Monday, November 20, 2017

Some more music deaths

Sadly there are a couple more music deaths to report.
Warren 'Pete'Moore not only sang bass in the Miracles as a founder member from 1955 onwards, but also co-wrote some of the group's best known records, including  Ooh Baby Baby, The Tracks Of My Tears, My Girl Has Gone and Going To A Gogo. He also co-wrote, with Smokey Robinson, It's Growing and Since I Lost My Baby for the Temptations, and Ain't That Peculiar and I'll Be Doggone for Marvin Gaye. He sang co-lead on several Miracles songs, including I Love Your Baby and Doggone Right, was the group's vocal arranger and also produced records for several Motown artists including the Miracles (Choosey Beggar and  and Here I Go Again), Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. Moore (pictured second from right above) died on his 78th birthday in Las Vegas, where he was CEO of an entertainment company and co-owner, with fellow Miracles member Billy Griffin, of a music publishing company.
Another death is that of country singer and songwriter Mel Tillis, at the age of 85, who first recorded in the 1950s. His songwriting credits include Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town, Life Turned Her That Way and Detroit City, whilst successful recordings include These Lonely Hands Of Mine, She'll Be Hanging Around Somewhere, I Ain't Never and Neon Rose. He became a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and my photo, above, shows him at the Ryman Auditorium in 2013.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two more soul men pass on

Two more soul men have passed on in recent days, adding to the long list of those who have died in the last few years.
Chess recording artist Maurice McAlister was the leader singer of the Radiants, who made what in my opinion was one of the best records of 1965 (it made number one in my personal top ten), namely Voice Your Choice. He was also one half of the Chicago soul duo Maurice and Mac, who made a stunning version of You Left The Water Running at Muscle Shoals among other excellent recordings.
Maurice formed the Radiants in 1962 as Chicago's answer to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, having previously sung in a gospel group. Their first record Father Knows Best showed Maurice's voice off to good effect and it was followed by other singles on Chess, including Shy Guy, I Got A
Girl and I Gotta Dance to Keep My Baby which failed to break through. Their first big hit Voice Your Choice reached number 16 in the Billboard chart and the follow up It Ain't No Big Thing did even better, reaching 14. The group's only other UK single release was Hold On in 1968.
Meanwhile Maurice had begun recording with Green 'Mac' McLauren, a former member of the Radiamts who had been drafted into the Army, as Maurice and Mac. The Chess brothers took them to Muscle Shoals where they recorded several tracks with Rick Hall, including You Left the Water Running, a minor hit, You're The One and Why Don't You Try Me. The duo's final record, very much in the Sam and Dave mould, was But You Know I Love You in 1970. It's clear from the Radiants and Maurice and Mac records that Maurice McAlister was a superb talent, but somehow he, and the groups he was in, never quite made it to the top level. RIP Maurice.
Another recent loss to the soul world is Robert Knight. Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, he recorded a version of Free Me in 1961 for Dot, a song better known by Johnny Preston. In 1967 he
recorded Everlasting Love for the Rising Sons label which made the US top 20. It was a huge UK hit
for the Love Affair reaching number one, preventing Robert's original from becoming a hit there. After a couple of relatively unsuccessful pop singles he hit the jackpot again in 1973 with Love On A Mountain Top which made the UK top ten. A reissued single of Everlasting Love also made the UK top 20 soon afterwards.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Woodies magazine reaches its century

