Friday, August 31, 2012

OM by Cecil McCartney

Cecil McCartney is not a name that means much to me musically, but I was intrigued when I came across his Columbia LP OM, from 1968, in a charity shop yesterday. Something told me that it was worth buying - particularly as it cost a mere 30p - and sure enough it turns out to be a collectable hippie style psych folk album. Most of the17  tracks are written by McCartney - apparently a distant cousin of Paul - with the addition of others by Dylan, Paul Simon and Gordon Lightfoot. It's not really to my taste - pretentious nonsense in my opinion - and I've put it on Ebay, but it turns out that Cecil has an interesting back story.
It seems that he was the inspiration for Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album but had a long standing feud with him following an argument in 1989 about whether Myra Hindley's conversion to religion was genuine or not (Cecil thought not). He is best known as a painter and now lives in Ireland. He says that he has sold paintings to such rock luminaries as Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey and Bono and has made a peace offering to Van - an abstract painting called Astral Nano Seconds.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Number twos

Back in June I listed the records that reached number one in my personal top ten between 1960 and 1965. As a follow up, here are the ones that reached number two. A few good ones here.
1960: String along - Fabian; Country boy - Fats Domino; I love the way you love - Marv Johnson; Let the little girl dance - Billy Bland; True love ways - Buddy Holly; When will I be loved - Everly Brothers; Rocking good way - Brook Benton & Dinah Washington; Walk don't run - Ventures; Wondrous place - Billy Fury; You gotta move two mountains - Marv Johnson; Ready for love - Jimmy Jones; Corrine Corrina - Ray Peterson.
1961: Rubber ball - Bobby Vee; Sad mood - Sam Cooke; Ram bunk shush - Ventures; Good time baby - Bobby Rydell; Havin' fun - Dion; Tear of the year - Jackie Wilson; I'm Hurtin' - Roy Orbison; But I do - Clarence Frogman Henry; Lullaby of the leaves - Ventures; Stick with me baby - Everly Brothers; Nature boy - Bobby Darin; Old Smokie - Johnny & the Hurricanes; Tell me that you love me  - Marv Johnson; Without you - Johnny Tillotson; This time - Troy Shondell; Feel it - Sam Cooke; Take five - Dave Brubeck; What a party - Fats Domino; Look at me - Buddy Holly; The avenger - Duane Eddy.
1962: Crying in the rain - Everly Brothers; Mr music man - Jimmy Jones; I got bonnie - Bobby Rydell; Hey little girl - Del Shannon; Young world - Rick Nelson; King of clowns - Neil Sedaka; What'd I say - Bobby Darin; Ginny come lately - Brian Hyland; I was born to cry - Dion; Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon; Havin' a party - Sam Cooke; Seven day weekend - Gary (US) Bonds; The loco-motion - Little Eva; She's not you - Elvis Presley; Wait til the sun shines Nellie - Buddy Holly; Point of no return - Gene McDaniels; Next door to an angel - Neil Sedaka; If you were a rock and roll record - Freddy Cannon; Keep your hands off my baby - Little Eva.
1963: My little girl - Crickets; Tell him - Exciters; Everybody loves a lover - Shirelles; Send me some loving - Sam Cooke; Good golly miss Molly - Jerry Lee Lewis; Do the bird - Dee Dee Sharpe; Two kinds of teardrops - Del Shannon; Don't say nothin' bad - Cookies; This little girl - Dion; Black cloud - Chubby Checker; Shake a hand - Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins; Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley; Patti baby - Freddy Cannon; Wipeout - Surfaris; Not me - Orlons; Don't say goodnight and mean goodbye - Shirelles; Hey girl - Freddie Scott; My boyfriend's back - Angels; Frankie & Johnny - Sam Cooke; Donna the prima donna - Dion; The girl sang the blues- Everly Brothers; Drip drop - Dion.
1964: Can I get a witness - Marvin Gaye; When the lovelight starts shining through his eyes - Supremes; Um um um um um um - Major Lance; Doo wah diddy - Exciters; Heigh ho - Big Dee Irwin; Lewis boogie - Jerry Lee Lewis; Sha la la - Shirelles; No particular place to go - Chuck Berry; Dimples - John Lee Hooker; Romeo and Juliet - Reflections; Evenin' - Jimmy Witherspoon; Mockingbird - Inez Foxx; I want to love him so bad - Jelly Beans; (The best part of) Breakin' up - Ronettes; You never can tell - Chuck Berry; Bread and butter - Newbeats; Oh Pretty woman - Roy Orbison; Rhythm - Major Lance; GTO - Ronny & the Daytonas; That's where it's at - Sam Cooke; Ain't that lovin' you baby - Elvis Presley; How sweet it is - Marvin Gaye; The jerk - Larks.
1965: Little things - Bobby Goldsboro; Don't mess up a good thing - Bobby McClure & Fontella Bass; I'll be doggone - Marvin Gaye; It's got the whole world shakin' - Sam Cooke; The price of love - Everly Brothers; Voodoo woman - Bobby Goldsboro; Wooly bully - Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs; Woman's got soul - Impressions; Respect - Otis Redding; California girls - Beach Boys; Sugar dumplings - Sam Cooke; Rescue me - Fontella Bass.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - Parlophone label

