Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Fatback Band in London

Seamus McGarvey reports on The Fatback Band at Nell's Jazz & Blues Club, West Kensington, London
It had been almost three years since I'd last seen The Fatback Band, so Saturday 6th February provided a great opportunity to catch them again at this club, a good venue in terms of proximity to the acts on stage, where they drew a large and lively Saturday night crowd. The eight-piece band, led by original founder-member Bill Curtis, with trumpeter Ledjerick Woods (pictured below) and guitarist Darryl McAllister from the 2013 line-up,  also featured a number of new faces: Roby Lock Jr,( tenor sax),  Desmond Humphrey (drums and lead vocals), Fancy Gemini (background vocals), Zack Guinn (bass and vocals) and Bob James (keyboards).
Right from the outset they hit a strong funky instrumental groove, keeping up the pace throughout, with Bill very much in charge of direction, rhythm and feel, keeping it all flowing smoothly. The numbers ranged right across their recording years, starting early in the set with movers from the 1970's like 'Wicky Wacky', 'Keep On Steppin'' and 'Do The Bus Stop', where Ledjerick, Roby and Fancy demonstrated the steps for the latter down amongst the energetically dancing fans. It was then on into the 1980s with the rap-oriented 'Is This The Future?', the neatly moving 'Backstrokin'' and, to close, 'I Found Lovin'' which almost lifted the roof off.
All the numbers were greeted enthusiastically, and the vocals, the leads handled mainly by Desmond, with support from Zack and Fancy, remained strong throughout, despite a few sound system problems. An encore of the funky 'Yum Yum (Gimme Some)' and 'I Like Girls' brought a 90-minute set of R&B dance music at its best from a  talented band of musicians to an exciting conclusion. Great band, great rhythms and great music – and the crowd loved them. Excellent! Seamus McGarvey
Pictured below are Bill Curtis, Fancy Gemini and Roby Lock.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Swamp pop singer Gene Terry to star in London

It's an interesting and imaginative choice by Keith Woods to feature swamp pop artist Gene Terry at the next Tales From The Woods show on June 5. Gene has never appeared in the UK and I'm hoping that the show attracts a good crowd. I will be there for sure, as I had the pleasure of seeing Gene sing recently at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, and can confirm that the man still has what it takes.
Gene is best known for the rockabilly classic Cindy Lou recorded in 1958 and released on the Goldband label, an original of which I was lucky enough to pick up at an Oxfam shop a few weeks ago. During the Stomp conference sessions he was interviewed by John Broven (pictured above) and he came across as a genial man with a wealth of knowledge about Louisiana music of the fifties and early sixties. He recorded his classic when he was 17, along with its flip side, the more typically swamp pop styled Teardrops In My Eyes. He described swamp pop as 'just white boys playing black music - and playing it pretty good' - a fairly accurate description I think. Brought up in Port Arthur, east Texas, one of his biggest influences was local DJ and singer Big Bopper (who of course died 57 years ago today), along with Elvis and Gene Vincent. Despite some success with Cindy Lou, which I must say still sounds great today, he gave up up music a couple of years later and had a job in the electric department in Port Arthur, occasionally playing local gigs.
At the Stomp he was backed by the Mama Mama Mamas, comprising C C Adcock, Steve Riley and Michael Hurtt among others, and absolutely nailed his big hit. Other numbers included Never Let You Go, Sea Cruise, I'm A Fool To Care, Woman I Love and Teardrops In My Eyes. It was an excellent set, if too short, and I have no doubt that he will make a big impression at the June 5 show in London, which also features British rocker Danny Rivers, Steve Ackles from Norway and the Sweet Georgia Boys. I would urge anyone who can make the show in June to come along. It will be a one off opportunity to see a swamp pop legend. Photo below shows Gene with me.
Nick Cobban

