1973. A starlit night in Onikan stadium, Lagos. Osibisa, the London-based Afro-rock sultans had come to town, playing their first gig in Nigeria, after their barnstorming exploits across the globe. Unlikely as it seemed, Osibisa had become a global musical superforce, thriving on the explosive power of African polyrhythms and percussion.

I was a starry-eyed, star-struck youth and I had secured my prized ticket to the show at Leventis stores, Marina days before the event. The show had been heavily promoted and I remember names like Remi Salako and Tony Amadi, two veteran showbiz impresarios who ensured a capacity crowd.

There were a few opening acts like FARI, a London-based reggae ensemble but the stand-out supporting cast that night was BLO; Berkley, Laolu and Odumosu. That night indeed was the night that BLO was born. A rock trio, the band delivered a stunning magical performance that was like a soundtrack for their future ascendancy.

BLO comprised Berkley Ike Jones, Laolu Akintobi and Mike Odumosu, three world class musicians who were indisputable masters of their craft; Berkley with his psychedelic guitar power play, Laolu with his roof-blowing skull-banging drumming and Odumosu with his melodic gut-ripping talking bass.

There are very good reasons for showcasing BLO in this article. First, in my estimation, Berkley Ike Jones, being the frontman, more or less personified BLO, with all due respect to the other legendary members of that kick-ass rock trio. Secondly, it was on the BLO musical vehicle that Berkley laid down some of his greatest works. At this juncture, to thoroughly understand the uniqueness of the afro-rock band called BLO, it might be necessary to trace the band’s antecedents.

Berkley, Laolu and Odumosu were originally members of the CLUSTERS,  a notable pop group that was the toast of hepcats in Lagos in the early 1970s. I remember they had a hit entitled ‘BLACK GODDESS’ circa 1970.

Enter Tee Mac, Nigeria’s superflutist who formed a group called ‘AFRO COLLECTION’ with members of THE CLUSTERS as the core personnel. Tee Mac then brought in THE LIJADU SISTERS and master keyboardist JONI HAASTRUP to complete the innovative band.

Things went pretty smoothly until Ginger Baker, the world-famous drummer who had been a founding member of the psychedelic super rock band CREAM with Eric Clapton, arrived Nigeria. Baker was an unapologetic connoisseur of African music and after jamming with Berkley and co, he decided to form a new rock band called SALT, hijacking the entire AFRO COLLECTION ensemble from Tee Mac. That was how Berkley and co became members of SALT and went on an eye-opening world tour with Ginger Baker and thoroughly honed their skills. When SALT eventually dissolved, Berkley, Laolu and Odunosu returned to Nigeria and formed the BLO rock trio.


For nearly a decade, BLO had held sway as the most potent musical squad on the scene. Their early sound was pure psychedelia with Berkley’s liquid Jimi Hendrisque guitar solos showing the way. The band’s seminal debut album in 1973, ‘CHAPTER ONE’ remains in my estimation one of the most potent brews of inventive avant-garde rock music. You can’t easily forget the tantalizing vibes of ‘PREACHERMAN’ or Berkley’s other-worldly guitar forays on ‘TIME TO FACE THE SUN’, two very intoxicating tracks from that monster album.

By the time they released ‘PHASE TWO’ in 1974, they had begun leaning towards more funk but the rock elements were still in ample supply. They had moved from EMI Records that released their debut album to Afrodisia, a DECCA Records imprint that sought to promote new-wave African vibes.


By the time the band released ‘STEP THREE’ in 1975, they had moved further away from psychedelic rock and embraced full-blown street funk, popularized by American bands like MANDRILL, OHIO PLAYERS and B.T. EXPRESS.


After ‘PHASE TWO’ in 1974, Mike Odumosu, their iconic bassist had exited the group for the United Kingdom where he linked up as bass player for Osibisa. He was replaced with Biddy Oladele Wright, another virtuoso bassist and musician. I still remember catching a BLO set in Calabar in 1975 with Biddy Wright laying down some mind-blowing bass riffs.

BLO soon after relocated abroad and toured extensively in Europe especially in Scandinavia. In Europe, they linked up with Lammy Otu Jackson, an unbelievable keyboard virtuoso who brought another dimension to the BLO sound.

I consider ‘PHASE FOUR’, their 1976 album as one of the best sets they released on vinyl with cuts like ‘SCANDI BOOGIE’ a kinetic dance floor burner  and the emotive ‘YOU ARE SO KIND’, the latter song written by Lemmy Jackson with vocals taken by Berkley Jones himself.


Berkley Jones did go on some musical excursions outside BLO, some of which were extremely remarkable. He had a solo offering entitled ‘NATION BUILDING’ which was kind of forgettable but his sizzling guitar play on the remarkable schoolboy band OFEGE’S debut elpee ‘TRY AND LOVE’ in the mid 1970’s and Kris Okotie’s sledgehammer debut album ‘I NEED SOMEONE’ in 1980 remains a master class; witness his mind- bending guitar tapestry on ‘CAROLINA’, one of the hit tracks on Okotie’s debut elpee.

The entire BLO repertoire could well be a case study in inventive, riveting music-making with Berkley’s authoritative, mesmeric guitar forays sending search-and-destroy signals down your neo-cortex.


As a guitarist, he was phenomenal and I reckon that if he found himself in a guitar war with global guitar icons like Erip  Clapton and Carlos Santana, he would have given those guitar wizards a good run for their money with his ubiquitous Fender Stratocaster.

In my opinion, Berkley Ike Jones was one of the most accomplished guitarists I have ever known and I have known some. He may not have been as famous as axemen Clapton, Santana or Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page or even the latter-day guitar wizard, Eddie Van Halen, but he remains one of my favourite axemen. As a human being, he was great. Debonair, classy, fashionable and very friendly.

As a die-hard music aficionado, I cultivated his friendship. I remember that when I was publishing my music magazine ‘MUSIC MASTER’ in the early 1980’s, I always ensured that he had a copy of the latest edition. MUSIC MASTER was a trailblazing music magazine circulated nationally in the early 1980’s. The only other music magazine that was circulating in Nigeria then was AFRICA MUSIC, published from London by notable music impresario, Tony Amadi.

Even when Berkley was no longer playing active music and devoting most of his attention to his big-time interior décor business, I still tried to keep in touch. Over the years though, we lost connection, especially as I had relocated from Lagos.

Berkley Ike Jones, a consummate professional musician and a winning personality. When I think of Berkley now, I only wish he had not stopped laying down his riveting sweet music. I espied him on Facebook not too long ago but before I could make the connection, he had gone to meet his ancestors in the great holiday camp in the sky.

I will continue to have fond memories though of his magical musical legacy.
Adieu, boss guitarist and superfly showman! Berkley Ike Jones.

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