Parlophone's roots go back to 1896 when the label was founded in Germany. In the UK it was launched in 1923 as a jazz label and was, of course, the home in the sixties of the Beatles and other beat groups such as the Hollies, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, the Fourmost and Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. It remains a major label today with acts like Coldplay, Gorillaz and Kylie Minogue.
For my Vinyl Obscurities I am focussing on a dozen of the great American releases from its mauve and, later, red heyday (1953 to 1962), from US labels such as King, Cameo, Ember and Gone. Check out the Youtube links as well.
1. Bonnie Lou - Tennessee Wig Walk/ Just Out of Reach. MSP6048. Mint value £50.
King recording artist Bonnie Lou bridged the gap between country and rock and roll, becoming one of the earliest female stars of the rock era. This 1953 release (one of the earliest 45s to be released in the UK) was her only UK hit, reaching number four. Great B side too - later immortalised by Solomon Burke.
2. Otis Williams & his Charms - Ivory Tower/ In Paradise. CMSP36 (export issue). Mint value £300.
Cincinnati born Otis formed the Charms in 1953 and had doowop hits on Deluxe with Hearts of Stone, Ling Ting Tong and Two Hearts. When the group broke up he formed a new set of Charms and had a further US hit with Ivory Tower, which was covered by Cathy Carr and Gale Storm.
3. Bill Doggett - Slow Walk/ Peacock Alley. R4265. Mint value £15
Best known for Honky Tonk, Bill Doggett was a jazz and R & B pianist and organist who enjoyed considerable success on the King label. Prior to that he played with the Ink Spots, Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris and Louis Jordan.
4. Charlie Gracie - Butterfly/ Ninety nine ways. R4290. Mint value £50.
Charlie needs no introduction as he still performs today and is a regular visitor to the UK. After some early records with Cadillac and 20th Century, he made it big with this excellent double sider on Cameo and had more success with Fabulous, Wandering Eyes, Cool Baby and Crazy Girl, among others.
5.The Silhouettes - Get A Job/ I Am Lonely. R 4407. Mint value £100.
Get A Job was one of the biggest doowop hits of the fifties and its lyrics are still relevant today. Recorded in Philadelphia the group appeared on Dick Clark's Bandstand show several times and the result was a multi million seller - not that the group members (Bill Horton, Raymond Edwards, Earl Beal and Richard Lewis) enjoyed much financial success as a result. It spawned answer discs (including Got A Job by the Miracles) and turned up in several films including American Graffiti, but the band only had one further UK release, Headin' For The Poorhouse, and soon broke up.
6. Little Willie John - Let's Rock While The Rockin's Good/ You're A Sweetheart. R4472. Mint value £70.
Little Willie John is one of my all time R & B favourities and made some wonderful records for King, including Fever, Need Your Love So Bad, All Around The World, Talk To Me, Leave My Kitten Alone and Sleep. This is one of his more upbeat numbers and well up to his usual standard. Such a shame that he was a victim of alcohol abuse, was convicted of manslaughter in 1966 and died, allegedly of a heart attack, in prison in 1968.
7. Bobby Freeman - (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy/ You Don't Understand me. R4684. Mint value £20.
San Franciscan Bobby Freeman had a huge hit with Do You Wanna Dance, which was later covered by everyone from the Beach Boys to Cliff Richard. Similar dance numbers followed, including Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes, Shame On You Miss Johnson and Mary Ann Thomas. In the sixties he had hits with C'Mon and Swim and The Duck. This was his only Parlophone release, recorded for Deluxe in the States.
8. Billy Dolton - Winkie Doll/ Girls R4733. Mint value £15.
This Ricky Nelson styled number, co-written by Jerry Fuller, was apparently an early recording by Glen Campbell. Not a bad one either.
9. Cathy Jean & The Roommates - Please Love Me Forever/ Canadian Sunset. R4764. Mint value £60.
I really like this innocent sounding girl group style record, and the Youtube clip shows that Cathy Jean still has a great voice 50 years later. But apparently New York-born Cathy, who was just 14 at the time, never met the original Roommates, who were brought in by Valmor label owner Jody Malis to overdub the harmony. It still sounds fresh today.
10. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters - The Continental Walk/ What Is This I See. R4771. Mint value £30.
One of the all time R & B greats, King recording star Hank Ballard had several brilliant releases on Parlophone, including the original version of The Twist, Finger Poppin' Time, Let's Go Let's Go Let's Go and Let's Go Again. But this one is a bit different: as you can see from the photo it came with a pull-out sheet explaining the dance steps for The Continental Walk. Altogether now, you put your left foot in... Great B side too.
11. Bobby Lewis - Tossin' and turnin'/ Oh Yes I Love You. R4794. Mint value £20.
Born in Indianapolis and raised in an orphanage, Bobby moved to Detroit aged 12 and met Ritchie Adams of the Fireflies, who co-wrote this monster hit, which was the biggest US single of 1961 staying at number one for seven weeks. Amazingly it didn't do a thing in the UK. Bobby had a great follow up in One Track Mind, but soon faded from view.
12. Ral Donner - Please Don't Go/ I Didn't Figure On Him. R4859. Mint value £25.
Elvis sound-alike Ral Donner is best known for his hit You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It) and his cover of The Girl Of My Best Friend. After a couple more records for Gone and then Reprise and Red Bird Ral disappeared from the scene, but narrated Presley's voice in the 1981 film This Is Elvis.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Instrumentals on Ebay

