The annual Rhythm Riot at Pontin's holiday camp in Camber, near Rye, attracts visitors from all over Europe, but no one goes for the accommodation. Even the luxury chalet where I stayed resembled an over-crowded prison cell, had no towels provided and was lacking in all but the most basic amenities. Most of those attending go for the jiving or to show off their tattoos, vintage clothing or classic cars. The music, even though the line up included three original American artists who made their name in the fifties, seemed almost incidental, although some of the younger European bands have an enthusiastic following. Neverthless it's a great place to meet up with old friends and wallow in music nostalgia, spend money on vinyl records and do a bit of people watching.
For me, it's the live music that is what appeals, and there were some interesting and, at times, excellent acts, although I've seen most of them during the last 12 months so there was little in the way of surprises.
Undoubted star of the first day was Charlie Gracie
, now 78, who is as professional as ever and has a back catalogue from the fifties that still stands up well today. A regular visitor to the UK, he performed all his big hits, including Just Lookin', Butterfly, Wandering Eyes, 99 Ways, Fabulous, Cool Baby and Heart Like A Rock, plus a couple of others including Tootsie, which was co-written by Quinton Claunch and was the B side of the first Hi record by Carl McVoy in 1957.
First act on day one were the Revolutionaires
, a rock and roll band featuring two sax players which set the mood for the evening. Numbers included Keep A Knocking, Shake Your Hips, Jump For Joy and, rather predictably, What'd I Say.
Another first day act, and a new one to me was Josh 'Hi-Fi' Sorheim
from the US, who included several originals in his act but didn't quite live up to his Eddie Cochran looks in terms of excitement.
Final act of the first day was Spanish instrumental band Los Mambo Jambo
. I saw them in Spain earlier this year and was impressed by their visual movement and instrumental brilliance and they didn't disappoint this time.
The star of day two was Specialty recording star Roddy Jackson
, who played at a Tales From The Woods gig a few months ago. Roddy puts his all into his act and must be the only man alive who can not only play piano and saxophone superbly but also sing on Little Richard style numbers with total conviction. His set included early recordings such as Hiccups, Any Old Town, Juke Box Baby, I Found A New Girl, Moose On the Loose and I've Got My Sights On Someone New plus tributes to his idol Little Richard with Lucille and Good Golly Miss Molly. Roddy gave his all and it was disappointing to see so few of the audience paying attention.
Kicking off proceedings on day two were Nico Duportal and His Rhythm Dudes
, a French band that comes across very strongly. Nico is an excellent guitarist and obviously doesn't mind being teased as he was wearing rather fetching shorts.
Next on stage were Dutch band the Bugalettes
featuring three female singers. They looked OK and harmonised well but I found their Western swing material rather dull, but that's just my view.
Much more enjoyable, for me anyway, were Lil Mo and the Dynaflos
, a tight, melodic young Californian doowop group who included some excellent new songs including Ding Dong Baby and, I think, Settle Down, Miss Magician and Hands Off plus some doowop classics such as You Belong To Me and Trying To Get To You. Excellent stuff.
The fifties original starring on the final day of the Rhythm Riot was Eddie Daniels
, who I first saw at the Ponderosa Stomp last year. Eddie recorded several tracks for Ebb in the fifties and revealed that he had been to the UK three times before as a member of a version of the Platters. His act this time was very different from the last due, I'm sure, to a road traffic accident a few weeks ago which damaged his knee. He spent nearly all of his set seated at the piano, the music stand of which prevented anyone to the right of the stage seeing anything but the top of his red hat. His set included a couple of Ebb recordings including Whoa Whoa Baby and Mardi Gras (although not his best known number I Wanna Know) and one of his Jewel (Akens) and Eddie duets My Eyes Are Crying (although again, not their best known number Opportunity). After insisting that all the audience should believe in God he complained that he had been ripped off over Larry Williams' Bony Moronie and finished with several covers, including Oh Lonesome Me, What'd I Say, Lucille and Send Me Some Loving. Despite his obvious lack of mobility I enjoyed his set, although others I was with were less impressed.
Also on the final evening we had US singer Alex Vargas, performing with the Nico Duportal band. A pretty good singer, with a very fine band, but not outstanding.