Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stomp/Beach Boys

"The wait is over" announced the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation as they revealed that this year's stomp will take place at the House of Blues in New Orleans on September 24 and 25. They have yet to announce the line up, but sadly I doubt that I will be there, and from comments on Facebook it's clear that a lot of Stomp fans have been pissed off by the change of date. I will be going to the US in late April to take in some or all of the Festival Louisiane in Lafayette, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and the New Orleans Jazzfest. But the icing on the cake would undoubtedly have been the Stomp. So I am disappointed that it has now been separated from the Fest and the other festivals in the spring.
BBC4 showed a fascinating programme on Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys last night. I love the Beach Boys music and Dennis was an integral part of their best period in the sixties. He was the blond, good looking one, the only genuine surfer in the group, hammering away on the drums with his hair flopping all over the place. But his decline over the ensuing years was the archetypal rock and roll story, marrying and divorcing several times, creativity affected by drink and drugs, slurred appearances on television while other band members looked on in disgust, until his eventual death aged 39 - drowned while under the influence. Of course Brian Wilson was the creative genius of the band and, mixed up though he undoubtedly was, at least he survived. And for that we are all thankful. The Beach Boys were and always will be one of the truly great sixties groups - probably THE greatest of them all.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dale Hawkins RIP

I've been away in the sunshine of Sharm El Sheikh for the last week (30 degrees every day!) so I missed the sad death of Dale Hawkins at the age of 73. There's been a lot written about this rockabilly pioneer who found fame with the classic Susie Q. He never quite found a follow up, despite some good early 45s including La-Do-Dada, Yea-Yea and Liza Jane, all of which were recorded for Checker and released in the UK on the London label. I saw Dale quite a few times, including a great performance at the Tennessee rock and roll club in Wood Green (pictured) and, most recently, at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008. He always put on an excellent show and never failed to entertain.
One other death worthy of note was that of calypso singer Cy Grant at the age of 90. There was a time, back in the 50s, when Cy was rarely off the TV.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The enduring sound of Fury

I haven't been blogging lately and I am off to the sun in Egypt on Saturday so I thought a brief blog entry was in order, but what to write about? There haven't been many music deaths of note lately (not that I'm complaining) apart from Johnny Dankworth who, with wife Cleo Laine, kept the British jazz scene alive for several decades.
So some thoughts about Billy Fury. When I went to Maxine's funeral a couple of weeks ago at Mill Hill Cemetery I came across Billy's grave. To me he was the greatest UK pop singer of the early 60s and indeed he was the only one who regularly made it into my personal top ten during that period. His records during that period included Colette, That's Love, Wondrous Place, A Thousand Stars, Push Push, Don't Worry, Halfway to Paradise, Jealousy, Last Night Was Made For Love and Like I've Never Been Gone.

Ronald Wycherley, to give him his correct name, died tragically young at just 42, the victim of heart weakness contracted as a child when he suffered from rheumatic fever. He was given his name by Larry Parnes (the original Simon Cowell) when he attended a gig in his home town of Birkenhead in 1958 and went on to have 24 top 20 hits. Like Elvis, his stage act was so suggestive that TV companies would sometimes only show him from the waist up. But he had a great voice and, although, he degenerated into recording covers of ballads later in his career, his debut LP The Sound of Fury showed that he had genuine songwriting talent. His career declined during the late 60s but he appeared memorably as Stormy Tempest in That'll Be The day in 1973 with David Essex and Ringo Starr.

Monday, February 01, 2010

2Is 4 show goes down a storm

The fourth 100 Club gig to celebrate the seminal role of London's 2Is coffee bar in the early days of British rock and roll was undoubtedly the best yet. Organiser Keith Woods - he of Tales From The Woods - managed to book acts from as far afield as Germany and Lousiana this time around, and the result was an evening of music that far exceeded previous gigs in terms of quality. What's more, the gig attracted a fair sized crowd, so hopefully Keith will have at least covered his costs.
Topping the bill, and rightly so, was the 'Incredible' Roy Young, whose excellent boogie woogie piano playing has earned him a decent living in the US for the last 30 years. He blasted his way through a selection of Little Richard, Fats Domino and Larry Williams numbers, plus his own composition Big Fat Mama from 1959 - named, apparently, after his mother. As well as being a solo performer Roy was also a former member of Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers and made his name in Hamburg, where he backed a who's who of rock and roll, including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis - and the Beatles. Playing a mean saxophone with Roy Young was Howie Casey, also a veteran of the Hamburg scene. Howie led one of the first Liverpool bands The Seniors and also played with Kingsize Taylor and the Dominos.
Making a guest appearance with Roy Young was the ever popular Chas Hodges, of Chas and Dave.
Margaret Lewis was the undoubted star of the second 2Is show and she made a return appearance - all the way from Shreveport, Louisiana - for this the fourth show. Once again this dimunitive lady made a big impression with a series of rockabilly numbers, including Good Rockin' Tonight and her own Shake A leg, plus her big hit Reconsider Me. Margaret sounds just as good as ever and added a welcome piece of US authenticity in this otherwise UK-centric show.
Strangest act of the night was Tony Sheridan, once associated with The Beatles in their Hamburg days. His set was an odd mixture of rock and roll (Skinny Minnie), R and B (What'd I Say), heavy-ish rock (It's All Right Now), country (Detroit City) and the Beatles (Yesterday). Probably not what the rock and roll fans were expecting, but interesting in its own way, until the end when we nearly needed a man with a hook on the end of a long pole to drag him off.
Providing sterling backing throughout the evening was the Tales From The Woods house band. Here is ace guitarist John Spenceley, with 'Bunter' Clark on drums.
One of the hits - apparently - of the Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent tribute show a week ago was Kevin Sunburst, an energetic Tommy Steele type singer (Why would anyone want to sound like Tommy Steele?)
Returning to the 2Is show after a couple of years was Terry Dene - 1950s alleged 'bad boy' - who played a selection of his original material, including Stairway Of Love and a White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation, plus some rock and roll standards. Backed up superbly by the house band and John Spenceley's excellent guitar work, Terry gave a more than adequate performance and showed that he's still got what it takes.