Monday, February 01, 2016

P P Arnold stars in latest Borderline heritage show

The latest Tales From The Woods show at the Borderline in London last night - the 11th in the series of rock and roll heritage shows organised by Keith Woods - was yet another triumph, with a good sized crowd enjoying five hours of virtually non stop music. This time the star was not a rocker but a bona fide soul great in the form of P P Arnold. She was the final act in a show featuring no less than five performers from the fifties and sixties, all of them good in their way and all of them backed excellently by the Tales From The Woods House Band.
Originally from Los Angeles, P P (Pat) Arnold first found fame as a member of the Ikettes, backing up Ike and Tina Turner, before moving to the UK and enjoying a successful solo career. With great vocal support from Debra Lewis-Brown, she began her act with the Ikettes number Whatcha Gonna Do, moving on to an exciting version of River Deep Mountain High. Her voice remains completely intact and she looked glamorous in a black dress, red necklace and a feathered fascinator. She told the story of how Mick Jagger had taken her for a walk in Regents Park and made a proposition to her - a proposition which led to her recording for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label. She recorded the first version of Cat Stevens' First Cut Is The Deepest, her third song on the night, and Am I Still Dreaming, as well as her biggest hit, Chip Taylor's Angel Of The Morning. Other numbers included Etta James' How Strong Is A Woman, Uptight and A Natural Woman, and P P came across strongly with a powerful and very soulful vocal style. Among the audience were members of the cast of All Or Nothing, a forthcoming West End musical about the Small Faces, which features a young P P Arnold.
First act of the night was 82 year old Wee Willie Harris, someone who has appeared at several previous Tales From The Woods shows. Introduced by MC for the night Stuart Colman as 'the Emperor of Rock and Roll', Willie's voice is still pretty good and his set included a couple of songs that he recorded in his late fifties heyday - Rockin' At The Two Is and Love Bug Crawl - plus some rock and roll standards including Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Kansas City, Splish Splash (which he attributed to Jerry Lee Lewis, rather than Bobby Darin), I Hear You Knocking, Razzle Dazzle and Rag Mop, before finishing with Shake Rattle And Roll. There was nothing there to write home about, but Willie went down quite well. As ever he had a moan about his lack of appreciation by the media: apparently the Piers Morgan show turned him down as a potential subject.
Next on was Ray Phillips, once of the Nashville Teens, who combined lively versions of rockers such as Nadine, Let It Rock, Forty Days and Bony Moronie with some quality blues numbers, including Red House ( featuring some Hendrix styled guitar from lead guitarist Iain Terry), Hoochie Coochie Man and I Put A Spell On You, which allowed keyboard player Claire Hamlin to shine. Of course the Nashville Teen's big hit Tobacco Road was featured, and performed well, and it was clear that Ray was enjoying himself immensely. A good set.
At the height of the sixties beat boom Dave Berry made a name for himself not only with some catchy and well performed pop sings, but also with a stage act which involved hiding himself behind a glove or wrapping the microphone lead around himself. Today he is no different it seems. His voice remains pure and the songs and stage act are much as we remember them. This was his TFTW debut and it proved an effective one. Dressed in a black jacket covered with a selection of chains he kicked off with Just A Little Bit before moving on to one of his bigger hits, Chuck Berry's Memphis Tennessee. Some amusing ad libs showed that Dave is an accomplished stage act - he's still performing on 'silver sixties' tours after all - with a good repertoire, which included another big hit of the era Little Things, a cover of a Bobby Goldsboro song which gave Dave more recent fame as a toilet paper ad. Other numbers included Chuck's Promised Land, This Strange Effect, written for him by Ray Davies, the Yardbirds' Heart Full Of Soul, Nick Lowe's I Knew the Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll and, finally, The Crying Game, which was featured in the film of the same name. Dave was joined on stage by former member of his band the Cruisers Brian Wood on steel guitar. At the end of his set Dave stripped off his jacket to reveal a shirt with the black imprint of a pair of hands on the back. And the crowd gave him a well deserved big hand.
The fifth act on last night's show was Cliff Bennett, making his third appearance on a Tales From The Woods show. Cliff's voice is rather ragged these days, with quite of lot of hoarseness, but it's well suited to the rock and soul numbers he performed, which included Turn On Your Lovelight, Knock On Wood, Barefooting, Slow Down, Good Golly Miss Molly, Watch Your Step, Why Me and Sam and Dave's I Take What I Want.  He was joined on stage by former Rebel Rouser 'Too Tall' Tony Hall and he, together with the band's horn section, gave him some top notch backing in what was an energetic and enjoyable set.
Once again Keith Woods can be pleased both with the show and the turn out. There were visitors from all corners in the UK and even, in the case of Boston-based Noah Shaffer, the USA. His fame is spreading! Photos below show Stuart Colman and Keith Woods.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ten years of The Vinyl Word

