Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tales From A Woodie (Part Three): 1990

In 1990 I missed out on Jazzfest but continued going to gigs frequently. Here are some of the highlights with my comments made at the time:
January 26: Booker T and the MGs and Eddie Floyd at the Town and Country. ‘Booker T was excellent (an under-rated keyboard player) as were Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn, but Eddie’s voice was none too good, not helped by over-powering bass.’
February 26: Dion at the Town and Country. ‘Dashed out in the evening and bought a £10 ticket for £15 from a tout. Inside they were filming a Channel 4 Rock Steady concert – Dave Edmunds, supported by Steve Cropper among others and ‘special guest’ – the wonderful Dion, who did as good a 30 minute set as you could ever hope to see. All of them joined together for a great version of I’m Ready.’
March 17: Curtis Mayfield at the Town and Country. ‘On fine form with an excellent band, great bongo player. Did most of his oldies plus one or two new ones and reprised on Move On Up.’
March 20: Fats Domino at the Royal Albert Hall. ‘First on was Alan Price, Zoot Money and a band and it was fairly boring so I went to the bar and met up with John Howard and his mate Tony Wilkinson. Fats was highly professional, the band rather more ragged than in New Orleans. Highlight was an excellent finishing version of Rosalie – the origins of ska.’
March 23: This Is Soul at the Dominion Theatre. ‘Dorothy Moore, wearing a black blouse which made her look like some strange bird, had a great voice and sang with emotion. Eddie Floyd got the crowd going but his voice was ropey. Ben E King started rather disappointingly but got into his stride with a tribute to Sam Cooke.’
May 3: Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers at T&C2. ‘Sam shambled slowly onto the stage, blinked at the audience and went into great blues, occasionally swapping his harp for a cigarette. Brilliant guitar work by Anson.’
May 13: Albert King at the Town and Country. ‘Brilliant guitar work but spoiled by a band which was too quiet.’
May 22: Blues Brothers Band at Town and Country. ‘ Very slick and popular but loud. Larry Thurston pretty good, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy excellent but Eddie Floyd off key as usual.’
May 29: Champion Jack Dupree at 100 Club. ‘Jack didn’t go down too well – too much talking, not enough singing. Dick Heckstall-Smith band improved matters at last.’
June 20: Neville Brothers at Town and Country. ‘Excellent as ever with a lot of new material from their next LP.’
June 24: New Orleans Blues Guitar Feast at Town and Country. ‘Caught 10 minutes of Bobby Radcliffe, a red hot guitarist. Then Earl King on very good, but not sparkling form. The star was Snooks Eaglin who was excellent – great blues guitar, even a bit of flamenco thrown in.’
June 27: Delbert McClinton at the Town and Country. ‘Pretty good, playing everything from country and western to soul and with a good band.’
July 12-15: North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague. ‘Ray Charles – good performance, as usual looking like a puppet on a string with head, arms, legs flying around. George Benson – efficient but bland. MyCoy Tyner Trio – enjoyed Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet playing – to my surprise. Etta James – the highlight. Sat behind some yanks who were shouting out like Showtime at the Apollo; excellent, funny, lowdown show; she really is huge! Arthur Prysock, with brother Red on sax – smooth. Rockin’ Dopsie – very lively zydeco. Sun-Ra – colourful. Johnny Guitar Watson – excellent, lively funk. B B King – very good, though not great, performance, finishing with awful crap about bringing peace to the world. Tower of Power – a white funk group. John Lee Hooker, who was rapturously received but as usual rather unexciting. Finished off with George Clinton – about 20 people on stage including a man wearing a large nappy; very colourful but monotonous.’
July 27: Joe Ely at the Mean Fiddler. ‘Excellent – he played and sang like an in-tune Bob Dylan crossed with Buddy Holly and Marty Robbins.’
August 10: Desmond Dekker at the Robey, Finsbury Park. ‘Great, but I didn’t know there were so many young skin heads around.’
September 9: Charlie Feathers at the Hibernian Club, Fulham. ‘A short set –clearly not a well man – but an excellent one. John and the Southend mob there, plus a variety of rockers and their molls – all platinum blondes like Ruth Ellis or Jayne Mansfield.’
September 16: Steve Earle & the Dukes at the Town and Country. ‘Proficient country rock, lots of greasy long hair, but not really soulful enough for me.’
September 21: Jimmy Cliff at the Town and Country. ‘Very good show – colourful, exciting.’
October 3: Bobby Womack at the Town and Country. ‘ Great soul singer and an excellent show, even though quite a few of the songs were unfamiliar.’
October 13: Memphis Soul Show at the Town and Country. ‘First on was Billy Always, a young darting whippet of a man with an excellent voice. Ann Peebles was better than last year – her voice powerful and soulful. David Hudson was pretty good but the real star for me was Otis Clay. He was brilliant, a song dedicated to his late brother John Clay heart-rending. What a great show, with Willie Mitchell and the Hi Horns great as ever.’
November 15: the Meters at the Town and Country. ‘Very good in parts (the funky groove and New Orleans stuff).’

