Thursday, February 14, 2019

Photos from the Rockin' Race

As promised, here is a batch of photos from the Rockin' Race Jamboree in Torremolinos - a great weekend of rockabilly. 
First here is the 'Argentinian Elvis' Johny Tedesco: a pretty good act but one who divided opinion.
Appearing as a preview act on the evening before the main show, here is Mike Hillman and the Latin Hillbillies.
This is the Kabooms.
This is hillbilly singer Portuguese Pedro.
Johnny Knight was the star of the first night proper. Here he is as his alter ego The Gamma Goochee.
Deke Dickerson backed Johnny and also had a set of his own as well as appearing with Eddie Angel at the Sunday afternoon Guitar Party.
Here is Texas troubadour Dale Watson.
Dale introduced Celine Lee who records for Sleazy records.
Here's the Western styled Sarah Vista.
Jerry Phillips, son of Sun studio owner Sam Phillips, gave a fascinating interview.

This is the lead singer of German band Smokestack Lightning.
Sonny George and Eddie Angel, front men of the Planet Rockers.

Here's Jerry Phillips on stage with Sonny George.
This is Augie Burriel of the Velvet Candles with another of his bands The Torontos. Augie also backed Johny Tedesco on his Elvis covers.
Spencer Evoy showed off his sax expertise with The Torontos and also backed J D McPherson on some numbers.
This is a rock and rolling mayor, Mitch Polzac.
J D McPherson put on a polished set, backed by Los Straitjackets.
And here are two of Los Straitjackets in their usual Mexican wrestling masks. 
Here is German band Hot Boogie Chillun.
Finally, here is Phil Alvin, lead singer of The Blasters.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Back at the Rockin' Race Jamboree

