Tuesday, July 22, 2014

James Govan and others - RIP

While I've been away at Porretta there has been a spate of deaths, including that of James Govan, aged just 64. I first saw James at Porretta in 1997 and made a point of catching his brilliant soul singing the following year when I visited Memphis. James played regularly at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street, home of the original Stax sign, and I saw him several times on subsequent trips to Memphis, the last time being in October 2011, when he was clearly unwell. James had a great soulful voice and I recall that his version of I've Got Dreams To Remember brought lumps to my throat when I saw him in 2008 (see photo). Born in Mississippi, James played with a group called The Vans when he was spotted by George Jackson who took him to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Mickey Buckins produced a number of records by James including Wanted:Lover, but none of them were hits. In the 1980s he recorded some classic tracks at Muscle Shoals, including Uphill Climb and Jealous Kind and his first album I'm In Need appeared in 1996, followed by  A Night on Beale in 1998. Ace issued Wanted, a collection of mainly unissued Fame recordings, in 2013. In later years he refused to play at Porretta as he seemed keen not to jeopardise his gig at the Rum Boogie Cafe, but seeing him in his own environment was one of the great pleasures of trips to Memphis. He will be missed.
No visit to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Jim Russell's Rare Records on Magazine St so it's sad to hear that Jim Russell has died aged 94. Jim's role in the early days of rock and roll is considerable amd he claimed that he was the one who alerted Alan Freed to the potential appeal of what was known as 'race' music to a white audience. After losing his job for playing black music on a whites only station he moved to New Orleans and his rambling record shop became a mecca for record collectors. Chatting to him a few years ago he said that he was the man who taught Millie Jackson to talk dirty! Last time I visited, just over a year ago, the shop was being run by his daughter in law Denise and was in a poor state, with water coming through a couple of holes in the roof. Here's an MTV video of Jim talking about his early life and the music he loved.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omgCATsEFwU&feature=share
It's farewell, too, to blues guitarist Johnny Winter, who has died aged 70. From Beaumont, Texas, Johnny, brother of Edgar Winter, made his first record aged just 15 and in 1967 he recorded a version of Tramp with Roy Head's band the Traits. His big break came in 1968 when he moved to Chicago and met Mike Bloomfield. His first solo album came out the following year with support from Willie Dixon and Walter Horton and he went on to record many other albums and produce those by Muddy Waters after the fall of Chess. Johnny's guitar style was a little too shrill for me, but he was undoubtedly one of the blues greats. He appeared at many festivals in UK and Europe and was found dead in Zurich two days after appearing at a festival in France.
The Vinyl Word also raises a glass to actor James Garner, who has died aged 86. He was one of the stars of the comedy Western TV series Maverick, which was one of my favourite TV shows of the late 1950s, and went on to become a major film star in movies such as Move Over Darling, The Great Escape and Boys Night Out. In the 1970s he starred as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files and continued making movies through to 2010.
RIP also to bluesman Nick Charles, who played with Billy Branch and the Sons of the Blues, as well as many of the blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and to Tommy Ramone, last remaining original member of the Ramones.


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