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tales From A Woodie (Part Two): 1989

Unlike some Woodies I never played in a band or knew any musicians from the early sixties, and certainly none of the other Woodies who I met later, so I can pinpoint the start of my personal road to the Woodies precisely. It was April, 1989, when I visited the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for the first time. I travelled independently, renting a car at the airport and staying in a hotel which turned out to be miles from the centre of town. In fact, on the first evening I set out for the French Quarter and failed to find it!

Next day, Friday, was much better though and I got to the Quarter and then to Jazzfest, where the first two acts I saw were Eddie Bo and Ernie K-Doe. Ernie, famous for Morther In Law, was the man who really inspired me to make the trip,after I read an interview in an English paper about his appearances at Jazzfest. In my diary I wrote that Ernie was ‘wearing an ill-fitting suit and shirt, full of enthusiasm but seemingly out of practice. It looked like he wouldn’t get off stage, so Milton Battiste said ‘Wave bye bye’ and dragged him off.’ That was Ernie: irrepressible, probably drunk, but absolutely what New Orleans was all about.
Two days later, on the Sunday, I made first contact with some of the people who were to become the nucleus of the Woodies some years later. Having been awed by Bobby Bland, playing with Wayne Bennett, Aaron Neville, singing in the gospel tent, and Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry (all of them legends), I went to see Irma Thomas and saw a Union Jack flying. I went over and met up with Dave Thomas and Scotty Mick (Mike McDonald) who had travelled to Jazzfest with Festival Tours. That evening I went to the Landmark Hotel where they were staying and met John Howard, then a sub on the Sunday Sport, and persuaded John and Co to go to Irma’s club, the Lion’s Den, in a rather dodgy part of town. To quote my diary again: ‘What a night! There was Irma waiting on and clearing glasses, and then doing a fantastic 75 minute set – ‘like in your front room’, as someone said.’
Next day I set off into Cajun country by myself and, quite by chance, came across the Festival Tours mob having lunch in a restaurant somewhere in Louisiana. I joined up with them that evening at Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge where Beausoleil were playing, with special guest Richard Thompson. Among the Festival group were John Jolliffe and Dave Carroll, both of them future Woodies and also Jonathan Coke-Smyth, who has come to meet ups on occasions.
On Tuesday I set off for Mississippi, stopping off to take a look at Jerry Lee’s place in Ferraday, and stayed overnight in Clarksdale, home of the blues. I visited the Delta Blues Museum, then located at the Carnegie Library, which was deserted apart from me. From there I drove to Memphis and toured Graceland – from the sublime to the ridiculous, as I noted at the time: the austerity of the blues museum contrasting so much with Elvis’s glitzy home. I had lunch in the Sun Studio cafe, which had only been open a week, and then headed for Beale Street. I wrote in my diary: ‘Had a look in Schwab’s store, an amazingly old-fashioned hardware store with everything in it you could ever want, but probably wouldn’t. Further down Beale Street I came across the crowning of the Cotton Makers’ Jubilee King and Queen in front of the W C Handy statue. Who should be there but Rufus Thomas, and a couple of photographers. No one else.’
I returned to New Orleans for the second weekend of Jazzfest for a host of great artists, including John Lee Hooker, Dave Bartholomew, Frankie Ford, Marcia Ball, the Neville Brothers (who I also saw at Tipitinas), Johnnie Allen, John Fred, Dr John, Snooks Eaglin, Johnny Adams and last but not least Fats Domino.