Guitar instrumentals were big in the early sixties. First there was Duane Eddy, and then the Shadows, the Ventures and the Fireballs, as well as solo guitarists such as Bert Weedon and Rhet Stoller. It seems that Sweden was a happy hunting ground for guitar groups at the time, with bands like the Spotnicks and the Shanes having hits around Europe.
I bought several guitar-led LPs yesterday, some of which I have put on Ebay because, to be honest, I find them just a tad samey. Here are some of them (feel free to bid - soulboy1946 is the name):
1. Rhet Stoller - The Incredible Rhet Stoller. Released on the Coronet label.
Rhet Stoller started off on Decca with 45s such as Ventures cover Walk Don't Run and Chariot, but later turned up on obscure UK labels such as Windsor (I have a copy of Ricochet on that label) and Coronet. All the tracks on this 1967 LP are composed, arranged. played and recorded by Rhet (as the cover states).
2. The Spotnicks - The Spotnicks in Spain. Released on Oriole.
This Swedish instrumental group had a string of singles released on Oriole, plus two EPs and 3 LPs, but that's just a fraction of their recorded output. Although bigger elsewhere in the world, they made the UK Top 30 in 1962 with Orange Blossom Special.
3. The Ventures- The Ventures. Released in 1960 on London.
In many ways, the Ventures were the biggest instrumental group of all with hits like Walk Don't Run and Perfidia in the UK and dozens of single and LP hits around the world, especially in Japan, where they were mega stars. This was their first UK LP.
4.  The Shanes - Strictly Instrumental. Swedish Triola label.
The Shanes were huge in Sweden in the mid 1960s and many of their records were guitar based instrumentals. Their one UK release was the vocal I Don't Want Your Love on Columbia (a copy of which I have), which is worth around £70. Not sure when this particular LP was released, but it's available if anyone is interested.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scott McKenzie RIP

