Monday, January 07, 2008

Stompin' to Juke Box Jury

Another new year and I'm looking forward to catching some good music this year. I've decided to join the Stompin' USA trip along with my girlfriend and will be taking in the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Jazzfest and the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans and the Beale Street festival in Memphis among others. Not sure who will be performing yet, except in the case of the Ponderosa Stomp, where the acts I'm eagerly awaiting seeing include Ronnie Spector, Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las, ? and the Mysterians, Syl Johnson, the Collins Kids, William Bell, Bobby Parker, Barbara Lynn, Eddie Bo, Roscoe Robinson and a load more. The Juke Joint Festival looks interesting. I remember visiting Clarksdale in 2005 when three of us went to the Hopson Plantation and saw some great blues. I had my photo taken with Pinetop Perkins, aged 94. He wasn't playing though because his daddy said that he shouldn't perform on Sundays and he always did what his daddy said. After a quick stop at the famous Crossroads, we went on to Red's Lounge which was a real juke joint, with some more great blues. I hope to check out one or two blues clubs in Memphis as well, and go to Shreveport to investigate the legendary Lousiana Hayride. All in all I can't wait.

Meanwhile BBC Four is running a series on pop music over the decades which seems worth a look. Tonight it's focussing on Top of the Pops and Juke Box Jury, with a programme on the girl group sound tomorrow. TOTP always played the chart hits, which was both its strength and its weakness, as tonight's show from 1968 demonstrates, with performances from important at the time, but basically second rate UK groups, and nothing from Memphis or Detroit.

Juke Box Jury was a must see show back in 1960, despite David Jacobs' very BBC accent and its predictable format. The panel of Nina and Frederick and David McCallum and Jill Ireland showed little appreciation of Johnny Tillotson's classic Poetry in Motion. although they narrowly voted it a hit. Lonnie Donegan's Lively they liked, a dirge like version of Till by someone called Colin Day was deservedly voted a miss while Adam Faith's dreadful Lonely Pup was deemed a miss by the audience after a two all draw from the panel. They loved Sinatra's awful version of Old MacDonald (thus showing their total lack of credibility) and even liked some complete rubbish from Pinky and Perky and voted both hits. They also voted something called Pursuit of Happiness by Adam Wade a hit. What the show clearly demonstrated was that mainstream pop in 1960 was shit. There were some great records around, but, Johnny Tillotson aside, they didn't make it onto the play list of JBJ. Jacobs in his suave way clearly had a better idea of what made a hit than his panel but was much too polite to say so. The only memorable line I can remember from JBJ was from Katie Boyle (a mainstay of panel shows in those days) who famously said that Freddy Cannon's The Urge was filthy - and she loved it.


At 10:37 pm , Anonymous older said...

you missed the fact that the totp show featured a great selection of fizzy pop - amen corner, the move and fire brigade, gribo boys the quo -
they all had better hits but apart from Herman's sodding Hermits the rest was not dire
'just Gimme some kind of sign girl' is a classic, dude - though never heard of the singer (I should really say "I dont remember" the singer)

this was the point just before prog - the bands dont know whether to go heavy or stay light but you can see, as they speed their heads off, they all think its a laugh.
I'm just disappointed John Fredd and his Playboy band (in at no 6) weren't on-
I must have seen it another week and bought it after that show

but wow Juke Box Jury was another world - I guessed 1963 but it was 1960 - god, poor blighters - Pinky and Perky

At 11:32 am , Anonymous Nick said...

Maybe I was a bit dismissive of the TOTP offering. Brenton Wood was the singer of Just gimme some kind of sign which was indeed a classic, as was Judy in Disguise by John Fred. I never cared much for the Move, Amen Corner or the Quo - let alone the dreadful Herman's Hermits, but that's because I have always preferred American records. You're right - Juke Box Jury really was another world and the panellists were from a different planet.


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