Monday, February 09, 2015

Rockin' Race Jamboree in sunny (but chilly) Spain

I'm not sure if dressing up as an American Indian chief, complete with multi coloured feathered head-dress, is politically correct these days. But it works for bluesman Eddy 'The Chief' Clearwater, who made a stunning visual impression when he came on stage at the Rockin' Race Jamboree in Torremolinos this weekend. The head gear was great but his performance was pretty good too. Now 80 years old, Eddy plays Chuck Berry style guitar, only left handed, and sounds a bit like him as well. Unlike Chuck on some past occasions, Eddy puts his all into his act, although he refused to do an encore much to the disappointment of an enthusiastic crowd. Starting with Boogie Woogie Baby, first recorded in 1958, he included a couple of songs from his recent Soul Funky album - Good Times Are Coming and Too Old To Get Married. He also did a very accurate Chuck Berry impersonation on Sweet Little Rock and Roller and Reelin' and Rockin', plus a rocking version of You're Humbugging Me, ending with Whole Lotta Shakin' which morphed into Hound Dog. Some more of his back catalogue would have been welcome, but there's no doubt that Eddy was one of the stars of the festival.
Another star and in my opinion the most enjoyable act at the space age Palacio De Congresos was early sixties hitmaker Chris Montez, who was backed by Deke Dickerson (pictured below) and his band. Chris made number one  in the UK with Let's Dance in 1962 and he sensibly stuck to his early material, steering clear of his later middle of the road numbers, and was clearly enjoying himself, as he danced and spun around the stage. He began with Some Kinda Fun, the follow up to Let's Dance, and included Chiquita Mia, Shoot The Curl, a surfing song that he wrote himself, You're The One (the B side of his big hit), an early rocker She's My Rocking Baby, Monkey Fever, the slower Nobody But Me and I've Got the Rocking Blues. He paid tribute to fellow Latino star Ritchie Valens with Donna and La Bamba and also sang a number called No No No, which sounded very much like La Bamba. Chris finished inevitably with Let's Dance and everyone in the crowd, plus Chris himself, had a big smile on their faces, as this was a truly fun set, one that was just as good as his appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2013. Chris toured with the Beatles before they made it big (I remember seeing the show in Croydon) and allegedly thumped John Lennon when he poured a pint of beer on his head (I would have loved to have seen that!). Chris may not have had their success but he's still a joy to watch today. Deke Dickerson's contribution on guitar shouldn't be ignored either, as he showed once again what an excellent guitarist he is.
With one or two exceptions (eg Chris Montez), the festival was spoiled for me by the poor sound, which meant that many numbers were hard to identify, and also by the rather mediocre quality of some of the rockabilly acts on the bill. I missed the appearance by the third visiting American Roddy Jackson, making his third visit to Europe in the last six months, but enjoyed Scottish band the New Piccadillys (pictured below), who did a sixties beat set that included some  first rate covers, including the Ramones' Judy Is A Punk, The Rivieras' California Sun, Irma Thomas's Breakaway and Joey Dee's Peppermint Twist, plus a rocker in the form of Brand New Cadillac.
Also impressive were Swedish band the Kokomo Kings, but I could work up little enthusiasm for Annita and the Starbombers, the rockabilly sound of the Round Up Boys, Little Lou, hillbilly act Charlie Thompson, French rockabilly singer Don Cavalli or the tuneless warblings of Miss Mary Ann, who did possibly the worst version of Sanford Clark's The Fool that I've heard.
Much more exciting was an appearance on Sunday night at the Buensol Hotel of Blind Rage and Violence, a masked three piece band (plus a minder apparently called Igor) who modelled their act on Link Wray. There was menace, there was sexism, as the lead guitarist invited a couple of ladies on stage and gently spanked them, and there was booze, as they invited the audience to pour beer down their throats as they walked through the audience. Most of their numbers were Link Wray style instrumentals, although they also did a vocal on Treat Her Right and a heavy guitar version of Last Date. Who were these masked men? We were not told, but Deke Dickerson's name came up frequently.
Here are some more photos from the Rockin' Race. First, a couple more of Eddy Clearwater.
Here's another one of Chris Montez and Deke Dickerson.
Here are Annita and the Starbombers.
These are the Round Up Boys.
Here is the lead singer of the Kokomo Kings.
This is Little Lou, who appeared with guitarist Roy Thompson.
This is Charlie Thompson.
This is Miss Mary Ann.
This is her band the Ragtime Wranglers, who showed, at a later show at the Buensol, that they are fine musicians.
This is Don Cavalli.
Here's one more of Blind Rage and Violence, with the lead guitarist spanking two girls on stage. I've no idea why.
Nick Cobban


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