Scott McKenzie, the man whose record San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) formed the background music for the summer of love in 1967, has died aged 73. Born Philip Blondheim, Scott teamed up with John Philips (later part of the Mamas and Papas) and two others in the late 50s to form a doowop group, the Abstracts. This group became the Smoothies and recorded a couple of singles for Decca before McKenzie and Philips joined Dick Weissman to form the Journeymen, who recorded a number of albums and singles for Capitol.
After Philips formed the Mamas and Papas, Scott turned down an invitation to join them, but his friendship with Philips paid off as he wrote and co-produced San Francisco and played guitar on the record. It was a smash, reaching number four in the US and number one in the UK. Scott followed it up with Like An Old Time Movie, also written by Philips, and an album The Voice Of Scott McKenzie (see photo). After a second album - Stained Glass Morning - he gave up recording, but joined a re-formed Mamas and Papas in 1986. He retired in 1998.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - HMV label

The His Masters Voice (HMV) logo goes back to the very beginnings of recorded sound - a photograph of the dog Nipper listening to a phonograph cylinder. From the earliest days of rock and roll and through to the late sixties it was one of the major EMI labels, issuing both US and UK records by the likes of Elvis, Danny and the Juniors, Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Sam Cooke, Johnny Kidd, Tommy Roe, Manfred Mann and Fats Domino.
For my HMV Vinyl Obscurities I've ignored these bigger names in the main and am focussing on some of the more obscure artists that had 45s released on the label - with Youtube links as usual.
1. Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones - Rocket/ Penny Loafers And Bobby Socks. Mint value £200.
This rockabilly group from Spartanburg, South Carolina, had just two releases on HMV (the other was Black Slacks) and both are highly collectable. This double sider was their second and last hit and the band broke up in late 1958, although some further US releases were issued under the band's name the following year but only Joe and Wayne Arthur of the original Sparkletones were featured. Both sides are excellent and worth a listen.
 2. Mike Sagar & the Cresters - Deep Feeling/ You Know. Mint value £20.
This light pop number from 1960 was the first record by this Leeds-based group. Later there were a couple of 45s just attributed to the Cresters and one to group member Richard Harding. Mike is still performing today I believe.
 3. Jo Ann Campbell - Motorcycle Michael/ Puka Puka Pants. Mint value £20.
 Florida born Jo Ann was known as the Blonde Bombshell and had several US hits between 1958 and 1963, the biggest being The Girl From Wolverton Mountain - answer song to the Claude King hit. Motorcycle Michael, with appropriate sound effects, is a poppy number about a girl who is fed up with looking at the back of her boyfriend's head. God only knows what puka puka pants were.
 4. Bobby Angelo & the Tuxedos - Baby Sittin'/ Skinny Lizzie. Mint value £20.
This UK rocker still gets quite a few plays today. The band were from the Kingston on Thames area and this was quite a major hit across Europe. But they only had one further record released before breaking up.
 5. Philip Upchurch Combo - You Can't Sit Down parts 1 & 2. Mint value £35.
Later released on the Sue label, this driving instrumental is a classic, featuring jazz and R and B guitarist Phil Upchurch, who played with the likes of the Dells, Curtis Mayfield, Cannonball Adderley and Jimmy Reed.
6. Barry Mann - Who Put The Bomp/ Love, True Love. Mint value £30.
This light hearted tribute to the doowop sound of groups like the Marcels and the Edsels was co-written with Geoff Goffin. But Barry enjoyed his greatest songwriting success with Cynthia Weil, on dozens of classics by the Crystals, Ronettes, Paul Revere, Jay and the Americans, the Drifters and the Righteous Brothers among others.

