By Brian M. Reiser,
Published on March 17, 2017

Remembering Free Guitarist Paul Kossoff

He may not have the same level of fame as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, or Jimmy Page. But those who know guitar know that Paul Kossoff was a giant.

Paul Kossoff was born in London on September 14, 1950. As a youth he studied some classical guitar, but then gave up playing instruments for awhile. For shame!

However, all was not lost. When the British blues-rock movement hit in the 1960’s, his passion for music and guitar was truly ignited. Phew. His interest especially peaked after catching a John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers show with Eric Clapton. Which would be enough to blow pretty much anybody’s mind.

So, he went out and purchased a vintage Gibson Les Paul and started gigging in local bands.

During this time he forged a friendship with drummer Simon Kirke. The two would soon form a band called Free with singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser. By this time, Kossoff had become a truly outstanding player.

After a couple of not-so-successful albums, Free scored a monster hit with the classic rock staple “All Right Now”. Now they were big time.  

Unfortunately, after one more album release, the band broke up. Simon Kirke would join Kossoff in forming a new band called Kossoff, Kirk, Tetsu & Rabbit. In hindsight, this band name was probably less catchy than “Free.” They played for a brief time, but soon in 1972 Free reunited.

Kossoff, though, began to depend heavily on drugs. The situation became so bad that Fraser quit the band and Kossoff’s creative input into the music shrank steadily.

By the time of Free’s 1973 tour, Kossoff was replaced. The band would soon permanently disband and Kossoff’s addictions would become worse. Despite this, Kossoff recorded a solo album called Back Street Crawler which lead to the formation of a new band named after that record.

Kossoff’s health continued to spiral downward and he ultimately died at the young age of 25 from a drug induced heart attack on March 19, 1976. 

Kossoff was a fantastic guitarist with a wonderful vibrato. Among those who have cited Kossoff as a major influence include Queen’s Brian May and blues rocker Joe Bonamassa. Kossoff was ranked in the top 60 greatest guitarists ever by Rolling Stone Magazine, which is probably underrating him significantly.

Though his life came to a short and tragic end, Kossoff loved the blues and music and made a major contribution to the British Blues movement of the late 1960s and early ’70s.

His epitaph reads “All Right Now”.

Here’s what else happened this week in rock history:

Born This Week in Rock History

3/18/1947 –  Barrie James “B.J.” Wilson (drums, Procol Harum)

3/20/1936 – Lee “Scratch” Perry (Music Producer, Bob Marley & the Wailers, etc.)

3/20/1951 – Jimmie Vaughan (guitar, The Fabulous Thunderbirds)

3/21/1902 – Son House (Blues Singer & Guitarist)

3/21/1930 – Otis Spann (Blues Pianist)

3/22/1943 – Keith Relf (Lead Vocals & Harmonica, The Yardbirds)

3/22/1948 – Randy Jo Hobbs (bass, The McCoys)

Died This Week in Rock History

3/18/2011 – Jet Harris (bass, The Shadows)

3/19/1976 – Paul Kossoff (Paul Kossoff, Free)

3/19/1982 – Randy Rhoads (guitar, Ozzy Osbourne’s band)

3/21/1991 – Leo Fender (Guitar Manufacturer / Innovator)

3/21/2011 – Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins (Blues Pianist)

3/22/2005 – Rod Price (guitar, Foghat)

Music Recordings, Releases and Top of the Charts:

3/18/1967 –  “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles hits #1 on the Billboard charts

3/18/1972 – Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is the number one song in the U.S.

3/18/1972 – Paul Simon tops the UK charts.

3/18/1977 – The Clash release their debut single, “White Riot”

3/19/1962 – Bob Dylan is released.

3/19/1975 – KISS release Dressed To Kill

3/19/1981 – The #1 U.S. single is The J Geils Band’s “Centerfold”

3/20/1967 – “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” goes gold

3/20/1971 – “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin hits #1

3/20/1982 – “I Love Rock ‘n’Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hit #1

3/22/1965 – Bob Dylan releases Bringing It All Back Home

3/22/1975 – Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin hits #1

3/22/1980 – Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall (part II) is #1 on the singles charts

3/23/1963 – “Ring of Fire” is recorded by Johnny Cash

3/23/1981 – Blondie’s “Rapture” hits #1 on the charts


This Week in Rock History:

On March 18, 1967 it was announced by the British music magazine New Musical Express that Steve Winwood, formerly of the Spencer Davis Group, would form a new band, Traffic. The band included Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood. This English rock band would go on to have several hit albums including their eponymous sophomore set and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. In 2004, Traffic was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.On


On March 18, 1975 The Who released the film version of Tommy, which at its premiere in New York City. The Who’s Tommy is a rock musical or rock opera that featured legendary songs by The Who including “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me.” The 1975 film version of Tommy had a bombshell cast that included Jack Nicholson, Eric Clapton, and Ann-Margret.


On March 18, 1989 a California radio station arranged to have all of their Cat Stevens records crushed by a steamroller. This was due to Stevens’ support of the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeni.


On March 18, 1994 , longtime Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman is replaced by Darryl Jones. Jones was a former sideman for Miles Davis as well as Sting. He was handpicked by Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Since leaving The Rolling Stones, Wyman has been playing with his own band Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.

Have a great week, rock fans!


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