Stevie Winwood earned a reputation as a teenage wunderkind by virtue of his gutsy performances as frontman of the Spencer Davis Group on smashes like "Gimme Some Lovin'," "I'm a Man" and "Keep on Running." Soon, though, his blue-eyed soul tendencies would be channeled and chopped into the jazzier feel of a new band, Traffic. Along with guitarist Dave Mason, reed wizard Chris Wood and drummer Jim Capaldi, Winwood quickly announced the new direction with a fabulous psychedelic-pop single, "Paper Sun." Two more Top 10 U.K. hits followed with "Hole in My Shoe" and "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush." Traffic were a key act in establishing rock and reggae standard-bearer Island Records as a major force, particularly after the release of their first album, Mr. Fantasy, in the U.S.
A self-titled disc followed in 1968, offering noteworthy tracks like Mason's instant standard "Feelin' Alright" and "Forty Thousand Headmen." Mason had already taken time away from the band and no doubt led to its collapse when Winwood split to join Eric Clapton in the short-lived Blind Faith in 1969. The latter's one album sold well, but was widely perceived as a disappointment, and later a punchline, whenever the dubious term "super group" was mentioned. Clapton moved on to Derek and the Dominos and a solo career, and Winwood reconstituted Traffic for their most open-ended music yet: John Barleycorn Must Die. Bassist Ric Grech, former Dominos drummer Jim Gordon and percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah signed on; Mason returned for 1971's live jaunt, Welcome to the Canteen. By now Traffic were one of the major draws on the burgeoning rock circuit in America, and their next release, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, was their most popular album here yet. The languid title track and the starker "Rock and Roll Stew" were airplay favorites for the rest of the decade. Success continued with Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory; another live recording, On the Road; and When the Eagle Flies.Eagle, though a hit, precipitated another Traffic split. Winwood remained silent until a 1977 self-titled solo debut, which did little business. His Arc of a Diver was a huge seller in 1981, though, and marked the beginning of a long run of popular favorites that also included Back in the High Life and Roll With It.
Winwood and drummer Capaldi reconvened once again under the Traffic brand for a 1994 album, the listless Far From Home, and a tour. Traffic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Capaldi passed away on January 28, 2005, from stomach cancer.