The Tales From The Woods online magazine reaches its 100th issue this month, a landmark that few thought it would reach when it was first produced as a brief newsletter umpteen years ago. For those who aren't familiar with it, the mag is an eclectic mix of gig reports, record reviews, music obituaries. personal invective and loads of other stuff, all put together in a way that defies any kind of logic or editorial control. Somehow it works and attracts regular contributors issue after issue. It 'borrows' from The Vinyl Word in each issue and I'm more than happy for it to do so. I doubt if many people read it from cover to cover (impossible now that it's on line of course), but there's something there for everyone, including the regular 'Hold The Third Page' entry from the eponymous Keith Woods, John Howard's often inflammatory Mr Angry column, Dave Carroll's obscure but highly knowledgable insights into jazz in his Jazz Junction reviews and John 'Soulboy' Jolliffe's soul column.
The Woodies themselves all share a love of roots music, although their preferences vary - from rock and roll to blues, soul and jazz - and some of us have a monthly meet up when we have a few beers and a meal in London. Membership is quite wide geographically and the roots music shows put together by Keith a couple of times a year (or more), are attended by far flung Woodies who sometimes never see each other the rest of the year.
Until a couple of years ago many Woodies made an annual pilgrimage to the Rhythm Riot which is taking place at Camber Sands this weekend. Then the organisers decided to stop inviting 'heritage' acts (artists from the original rock and roll generation) to the shows and many of us decided not to go any more. I'm sure those who are there are having a good time, but unlike Keith's shows, or Hemsby, or some US festivals that I regularly go to, such as Viva Las Vegas and the Ponderosa Stomp, all the acts are relatively recent ones. I won't be going again unless they change their booking policy.
On my 2011 visit to the Rhythm Riot, when the stars included the Bobbettes and Jivin' Gene, I took some photos of Woodies regulars and here are a few of them. As you can see, most of us are of a certain age (six years older now of course) but we still love great music and get to as many live shows as we can. The top photo shows Keith Woods (centre) with Bill Haynes, whose main interests are old time music hall and Chelsea FC, and Darren Vidler, who recently revealed a talent for singing at one of Keith's shows. Below is John 'Soulboy' Jolliffe, who's recently moved to Worcester, in typical pose.
Here are John Spencely (centre), lead guitarist of the Tales From The Woods house band, with R and B expert Gordon Fleming and all round musicologist and Juke Blues contributor Dickie Tapp (right).
Two old school rock and rollers, Lee Wilkinson, now living in Burnley, and Tony Papard, who has often contributed memories of his youth, theories about Princess Diana speaking from beyond the grave, and political views somewhat to the left of Jeremy Corbyn, as well as stories about pantomime characters.
Standing outside the record shop in Rye, here are Arsenal fan and jazz expert Dave Carroll, Sutton United supporter Brian Jessup, and me (Nick Cobban).
Here are Hastings resident Martyn Harvey, Gordon Fleming and IT specialist Alan Lloyd, a regular companion on my US trips.
This dodgy looking group are Shrewsbury folk lover Ralph Edwards, record collector Ken Major, accomplished drummer Brian 'Bunter' Clark and John Spencely. Don't know who the lady at the back is.
International Woodies Jay McCaddin from Mobile, Alabama, and Paula, with Ralph looking on..
Finally, here are Ace record man Ian Saddler and his American friend Chris, with music photographer Paul Harris and Dickie Tapp.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Doowop and more at the Tales From The Woods show

