Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich/Johnny Carter RIP

Ellie Greenwich, one of the greatest of 60s songwriters, has died aged 68. With husband Jeff Barry she wrote many of the genuine pop classics of the era, including Da Doo Ron Ron, Be My Baby, Leader of the Pack, River Deep - Mountain High, Then He Kissed Me, Baby I Love You, Doo Wah Diddy Diddy, Chapel of Love - the list just goes on and on. Ellie was one of the many great songwriters based in the Brill Building in New York, but also found success as a member of the Raindrops and as a solo singer, with records such as I Don't Wanna be Left Outside and Maybe I Know. Here is Ellie's obituary in The Times ttp://
Also no longer with us is Johnny Carter, one of the founding members of the Flamingos, who joined the Dells in 1960 and whose smooth tenor voice can be heard on great tracks such as Stay In My Corner and Oh What a Night. He died aged 75.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Divison two

A frustrating weekend music wise. On Saturday I attempted to see a US soul band called the Contollers, about whom I know little, at the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel, but when we got there we discovered that the gig was off. It seems our wonderful immigration people had turned them away at the airport, having travelled from Alabama, because they had the wrong kind of visa. Would this have happened if they hadn't happened to be black, I wonder? So we listened to some Northern soul records for a bit before sliding away. Now we are waiting to see if we get a refund. I have my doubts.
On Sunday evening I went to the Tales From the Woods gig in Ladbroke Grove to celebrate Tony Annis's birthday. It was definitely Division Two, if not Blue Square League, in terms of quality and featured the usual mostly British rockers and country singers who feature in TFTW gigs. Keith is to be congratulated for putting these shows on, and I'm sure that those who were there enjoyed it, but. with one or two exceptions, it was a case of gritting your teeth and singing along to much loved numbers. My photo shows red headed New Orleans diva Corliss Randall in full flow. Corliss is great to watch and totally OTT, swearing at the band and getting down - literally - as her emotion takes over. But she was struggling in this setting: the crowd wanted straight ahead 50s rock and roll, which they got from the likes of Wee Willie Harris, Danny Rivers and, er, Rockin' Gerry.

Friday, August 21, 2009


One of the most valuable rock and roll records, according to the Rare Record Guide, is Bop-a-lena by Ronnie Self. It's a wild, raw, raucous piece of rockabilly and it's hardly surprising that it's highly collectable. But what makes it unusual is that it was a 78, issued on the Philips label, and was never put out at the time as a 45. Mint copies go for £250 according to the guide.
I came across the record today in a charity shop - also on Philips - but the copy I found is a 45 and was issued in Greece. It was hidden among a pile of old ethnic Greek singles and is in excellent condition. Bop-a-lena is a great piece of rock and roll, and equally exciting is the B side Ain't I'm a Dog, which was apparently Ronnie's previous single on the US Columbia label but issued here, and in Greece, as the B side of the follow up Bop-a-lena. How much is this record worth I wonder? Difficult to tell, since foreign issues are not listed in the guide, but I would be interested to know what rockabilly enthusiasts think. It's certainly a rarity - and a very exciting record.
Here's Ronnie's details as detailed on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jim Dickinson RIP

Memphis music legend Jim Dickinson has died aged 67. Although hardly a household name, his career spans just about every aspect of Memphis music and takes up a good chunk of Robert Gordon's book 'It came from Memphis'. According to Gordon, Dickinson 'lives deep in the Mississippi woods, where he smokes spider webs, eats rattlesnake meat, and fends off voodoo spirits with possum tails. Or so those who don't know would have you believe.'
Whatever the truth, Jim's career was undoubtedly varied, from his early involvement with Stax at the very earliest stage of its development, through to his recording of 'Cadillac Man' - reckoned to be the last great record to come out of Sun Studios, to his solo album Dixie Fried, his work with the likes of Alex Chilton's Big Star, Toots Hibbert and Ry Cooder, his involvement with Ardent Studios in Memphis and his best known band Mud Boy and the Neutrons. Not least was his involvement with the Dixie Flyers, which Jerry Wexler used as the Atlantic recording band for works by Aretha Franklin, Delaney and Bonnie, Jerry Jeff Walker, Sam and Dave, Sam the Sham, Lulu and Ronnie Hawkins. Father of two of the North Mississippi All Stars, Jim comes across as a very much larger than life character and his personality is perhaps summed up in a paragraph in his obituary in the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "A gifted raconteur, musical philosopher and cultural historian, Dickinson was a veritable treasure trove of pop arcana and profound theory, capable of finding the cosmic and literal connections between deejay Dewey Phillips and former Mayor Willie Herenton, wrestler Sputnik Monroe and Dr. Martin Luther King .". Here's his obit in The Times
And here, rather belatedly, is the obituary in The Independent of Muscle Shoals musician Barry Beckett, who died on June 10.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul RIP + Willy DeVille

