The Moody Blues were a pop group that was started in 1964 by John Lodge, Michael Pinder, and Graeme Edge. Later, they added Justin Hayward. In the early going, the band played a lot of blues covers and novelty songs and didn't really start edging into prog territory until later. Their progression from that point was highly folk-influenced in terms of guitar and vocal styles.
Initially, the band was part of the Birmingham sound in England and like their local pub-band competitors, The Animals, they were heavily influenced by American R&B artists like Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. But the Moodies, particularly keyboardist Michael Pinder, were also strongly influenced by classical music and modern classical styles.
Main Creative Force
Hayward and Lodge were the principal songwriters for the band, though Michael Pinder was a key contributor, especially on the early albums. Even though all the members wrote songs and were significant parts of the creative process, ultimately it is Justin Hayward who emerges as the main force behind the band.
Most Likely To Be A Mainstream Rocker
The Moodies were not a typical rock band in most ways. Their use of guitar and keyboard were really more folk and classically related. As for Edge's drumming, it was never the kind of spectacular rock and roll work associated with the best rock drummers. Consequently, it is hard to really identify anyone in the band who would have gone mainstream.
First Hint of Prog Brilliance
The band released a couple of singles in 1966 that showed signs of what the band was creating, but they were not exactly commercial hits and most fans of the Moody Blues have yet to hear those early tracks. For most of the world, they were largely unknown until their second album which was their breakthrough and also their peak.
'Days of Future Passed' was released in 1967, the band's second album.
It featured lush orchestration and was built around the passage of time through a day. The album's finale was the masterpiece Nights In White Satin which has since become a staple of classic rock. While the second album was obviously the pinnacle, there wasn't much of a decline for the Moodies for several years as the next four albums were all excellent releases and very successful. They continued the pattern of concept albums and philosophical lyrical explorations.
Influenced By Them
The influence of the Moody Blues was always greatest in England where progressive style groups emerging in the late sixties certainly emulated them in concept if not in actual sound. The phrase 'art rock' which often overlaps Prog definitely is centered more on the Moodies than most groups.
Despite not being a mainstream rock band and not having all that many radio hits, the Moody Blues have probably sold around 70 million albums and can claim 14 gold or platinum albums in their history. However, the Almighty RRHOF does not deem them worthy for entry. The core musicians in the band, John Lodge, Justin Hayward, and Graeme Edge, continue to perform as the Moody Blues and as the primary vocalists, they have definitely kept the band's sound alive.
My Personal Take
I liked the Moody Blues but never really was a huge fan. The friends I hung out with in high school were nerds and musically, were very much into the clasically complex prog that featured incredible keyboard and guitar work. The Moodies, in contrast, tended to shy away from extensive instrumentals and rely on composition and vocals to carry their progressive nature. While that is certainly respectable, at that point in my life I wasn't as impressed as I should have been. In the CD era, I picked up a couple of Moody Blues albums which are still occasionally in my music rotation. I have also had non-Moody Blues works by them over the years including solo work by Michael Pinder and the Hayward/Lodge collaborations.