Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On stage at the Apollo

Amateur night at the Apollo in Harlem takes place every Wednesday evening and has done so for 80 years. The first winner was Ella Fitzgerald in  1934 and every big act has appeared on the stage since then, from James Brown to Michael Jackson. Yesterday it was the turn of the Hampshire Hogs, aka Paul Waring and myself, as we took part in a mock Amateur Night as part of a tour of the famous New York theatre. Our rendition of Mess of Blues went down well with the audience - no doubt helped by Paul's Elvis style hairdo. We touched the Tree of Hope which all wannabe stars touch for good luck and we definitely held our own against the other contenders, most of whom were drama school students. Billy Mitchell ,who has worked at the Apollo for 50 years, was an entertaining tour guide and it was fascinating following in the footsteps of the stars. Afterwards John Howard, Gordon Fleming, Paul and myself had a drink in Sylvia's, a long established soul food restaurant, and ate at Mannas, another soul food place where they charge by weight. An excellent day in Harlem. Now it's off to Las Vegas.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Doowop weekend day 2

Day 2 of the Long Island Doowop weekend followed the same format as the first day with 17 acts doing short sets and once again there was plenty to enjoy. Highlights for me were Jack Scott, who was moodily superb on What In The World, Geraldine, Goodbye Babt, My True Love and The Way I Walk, and the Herb Cox and the Cleftones with Heart and Soul and Little Girl Of Mine among others.
Many of the groups have only one or two surviving members and there was a great battle of the bass men between two of them: Jay Johnson of the Diablos, whose biggest hit was The Wind, and Harold Winley of the Clovers, whose 50s hits, including a superb Blue Velvet, Devil Or Angel, Lovey Dovey and Love Potion No 9, sounded as fresh as ever. Also excellent were Fred Parris and the Satins, who excelled on In The Still Of The Night, and the Harptones, with compere Bobby J guesting, on Sunday Kind Of Love.
Of the rest, the Fireflies were fine on You were Mine, the Comtinentals good on Fine Fine Frame, Linda Jansen and the Angels rather disappointing on My Boyfriend's Back and Til, and the Jarmels excellent on A Little Bit Of Soap. Bill Perry and the Danleers were more than adequate on One Summer Night, and Dave Somerville of the Diamonds surprisingly good on Little Darling. Other acts included Denis Dority Jr and the Planetones (adequate), Kid Kyle, a 19 year old with a voice rather like Neil Sedaka, Lenny Dell and Demensions, Norman Fox and the Rob Roy's, who were great on Tell Me Why, and Larry Chance and the Earls, who were OK.
So another great day. Would I go again? Probably not as I've ticked quite a few artists who I have always wanted to see. But for true Doowop fans this is definitely the place to be.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A feast of Doowop

They say rock and roll will never die, but one of its founding pillars, doowop, may well do so. Unlike other forms of the genre such as rockabilly it has not found a young audience. As a result, the audience at the 11th Doowop weekend in Long Island was a similar age to the members of the 17 acts who appeared on day one, who in the main were street corner groups from Brooklyn and Harlem who learned their craft in the late 50s. Not so much Brooklyn Dodgers as Brooklyn Codgers.
That's a pity as it was a fantastic day's entertainment. There was Gene Chandler defying the years and donning his trademark top hat, cape and cane for Duke of Earl. Eugene Pitt, now 76, with the Jive Five ( actually four these days including two brothers). My True Story was brilliant. Earlier we had Jimmy Charles, who had a massive hit aged 15 with A Million To One, Kathy Young, who was a similar age when she hit with A Thousand Stars and Happy Birthday Blues, and the Mystics who displayed superb harmony on Hushabye.
Most of the acts performed just three numbers, with the last one being their biggest hit, so there was the Solitaires with Walking Along, Tony Middleton and the Willows with Church Bells Will Ring, Sonny Til's Orioles with Crying In The Chapel, the Spaniels with You Give Me Peace Of Mind, a silver haired Jimmy Clanton with Just A Dream and Venus In Blue Jeans, Cleveland Still and the Dubs with Could This Be Magic, Jimmy Gallagher and the Passions with Just To Be with You and Maurice a Newton of the Fidelities with The Things I Love. Of course not all group members were originals but three of the original Chantels were there and the original girl group were superb on Look In My Eyes and Maybe. So too were the Charts on Desiree.
In all it was a wonderful day of nostalgia and great music and there's more to come. Photos will appear on the blog later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Lost souls

