Friday, March 29, 2013

The Cosimo Code

I've always been a lover of New Orleans R and B, in particular the great recordings made by Cosimo Matassa at his J and M studio in the city. I am intrigued, therefore, by a new project set up by Red Kelly, John Broven and John Ridley (aka Sir Shambling) (among others) designed to build up a master list of his recordings based on the sequential numbers that he gave to all his recordings and which appear on various labels who made use of his studio over the years.
To quote from Red Kelly's website on the project 
'In October 1960, Matassa introduced a new sequential master tape series starting at 100 with clients allocated individual prefixes. This series ran until the demise of the Cosimo Recording Studios in 1968, and was continued after a fashion with the new Jazz City Recording Studios until 1977.
By annotating the series for the first time, we are able to get a better all-round picture of the recording sessions carried out at the Cosimo studios by artists, labels and producers as New Orleans R&B morphed into Soul; Blues, Gospel, Doo-Wop, Pop and Garage Rock were also recorded. Ergo, the Cosimo Code is gradually being unravelled.
In quoting dates for the Billboard and Cash Box trade magazine reviews, we are able to assemble reliable dating-guide markers which are particularly valuable with the smaller independent labels. Nevertheless, there are still many gaps in the listing, caused principally by certain labels such as Imperial and Minit having their own master sequences. In the absence of the original log book (if only!), we will attempt to denote these 'non-Code' recordings on separate pages.
For all the great research work accomplished, it's rather incredible there is still much more to be done! Please join the team by examining the 45s in your collections, discographies, the Internet (YouTube and eBay in particular), and participating in our Forum as we continue to fill in the gaps in what will hopefully be a prolonged work in progress.'
I've started going through my US singles to see if I have any with the Cosimo Code which have not previously been listed. Amazingly I have already found one, on the Instant label,which has the highest code number yet discovered, so I am encouraged to keep searching. Here is the 45 in question. I don't know anything about the band (it's a funky/soul number) but the producer and writer Emanuel Morris also produced records for Lee Bates and Steve Dixon on Instant a year or two earlier.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roosevelt Jamison RIP

Red Kelly has reported on his blog that Roosevelt Jamison, one of the originators of Memphis soul, has died aged 77. Jamison wrote the classic That's How Strong My Love Is for O V Wright, which was released on the Goldwax label in 1964. He discovered both O V Wright and James Carr, whose career he managed and mentored throughout his successful period with Goldwax and later recorded a comeback record for James on his own River City label.

Another death reported today is that of Gordon Stoker, a member of the Jordanaires, at the age of 88. He sang tenor on Hound Dog and many other Elvis Presley records and the group also backed Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves and Kenny Rogers, as well as having several successes in their own name.
Another recent death is that of rock and roll pioneer Hardrock Gunter, aged 88, whose early fifties records Birmingham Bounce and Gonna Dance All Night are considered some of the earliest rock and roll records - indeed the latter song was the first to use the phrase 'rock and roll'. 

Interested to hear that the Rolling Stones will be playing Glastonbury for the first time this year. I won't be there - too much mud and I prefer a bit of warm weather at my festivals - but it's good to see the old boys breaking new ground after 50 odd years.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Car boot and charity shop finds

I've picked up some interesting singles at car boots and in charity shops over the last couple of weeks, including some rock and roll 45s that I've been after for years. Also some quite rare psych and beat singles from the sixties. Here are some of them. I've included Youtube links.
1. Johnny Otis Show - Ring-a-ling/ The Johnny Otis Hand Jive. Released on Capitol 14875 in 1958. Mint value - £25.
One of many great rocking double siders by the late Johnny Otis, this was a gap in my collection and a record that is well worth a listen.

2. Dion & the Belmonts - I Can't Go On (Rosalie)/ No One Knows. Released on London 8718 in 1958. Mint value - £50.
This was another yawning gap - a great, garage-sounding cover of the Fats Domino song, the group's second UK release, with a wonderful slow doowop B side.
3. Royaltones - Poor Boy/ Wail. Released on London 8744 in 1958. Mint value  - £20.
Another single previously missing from my collection, this was one of the great double sided rock and roll instrumentals by a band from Dearborn, Michigan.
4. Kate - Shout It/ Sweet Little Thing. Released on CBS 4123 in 1969. Mint value - £60.
This was the third and final single by a British psych group which included Viv Prince, previously of the Pretty Things, on drums, and Hraiton Garabaldianne on vocals.

