Monday, October 24, 2016

Bobby Vee RIP

Very sorry to hear of the death of Bobby Vee at the age of 73. Although disregarded by some in later years as just a sixties pop singer, Bobby had a great voice and made some of the best pop records of the early sixties. Eleven of his records made it into my personal top ten between 1960 and 1963 and he was the eighth highest point scorer. His version of the Clovers' Devil Or Angel was superb and is there a better pop record of the era that Take Good Care Of My Baby? Other records that scored
highly were More Than I Can Say, Baby Face, Run To Him and Please Don't Ask About Barbara. Bobby's voice had a Buddy Holly-like hiccup which he used to good effect and he recorded a successful LP with the Crickets and another called I Remember Buddy Holly. Indeed his career began when he and some friends, making up a group called the Shadows, filled in for Holly at the show he was due to attend in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Born in Fargo, North Dakota, his first record was Suzie Baby for the Soma label. After Devil or Angel he made it big with Rubber Ball and other successes included How Many Tears, Sharing You, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes and Run Like The Devil. I saw Bobby in 1962 when he toured with Tony Orlando and Clarence 'Frogman' Henry and a couple of times in later years when he performed with his own group the Ricochets on oldies shows. These included a memorable one at Wembley in 1992 when Little Richard (celebrating his 60th birthday), Jerry Lee Lewis, Lloyd Price, Chris Montez, Johnny Preston, Little Eva and Duane Eddy also appeared. RIP Bobby.
The Vinyl Word also says farewell to Joan Marie Johnson of New Orleans girl group The Dixie Cups, who had great success with Chapel Of Love, Iko Iko, People Say, You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me and Gee The Moon Is Shining Bright for the Red Bird label. I saw the group many times at Jazzfest and they were always excellent.
Also to Phil Chess, record producer and co-founder of Chess records, who has died aged 95. Phil was involved in producing many of the great blues and rock and roll records produced by Chess. Here's his obituary in The Guardian.

Photos from the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival

Here's the second batch of photos from my US road trip, featuring acts at the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival in New Orleans.
Kicking off day one were the Suffers, a soul band from Houston, with singer Kam Franklin.
Also on day one, here is swamp blues artist Tab Benoit.
From the second day, here is a young bluesman named Jontavius Willis.
One of the highlights was the New Orleans based Nikki Hill Band, whose rock and roll flavoured set went down well.
Another New Orleans performer, who I've seen on just about every trip to the city, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington.
Here's a Brit who has been based in New Orleans for many years, Jon Cleary.
This is Alvin 'Youngblood' Hart.
Headlining on day two, this is Taj Mahal.
From day three this is blues harmonica player Smokey Greenwell.
Bluesman brother of Freddie King, this is Benny Turner.
New Orleans based blues singer Little Freddie King.
Rock singer 'Jumpin'' Johnny Sansome.
Latest in the Baton Rouge dynasty, here is Tyree Neal, a good soul singer and guitarist.
Drummer and blues singer Cedric Burnside.
Final act of the festival was New Orleans soul man Tucka, who is very popular with the locals.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Road trip photos part 1: Texas

Here is the first batch of photos of my recent US road trip with Dave Carroll, Alan Lloyd and Lee Wilkinson. These are all from the first few days in Texas.
This is James Hunter, who we saw at the House of Blues in Houston.
Here is the group with James and his new wife, who he married the week before in New Orleans.
We looked for the site of the original Duke/Peacock record label in Erastus Street, Houston. The site is now a Baptist church and there is no sign to mark its former occupant.
There is a marker, however, in Lyons Street, where the company moved to.
There is also a marker to Sam 'Lightnin'' Hopkins in Dowland Street, once the blues centre of Houston.
We moved on to the small town of Navasota where there is a mural in Blues Alley featuring Mance Lipscomb and others.
Just outside Navasota we found the grave of Joe Tex who came from the area.
In Austin we visited the Continental Club where one of the support acts was all girl group the Bluebonnets.
They were followed by another all girl band, Jane Lee Hooker.
Stars of the show were the Blasters, with lead singer/guitarist Phil Alvin.
Just outside Austin we met up for breakfast with Linda Gail Lewis and her husband Eddie Braddock.
At the Broken Spoke in Austin we saw country singer Gary P. Nunn.
Here's the group in Luckenbach, Texas.
Linda Gail Lewis at the Music and Wine festival in Gruene.
Here's one of me with Annie Marie Lewis, Linda Gail's daughter, who sang with her at the festival.
On Sunday morning we went to Carnitas Uruapan in San Antonio where conjunto performer Santiago Jimenez plays every week.
Also in San Antonio we caught Ruby Dee and the Snake Handlers at Sam's Burger Joint.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Blues and BBQ Festival day 3 and more

