimson, a band formed in 1968 by Lake’s friend Robert Fripp, on the heels of the album “The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp”. Hensley recalled that “Just as we were about to start recording we had a falling out with Greg. The main problem was that he was far too talented to be kept in the background.” Greg Lake himself described The Gods as “a very poor training college”. Rough!
At this point, John Glascock was asked to re-join The Gods. It was this line-up (Hensley, Kerslake, Konas, John Glascock) that recorded two albums and three singles in 1968-69.
Recording at Abbey Road, their most popular single was a cover of The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” in 1969 (b/w “Real Love Guaranteed” by Konas/Hensley). Their first single (“Baby’s Rich” b/w “Somewhere In The Street”, 1968) also featured non-album tracks, the B-side by Hensley while the A-side also co-credited to Konas. “Maria” (b/w “Long Time, Sad Time, Bad Time” off “To Samuel A Son”) was a non-album West Side Story extract released as a single in 1969.
Regarding the cover of “Hey Bulldog”, Joe Konas (who moved to Canada in 1970 and became a music teacher) recalled how the record company “wanted us to be a pop band like Herman’s Hermits and wear black suits, white shirts and black ties and I wasn’t into that and Ken Hensley wasn’t. We weren’t. We were loud, rude and obnoxious on stage. We played loud and we had harmonies, but they did want on the recordings to do poppy stuff, so they suggested to do “Hey Bulldog”, but we did it a little bit heavier”.
The full lenght debut, “Genesis” was released in 1968 and featured three songs co-credited to Hensley and Konas: “Candles Getting Shorter”, “Looking Glass” and “I Never Knew”. Kerslake (drums), Konas (guitar) and Hensley (keyboard) all sang, possibly Glascock (bass) too.
Joe Konas recalled jamming with Jimi Hendrix at The Speakeasy in February of 1969: “Oh, I can’t remember the songs. We might have played much in 12 bars and I know he loved Bob Dylan. We talked about that before and we did “Like a Rolling Stone”. We played about an hour, you know. I met him a few times before in the clubs that I used to play with The Gods at Revolution, Bag O’Nails, The Marquee Club, all those clubs. I was playing there for 5-6 years, so I knew the owners etc. Then, I got to see Jimi. But anyway, that particular night, he came in a bit stoned and said: “Can I jam with you?” I said: “Yes! It would be an honour. It’s always an honour! The master of the Stratocaster”. We did a lot of stuff. He said: “I want to hear you playing”. So, he sat down. He had a big chair, he sat down and he said: “Play”. Oh, Jesus Christ. I had been intimidated, though. This genius player, the god, is right next to me. But I played in London and we had a great time. John Glascock wasn’t there, another bass player filled in and it was just a lot of fun. We played many times there, at the Speakeasy Club. Keith Moon was always there. Paul McCartney showed up a couple of times at the back of the restaurant. A lot of people… Ginger Baker… A lot of people showed up. They liked what we did.”
“To Samuel A Son” (1969) featured four songs co-credited to Konas and Hensley (“Sticking Wings On Flies”, “Five To Three”, “Autumn” and “Momma I Need”) but also four songs written by Hensley alone: “To Samuel A Son”, “Lady Lady”, “Long Time, Sad Time, Bad Time” and “Candlelight.”
1970 saw the release of “Orgasm” by the mysterious one-off group “Head Machine”. Recorded in London in November-December of 1969, the album featured musicians from The Gods under pseudonyms: Ken Leslie (Ken Hensley) on organ, piano, guitar and vocals, John Leadhen (John Glascock) on bass and vocals, and the drummers Brian Poole (Brian Glascock) and Lee Poole, i.e. Lee Kerslake. Someone called “Mike Road” was credited for playing percussion while all songs were supposedly written by producer David Paramor, who also sang on the album.
David Paramor (a.k.a. “David Dapp”) had previously worked with Toe Fat vocalist Cliff Bennett, both with The Rebel Rousers and on releases credited to “Cliff Bennett & His Band”. Paramor had also produced releases by Simon Dupree and The Big Sound, a psychedelic band formed in 1966 by the Shulman brothers Derek (vocals), Phil (vocals, saxophone, trumpet), and Ray (guitar, violin, trumpet, vocals). Also in 1970, the sibling trio formed the excellent prog rock band Gentle Giant. On a 1967 tour, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound had hired a then unknown keyboard player by the name of Reginald Dwight. They politely declined to record his compositions and laughed when he suggested adopting the stage name “Elton John”! Hensley’s next band, Toe Fat, wouldn’t make the same mistake.
David Paramor had produced the albums by The Gods and it has been suggested that he didn’t write the songs for “Head Machine” himself. The songs bear many of Hensley’s influences and the album could be considered a prototype for his future work in Uriah Heep. It has sometimes been supposed that “Orgasm” was first intended as a third The Gods album. When this was suggested, Hensley objected. “There is a lot of misinformation about these recordings”, he said, referring also to the Weed album from 1971. “Both were ‘works for hire’. In other words, the producers hired me first to write the songs and then I got involved in the playing, but NOT in the productions. I got paid for the work and walked away never imagining that they would see the light of day then, let alone 30 years later!”
The Gods had ceased to exist before “To Samuel A Son” had even been released, having turned into Toe Fat by teaming up with former Rebel Rouser vocalist/pianist Cliff Bennett in June 1969. The name was supposedly decided over dinner when Bennett and his manager attempted to create the most disgusting band name possible. Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers had formed in 1957, got managed by Brian Epstein (like The Beatles) and had two Top 10 hits (“One Way Love” in 1964 and “Got to Get You into My Life” in 1966) before Bennett went solo and eventually formed Toe Fat.
Discogs co-credits Ken Hensley (as “Hinsley” w/ Hodges, Golden, Burt, Groves and, Young) for writing “Should I?” and “As I Look”. These songs were the two sides of a 1968 single by The Rebel Rousers, recorded after Cliff Bennett had left them. Roy Young did the vocals with backing by Chas Hodges (of later Chas & Dave fame) along with fellow members Dave Peacock and Mick Burt. In reality, the man credited ought to be Harvey Hinsley, who himself joined the Rebel Rousers in 1968.
“Memphis Streets” b/w “But I’m Wrong” was a single released by Cliff Bennett in 1969. Produced by Jonathan Peel, this single supposedly features Ken Hensley on backing vocals and various instruments: rhythm guitar in the left speaker, overdubbing lead guitar and organ. The B-side is an early version of a song featured on the Toe Fat debut, lacking the thick fuzz sound.
Ken Hensley (guitar, organ, piano, vocals) and Lee Kerslake (drums, vocals) played on the self-titled Toe Fat album, released on Parlophone in 1970. “John Konas” is credited for singing and playing bass on the debut album but Joe Konas himself has been quoted as saying that he “never played in Toe Fat. I took off, they went into Toe Fat and Ken left and I saw Toe Fat at a club called The Eastown Theatre in Detroit twice. Cliff Bennett was the lead singer and they had a guitar player called Alan. Oh, great guitar player! A wonderful guy. I think John Glascock was with them the first time I saw them, but I don’t remember the second. But then, Ken took off to do something else, because Ken always moved around a lot”.
Either way, the first Toe Fat album was mainly written by Cliff Bennet, with neither Hensley nor any of the other ex-Gods credited for any of the tracks. Still, a good album! Like the albums by The Gods, it had a cover by Hipgnosis. It showed a beach scene where four people had large toes superimposed over their heads. For the US release, a man and a topless woman in the background were replaced by sheep. Worth noting is that the “Toe Fat” album includes a version of “Bad Side of the Moon”, a composition by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It would also be covered by April Wine in 1972 but Elton John himself only released the song as a B-side to his “Border Song” in 1970.
Hensley and Kerslake both left Toe Fat before the second album was released later in 1970. Again, John Konas was credited on the sleeve for playing bass while it would rather have been John Glascock who did so. Kerslake was replaced by Brian Glascock, John’s brother and the original drummer in The Gods. Cliff Bennett remained the frontman while Alan Kendall (ex-Kris Ryan and the Questions, Glass Menagerie) took over as guitarist after Hensley left to found Uriah Heep. Having just left his Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green also played guitar on two songs off “Toe Fat Two”. Following a US tour opening for Derek and the Dominos, Toe Fat folded and Kendall joined the Bee Gees in 1971.
John Glascock (The Gods, Toe Fat, Head Machine) next joined Chicken Shack (1971-72) for their masterpiece “Imagination Lady”. Having lost Christine McVie to Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack replaced her with future UFO man Paul Raymond for two albums before making “Imagination Lady” as a trio. John Glascock next (1973-1975) followed his brother Brian Glascock (1970-1973) into Carmen before being asked to join Jethro Tull in 1976, having met Ian Anderson when Carmen opened several dates for Jethro Tull’s “War Child” tour. In 1979, aged only 28, Glascock sadly died. After leaving Toe Fat, Lee Kerslake first joined the National Head Band. They released their only album in 1971, “Albert 1”, before Kerslake re-joined Hensley in time for Uriah Heep’s fourth album.
Around Christmas of 1969, Ken Hensley had been asked by Paul Newton (who had briefly been bass player in The Gods) if he would join him in Spice. Newton’s band were looking for a keyboard player to make their sound less bluesy and more progressive. Formed in 1967, Spice also featured guitarist Mick Box (ex-Hogwash), drummer Alex Napier (who had replaced future Gnidrolog and Steeleye Span member Nigel Pegrum), and vocalist David Garrick, better known as “David Byron”. Garrick and Box had previously played together in a band called The Stalkers.
Spice had released one single in 1968, “What About The Music” b/w “In Love”, with the B-side credited to Box and Garrick, i.e. Byron. Further recordings by Spice were eventually released as part of “The Lansdowne Tapes” in 1993.
Having worked as manager of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Gerry Bron became the band’s manager and signed them to Vertigo Records, the newly formed Philips label. Spice decided to change their name to Uriah Heep (the name of a character from the 1850 Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield”) around the same time that Ken Hensley became an official band member. Prior to Hensley joining, Gerry Bron had brought in session player Colin Wood to play keyboards on Spice recordings.
The last concert as Spice was on February 21st, 1970, supporting Deep Purple, and the first concert as Uriah Heep was on March 20th at the Technical College in Salisbury. Gerry Bron’s record label, Bronze Records, was founded in 1971 and went on to became the home for Uriah Heep, Osibisa, Paladin, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Motörhead, The Damned, Girlschool, and Hawkwind.
Released in June of 1970, the recording of “…Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble” took place between July 1969 and April 1970. It featured no compositions by Hensley. The songs were already written by the time he joined and two tracks weren’t even re-recorded with him on piano, organ, mellotron, slide guitar, and/or vocals. Colin Wood can instead be heard playing keyboards on “Wake Up (Set Your Sights)” (Box, Byron) and “Come Away Melinda” (Fred Hellerman, Fran Minkoff), an anti-war song first released in 1963 by Harry Belafonte. The song had also been recorded by Tim Rose in 1967 and featured on the sole album by Velvett Fogg in 1969. Tony Iommi was a member in mid-1968 but left Velvett Fogg to form Black Sabbath before their recording took place. Pete Way and the others in UFO would also include a version of the song on their debut album, recorded a month after the release of “…Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble”.
“If this group makes it I’ll have to commit suicide”, Melissa Mills famously wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine. It’s not that bad, but they’d become better once Hensley began contributing more material. When the album was issued in the US in August of 1970, using a different title and artwork (a monster rather than the face of David Byron), the track “Lucy Blues” was replaced by “Bird of Prey”. The latter was co-written by Hensley, Box, Byron and Newton. “Bird of Prey” was the B-side of the band’s first ever worldwide single, “Gypsy”, and also included on 1971’s “Salisbury”.
“Bird of Prey” featured Keith Baker (February–October 1970) rather than Alex Napier (Autumn 1969–January 1970) who played drums on most of the original album. Nigel Olsson (January–February 1970) played drums on two tracks, “Lucy Blues” and “Dreammare”, before leaving to become a part of Elton John’s band.
In a recent interview, Hensley explained why he had no writing credits on the debut. “When I joined the band, I had a publishing contract with another publisher, which meant they had to hide my name,” he explained. “I did, in fact, write songs for the first album, but we just weren’t allowed to publicize it, and so it was disguised under Paul Newton’s name.” If the credits to “Newton” should actually be read as “Hensley”, Ken wrote “Dreammare” on his own while co-composing “Walking in Your Shadow” with Byron and “Real Turned On” with Box and Byron.
Recorded in October and November of 1970, “Salisbury” (February 1971) was Uriah Heep’s only album featuring Keith Baker. Baker had previously played in Bakerloo (1968-1969) and founded May Blitz when future Humble Pie guitarist “Clem” Clempson left Bakerloo to join Colosseum. Baker left May Blitz before they started recording, however, and was briefly (1969-1970) the first drummer in Daddy, the band which would soon change their name to Supertramp.
