Monday, January 25, 2010

Busy time in the Woods

This is the busiest time of the year for Keith Woods, the eponymous figurehead of the Tales from The Woods roots music collective. Not content with organising one event at the 100 Club in London he is organising two - a week apart. The first was a tribute to Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent - 50 years after their UK tour - and the second is his fourth tribute to the famous 2Is coffee bar where British rock and roll was born.
I wasn't able to attend the first TFTW event, but here are some comments from David Carroll, who was there for part of it: I saw two sets, the first of which was by Graham Fenton (Matchbox) with the TFTW Houseband. They sounded pretty good to me; John Spencely was particularly impressive, I thought. The other set was by Ervin Travis (from France) and his band (also from France?) performing songs by Gene Vincent. The similarity was spooky or uncanny if you prefer - he even had Vincent's eyes (fortunately he hadn't copied the aural deficiency of the other Vincent). This band was too loud for my liking. However, with the evening being a celebration of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, I felt that it was probably in the top three TFTW promotions so far.
I intend to go to the second event next Sunday, which is more to my taste, where the line up includes the great Margaret Lewis (pictured at the second 2Is event a couple of years ago), Roy Young, Tony Sheridan, Howie Casey, Terry Dene, Out of the Shadows (with Brian 'Licorice' Locking and Clem Cattini), Wee Willie Harris and Ray Duval.
Talking of line ups, the early news for this year's Porretta Soul Festival is that it will include Clay Hammond & Bruce James, Barbara Lynn, Candi Staton, Chick Rodgers, Theodis Ealey and Swamp Dogg. I'm not familiar with Chick or Theodis but Dave's research reveals that Melvia 'Chick' Rodgers (pictured) was born in Memphis and moved to Chicago where she came under the patronage/tutelage of Koko Taylor (Koko's daughter is her manager). There are various clips on YouTube showing her singing gospel at the Chicago Blues festival with her Gospel Harmonizers and singing blues and soul with a Dutch blues band. It appears that she has visited Holland at least twice and Dave reckons that, subject to the quality of the chosen material, she would be well worth seeing. As for Theodis Ealey, Dave has two CDs by him, Headed Back to Hurtsville and Stuck Between Rhythm and Blues, and he rates him as a soul.blues performer.
A few Final Words as usual: Robert 'Squirrel' Lester of the Chi-Lites has died aged 67; well known rocksteady performer Lynn Taitt has died aged 75 (here's a photo of his collectable 1968 LP on Bigshot); folk singer Kate McGarrigle (mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright) passed away aged 63, and country singer Carl Smith died aged 82. The list goes on and on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Music death toll continues

The toll of music deaths in this new year shows no sign of abating with the departures of yet more stars to music heaven.
Teddy Pendergrass had one of the sweetest voices in soul music. His classic recordings as lead singer of Harold Melcin and the Blue Notes, including I Miss You and If You Don't Know Me By Now, were among the greatest soul sides ever recorded, and his solo work, including such smooth soul ballads as Love TKO, Close The Door and Turn Off The Lights epitomised the sexy sultry side of seventies soul. Paralysed from the waist down following an accident in his Rolls Royce in 1982 he continued to record intermittently but was fairly inactive in recent years. He was just 59. This is his obit in The Times
Bobby Charles was one of Lousiana's - and rock and roll's - great innovators. He wrote See You Later Alligator, Walkin' To New Orleans, The Jealous Kind and But I Do but never achieved worldwide fame for himself, despite some fine recordings, and rarely performed live. He was scheduled to appear at Jazzfest in 2007 and I awaited his performance with expectation but he failed to appear. Dr John and Marcia Ball appeared as his 'friends' instead. Apparently he has just completed a new album dedicated to Fate Domino which will be out next month. Here's a quite brilliant obituary on Bobby on

Other recent deaths include Memphis born blues singer Sandra Wright, and Mick Green, formerly of the Pirates. The list goes on and on.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sam Cooke - Crossing Over

I see there is a documentary on Sam Cooke being aired on American TV on Monday. Hope it arrives here in the UK some time soon. Some details here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Willie Mitchell and Earl Gaines

2010 has started badly for the world of music with the deaths of Willie Mitchell and Earl Gaines.
Willie Mitchell, who was 81, was a true giant of Memphis soul, both as a musician (he played trumpet) and producer of the fantastic Hi sounds of Al Green, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and her husband Don Bryant. After a string of hits under his own name, including 20-75, Everything Is Gonna Be Alright, Bad Eye and Soul Serenade, he took over as producer at Hi where he produced the most exquisite soul music to emerge in the seventies, backed by the fabulous Hi Rhythm Section. I had the great pleasure to visit the Royal Studios in Memphis with John Howard in 1998 and we were greeted at the entrance by Willie himself as though we were old friends. We were shown around the studio by William Brown, formerly of the Mad Lads, who was setting up a recording session for Otis Clay, who later arrived with Scott Billington of Black Top Records. Here's Willie's obituary in the Memphis Commercial Appeal and from The Times
Another death, on New Year's Eve, was that of Earl Gaines, who was 74. Earl recorded initially for Excello, where he had his biggest hit It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day) and although he recorded for a variety of labels including Hollywood, DeLuxe and Seventy Seven he never made it as big again. He continued to perform though and I remember some memorable performances including one at the Blues Estafette as one of the Excello Legends in the nineties.
A further death near the end of 2009 was that of Kenny Dino, who 60s pop lovers may recall as the originator of Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Maxine RIP

Most people who know me will have met Maxine (sometimes known as Lex) over the last eight years or so. Sadly Maxine fell ill with brain cancer at the end of 2008 and had a tumour removed just before Christmas of that year. She struggled against her illness throughout 2009 but tragically passed away on December 27th leaving a nine year old son.
Although much younger than me, Maxine loved much of the same music that I love and she came with me to Louisiana twice and also to Porretta a couple of times and various gigs in London.
I haven't published many photos of her on the blog, but as a tribute to a beautiful and remarkable lady I have selected some music related pictures from the last few years. First, here's a photo of Irma Thomas, Maxine and me at Porretta, 2006. Maxine loved Irma's music.
And here's Maxine with Art Neville following the Neville Brothers' performance at Porretta in the same year.
Maxine came to New Orleans Jazzfest with me several times and here's a photo of her in 2007.
That year we joined up with the Stompin' US group sveral times, including the alligator trip down in the Louisiana bayous.
Here's a photo of Maxine and me at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2007.
Here she is with Austin Delone and Jimmy McCracklin.
We had a great time on the Stompin' USA trip of 2008. Here's a group picture taken at Tutwiler, where W C Handy apparently discovered the blues and close to where Sonny Boy Williamson is buried.
One of the highlights was a visit to Dick Waterman's house in Oxford, Mississippi, where we all listened intently to his fund of stories about music greats through the years. Here's Max with Dick.
And here's a photo of her at a rain soaked Jazzfest.
The Ponderosa Stomp was brilliant that year, as ever. Here's a photo of Maxine with Ralph 'Soul' Jackson.
Finally, here's a photo of Maxine and me on our last overseas trip together, to San Francisco in October 2008. It's taken on the ferry that goes across the bay to Alcatraz.