5. The Zombies - Time Of The Season/ I'll Call You Mine. Released in 1969 on CBS 3380. Mint value - £60.
This is the original release of a track from their highly collectable Odessey and Oracle LP. The record was reissued five years later on Epic and became a hit.

6. Pete Best Four - I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door/ Why Did I Fall In Love With You. Released in 1964 on Decca 11929. Mint value  - £70.
The Beatles original drummer, sacked in the early days of the band, Pete Best had only one single released during the sixties - this rather average cover of the Eddie Hodges hit.

7. Eddie Bond & the Stompers - Rockin' Daddy/ I've Got A Woman. Released on US Mercury 70826 in 1956.
Finally, a tribute to a singer who died aged 80 a few days ago: rockabilly singer Eddie Bond. This is probably his best known record. It's one I've had for a long time and a great track.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Catching up

A few more music deaths to catch up on, mostly from the world of country.
Claude King was best known for his 1962 hit Wolverton Mountain, but he also had success with Big River Big Man, The Comancheros and Burning of Atlanta. Later he had success with Tiger Woman. Originally from Shreveport, he was 90.
Another country singer to have passed on is Jack Greene, best known for his mega hit There Goes My Everything from 1966 (a UK hit for Engelbert Humperdinck). Aged 83, he was known as the Jolly Green Giant due to his height and deep voice. Another success for Jack was Don't You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me).
Sammy Masters made his biggest mark with the rockabilly number Rockin' Red Wing in 1960 and later recorded a version of I Fought The Law. His early records for 4 Star made his name as a rockabilly singer and he appeared at Hemsby in the UK in 1998. Sammy was 82.
Another leading traditional jazz man, Terry Lightfoot, has died, just weeks after the death of Kenny Ball. Clarinettist Lightfoot formed his first band, the Wood Green Stompers, in the early sixties and rivalled Ball, Bilk and Barber as the main trad performers of the era. He was 77.
A final word, too, for Frank Thornton, Captain Peacock of Are You Being Served?, who has died aged 92.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Southern Soul in London - 1993

One of the best southern soul shows ever to take place in London took place at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden on July 12th, 1993. Called the Mississippi Blues and Soul Revue, it featured Little Milton, Latimore and Denise LaSalle, with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Mike Griffiths and the Muscle Shoals Horns.
I was there that night, and here are some photos from the gig. I'm looking forward to seeing Latimore once more at the Porretta Soul Festival in July - almost 20 years to the day since the London show.
Here are the three stars on stage together.
Here are a couple of pictures of Little Milton, who died in 2005.

 Here is another Malaco star Denise LaSalle.
 Finally, here are two photos of Latimore and one of Little Milton with the Muscle Shoals Horns .


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Stomp is back

The Ponderosa Stomp, the festival that celebrates the unsung heroes of rock and roll, is returning to New Orleans, after a year off, this October. The line up at the new Rock & Bowl was announced today and includes some very different names from previous years, many of them obscure and all of them potentially interesting. I've only seen four of them before - soul star Maxine Brown, zydeco man Lynn August, southern soul man Spencer Wiggins (excellent at Porretta on two occasions) and Watch Your Step singer Bobby Parker. The rest are all new to me and therefore unknown quantities, although I've heard records by some of them, mostly recorded in the fifties or sixties.
From the soul world there is Baby Washington (pictured), whose That's How Heartaches Are Made came out on Sue in the UK in 1964, Gino Parks, an early Motown artist, Chris Clark, the label's first white singer, and New Orleans artists Charles Brimmer and Richard Caiton. 60s garage rock is always well represented at the Stomp, which this time includes the Standells, of Dirty Water fame, the Sloths, Ty Wagner and the Guanga Dyns. Rockabilly is represented by Bobby Crown and regular UK visitor Charlie Gracie, while country soul singer George Perkins is also on the bill. There are also a couple of R and B artists - Sonny Green and Boogaloo - and James Alexander, one of the original Bar-Kays.
Many of the names on the list will inevitably raise the inquiry: who? They are obscure and unknown, even to the most dedicated music lovers. But that's the point of the Stomp. Organiser Ira Padnos has an uncanny knack of finding performers who are all but forgotten, but still have something to offer.
Maybe this year will be one when I will be making not one, but two trips to the Big Easy. I'm off to Nashville next month and then travelling with three friends through Alabama to New Orleans where we will catch some of Jazz Fest. The Stomp line up looks like a second visit this year is essential.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Four more gone