Once again, The Vinyl Word raises a glass to two more musicians who have died.
Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith was 93 and earned his nickname with Guitar Boogie, a 1948 US hit record that was one of the most influential of pre rock and roll guitar instrumentals. The number was later covered by The Virtues and Bert Weedon as Guitar Boogie Shuffle. In 1955 he wrote a number called Feudin' Banjos which was featured uncredited as Duellin' Banjos in the 1972 film Deliverance. Smith won a landmark legal battle for back royalties. He was a prolific songwriter in the country field, set up a recording studio in Charlotte and also produced TV and radio shows for many years. His band the Crackerjacks included Mel Tillis and George Hamilton IV among its members at various times.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lQ9VbO-m-I
Wayne Henderson, who was 74, was a jazz trombonist and record producer who co-founded The Jazz Crusaders (later the Crusaders) in 1961. He left the group in 1975 but revived the New Jazz Crusaders in 1995.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g6DN1zcn9Y
Louisiana-born Jesse Winchester was reported to have died earlier this week although he is now reported to be 'clinging to life'. (Apologies for including him prematurely). He moved to Canada in 1967 to avoid the draft and as a result was unable to tour the US, but was discovered by The Band's Robbie Robertson and made several albums during 1970s. He was better known as a songwriter and his most successful single (in Canada at least) was Yankee Lady in 1970.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju-HxeU__2M

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Another US music trip

I'm off on another American trip later this week, with John Howard, Gordon Fleming and Paul Waring, taking in music festivals in New York and Las Vegas and finishing in LA. Unlike most of my US road trips, which tend towards blues and soul, with a bit of Cajun and zydeco thrown in, this one will focus on doowop and rock and roll.
The first port of call is the Doowop Weekend in Hauppauge, Long Island. I was due to attend this annual event in November, 2012, but had to cancel my trip because of Hurricane Sandy. Let's hope the weather is kinder this time. The line up for the two day show comprises many of the remaining 50s and early 60s doowop artists and is pretty amazing. On day one there will be Gene Chandler, Charlie Thomas's Drifters, the Fidelities, the Charts, the Chantels, Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five, Sonny Til's Orioles, Jimmy Gallagher and the Passions, the Spaniels, the Willows, the Solitaires, the Dubs, Jimmy Clanton, the Mystics, Kathy Young and Jimmy Charles. On day two the line up includes Fred Parris and Satins, Jack Scott, Herb Cox and the Cleftones, the Harptones, the Diablos, the Continentals, the Wrens, Larry Chance and the Earls, Lenny Dell and the Demensions, David Somerville, Bill Carey's Danleers, the Fireflies, Norman Fox and the Rob Roys, Linda Jansen of the Angels and Harold Winley's Clovers. I don't know how many of the original group members will be there, but it promises to be quite a show. I've never been to this festival before but I've had good reports from John, who is quite a regular. I haven't seen most of the acts, but one I have seen is Jack Scott (pictured below) who I saw at Hemsby in 2000. While in the New York area we are planning a visit to the Apollo in Harlem.
After a few days on the east coast, we're off to Las Vegas, a place I've never visited before. The line up at the Viva Las Vegas weekend is also excellent, with performances by Lloyd Price, Imelda May, Los Straitjackets, Robert Gordon, the Trashmen, Sonny Burgess, Carl Mann, Hayden Thompson and Narvel Felts among many others. My photo shows Lloyd Price at the Dewdrop Inn Revisited show at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans in 1993.
After Vegas we're renting a car and driving to Los Angeles, another place in the States I've never visited before. Not sure where we will be heading exactly but I'm looking forward to it. I will be posting photos and reports on the blog as I go along. Cheers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