The final day of the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival didn't quite live up to the standard of the previous days, but it wasn't bad. First up was Smokey Greenwell, a white blues harmonica player who was adequate on numbers such as Crazy Mama and Let's Work Together. I was expecting a lot more of Benny Turner, brother of Freddie King, who has a soulful voice but stuck to well known numbers such as Let The Good Times Roll and Rock Me Baby and showed that he's a good bass player and a decent singer, but in the area of blues rather than soul. Other numbers included Big Legged Woman and Freddie's Hideaway. After Freddie's brother came Little Freddie King - no relation - who looked superb as ever in a purple suit. He's a reliable performer and went down well on some fairly standard blues numbers including Dimples.
I didn't see a lot of the next act, Johnny Sansome (we were in the pub) but was there in time to see him run into the crowd like a mad man. A rock, rather than a blues act it seems. More to my taste was Tyree Neal, the latest member of the Baton Rouge dynasty, who started slowly, seemed to be just a blues guitarist, but then showed that he has real soul. Supported by two girl singers and a horn section, his numbers included soulful versions of Harry Hippie, Candy Licker, Lets Straighten It Out, Running Out Of Lies and My Baby's Home Tonight. Enjoyable stuff. Next on was Cedric Burnside, who is a bluesmen cum drummer from another famous family but nothing special, but we congregated in front of the other stage for the final act of the day Tucka. He clearly has a huge local African American fan base, especially among the ladies, and I was expecting something really good. It was not to be. He has a reasonable voice and was ok on numbers such as Trapped, She Was My Girl, Please Take Me and, rather predictably, Down Home Blues. But I fail to see what clearly others see. He was wearing dreadlocks and a baseball cap, a black T shirt and brown trousers and didn't really look like heart throb material. But what do I know? Dave liked him enough to buy his CD.
In the evening there was another Ponderosa Stomp show at the Ace Hotel which was fun. The support act was a 60s style R and B trio from New York called Daddy Long Legs. I hadn't seen them before but was impressed by their loud and raucous act, which included Blood From A Stone, title track from their new Norton LP, and Motorcycle Madness. The singer plays harmonica (and sang and played guitar as well on one number), the guitarist is excellent and the drummer is a crazy Keith Moon throwback. Great fun. They were the warm up act for Guitar Lightning Lee and very good they were too.
After the weekend's hard labour we took it easy on Monday, but made a return visit to the Ooh Poo Pah Doo bar, owned by Jessie Hill's daughter Judy, in the evening. There were quite a few people there this time and it was New Orleans party time as Judy led a second line to the music of the James Andrews band with Bobby Love on keyboards. Numbers included, naturally, Ooh Poo Pah Doo and Judy did La Bamba. All the numbers were over extended but the audience enjoyed themselves.
Tomorrow we are off to Lake Charles and then home via Houston. I will be posting photos soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

