Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Viva Las Vegas photos - part one

I've got loads of photos from my recent trip to Las Vegas so I'm going to put a few of them on the blog over the coming days, beginning with music acts from the first couple of days of Viva Las Vegas.
Here are the Royal Rhythmaires, a Texas rockabilly band with a female singer, Jai Malano, who has a really great voice in the style of Lavern Baker or even a female Little Richard. A brilliant start.
Also impressive were the country flavoured Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two, who featured quite a few original numbers.
Morry Sochat and the Special 20s were another name new to me, who were pretty good on a set which included Rock This Joint, Shake Your Hips and Pine Box.
Of rather less interest were the Tequila Worms, a Chicano surf guitar band who spent their set looking at their feet and playing some quite predictable instrumentals.
UK rockabilly singer Jamie 'Bubba J' Faulkner gave a good account of himself both vocally and personality-wise, backed by, among others, fellow Brit Carl 'Sonny' Leyland (see photo below) who was  brilliant as the keyboard player with various acts during the weekend.
Most exciting act of day one were the San Francisco band Stompy Jones who really made the place swing with their excellent singer and horn section and rocking approach.
Another act on day one, but one that didn't do much for me, was a band called Hula Girls, which comprised a steel guitarist and, yes, a couple of hula girls. Adequate but nothing special.
The biggest crowd of the evening gathered for the glamorous redhead Kim Lenz and the Jaguars, who promoted her new album Follow Me. Very good, both visually and musically.
Day two was taken up largely by a fashion show mand an excellent two hour Burlesque Showcase (of which more later) and I only got to see a handful of acts, the best of whom were the excellent California doowop group Lil Mo and the Dynaflos.
Introduced as a 'Japanese superstar', the dimunitive Conny was lively and bubbly and showed she has a fair voice on numbers such as Bad Motorcycle, Teenage Boogie and Lovestruck, with help from Lil Mo and co on some numbers.
The last act I saw on day two was up and coming Liverpool rockabilly band Furious, who were OK I thought, but nothing to write home about.
 Photos by Nick Cobban.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Jay McNeely at 87 years old

Celebrating his 87th birthday today is the great sax player Big Jay McNeely. I was lucky enough to meet him, along with Paul Waring and Gordon Fleming, while I was in Los Angeles last week where, over a plate of pancakes at the IHOP, Jay showed that although physically infirm these days he is still as mentally sharp as can be. He continues to record, including some experimental music with an Austrian band and a more typical item called You Don't Have To Go Home But You Can't Stay Here. Jay is off to Memphis next month to be inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame, along with other sax men Eddie Shaw and Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson.
Jay is happy about that but less so about the continued failure of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame to honour him. This is the man who began his career in the late forties and played as big a role as anyone in the birth of rock and roll. In addition to his exciting sax style, Jay was an innovator in terms of showmanship, lying on his back while honking his horn and painting it with luminous paint so that it would shine under black lights. His walkabouts mid act were, and still are, amazing to behold. I saw him at the Jazz Cafe many years ago when he wandered out into Camden Parkway still blowing, while the band played on. And on one occasion he was arrested mid act, later released, and all the time the band continued. I saw him most recently at the Ponderosa Stomp a couple of years back.
Jay could really get the crowd going and this did not go down well with some of the performers he travelled with, including Johnnie Ray amd Nat King Cole, who were afraid that he was stealing the limelight from them and banned him from their shows.
If anyone deserves to be a member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame it's Big Jay and a campaign to get him the respect he deserves has been started by journalist Marc Myers, who recently wrote a major article in the Wall Street Journal. People inducted this year included Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens and Kiss and Myers points out that only a small proportion of inductees were active pre 1955, when rock and roll was born. Apparently the sub committee who decides these things is neutral, but the fact remains that most of them were born long after people like Big Jay made their initial mark. Hopefully he will have better luck next year if Mike Stoller's comments have any impact. 'I was aware of Big Jay when Jerry (Leiber) and I began writing songs for R&B artists in 1950 - we saw him perform and he drove the audience crazy. Rock and roll grew out of black popular music, and Big Jay was important. He excited the passions of the teens - black and white - and they responded to what he was doing."
Today Big Jay lives in a small bungalow not far from Watts where he grew up and has vivid memories of the ups and downs of his career. These days he mostly plays in Europe and has a number of trips planned, although none to the UK. Apparently he played at a small venue in London in December but sadly it went by unpublicised at the time. Let's hope it's not long until his next visit.
Above is a photo of me with Big Jay and below another one of the four of us with the great man.
Nick Cobban.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tribute to Joe Meek takes off