It's ten years to the day since the birth of The Vinyl Word. In those ten years there have been over 1,000 entries, over 900 published comments and the blog has received 1.3 million page views. The original idea was that it would be devoted to roots music, including soul, blues, rock and roll, fifties and sixties pop and early reggae, reflect my love of vinyl records and chronicle events of interest to people with similar interests. Thus there have been many items covering the deaths of musicians over the years, reviews of gigs and music festivals, items on vinyl that I've bought at car boot sales, charity shops and record fairs and reminiscences about events that happened when I was a lot younger than I am now. I hope that I've kept readers entertained and informed over the years.
The very first entry, on January 20, 2006, came the day after the death of Wilson Pickett and shortly
after the death of Lou Rawls. I speculated in one of my first entries on who would become the 'last soul man', to quote Bobby Womack's 1987 album title, and listed some of the contenders who were still alive at that time. One by one many of them have died in the intervening years, including James Brown and King Floyd in 2006, Luther Ingram and Freddie Scott in 2007, Bill Coday, Isaac Hayes and Levi Stubbs in 2008, Eddie Bo and Michael Jackson in 2009, Solomon Burke, General Norman Johnson, Willie Mitchell and Teddy Pendergrass in 2010, J Blackfoot, Nick Ashford, Loleatta Holloway and Howard Tate in 2011, Fontella Bass, Etta James and Donna Summer in 2012, Bobby Bland and Cecil Womack in 2013, James Govan and Bobby Womack in 2014, and Don Covay, Ben E King, Percy Sledge and Mel Waiters in 2015. So far in 2016 we've already lost Otis Clay. Many of the original rock and roll and blues stars have also passed on during this time,
notably Bo Diddley, Ike Turner and B B King, but Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino are still around even if not performing in some cases. Long may they last.
I try to get to as many music gigs as I can, although since I moved to the country six years ago this has become more irregular. I also go to music festivals when possible, especially the wonderful Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans and the unique and brilliant Porretta Soul Festival in Italy. On occasions I've also been to UK festivals such as Rhythm Riot and Hemsby, Northern soul nights in Cleethorpes and elsewhere, US festivals like Viva Las Vegas, the King Biscuit Festival, New Orleans Jazzfest and the Blues and Barbecue Festival and the Doowop show in Long Island, as well as European rock and roll festivals such as Screamin' and the Rockin' Race.
I spend a lot of my time searching for original vinyl records and get up early to hunt through stuff at car boot sales, occasionally striking lucky and gradually filling in gaps in my collection and selling on Ebay the records that don't meet my criteria.
The great thing about a blog is that every word that has appeared over the years is available at the touch of a button, either by clicking on the month list on the right or by topic in the box at the top left hand corner. So, unlike Facebook and other social media, where the shelf life of entries is usually a few days, the Vinyl Word is a record of what's happened over the years, and a great substitute for a diary. I hope readers will click back to January, 2006, and check out my Inaugural Word, as well as other items from the very beginning. Recently I have been privileged to include items on the blog from music experts such as Seamus McGarvey and Noah Schaffer and I look forward to including more in the future. There are all too few media outlets for the music that I, and thousands of other love, so if The Vinyl Word can help to fill a gap I am more than happy.
Hopefully the blog will continue for many more years to come providing an information source as well as an outlet for my personal views. Comments are always welcome and I wish more people would express their views whether they agree or disagree with something I've said, or if they want to raise an issue. In the meantime, I will raise a glass to The Vinyl Word. Here's to the next ten years.
Nick Cobban

Monday, January 18, 2016

Blowfly bows out

So it's farewell to Clarence Reid, aka Blowfly, the baddest motherfucker in the universe, who has died aged 76. In the early sixties he was a member of the Del Mires, a group which also included
Paul Kelly, for whom he wrote Chills and Fever in 1965. As a songwriter and producer in Miami, often working with Willie Clark and Steve Alaimo, he wrote or co-wrote songs for Betty Wright, including Clean Up Woman, Gwen McCrae (Rockin' Chair), and KC and the Sunshine Band, as well as recording some excellent soul material for labels such as Alston and Wand, including Nobody But You Babe, Good Old Days and Funky Party.
Then, in the early seventies he adopted a new persona as the outrageous Blowfly, whose deeply sexist and X rated material influenced today's generation of rappers. Masked and dressed in bizarre costumes, he played the role of the pimp and his
lyrics were sexually charged and over the top. The success of the first album, The Weird World of Blowfly, led to a series of other non-PC albums, including Blowfly on TV, Porno Freak and Blowfly's Party.
I saw him only once, in his Blowfly incarnation at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2005, where he played to a small crowd in the downstairs room at the Rock 'n' Bowl, some of whom booed and hissed his outrageously sexist lyrics. As a soul singer and writer he was clearly a talented performer, but his legacy as Blowfly is less appealing.
Another death is that of Giorgio Gomelsky, an influential figure in the British beat boom of the sixties as a club owner, producer, film maker and manager. Originally from Georgia, he became involved in the trad jazz scene in London and promoted the emerging trend towards blues and R and B, promoting regular shows with Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies at the Marquee Club. He started the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond where the Rolling Stones had their first residency and which also gave a start to the Yardbirds, who Giorgio managed. He set up the short lived Marmalade record label which recorded material by Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity and the Blossom Toes. Later he was involved with progressive rock bands such as Soft Machine, Gong, Henry Cow and Magma. He moved to New York in the late seventies. He was 81.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Now it's farewell to David Bowie