 7. The Impressions - Gypsy Woman/ As Long As You Love Me. Mint value £40.
OK, so this isn't particularly obscure, but this great record launched Curtis Mayfield's career after the break with Jerry Butler and the rest is history as they say. Later covers of the song were made by Major Lance, Brian Hyland and Bruce Springsteen to name a few.
 8. The Blue-Belles - I Sold My Heart To The Junkman/ Itty Bitty Twist. Mint value £25.
This song was written by Leon Rene (who also wrote Rockin' Robin) and first appeared in the 1940s, but there is debate over whether it really was Patti Labelle who sang lead. It was recorded by a group called the Starlets, but when it was released it was attribued to the Blue-Belles, possibly with Patti being added as lead vocal. Either way, Patti and her Belles went on to greatness but little more was heard of the Starlets. 
 9. The U.K.s - Your Love Is All I Want/ Ever Faithful, Ever True. Mint value £25.
Little seems to be known about this rather obscure freakbeat number from 1964, but from what I have gleaned the band came from the High Wycombe area and the lead singer was Tony Bailey. This was the official B side, but the A side is boring by comparison. Does anyone have any further info?
 10. The Marvels Five - Don't Play That Song (You Lied)/ Forgive. Mint value £15.
This one is equally obscure. It's a decent cover of the Ben E King song by a UK group produced by Don Charles of Joe Meek fame - but I haven't been able to find out much about the group. The B-side - a soulful number written by 'Edwards' - may relate to Wilfred 'Jackie' Edwards. But again, if anyone has any information, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carl Davis, architect of Chicago soul, dies

Carl Davis, the record producer who invented Chicago soul and who was one of the truly great record men, has died aged 77. He was the man behind some of the greatest soul hits of the sixties by the likes of Gene Chandler, Major Lance, Jackie Wilson and the Chi-Lites and a lot more besides. His first production success was Gene Chandler's Duke of Earl in 1962 and he followed this up with a version of Stand By Me by Cassius Clay, as he then was. A series of hits by Major Lance followed in the mid sixties.
Davis joined up with Nat Tarnopol - later accused of defrauding his artists - and became head of Brunswick records and its subsidiary Dakar. He revived the career of Jackie Wilson with a series of big hits, including Higher and Higher, Whispers and the Sweetest Feeling using Motown backing artists, and had huge success with Barbara Acklin (Love Makes A Woman), and the Artistics (I'm Gonna Miss You). He also had numerous hits with the Chi-Lites, Gene Chandler, the Dells, Young-Holt and Tyrone Davis, and he went on to own the label. Other acts signed to Brunswick at the time included Billy Butler, Hamilton Bohannon, Erma Franklin, Lavern Baker and Little Richard. When Brunswick/Dakar closed in 1974 Davis set up Chi-Sound records and had further success with Walter Jackson, Gene Chandler (Get Down), The Dells and the Impressions.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Doowop classics