When I got back to the UK I started to go to gigs regularly, and there were some great ones. Many of them will be remembered fondly by other Woodies I’m sure. Here are a few, with my comments from my 1989 diary:
July 8: Malaco All Star Blues Blast (minus Little Milton who was ill) at the Hammersmith Odeon. ‘First on Mosley and Johnson, backed by the Muscle Shoals Horns, who were good on the Stax songs. Next Denise Lasalle – a large vision in purple – who gave it her all but never really lit things up. Not so Johnnie Taylor, dressed in a black and white jacket, who really knew how to handle an audience, even if his voice was a little weak. Finally Bobby Bland – smooth, immaculate singing as ever, supported by the superb Wayne Bennett.’
July 11: Lazy Lester at the 100 Club. ‘Few people there – maybe 100 but Lazy was pretty good if a little, well, lazy in delivery. Three blokes from New Orleans there.’ (Those three were probably Dave Carroll, John Jolliffe and Brian Jessup.)
July 12: Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at the Town and Country. ‘They had already started so I got in for nothing. The place was packed and very hot. Great reception – hard to believe there are so many blues fans around.’
July 26: Etta James at the Town and Country. ‘Really excellent – superb strong voice, funny/self-mocking, very fat – bulging out of her black cat suit.’
August 9: Jayne (formerly Wayne) County at Dingwall’s. ‘Felt kind of out of place. The star outrageously dressed in pink slip and torn stockings. Great act though – funny, very obscene and very punk, singing such classics as If You Don’t Want To Fuck Me Baby Fuck Off, Toilet Love and Paradise Paranoia.’
September 26: Dion at the Town and Country. ‘Super show – good mixture of new and old songs, great version of Runaround Sue. Bought Dion T shirt.’
October 21: Neville Brothers at the Town and Country. ‘They were superb as ever. Even got seats and a parking space.’
October 27: Motown show at Town and Country. ‘Mary Wells was on with her husband Curtis Womack. Also guesting were Marv Johnson, Kim Weston and Carolyn Crawford. Marv’s voice a little weak but great fun. Then came Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Excellent, although Martha’s quavery voice was a bit disconcerting at times. Great duet with Kim Weston on God Bless The Child.’
October 29: Willie Mitchell’s Memphis Soul Revue at Town and Country.  ‘First on was Lynn White, an excellent soul singer, then David Hudson, a good if slightly inferior version of Al Green, then Ann Peebles, who was excellent on her oldies such as I Can’t Stand the Rain. Next on (surprisingly) was the lead singer of Wet Wet Wet (Marti Pellow) who was booed and retired after one song. Then Otis Clay – quite superb – finishing with all five together.’
November 21: Jerry Lee Lewis at Hammersmith Odeon. ‘I wasn’t expecting much but, after all, he is a legend. In fact he was great. He ambled onto the stage without his band (which included Dave Edmunds and James Burton) and started playing. He looked sullen, moaned about the sound and about the bass player. But then he started to enjoy himself – maybe because of the enthusiastic audience or the TV cameras or maybe the special guests (including Brian May and Dave Davies). Did Whole Lotta Shakin’ and Great Balls of Fire and then did another half hour. He kicked his stool away and thumped the piano, although he doesn’t climb on it these days, and the crowd, young and old greasers mostly, loved it. Eight guitarists on stage at times – a bit much really  - and some raucous shouting by Van Morrison.’