Classic doowop made a rare venture into London last night with the Tales From The Woods Rock & Roll Heritage Show at the 100 Club, promoted by Keith Woods. The headliner was former lead singer of the Flamingos Tommy Hunt (pictured above), who was backed by the excellent Spanish doowop group The Velvet Candles. But the show wasn't just about doowop: there was soul and R and B from Zoot Money, Chuck Berry flavoured rock and roll from Earl Jackson and blues from Ray Phillips. And they were all backed by the unrivalled Tales From The Woods band, featuring the 'lovely' John Spencely on lead guitar (pictured below with Rob Davis), Claire Hamlin on keyboards, Jeff Tuck on drums, Rob Davis on bass, Alex Bland on sax and Dave Priseman on trumpet. It was a terrific show - possibly the best yet in this long running series of rock and roll events.
DJ John Howard dedicated the show to Fats Domino, but it was another late lamented rock and roller, Chuck Berry, who dominated the first set by Earl Jackson. Earl describes himself as the 'love child of Chuck Berry', and he certainly has more than enough showmanship, excellent guitar work and vocal ability to back that up. He rocked his way through a series of Chuck Berry numbers, including Roll Over Beethoven, No Particular Place To Go, You Never Can Tell, Nadine (well supported by the horn section), Little Queenie and Johnny B Goode. He duck walked, played his original Gibson guitar (bought for £2.5k, he said) behind his head, popped his eyes and generally worked up a storm during his 45 minutes on stage, ending, not with Chuck, but with Howlin' Wolf's Howling For My Baby. An excellent start to the evening.
Following him was former frontman of the Nashville Teens Ray Phillips, who included quite a bit of blues in his set. He began brightly with Bo Diddley's Mona, but Red House, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Willie John's Need Your Love So Bad and Parchman Farm showed he's a blues man at heart. He changed the tempo with Nadine (again), Route 66 and Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On and finished off, naturally enough, with his big hit Tobacco Road. Ray isn't a dynamic performer, but at 78 he showed that his vocal pipes are still good.
The next set, by Zoot Money, playing his Hammond organ, brought back memories of smoky sixties nights at the Flamingo and was a joy. Zoot demonstrated his love of Ray Charles with Hide Nor Hair and It Should've Been Me, and did a great version of Sam and Dave's You Don't Know Like I Know. Alex and Dave's horn breaks were a match for the Memphis originals on that one. Zoot had a light hearted moan about others making it big back in the day on the back of three minute 45s. His band's biggest hit Big Time Operator showed that on his day he was more than a match for some of the other sixties heroes. He rocked through Robert Parker's Barefootin', and brought a jazzy feel to Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Rock and Roller, giving John Spencely a chance to show off a different side to his always first class guitar work. Finally, Zoot sang If Age Brings Wisdom, a jazzy number with a wistful lyric: 'When will I find it?' was the essence. This was a highly enjoyable set and Zoot remains a master of the Hammond, well supported by Claire's piano work.
Doowop came to the fore in the next set with the Velvet Candles, a four man doowop group from Barcelona led by Augie Burr, who were making their London debut. Keith Woods rightly described them as the best doowop group outside New York. Dressed, for this set, in white jackets, their harmonies were just gorgeous on doowop classics like the Velvets' Tonight Could be the Night, Honey Babe, Dance Girl Dance, a note perfect version of the Gladiolas' Little Darling and Clyde McPhatter's A Lover's Question among others. They were joined on stage by Johnny Stud, formerly of Rocky Sharpe and Replays for their revival of Rama Lama Ding Dong and Never. The group's final number, Lock Up My Heart, really rocked and the band gave them superb support throughout. There can be little doubt that these guys are among the very best of modern doowop singers - quite possibly the best of the lot.
They were, in fact, the perfect support for Tommy Hunt, now 84, who has enjoyed successful careers both in the doowop field, as lead singer of the Flamingos, and as a soul singer. This was purely a doowop set and highly enjoyable it was too. The Velvet Candles provided superb support throughout, beginning with Kokomo and following up with the Sam Cooke penned Nobody Loves Me Like You,  Let's Make Up and the rocking Crazy Crazy Crazy. During A Kiss From Your Lips a young couple crouched down in front of the stage as the guy proposed to his girlfriend, and the tender theme continued with Lovers Never Say Goodbye. Tommy and the group were quite stunning on Ol' Man River, the Candles providing dramatic and quite brilliant support to Tommy's vocals. Other songs included Your Other Love, Heavenly Angel, Besame Mucho and the jive favourite Jump Children. And then it was time for the encore - a spell binding version of the Flamingos' biggest hit I Only Have Eyes For You. The whole set was doowop at its supreme best - great vocals from Tommy and harmonies to die for from the Velvet Candles.
What a show this was: great singing, magical moments of harmony, and wonderful backing from the band, who had to learn upwards of 60 songs for the evening. Keith Woods - take a bow!
Finally, here a photo of me with Earl Jackson.
Nick Cobban