New Orleans excellent as ever

New Orleans never disappoints musically and this trip is no exception. The highlight last night was a Ponderosa Stomp Shake It and Break It preview show at the Ace Hotel featuring Lil Buck and the Top Cats, Barbara Lynn and Roy Head. Lil Buck's band included C C Adcock on guitar and Stanley 'Buckwheat Zydeco' Dural's son Reginald on keyboards. Kicking off with Buck's early recording Monkey In The Sack their set included Bye Bye So Long, Further Up The Road and Bobby Charles's Hanging Out With The Street People with C C on vocals. Next on was Barbara Lynn who was quite superb. She began with Baby We Got A Good Thing Going and continued with It's Gonna Be A Wild Night Tonight, Don't Be Cruel, Sweet Sixteen, her big hit You'll Lose A Good Thing, Sugar Coated Love, What'd I Say and I'm A Good Woman. Her left handed guitar playing was excellent and this was a magical 45 minutes. Following her was the wild man Roy Head who restricted his acrobatics to some neat flicks of the microphone cable, as the stage was so tiny that the bass player had to stand on the steps to the side. Roy was in good form on Treat Her Right (twice), My Babe, Boogie Children, Linda Lu, Hey Bo Diddley, Before You Accuse Me and Big Boss Man. Between sets Dr Ike announced some of the acts for next year's Stomp, including Gary US Bonds, Linda Gail Lewis and a Texas Honky Tonk Revue with Frankie Miller, Darrell McCall and James Hand.
The main event in New Orleans this weekend is the Blues and BBQ Festival. This began on Friday with The Suffers, a soul band from Houston with a good lead singer named Kam Franklin, and swamp blues artist Tab Benoit, both of whom were pretty good. Saturday's line up included Jontavious Willis, a young blues singer with a languorous style who was good on Milk Cow Blues, Keep On Walking and Dust My Broom. Things hotted up with the gorgeous Nikki Hill, a local resident, who rocked the place with  a voice and style which was a cross between Tina Turner and Wanda Jackson. Numbers included originals such as I Got A Man, Strapped To The Beat, Ask Yourself, Struttin' and Snap Back, and good covers of I Know, Sweet Little Rock and Roller (in honour of Chuck Berry's 90th birthday this week) and I'm Gonna Love You. Next up was Walter Wolfman Washington, who gave his usual polished performance. Jon Cleary delivered some classy New Orleans style piano while Alvin Youngblood Hart was impressive, if a little on the heavy side at times. The headliner was Taj Mahal, who seemed to be on particularly good form. Supported by Jon Cleary he switched between guitar and banjo with ease. Numbers included the rather age inappropriate Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and this was a good set to round off a full day at this free festival. More to come on Sunday.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Into Louisiana and fun in Lafayette

After Texas it was the long drive to Lafayette, Louisiana, for some Cajun experiences. These were farcical at first when we arrived at the Ready Stay Inn and it took three hours to get into our room. If you're ever here avoid the place. Nothing works. Things picked up when we went for a Cajun meal at Randol's where a band called Low Maintenance were playing. From there we went to the Cajun jam at the Blue Moon which was crowded, noisy and  not very satisfactory as we couldn't hear anything.
Thursday saw us head out of town to St Martinville, which I last visited in 1989. There's a memorial there by the Bayou Teche to Evangeline, the subject of Longfellow's poem, and it's a pretty place with Spanish oaks and a view of the bayou. We went on to pay our respects to the King of zydeco Clifton Chenier, at his grave in Loreauville and his former club, now seemingly disused. We also had a look at New Iberia, the only town in the area with Spanish origins, and the newly opened Bayou Teche museum.
In the evening we joined the great and good of Lafayette at the world premiere of a new film called First Cousins - Cajun and Creole Music in South Louisiana, which charts the origins of the black and white French speaking communities in the area and the links between Cajun and zydeco music. Featured in the film and in many cases on stage were some of the greats, including D L Menard, now in a wheelchair, Rockin' Dopsie Jr, Wayne Toups, Nathan Williams, Steve Riley and Geno Delafose. Later, on stage at Warehouse 535 we enjoyed the latter two perform. Steve, with the Mamou Playboys, is my favourite Cajun artist and this was, as ever, an excellent show mixing traditional Cajun music with some more modern styles. He switched between accordion and fiddle and was excellent on both. Afterwards I asked him if there was any chance that Lil Band of Gold might reform. That, he said, was down to C C Adcock, but of course they first have to find replacements for keyboard player David Egan And drummer Jockey Etienne who have died. One name he mentioned was a really exciting one, but I had better not say who. Geno Delafose and French Rocking Boogie also put on a great show with some hard rocking bluesy zydeco. A great evening.
Today we are off to New Orleans. Photos to follow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conjunto and rockabilly in San Antonio

