Traffic (band)

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Traffic on the cover of their eponymous 1968 album. Clockwise from top left: Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Dave Mason and Steve Winwood.

Traffic was a rock band, from Birmingham, England in the late 1960s and led by Steve Winwood, with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason, after Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group.

The four musicians often played at a club called The Elbow Room in Aston, Birmingham. With Mason and Capaldi eager to form a new group, Winwood agreed to join the partnership along with Chris Wood and so the four members retreated to a secluded cottage in Aston Tirrold, Berkshire to rehearse.

Traffic's debut single was 1967's "Paper Sun", a UK hit. "Hole in My Shoe", the second single, was an even bigger hit, and set the stage for a rivalry between Winwood and Mason, the group's principal songwriters. Their debut album was Mr. Fantasy which, like the singles, was a hit in the UK but not in the US or elsewhere.

Problems with Mason led to his departure from the group shortly before the release of Mr. Fantasy. Mason was content to avoid collaboration, a direct contrast with the lyricist/songwriter partnership of Capaldi and Winwood. During the time without Mason, Winwood had to play bass pedals in addition to playing keyboard and singing when the group performed live. The group also had difficulty maintaining a well-rounded repertoire of songs without Mason's strong songwriting ability. Mason rejoined the band for their second album, Traffic, released in 1968.

The band began touring the US in late 1968, which led to the release of Traffic's first live album Last Exit the following year. During the tour, Mason was fired and Winwood announced the band's breakup. Winwood formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech which lasted only a year. The remaining members of Traffic began a project with Mick Weaver called Wooden Frog which never recorded an album. After the split of Blind Faith in 1969, Winwood began working on a solo recording which eventually turned into another Traffic album (without Mason), John Barleycorn Must Die, their most successful album yet.

Traffic went on to expand its lineup in 1971 adding Rick Grech on bass, drummer Jim Gordon of Derek and the Dominos, and percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah. The live album Welcome to the Canteen was released in September.

Following the return of Mason, Traffic released The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, an American hit that did not chart in the UK. Once again, personnel problems wracked the band as Capaldi began a solo career and Grech and Gordon left the band. Following Winwood's recovery from a long case of peritonitis, Traffic's fifth studio album Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory was another hit, recorded in 1972 with drummer Roger Hawkins and bassist David Hood.

Capaldi returned to Traffic for When the Eagle Flies in 1974, which also included bassist Roscoe Gee. Capaldi's solo career began to heat up, and Winwood finally launched one of his own, recording the smash hit album Arc of a Diver. Winwood's solo career peaked with the album Back in the High Life. Traffic did not record again until 1994, when they released Far From Home. After reuniting, Capaldi and Winwood toured widely but were unable to regain their former stature.

Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004.

Chris Wood died in 1983 of pneumonia following almost a decade of poor health and a substance abuse problem. Jim Capaldi died of stomach cancer in January of 2005.


Winwood and Mason were friends of Jimi Hendrix. Winwood played on five Hendrix LPs and Hendrix first heard Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" at a party he was invited to by Mason. Hendrix decided to record his own version the same night, with Mason playing acoustic guitar.


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