Traffic logo Chris Wood

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Chris was born Christopher Gordon Blandford Wood, in Birmingham on June 24, 1944, the son of Stephen, an engineer, and Muriel Gordon, a missionary's daughter born and raised in China. He had a sister, Stephanie Angela, 3 years younger than he. Chris showed an interest in music and painting from an early age. His father related, "He stood by the record player changing records since he was this tall".

At 15 Chris decided he was to become a flute player when he went to see the movie "Jazz on a Summer's Day" and was very impressed by the flute in the Chico Hamilton band. At the same time he loved painting. He bought a flute and started to learn it by himself. He learned sax a bit later, by finding the fingering was pretty much the same. "The difference is in the contact the instrument makes with your body" he said once.

He started playing weddings at boozing clubs with local bands like Sounds of Blue with Christine Perfect (later McVie), Carl Palmer, Stan Webb, and Locomotive with Mike Kellie, who eventually wound up in Spooky Tooth.

Eventually he attended the Royal College of Art and Technology in Stourbridge and went to the Royal Academy of Art with a grant. But as he admitted in an interview he was "not seeing the world". It was then that he started jamming in Birmingham clubs like the Elbow Room where Steve Winwood often went after his shows with the Spencer Davis Group or when he was in Birmingham with friends. Steph Wood, his sister, introduced Steve to Chris as she knew Steve for she designed clothes and accessories for Spencer Davis.

They started jamming together. Steve apparently looked up to Chris as he was older and artier and very taken by several unusual interests, such as archeology, geology, bird-watching, and cartography. When Steve decided to form Traffic, he roped Chris in, and this helped made Wood decide to abandon his painting that saw him "wrapped up in my own world".

Chris on the Traffic album

Chris was thus a founding member of Traffic and played on all 10 albums recorded by the original band. He took part in the Jimi Hendrix New York sessions in 1968 and appeared on "Electric Ladyland" During the interim 1969 period when Steve split to join Blind Faith, Chris first joined the "Wooden Frog" project with Mason, Capaldi and "Frog" (Mick Weaver); then he toured the US with Dr. John's band. He married a singer in Dr. John's band, Jeanette Jacobs, and the couple played later in the first lineup of Ginger Baker's Airforce (1970) which recorded a live album at the Royal Albert Hall. They were to separate in the late seventies and had no children.

Chris re-joined Traffic in 1970 when, coming back from America, he brought Steve a record by the Watersons, a folk family band, who recorded traditional English songs, "John Barleycorn" among them. He was taken by this story relating to alcohol addiction but also to the ancient myths of the Resurrection. Chris had an alcohol/drug problem by now. He took up drinking because he was scared of flying and this developed into a habit which undermined his health.

When Traffic split in November 1975, Chris was in poor health that already had messed up more than one concert during the band's "When the Eagle Flies" tour the previous year, their last. He played as a session-man for a while. He appeared on the Crawler album in 1978. He had also played in John Martyn's "Inside Out" album and on Small Faces' "Autumn Stone". He bought a recording studio in Birmingham where he played with younger musicians and worked for a long time on his solo album which was to be called Vulcan. He was never satisfied and his health stopped him more than once from completing it.

On January 1,1982, his ex-wife Jeanette died of a fit at the age of 31. Apparently they were still friends and he took this quite badly. He started a music project with singer/guitarist Stewart Carr and they talked about it in an interview on the Birmingham radio programme "Coming Home" but it lead nowhere owing also to his deteriorating health.

Chris Wood died of pneumonia in Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth hospital on July 12, 1983.

-- Ellie Iglio and Stephanie Wood

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Page created October 4, 1997.
Last updated September 26, 2000.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by Ellie Iglio Woontner & Stephanie Wood.