More to follow...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tales From A Woodie (Part One)

Who are the Woodies? That’s a question I’ve heard asked once or twice over the last few years. There is no simple answer, apart from the fact that they are part of a loose-knit roots music group, the name of which comes from the occasional quirky, but now long-running, newsletter Tales From The Woods, the creation of ex-railway signalman and music fan turned promoter, the eponymous Keith Woods.
Apparently there are now over 300 registered members spread over several countries and no doubt each of them has his or her own tale to tell about the road that led to them becoming a Woodie – Tales From The Woodies, as it were. Among them are old rock and rollers, Cajun swingers, jazz fans, soul nuts, Jerry Lee fanatics, punk rockers, blues enthusiasts, country music fans, lovers of ska and rocksteady, sixties pop music addicts, guitarists, drummers, saxophone fans, piano players, music hall experts, comic collectors, vinyl fanatics, old movie fans   – and many more besides. For some it’s a social club, with monthly meetings, trips to places of interest and regular attendance at music gigs, weekenders and festivals. For others it’s a way of keeping in touch with old friends via the newsletter, phone or email. There is no identikit picture of what a Woodie looks like. The only thing that binds them together is a love of the music and culture of their youth. And a belief in the Woodies motto: You Only Live Twice.
Here’s my story.
My journey to Woodies land is probably typical of many. As a teenager I loved rock and roll, American pop, soul and blues. I was too young to see Bill Haley on his first tour, or Buddy Holly and the Crickets (although I remember vividly their appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium), but I knew and loved the early 78s of Haley, Presley, Fats Domino, Charlie Gracie and Little Richard, which were brought home by my older sister. I started to collect records in about 1960, although I had very little pocket money. I resorted to cycling from my home in West Wickham to Clapham Junction, quite a distance, where there was a shop that sold ex-juke box 45s for one and thruppence.
The main source of pop music was the distorted sound of Radio Luxembourg, backed up by occasional visits to the fair, where real raw rock and roll came blaring out of the speakers as I rode on the dodgems. Later there were the pirates, but in my formative years it was primarily 208, with Jack Jackson, Jimmy Savile (dare I mention his name these days?), Keith Fordyce, Pete Murray and ‘yours truly’ Tony Hall. On TV there was 6.5 Special, but even then I knew that the mostly British acts that appeared weren’t the real thing. Jack Good’s Oh Boy! was a step change in the right direction as the occasional US visitor would appear alongside Cliff, Marty and the others, and who could forget Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran on Boy Meets Girls? There was also Cool For Cats, with wrestling presenter Kent Walton playing records, and, later, Ready Steady Go, which introduced genuine US legends like Otis Redding, the Ronettes and various Motown acts  to the British public.
As the early sixties progressed I managed to see quite a few of the visiting American package shows, at local theatres such as the ABC, Croydon, the Granada, Tooting, and the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. In 1962 alone I remember seeing Gene Vincent and Brenda Lee, Bobby Vee with Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry and Tony Orlando, Dion with Del Shannon and Buzz Clifford and the Everly Brothers with Ketty Lester. Best of all I saw Little Richard and Sam Cooke at the Tooting Granada and went backstage to meet them and get their autographs, which I still have today. (see photo)
The following year I saw Chris Montez and Tommy Roe, with the Beatles bottom of the bill, and Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent at the Fairfield Hall, with Heinz, who was booed mercilessly. There were the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley, with the Stones low down on the bill, and I much enjoyed the Folk Blues show at the Fairfield Hall, with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Memphis Slim and Otis Spann, among others. There were also shows with Bobby Rydell and Helen Shapiro, and Duane Eddy with Gene Vincent and the Shirelles. In 1964 I saw Roy Orbison at the Fairfield, a second blues show with Muddy Waters and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee,; Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins, and a third blues show with Howlin’ Wolf and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Meanwhile, the Friday night dance at the Justin Hall in West Wickham featured local groups such as the Kon-Rads (including a young David Bowie) and the Tru-beats, later the Herd (with Pete Frampton). Gene Vincent even appeared there once.
Although I loved rock and roll, I became a sort of mod as a result of owning a scooter and loving soul and bluebeat, as we called ska at the time. I rode my scooter to the so-called mod-rocker riots in Hastings and Brighton. In truth, there were very few rockers there, but the mods made their presence felt, marching through the town and even breaking a shop window on one occasion!
All this time I was recording my top ten favourite discs once, or sometimes twice a week, giving me a record of my tastes at the time. American records made up at least 95 per cent of the entries and I had little time for the British covers that dominated the charts of the day. Beatles? Rolling Stones? OK, but nothing special. Swinging Blue Jeans, Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers? Do me a favour.
After A levels I got a job as a trainee journalist on the Croydon Advertiser and volunteered as the paper’s record reviewer. I received hundreds of 45s and still have quite a few today. If only I’d kept all of them! I also got to review some of the concerts in Croydon, including the Stax/Volt revue of 1967, with Otis Redding and Arthur Conley among others, but in which Sam and Dave impressed most of all.
I moved to Lancashire at the end of 1968 and that effectively brought my music interest to an end for around 20 years. I lived in the Wigan area for a while and went to the Wigan Casino a couple of times, soaking up northern soul, but it was a period that I call the Slim Whitman era, as many of the Scousers who I knew while living in Skem (Skelmersdale) were country fans with little interest in soul or rock and roll.
My interest in music revived in the late 1970s with the arrival of punk and I remember seeing Blondie at the King George’s Hall, Blackburn, before they were big and still non mainstream. But in terms of the Woodies I may as well skip to the late 1980s. By this time I was back in London and beginning to redevelop an interest in the music of my youth and scouring car boot sales for old 45s and LPs, which I do religiously to this day.
To be continued

Bob Day of the Allisons

Sorry to hear that Bob Day, one half of the Allisons, has died, aged 72. Along with his partner John Alford, the Allisons shot to fame in 1961 when they achieved second place in the Eurovision Song Contest with Are You Sure, a song which also made it to number one on the NME chart in the UK. A couple of follow ups, Words and Lessons In Love were minor hits, but other releases, What A Mess, Sweet and Lovely and I'll Cross My Fingers, were unsuccessful and the duo broke up in 1963. .
The pair didn't play together for many years before appearing at a Tales From The Woods promotion at the Water Rats pub in London in August 2011 and received a good reception from the crowd. The following January they were among the acts at the annual 2Is Tribute show at the Borderline in London, where they played their hit, along with Think It Over, Sheila, Hello Mary Lou, All I Have To Do Is Dream and, as an encore, La Bamba.
Here's a photo of them taken at the show.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Boom Baby