I've been meaning to get round to going to the annual Doowop weekend in Long Island, New York, for quite a while, and at last I've booked my trip. Since the acts performing there made their names in the fifties and early sixties it's only a matter of time before they won't be around any more. As it is, I'm sure that most of the groups will comprise only one or two original members. But it's a chance to see at least some of the doowop greats at first hand, and the line-up looks highly promising.
On day one (November 3) there's Gene Chandler, the Heartbeats, The Chantels, Fred Parris (Five Satins), the Harptones, the Jive Five, the Penguins, Chuck Weldon (Paradons), the Paragons/Jesters, the Capris, the El Dorados, the Swallows, the Olympics, Dicky Doo & the Don'ts, the Volumes and Lewis Lymon. Day two (November 4) features Kenny Vance & the Planotones, Charlie Thomas' Drifters, the Flamingos, the Diablos, the Dubs, the Fidelities, the Mello Kings, Robin Luke, Maurice Williams, David Somerville (Diamonds), Demensions, Jimmy Clanton, Johnny Tillotson, Norman Fox & the Rob Roys, Brenda Reid (Exciters) and Ronnie Dove.
For my latest Vinyl Obscurities selection I'm featuring original US records by some of the acts on the show, along with links to Youtube. Here goes:
1. Jive Five - My True Story/ When I Was Single. Beltone label.
This was released on Parlophone in the UK and valued at £150 in mint condition. Eugene Pitt's superb vocal still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and he's still with the group. A true doowop classic.

 2. The Chantels - Still/ Well I Told You. Carlton label.
The Chantels were the original girl group with some great doowop flavoured records including Maybe, Look In My Eyes and this excellent double sider, which was released on London in the UK (valued at £60). Three of the originals still perform with the group I believe.
 3. The Volumes - I Love You/ Dreams. Chex label.
This great dance record was quite a late doowop effort (released in 1962) and I'm really looking forward to seeing them at the show. Released on Fontana in the UK, this is worth £120 if you're lucky enough to find it.
 4. Gene Chandler - Bet You Never Thought/ Baby That's Love. Constellation label.
Gene made his name as the Duke of Earl - a classic doowop flavoured number released on Veejay - but made a successful crossover to become a soul favourite with recordings for Constellation, Mercury and Brunswick. This release, which surprisingly wasn't released in the UK at the time, shows off the best of both styles (the B side heavily influenced by Sam Cooke's Havin' a Party).
 5. Robin Luke - Bad Boy/ School Bus Love Affair. Dot label.
Robin Luke sang this rare US cover of a UK song (Marty Wilde's original) when he played Hemsby this year. It wasn't released in the UK at the time, and to tell the truth, it's inferior to Marty's version.
 6. Lewis Lymon & the Teenchords - Honey honey/ Please Tell The Angels. Fury label.
Frankie's brother only had one single released in the UK and it wasn't this one (see my blog on February 10, 2012) which is surprising because this is a great record, very much in the style made famous by his brother.
 7. The Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You/ At The Prom. End label.
This song was written in 1932 and became one of most famous doowop records of all time as well as one of the most successful. It was released in the UK on Top Rank and is valued at £80. The Flamingos underwent quite a few personnel changes and former members include Tommy Hunt who, like the group, made a successful transition into soul. The present line-up includes at least one original (Zeke Carey).
 8. The Paradons - Diamonds and Pearls/ I Want Love. Milestone label.
This California doowop group had their moment in the sun with this one in 1960, which was released on Top Rank in the UK (valued at £80). Original member Chuck Weldon appears in Long Island under his own name, rather than that of the group.
 9. The Heartbeats - Down On My Knees. Roulette label.
One of the great harmony groups of the era, led by James Sheppard, the Heartbeats made it big with A Thousand Miles Away and a series of answer songs, including Daddy's Home by Shep and the Limelites after the original group broke up. Shep died in 1970. Not sure who's in the present group.
 10. Dicky Doo & the Don'ts - Flip Top Box/ Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu. Swan label.
Dicky was in fact Gerry Granahan (who had a hit of his own with No Chemise Please) and this was the B side of what must rank as one of the most annoying records of the era (although not released at the time in the UK). Rather better was their first record - Click Clack.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lazy Lester in London