Ken Hensley stepped forward on “Salisbury”, writing or co-writing all of the songs. Hensley was credited with playing slide and acoustic guitars, organ, piano, harpsichord, and vibraphone. He also sang lead vocals on two of the tracks that he wrote on his own, “Lady in Black” and “High Priestess”. “The Park” was also a Hensley composition but he shared credit with Box and Byron for “Time to Live” and “Salisbury”, the 16 minute title track featuring brass and woodwind arrangements performed by a 24-piece orchestra. As “Bird of Prey” had already been featured on the debut album in the USA, it was replaced by the Hensley composition “Simon the Bullet Freak” on the US release. In 2003 and 2016, expanded re-issues of “Salisbury” added another Hensley composition, “Here Am I”.
Iain Clark of the prog rock band Cressida (1968-1970), replaced Keith Baker as Uriah Heep’s drummer (November 1970-November 1971) before their first US tour, supporting Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. Cressida had only released two albums on Vertigo but Iain Clark eventually reunited with other original members. In 2013, Cressida delivered an excellent concert at Sweden’s Melloboat festival, coinciding with the release of “Choices”, a LP of old Cressida archive material selected by Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt.
In March of 1971, around the time that “Salisbury” was released, Uriah Heep were on tour in Germany. It was supposedly then that concert promoter Bodo Albes invited Ken Hensley to the Windrose-Dumont Time Studio (Frumpy, Grobschnitt, Gomorrha, Kin Ping Meh, Neu!, Novalis, Yatha Sidhra, Karthago, Asterix, Lucifer’s Friend, etc.) in Hamburg. Once there, Hensley contributed piano, organ, guitar and vocals to an album called “Weed…!”. Head Machine and Weed were “simply songs for money”, Hensley later said. “People I knew needed songs and I needed money. There was little, if any, emotional invovement from my side. But it helped to pay the rent, and I learned a lot this way. I wouldn’t call them the crowning moments of my career, but somehow they have become valuable in their own right”. Actually, they’re great!
The other musicians in Weed were all German. Reinhold Spiegelfeld (bass, later with Amon Düül II), Bernd “Molle” Hohmann (vocals, flute) and Werner Monka (guitar) had all recently left the band Virus, having recored their debut album “Revelation” earlier in 1971. After the trio left to form Weed with pianist Rainer Schnelle and drummer Peet Becker, Virus co-founder Wolfgang Rieke (ex-Percy & The Gaolbirds, Man’s World) and Jörg-Dieter Krahe (ex-Man’s World) assembled some other musicians and continued as Virus, releasing “Thoughts” later that same year.
Bodo Albes was credited for writing the songs on the sole album by Weed. Albes was not really a songwriting musican, however, but rather the manager of Inga Rumpf’s bands Frumpy and Atlantis. Albes was also credited for management on 1973’s “Get Out To The Country” by Emergency, an international progressive jazz-rock group. The latter album featured Richard Palmer-James on guitar, the man who wrote lyrics for three albums by King Crimson around that time. Richard Palmer-James had played in several bands with John Wetton before becoming a founding member of Supertramp. He played with Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson in Daddy at the same time as Keith Baker, the Uriah Heep drummer. John Wetton was in King Crimson at the time that Palmer-James provided lyrics for them. Wetton himself would, of course, later become bass player in Uriah Heep.
When asked about Weed, Hensley replied: “Oh it was just a friend of mine in Hamburg. He was managing a band and wanted me to write some songs for them”. “I haven’t even listened to that record, I do have two or three copies of that at home. I can’t believe it even came out on CD. I wrote the songs, got paid for it, I went to Hamburg and played on it and sang a couple of songs but then I forgot all about it.”
For whatever reason, Ken Hensley himself was neither pictured nor credited on the original album. Instead, their label Philips tried to promote Weed by mentioning that Peet Becker had been the drummer for The Rattles (1968-1970) at the time that they scored their only major international hit with the psychedelic rock song “The Witch”, later covered by Rosetta Stone and Motorpsycho. The Rattles had formed in 1960 and played at the same venues as The Beatles on several occasions in 1962. In fact, The Rattles still exist to this day, though not with Peet Becker.
Recorded in July and released in September, Uriah Heep’s third album, “Look at Yourself”, was also the third album of 1971 to feature Hensley. “Look at Yourself” was the only Uriah Heep album with former Cressida drummer Ian Clark, and the last to feature founding bassist Paul Newton. Ken Hensley wrote all of the songs for the album, which is arguably the best thing that both Hensley and ‘Heep ever did. David Byron was co-credited for “Shadows of Grief” and the ten minute epic “July Morning”. Mick Box and Byron were co-credited with Hensley for “Love Machine” while Hensley alone wrote the title track, “I Wanna Be Free”, “Tears in My Eyes” and “What Should Be Done”.
Manfred Mann guested with Moog synthesizer on “July Morning” and “Tears in My Eyes” while Osibisa members Ted Osei, Mac Tontoh and Loughty Amao added percussion to “Look at Yourself”, the first single that also featured Hensley himself on lead vocals. “Look At Yourself” was later covered by German power metal band Gamma Ray (named so after the Birth Control song from 1972), on the first album that Kai Hansen released after his departure from Helloween. “What’s Within My Heart”, an outtake from the “Look at Yourself” sessions, was also written by Hensley.
Uriah Heep had already released three albums by the time that Lee Kerslake re-joined his former bandmate Ken Hensley in November of 1971. Paul Newton had left Uriah Heep that same month and was briefly replaced by Mark Clarke (ex-Colosseum) before the “classic” line-up was solidified with the arrival of Gary Thain, a New Zealander that had played with the Keef Hartley Band, Heep’s touring partners. Thain joined in February 1972 and remained with Uriah Heep until February of 1975. During his last US tour with Uriah Heep, Thain became seriously injured after suffering an electric shock on stage. Nine months after being fired, Thain died of respiratory failure due to a heroin overdose. He was only 27.
Prior to Kerslake joining Uriah Heep, they had gone through four drummers: Alex Napier (Autumn 1969–January 1970), Nigel Olsson (January–February 1970), Keith Baker (February–October 1970), and Iain Clark (October 1970-November 1971). While none died of spontaneous human combustion or bizarre gardening accidents, one can’t help but think of Spinal Tap.
Byron (lead vocals), Box (guitar, backing vocals), Hensley (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Thain (bass) and Lee Kerslake (drums, percussion) recorded four studio albums together: “Demons and Wizards”, “The Magician’s Birthday” (both 1972), “Sweet Freedom” (1973), and “Wonderworld” (1974). They were also captured in January 1973 on the double live album “Uriah Heep Live”.
“Demons and Wizards” and “The Magician’s Birthday” were the first Uriah Heep albums to be released in covers by Yes collaborator Roger Dean (Asia, Budgie, Greenslade, Osibisa, etc.). Most of the songs were written by Ken Hensley, including “The Wizard” with former bass player Mark Clarke. “The Wizard” was released as a single with “Why” as the b-side, the only other Uriah Heep song featuring Mark Clarke. “Why” (Box, Byron, Hensley and Paul Newton) was recorded in several versions, including an extended version with Clarke during the early “Demons & Wizards” sessions in 1972. There was also a 14 minute version recorded during the “Look at Yourself” sessions.
“The very day Colosseum held the meeting to disband, I was out at a club later that evening”, Clarke recalled. “And I was approached by the leader of Uriah Heep, Ken Hensley, asking me if I could help out by doing a gig the very next night up in Scotland. That was the start of a very wild and very tiring ten months on the road – and I mean on the road. It was also the start of a very close friendship with Ken, but it nearly killed me, I was a wreck. It took me about six months to start to feel normal again. In that time, I recorded two tracks for the “Demons And Wizards” LP. I co-wrote “The Wizard” with Ken, but as far as Gary – who was a friend, by the way – re-doing my bass parts, that’s just not true. The bass on “The Wizard” and the vocal in the bridge section is me; David Byron couldn’t hit the high notes, so I was asked to sing it, and that’s what you hear today – me.”
For the first time since the debut, “Demons and Wizards” (May 1972) featured two tracks not credited to Hensley. “Traveller in Time” and “All My Life” were co-written by Box, Byron, and Kerslake. Box and Kerslake were co-credited with Hensley for “Poet’s Justice” but Hensley wrote “Easy Livin'”, “Circle of Hands”, “Rainbow Demon” (later covered by Vintersorg) and “Paradise”/”The Spell” on his own. Later re-issues added demo recordings of “Home Again to You” and “Green Eye”.
Lee Kerslake, who later played on the first two Ozzy Osbourne solo albums, confirmed that former Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads was a big fan of “Demons and Wizards”. “He loved the way the style of the music, the way it turned and the way it went. And that’s why when he came up with the idea of a riff – me, Bob, and Randy – we wrote ‘Diary of a Madman.’” The album title later inspired Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) to name their side project Demons & Wizards.
Released only six months later, in November of 1972, was “The Magician’s Birthday”. The concept was “based loosely on a short story” written by Hensley in June and July 1972. Hensley wrote “Sunrise”, “Blind Eye”, “Echoes in the Dark”, “Rain” and “Tales” on his own. The ten minute title track was co-credited to Hensley, Box and Kerslake while “Spider Woman” and “Sweet Lorraine” were co-credited to other members of the band, including bassist Gary Thain.
“Tales” featured B. J. Cole on pedal steel guitar. Cole, a member of the band Cochise, would also appear on Uriah Heep’s “Return to Fantasy” in addition to appearing on albums by Humble Pie, Trapeze, Elton John, Procol Harum, Alan Parsons, The Moody Blues, Roger Waters, Björk, John Cale, Sting, Depeche Mode, Spiritualized, and Robert Plant.
“We were doing two albums a year, or maybe one album in every ten months. No one does it anymore and it was ridiculous”, Hensley commented. “and albums like “The Magician’s Birthday” suffered because of this scheduling. Also my song writing really started to suffer when I became more addicted to cocaine. Then I really lost my focus, my focus was entirely on the drug. Everything else was second. So it had a big effect on everybody. We had guys in the band who were alcoholics and some of them were drug addicts. This all developed in late 1972, early 1973 and as a result, everything went right down. We couldn’t see it and blamed it on something else. But I believe I was born to write songs. I believe that’s my purpose on earth.”
Hensley also recorded two solo albums during his time in Uriah Heep: “Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf” (1973) and “Eager to Please” (1975). Hensley started working on his first solo album in November 1971, just after the release of “Look At Yourself”. Joined by Uriah Heep bandmates Gary Thain and Lee Kerslake, the album was finished a year later, in November 1972, around the time that “The Magician’s Birthday” was released. The only other musician credited was bassist Dave Paul.
Dave Paul had previously appeared on a 1969 album called “Mike Hart Bleeds”, also featuring keyboard player Jan Schelhaas. After leaving Toe Fat, Lee Kerslake had played with Jan Schelhaas in the National Head Band. Schelhaas went on to record with Gary Moore (1973), Thin Lizzy (1973), Canterbury prog giants Caravan (replacing Dave Sinclair, 1975-1978, 2002-present) and Camel (replacing Peter Bardens, 1978-1981, 2013), where he initially re-joined cousins Richard Sinclair (bass & vocals) and Dave Sinclair (keyboards) with whom he’d already played in Caravan.
Among original Hensley compositions, “Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf” contained a different version of the song “Rain” from “The Magician’s Birthday”. The track “Proud Words” had also been approached by Uriah Heep, as proved by later inclusion as a bonus track on various re-issues of both “Demons and Wizards” and “The Magician’s Birthday”.
Early versions of “Cold Autumn Sunday” and “Black Hearted Lady” were later included on 1994’s “From Time To Time”, a collection of lost Hensley recordings from 1971-1982. Four songs from 1971 – including this version of “Cold Autumn Sunday” – were performed by Hensley and Free members Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums), Hensley’s roommates at the time.
Uriah Heep’s first live album was recorded at the Birmingham Town Hall in January of 1973. A lavishly packaged double vinyl album with gatefold sleeve and an eight-page booklet, “Uriah Heep Live” was released by Bronze Records in May 1973. Extended versions of “Gypsy” and “July Morning” shared the space with high energy versions of some of the band’s best songs.
There was also a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley” included, featuring Chuck Berry’s “Roll over Beethoven” (1956), “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins (1955), “Mean Woman Blues” (recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957), the Leiber/Stoller classic “Hound Dog” (first recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952, covered by Elvis Presley in 1956), “At the Hop” (a #1 hit for Danny & the Juniors in 1957) and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”. The latter was first recorded by Big Maybelle in 1955, conducted and arranged by Quincy Jones, but the 1957 version by Jerry Lee Lewis is more famous.
The Expanded Deluxe Edition of “Uriah Heep Live” from 2003 added a bonus disc with four tracks from a US radio show and eight tracks listed as “film mixes used for radio”. The latter are the same recordings that were first released in 1986 as “Live at Shepperton ’74”.