I guess everyone has to die some time, even Les Paul who has died aged 94. He seemed to go on for ever, as various TV shows have shown over the last few years. But time finally caught up with the inventor of the solid bodied Gibson Les Paul guitar, without which rock and roll and everything that followed might have been very different. His hit recordings with wife Mary Ford mostly predated the rock era, but no one can deny his influence on the genre. Here's an early obituary on the NME website: And here are his obits in The Times and Independent
Also no longer with us is Willy DeVille, who is best known in the UK for the Mink DeVille hit Spanish Stroll in the late 70s. Willy, like me, was a huge fan of New Orleans R and B and eventually settled in the Big Easy, where he played with the likes of Earl King, Dr John, Eddie Bo, Allen Toussaint and the Meters, among others. There's a very full entry on Willy on Wikipedia which is worth a look

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


On our recent trip to Porretta four of us went by train to the historic city of Pistoia, 30 or so miles to the south. Here we found a group of old steam engines rusting away in the sidings. We tried to get up close but failed, and the best we managed was some photos from outside the rail yard. The photo shows Alan Lloyd, Dave Carroll and John Jolliffe snapping away. Of course in the UK this would be a magnet for railway enthusiasts, but it seems that in Italy these historic engines have been sitting there neglected since steam was withdrawn nearly 50 years ago.

In the late 50s aged about 12 I was a trainspotter myself, standing on platforms at Clapham Junction and Bromley South as steam hauled trains roared by, taking train numbers at the London termini and going on organised trips to engine sheds such as Old Oak Common, Stratford, Camden and Hornsey. The attraction wore off (to some extent anyway) and steam engines began to be scrapped in their thousands. But in 1968, just before steam ran on British rail lines for the last time, a friend and I made a nostalgic trip to the last bastions of steam - Crewe, Wigan, Preston and Carnforth (with a side trip tp the scrapyard at Barry in south Wales) - to see these locomotives in action for the last time. Here are some black and white photos taken on our trip. Here is Stanier 'black five' 4-6-0 45449 pictured at Springs Branch shed, Wigan.On my trip I was accompanied by my friend John Drummond (left of picture, next to Standard 2-10-0 92212). I wonder whatever happened to him. Abandoned in a scrapyard somewhere (Barry, South Wales perhaps) Standard 71000 4-6-2 'Duke of Gloucester'.Under restoration at Crewe works this is A4 Pacific 4498 'Sir Nigel Gresley'.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Louisiana Music Hall of Fame