The latest in the series of Tales From The Woods tributes to British rock and roll was dedicated to the memory of Joe Meek, the influential record producer and engineer who produced such early sixties hits as Telstar and Johnny Remember Me. The show featured a mixture of artists who had been on previous shows and those who had not appeared before and, after a distinctly shaky start, proved to be another excellent evening of music and nostalgia, with some imaginative set lists and good performances.
Of the established acts, the most interesting, I thought, was Chas Hodges, whose much too short set veered away from his usual repertoire of cockney singalongs by focusing on songs by artists he has recorded with over the years which are featured on a new album called Together We Make Music. Chas recorded for Meek as a member of the Outlaws but most of his numbers had no direct connection with the magician of Holloway Road with the exception of My Baby Doll, a Mike Berry B side. Chas is always amusing with his memories of the time and had little anecdotes about each of his numbers, which included Crazy Arms (Jerry Lee), Don't You Just Know It (the Screamin' Lord Sutch version of the Huey Smith song), Cliff's Travellin' Light, Rocking Pneumonia And Boogie Woogie Flu, Bring A Little Water Sylvie and I Wonder Whose Arms You're In Tonight.
Also trying different material, with a Joe Meek connection, was Danny Rivers, who usually sticks to Elvis style numbers. This time he began with his jazzy Top Rank debut single Hawk and continued with some early recordings of his, including I'm Waiting For Tomorrow, Can You Hear My Heart, My Baby's Gone Away, We're Gonna Dance and the excellent Movin' In. Great to hear him sing his original numbers which showed what potential he had in his early days and what a good voice he continues to possess.
Top of the bill was Cliff Bennett, a man who has been on previous shows, who came on stage later than expected meaning that I didn't have time to see all his set. Cliff has a great voice and stage act but did not appear to vary his act much from previous shows from what little I heard of him, beginning with Bobby Bland's Turn On Your Lovelight and continuing with Slow Down, Mean Woman Blues and Watch Your Step.
Another star of a previous Borderline show was Robb Shenton who worked with several Joe Meek bands. Robb's voice is a strong one and he was fine on I'm A Hog For You, Boppin' The Blues, Please Stay (the Joe Meek/Cryin' Shames version), Little Baby (one of Joe Meek's finest moments when recorded by the Blue Rondos) and Down The Line.
Of the new artists on the bill, the best by far was Billie Davis, who is best known for her cover of the Exciters' Tell Him. Billie has a bubbly personality and stage presence and was a joy as she ran through Dreamin', Dream Lover, I Want You To Be My Baby, Mess Of Blues, the ballad Something On My Mind, which she recorded with Albert Lee, Back In The Rock And Roll Days, which she recorded with Jet Harris, and, of course, Tell Him. Great fun.
Less effective was Liverpudlian Lee Curtis, who played with his band the All Stars over 3,000 times at the Star Club in Hamburg, we were told. Lee began rather shakily with Route 66 and his versions of Be Bop A Lula, Heartbreak Hotel, Jezebel, Skinny Minnie, Ben E King's Ecstasy (which he recorded in 1964) and Jailhouse Rock were rather unconvincing.
Probably the less said about the opening act, Dave Kaye. who recorded a couple of obscure 45s with his band the Dykons for Decca, the better, as he was definitely in the pub singer league. His too long set included Paralysed, A Fool Such As I, Blue Suede Shows and a number of ballads that I couldn't identify. At least Dave performed, which is more than can be said for Ray Dexter, who apparently threw a hissy fit when told that he would be the first act and refused to take the stage.
Once again the promoter of the show Keith Woods must be congratulated for putting on another successful show, although the audience numbers seemed to be down on other recent events, and the excellent Tales From The Woods House Band, including ace keyboardist Claire Hamlin, the great driving saxes of Alex Bland and Sid Phillips and guitarist Iain Terry, standing in for John Spencely, now thankfully on the road to recovery after his recent operation. John came on stage to introduce Charles Blackwell, who was involved in many of Joe Meek's finer recordings back in the day.
Altogether a highly enjoyable show and I look forward to the next one in January.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Long Island Doowop weekend - day 2 photos