These songs were recorded live for radio broadcasting at Shepperton Studios, Surrey, England, in 1974. These tracks thus include songs not released until that year’s “Wonderworld” album: “So Tired”, “The Easy Road”, “Something or Nothing”, and “I Won’t Mind”.
Following the live album, the album “Sweet Freedom” (September 1973) was recorded during three summer weeks in France, at Château d’Hérouville where Elton John (whose album title “Honky Château” was inspired by the house), Gong, Pink Floyd, T. Rex, The Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Nektar, Bad Company, Rainbow, David Bowie and Big Star’s Chris Bell also recorded.
Ken Hensley wrote “Stealin'”, “If I Had the Time”, “Seven Stars” and the title track. Hensley was also co-credited for “One Day” with Gary Thain and “Pilgrim” with David Byron.
Gary Thain’s final album, “Wonderworld” (June 1974) was recorded in Munich, Germany. Hensley wrote the title track, “The Shadows and the Wind” and “The Easy Road” on his own. “Something or Nothing” and “Dreams” were co-credited to Hensley and Box with Thain and Byron respectively. “Suicidal Man”, “So Tired”, “I Won’t Mind” and “We Got We” were co-credited to all five members.
“What Can I Do”, a Hensley composition, was released as the B-side on the “Something or Nothing” single. In 2004, the Expanded Deluxe Edition of “Wonderworld” also added two previously unreleased Ken Hensley compositions, “Love, Hate and Fear” and “Stone’s Throw”.
Mark Clarke was only briefly the bass player in Uriah Heep, but his friendship with Ken Hensley remained. In 1975, eager to please, Clarke re-appeared on Hensley’s second solo album.
Ken Hensley’s old band The Gods had lost Mick Taylor to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Mark Clarke (ex-the Kegmen, the Locomotive, St. James Infirmary) first became a recording artist when he joined Colosseum, a band formed by three former Bluesbreakers. Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman had first played together in The Graham Bond Organisation, after Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker left to form Cream with Eric Clapton, himself a former Bluesbreaker. Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith joined the Bluesbreakers in 1967, recording 1968’s “Bare Wires” with Mayall, Mick Taylor and bassist Tony Reeves. Prior to replacing Andy Fraser (who left for Free, having briefly replaced John McVie), Tony Reeves had played in bands with Jon Hiseman and Dave Greenslade. Much like Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie had done the previous year, Hiseman, Reeves and Heckstall-Smith soon left Mayall to form a band of their own, Colosseum (1968-1971), with keyboardist Dave Greenslade. Prior to their initial split, Dave “Clem” Clempson (ex-Bakerloo with Heep drummer Keith Baker) and Chris Farlowe had also joined Colosseum. Mark Clarke first appeared on Colosseum’s fourth studio album, 1970’s “Daughter of Time”, which was followed by a legendary double live album before the original band broke up in October 1971.
As mentioned, Mark Clarke was approached by Hensley the night that Colosseum disbanded. A few tiring months on tour with Uriah Heep followed before Clarke decided to leave, having only recorded two songs. He was replaced by Gary Thain from the Keef Hartley Band. Keef Hartley himself had recorded one album with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in 1967, “Crusade”, replacing Mick Fleetwood (who had left for Fleetwood Mac) before the arrival of Jon Hiseman. After leaving Uriah Heep in 1972, Mark Clarke re-joined Hiseman in a band called Tempest. They recorded two albums together (1973-1974), the first featuring guitarist Allan Holdsworth (ex-‘Igginbottom, Ian Carr’s Nucleus and Sunship, with future Gilgamesh founder Alan Gowen and King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir) and the second with former Patto guitarist Ollie Halsall. Gary Moore (ex-Skid Row, Thin Lizzy) was intended as their third guitarist in 1974. Hiseman and Clarke did rehearse with Moore for a couple of weeks. “From what I remember it was quite amazing”, Mark Clarke said. “Well, it would be, don’t you agree? But I then decided to form Natural Gas and then moved to the States”.
Jon Hiseman and Gary Moore went on and formed Colosseum II in 1975. Colosseum II also featured keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Neil Murray (ex-Gilgamesh) from Cozy Powell’s band Hammer. Powell (ex-The Sorcerers, Youngblood, The Ace Kefford Stand, Big Bertha, The Jeff Beck Group, Bedlam) himself was asked to join Rainbow, as Richie Blackmore (ex-Deep Purple) got rid of all former Elf members aside from Dio. Don Airey would later re-join Powell in Rainbow while Neil Murray (after re-joining Alan Gowen in National Health) would again play with Powell in Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, and the Peter Green Splinter Group. Another member of Hammer, guitarist Bernie Marsden (ex-UFO and Wild Turkey, formed by original Jethro Tull bass player Glenn Cornick) went on to join Babe Ruth before playing with Paice Ashton Lord and Whitesnake.
Natural Gas released a self-titled album in 1976, produced by Felix Pappalardi (Mountain, Cream, Bedlam) before disbanding. Natural Gas and Rainbow had rehearsed in the same studio and “the very day I decided to knock Natural Gas on the head”, Clarke recalled “within two hours the phone rang, and there was Ritchie. He came right out with “Do you want to join Rainbow”? I was in shock but after about a minute I said, yes. Within a week, I was living in LA, and I don’t remember how long we were there, but it was many months. From there we went to Paris, The Chateau, for about two months. This is where we had our falling out that lasted about ten years, but now I consider him, when I see him, a friend.” Richie Blackmore had fired future Dio bassist Jimmy Bain (ex-Harlot, later with Wild Horses and Phil Lynott) in January 1977. Once in the studio for “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Blackmore found that he disliked Clarke’s fingerstyle playing. Bob Daisley (ex-Kahvas Jute, Chicken Shack, Mungo Jerry, and Widowmaker, later with Lee Kerslake in Ozzy’s band, Uriah Heep and Living Loud) was hired to replace Mark Clarke in Rainbow before the end of 1977.
In addition to re-joining Ken Hensley for his next solo album, Mark Clarke went on to appear (sometimes along with Bob Kulick) on albums by Richard T. Bear, Billy Squier, Ian Hunter and Michael Bolton before joining Mountain (1984–1985, 1995–1998) and The Monkees on tour in 1986. Colosseum eventually re-united in 1994 and as of 2020, Clarke is still in Colosseum with Dave “Clem” Clempson and Chris Farlowe. Colosseum no longer features any founding members, however.
Anyway, Ken Hensley’s second album was released as “Eager To Please” in 1975. It contained two songs written by Mark Clarke, the single “In The Morning” (with Ray Warleigh on saxophone and Clarke himself on vocals) and “Stargazer”. The latter was co-written by Clarke and Susie Bottomley, a pair which had also written several songs together for the Tempest albums.
“Because of our friendship”, Clarke recalled, “Ken would ask me to do all of his recordings with him. And when he needed to write songs, he asked me if I had any, and “In The Morning” popped up. He loved it. As did Gerry Bron, his and Colosseum’s manager. Gerry… He still is the best manager we ever had. So it was then picked for the single without any changes or edits.”
Having provided pedal steel guitar on “The Magician’s Birthday”, B. J. Cole did the same on the Hensley composition “Secret”. Ken Hensley also wrote all other songs on the album, in addition to singing and playing both guitar and keyboards. The only other musician on the album was Warren “Bugs” Pemberton (ex-Dee and the Dynamites, The Undertakers, the Lomax Alliance, Walrus, Aim), a drummer who had previously recorded mostly with Jackie Lomax.
Also in 1975, David Byron released “Take No Prisoners”, his solo debut featuring Heep members Box, Kerslake and Wetton. Hensley played acoustic guitar on “Hit Me With A White One”, written by Byron, Box and former Paladin keyboard player Lou Stonebridge. Bass player Denny Ball (ex-The Ace Kefford Stand, Big Bertha, and Bedlam with Cozy Powell and his brother, Procol Harum guitarist Dave Ball) would later play on Hensley’s first post-Heep solo album, 1981’s “Free Spirit”.
Gary Thain’s heavy drug dependency led to the bassist being replaced by John Wetton (ex-Mogul Thrash and Family, 1971-72) in March of 1975. After making three amazing studio albums with King Crimson (1972-74, as their fifth bassist following ex-Gods member Greg Lake, Peter Giles, Gordon Haskell and Boz Burrell), Wetton had joined Roxy Music on tour (1974-75) before joining Uriah Heep.
John Wetton (1949-2017) would appear on Uriah Heep’s last two albums with David Byron, “Return to Fantasy” (June 1975) and “High and Mighty” (June 1976).
Wetton didn’t contribute any material to “Return to Fantasy” but Hensley wrote “Your Turn to Remember” and “A Year or a Day” on his own. Hensley was also co-credited with other members for all the other album tracks, and the single B-side “The Time Will Come”. “Shout It Out”, the B-side to the “Prima Donna” single, was also a Hensley composition.
Gerald Lincoln “Gerry” Bron (1933-2012) headed Bronze Records and produced all of Uriah Heep’s albums while Hensley was a member of the band, except “High and Mighty”. Uriah Heep decided to produce that album themselves, which basically meant that Ken Hensley tried to do so. Hensley also wrote all of the song on the album, with only “Weep in Silence” and “Footprints in the Snow” co-credited to John Wetton. Wetton also provided lead vocals on “One Way or Another”.
In some ways, “High and Mighty” was almost a Ken Hensley solo album, with the other members of Uriah Heep acting as session musicians. There was now a lot of drug abuse and little involvement in making actual music, according to Hensley and Bron. Gerry Bron was the elder brother of actress Eleanor Bron (who in 1965 appeared as “Ahme” in The Beatles’ film “Help!”, inspiring Paul McCartney to compose “Eleanor Rigby”) and it was their father, Sydney, who had shortened the family’s surname from “Bronstein” when he founded Bron’s Orchestral Service.
In 2004, a Deluxe Edition re-issue added demos of further Hensley compositions: “Name of the Game”, “Sundown”, “Does Anything Matter”, and “I Close My Eyes”.
In July 1976, David Byron was fired due to his alcoholism. “It’s a tragedy to say it but David was one of those classic people who could not face up to the fact that things were wrong and he looked for solace in a bottle,” commented manager Gerry Bron. John Wetton quit Uriah Heep soon after. David Byron would go on to release one more solo album (1978) and an album each with Rough Diamond (1977, with Humble Pie guitarist Clem Clempson) and The Byron Band (1981). The latter was a collaboration with guitarist Robin George, later to form the band Damage Control with Chris Slade and Pete Way. David Byron eventually died of a heart attack and liver disease in 1985, aged only 38.
John Wetton next re-united with King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford (ex-Yes, Gong, National Health, Genesis) who had recently released his first solo album, “Feels Good to Me” (1978), a collaboration with guitarist Allan Holdsworth (ex-‘Igginbottom, Nucleus, Tempest, Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Jean-Luc Ponty), keyboard genious Dave Stewart (ex-Uriel, Egg, Khan, Hatfield and the North, National Health) and bassist Jeff Berlin. Having failed to form a band with Rick Wakeman (who instead re-joined Yes), Bruford brought in Holdsworth while Wetton recruited Eddie Jobson (who had replaced Brian Eno in Roxy Music prior to Wetton joining them) on keyboard and violin, having recently worked with Frank Zappa. After making a self-titled album as U.K. (1978), Bruford and Holdsworth left U.K. and went on to make “One of a Kind” (1979) with Stewart and Berlin. In 1981, Bruford and Robert Fripp formed a new King Crimson with bassist Tony Levin (who had worked with Peter Gabriel and played on Fripp’s 1978 solo album, “Exposure”) and guitarist Adrian Belew, having lately toured with Talking Heads after playing with Frank Zappa and David Bowie. The band initially called themselves “Discipline” but this became their first album title after opting to revert to King Crimson. Meanwhile, Wetton’s U.K. went on by bringing in drummer Terry Bozzio, who Jobson knew from their time in Zappa’s band. U.K. disbanded in 1980, with Jobson being asked to participate in Ian Anderson’s solo endeavour, eventually released as the Jethro Tull album “A”. John Wetton himself, meanwhile, went on to release his first solo album (featuring Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre and Simon Kirke, the Free and Bad Company drummer) before briefly joining Wishbone Ash for the last months of 1980.
Sorry, lost my focus there for a bit. Having auditioned David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake), Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople) and Gary Holton (Heavy Metal Kids), Heep replaced Byron with Lucifer’s Friend vocalist John Lawton (ex-Stonewall, the Les Humphries Singers) while bassist Trevor Bolder took Wetton’s place.
Bolder had first played with Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ronson in The Rats, appearing on his solo album after working with David Bowie from 1971 to 1973 as the Spiders from Mars. Bolder would remain with Heep until his death in 2013, except for 18 months in the early 1980s.
Lawton, Bolder, Hensley, Box and Kerslake recorded three albums together: “Firefly” (February 1977), “Innocent Victim” (November 1977), and “Fallen Angel” (September 1978).