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fats Domino RIP

The news has just come in that Fats Domino has died at the age of 89. It's not a surprise. He hasn't performed for several years and when I visited his house in New Orleans last week it was apparent that no one was there. Yet it's still a shock. Fats Domino and his music meant so much to me, ever since my sister brought home a 78 of Blueberry Hill when I was ten years old. I loved his voice, his expressive piano playing, everything about him really. He was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to New Orleans, just to experience the ambience of the place, the vibe that influenced his music. I saw him perform several times at Jazzfest although unforgivably I missed his famous show at the Savile Theatre in London in 1967. Whenever he performed it was great fun. He would have a first rate band behind him, with musicians of the calibre of Herb Hardesty. He would push the piano across the stage with his big frame. But most of all he always seemed happy, with a big smile on his face. It was a happiness that was infectious. You couldn't help smiling in return.
Of course, Fats was one of the giants of rock and roll, and the only major rock and roll star who predated its emergence, The Fat Man was recorded as long ago as 1949. Throughout the 1950s he produced million seller after million seller, including Ain't That A Shame, My Blue Heaven, Blue Monday, I'm Walkin'. The Big Beat, Sick and Tired, Whole Lotta Loving, I'm Ready - so many great records it was hard to keep score. He continued into the sixties with the likes of Country Boy, Walking To New Orleans, It Keeps Rainin' and Let The Four Winds Blow. His hits began to dry up, but even after moving from Imperial to ABC Paramount he continued to make excellent records, including There Goes My Heart Again, When I'm Walkin' and Red Sails In the Sunset. After that, changing trends meant that he was no longer someone who troubled the top ten, but he remained a major star of the rock and roll era.
Fats was a family man, loyal to the Lower Ninth Ward where he lived all his life until Katrina flooded his house. He was thought to be dead but was rescued by helicopter from his mansion. He was scheduled to appear at Jazzfest in 2006 but pulled out due to ill health. But he performed for the final time at Tipitina's in 2007. How I wish I could have been there. Here's a rather grainy photo of Fats at Jazzfest in 1993.
Fats, I know that you will missed by millions of people who, like me, were brought up on your music. His death will be big news throughout the world and I will leave it to the many obituaries to tell his life story. All I will say is that he was unique and will be missed. RIP.
Nick Cobban

Monday, October 23, 2017

Final photos from our US trip

Here's the final batch of photos from the US trip, covering our journey to Jackson and Baton Rouge and back to New Orleans. Monday night in Jackson is made memorable by the Blue Monday blues jam at Hal and Mal's, where local blues artists show off their considerable skills. In the house when we were there, but not singing unfortunately, was the great Dorothy Moore and here's one of me with her.
Other singers included Pat Brown and Abdul Rasheed.
Here's one of me with another singer, Patricia Thomas.
After Jackson we headed to Natchez, where we were given a tour and talk about African American culture in the area at the African American Museum.
From there we headed to Baton Rouge where we sought out Slim Harpo's marker and grave a few miles out of town.
Here are Lee, Dave and Alan by the grave.
We took the opportunity of calling in at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary. Here's one of the group with Teddy Johnson and another of Alan and Teddy sharing a beer.
On our way back into town we came across Kenny Neal's Juke Joint, which we returned to in the evening for a brilliant night of blues.
A few shots from the evening: singer Sexy Red, Louis Toussaint with Samuel Hogan on bass, Tyree Neal, some of the dancers, and a lady who danced to her reflection in a big mirror.
On our return to New Orleans we did a bit of music sightseeing. Here's me outside the Mother In Law Lounge, now owned by Kermit Ruffins. We went inside a couple of days later and there are no mementos of Ernie K-Doe there now.
Here's the plaque commemorating Ernie K-Doe on a tomb in the St Louis No 2 Cemetery, which he shares with his wife Antoinette and Earl King. Cosy.
This is the famous Dewdrop Inn where many 50s and 60s greats played. There are rumours that it may be restored.
Fats Domino's house in the Ninth Ward. Not sure who lives there now.
And finally, here's one of Lee and Ronnie Cook with Little Freddie King and members of his band at Siberia.
Nick Cobban