One of the last of the Excello bluesmen, Lazy Lester, has spent the last 30 years or so touring incessantly in the States and Europe. I must have seen him dozens of times over the years. Now aged 79, he ended his latest UK tour in the intimate surroundings of the Thomas Guy Club near London Bridge, ably supported by Little George Sueref, in a gig promoted by Keith Woods of Tales From The Woods fame.
Lester showed that vocally he still has what it takes, with idiosyncratic takes on a range of blues and country numbers and alternating with George to play either guitar or harmonica. Some of his numbers were old blues and country favourities, while others were from his new album You Better Listen, recorded in Norway. Originally from Louisiana, Lester lived in Michigan for 30 years and now lives in California, but to judge by his sometimes hard to decipher Southern drawl, he never left home. He remains incredibly laid back - the characteristic that earned him his nickname from Jay Miller - but obviously enjoys his work.
After an opening guitar instrumental he turned to his harp for That's All Right, following it up with If You Don't Want Me Baby. He moved into country territory with the Merle Haggard song Take Me Back Home Before I Die and then sang Made Up My Mind before I slipped to the bar to watch Usain Bolt win the 200 metres, thus missing a couple of numbers. Back in my seat (one of only about 20 in the venue) he introduced his new album and one of the tracks on it, the country song Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain.
After a break, during which Lester joined us in the 'watering hole' as he called it, he did a couple of Jimmy Reed numbers - Baby What You Want Me To Do and Big Boss Man - and then moved through Strange Things Happen Every Day, You Better Listen and the instrumental Paradise Stomp (both from his new album) and some more country with Your Cheating Heart. There was an annoying hum at times, but George and Lester worked smoothly together, despite much fiddling around between numbers while Lester adjusted his guitar and George searched for the correct harp - 'neighbourhood of G' in several instances. Other numbers in the second half included You Don't Have To Go, the sad My Home Is A Prison, Blues Stop Knocking At My Door, Real Combination For Love and Almost Persuaded.
Lazy Lester has played with many of the Excello greats, including Lightnin' Slim and  Slim Harpo, and recorded some great Excello numbers of his own, yet he seems reluctant to do his best known tracks I'm A Lover Not A Fighter and Sugar Coated Love, which is a shame. Nevertheless he was and still is, a talented bluesman with a style all his own and this was an enjoyable show.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bluesman Johnnie Bassett dies

Another bluesman has passed away - this time Detroit-based guitarist and singer Johnnie Bassett at the age of 76. Johnnie was well known as a session musician at Fortune records and also Chess, where he backed the Miracles on Got a Job. He was based in Seattle for several years backing major artists and released the album I Gave My Life For The Blues for the Dutch label Black Magic in 1996. I remember seeing him at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht in 1997 - a show that also featured Earl Gaines, the Cadillacs, Willie Clayton and Syl Johnson, among others. He released a further album The Gentleman is Back in 2009.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Jimmy Jones RIP

Sorry to hear of the death of early sixties singing sensation Jimmy Jones, aged 82. Jimmy's amazing falsetto voice turned Handy Man and Good Timin' into two of the biggest hits of 1960. Jimmy co-wrote Handy Man in 1955 while he was with the Sparks of Rhythm and it went on to be covered by the likes of Del Shannon (who was inspired by Jimmy's high voice) and James Taylor. Jimmy continued to record for Cub (MGM in the UK) for another couple of years with decreasing success, despite some excellent records including I Just Go For You, Ready For Love, I Told You So, Say Love, Mr Music Man and You're Much Too Young. He went on to record some uptown soul for Roulette, Parkway and Veejay and I have a 45 on Bell of him singing True Love Ways which shows just how sweet his voice was. Other singers who were influenced by Jimmy were Lou Christie, Frankie Valli and Robin Gibb.
When Handy Man came out I was just starting my personal top ten and all of Jimmy's MGM singles were favourites of mine - indeed I Just Go For You was the second biggest record in my 1960 chart (after Wonderful World). I loved his exciting R and B flavoured vocals. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to one of the forgotten greats of pop and soul music.
A final word, too, for 50s crooner Tony Martin, who was 98, and for bluesman Big Walter Smith, aged 82.