Ken Hensley, again, wrote almost all of the material for “Firefly”, the only exception being Kerslake’s “Who Needs Me”. The title track featured Hensley and Kerslake on vocals and the two were also co-credited with Mick Box for “Crime of Passion”, the B-side of the “Wise Man” single. In 2004, the Deluxe Edition of “Firefly” added three bonus tracks credited to all five band members: “A Far Better Way”, “I Always Knew” and “Dance Dance Dance.”
Uriah Heep toured the USA supporting Kiss. Paul Stanley later recalled that “they were incredibly professional, and so consistent that their worst nights were excellent and their best were tremendous.”
The eyes of Lee Kerslake were used for the snake on the cover of “Innocent Victim”, an album which included the hit single “Free Me”. It was written by Hensley, as were “Flyin’ High”, “Cheat ‘N’ Lie”, and “Illusion”. “Illusion” was originally recorded as a longer track but it’s second part, “Masquerade”, was cut off and used as a B-side on the “Free Me” single. The full unedited version of “Illusion / Masquerade” was eventually released as a CD bonus track on re-issues of “Innocent Victim”.
Hensley also continued to collaborate with Jack Williams, the songwriter who co-wrote “The Hanging Tree” for the previous album. “Keep On Ridin'” was written by Williams and Hensley while “The Dance” and “Choices” were credited to Williams alone. Williams would also contribute songs for Hensley’s next solo album and the first record that he’d make with southern rock band Blackfoot. Songs by Williams would also be recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys and The Gregg Allman Band.
Hensley struggled to write songs at this point. Two of the better tracks weren’t his, “Roller” (Trevor Bolder and Pete McDonald, Bolder’s post-Bowie/Ronson bandmate in Spiders From Mars, having also recorded with Bullfrog and Goldie) and “Free ‘n’ Easy” by Mick Box and John Lawton.
The CD bonus tracks “The River” and “Put Your Music (Where Your Mouth Is)” are outtakes credited to all five members of the band.
Hensley was co-credited for producing “Fallen Angel” with Gerry Bron, as on the previous album, but Hensley still had trouble coming up with good songs. Hensley was “only” credited for writing “Falling in Love”, “One More Night (Last Farewell)”, “Whad’ya Say”, “Love or Nothing”, “Fallen Angel”, and “Come Back to Me”, the latter co-credited to Lee Kerslake. Hensley also wrote “Cheater”, released as the B-side to “Come Back to Me”. CD re-issues of “Fallen Angel” also added “Gimme Love” (originally titled “Struttin'”) and “A Right to Live”, two other B-sides. The artwork was licensed from Chris Achilleos, the fantasy artist who’d design the semi-nude cover for Whitesnake’s “Lovehunter”.
“Too poppy” for Mick Box’s liking, “Fallen Angel” was the final straw for Kerslake and Lawton who were also unhappy with Hensley earning much more than his colleagues. “Everything he wrote, he had to use… And if you insist in using everything you end up with substandard albums,” opined Mick Box. Lee Kerslake departed after a row with manager Gerry Bron, whom Kerslake accused of favouritism towards Hensley’s material. “I was making more money than anyone else because I was writing more songs,” Hensley said. “I was never very subtle about the fact that I was making more money – I was buying big cars and big houses – so arguments about royalties and why we were using more of my songs began to surface.”
Lee Kerslake departed Uriah Heep in 1978, about the time that Ozzy Osbourne was leaving Black Sabbath. Osbourne had briefly been replaced by Dave Walker (ex-The Idle Race, Savoy Brown, Hungry Fighter, Fleetwood Mac) for a few months in 1977, before returning to record “Never Say Die!”. Having failed to put together a band with musicians from Dirty Tricks, Osbourne thought his career was over when Tony Iommi finally fired him in 1979. Black Sabbath’s manager Don Arden dispatched his daughter Sharon to Los Angeles, however, and soon found Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads. Ozzy also met Bob Daisley, the Rainbow bassist that Richie Blackmore decided to replace with Roger Glover (also ex-Deep Purple) in 1979. Daisley, Ozzy, and Rhoads started recording “Blizzard of Ozz” with drummer Dixie Lee of Lone Star, the band which split up when Paul Chapman left to replace Michael Schenker in UFO. Dixie Lee was soon replaced by Kerslake, who Daisley knew from the time that Uriah Heep had toured with Widowmaker (1975-77), his band featuring guitarists Luther “Ariel Bender” Grosvenor (ex-Spooky Tooth, Mott the Hoople) and Huw Lloyd-Langton of Hawkwind fame. Having also recorded “Diary of a Madman”, Kerslake and Daisley were fired and went on to form a new Uriah Heep with Mick Box.
Uriah Heep released one album, “Conquest” (February 1980), during Kerslake’s absence. It proved to be Ken Hensley’s final album with the band. “Conquest” was recorded with drummer Chris Slade (ex-Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, 1972-1978) and former Lone Star vocalist John Sloman. Lone Star disbanded when Paul Chapman joined UFO in December of 1978 and Sloman (ex-Trapper) had briefly joined (original Blizzard of Ozz drummer) Dixie Lee and Trapper bassist Pino Paladino in the Canadian outfit Pulsar.
Hensley wrote four of the eight tracks (“Imagination”, “Feelings”, “Carry On”, and “Out on the Street”), also co-composing “No Return” and “Won’t Have to Wait Too Long” with Trevor Bolder and Mick Box. Hensley also wrote “Been Hurt”, released as the B-side of the “Carry On” single. This line-up also recorded a cover of “Love Stealer” (Philip Wainman, Richard Myhill), originally a hit for the glam rock band Hello of “New York Groove” fame. It was released as a single with “No Return” as the B-side. Credited to Bolder, Hensley, Slade and Sloman, “Lying” was a previously unreleased out-take eventually included as a bonus track on re-issues of “Conquest”.
Hensley was very unhappy with Sloman, and he explained why: “He was a good musician and he looked great but I thought he had little going for him vocally. The way that he interpreted songs were totally different to the way I had written them. I could understand wanting to move on but this was like the difference between Black Sabbath and Gino Vannelli. We weren’t addressing our basic problems, in that we weren’t re-establishing our musical direction and John definitely wasn’t helping us to do that.”
Ken Hensley left the band after their 1980 Summer tour. He was replaced by Greg Dechert, having worked with Sloman in Pulsar. This line-up released only one single (“Think It Over” b/w “My Joanna Needs Tuning”) before Mick Box decided to fire Sloman, Dechert and Slade. Chris Slade had started out playing with The Squires, backing Tom Jones (1963-1969), and had recently done a session for Frankie Miller. 1980 also saw Chris Slade release the lone self-titled album by a group called Terra Nova. He’d later join Jimmy Page (ex-Led Zeppelin), Paul Rodgers (ex-Free, Bad Company) and Tony Franklin (ex-Roy Harper, later in Blue Murder) in The Firm (1984-1986), going on to play with AC/DC (1989–1994, touring 2015–2016), Asia (1999–2005) and Damage Control with Pete Way and Robin George from The Byron Band. Dechert went on to play with The Dream Academy after joining Chris Slade and Mick Ralphs on tour with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Dechert later re-joined Ralphs in the re-formed Bad Company featuring Brian Howe.
Regarding his departure from Uriah Heep, Hensley said: “We had almost a competition in the band on who would replace John Lawton, and the band took the majority position and hired John Sloman against my objections. And I knew he was wrong — somewhere between Gino Vannelli and Stevie Wonder, who desperately wanted to be Robert Plant, was never going to be the right front man for the band. And in the studio when we recorded ‘Conquest’, I couldn’t believe the vocals; it was impossible to get him to sing straight. And so I would moan regularly about it, in the producer’s chair, but it didn’t make any difference. By then, everybody was so enthralled by this new singer, and the fact that they had beaten me in a competition, and so yes, you’re right; by the time we left the studio after making that album I was done. I went on the obligatory European tour, which was no fun at all, and then we broke up in, I think Portugal, which was the last show we did. I woke up in my hotel room, and I said, ‘Well, that’s it; I’m done.’ Went back to London, called a meeting, and just said, ‘Sorry, but I’ve had enough,’ I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I didn’t want to do that.”
Trevor Bolder left Mick Box alone after failing to persuade David Byron to return to Uriah Heep. Bolder joined Wishbone Ash when former ‘Heep bassist John Wetton left them to form Asia with Steve Howe (ex-Yes, Tomorrow), keyboardist Geoff Downes (ex-Yes, the Buggles) and ELP drummer Carl Palmer. Mick Box initially intended to put together a whole new group, called something other than “Uriah Heep”, but relented when Lee Kerslake returned and brought Bob Daisley along from Ozzy Osbourne’s band. They were joined by keyboard player John Sinclair (1981-1986), having played with Heavy Metal Kids after Danny Peyronel left to join UFO. Trevor Bolder returned to stay with Uriah Heep after Daisley re-joined Ozzy’s band in 1983.
John Sloman was first replaced by Peter Goalby (1981–1985) – the singer in Trapeze since 1978 when Glenn Hughes left again – before Uriah Heep settled with Bernie Shaw (ex-Stratus, Praying Mantis) who had sung in Grand Prix with Phil Lanzon, Heep’s keyboard player since 1986. Sloman brifely played keyboards with UFO after Paul Raymond left for MSG. Sloman was soon replaced by Neil Carter of Wild Horses, the band formed by Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson and Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain. Carter had played in Wild Horses with Dixie Lee, former Lone Star bandmate with Sloman and Paul Chapman. John Sloman’s Badlands next featured former Trapper drummer John Munro, Whitesnake’s bass player Neil Murray and former Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist John Sykes, this being prior to him joining Thin Lizzy (1982–1983) and later reuniting with Murray in Whitesnake (1984-1987). Sloman and Murray also joined Gary Moore’s band for “Rockin’ Every Night: Live in Japan”, the 1983 live album also featuring Deep Purple’s Ian Paice and Don Airey.
Unhappy with the musical direction they had chosen, Ken Hensley left Uriah Heep and tried to put together a band called Shotgun in the UK. This having failed, he moved to the USA and played a few gigs as The Ken Hensley Band. His third solo album, “Free Spirit” was released around this time.
Most of the tracks were recorded by Hensley with British bassist Gary Taylor (ex-The Herd with Peter Frampton, Kid Gloves, Kenny Young’s Fox, Yellow Dog) and drummer Geoff Allan. The identity of the latter appears unknown but a man of the same name also played in a group called Noel Crow’s Jazzmen. It might be more likely that it was Jeffrey “Jeff” Allen, an English session drummer whose work include recordings with East of Eden and Babe Ruth. The most likely, though, is perhaps that it was Jeff Allen (brother of bassist Chris Allen, alias “Chris Cross” of Ultravox, a.k.a. “Chris St. John” during their early years as Tiger Lily), one of the founding members of the glam band Hello, whose “Love Stealer” had recently been covered by Uriah Heep.
Either way, Ken Hensley sang and played most of the instruments himself. He was also joined by former Uriah Heep bass players Mark Clarke (on “Brown Eyed Boy” with Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, then a member of Whitesnake) and Trevor Bolder, on “New York” and “Telephone”. The latter also featured Faces drummer Kenney Jones, then a member of The Who.
“Free Spirit” opened with “Inside The Mystery”, a disco-inflicted song written by Jack Williams, the man who had earlier contributed material to Uriah Heep’s albums “Firefly” and “Innocent Victim”. This was one of two tracks (the other being “Woman”) featuring Benny Ball, the bassist who had also played on David Byron’s solo debut. The opening track also featured drummer Jim Toomey, whose discography includes releases by Jon, Titus Groan, Colin Blunstone of The Zombies, and The Tourists, a band also featuring future Eurythmics founders Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.
This final album for Gerry Bron’s Bronze Records was later included in a triple CD boxset called “The Bronze Years 1973-1981”, also featuring Hensley’s first two solo albums with bonus tracks and an exclusive interview DVD. The hour-long DVD featured Ken talking about the albums with journalist Malcolm Dome, revealing how the title for the debut was purely because he wanted to put the songs out there so that they wouldn’t end up “Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf”.
Once living in the USA, Hensley joined southern rockers Blackfoot (1982-1984) for two albums, 1983’s “Siogo” and 1984’s “Vertical Smiles”.
Blackfoot released their debut album in 1975 but they had a history going back to the spring of 1969. It was then that guitarist and vocalist Rickey Medlocke, guitarist Charlie Hargrett, and bassist Greg T. Walker first formed a band called Fresh Garbage. Having changed their name to Hammer, the Florida band were soon joined by drummer Jakson Spires, the main songwriter on Blackfoot’s first couple of albums. During the spring of 1971, Blackfoot temporarily disbanded as Ricky Medlocke and Greg T. Walker accepted an offer to join Lynyrd Skynyrd, replacing drummer Bob Burns and future 38 Special bassist Larry Junstrom. Medlocke would re-join Lynyrd Skynyrd as guitarist in 1996 but his first stint in the band was as singing drummer. Medlocke and Walker would be replaced by Leon Wilkeson and a returning Bob Burns in 1972, before the recording of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album. Recordings from Alabama’s Muscle Shoals Sound Studio were eventually released as “Skynyrd’s First and… Last” in 1978, however. Those early recordings from 1971-1972 included tracks recorded with Walker and Medlocke, the latter even credited with writing a couple of the songs.
