Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Things look bleak for Phil

It hurts to say it, as a long term fan of his music if not his character, but things look bleak for Phil Spector as his trial enters its sixth week. No fewer than four women have testified that he pulled a gun on them in the past, and the evidence of his driver sitting outside his house where Lana Clarkson died looks pretty damning. Of course, in America anything can happen and he may get off (remember O J Simpson) but that would be a major surprise. By all accounts he looks like a broken man in court, although that may be part of the defence plan of course. For ghouls among you there's a feast of news here http://www.tabloidcolumn.com/phil-spector.html

Let us instead remember Spector's contribution to popular music - from the Teddy Bears, to the Philles 'wall of sound' years with fantastic records by the Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love, Ike and Tina Turner and the Righteous Brothers among others, through to his later work with Dion, for example. Of course, we knew he was a flawed genius, perhaps a potentially murderous one, through Ronnie Spector's revelations. Yet we sort of forgave him because of the music. It's all over now for Phil though, whether he's found guilty of not. To know him, sadly, is not to love him.

PS Phil deserves life for his hairdo, if nothing else. Alan Lloyd eat your heart out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bits and pieces

Some good news about Bo Diddley. Seems he's now out of intensive care and is unaffected by the stroke he suffered apart from some difficulty with his speech. Apparently he was well enough to ask his manager where his guitar was - and where his money was for the gig!

More good news too, of course, about Fats Domino, who played his first show in two years - and his first since Katrina - at the House of Blues in New Orleans on Saturday. Wish I'd been there, but maybe we will get to see the great man again some time.

Southern soul fans reading this might like to take a look at an excellent article on Shirley Brown (see picture) that I came across via the SoulfulDetroit.com website. See it here http://www.soulexpress.net/shirleybrown.htm

I'm also attaching a photo of Dennis Coffey that I took at the Circle Bar in New Orleans while I was there. Brilliant guitarist.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More top tens

My personal top tens from around this date 1960-65:
May 19, 1960: 1. Robot man - Connie Francis; 2. Three steps to heaven - Eddie Cochran; 3. Got a girl - Four preps; 4. Let the little girl dance - Billy Bland; 5. What in the world's come over you - Jack Scott; 6. Sing like an angel - Jerry Lordan; 7. I love the way you love - Marv Johnson; 8. Ain't misbehaving - Tommy Bruce; 9. He'll have to go - Jim Reeves; 10. Kookie Kookie - Ed Byrnes & Connie Stevens.
May 20, 1961: 1. Little devil - Neil Sedaka; 2. Running scared - Roy Orbison; 3. Surrender - Elvis Presley; 4. That's old fashioned - Everly Brothers; 5. Lullaby of the leaves - Ventures; 6= Travellin' man - Ricky Nelson, and More than I can say - Bobby Vee; 8. Hello Mary Lou - Ricky Nelson; 9. Brass buttons - String-alongs; 10. Good good lovin' - Chubby Checker.
May 19, 1962: 1. Soldier boy - Shirelles; 2. Good luck charm - Elvis Presley; 3. How can I meet her - Everly Brothers; 4. I was born to cry - Dion; 5. Sing - Jackie Wilson; 6. Salvation - Johnny & the Hurricanes; 7. Deep in the heart of Texas - Duane Eddy; 8. Mashed potato time - Dee Dee Sharpe; 9. It keeps right on a 'hurtin' - Johnny Tillotson; 10. Run romance run - Bruce Channel.
May 21, 1963: 1. Another Saturday night - Sam Cooke; 2. This little girl - Dion; 3. Hot pastrami - Joey Dee & the Starliters; 4- Falling - Roy Orbison, Foolish little girl - Shirelles and Teenage letter - Jerry Lee Lewis; 7= You can't sit down - Dovells, and There goes my heart again - Fats Domino; 9= It's my party - Lesley Gore, Ask me - Maxine Brown, Ups and downs of love - Freddy Cannon, and Who do you love - Ronnie Hawkins.
May 20, 1964: 1. My guy - Mary Wells; 2. No particular place to go - Chuck Berry; 3. You're a wonderful one - Marvin Gaye; 4. Shoop shoop song - Betty Everett; 5. Mona - Bo Diddley; 6. Long tall shorty - Tommy Tucker; 7. Dead man's curve - Jan & Dean; 8. I'm so proud - Impessions; 9. The way you do the things you do - Temptations; 10. Sha-la-la - Shirelles.
May 20, 1965: 1. Mr Pitiful - Otis Redding; 2. The price of love - Everly Brothers; 3. People get ready - Impressions; 4. Why don't you do right - Fats Domino; 5. It ain't me babe - Johnny Cash; 6. It's got the whole world shaking - Sam Cooke; 7. We're gonna make it - Little Milton; 8. The entertainer - Tony Clarke; 9. I'll be doggone - Marvin Gaye; 10. Back in my arms again - Supremes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Carol Johnson of The Exciters