I'm back at the Rockin' Race Jamboree in Torremolinos enjoying some warm and sunny weather and some decent music, mostly of the rockabilly variety. As ever there's a good UK contingent here, including John Howard,  Gordon Fleming, Jonathan Batten, Mike MacDonald, Ron Cook, Dave and Julie Thomas and Tony Rounce.
The music has been good, the highlight on the first evening being 82 year old Mr 'Rock and Roll Guitar' Johnny Knight, (pictured below) backed by the Deke Dickerson band, with Johnny's son on keyboards. Dressed in a splendid sparkly black jacket, Johnny was good on his sole hit, 'Rock and Roll Guitar',and it's B side 'Snake Shake', plus 'Got My Mojo Working', 'What Happened Last Night', 'I'm Going To Buy Me A Dog', 'Two Ton Annie', 'Ooh Poo Pah Doo' and 'Shake A Hand'. He also reappeared as his alter ego, the comedy character Gamma Goochee. Only 30 minutes on stage but effective.
Next up was Texas troubador Dale Watson, looking very much the part with his shock of silver hair but maybe just a little too country for this rockabilly show. His songs included 'I Lie When I Drink' (although it didn't stop him promoting Texas's Lone Star beer, a rather pointless exercise in the Costa Del Sol). He's recently recorded a new album at Sam Phillips studio in Memphis entitled 'Call Me Lucky', and his set included 'Elvis Was A Love Affair' written by Sam's son Jerry, who is also attending the festival. Other songs included 'Mama Tried', a tribute to Merle Haggard, Carl Perkins 'Long Legged Guitar Picking Man', a song made famous by Johnny Cash, and 'Down Down Down Down'. Dale introduced Celine Lee on stage, an attractive Sleazy recording artist, who looked great and whose rather average numbers included 'Big Girls Cry' and a couple of duets with him.
Elsewhere in the festival  Portuguese Pedro's rather whiney hillbilly set was quite effective , Mike Hillman and His Latin Hillbillies did a lively set, but the Kaboons failed to set the crowd at the Barracuda Hotel alight. There's plenty of music still to come and, unlike in England, the sun is shining.
Next day the western styled Sarah Vista was visually appealing and proved entertaining and Walter Broes and the Mercenaries were OK in their set at the Barracuda. An interview session with Jerry Phillips, son of Sam Phillips, however, was riveting.  Jerry came across as a thoughtful and amusing man with some solid ideas on being a rock and roll singer (be yourself and don't be an imitator) and shared reminiscences of his dad, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Howling Wolf and other Sun artists. He also talked about his time at Stax working with Louis Paul, and what is happening now at the Sam Phillips studio in Memphis.
The evening session of the festival began in great style with a super rock and roll set by Deke Dickerson, kicking off with 'Mexicali Rose' and good versions of 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man' and 'Monkey's Uncle'. There was a number by drummer Chris 'Sugar Balls' Sprague playing guitar while being held upside down, some guitar playing and Cossack dancing by Mitch Polzac, plus two numbers by Johnny Knight including 'Rip It Up'.
Next up was German band Smokestack Lightning. Not the most exciting of acts they were melodic enough with numbers including The Beatles ' 'Hey Little Girl' and 'Polk Salad Annie', a tribute to Tony Joe White. Things really began to heat up with the arrival on stage of The Paladins, (pictured below), a hard rocking trio from San Diego who I last saw about 30 years ago. Their frantic and professional set included snatches of a number of songs I didn't recognise plus 'Keep Changing' from their first new album in many years and 'Slip Slipping In', a tribute to Reggie Young who died recently and played on the Eddie Bond original.
More hard rock followed with The Planet Rockers featuring Sonny George and Eddie Angel who very much look the part, especially Sonny in his leathers and cowboy hat. A little subdued to begin with they got into top gear with 'Lonesome Traveller' and 'Truck Drivers Rock'. Jerry Phillips  wearing a gold lame jacket, came on for a couple of numbers including 'My Babe and 'That's Alright With Me'.
On Saturday there was an event on the sea front featuring hot rods and souped up cars called The Dash. Two excellent groups played sets. The Torontos, one of whose members is Augie Burriel of the Velvet Candles,  played some excellent guitar and sax rock and roll, including Don and Juan's 'Chicken Necks' and Don and Dewey's Kokomo Joe'. The sax player, Canadian Spencer Evoy, also appeared later in the festival alongside J D McPherson. Thanks to John Clark for finding out his name. One of the best sets of the entire weekend I thought , and the other band led by Mitch Polzac was equally good with humour from Mitch and some good rocking material.
The main venue was rammed on Saturday night but the music started in quite a low key way with Johny Tedesco, the 'Argentinian Elvis'. Apparently he recorded the first big Spanish language rock and roll record,  'Rock Del Tom Tom', in 1958. His mostly pop styled songs, sung in Spanish, went down well with the audience and his band was pretty good but I thought he was rather bland. He was definitely helped by having members of the Velvet Candles supporting him on a string of Elvis songs, including 'Rock a Hula Baby', 'She's Not You ', 'Devil In Disguise ', 'Little Sister ' and 'Good Rocking Tonight".
Much more exciting, and the best act of the night, were Los Straitjackets, who backed the excellent J D Mcpherson as well as performing a series of high powered instrumentals which included 'Rampage '. There were only three masked men on this occasion but JD made up for any lack of manpower with some good guitar on his numbers. These included 'Fire Burns', Ritchie Valens' 'Ooh My Head', 'Hillbilly Blues', the Troggs' With A Girl Like You, 'Let The Good Times Roll', a Spanish version of 'Lucille, What Am I Living For', JD's own excellent 'North Side Gal' and, as an encore 'Seven Nights To Rock'. The huge crowd thoroughly enjoyed this top notch set, as did I.
Next up were German band Hot Boogie Chillun who to my mind were loud, monotonous and rather dull. Their numbers included 'I Want To Hear You Scream', 'Tonight', 'Twist Of Fate', 'Have Love Will Travel' and their final song 'Fuckin' Sweet'. There was an element of repetition about their approach which left me cold.
I expected to be lifted by the final act of the night for me, the Blasters, but was a bit disappointed. Phil Alvin's singing and guitar playing was fine but he was immobile and seemed to be going through the motions somewhat.  Keith Wyatt by contrast was all action on lead guitar and numbers such as 'Down The Line', 'Rebound', 'Dark Night', 'I'm Shakin'', 'Shovel Bound' and 'Marie Marie' were performed well. It was an enjoyable set, if not quite up to the standard of some I've seen in the past.
The highlight of Sunday afternoon's music was Eddie Angel's Guitar Party with 'Sugarballs' on drums, which featured excellently executed instrumentals in the Link Wray/Duane Eddy mould. Los Torontos' sax player joined them (as he did during the JD McPherson set last night) for some Johnny and the Hurricanes/Champs numbers and Deke Dickerson came on stage to do a brilliant version of 'The Bird's The Word' with maniacal cackling. Earlier the Radions, a lively if bog standard rockabilly band, played on the sea front.
Overall this was one of the most enjoyable Rockin' Races I've been to and the combination of the Paladins, Los Straitjackets and the Blasters, not to mention the Planet Rockers and the Torontos, would be difficult to beat for hard rocking pleasure. More photos will appear shortly.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Harvey Scales (and others) RIP

It's time to catch up on some music deaths over the last few weeks. I was sorry to hear of the death of Milwaukee based soul man Harvey Scales, who appeared memorably at Porretta in 2011. Here what's I wrote at the time: 'The evening began with Harvey Scales, who I hadn't seen before and who had a soul hit in the late 60s with Get Down backed with Love-It-Is. Dressed in a lime green suit Harvey proved he is a real showman and any limitations vocally were more than made up for by his dynamic stage act. Kicking off with Sweet Soul Music, which got the crowd going, he moved into more imaginative territory with Wilson Pickett's I'm In Love and his own material - Spend The Nite Forever, What's Good For You, Broadway Freeze and snatches of Get Down and Love-It-Is. He finished with Disco Lady, a song he wrote for Johnnie Taylor and which was the first ever platinum single by an African-American artist.'

