Mike Vernon produced albums for British blues artists/groups during the late 1960s working with, amongst others, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (featuring Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor), Duster Bennett, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack (with Stan Webb and Christine McVie nee Perfect), Fleetwood Mac and Jellybread.
Vernon is perhaps best known though as the founder of the blues record label, Blue Horizon. Although he is primarily associated with the blues, Vernon also produced significant acts outside of that that field during those early years – including David Bowie, Dutch rock band Focus and the five-piece soul group from California, Bloodstone. After playing for a while in the semi-pro group The Mojo Men and editing and compiling an early blues fanzine magazine R&B Monthly, Vernon started working for Decca Records in 1963, entering production with an album by Texan pianist Curtis Jones. That was followed up with projects by some better known American bluesmen – Champion Jack Dupree, Otis Spann and Larry Willliams with Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Vernon then encouraged John Mayall to record an album with Eric Clapton for Decca and in 1966, Vernon was in the producer’s chair for Blues Breakers. Vernon also produced the Bluesbreakers’ only album with Clapton’s replacement, Peter Green – A Hard Road.
Vernon was, in the future, to continue championing other, perhaps lesser known, American blues musicians – recording Eddie Boyd, Furry Lewis, Joe Callicott, Bukka White, Garfield Love, Guitar Crusher and Bobby Parker for Blue Horizon. He even cut his own solo album for that label and followed that up with a second solo outing for Sire Records – Moment of Madness – a few years later.
Other significant chart outings produced by Mike Vernon during this period include several with Roachford, Spanish bands Danza Invisible and Los Secretos and French rock star Renaud Hansen. In the late 1980s he revived the Blue Horizon label (via Ace) with albums from Lazy Lester (subsequently to win a WC Handy Blues Award), Blues’n’Trouble, Big Joe Louis & The Blues Kings and Dana Gillespie. During the 1990s he set up three other blues-orientated labels – Indigo, Code Blue and Blueside.
Vernon came out of retirement in 2010 to produce Dani Wilde and the second album by British blues prodigy, Oli Brown – both cut for Ruf Records. Recently he has produced two albums in Spain for Cambaya featuring Mingo & The Blues Intruders as well as another with Lazy Lester, this time backed by West Weston’s Bluesonics.