Raymond Boz Burrell (1st August 1946 - 21st September 2006)
After King Crimson broke up at the end of the Earthbound gigs in April 1972, Mel, Ian, and Boz remained in America to play with Alexis Korner who had been working on the same tour circuit as Crimson. Under the name of Snape, they released The Accidental Band, and in 1973 followed it with a live album.
Keyboard player Tim Hinkley, who guested on the Snape album, recalls that Boz was from Saracen’s Head in Lincolnshire and sheds light on the origins of Boz’s chosen name. “Back in the day, we all rode our bicycles to school. Raymond Burrell was collecting his bike from the local bicycle repair man who for some unknown reason had put the name of ‘Boz’ on the repair ticket. The nickname stuck with him for the rest of his life.
After Snape’s dissolution, Burrell successfully auditioned for Bad Company featuring Free’s singer and drummer Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke and ex-Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs. Their self-titled debut went to No. 3 and No. 1 in the UK and US album charts in 1974. Burrell went on to record a further five albums with the band until it went into hiatus after the release of Rough Diamonds in 1982. Later Boz reunited with the group for a short-lived reunion from 1998 - 1997.
Burrell worked with ex-Family vocalist Roger Chapman and was in Alvin Lee’s touring band in the ’90s. In the ’00s, he was a member of Tam White’s Celtic Groove Connection. White was with Burrell at his home in Puerto Banús in Marbella when he died. Groove Connection guitarist Neil Warden remembers: “Tam was there along with his friend Billy. They were ready for going out to a small party and play a few tunes with some friends. Tam was sitting in Boz’s apartment singing, Boz picked up a guitar and sat back in his seat and slumped over and passed away. Efforts were made to revive him before the emergency services arrived but no luck.” Boz was just 60 years old.
Crimson bandmate Ian Wallace offered this poignant remembrance: “Bozzle did a remarkable thing when he joined King Crimson. He started to play the bass. Of course, the story is well known amongst Crimson fans; after auditioning several hundred bass players he picked up a bass someone had left and started noodling on it and one thing led to another with him becoming the new King Crimson bassist. He probably saved the band. We’d exhausted all the possibilities of getting a bass player and Robert would probably have called it quits. But for that moment there would have been no Islands band, no Larks’ Tongues, no Elephant Talk, no more King Crimson. So to my mind, I owe him a debt that can never be repaid.
What saddens me is that I don’t think he ever knew just how good he was in King Crimson. And why should he? Just about everything that has been written about him on the various sites has been about how awful he was, not just as a bassist, but as a singer too. To my mind, he had a beautiful voice; pitch-perfect, with a fine jazz sensibility to it. If he’d wanted to, he could have held his own with most of the great jazz vocalists. But he chose a different path; he fell in love with the bass guitar and became a great player. Boz, wherever you are I hope you don’t rest in peace. I hope you’re playing your balls off somewhere with people you love, to appreciative audiences. Save a place for me, my brother.”
A sculpture by artist James Parker was erected in Boz’s memory in Edinburgh’s Leith Walk and in 2019 the bassist was the subject of an hour-long radio documentary by programme maker Chris Berrow for BBC Radio Lincolnshire.
Boz Burrell with King Crimson