Another recent death is that of Reggie Young,at the age of 82,  a brilliant guitarist who was a member of 'The Memphis Boys' and whose work can be heard on records by Elvis, the Box Tops, Dusty Springfield, Merrilee Rush, Willie Nelson and many others, including soul greats such as James Carr, O V Wright, Joe Tex and Solomon Burke.. Reggie was interviewed by Red Kelly at one of the Ponderosa Stomp conference sessions in 2017 (pictured).
Also passed on is James Ingram, at the age of 66, a soul singer and songwriter whose greatest success came in the 1980s with hits such as 'Just Once' (with Quincy Jones), 'Baby Come To Me'
(with Patti Austin), 'Someone Out There' (with Linda Ronstadt) and 'I Don't Have The Heart'. He won two Grammy Awards and was twice nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
A final word, too, for country singer Bonnie Guitar, who has died aged 95, and Nashville session guitarist Harold Bradley, aged 93. RIP to them all.

Monday, January 28, 2019

'Fabulous' Ronnie Spector at The Roundhouse

Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes were 'fabulous' when they burst onto the scene with 'Be My Baby' in 1963, according to their first LP, and it's fair to say that Ronnie, along with two young Ronettes, is still fabulous today. Her show at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, just up the road from Camden, last night told her life story with photos, clips from black and white TV shows and her memories, but it was Ronnie's raspy but still very sexy voice that made it such an enjoyable show, although it has to be said that her beehive hair is still in fine shape, and the new Ronettes and an excellent band added to the feeling of exhilaration.
Ronnie, dressed in black and still looking good despite her 75 years, began with her second smash 'Baby I Love You' and then settled onto a stool to begin a series of reminiscences, starting with her first tour of the UK and her travels with the Beatles, Swinging Blue Jeans, Rolling Stones and others. Her second song, 'Because', was a product of those days as it was recorded by the Dave Clark Five and became a big hit in the US for them despite being a mere B side in the UK. Moving on through 'Do I Love You', Ronnie recalled the group's first appearance on the Dick Clark Show and talked about her love of doo wop, especially Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, leading in to 'I Have A Boyfriend', a song originally by the Students. Before they were famous the Ronettes got themselves a a spot at the Peppermint Lounge in New York as dancers and took the opportunity to sing, with 'What'd I Say' featuring from that period.
Next it was 'Walking In The Rain', with the Round House Choir appearing on stage to give added voice, and then 'Don't Worry Baby', a Brian Wilson song which was dedicated to the Ronettes as something of an answer to 'Be My Baby'. Ronnie glossed over her desperate time with husband Phil saying only that it was a difficult seven or eight years. Her next number was 'I'd Much Rather Be With The Girls', a song written for her by Keith Richards but which she didn't record until many years later. She took a short break while the Ronettes did a more than passable version of Sam and Dave's 'I Take What I Want'  before returning for an excellent cover of the Bee Gees' 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart'.
After a brief throwback to last month's Christmas festival with 'Sleigh Ride', Ronnie's next song was a cover of Johnny Thunders' 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory', a poignant song she recorded in 1999. Next came the song that everyone was waiting for - 'Be My Baby' - still as brilliant as ever. And, appropriately as she was in Camden, a tribute to Amy Winehouse, who was herself a fan of Ronnie, with 'Back To Black'. Amy's mum was in the audience apparently. 'I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine' came next and then as an encore it was inevitable that it would be 'I Can Hear Music'.

Ronnie has become a fairly regular visitor to the UK in recent years and this show was quite similar to the one at the Barbican a few years back, But the 'in the round' theatre set up and her new Ronettes made this a show to remember. Fabulous, as ever, and Ronnie you're always welcome in the UK.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Clydie King RIP