Former Exciters member Carol Johnson has died aged 62. The Exciters were one of the best girl groups of the sixties, with a string of hits written by top songwriters like Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich that lived up to their stage name including Tell Him, He's Got the Power, Get Him, the original of Do Wah Diddy Diddy and a remake of A Little Bit of Soap (a copy of which I coincidentally bought yesterday in Reckless's continuing closing down sale). They included a male member in Herb Rooney, but their records had the classic sixties girl group sound. They also made history by recording what was probably the first full colour pop video (see it on YouTube here http://youtube.com/watch?v=ah-tui1ubnU ) for a jukebox company. Carol left the group before their disco hits of the seventies, but was a key group member in their glory years.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lost New Orleans soul - Tony Owens

The Ponderosa Stomp regularly uncovers obscure artists who have been all but forgotten. This year one such act was Tony Owens, a New Orleans native new to me who recorded a number of soul singles in the 60s and 70s, beginning with I got soul on the Soul Sound label in 1966. He had a couple of further 45s on Soulin' in the late 60s - Wishing waiting hoping and Confessin' a feeling (the latter was successful enough to be picked up by Cotillion) - and later recorded for Sansu. Tony's This heart can't take no more was included on Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Vol 4. An imposing man with a big soulful voice, he was apparently driving a horse drawn tourist carriage around New Orleans until recently. Hopefully the Stomp can give a boost to his comeback, and maybe we will get to hear more from him in the future. The photo shows Tony with Wardell Querzerque.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Some pictures from Jazzfest

Jean Knight, Clarence Frogman Henry, Irma Thomas, Big Al Carson, Lucky Peterson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Richie Havens and Jill Scott.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival

Breaux Bridge - a small town a few miles east of Lafayette, Louisiana - proudly claims to be the crawfish capital of the world. To celebrate this proud boast, the town holds an annual festival where all things crawfish are available. There's a celebrity crawfish eating competition, crawfish races, a crawfish etouffee cook-off and crawfish cooked in a variety of ways, along with a fairground and craft stalls. It's a festival for the local Cajun community and the music reflects that.

On this, my first visit - the Friday evening - , I saw the Li'l Band of Gold comprising local musicians including Steve Riley, C C Adcock, 70 year old Warren Storm, whose hair continues to be fiercely black (how does he do it?) and songwriter David Egan, fresh from their free concert in New Orleans the previous night. Next on was Geno Delafose and French Rocking Boogie, one of the best zydeco bands around, who got the locals dancing in great numbers, while on the second stage was local favourite Don Rich, who wasn't really to my taste. Anyone who starts his act with America the Beautiful loses my vote. The following day it was the turn of Steve Riley again (pictured), this time with his Cajun band the Mamou Playboys, who also stirred the audience onto the dance floor.

Overall, it's a laid back festival with a local flavour, and just great if you like Cajun music - and crawfish.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Legends of Swamp Pop

There are Ponderosa Stomp related concerts all over New Orleans this week. Last night's free concert in Jackson Square was the best of the lot - the Legends of Swamp Pop with the Louisiana super group Li'l Band o' Gold, featuring, among others C C Adcock and Steve Riley. It was an excellent set with appearances by true swamp legends - Tommy McLain, Rod Bernard (pictured right) and Lazy Lester, plus a couple of high energy numbers from Roy Head. This was true value for money!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ernie K-Doe's memory lives on