I'm currently reading a book called Boom Baby, by Brian Nevill, a guy who I don't know but who I believe is a member of the Woodies like me. It's the life story of a baby boomer, born in 1948, who grew up in New Addington, near Croydon, and whose life has revolved around music. It almost makes the book I'm planning to write (and have made a start on) redundant.
Like Brian, I was a baby boomer who grew up near Croydon - West Wickham in my case - and
although I'm a year or two older than him, our experiences, especially where music is concerned, have quite a bit in common. We frequented many of the same music pubs and clubs in the sixties in and around Croydon and in the West End, had similar tastes in music and experienced the same frustration in trying to find decent music to listen to in our earlier years. In my case, I had parents with no interest in pop music at all and went to a school (Dulwich College) where any deviation from the accepted norm in terms of clothes or hair length was not tolerated. Music, especially rock and roll and, later, soul and blues, was an escape from conformity and an outlet for my imagination.
Even more of a coincidence is the fact that my name appears in Brian's book. When I was a trainee reporter on the Croydon Advertiser in the mid sixties I was allocated the sprawling New Addington housing estate as my 'patch' for a year or so, covering any news stories that I could find in the area. In the photo section of Brian's book is a feature from the Advertiser of June 1966 about a musician friend of his who called himself Dave Antony at the time which was written by me. I know that because my by-line appears underneath the article. I have no memory of the occasion myself - but then they say that if you remember the sixties you weren't really there!
The book is a fascinating personal memoir of a South London lad obsessed with music and worth reading. I must get on with my rival manuscript!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Decca Obscurities

Time for some more Vinyl Obscurities, this time all British material on the Decca label featuring some artists who never made it to the big time and early 45s by a couple who did. Comments and additional info are very welcome.
1. The Jetstreams - Bongo Rock/ Tiger. Mint value £20. I picked this one up in an antique shop in Rye during the Rhythm Riot. Like so many early Decca 45s both sides are covers of US hits - the official A side a copy of the Preston Epps instrumental and the more interesting B side a cover of the Fabian hit, with a gruff and quite convincing vocal. This was the band's only release and I know nothing about them. Can anyone help? It should have been a tri centre, I think, but isn't: not sure why.
2. Rolly (Yo-Yo) Daniels - Yo-Yo Boy/ The Teacher. Mint value £5. This was a 1962 reissue of a record that came out originally on the obscure Stardisc label by a man about whom I have managed to find out precisely nothing. There's an Irish country singer called Roly Daniels (with one L) but I don't think this is him. The A side was written by Sid Tepper and Roy C Bennett who wrote songs for Elvis and Cliff among others, while the B side has a distinctly US feel to it. I couldn't find either tracks on Youtube so I've uploaded them myself.
3. Garry Mills - I'll Step Down/ Your Way Is My Way. Mint value £10. Garry was one of the stars of a recent Tales From The Woods 2Is tribute show and this was his first release on Decca, after a successful run on Top Rank. It's another song by Tepper and Bennett and was also recorded by Lee Diamond and the Cherokees. Not sure if there was another earlier version but maybe someone can leave a comment if there is.
4. Jimmy Powell - Remember Then/ Everyone But You. Mint Value £8. Birmingham-born Jimmy will be appearing at the next Tales From The Woods show in January. He made some decent records both solo and later with his band the 5 Dimensions, one of whose members at one time was Rod Stewart. The official A side of this, his third 45, was a fairly average cover of the Earls hit but the B side, featured in the film Just For Fun, is better.
5. The Zephyrs - What's All That About/ Oriental Dream. Mint value £40. The Zephyrs' only Decca single is an instrumental written by Tony Hatch. They went on to Columbia where they had five 45s released which were produced by Shel Talmy, but without much success. Their next record, a cover of Bo Diddley's I Can Tell, was allegedly hated by Mick Jagger, which didn't improve their chances.
6. The Marauders - That's What I Want/ Hey Wha' D'ya Say. Mint value £15. The Marauders were from Stoke on Trent but their sound is Mersey beat, as this double sider - their first of four 45s - demonstrates.
7. Beryl Marsden - I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)/ I Only Care About You. Mint value £15. Liverpudlian Beryl was another artist who appeared at a Tales From The Woods show. This cover of Barbara George's New Orleans R and B hit was her first 45 and although she made several strong pop records in the early sixties and toured with the Beatles in 1964 she never had a major hit. Later she joined Shotgun Express, whose members included Rod Stewart, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green.
8. The Orchids - Love Hit Me/ Don't Make Me Mad. Mint value £20. This Shel Talmy production was one of the best British girl group records of the era - the second of three 45s by this Coventry threesome who were only 14 when they made their first record. Well worth a listen.
9. Jimmy Lennon & the Atlantics - Louisiana Mama/ I learned To Yodel. Mint value £35. I don't know much about Jimmy Lennon but this Joe Meek production of a Gene Pitney song which, for some reason, was not released by him as a single in the UK is not bad.  The B side is fairly dire.