The new year is only a few days old but already there have been several music deaths. The latest is Clydie King at the age of 75. Clydie will be well known to fans of girl groups, soul music and Bob Dylan, but spent much of her career as an in demand background singer. Her recording career goes back to 1956 when she was discovered by Richard Berry and made a record under the name of Little Clydie and the Teens for the RPM label. She followed this with records under her own name for Specialty and Phillips as well as being a member of the Meadowlarks and recording 'Who Do You Love', a duet with Mel Carter. In 1965 she recorded 'Home of the Brave' as a member of Bonnie and the Treasures for Phil Spector.
Later in the sixties she recorded some fine soul records for Imperial and Minit and had some success with 'Ready Willing and Able', a duet
with Jimmy Holiday. She was a member of the Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles who recorded an album called 'Dylan's Gospel' in 1969 and did some background work for Bob himself at around that time. She was a member of the Blackberries who recorded several tracks for Motown which weren't released and had a solo LP released called 'Direct Me' and another called 'Brown Sugar featuring Clydie King'. As a backing singer she supported Little Richard, Humble Pie, Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones, the Supremes
and Ray Charles among others and in 1980 she became a regular part of Bob Dylan's touring band, singing duets with him on most shows and backing him on several albums in the eighties. It's said that she was Bob's girlfriend and had two children by him.
Another death is that of Eric Haydock, bass player with the Hollies from 1962 to 1966, who was one of the first British musicians to play the Fender Bass VI.
Also passed on, at the very end of last year, is Dean Ford, who was lead singer of the Marmalade from 1966 to 1974 and who co-wrote their big  hit 'Reflections of my Life'. Born in Scotland, he formed a group called the Gaylords, which became the Marmalade. Other hits included 'I See The Rain' and 'Rainbow'.After recording an unsuccessful solo album in 1975 he moved to LA where he battled alcoholism.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Picture review of the year

Here's my photographic review of 2018. It was a pretty good year and I was fortunate enough to see many great artists over the 12 months. Yet the year started badly. My first gig was Joe Louis Walker at the 100 Club in London. He's a fine performer, but loud (although no louder than many others I've seen over the years). However next morning I felt sick and dizzy and soon discovered that I had gone totally, and permanently deaf, in my left ear. Too many gigs spent down the front trying to get that perfect photo I fear. Let that be a warning. It didn't stop me enjoying my music, I'm glad to say (albeit in mono).
My first American trip of the year, with John Howard, Alan Lloyd and Gordon Fleming, started in the Boston area and we very much enjoyed the annual doowop show in New Bedford organised by Todd Baptista. Here's one of the stars, La La Brooks, former lead singer of the Crystals. Other acts were the Orlons, the Mystics and Del Vikings.
We moved on to Las Vegas for the biggest rockabilly festival on the planet, Viva Las Vegas. There were too many artists performing to mention them all. but here are a few: the legend that is Jerry Lee Lewis, the king of the boss guitar Duane Eddy and Sun artist Carl Mann.

A couple of us took a side trip with Noah Shaffer to a club called Piero's where there is a weekly gig featuring Sonny Charles and Pia Zadora.
We caught a show in Sacramento starring Robert Cray and moved on to Los Angeles where we were lucky enough to catch the 91st birthday gig of the great sax man Big Jay McNeely.  Sadly this was to be his last performance before he died.
We made return visits to one of LA's hidden gems, a club called La Louisianne, where we saw The Bluesman Sonny Green put on a great set.
Here's Ken Boothe, one of the stars of the London International Ska Festival. appearing at the Academy O2 in Islington.
Another excellent London show was the Tales From The Woods doowop event at the 100 Club, possibly London's best ever doowop show. Here are the stars Tommy Hunt. John Cheatdom and Gaynel Hodge. 
Soul came to London with Brenda Holloway at 229 The Venue.
And the third Blackpool International Soul Festival exceeded expectations with five superb acts. Here are Patti Austin and Nolan Porter. Others were Ann Sexton. Eloise Laws and Margie Joseph.

Candi Staton defied her 78 years to put on a great show at Omeara, promoting her 'Unstoppable' album.
The Porretta Soul Festival was, as ever, one of the highlights of the year. Photos show Lacee, Alvon Johnson and Terrie Odabi. Other acts included Ernie Johnson, Wee Willie Walker, John Ellison, Missy Andersen, Booker Brown, Percy and Spencer Wiggins and Don Bryant (more of whom later).

The king of ska, Derrick Morgan, put on on a most enjoyable show at the Jazz Cafe.
My second US trip of the year, with Dave Carroll, Alan Lloyd and Lee Wilkinson, began in style at the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival in Louisiana, where the stars included Bobby Rush (with Mizz Lowe) and Vasti Jackson. We saw Bobby again at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas. He remains, at the age of 85, a superb entertainer. 

Also at the King Biscuit Festival was the excellent Johnny Rawls, but here he is at the Yazoo City Blues Festival, where other acts included Ms Jody and Sir Charles Jones, both leading southern soul stars.
A highlight of our Mississippi trip was a show at the Horseshoe Casino in Robinsonville starring Carla Thomas. Latimore was the co-star, and this was a rather special evening.
We finished our trip at the Blues and Barbecue Festival in New Orleans where the headliner on the second day was Jimmie Vaughan. Other acts included 93 year old Henry Gray, Samantha Fish. Shemekia Copeland, Rev John Wilkins, Little Freddie King and Walter 'Wolfman' Washington.
Starring on the final day was Don Bryant who was superb, just as he had been at Porretta. Backed by the Bo-Keys his act was perfection. And with Percy Wiggins in support this was a fantastic end to the trip.