More car boot 45s

I found a good batch of 45s at the car boot sale this morning - none of them are especially rare, but some of them are obscure and quite interesting in their way. So here are six of them, with Youtube links where avaiilable.
1. The Jarmels - Little Lonely One/ She Loves To Dance.
The Jarmels were a doowop group from Richmond, Virginia, best known for their 1961 hit A Little Bit Of Soap. Originally called the Cherokees, they were discovered by Ben E King who took them to New York where they became the first black group signed by the Laurie label. Little Lonely One was their first release and deserved to be a hit. It was covered by Barry Martin for RCA and was also one of Tom Jones's early releases, recorded by Joe Meek and released on Columbia. The B side of the Jarmels 45 is also excellent.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UWf3zHvWp4     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y28OxnU65zg
2. The Packabeats - Evening In Paris/ The Traitors.
Another record with a Joe Meek link, this time a double sided instrumental by a group who had one release on Parlophone and two on Pye. The A side is Evening In Paris, a Telstar style number,  but I prefer the B side, which was used in the Telstar movie a few years back.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9e0jnrI8Dc   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx4tMf9Q1-c
3. Jody Gibson & the Muleskinners - So You Think You've Got Troubles/ If You Don't Know.
Jody Gibson made his first record Good Morning Captain under the name of Joe D Gibson for the American Tetra label. It wasn't very successful, but while serving with the US Air Force he was stationed in the UK where he met Wally Whyton, who introduced him to George Martin. This led to a couple of 45s being released, one of which, If You Don't Know, is featured on one of the That British Sound compilations. I prefer the Marvin Rainwater song So You Think You've Got Troubles, but I can't find that on Youtube, so here is If You Don't Know.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHGEJG2eljs
4. The Four Kestrels - Sound Off (Duckworth's Chant)/ Can't Say That I Do.
The first of three demos, this one is a bit of a mystery. They appear not to be the same group as The Kestrels (which included Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway for a time), yet there are four of them and they recorded for Decca, as did the Kestrels for one of their singles. Produced by Johnny Keating, this is a cover of a 1951 US military syle number first recorded by Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra in 1951. Strange record, but not on Youtube, so here is the Monroe version.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QQBBPc6hp0
5. Three Barry Sisters - Tall Paul. B side - Duane Eddy - The Lonely One.
John Spencely mentioned to me that he's got a demo in his collection which has a Decca record on one side and a London record on the other side. Here's another one (maybe the same one for all I know). The Three Barry Sisters sometimes recorded with John Barry (aka Johnny Prendy) and released four singles on Decca, including this fairly dire cover of a song which was recorded by Annette (Funicello) and came out in the UK on Gala. The Lonely One was Duane Eddy's fourth UK 45 and I also have a one sided London demo of the record, so why also issue a double sider? Who knows.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rwMZ20T3SE
6. Jack Jones - Love Bug/ And I love Her.
Finally a demo from a middle of the road singer who I have never even considered to be worth listening to in the past, but John S persuaded me that his version of The Race Is On is pretty good. So too is his Love Bug, although the only version I can find on Youtube is by George, rather than Jack, Jones. You'll just have to take my word for it. The B side is the Lennon and McCartney song (which IS on Youtube)..   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQPYO01e7FQ&list=PLFF4C69DB9D32DED7   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBXtxbo6aug

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vinyl finds - Little Booker and others

As usual I spent Sunday morning searching for vinyl at a car boot sale and it proved to be a successful couple of hours. There were a couple of 45s worth a mention, and a listen, the first of which is this great rocker on the original US Ace label.
1. Little Booker - Open The Door/ Teen Age Rock.
This is, of course, James Booker, but on the A side he shows that he can sing like Little Richard as well as play piano and organ amazingly. The B side is an excellent rocking instrumental.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRDVQ4-ZsNk    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgxjgtmXWYk
2. Keith Relf - Mr Zero/ Knowing
Keith Relf was of course the lead singer and harmonica player with the Yardbirds, but when the band broke up he made a couple of solo records including this one, a folky song written by Bob Lind which failed to make the top 30. It's worth around £60 these days.     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SwXpijNlxc

3. Geoff Bradford - Rockin' The Blues LP
I confess that I was unaware of the key role played by Geoff Bradford in the UK blues boom of the 1960s, largely because he recorded very little. But, as he says, himself, he was very nearly a Rolling Stone.  After playing in a skiffle group, the Sunrisers, in the late 50s, Geoff played at the Roundhouse blues club in Soho which was run by Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. After joining a band called Blues By Six, led by Brian Jones and which included Charlie Watts on drums, Geoff played in Cyril Davies' All Stars and, after Cyril's deatrh, with Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men before fading from view. This 1979 LP was one of only a handful of records to bear his name and shows what a good guitarist he was. Geoff appeared on the Channel 4 programme Living With the Blues and here he plays Drop Down Mama, one of the tracks on the LP.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8NbudEOhYI
The photo above shows some of the other LPs I found, many of which were Louisiana zydeco and blues albums. They included Slim Harpo's Trigger Finger, a highly collectable Blue Horizon LP worth £135 in mint condition. There's also a German issue of the American Folk Blues Festival tour of 1963, with a great photo section, featuring Memphis Slim, Big Joe Williams, Willie Dixon, Victoria Spivey, Matt 'Guitar' Murphy. Sonny Boy Williamson, Otis Spann, Lonnie Johnson, Bill Stepney and Muddy Waters. I well remember seeing this great line-up at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. There's also a lovely copy of the first Platters LP on Mercury and a Jimmy Witherspoon LP on Crown.