Blackfoot re-formed in 1972, briefly with Danny Johnson as second guitarist. Johnson would later play in Derringer and Axis with Vinny Appice (pre-Black Sabbath), as mentioned in the article remembering the life of Eddie Van Halen. Walker briefly joined musicians from The Tokens to record the sole self-titled album as “Cross Country” in 1973, but he re-joined Blackfoot in time for their debut album. Medlocke, Hargrett, Walker and Spires recorded five studio albums and a legendary live album, “Highway Song Live” (1982), before being joined by Hensley.
The opening track of “Siego”, “Send Me an Angel”, was written by Ken Hensley and Jack Williams. Hensley was also co-credited with members of Blackfoot for “Run for Cover” and “Sail Away”. Hensley provided keyboards and backing vocals but also slide guitar on the track “Drivin’ Fool”.
In addition to own material, “Siego” also included “Heart’s Grown Cold” by Zal Cleminson, guitarist in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band between 1972 and 1978. Cleminson made two albums as a member of Nazareth, first recording “Heart’s Grown Cold” for 1980’s “Malice in Wonderland”.
“Siogo” sold poorly, leading the band to think that they should “modernize” for the new MTV generation. Hargrett thus reluctantly decided to leave the band in January of 1984, not appearing on their next album. “Vertical Smiles” was recorded with Eddy Offord, the Yes producer that ELP wrote “Are You Ready, Eddy?” for on their 1971 album “Tarkus”. The original album was rejected by Atco but the revamped version also failed to sell. “Vertical Smiles” contained no less than three cover songs: Peter Cetera’s “Living in the Limelight”, “Morning Dew” by Bonnie Dobson (also covered by Fred Neil, Tim Rose and The Grateful Dead) and RPM’s “A Legend Never Dies”. Hensley was co-credited with Spires and Medlocke for two tracks, “Get It On” and “In For The Kill”.
Ken Hensley quit Blackfoot by late 1984 and was replaced by former Axe singer/guitarist Bobby Barth. “Well, I never quite fit in with that band,” Hensley later said. “It was uncomfortable partly because their style of music was really strange for me. It was just hard to make my style work with theirs because their thing was southern rock. It was very much 2 to 4. And then when I went on the road with them, I kind of still had memories of being on the road with Uriah Heep in my head. So I compared everything with everything and that was wrong. It didn’t work and in the end I was just very disappointed. And when I heard that David Byron had died, that’s when I left Blackfoot.” By December 1985, Blackfoot had disbanded. Medlocke decided to continue with a new team, however, and Blackfoot is still an active band. They no longer feature any of the original musicans from the time with Hensley, however.
After 1985, Hensley lived in semi-retirement in St Louis, Missouri. “You have to remember I was still seriously addicted to cocaine”, Hensley pointed out. “When I left Blackfoot my number one priority became just getting off cocaine, getting rid of my addiction”. Hensley also owned “The Attic” Recording studio in St. Louis, however, and he started to dabble with producing other artists.
1986 saw Hensley credited for producing the sole self-released single (“Shape Up” / “Unity”) by a trio called Kleen Kut. He also produced and provided backing vocals on “Every Beat Of My Heart”, a four track solo debut EP by Danny Liston. Danny and his brother Pat Liston (who also guested on the EP) had released two albums in the late 1970s with Mama’s Pride, a rock band formed in 1972. Mama’s Pride toured with acts like The Allman Brothers, The Charlie Daniels Band and The Outlaws. Shortly before his death in 1977, Ronnie Van Zandt of Lynyrd Skynyrd even expressed an interest in producing their third album. Mama’s Pride also acted as Gregg Allman’s backing band on a 1978 solo tour, before disbanding in 1982. Much later, the Liston brothers would also appear as prominent guests on Hensley’s next solo album.
Following a break from music, Hensley returned in 1989 to play on W.A.S.P.’s “The Headless Children”. He also contributed to Cinderella’s “Heartbreak Station” the following year.
Blackie Lawless famously stated that “Ken Hensley wrote the rule book for heavy metal keyboards”. Lawless had formed his band in 1982, soon joined by guitarist Chris Holmes. “The Headless Children”, W.A.S.P.’s fourth studio album, would be their last to feature Holmes for nearly a decade. The bassist Johnny Rod (ex-King Kobra) had joined W.A.S.P. for the previous album but this was their first with Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali. Hensley wasn’t credited as a band member, nor was it mentioned which tracks he added keyboards to. Showcasing a new level of maturity, the album featured power ballad “Forever Free” and a cover of “The Real Me” from The Who’s 1973 rock opera “Quadrophenia”.
“It was a weird experience working on The Headless Children”, Hensley recalled. “I did the whole album without hearing any vocals. In the rehearsals, Blackie hadn’t finished the lyrics, so I never heard him sing one song. In the studio I went in and cut all my parts and still hadn’t heard any.” According to Lawless,“95% of that stuff was either demoed or rehearsed”. “It was pretty much ready to go before he got there.”
The first W.A.S.P. album with Johnny Rod, “Inside The Electric Circus” (1986) featured a cover of Uriah Heep’s “Easy Living” and Lawless recalled how he “mentioned to Johnny what a huge Heep fan I was. Johnny said that he used to play with him and asked if I wanted him to give him a call. Ken was my hero. Johnny called him and he came out to LA. He was great! I just can’t say enough about him. He played on our record and I was so pleased to have him involved.” Chris Holmes remembered how “Ken was an icon at the time, and a real great person. He looked at me not any worse than, or no better than him, straight. I loved that.”
Following the death of Ken Hensley, Black Lawless recalled his relationship with Hensley follows:
“I was 17 the first time I heard Uriah Heep’s Salisbury. The songs were great, the vocals were killer, but there was something about those keyboards. It was a grinding noise I’d never heard before. There were other bands using Hammond B-3 organs… but not like this band. Years later I’d find out why.
It was Spring of ’88 when I met Ken Hensley for the first time. There had been few musicians in my life I’d had revered as much. Here was the man that wrote ‘Easy Living’ and was the creator of ‘That Sound’. I wasn’t sure what to expect on that first meeting. Many times when people meet their idols, it can be disappointing. To my surprise and relief, he could not have been cooler! He immediately put me at ease and the thing that really struck me about him was his sense of humor. He just loved to laugh and have a good time. What we call: ‘just one of the guys.’ So much so, that it would be months until it finally hit me just ‘who he was.’
We had been in rehearsals for weeks for what would later become the Headless Children album, when one day I walked in the studio. Everybody was already there. The band were on stage playing, the crew were moving cases around and sorting out the gear. When I walked in the area where the door was it was darkened, so I could see all of them, but they couldn’t see me. I stood there and just listened for what seemed like forever. We had been playing around with the idea of doing The Who song ‘The Real Me’, but had not tried it yet. When I got there, they already had the song worked up and were playing it. I stood there, and the absolute ferociousness of the roar that was coming off the stage was stunning. Holmes on guitar, Johnny Rod on bass, Frankie Banali on drums and Ken Hensley on Hammond B-3. It’s impossible for me to over exaggerate the power and intensity that was coming off of that stage. The crew didn’t even notice me because they had stopped working, and were watching and witnessing this ‘monster song’ being born. When you’re a kid, you fantasize a lot about being in some band you had seen on TV or from some record you had bought. I was standing there thinking: ‘I’m 15 again and this is that band I fantasized about.’ Honestly, the second thought I had was: ‘they don’t even need me, this is one of the greatest bands in the world!’
“It was Ken that helped us get to that next level. His experience and instinct for what was right was amazing. I said earlier: ‘years later I’d find out why’. I don’t know if most people will ever be able to experience what happens when you have a chance to work with someone you’ve admired for so long, and then you have a chance to get comfortable with them. Then it happens, that moment where you remember who this person really is and you find yourself thinking: ‘holy cow, this is that guy!’ About two months after we had been working together, Ken and I were driving down the street. Somehow we got on the subject of complaining about how hard some records are to make, and the torture they put you through. I was moaning about some record we had done and Ken said: ‘yeah, I know what you mean. We were making this record called ‘Demons And Wizards and…’ I didn’t hear a word he said after that! I was sitting right next to THAT GUY!!!! I just sat there… totally stunned. He was not trying to impress me, he was just talking. He might not have been trying to impress me, but he failed miserably! I never told him this story. I was too embarrassed to tell him. The next time you hear the song ‘Forever Free’ take a good listen to the ending. That’s Ken and his glorious Hammond B-3 playing us out.”
“I started working on Blackie Lawless’ solo project, which was a concept album”, Hensley said in 1992, “and I don’t know what’s happened to it because I haven’t heard from Blackie in a while”. In 1997, Blackie Lawless commented on Ken Hensley’s participation: “He played on a lot of stuff, but by the time I got finished with that record everything was turned inside out that I ended up playing. I’d say there’s not one song on the record that wasn’t re-recorded at another time, in a different key. And that’s the reason his stuff was scrapped, because he didn’t have the time to come back and re-do it. So, I had to re-play it for him.”
Cinderella was formed by frontman and songwriter Tom Keifer in 1982, much like W.A.S.P. had been. Jon Bon Jovi saw Cinderella perform in Philadelphia and got his A&R man, Derek Shulman, to sign the band.
Shulman had started out as singer in Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (1966-1969), the psychedelic pop band produced by Dave Paramor, the organizer of Head Machine and producer of The Gods. Along with his brothers, Derek Shulman then formed the brilliant progressive rock band Gentle Giant (1970-1980) before going on to become a prominent record executive. Starting as an A&R representative at PolyGram Records, he rose to the ranks of senior vice president and signed Bon Jovi, Dan Reed Network, Kingdom Come, and Enuff Z’nuff. In 1988, he became president and CEO of Atco Records, signing Dream Theater and Pantera. He also re-established the careers of AC/DC and Bad Company before becoming president of Roadrunner Records and signing Slipknot.
Anyway, “Heartbreak Station” was Cinderella’s third album and it showed them moving further away from the glam rock/hair metal scene in favour of a bluesy rock style in the vein of early Aeromith and The Rolling Stones.
The album featured two songs with string arrangements by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and four tracks with Ken Hensley on organ: “Sick for the Cure”, “Make Your Own Way”, “Electric Love” and “Love Gone Bad”.
Hensley wouldn’t release a proper studio album with new material until 1999 but 1994 did see the release of “From Time To Time”, a collection of lost Ken Hensley solo recordings from 1971-1982. As previously mentioned, four tracks from 1971 were performed with Free guitarist Paul Kossoff (“Cold Autumn Sunday” off Hensley’s first solo album and “If I Had The Time” that ended up on Uriah Heep’s “Sweet Freedom”) and drummer Simon Kirke on “Longer Shadows”, a track re-recorded for “Eager to Please”. Bad Company musicians Simon Kirke (ex-Free), Boz Burrell (ex-King Crimson) and Mick Ralphs (ex-Mott The Hoople) can be heard on “The Name Of The Game”.
“Bad Company did some development for one of their albums in my studio and so Mick, Simon and Boz agreed to play on some of my songs”, Hensley explained. “Of course, as I was singing, Paul [Rodgers] was not involved but, if I could choose any voice, it would be his!”
Recorded in 1979, “You” featured pedal steel guitar by B.J. Cole (ex-Cochise) and backing vocals by Clare Torry, best known for performing the wordless vocals on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” off “The Dark Side of the Moon”. Former Uriah Heep bassists Mark Clarke and Trevor Bolder can be heard on “Who Will Sing For You” and “Free Spirit” respectively. Other featured musicians on this release included Kenney Jones (Small Faces, The Faces, The Who) and Ian Paice (Deep Purple, Whitesnake) on “Inspiration”. “Take Care” and “Does Anything Matter” are demos of the songs that ended up on “High and Mighty” as “Footprints In the Snow” and “Woman of the World”.
Back in 1967, Ken Hensley had lost his The Gods bandmate Mick Taylor to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers as a result of Peter Green going on to form Fleetwood Mac. In 1995, almost 30 years later, Hensley recorded a solo version (guitar, piano, vocals) of Robert Johnson’s 1937 classic “Hellhound On My Trail” (as covered on Fleetwood Mac’s 1968 debut album) for a release called “Peter Green Songbook: a Tribute to His Work in Two Volumes”. “That song was chosen for me”, Hensley later said, “and, to be honest, it wasn’t a high point in my career!”
