New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

BIG NEWS! Here's the latest Issue of NJ Stage Magazine -- Click here

50 Years of Cream Comes to
Count Basie Theatre

By Danny Coleman

originally published: 10/21/2018

50 Years of Cream Comes to Count Basie Theatre

"It's going over really well I think," says Will Johns of Cream. "We've got a really nice range of age groups coming to the shows and a lot of young guitar players as well; which is really great to see; every young guitar player that I know plays that riff from, "Sunshine of Your Love." 

Smack in the middle of a, "50th Anniversary Tour" celebrating the music of one of rock's first power trios, these three men not only bring the music of Cream back into focus but do so literally through their blood lines. 

Kofi Baker, the son of drummer Ginger Baker, Malcolm Bruce, the son of bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Will Johns, nephew of Eric Clapton have combined to pay homage to the music of their fathers and uncle. 

Johns, an avid fisherman was working on fishing vessels in the English Channel when he got the call from his buddy Malcolm asking him to stop out at a show he and Baker were doing near his home town.  

The article continues after this ad


"A few years ago, I'd say 2013 just after I lost my dad, I was in a pretty sad place and the phone rang and it was Malcolm Bruce. He phoned to say that he was coming to England on tour with Kofi and a great guitarist that they were playing with at the time named Godfrey Townsend and they were going to be doing a show fairly near to where I live and he invited me to come sit in on one of the shows; at the time I was really flattered that he thought that I could do something like that. So, I went along to the show and had a jam with the guys and things progressed kind of slowly from that point. It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride; we had a tour of England but there were visa complications for Kofi so Malcolm and I ended up doing a couple of runs in the UK with another drummer. Then it all kind of came together last year with our new manager who put this particular project together and we toured Australia and New Zealand last year."

Being the nephew of Eric Clapton; does Johns feel any additional pressure in his presentation of the material and has he received any help from old, "Slow Hand" over the years?

"I started out hitting the drums downstairs at my Uncle Eric's house at stupid o'clock in the morning and I think I pissed him off a time or two and he'd come down at like six in the morning and say, "What the fuck are you doing? I'm trying to sleep; what are you learning and why don't you learn a proper instrument? (Laughs)" I don't think he meant the didgeridoo. Which by the way, all the time we were on tour in Australia I don't think I saw anyone playing a didgeridoo; I didn't see a kangaroo either." 

"He actually showed me the opening part of, "Crossroads" as a young guitarist and once I figured that out, I went back to him and said, OK I've got that bit, he nixed it and that was when he put me on the path of,"You've got to figure that bit out for yourself." A little tough love but I guess it went a long way because here we are," he said with a laugh as he recounted those earlier days. 

" I think I may have felt some pressure before but I've been doing it for quite a while now and seems I've come to terms with that aspect of it. It's a big pair of boots to fill but I don't think that we as a band are necessarily trying to emulate or copy what's been done before; it's just more of an honoring of it and tipping our hat to it while still retaining our own musicianship and sense of personality; if that makes sense. We're not wearing the clothes of the era or using big Marshall stacks of amps to recreate that sound; however Gibson Custom Shops have been very, very generous and sent me out a very beautiful cherry ES-355 to play on the tour and of course that's the guitar that Eric used at the farewell concert back in November of 1968. "

Unlike many other classic acts these days, this lineup gives those who come to the show more than their money's worth.

"You know, it's a little bit elasticated where we can stretch it out or pull it back, there's a lot of jams in the show but right now it's running about two and a half hours. Sometimes it depends on what the venue requires, sometimes we have a break and sometimes we just run all the way through. Sometimes it's a bit long to concentrate and be hit over the head with loud guitar, bass and drums," he explained with a hearty laugh. "What we're working on is a basic premise, Kofi is doing, "Toad"  which features a drum solo that can be anywhere from 12 minutes to 20 minutes depending on the night and to be honest, there hasn't been a night where after he plays his drum solo that he hasn't pretty much gotten a standing ovation. I have to say, hand on heart that he's probably one of the most phenomenal drummers in the world today. I think he has probably surpassed his father, so yeah." 

After two earlier shows at the Bergen and Mayo PACs, they will wrap up their New Jersey run with an October 23 show at Red Bank's famed Count Basie Theatre. Johns reiterated once again the band's pleasure with the diversity of the audiences.

"I think we've probably got one of the broadest age ranges of interest. Younger people are coming in, younger people with their grandparents and they're obviously young players just starting out wanting to see where the riffs have come from."

Even though they are technically not Cream, they are cut from the same cloth and Johns is very pleased with how they are being received and what they present every night on stage. 

 "The show is definitely a multi-media experience; we've got an incredible light show. Once again, it tips its hat to the lighting effects of time; the oil lamp and the psychedelia but then it also has modern contemporary aspects too. Included in that is footage and stories from our experiences and our upbringing with our respective parents and my uncle; combined with that we cover a lot of the Cream material and the well-known songs, so there's some set pieces and also a lot of jam and free form. Both Kofi and Malcom have what I might call a genetic bond musically; it's almost spiritual and bordering on telepathic and as a blues guitarist and somewhat of a simpleton, sometimes for me that can be a bit of a challenge (laughs). We turn it up and I'd like to think that we do our best to honor the music."

To obtain tickets or discover more about Cream and this current tour, please visit

For more by this author, click here

NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.

"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.