Of interest to New Orleans music lovers - here's a story from the Times Picayune.
Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
by Keith Spera, Music writer, The Times-Picayune
Sunday August 02, 2009, 11:18 PM
The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inducted Allen Toussaint, Benny Spellman and the late Ernie K-Doe during a sweaty Sunday night ceremony at K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge.
Dozens of fans crammed into the cozy, eclectic lounge, whose exterior walls are decorated with an unofficial hall of fame of New Orleans musical characters.
Of the three inductees, only Toussaint could attend. The ever-colorful K-Doe died in 2001; his wife, Antoinette, who ran the Mother-in-Law Lounge as a shrine to her husband, passed away on Mardi Gras. His daughter accepted his certificate.
Spellman scored a 1962 hit with the Toussaint-penned "Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)" and recorded another Toussaint classic, "Fortune Teller." He now resides in a nursing home in Pensacola, Flor.; his health does not allow him to travel.
So veteran rhythm & blues bandleader and musicians' union president "Deacon" John Moore traveled to Pensacola to personally deliver Spellman's induction certificate. A brief video shown Sunday documented the presentation in Florida.
The ever-dapper Toussaint wore a black suit and tie inside the stifling club. After performing "Mother-in-Law" and "A Certain Girl" -- songs he wrote and K-Doe recorded -- at a keyboard, he retreated to the fresh air outside. Fans quickly crowded around with items for Toussaint to sign, including New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival posters bearing his likeness. He accommodated all those who sought autographs and photos.
"For me and K-Doe to rub shoulders again after all these years is perfect," Allen Tousssaint said of his induction alongside the late Ernie K-Doe at the Mother-in-Law Lounge.
Back inside, Deacon John closed out the informal show with "Many Rivers to Cross," a gospel-tinged lament he often performs at funerals and as a conclusion to his show. Attendees then milled about the memorial garden adjacent to the club, munching on cake.
At present, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame is a virtual hall of fame, existing only as a Web site. Organizers hope to one day erect a physical museum.
Until then, Hall of Fame organizers will hold their inductions wherever makes sense. The tiny barroom at the corner of North Claiborne and Columbus is a far cry from the prestigious venues Toussaint -- a 1998 inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- has come to inhabit in recent years. During the 2009 Grammy Awards telecast, he performed for millions of viewers alongside Lil Wayne and Terence Blanchard.
But he thought the setting for Sunday's ceremony was appropriate. He and K-Doe enjoyed a fruitful creative partnership in the 1960s, and Toussaint's own image is painted on an exterior wall of the Mother-in-Law Lounge. He referred to the lounge as "this historic place" where "so much love and heart and soul went into it," courtesy of Antoinette and Ernie K-Doe.
"It is so wonderful for Louisiana to validate its own," Toussaint said of his induction. "And for me and K-Doe to rub shoulders again after all these years is perfect."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Set lists at Porretta

Dave Carroll has put together a list of songs perfomed by some of the acts at Porretta (thanks Dave). So here, for the benefit of those who couldn't make it (and those who could) is his list:
Spencer Wiggins. Saturday: The Kind Of Woman, That's Got No Heart; Take Me Just As I Am; Old Friend (You Asked Me If I Miss Her); Uptight Good Woman; Don't Put No Headstone On My Grave; Key To The Kingdom; Title unknown (a gospel song). Sunday: Title unknown (a different gospel song); Uptight Good Woman
Percy Wiggins. Friday: Let's Stay Together; It Didn't Take Much (For Me To Fall In Love); Book Of Memories; Can't Find Nobody (To Take Your Place); Perfect Gentleman; Sam Cooke medley (Cupid, Wonderful World, Having A Party, Bring It On Home To Me, Cupid). Sunday: Book Of Memories; Can't Find Nobody (To Take Your Place).
J Blackfoot. Saturday: 634-5789; I'm In Love; I Stood On The Sidewalk & I'll Understand (snippets with just Thomas Bingham playing); Hearsay; Soul Man; You Don't Know Like I Know; Who's Making Love; Taxi; I Can't Turn You Loose. Sunday: Soul Man; Taxi.
Oscar Toney Jr. Friday: I Can't Turn You Loose; Dock Of The Bay; Any Day Now; Dark End Of The Street; Mr Pitiful; For Your Precious Love; For The Good Times. Sunday: For Your Precious Love; Dark End Of The Street; Mr Pitiful (all 3 above he started but did not finish); For The Good Times.
Toni Green. Saturday: Title not identified; Dr Feelgood; I Can't Stand The Rain; A Change Is Gonna Come (segued into another song); I Say A Little Prayer; At Last. Sunday: Tell Mama (or perhaps she calls it Tell Toni?); Hold On; Breaking Up Somebody's Home.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Billy Lee Riley passes on

Billy Lee Riley, one of the original wildmen of rockabilly, has died of cancer aged 75. Best known for his Sun hits Flying Saucers Rock and Roll and Red Hot, Billy was born in Arkansas and was signed by Sam Phillips at Sun in 1955. Record sales were disappointing as Sam concentrated on promoting Jerry Lee Lewis instead but Billy's band the Little Green Men became Sun's house band with Billy playing a variety of instruments. He left Sun in 1960, forming the Rita label, which had a hit with Harold Dorman's Mountain of Love. He continued to record during the 60s and was a session musician in LA. Following the rockabilly revival he was rediscovered and made a Grammy nominated album Hot Damn! in 1997 and performed at the Barbican's Memphis season in 2005. Here's his obituary in The Guardian And this one in The Times

A word too in memory of the first gentleman of football Sir Bobby Robson, former England and successful club manager both in England and overseas. No one has ever seemed to have a bad word to say about Sir Bobby and his death from cancer at the age of 76 has been much mourned.