The Peter Green Splinter Group would be formed two years later, releasing “The Robert Johnson Songbook” in 1998 and recording their own version of “Hellhound On My Trail” in the year 2000. Others appearing on the tribute albums included Rory Gallagher (ex-Taste), Harvey Mandel (ex-Canned Heat), Harvey Brooks (ex-The Electric Flag), Rod Price, “Lonesome” Dave Peverett (Foghat), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson), Gregg Bissonette (ex-David Lee Roth), Billy Sheehan (Mr Big), Bobby Tench, Zoot Money, Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann), Stu Hamm, Southside Johnny, Pete Brown, Luther “Ariel Bender” Grosvenor (ex-Spooky Tooth, Mott the Hoople), Snowy White, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Jim McCarthy (The Yardbirds), Dick Heckstall-Smith (Colossum), Clas Yngström (Sky High), Mick Abrahams (ex-Jethro Tull, Blodwyn Pig), and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
Strikeforce is an American hard rock band founded 1982. They released their debut album in 1996 but “Reign Of Fire” from 2006 featured songs originally recorded in 1990-1996, including a cover of the Rainbow classic “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”. Ken Hensley was credited with producing “Into The Sun”, the final bonus track. It was first released as a single in 1998 with Hensley also producing the B-side, “Borrowed Time. Strikeforce later covered Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin'” as a bonus track on their 2017 release “Incoming”.
“Tinta Y Papel” (translation: “Ink And Paper”) by Javier Mendoza was released in 1998 by H.I.S. Records. This was supposedly the first of only two releases on the label, the second being “A Glimpse of Glory” by Ken Hensley & Visible Faith. Born in Virginia, raised in Spain and living in St. Louis, Mendoza himself has evolved from a songwriter for Warner Chappell in 1996 to a full time singer, songwriter, and performer today. “Tinta Y Papel”, his debut album, was produced by Hensley who also played Hammond organ, piano, electric guitar and “teclado” (i.e. keyboards?) on most tracks. The record also featured Hensley’s former W.A.S.P. collaborator, Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali, along with Steve Bailey (bass) and guitarists David Black and Steve Scott.
The follow-up to “Free Spirit”, Hensley’s solo album from 18 years earlier, was finally released as “A Glimpse of Glory” in 1999. Having become a born again Christian in 1993, the album was credited to Ken Hensley & Visible Faith. The musicians in “Visible Faith” were Jerry Hamm, Rich McDonough, Steve Nelson, J. Hayes, Danny Liston (all on guitars), David Karns, Hunter Joseph Sprenger (both on bass), Mike Johnson, and Preston Vaden, the latter two being drummers.
“Moving In” was a re-recording of the Blackfoot song “In For The Kill” but the album also featured songs with a spiritual focus, such as “The Joy of Knowing Jesus”. The brothers Danny and Pat Liston of Mama’s Pride acted as guest singers, with Danny Liston even credited for writing “Guard Your Heart”, “Shakey Ground”, and “Win Or Lose”. Hensley wanted to put the songs “Think Twice”, “The Cost Of Loving” and “One Tender Moment” on a compilation album, expressing a desire to record them with guest musicians like Billy Sheehan and Frankie Banali. This didn’t happen, however.
A revised version of “A Glimpse of Glory” was released in 2003, with a different track order that omitted “It’s Up To You” and “Moving In”. This latter version added the previously unreleased tracks “La Tristeza Secreta De Un Corazon Gitano, Pt.2”, “Jesus (Again & Again)”, “(Because Of) Who I Know”, “Carry Me” and “Instruments Of Peace”.
1999 also saw the release of “Midnight Daydream” by Bruce Cameron, a guitarist who ended his own life the same year. His first and only album featured several prominent guests (Jack Bruce, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, Neal Smith, Michael Bruce etc.), including Ken Hensley adding keyboards to “Mind Gardens”, “Just Like A Spaceman”, and “She’s So Gone”. While also featuring musicians associated with Alice Cooper, Cream and The Outlaws, publicity material pointed out the reunion of The Band of Gypsys, the famous Jimi Hendrix band.
Urban Sprawl from Wilmington, Delaware, released one album in 1988. They released a follow-up in 2000, the double album “Beyond The Bridges” with artwork by Marillion/Fish collaborator Mark Wilkinson. Hensley provided Hammond B3 organ to “Livin’ Beside The Spike” and “Happy Song”. The album also featured Nektar’s Roye Albrighton and John Young (later in prog rockers Lifesigns), who had worked with John Wetton and would soon play on Hensley albums.
“The Spirit Of The Black Rose – A Tribute To Philip Parris Lynott” was released by Record Heaven in 2001. The double album featured acts like Randy Bachman, Primal Fear, Nitzinger, Demon, Doc Holiday, and Bigelf. Ken Hensley contributed a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic “Dear Lord”.
In May of 2000, Ken Hensley appeared at the fourth annual Uriah Heep Convention in London. Hensley was joined by original Uriah Heep bass player Paul Newton and singer John Lawton, collaborating for the first time since 1979. In the meantime, 1986 had seen the release of Uriah Heep’s “Live In Europe 1979”, recorded with the line-up of Hensley, Lawton, Box, Kerslake and Bolder. The Hensley Lawton Band, as the new collaboration was called, also featured guitarist Reuben Kane and drummer Justin Shefford (ex-Somatic) of John Lawton’s Gunhill. Having played with The Gods and Spice, Paul Newton had stopped working as a professional musician after appearing on the first three Uriah Heep albums. He was subsequently in a band called Festival and would continue to collaborate with Hensley, Lawton and Kerslake in “Uriah Heep Legends”. Paul Newton was also scheduled to appear with Ken Hensley at the Heepvention in Finland in May of 2020.
John Lawton was born in Halifax, England, and started out in The Deans, West One and Stonewall. Also featuring John Miles, Vic Malcolm (later of Geordie) and Paul Thompson (later of Roxy Music), Stonewall disbanded in 1969 while on tour in Germany. Lawton stayed in Hamburg and replaced George Mavros as singer in Asterix, a local band. The original Asterix line-up later recorded two albums as Electric Flood and the same musicians (without Lawton or Mavros) made two albums with adaptations of classical music as The Pink Mice.
Mavros and Asterix guitarist Peter Hesslein had joined The German Bonds (with bassist Dieter Horns and Peter Hecht on keyboards) after their Beat band The Giants released a single in 1966. Both formed in 1962, The Giants and The German Bonds featured musicians involved in the 1968 albums “Psychedelic Underground” (as “Bokaj Retsiem”) and “Supreme Psychedelic Underground” (as “Hell Preachers Inc.”), sometimes mistakenly assumed to feature members of Deep Purple.
Joined by drummer Joachim “Addi” Rietenbach and African American paratrooper Toni Cavanaugh as second vocalist, John Lawton and the former members of The German Bonds released a self-titled album as Asterix in 1970. Asterix soon changed their name to Lucifer’s Friend and continued without Cavanaugh, who’d been the drummer in Tony Sheridan’s group The Jets back in 1960.
Tony Sheridan (born in Norwich, Norfolk, England) would, of course, be remembered for “My Bonnie” and his other 1961 recordings with a pre-fame The Beatles (credited as “The Beat Brothers”) as his backing band. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and their pre-Ringo bandmates Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums) had met Sheridan during their first visit to Hamburg in 1960. It was Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe who first suggested the band name “Beatals”, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Sutcliffe remained in Hamburg with Astrid Kirchherr, his German fiancée who took the first semi-professional photos of the Beatles. Sutcliffe eventually left the band to resume his art studies, leading McCartney to take up the bass. Ringo Starr also briefly played in Sheridan’s backing band in 1962, before returning to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. By August of 1962, Sutcliffe had died of a brain haemorrhage and Starr was asked to replaced Pete Best as the drummer in The Beatles. The rest, as they say, is fab four history.
But I digress. John Lawton recorded six studio albums (1970-1975) with Lucifer’s Friend before he was asked to replace David Byron in Uriah Heep. Lucifer’s Friend was mainly a studio project, with the instrumentalists also appearing in many other projects, something which made it possible for Lawton to also tour and record with the Les Humphries Singers. English born John Leslie “Les Humphries” Humphreys formed the group in Hamburg in 1969, using a large number of singers of diverse ethnic origin. Much like contemporary disco act Boney M., their music focused on rhythm and blues, gospel, and disco, but often with psychedelic phasing or flanger effects, and, much like James Last, much larger background choruses in the studio to emulate a live atmosphere. In 1976, Les Humphries Singers represented Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest with “Sing Sang Song”.
After making three albums with Hensley and the boys, Lawton re-united with Lucifer’s Friend and used them as his backing band for his 1980 solo debut “Heartbeat”. The same line-up then recorded “Mean Machine” (1981) as Lucifer’s Friend before disbanding in 1982. Lawton went on to record with Rebel and Zar before briefly re-uniting with Hesslein as “Lucifer’s Friend II” for the release of 1994’s “Sumo Grip”. It was after this that Lawton formed Gunhill, later known as JLB for “John Lawton Band”. The original line-up of Lucifer’s Friend (except Rietenbach, the drummer having recently died) eventually re-united to appear at Sweden Rock Festival in 2015.
Anyway, the first Hensley Lawton Band concert – a set of Uriah Heep classics and some of Hensley’s solo material – was released as “The Return”. This was followed by a European tour that culminated in Hamburg, Germany, complete with a full orchestra for a performance of “Salisbury”, the 1971 title track inspired partly by Deep Purple’s “Concerto for Group and Orchestra”. There was no studio album recorded by the The Hensley Lawton Band, however. Lawton released his second solo album in the year 2000, “Still Payin’ My Dues…”, and Hensley also soon resumed his solo career.
Hensley did not see any future for further collaborations with John Lawton. “John and I have a lot of areas where we agree musically but philosophically we disagree on many things”, Hensley said. “It’s best if we can try to remain friends and stay away from each other musically. I just don’t see any future in that.”
On December 7th, 2001, John Lawton and Ken Hensley both appeared on stage with Uriah Heep during the annual Magician’s Birthday Party at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. Also featuring Thijs van Leer of Dutch prog rockers Focus, the concert was released as a CD/DVD.
The following day, December 8th, Ken Hensley also re-united on stage with former Uriah Heep bass player John Wetton. This concert resulted in two CD releases: “More Than Conquerors” with songs by Hensley and “One Way Or Another” that focused on material from Wetton’s back catalogue (Asia, “Battle Lines” and “Arkangel”, two of his solo albums), including the title track off Uriah Heep’s “High and Mighty”. The latter had been Wetton’s last collaboration with Ken Hensley, having then left Uriah Heep to form U.K., but Wetton would also appear on Hensley’s next solo album.
Hensley (vocals, organ, slide guitar) and Wetton (vocals, bass) were joined by David Kilminster (lead guitar), Andy Pyle (bass), John Young (keyboards) and drummer Steve Christey. The concert was released in full on the DVD “More Than Conquerors”, featuring all songs from both CD releases.
After working with Americans for decades, “Running Blind” saw Hensley return to working with British musicians. “A Glimpse of Glory” had been credited as a collaboration with Visible Faith and, as such, “Running Blind” (2002) was only Hensley’s fourth solo album proper. Hensley was joined by the guitarist Dave Kilminster and several drummers (Mike Johnson, Dave Wagstaffe, Steve Christey) and bass players (David Karns, Andy Pyle), including John Wetton.
Kilminster (who’d later tour with The Nice, Roger Waters and Steven Wilson) and Wetton had recently joined Carl Palmer and John Young in the short-lived progressive group Qango. This was after Wetton and Palmer failed to re-form Asia, the band fronted by Wetton in 1981–83, 1984–86, and 1989–91. Wetton soon reunited with Asia’s Geoff Downes (ex-Yes, The Buggles) in Icon before the original Asia line-up (Wetton, Downes, Howe, Palmer) finally re-united in 2006. Asia stayed together until the death of Wetton in 2017, albeit with Howe replaced by Sam Coulson in 2013.
As for the other bass players on “Running Blind”, Andy Pyle had previously been in McGregor’s Engine (with future Jethro Tull guitarist Mick Abrahams), Blodwyn Pig (1968–72, also with Abrahams), Juicy Lucy (1972, with future Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody), Savoy Brown (1972–74), Alvin Lee (1975-76), The Kinks (1976–78), United (with Dennis Stratton, future Iron Maiden guitarist), Gary Moore (1983-95), Chicken Shack, and Wishbone Ash (1986–87, 1991–93). David Karns, meanwhile, had sung for the New Soul Cowboys and appeared on one album by the Javier Mendoza Band. Mendoza had, of course, had his first album produced by Ken Hensley. The drummer Dave Wagstaffe has also played with bands like Landmarq and Quasar, later working with Oliver Wakeman, Steve Howe and David O’List of The Nice, The Attack, and Roxy Music.
Some versions of “Running Blind” again featured “Free Spirit” (the “title track” that wasn’t included on his third solo album), “It’s Up To You” and “Moving In”, the Blackfoot song re-recorded for “A Glimpse of Glory”. Another edition of the album instead featured three (“La Tristeza Secreta De Un Corazon Gitano, Pt.2”, “Jesus (Again & Again)” and “(Because Of) Who I Know”) of the five tracks later added to the revised version of “A Glimpse of Glory”. Confusing, I know!
