Paul ‘Koss’ Kossoff was born in London in 1950 and the son of famous British character, actor, David Kossoff (Kid for Two Farthings). He learned to play classical music but was always interested in blues and soon mastered the guitar. Along with Simon Kirke (drums) they started playing in a London R&B band called Black Cat Bones. The group was engaged to back Champion Jack Dupree (piano) on a tour and because Paul loved the blues he spend hours jamming with his fellow musicians such as Peter Green and Champion Jack Dupree. He and Simon grew tired of the Black Cat Bones and wanted to put together another band.
They liked the singer with Brown Sugar (Paul Rodgers) and jammed onstage with them. Eventually they formed a four piece in 1968 with Paul Rodgers (lead singer), and Andy Fraser (bass). Andy came highly recommended from Alexis Korner after he played with John Mayall’s Blues Band. Only Rodgers and Kirke were old enough to legally get served in a pub but that did not stop them from becoming a popular pub band. Alexis Korner christened the teenagers, Free and got them a contract with Island Records. Their first album was a mixture of blues and soul called Tons of Sobs (1968) and featured Rodger’s Otis Redding style vocals.
Free were keen to develop a distinct sound and style. Their next rendition Free featured more of Paul ‘The Voice’ Roger’s vocals and the band’s musicianship. Contrary to popular cult of progressive rock the band stuck to the blues rock genre and toured extensively building up a loyal following. In 1969 they were asked to open on Blind Faith’s US Tour and Eric ‘God’ Clapton was sufficiently captivated to ask Koss to demonstrate to him his vibrato style play. They released their third album, Fire and Water in 1970 and the evergreen All right now (written by Fraser and Rodgers) was chosen as the marquee single and became a massive worldwide hit taking the album up the US charts.
Free performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in the same year to 600,000 people and along with Led Zeppelin were the biggest grossing British acts of the time. Highway their follow up album met with critical acclaim but performed poorly in the charts.
My brother Jake was released in 1971 and sold well in the UK but did little elsewhere.
Continuing conflict between Rodgers and Fraser combined with declining health of Paul Kossoff, now addicted to narcotics, meant the band, Free broke up in 1971. Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke teamed up with keyboard player John "Rabbit" Bundrick and Tetsu Yamauchi (bass) and released an album Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit in 1971.
Meantime Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser tried to pursue solo projects but with no commercial success. The band decided to get back together in 1972 and released Free at Last. The single Little bit of love did well but by then Paul Kossoff’s addiction meant although a brilliant guitarist he was inconsistent and unreliable.
On the eve of a tour Andy walked out and Paul Rodgers had to play bass as well as sing. The band reformed again for a tour of the UK but when Andy Fraser continued to object he was replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi. The line-up was further strengthened with the addition of John "Rabbit" Bundrick (keyboards). They recorded Heartbreaker which was well received and the single Wishing Well was a top ten hit.
Heartbreaker was their last album and Free broke up in 1973. After the final break up, Paul Kossoff continued with a solo career and released an album called Back Street Crawler (1973).
He later formed a group with the same name and released two albums: The Band Plays On (1975) and Second Street (1976). Paul’s virtuoso guitar style was in constant demand and he worked sessions with many other artists including John Mayall, John Martyn and Jim Capaldi. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke became Bad Company with Boz Burrell (King Crimson) and Mick Ralphs (Mott the Hoople). Their first album on Swan Song Records was a runaway success.
When in 1983 Bad Company eventually split, Paul Rodgers continued as a much sought after singer with many collaborations to his name including as front man with the surviving members of Queen.
The band has subsequently reformed but became inactive in 2002 when Paul returned to a solo career. Subsequently they have got together for special performances only. Andy Fraser initially formed Sharks before playing with Frankie Miller. Later he formed The Andy Fraser Band and had chart success with Do you love me.
In 1975 plans were made for a Back Street Crawler British tour with Bad Company in support. Delighted at the prospect of seeing Kossoff, Rodgers and Kirke reunited on stage fans were full of anticipation only to be saddened at the news of the sudden death of Paul Kossoff aged of 25. Andy Fraser passed away in 2015 after fighting cancer and AIDS.
Worth a listen
All Right Now (1970)
My borther Jake (1971)
Wishing Well (1972)
Can't Get Enough (1974)
Bad Company (1974)
Shooting Star (1975)
Feel Like Making Love (1975)
Run With The Pack (1975)
Andy Fraser Band