The torrent of music deaths that we've seen over the last year or so is fast turning into a flood. Now it's the turn of the Thin White Duke, David Bowie, at the age of 69.
There has been an outpouring of grief at the death of this remarkable man, a true trendsetter who influenced many people in his career, as he moved through his many phases. Although I very much
liked early classics like Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Starman and Suffragette City I was, on the whole, fairly ambivalent towards Bowie. I was surrounded by his records for many years, but they were not my choice but those of my ex wife. I liked them but never loved them. Yet I admired the man's unique approach to his art, which transcended mere pop music. Much of his later work left me cool, if not cold, but he was always a cultural phenonenom and someone who excited interest.
My memories of David Jones, as he then was, go back to the period 1962 to 1964, long before he was well known. Every Friday night I would go to the Justin Hall in West Wickham, Kent, where I grew up where a beat group would be playing. The best of these, a band which attracted quite a following locally, was the Konrads, David Bowie's first band. David was a local lad from Bromley and I remember seeing him not long afterwards working as a bar man at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham, His early records as Davie Jones and the King Bees, Davy Jones and the Lower Third and the Manish Boys, are now highly collectable and show that his influences were the blues and early soul music, and that the music he loved was much the same as the stuff I loved at the time. Over the years he has brought pleasure to millions and was always a leader of trends, never a follower. RIP David.
There have been several other music deaths in the first few days of 2016. One of these is the one hit wonder Troy Shondell, who had a huge hit in 1961 with This Time - a great record in my opinion. From Indiana, he had enjoyed some success in the midwest as a rock and roll singer with Kissin' At The Drive In, but follow ups to his big hit, including Island In The Sky and I Got A Woman, sank without trace. Apparently Tommy James, who had many sixties hits including Mony Mony, named his group the Shondells after Troy.
Another death is that of Kitty Kallen at the age of 94, who had success from the 1930s to the 1960s. She was a singer with the Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James bands in the 1940s and went on to have an international number one with Little Things Mean A Lot in 1954. 
Another singer who has died is Red Simpson, famous for his truck driving songs such as Roll Truck Roll in 1966, The Highway Patrol and I'm A Truck. Originally from Bakersfield, he was 81.
It's goodbye also to to Ed 'Stewport' Stewart, aged 74, who began his DJ career at the pirate Radio London, before going on to achieve fame at Radios 1 and 2, most famously as the host of Junior Choice. Also to Nick Caldwell of soul group The Whispers.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Otis Clay RIP

I am devastated by the news that the great Otis Clay has passed away aged 73. When I saw him at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2012 I described him as 'possibly the greatest living soul singer'. And so he was. His gravelly voice was the epitome of soulfulness and both his records and his live act were simply amazing.
Born in Mississippi, he graduated into soul music via the traditional gospel route and enjoyed his first successes on the Chicago-based One-derful label with That's How It Is (When You're In Love) and A Lasting Love. When the label folded he moved to Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion and enjoyed success with a cover of She's About A Mover. Moving to Hi records in Memphis in 1971 Otis recorded some of his very best material, with Willie Mitchell's gorgeous backing making them even more special. Stand out tracks from this period included Trying To Live My Life Without You, That's How It Is, Precious Precious, I've Got To Find A Way and I Can't Take It.
He went on to record for Kayvette, Elka and Rounder and enjoyed success with the original of The Only Way Is Up. His live albums, including Soul Man: Live In Japan, and Otis Clay Live were among the most exciting live records ever made - hardly surprising as Otis was a tremendous live act. I saw Otis perform several times, most recently at the Take Me To The River show in London, with William Bell and Bobby Rush also on the bill, and he always put on a great show. Other memorable shows included the Memphis Soul Night at the Town and Country in London in 1990, which also featured Ann Peebles, David Hudson, Billy Always and Willie Mitchell, a show at the Royal Festival Hall in London with John Hammond and Albert Collins in 1993, my first visit to Porretta in 1997, and at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011.
Otis, you will be badly missed. There was no one else left who could generate such excitement.
The top photo shows Otis with me at Porretta in 2012. The second shows Otis at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011 and the third shows him with Bobby Rush and William Bell at Take Me To The River in London in 2014. Below is a small selection of his LPs.