The great thing about New Orleans is that the unexpected happens. So it was on Saturday evening after the second day of Jazzfest. My girlfriend heard about this regular poetry and music evening at a little bar near what used to be the 9th Ward until it was flattened after Katrina. Turned out to be a really interesting 60s style soiree with Mardi Gras indian music, some soul, a Ukrainian singer who skrieked and some poetry reading, washed down with some wine.
Afterwards we went to the Mother in Law Lounge, which used to be New Orleans R&B singer Ernie K-Doe's club before his death in 2001. When I last went there he was sat on a throne looking somewhat bemused (ie drunk) and he performed a strange if riveting version of Jerry Butler's I Stand Accused. The club was run down and dirty and my friend and I were the only people in there. Now, however, the club is trendy and crowded. Ernie's widow Antoinette has turned it into a shrine to her late husband - The Emperor of the Universe as he is modestly dubbed - and there are 'Baby K-Doe' cushions and other souvenirs on sale. Musicians go there - C C Adcock was there on Saturday - and business is booming. Fantastic. Photo shows a life size mannequin of Ernie that can be seen at the club.

Ponderosa Stomp

The Ponderosa Stomp. What can you say about this fantastic event? It's billed as '1 night of insane rock and roll', but it's much more than that, with blues, swamp pop, soul, funk and New Orleans rhythm and blues as well. This is the 6th Stomp and it's back in New Orleans, having been evacuated to Memphis last year after Katrina. The House of Blues proved to be the perfect venue, with three stages going simultaneously.
It's hard to know where to start, but a few of the many highlights included: Dave Bartholomew, the godfather of rock and roll, appearing at the age of 88 and still blowing his trumpet. The R and B review conducted by Big Easy music meastro Wardell Querzerque also featured Jean Knight, Tony Owens (a name new to me but an excellent soul singer) and a rare performance by Robert Parker of his big hit Bare Footin'. There was also a guest appearance from Allen Toussaint and Herb Hardesty, Fats Domino's sax player, was hard at work selling CDs.
Barbara Lynn , a southpaw guitarist and swamp pop queen, was great in her set, including her hit You'll Lose a Good Thing, while Roy Head was over the top - and on the floor literally - with his Treat Her Right. There was some rockabilly from Dale Hawkins and Joe Clay, both of whom were excellent, and some top New Orleans funk from Willie Tee, with guest artist Tami Lynn. Then there was Stax guitar artist Dennis Coffey, swamp bluesman Lazy Lester, high pitched jazzy stuff from Little Jimmy Scott, obscure white blues from Skip Easterling (pictured), acoustic blues from Rockie Charles and, quietening things down a bit, some great songs from the Dan Penn songbook. There was also some swamp pop from Jay Chevalier and Grace Broussard (one half of Dale and Grace who hit big with I'm Leaving it up to you in 1963), Tex Mex with Augie Meyers and some 60s garage punk from Roky Erickson formerly of the 13th Floor Elevators.
Dr Ike and the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau have seen this event thrive and prosper over the last six years. He's managed to showcase half forgotten names from the 50s and 60s and given us an opportunity to see stars of the past that we never thought we would experience. A fantastic evening. Let the Stomp continue

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Soul queens in New Orleans

Day 3 of Jazzfest and another beautiful day. Probably the best day of the entire festival. Kicked off with local favourite Jean Knight who rocked through her big hits Mr Big Stuff and Toot toot, then on to another long term favourite Clarence Frogman Henry, still going strong despite being confned mostly to a wheelchair these days. Next was Marcia Ball who delivered some first rate New Orleans R and B as ever. Her rendition of Louisiana 1927, recallint the great floods of that year, brought a tear to the eye post-Katrina. One of the highlights for me was Jerry Lee Lewis, fresh from his success with the Last Man Standing CD. He rocked through Roll Over Beethoven, Chantilly Lace, Drinking wine spodie-odi and a couple of country numbers and was in fine form, but sadly the scheduling meant that I had to leave half way through to catch the wonderful Irma Thomas. Looking and sounding great I arrived in time for what is now her anthem Time is on my side and she finished off as usual with Simply The Best. From the Soul Queen of New Orleans to the Queen of New York Soul Jill Scott. A largely black audience just loved her jazzy big voiced numbers. A great day and as ever many many acts that I would have loved to see if only there was time.