Another day and another batch of music deaths, sadly.
Guitarist Alvin Lee, founder of rock band Tens Years After, was just 15 when he formed his first band the Jaybirds who initially made their name in Hamburg as did many bands of the early sixties including, of course, the Beatles. Returning to London the band changed its name to Ten Years After and gained a residency at the Marquee Club. The band's first album came out on Deram in 1967 and the success of the band was assured with an appearance at the Woodstock Festival two years later. Other albums included Undead, Stonedhenge, Ssssh! and Cricklewood Green and the band toured the US 28 times in seven years. Subsequently Alvin made several solo albums including On The Road To Freedom, with gospel singer Myron Le Fevre, Pump Iron and Let It Rock. He continued recording into the 21st century. Aged 68, Alvin died from complications arising from routine surgery.
Another death is that of American soul singer Jewel Akens, whose best known record The Birds And The Bees, recorded for Era, sold over a million copies and made the UK top 30. The follow up Georgie Porgie was less successful and he later toured with a group of fake Coasters. In 1973 he co-produced the album Super Taylors, featuring soul singers Ted Taylor and Little Johnny Taylor.
Bobby Rogers, a member of the Miracles from its earliest days in 1956, is another soul man to have passed on, aged 73. He remained a member of the group until 2011. His cousin, Claudette Rogers, also a member of the group, later married Smokey Robinson.
Finally, Kenny Ball, the man who brought trad jazz to the masses and even had a huge hit in the US with Midnight in Moscow in 1962, has died aged 82. Other major hits included Samantha, March of the Siamese Children, The Green Leaves of Summer and Sukiyaki before the trad boom fizzled out in the mid sixties.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Porretta festival looking good

The line up for this year's Porretta Soul Festival has been announced and it's an interesting one, with less of a Stax focus and more of a southern soul feel to it.
One of the bigger names is Mitty Collier (pictured right), whose 1964 single on Chess, I Had A Talk With My Man, was a classic. She is appearing with gospel singer Calvin Bridges so it's possible that she will stick to gospel, but we will see.
In marked contrast, Bobby Rush will be appearing with his full revue, including dancers. I remember first seeing Bobby at the New Daisy Theatre in Beale Street, Memphis, and his rather rude show was extremely popular with the mainly black audience. It didn't go down so well when he performed to a white middle class audience in London a few years later. I think Porretta will enjoy him though.
One of the biggest attractions for me is Latimore (left), who will be bringing his southern soul style to Porretta. I've seen him several times over the years and he is always excellent, so I'm definitely looking forward to that one.
Hi recording artist David Hudson is back again after his popular show last year. I wonder if he will sing for free in the Irish bar again.
Another act making a return visit is the wonderful Toni Green, whose glamorous gowns always make a big impression. And another female act - new to me - is Falisa Janaye (right), a sexy looking southern soul singer who has some steamy videos on Youtube.
Another act I'm looking forward to seeing is Charles Walker and the Dynamites, who will bring some uptempo funk to the proceedings. Also on the show is Paul Brown and his All Star Band 'Heart and Soul' who I imagine will be backing many of the acts.
Once again Graziano seems to have got a great set of performers together for this annual tribute to American soul high in the hills of central Italy.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Virgil Johnson of the Velvets

Virgil Johnson, lead singer of the Velvets, one of the smoothest of all doowop groups, has died aged 77. Virgil grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and formed the group in Odessa where he was working as a teacher. They were discovered by Roy Orbison, who recommended them to Fred Foster, the owner of Monument records in Nashville. Their two best known singles - That Lucky Old Sun and and Tonight (Could Be the Night) - both featured lush string arrangements and had B sides written by Roy. The B side of their third single, Laugh, was Lana - later a hit for Roy himself.
The Velvets were a black group who sounded white and never gained a black following. Despite a number of follow up singles for Monument they failed to repeat their early success and Virgil went back to teaching, before making his mark as a DJ in Lubbock.  The Velvets had three 45s released in the UK and the two featured below are well worth a listen.
The Velvets - Tonight (Could Be The Night)/ Spring Fever. London HLU 9372.

The Velvets - That Lucky Old Sun/ Time And Again. London HLU 9328.