German power metal band Metalium released their album “Hero-Nation – Chapter Three” in 2002. Hensley guested with his Hammond organ on the track “Fate Conquered The Power”.
Metalium and Hensley also recorded a cover of “Gypsy” for “A Return to Fantasy”, a tribute album to Uriah Heep which was released in 2003.
Released in 2003, “The Last Dance” was recorded with mostly unknown Spanish musicians. An exception was John Smithson, the violin playing bassist whose past collaborators include Paul Rodgers and Jason Bonham (in Bonham, Motherland, The Jason Bonham Band), the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. “Give Me A Reason” was co-written in 1985 with Jack Williams, the man who Hensley started collaborating with while in Uriah Heep back in 1977. All other tracks were written only by Hensley, who also sang and played Hammond organ, synthesizers, dobro and guitars. In all, a return to form with Ken seemingly intent on giving the fans what they want.
2004 saw Hensley adding organ to the track “Day 16: Loser” off the Ayreon album “The Human Equation”. The main project of Dutch progressive rock artist Arjen Anthony Lucassen (ex-Bodine, Vengeance) since 1995, Ayreon tend to make albums featuring many guests. Ayreon’s sixth album, “The Human Equation”, was no exception. In addition to Hensley, it featured appearances by James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) and Eric Clayton of Saviour Machine. “Loser”, the song with Hensley on Hammond organ, also featured the vocals of Strapping Young Lad’s Devin Townsend and Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery. Baker sadly died in 2008, having suffered a heart attack at the tender age of 45.
In 2004, Hensley moved to Spain with his fourth wife, Monica. Living at a farm near Alicante, the couple kept livestock and established a charity for abandoned animals. He continued to release albums at a prolific rate and often played live in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The label Classic Rock Legends also released the DVD “Classic Heep Live From The Byron Era” in 2004. Featuring previously unreleased video footage of Uriah Heep from 1973-1976, Ken Hensley was obviously featured. A limited edition version featured an extra disc with further material from the era, including songs by David Byron’s post-Heep band Rough Diamond.
For some reason, Hensley also decided to release two albums of re-recordings: “The Wizard’s Diary Vol. 1” (2004, a second volume was never made) featuring Uriah Heep classics, and “Cold Autumn Sunday” (2005) with re-recordings of songs previously released by Hensley as a solo artist. The songs by Uriah Heep were re-recorded in Russia with local musicians, including Russia’s Presidential Symphony Orchestra on four tracks: “The Wizard”, “Rain”, “Free Me and “July Morning”. “Cold Autumn Sunday”, meanwhile, was recorded with local musicians in Spain and included one previously unreleased Hensley composition, “Romance.”
Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno, the Japanese psychedelic rock band, released a limited split 12″ in 2007, giving a nod to early Scorpions with the title “The Load Is A Virgin Killer”. The B-side supposedly featured Hensley performing “Organ Mantra” on “Hot Doggin’ On A Flip Flop” by American indie rock group Je Suis France. The track was supposedly recorded in May/June 2005.
Daniel Kandlbauer is a Swiss pop artists, appearing on the reality show MusicStars. Kandlbauer’s third album, 2007’s “The Shades Of Light”, featured Hensley on a cover of “Lady in Black”.
Recorded in 2006, “Gothic Kabbalah” (2007) was the 13th full-length album by Swedish metal band Therion. Hammond organ was added to the album by Ken Hensley and Joakim Svalberg (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, QOPH), the future Opeth member. Lead vocals were provided by Mats Levén (ex-Swedish Erotica, Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen, Abstrakt Algebra) of Krux and Snowy Shaw (ex-King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Memento Mori, Notre Dame) of Dream Evil.
First known as Blitzkrieg and Megatherion in 1987-1988, Therion took their name from Celtic Frost’s 1985 album “To Mega Therion”, Greek for “the great beast”. Led by Christofer Johnsson, Therion went from playing death metal to adding orchestral elements on albums like “Vovin” (1998) and “Deggial” (2000), more or less recorded as solo albums by Johnsson. Therion had become more of a band by the time of “Gothic Kabbalah”, with nine songs written by drummer Petter Karlsson. The album was based on the life of 17th-century esoteric scholar Johannes Bureus.
German band Maks & The Minors released their debut album in 2007, “Movin’ Out”. Hensley produced it and played keyboards on three songs: “Movin’ Out”, “Children’s Songs” and “Nightrain”.
Hensley published his 194 page autobiography in 2007, “Blood On The Highway: When Too Many Dreams Come True”. Like a trilogy, “Blood On The Highway” was a title also carried by a new studio album and a DVD with a Norwegian concert and a documentary on the making of “Blood On The Highway”. Released in 2008, the release concert DVD was recorded in Germany in 2007. Performing the studio album in full, along with Uriah Heep and solo classics, was Hensley and his newly formed Norwegian touring band, Live Fire (initially “The Viking All-Stars Band” in 2005): vocalist Eirikur Hauksson (Magic Pie, ex-Artch), guitarist Ken Ingwersen, bass player Sid Ringsby (of Diesel Dahl’s Tindrum, Diezel, TNT, Jorn and in The Snakes with Jørn Lande and former Whitesnake guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody) and drummer Tom Arne Fossheim.
The studio recording featured Spanish musicians, however, including The Alicante Symphony Orchestra. Portraying the rise and fall of a rock’n’roll star, the studio album had the lead vocals split between Hensley and Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple, Trapeze, Black Sabbath), Jørn Lande (Jorn, Allen/Lande, The Snakes, Masterplan, Ark, Beyond Twilight, Millenium, Vagabond, Avantasia, etc.), John Lawton (ex-Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend) and Eve Gallagher. The latter, appearing on a re-recorded “Think Twice”, is an English singer mostly associated with the house music scene. Having worked with Boy George, her own project “Galacteve” mixes house, electronica and rock music.
Jørn Lande was the main vocalist beside Hensley himself, appearing on five tracks: “(This Is) Just The Beginning”, “We’re On Our Way” (w/ Hensley), the title track, “You’ve Got It (The American Dream)” and “Okay (This House Is Down)”. Lawton sang on “It Won’t Last” while Hughes lent his pipes to “What You Gonna Do” and “The Last Dance (El Gitano Viejo)”
“It was much easier to make this record”, Hensley said. “First of all, I had my record company behind me and secondly we decided to make the record focus on a concept. The concept being 10 and a half years of rock star’s life. And I know a lot about that. So when I looked at the concept and the story, I just took the elements from the story and made songs out of those. There’s the beginning, there’s the slow climb to fame and then there’s the drugs and the women, all the psychological drama later on. It wasn’t actually very difficult to write, but it took about seven months to record because I used a lot of different voices on the record.”, “That was something we decided very early on because this isn’t just about me. This record’s about hundreds of people who were around in the early days of real rock’n’roll. Those who really planted the whole thing and created a lot of what we see now – as we are influenced by those times. So there was a lot people and a lot of bands involved. I wanted the story to be a little more generic, but I can only tell it as I saw through my own eyes. Plus I’m not a rock singer. I can sing some ballads really well, there were songs like “Lady In Black” which no one else could really have sung. But I’m not a rock singer, I don’t understand how Glenn Hughes, Jorn Lande, Paul Rodgers or Sammy Hagar even think of what they do, let alone do it. For me that’s the best thing my father ever taught me: “if you want a job done, hire an expert and get out of the way!” So that’s what we did. I just picked the voices I wanted for specific songs and I think it created a much bigger story.
Four songs were re-used from Hensley’s most recent solo releases: “There Comes a Time” (1994), “Think Twice” (1999), “You’ve Got It” (2002), and “The Last Dance” (2003). “You’ve Got It” was always a drug song, it’s all about cocaine – which I was addicted to for 16 years”, said Hensley. “That had to be there, I wanted a drug song and pulled it out of the book.” There were also bits and pieces of classic Heep songs inserted. “Yeah, but keep it in context; what do the words in that chorus say? “One million miles, ten million hearts, one simple song.” That simple song was “Lady In Black,” “Free Me” and “July Morning.” So they were there as illustrations. And I couldn’t take anything from Kiss or anybody else, because I can’t play anybody else’s music so I had to use my own. But they fit for a reason, it’s not just accidental poaching.”
There was a also numbered limited edition “Blood On The Highway (The Ken Hensley Story – When Too Many Dreams Come True)” box set issued, with the following included in a metal box:
CD: “Blood On The Highway” digipack
DVD 1: Live Concert with Ken Hensley and Live Fire in Gressvik, Norway
DVD 2: “Making of Blood On The Highway”
Book: “When Too Many Dreams Come True” 194-page autobiography
T-shirt: black with “Blood On The Highway – Ken Hensley” print
Signed letter by Ken Hensley
Special Ken Hensley plectrum
South African born musician and songwriter Toni Rowland released “Unfolding” in 2008. Ken Hensley produced her only album, adding backing vocals, Hammond organ, keyboads and guitars.
“Rebel On The Run” (2009) was the second and final album by Moonstone Project, led by Italian guitarist Matt Filippini. Ken Hensley provided “evil noises” to “Sinner Sinner” and a Hammond organ solo on “Madman”. Hensley’s friend and collaborator Glenn Hughes sang on “Closer Than You Think”, a song he wrote for the album. The album also included a cover of “From Another Time” by Tommy Bolin, once in Deep Purple with Hughes. “From Another Time” was orginally recorded by James Gang on their 1973 album “Bang”. Also featuring Deep Purple’s Ian Paice, Clive Bunker (ex-Jethro Tull), Robin Beck, and Hensley’s future Live Fire bandmate Roberto Tiranti, the main vocalist on this Moonstone Project album was Robin Beck’s husband, James Christian (ex-Eyes and Jasper Wrath, a.k.a. “Arden House” and “Zoldar & Clark”) of House of Lords.
Live Fire guitarist Ken Ingwersen (ex-Limelight, Wild Child, Rags, Speed, Street Legal and with Ronni Le Tekrø of TNT) released “Reincarnation” in 2010, the only album under the name Kens Dojo. Glenn Hughes sang on “I Surrender” while Live Fire bandmate Eirikur Hauksson co-wrote and sang on “Come Alive”. The latter also featured Ken Hensley on Hammond B3 organ. Eiríkur Hauksson also sang on the Kens Dojo version of the Uriah Heep classic “Rain”, written by Hensley.
2011 saw the release of “Faster”, the first of two studio albums credited to Ken Hensley & Live Fire. “Faster” was recorded during three weeks in Riga, Latvia, with Eirikur Hauksson (vocals), Sid Ringsby (bass), Ken Ingwersen (guitar), and drummer T.A. Fossheim. Iluta Valtere-Grauda, Kristine Tkacuka, and Leva Katkovska provided additional backing vocals. A version of the Uriah Heep classic “Circle of Hands” was recorded with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and added as a bonus track.
Released in 2013, the double album “Live” captured Ken Hensley & Live Fire on their 2012 tour promoting “Faster”. These were the last concerts for this incarnation of “Live Fire”, as Hauksson and Ringsby would be replaced by the bass playing Labyrinth vocalist Roberto “Rob Tyrant” Tiranti (ex-New Trolls, 1996-1998) in time for the next two releases by Ken Hensley & Live Fire.
Released in 2012, work on the solo album “Love & Other Mysteries” had started prior to the release of “Faster”. The result of three years spent in the studio, Ken was again joined by Glenn Hughes (on “Romance”, a re-recording of the track first released on “Cold Autumn Sunday”) and other guest vocalists: Bulgarian R&B singer Santra Salkova, Sarah Rope, Irene Forniciari, and future Live Fire singer Roberto Tiranti on “Respiro Tu Amor”, “Little Guy” and “No Matter”.
“No-one is free from emotion and its effects. No one.”, said Hensley. “I am a poet and songwriter with the dreams and ambitions of an 11-year-old boy still running rampant in my heart. The songs on this CD came to me as naturally as breathing, from the source I have always believed in and in which I now believe more strongly than ever. I think this CD represents a very positive shift in my musical focus and for me it is exciting to travel new and unexplored territory. It must be every songwriter´s dream to be able to make a record in this way! I know it was mine. The lyrics are the single most important thing on this album and it is these words that were permitted to produce and guide the direction of the album”.
“Love & Other Mysteries” was recorded with an orchestra, pianist Pau Shafer and some of the same Spanish musicians that had appeared on “The Last Dance”, “Cold Autumn Sunday” and/or “Blood On The Highway”: guitarist Ovidio López, Antonio Fidel (bass), and drummer Juan Carlos Garcia.
In addition to playing with Live Fire, Ken Hensley also did shows entirely on his own. One of these in 2012 was recorded and released as “Live Tales”. Hensley sang and alternated between acoustic guitar and piano, performing both solo material and Uriah Heep classics.