Here are photos from day two of the Long Island Woowop weekend at Hauppage High School, which I must say has a superb auditorium. The audience was mostly elderly - the Brooklyn Old Codgers - but the music was fresh and exciting. Maybe it's time for a doowop revival. Once again I've included songs and Youtube clips.
1. The Fireflies - I Can't Say Goodbye/ Cara Mia/ You Were Mine.
2. The Continentals featuring Danny Davis - I Love You So/ Fine Fine Frame/ Dear Lord.
3, Linda Jansen & the Angels - Cry Baby Cry/ My Boyfriend's Back/ Til.
4. Bill Perry & the Danleers - Wheeling And Dealing/ If You Didn't Mean It/ One Summer Night.
5. Denis Dority Jr with the Planetones - Endless Sleep/ If It Don't Work Out/ Love Me.
 6. David Somerville of the Diamonds - Why Do Fools Fall In Love/ The Stroll/ Silhouettes/ Little Darlin'.
7. Kid Kyle - So Young/ Drip Drop/ The Diary.
8. Herb Cox & the Cleftones - I Live You For Sentimental Reasons/ I Only Have Eyes For You/  Don't Let Go/ Little Girl Of Mine.
9. Jack Scott - What In The World's Come Over You/ Geraldine/ Goodbye Baby/ My True Love/ The Way I Walk.
10. Lenny Dell & the Demensions - Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart/ My Foolish Heart/ Over The Rainbow.
11. The Jarmels - The Way You Look Tonight/ Never Let Me Go/ Little Bit Of Soap.
12. Norman Fox & the Rob Roys - Pizza Pie/ Dream Girl/ Tell Me Why.
13. The Diablos - Gonna Make You Mine/ The Way You Dog Me Around/ The Wind.
14. The Harptones (with Bobby J) - Ain't No Mountain High Enough/ Sunday Kind Of Love/ Life Is But A Dream/ Get Ready/ Shrine of St Cecilia.
15. Larry Chance & the Earls - Never/ Remember Then/ I Believe.
16. Harold Winley & the Clovers - Lovey Dovey/ Devil Or Angel/ Blue Velvet/ Love Potion No 9.
17. Fred Parris & the Satins - The Entertainer/ Closer To The Aisle/ Everybody's Talking About The Jones Girls/ Hucklebuck/ In The Still Of The Night.
Photos by Nick Cobban.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Long Island Doowop weekend - photos from day 1

I'm back from from my US trip, in which I took in the Long Island Doowop Weekend, Viva Las Vegas and a trip to Los Angeles, so, as promised, I will be posting a series of photos of acts I saw over the next week or two. Here are the acts from day one at Long Island, with the songs they sang where I made a note, withsome Youtube links as well.
1. Jimmy Charles - Any Age Is The Age For Love/ Hop Scotch Hop/ A Million To One.
2. Kathy Young - Happy Birthday Blues/ Will You Love Me Tomorrow/ A Thousand Stars.
3. The Mystics - Goodbye Mr Blue/ Over The Rainbow/ Hushabye.
4. The Solitaires - Blue Valentine/ The Angels Sang/ Walking Along.
5. Tony Middleton & The Willows - Only My Heart/ Taste Of Love/ Church Bells May Ring.
6. Sonny Til's Orioles - Baby Please Don't Go/ Too Soon To Know/ Crying In The Chapel.
7. The Spaniels - Stormy Weather/ Heart And Soul/ You Gave Me Peace Of Mind.
8. Charlie Thomas & The Drifters - On Broadway/ This Magic Moment/ Sweets For My Sweet/ Save The Last Dance For Me.
9. Cleveland Still & The Dubs - Don't Ask Me To Be Lonely/ In The Chapel Of Dreams/ Could This Be Magic.
10. Jimmy Clanton - Go Jimmy Go/ Just A Dream/ Venus In Blue Jeans.
11. Jimmy Gallagher & The Passions - This Night Was Made For Love/ This Is My Love/ Gloria/ Just To Be With You.
12. Maurice Newton of the Fidelities - Captain Of My Ship/ Havin' A Party/ The Things I Love.
13. The Chantels - Look In My Eyes/ He's Gone/ I Love You So/ Maybe.
14. The Charts - Zoop/ Dance Girl/ Deserie.
15. Eugene Pitt & The Jive Five - What Time Is It/ You're The Girl In My Heart/ I'm A Happy Man/ My True Story/ Goodnight My Love.
16. Gene Chandler - Rockin' Robin/ Daddy's Home/ Groovy Situation/ I Only Have Eyes For You/ Duke Of Earl.
Photos by Nick Cobban.