10. The Snobs - Buckle Shoe Stomp/ Stand And Deliver. Mint value £15. This Croydon-based band made only one record, recorded live at Medmenham Abbey, near Henley, home of the notorious 18th century Hellfire Club. They dressed in frockcoats and powdered wigs and one of their member is now a Woodie (no names!). They were particularly popular in Scandinavia for some reason.
11, The Redcaps - Mighty Fine Girl/ Funny Things. Mint value £20. For a while Birmingham threatened to rival Liverpool in terms of beat groups and the Redcaps were one of the leading groups in the city. This was their third single (after covers of Shout and Talkin' Bout You) and this time it was a Chris Andrews song, which is very much typical of the beat group era. It was their last 45.
12. The Fairies - Anytime At All/ Don't Think Twice It's All Right. Mint value £125. Great debut record by a legendary group from Colchester which included Twink, later with Tomorrow, the Pretty Things and the Pink Fairies. B side is a decent cover of the Bob Dylan song.
13. Them - Don't Start Crying Now/ One Two Brown Eyes. Mint value £70. Another debut 45 by the group that launched the career of Van Morrison.  The B side is a Morrison composition.
14. The Art Woods - Oh My Love/ Big City. Mint value £60. Second single by another legendary group featuring singer Art Wood, older brother of Ronnie Wood. Other members included Keef Hartley and Jon Lord, one of the founders of Deep Purple. Despite some good records and appearances on Ready Steady Go the group didn't quite make a breakthrough and broke up in 1967.
15. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - Crocodile Walk/ Blues City Shakedown. Mint value £45. Only the second 45 by the group that was the breeding ground for the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor, but this record wasn't a success despite the band's growing reputation as a live act.
16. The Frays - Walk On/ Keep Me Covered. Mint value £150. Highly collectable 45 by a band featuring Johnny Patto. The official A side is a cover of the Brownie McGhee blues number but it's the B side, a classic slice of freakbeat, which really stands out. The band recorded an LP at the Marquee Club but it wasn't released and they broke up after just this one 45. a 
17. The Cryin' Shames - Please Stay/ What's New Pussycat. Mint value £20. This was a cover of the Drifters hit but a good one, and was Joe Meek's last hit before he committed suicide. From Liverpool, the group were approached by Brian Epstein who wanted to manage them but they refused. After one more 45 they broke up, but the remnants recorded later for Meek as Paul & Ritchie and the Cryin' Shames.
18. The Undergrads - Looks Like It's Gonna Be My Year/ Calling You. Unlisted. Bit of a mystery group this, although I've read that they were from Liverpool. Typical Mersey beat sound - a couple of years too late perhaps - and I've uploaded both sides to Youtube, so judge for yourself. Anyone know anything about them?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rocking at the Rhythm Riot