“I really like doing these solo shows”, Hensley commented, “although the whole experience is obviously totally different from, say, a Live Fire concert. Truth is… I just love to play and sing! If I stop to think about it though, the idea of being on stage alone, with just my acoustic guitars, my piano and my book of songs is quite intimidating…. but that´s where the secret is… I don’t think! I prepare and I practice so I am as ready as I can be and so I can relax and enjoy being with you and playing and singing for you.”
As mentioned, Hauksson and Ringsby were both replaced in Live Fire by Roberto Tiranti. The new line-up recorded the second and final studio album by Ken Hensley & Live Fire, 2013’s “Trouble”.
“This is my personal tribute to David Byron, Gary Thain, Mick Box and Lee Kerslake”, Hensley wrote in the booklet. “What a journey we shared and can now look back on! You guys helped to make the dream a relaity and in case I didn’t mention it at the time… Thank You!”
The members of this incarnation of Live Fire (Ingewrsen, Fossheim, and Tiranti) also formed a power trio of their own, going on to release three albums as Wonderworld between 2014 and 2018. In 2018, Wonderworld re-united with Ken Hensley as Live Fire and recorded “Live In Russia”, a vinyl and CD release including the full concert DVD and an interview by Malcolm Dome.
Ken Hensley recorded a cover of “Hello, I Love You” (off the 1968 album “Waiting for the Sun”) for “Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors”. The tribute album released in 2014 was produced by Billy Sherwood (Yes, World Trade, Circa, etc.), having recently joined Nektar as bass player. The other performers on “Hello, I Love You” were Circa drummer Scott Connor and guitarist Roye Albrighton of Nektar. Much like John Lawton, Albightson was in Hamburg, Germany when he and some fellow Englishmen formed Nektar in 1969. Having released classic albums like “A Tab in the Ocean”, “Remember the Future” and “Recycled”, Albightson left Nektar in 1976 and went on to join three members of Curt Cress Clan to record their first album as Snowball, 1978’s “Defroster”. Albrighton and co-founding keyboard player Allan “Taff” Freeman re-formed Nektar in 1979, making “Man in the Moon” (1980) before the band dissolved again in 1982. Albrighton and Freeman again regrouped as Nektar in 2000, with Freeman leaving in 2004 and Albrighton dying in 2016.
Other artists appearing on the tribute album to The Doors included Uriah Heep’s Mick Box (on “Love Her Madly), Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow), Survivor’s Jimi Jamison, Thijs Van Leer of Focus, Lou Gramm (ex-Foreigner), Brian Auger, Mountain’s Leslie West, Tony Kaye (ex-Yes, Flash, Badger, Detective), Steve Cropper (ex-Booker T & The MG’s), Chris Spedding, Edgar Winter, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Keith Emerson (ex-The Nice, ELP), David Johansen (ex-New York Dolls), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, ex-Dixie Dregs, Kansas), Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess, Nik Turner (ex-Hawkwind), Steve Hillage (ex-Gong), Graham Bonnet (ex-Rainbow), Eric Martin (ex-Mr Big), Asia’s Geoff Downes, Todd Rundgren (ex-Nazz, Utopia), Mark Farner (ex-Grand Funk Railroad), Pat Travers, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and Yes members Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.
Formed in 1978, Vanexa was one of the first heavy metal bands from Italy. They released their debut album in 1983 and disbanded in 1995, having recorded their final album with Roberto Tiranti, the future vocalist for Ken Hensley’s Live Fire backing band. The last Vanexa album was released in 2016 as “Too Heavy To Fly”. Ken Hensley provided Hammond organ to the final track, “The Traveler”.
Austrian hard rock guitarist Klaus Schubert is a member of No Bros, a band founded in 1974. Having released albums with the band since 1981, Schubert went solo in 2007 and recorded a first album with prominent guest artists in 2013, using the project name Schubert In Rock. The second Schubert In Rock album, “Commander Of Pain”, was released in 2018. It featured Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Axel Rudi Pell, W.E.T., Sons of Apollo), Marc Storace (Krokus), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth), Doogie White (ex-Rainbow), Michael Vescera (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Loudness, Obsession), Don Airey (Deep Purple), Jennifer Batten, and Magnum guitarist Tony Clarkin. The expanded vinyl edition featured a bonus track, “The Last Heartbeat”, featuring Ken Hensley. Hensley was credited with writing the lyrics while Klaus Schubert composed the music.
Released in 2018, “Rare & Timeless” was a compilation of Hensley solo material. It also included a “Tommy Lopez Remix” of the Uriah Heep classic “Lady In Black” and five tracks that (in these versions, supposedly) were previously unreleased: “Send Me an Angel”, “The Last Dance”, “Mine”, “The Longest Night” and “Epilogue.”
Ken Hensley collaborated with singer Maria Hänninen on a single released in 2020. The A-side, “Frozen”, also featured Hannu Leiden (the singer in Havana Black, a hard rock band from Finland formed in 1985) and Jake’s Blues Band. Hensley and Hänninen were joined by another Finnish band, Five Fifteen, for the B-side: a cover of the Uriah Heep classic “Tales”.
Hensley continued to make music as a solo artist. He recently finished “My Book of Answers”, a studio album due for release on March 5th, 2021. Hensley was inspired by verses that Russian businessman Vladimir Emelin showed him on a plane from Spain to Moscow. This led to a two-year collaboration with Ken writing an entire album based on translations of Emelin’s poetry. Recorded during quarantine, this was a project that Ken took immense pride in. The proposed artwork looks terrible, I’d say, but the music is set to be released on both CD and vinyl.
“I was flying to Moscow, he was on his way home and he saw me at the airport,” said Hensley. “I guess I’m his idol and he’s been a fan since he was a kid. Well, he asked me for an autograph and a picture, which I was happy to give him, and for an email address”. Asked if he could turn a couple of Emelin’s poems into songs, “I tried a couple of songs, although I didn’t know if I could do it because I’ve never done it before. He loved it and he wanted me to do more and more until we finally ended up with an album’s worth of songs.”
“I made most of the album under lockdown, Coronavirus restrictions, which was easy because it was just file-sharing over the internet with the musicians, the singers and my engineer and it was relatively easy. What we had to do was make sure we didn’t compromise any quality. I popped it over to my manager Steve Weltman and typically, before I know it, he’s got the guys at Cherry Red interested in it!”
The collaboration also spawned a series of videos, a concert and an illustrated lyric book, all of which will be included on a CD/DVD of the release. “Alisia Vaselieva, a wonderful illustrator and friend of Vladimir’s, has done an illustration for each song”, Hensley revealed, “so five pages for each song and it will be a deluxe hard-back package – a collectors’ item.” The concert was filmed close to Hensley’s home in Spain and the videos describe how each song developed.
“Each song features the original Russian lyric, the translation by Vladimir’s friend in Siberia, and my notated stuff where I changed the words of the poem into a song and created verses, bridges and choruses,” said Hensley. “The fans can see all the changes I made, and understand why I made them.”
Earlier this year, Hensley was also interviewed about his life and thoughts on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. You can watch the old man’s answers in the video below:
“It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge the loss of our great mentor and friend, Ken Hensley”, wrote the members of Live Fire on their Facebook page. “Endless hours on stage, backstage, in tour buses, airports, restaurants and all the strange places we have been, has come to an end. This photo was taken right before we got on stage for what ended up as being our final show, in Jakarta, Indonesia in December 2019. We will find a way to honour your work somehow, and keep your music alive. Thank you for everything! You’ll stay in our hearts forever. Rest in peace, wise man.”
Earlier this year, Ken said he had no interest in returning to Uriah Heep. “I did the reunion thing in Moscow with Mick [Box] about five or six years ago [on October 15, 2015], and I was just doing it for money,” he said. “That wasn’t all together a pleasant experience because I expected it to be like it was in 1975 or ’73 or ’74, so I was crushed by my own expectations.” “But to think about what we achieved together and the things that we did and everything else, it still puts a smile on my face,” Hensley added. “I’m perfectly happy with where I am. I may have played my last show, because the virus has killed every show that I’d planned for this year, and we’re unlikely to be able to play next year. But that doesn’t bother me either, because I’ve had such a wonderful life, and so much of my life is way beyond anything I ever dreamed I would achieve, so I can sit back and say it was great, it was fantastic.”
Yes, it truly was. Thank you, Ken, and rest in peace!
…for in darkness I was walking and destruction lay around me from a fight I could not win…
Ken Hensley discography:
1968: The Gods – Genesis
1969: The Gods – To Samuel a Son
1969: Cliff Bennett – Memphis Streets / But I’m Wrong
1970: Head Machine – Orgasm
1970: Toe Fat – Toe Fat
1970: Uriah Heep – …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble
1971: Uriah Heep – Salisbury
1971: Weed – Weed…!
1971: Uriah Heep – Look at Yourself
1972: Uriah Heep – Demons and Wizards
1972: Uriah Heep – The Magician’s Birthday
1973: Ken Hensley – Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf
1973: Uriah Heep – Uriah Heep Live (live)
1973: Uriah Heep – Sweet Freedom
1974: Uriah Heep – Wonderworld
1975: Uriah Heep – Return to Fantasy
1975: Ken Hensley – Eager to Please
1976: Uriah Heep – High and Mighty
1977: Uriah Heep – Firefly
1977: Uriah Heep – Innocent Victim
1978: Uriah Heep – Fallen Angel
1980: Uriah Heep – Conquest
1980: Ken Hensley – Free Spirit
1983: Blackfoot – Siogo
1984: Blackfoot – Vertical Smiles
1986: Uriah Heep – Live at Shepperton ’74 (live)
1986: Uriah Heep – Live in Europe 1979 (live)
1986: Kleen Kut – Shape Up / Unity (single produced by Hensley)
1986: Danny Liston – Every Beat Of My Heart (EP produced by Hensley)
1989: W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children (as session musician)
1990: Cinderella – Heartbreak Station (organ on 4 tracks)
1994: Ken Hensley – From Time to Time (archival recordings from 1971-1982)
1995: Various Artists – Peter Green Songbook: a Tribute to His Work in Two Volumes (one track)
1998: Javier Mendoza – Tinta Y Papel (as producer and session musician)
1998: Strikeforce – Into The Sun / Borrowed Time (producer)
1999: Bruce Cameron – Midnight Daydream (appearing on 3 tracks)
1999: Ken Hensley & Visible Faith – A Glimpse of Glory (studio album revised in 2003)
2000: Urban Sprawl – Beyond The Bridges (2 tracks only)
2001: Various Artists – The Spirit Of The Black Rose: A Tribute To Philip Parris Lynott (one track)
2001: The Hensley Lawton Band – The Return (live)
2002: Uriah Heep – The Magician’s Birthday Party (live)
2002: Ken Hensley & John Wetton – More Than Conquerors (live)
2002: John Wetton & Ken Hensley – One Way Or Another (live)
2002: Ken Hensley & John Wetton – More Than Conquerors (DVD featuring the two above)
2002: Metalium – Hero-Nation – Chapter Three (1 track only)
2002: Ken Hensley – Running Blind
2003: Ken Hensley – The Last Dance
2004: Ayreon – The Human Equation (organ on one track)
2005: Ken Hensley – Cold Autumn Sunday (re-recordings of solo material)
2005: Ken Hensley – The Wizard’s Diary: Volume One (re-recordings of Uriah Heep material)
2007: Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno / Je Suis France – The Load Is A Virgin Killer / Hot Doggin’ On A Flip Flop (“Organ Mantra” on the B-side)
2007: Kandlbauer – The Shades Of Light (one track)
2007: Therion – Gothic Kabbalah
2007: Maks & The Minors – Movin’ Out (producer and keyboards on 3 tracks)
2007: Ken Hensley – Blood on the Highway: When Too Many Dreams Come True (studio album)
2007: Ken Hensley – Blood on the Highway: When Too Many Dreams Come True (double DVD)
2007: Ken Hensley – Blood on the Highway: When Too Many Dreams Come True (book)
2008: Ken Hensley – Blood on the Highway: The Exclusive Release Concert (live DVD)
2008: Toni Rowland – Unfolding (producer and session musician)
2009: Moonstone Project – Rebel On The Run (on two tracks)
2010: Kens Dojo – Reincarnation (organ on one track)
2011: Ken Hensley & Live Fire – Faster
2012: Ken Hensley – Love & Other Mysteries
2013: Ken Hensley – Live Tales (live)
2013: Ken Hensley & Live Fire – Live (live)
2013: Ken Hensley & Live Fire – Trouble
2014: Various Artists – Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors (one track)
2016: Vanexa – Too Heavy To Fly (one track)
2017: Ken Hensley – Rare & Timeless (compilation with 5 new recordings)
2018: Schubert In Rock – Commander Of Pain (on one bonus track)
2019: Ken Hensley & Live Fire – Live in Russia (live)
2020: Maria Hänninen & Ken Hensley – Frozen (w/ Jake’s Blues Band) / Tales (w/ Five Fifteen)
2021: Ken Hensley – My Book of Answers (final recordings, not yet released)