Saturday, October 29, 2011

Goodbye from the guys and gals

Now then, now then. As it happens, the Vinyl Word lifts a glass to Sir Jimmy Savile, who has died at his home in Leeds at the age of 84. It's hard to exaggerate the importance of Jimmy in the world of pop music in the sixties. I was one of the earliest members of Radio Luxembourg's Teen and Twenty Disc Club (the TTDC) back in around 1961, when Jimmy was a DJ on 208. I had a membership card with a low membership number, but I've no idea what happened to it. Around that time he attempted a pop career with an unsuccessful cover of Ray Stevens' Ahab the Arab.
But it was as a radio presenter and, even more so, as a TV presenter that Jimmy really shone, with his catchphrases, northern affability, dyed hair and track suits. He was, notably, the first presenter of Top of the Pops in 1964 (and also the last when it ended in 2006), a big name on Radio One from 1968 onwards and presenter of the rather naff, but very popular Jim'll Fix It.
A former miner and professional wrestler, he was awarded his knighthood for services to charity, especially money raised through his long distance walks and marathons. I remember in 1972 when I was a local newspaper reporter in Lancashire I met Jimmy, who was one of a number of nutty people who took part in a non-stop walking competition around the motor racing circuit at Aintree. This mad event took places for days - perhaps even weeks - and Jimmy was one of the last to give up. I also recall that on the night Elvis died I tuned into Radio Luxembourg - and there was Jimmy on the line reminiscing about his meetings with The King.
Jimmy was always a strange fish. He doted on his mother - The Duchess - and never married. With his huge cigars, white Rolls Royce and constant cheeriness he came across as somehow rather a lonely person. But he was a big personality in his day and a leading figure in the pop music of the day. So, Jimmy, how's about that then?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some final words

Time to say a final Vinyl Word on a number of recent deaths.
Edmundo Ros, who has died aged 100, made frequent appearances on British TV with his orchestra when I was a kid. Although never in the pop market, he is credited with popularising Latin American music in the UK.
Barry Feinstein, who was 80, was one of rock's most successful photographers, having created over 500 album covers, including iconic photos of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and George Harrison. Photos featured are Dylan's Times They Are A Changin' and Joplin's Pearl.
A couple of bluesman have died: Mojo Buford and Earl Gilliam. Harmonica player George Mojo Buford was 81 and played with Muddy Waters as well as recording a number of solo albums, while Louisiana born pianist Earl Gilliam, who was also 81, was well know as a Texas bluesman, backing many artists and recording one solo album, Texas Doghouse Blues in 2005.
Doowop artist Fred Ferrara sang baritone with Brooklyn Bridge and with the Del Satins, who backed Dion on Runaround Sue, The Wanderer and Lovers Who Wonder, as well as Ernie Maresca on Shout Shout Knock Yourself Out.
Other recent deaths include Marv Tarplin, who was a member of The Miracles, UK folk rock guitarist Bert Jansch, jazzman Pete Rugolo and Country Johnny Mathis. And I mustn't forget Betty Driver (Betty Turpin in Corrie for countless years whose hotpots were world famous) and Colonel Gaddafi, Libyan dictator for a similar length of time. Two more contrasting characters it's hard to imagine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Roy Young rocks at the Half Moon

There's nothing sophisticated or subtle about the music of Roy Young, who played a birthday gig at the Half Moon, Putney, last night. It was straight-ahead rocking boogie woogie from beginning to end as he belted through the Little Richard songbook, with occasional diversions through Larry Williams, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles territory. Roy got his start on Oh Boy in the late 50s when he impressed Jack Good, who was a Little Richard fan. He's played with a who's who of rock and roll, including Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Little Richard himself, and later played with Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.

He's no originator (apart from his own composition Big Fat Mama - dedicated to his mum) but as an interpreter of early rock and roll he's 'incredible' - as his billing puts it. His band gave him great support, especially saxman Howie Casey (pictured below), whose early Liverpool band the Seniors once featured a young Freddie Starr (then known as Freddie Fowell) on vocals, and drummer Paul Gill.

Roy started with Slow Down, the Larry Williams number, but that was one thing he didn't do throughout his set. He showed off his strong boogie woogie playing on a string of Little Richard numbers (Can't Believe You Want To Leave, Bama Lama Bama Lu, Keep a Knockin', Ready Teddy, Hey Hey Hey Hey, She's Got It, Ooh My Soul and, as an encore, Lucille). He interspersed these with a few numbers from Fats Domino (Jambalaya, I'm Ready, Blue Monday and Ain't That A Shame), plus Ray Charles' Mess Around, Chuck Willis' Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes and Jerry Lee's Great Balls of Fire - with audience participation. His voice was getting stretched by the end as he blasted his way through this high octane set, but his piano bashing didn't let up for a moment.

Having seen Roy, Howie and the band at a couple of 2Is shows, I knew what to expect. He didn't disappoint and it was good to see him doing a full length set.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Blind musicians

I was listening to a radio programme for the blind the other day and it struck me that there have been some wonderful blind musicians - especially in the blues field - over the years. Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder spring to mind of course, along with the great Clarence Carter (pictured at Jazzfest 2010), but many of the influential early blues singers were blind. They include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Mississippi Morris and Blind Blake (not exactly hiding their disabilities of course). And then there was Sonny Terry, Little Buster and the partially sighted Sam Myers and, more recently, the late Jeff Healey.
In the jazz field there were Art Tatum, George Shearing, Diane Schuur and Roland Kirk, and in pop Al Hibbler (who had the original hit with Unchained Melody), Jose Feliciano and Ronnie Milsap. In the gospel field the Blind Boys of Alabama and their Mississippi counterparts stood out, as did the Rev Gary Davis. From reggae there's Frankie Paul and from New Orleans there's pianist and singer Henry Butler (pictured at Porretta in 2008).
No doubt there are others and I would be interested in any suggestions.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Catching up

Time to catch up with a few music related things that have been happening. Firsly, there are some deaths to report.

Sylvia Robinson, one half of fifties duo Mickey and Sylvia who made it big with Love Is Strange and who was the godmother of hip hop, has died aged 75. After splitting with Mickey (Baker) she formed All Platinum Records, which had hits with the Moments and Shirley and Company, and had a solo hit with Pillow Talk in 1973. But probably her biggest claim to fame was as co-founder with her husband Joe of Sugar Hill Records, which brought Grand Master Flash and Furious Five - and rap music in general - into the public consciousness.

Another recent death is that of bluesman Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, aged 75. He made his name backing Muddy Waters in the early sixties but had his greatest success as a member of the Legendary Blues Band, along with Pinetop Perkins, which recorded a number of albums in the eighties and nineties, and later as a solo performer.. His last album was Joined At The Hip, with Pinetop, which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2011.

The Vinyl Word also lifts a glass to Jumpin' Jack Neal, original bass player with Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, who can be heard on Be Bop A Lulu.

* A word too about the BBC biopic on the early battles of Shirley Bassey which was broadcast the other night. I have always found Shirley too middle of the road for my tastes, but the rags to riches story of a mixed race girl from Splott who made it big was inspiring, and her portrayal by Ruth Negga (pictured) was excellent.

* Finally, I accidentally omitted a photograph of soul man C P Love in my recent blogs on my US music trip. C P Love's second number was Secondline Home, not Train as I thought.