Just back from a weekend of R and B and rock and roll at the Rhythm Riot in Camber and a pretty good weekend it was too. For many of those attending, including a huge number from the Continent, it's less about the music than about dressing in 50s fashions and jiving. But for old music nuts like me and the other Woodies who were there it was definitely the music that counted. For the most part the American acts that I saw lived up to, or exceeded expectations, so it was worth the trip - only the second time I've been. And the in-chalet music provided during the day by the Rhythm Riot Ramblers, including John Spencely and Bunter Clark, made it doubly enjoyable.
The first act that I caught on day one was Beverly Guitar Watkins, a fine guitarist, now in her seventies, who played with Dr Feelgood (Piano Red) back in th 1950s as well as working with the likes of B B King and Ray Charles. Beverly is a spry, small grandmotherly lady who produced a clean and exciting guitar sound on numbers such as Blues Are Alright For You, Big Boss Man, Red Hot Mama and Walkin' The Dog, but each of them was over-extended, meaning that she ran out of time. She played only a few bars of the Dr Feelgood number Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo before finishing briefly on What'd I Say. Her backing band the King Bees included an annoying lead guitarist, name of Hound Dog Baskerville apparently, and a bass player (Queen Bee), but with Big Boy Bloater also showing off his licks it was probably at least one guitarist too many. Nonetheless I enjoyed Beverly, who clearly plays as well as she ever did.
Next act was a new name to me - Nikki Hill - but one who has a potentially great future. She has a wonderfully bluesy voice, reminiscent at times of Amy Winehouse, and looks great too. Her set included some excellent covers, including I Know, Shake A Hand and an absolutely stunning version of The Girl Can't Help It, and quite a few self-penned tracks from her new CD, including Ask Yourself, I've Got A Man and Strapped To The Beat. I was sufficiently impressed to buy her CD and also get my photo taken with her (pity about my straggly Movember moustache). The only down side for me was the lead guitarist who, although very good, strayed into prog rock territory at times.
After Nikki I slipped into the Queen Vic bar to catch a short bit of Barbara Clifford's set, another young American singer who has an excellent girl-group flavoured voice.
Saturday evening kicked off for me with the Haystack Hi-Tones, a Dutch country boogie cum hillbilly group featuring two buxom and highly polished singers. Although not usually my type of music I thought they were excellent. Numbers included Steam Heat, Skeets McDonald's What A Lonesome Life It's Been, Don Gibson's Blue Blue Day,The Joke's On You and a number called Rockin' Hall, sung in Dutch. A very enjoyable set I thought.
Next were one of the highlights of the whole weekend, the Teenagers, featuring a couple of guys from the Frankie Lymon era, Jimmy Merchant and Herman Santiago, with two others, Tommy Lockhart and Timothy Wilson. They harmonised beautifully on classics like Goody Goody, I Promise To Be True, The ABC Of Love, I'm So Happy, Come Go With Me and Paper Castle before finishing with I'm Not A Juvenile Delinquent, Creation Of Love, I Want You You To Be My Girl and, of course, Why Do Fools Fall In Love. Somone remarked that they were like a cruise ship act, but I had never seen then before and I thought their slick professional act was great. Teenagers they may not be (and haven't been for getting on for 60 years) but they can still do doowop with the best of them.
I have heard good reports about the next act, Bobby Brooks Wilson, so I was looking forward to seeing him and I wasn't disappointed. The son of Jackie Wilson, he bears a striking resemblance to his late dad, not just in looks and vocally, but also in terms of his showmanship and all round personality. The act was in many ways a tribute to Jackie, with dynamic performances of Reet Petite, I'll Be Satisfied, Lonely Teardrops, a wonderfully soulful Doggin' Around (not the UK version of 'dogging', Bobby joked), Come Back To Me, Sweetest Feeling and Baby Workout. He also threw in three Sam Cooke numbers - Twistin' The Night Away, Havin' A Party and You Send Me - and his dancing and stage presence were quite something. How could anyone complain? Not me, that's for sure. Excellent stuff.
On to Sunday night now and the return of Lazy Lester, last of the Excello blues men and a performer I have seen many times over the years. He never seems to age, although he is now 80, and always puts on a good show. But this one was perhaps the best I've seen, because he included a couple of numbers that he is famous for but doesn't usually perform, namely Sugar Coated Love and I'm A Lover Not A Fighter. Other numbers included Jailhouse Wall, Blues Stop Knocking, a slow blues Sad City, and I Made Up My Mind. Big Boy Bloater and his band provided great support, as they did for the majority of acts all weekend.
The final act, the Truly Lover Trio, was another about whom I had heard good things, but this time I was rather disappointed. They are a rockabilly group with a singer who sounds exactly like Roy Orbison, but although professional in their way, they struck me as something of a tribute act with a lead singer who knew only too well how good he was.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable weekend with loads of variety. Who knows, I may even go again some time!
Here's a photo of me with the lovely Nikki Hill.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Venturing onto Youtube

I often put links to Youtube onto The Vinyl Word when I'm featuring 45s in my collection, but sometimes I discover that the record I'm looking for isn't there. That seems surprising, considering that there are millions of Youtube links these days, but true nevertheless. So I've decided to rectify this by uploading records to Youtube myself, and also some of the videos I've shot at gigs in Europe and the States. Some of these I've already put on Facebook, so I am now adopting a multimedia approach, as Dave C rightly says. It's amazing how many outlets even a dinosaur like me has these days for my interests. The downside is that there is more and more competition out there. But since The Vinyl Word is averaging around 300 views per day now I must be doing something right. Keep on checking in!
So far I've put five videos and three records onto Youtube and here are the links. Apologies for any shortcomings in the technical quality: I'm still figuring out the best way of doing it and haven't mastered some of the aspects yet.
First some records that weren't previously on Youteube:
Here's King Size Taylor
Stranger Cole.
Willie Mays.
And some videos shot at recent gigs:
Gwen White.
Bobby Rush.
Roddy Jackson.
Irma Thomas.
Eddie Daniels.
There will be more to come so keep watching. And comments - on the blog or on Youtube - are more than welcome.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Soul divas