It's not often you go to listen to music and get applauded yourselves, both by the artist and the rest of the audience. But that's what happened on Sunday not once but three times when we went to local restaurant Carnitas Uruapan in San Antonio. We had gone to see accordion player Santiago Jimenez play his weekly conjunto session over breakfast, something we had been tipped off about by a friend of Noah's. Santiago is the brother of conjunto star Flaco Jimenez and has been playing at the family owned pork place for years. Most diners there are locals and when he heard that we were from England he led a round of applause and even insisted on us standing up while customers clapped. The welcome was fantastic but so is Santiago, who was recently presented with a National Medal for the Arts by President Obama. His music was highly enjoyable, as was his laid back and fun approach, and the food was good too.
In the evening we returned to the pretty town of Gruene for a Mexican meal, before moving to San Antonio on Monday. We had a look around the Alamo and the River Walk, which I've seen before but which are worth another look, but feared that the evening would be rather dull, given that it was a Monday. Far from it, as after an excellent meal on Grayson Street we went to Sam's Burger Joint and Music Hall where Ruby Dee and the Snake Handlers were playing. They are a really good rockabilly band who have been around for a few years and have played at Viva Las Vegas and in Europe but not in the UK as yet (they are hoping to go next summer). Ruby is a feisty singer with an interesting slightly stuttery vocal delivery who came across strongly on mostly original numbers, while guitarist Jorge Harada was great on several numbers and the whole band looked and sounded right. They got the jivers up on the floor all evening. Definitely a band to watch out for.
Next day, Tuesday, we had breakfast in the Pig Stand, an old style diner dominated inside by plaster pigs, which claims to have been the world's first drive in. From there it was to the Friends of Sound record shop, which opened in July, where I spent yet more money on 45s (I bought some at an antique store at a place called Geronimo the day before). We rounded off the day by visiting the Natural Bridge Caverns, where huge stalactites and stalagmites dominate huge caves and the humidity is 99 per cent. Tomorrow we are off to Louisiana.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Into the Texas hills and beyond

The Austin leg of our US road trip continued with a visit to a record shop, which was selling 45s for 45 cents each, and a stroll down 6th Street, the bustling hub of this music centric town. After a drink with Alan's friends in a bar on the 18th floor of the Hilton Garden Inn, where there was a good view of downtown, we had a meal at ABGB, a large and rather soul less place on the outskirts of town. Our music for the evening consisted of an hour or so of local country singer Gary P Nunn in The Broken Spoke, a honky tonk where people of all ages were waltzing. He was ok but rather dull so we moved to a pub down the road where a black covers band, Disfunction Junction, impressed.
Leaving Austin next day we headed for the Texas Hill Country, stopping off at the tiny settlement of Luckenbach. The place has a dance hall and was made famous first by the Lost Gonzo Band, whose members included Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P Nunn, and later by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in their hit song, written by Chips Moman. Apparently neither Waylon nor Chips had ever been to Luckenbach, which today is frequented by country music fans and bikers, mostly sporting .long beards. One such was Jimmy Lee Jones, who was gently strumming a guitar and singing on the back porch next to a sign reading Luckenbach, population 3. There are a few more people there now, but not many.
We moved on to the town of Boerne, which was thronging with people enjoying the Hill Country hot rod show, having a rather poor meal in the Boerne (rhymes with journey) Grill. No Berni Inn though. Making good time we got to the Gruene Music And Wine Festival to catch an enjoyable set by Linda Gail Lewis, supported by her daughter Annie Marie. Linda ran through a selection of Jerry Lee and Elvis numbers, thumping the piano with her customary enthusiasm, while Annie showed off her talent on numbers including Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Should I Ever Love Again, originally by Winona Carr. The festival is a laid back affair and the entrance fee includes five small glasses of wine. After Linda a Southern rock band called the South Austin Moonlighters played while we consumed wine and beer. We had a look at Gruene Hall, the oldest continually operated dance hall in Texas, where another band was just finishing, and then headed to our hotel in nearby New Braunfels, an area with strong German influences. After a seafood meal in McAdoos in down town New Braunfels, we went to the Phoenix Saloon, where quite a decent country rock group, the Paul Nipper Band, were playing, highlights being the aptly named Small Town Saturday Night, written by Hal Ketchum, and Living On Tulsa Time.