I've had the pleasure of seeing some great female soul singers this year, including several who are not well-known but really should be. Hopefully they will make it big in the future, and I will be rooting for them and keeping an eye on their progress.
First we have one of the stars of this year's Porretta Soul Festival, Falisa Janaye. Falisa is a southern soul singer from Mississippi and I reckon she has the looks, the voice and the personality to make it big.  The photo was taken at Porretta. Here's her recent single.
Next we have a lady who has starred at Porretta several times in the last few years - Toni Green. Memphis-born Toni has been around for a while and before going solo she backed up artists such as  Isaac Hayes, Luther Ingram, Millie Jackson and the Bar-Kays. Toni really turns on the soul and should by all rights be a big star. She is without doubt the real thing.
One of the highlights of my recent trip to the US was Gwen White, who I caught up with at the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas.. She is a gorgeous lady who has a great Tina Turner style act and I can't understand why she isn't better known. There's nothing on Youtube that does her justice so you will just have to seek her out, if you get the chance. Update: I've uploaded my videoof her singing Repo Woman to Youtube:
Finally here's a lady who I had the luck to see in Jackson, Mississippi, on my trip - J J Thames (pronounced Timms, apparently, rather than the English way). JJ is a blues singer with a lot of soul in her voice and has the potential to go far. Definitely one to watch.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Still rocking - Cliff Richard

Good to see Cliff Richard on the One Show tonight promoting his new album of rock and roll songs (even if it was hosted by Chris Evans, one of the most repellent people on TV in my opinion). This is Sir Cliff's 100th UK album in a career lasting 55 years so far (with no historic sex allegations as yet - in itself an achievement!) and features some classics from the era when music really was great, including Rip It Up, Wake Up Little Susie, Poetry In Motion, Stood Up, School Days, Dream Lover, Stuck On You, Fabulous, Rave On and Johnny B Goode.

Cliff performed Rip It Up on the show, looking slim, much younger than his 73 years and very fit. It was a fairly tame version of the Little Richard number, but then most of Cliff's product over the last 50 years or so have been tame. But when he began his career in 1958 he was a real rocker and one of the very few British rock and roll singers who had anything like a genuine feel for the genre. Regular readers will know that I don't have much time for British rock and roll, with a few exceptions such as Billy Fury, and I regard it as a second rate copy of the real thing. But Cliff in his early days was something else. His first four singles - Move It, High Class Baby, Livin' Lovin' Doll and Mean Streak - were genuine rockers, and a few of his later 45s were OK as well, including Living Doll, Travellin' Light, Voice In the Wilderness and Please Don't Tease. Things went down hill after that, with dozens of middle of the road numbers and just a few half-decent ones, but by then rock and roll had moved on and Cliff managed to do his own thing with great success. He has become a national treasure and it's sad that some radio stations have banned his recordings just because they are by Cliff.
Cliff was never in Elvis's league, but he is the first to admit that. He was, though, the most important British artist of the rock and roll era. Maybe Keith Woods will persuade him to appear on one of his Tales From The Woods shows one of these days!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Bobby Parker RIP

Sorry to hear of the death of Lafayette-born blues man Bobby Parker, at the age of 76, whose guitar intro to his 1961 hit Watch Your Step is one of the most influential in pop history. The song was covered by Spencer Davis, Dr Feelgood and Santana among others and was the basis for the Beatles intro on I Feel Fine. Jimmy Page was also much influenced by the riff on the record.
Despite this record, and a lengthy period playing with Otis Williams and the Charms and backing artists such as Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter and the Everly Brothers, Bobby didn't make the big time. He had a single released on Blue Horizon in 1969 - It's Hard But It's Fair - but his career never really took off, and it wasn't until 1993 that he recorded his first album - Bent Out Of Shape - for Black Top records, with a second album, Shine Me Up, following two years later. I saw Bobby perform on the annual Black Top show at Jimmy's in New Orleans in 1993 (see photo above) when he was billed as 'Mr Bent Out Of Shape' and, although impressed overall by his guitar playing and singing, was disappointed that the one number he didn't play was Watch Your Step. Later he played at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht and was scheduled to perform at this year's Ponderosa Stomp, but dropped out.
Watch Your Step was not a hit when it was released in the UK on London in 1961, nor when it came out a second time on Sue in 1964, so both are collectable today (see photos below). The B side on both is the slow blues Steal Your Heart Away.