Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jack Ely - one hit wonder

The death at 71 of Jack Ely, who sang lead on the Kingsmen's 1963 hit Louie Louie, has attracted considerable interest. Certainly the record was a great one - an early example of grunge perhaps - and it topped my personal top ten for four weeks in January 1964. But in Jack's case he was the archetypal one hit
wonder. Before Louie Louie was even a hit he fell out with the leader of the group Lynn Easton, who wanted to take over as singer, and left. When he tried to return he was turned down and all future Kingsmen records were fronted by Easton. On the Kingsmen's first LP, The Kingsmen In Person, which includes Louie Louie, Jack isn't even mentioned in the sleeve notes. As the song had been written by Richard Berry several years earlier Jack didn't even get writing royalties. He formed another version of the Kingsmen, but had to change its name to the Courtmen, and never had another hit.
The record itself gained notoriety because of its unintelligible mumbled lyrics. Whether this was because Jack was straining to get a 'live' sound with a microphone above his head (it was recorded in a single take), the effect of the braces he had on his teeth or because he just didn't know the words I'm not sure, but it's certainly part of its charm. It was enough to attract the interest of the FBI who suspected that the lyrics were obscene. After a lengthy investigation they concluded that it was in fact unintelligible with no discernible meaning, which a single listen could no doubt have confirmed.
As I've been away I haven't had an opportunity to pay tribute on The Vinyl Word to Percy Sledge, who died recently aged 74. Percy had one of the most effective and deeply moving soul voices of all time and When A Man Loves A Woman was the first deep soul record to become a major hit in the pop charts and one of the biggest hits to come out of Muscle Shoals. Follow ups such as Warm And Tender Love, Heart Of A Child, It Tears Me Up, Out Of Left Field (my personal favourite), Take Time To Know Her, Pledging My Love and Any Day Now were equally effective. Percy was a modest, unshowy man but possessed such a fantastic voice that he didn't need to be a showman. He could just stand still, with his eyes tightly closed, and let the words come out and the audience would be mesmerised. I saw him a number of times and my photo shows him at the Jazz Cafe in 1997. RIP Percy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ladies of Vegas

Here's a further batch of photos from Viva Las Vegas, this time featuring some of the females who were there.
Burlesque is one of the big attractions of the festival, as it seems to be at many rockabilly festivals these days. In my youth it was known as striptease. But this is different.. It's tasteful, it's artistic - not in any way seedy! And some of the burlesque artistes are gorgeous. My favourite was Pearl Noire.
Some of the others were also highly visual.
There was also a puppeteer, whose subjects included Barrack Obama and Michael Jackson.
Around the festival there were many women looking their best. Here are a few of them, starting with a lady named Sassy Cat.
This is Ruby Woo.
Finally, here's another photo of Pearl Noire.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

West Coast music photos

Here is the final batch of music photos from my US trip, taking in some of the excellent places we went to in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
We visited several blues venues in LA, thanks to tips from local blues fan Allen 'Charmin' Larman, ranging from backyard juke joints to established clubs. First, here are a couple from Bell's Blues Workshop, which is based in the garage of Franklin Bell in south LA. This is the house band.
Featured singers included Broadway, who played with Georgie Fame's band when he was based in the UK as a GI in the early sixties.
Also singing at Bell's was Mississippi Bert.
We went on to the Menlo Club where another fine band backed a number of singers, including the excellent 'Sir' Stan Griggs.
Another star at the Menlo was Jackie Jackson.
Also putting on a great soul act was Gary 'Dap' Gibson.
The third club we visited was the Pure Pleasure Club, which was packed. The host there was soul/blues singer Darryl 'Duffy' Glenn.
Another popular singer there is Louisiana born Bobby Love.
Another great blues singer was James Miller.
It was a treat to see Walter Saulsberry, a member of The Penguins for over 40 years, sing Earth Angel.
On to San Francisco now where we caught up with soul man Freddie Hughes doing his regular spot at the Royal Cuckoo Lounge, backed by Chris Burns on Hammond. Freddie's biggest hit was Send My Baby Back from 1968.
Here's one of me with Freddie.
Our last gig in San Francisco was at the Chapel, a former church, where we saw the return of the Flamin' Groovies with original member Cyril Jordan. Here are a few photos.
The support act at the gig was San Francisco folk/rock recording artists Kelley Stoltz.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Taste of southern soul in Las Vegas

There's more to Las Vegas than gambling and flashy shows on the Strip. There is also a thriving soul and blues scene, although it seems that not many visitors get to experience it. On the Monday following Viva Las Vegas we went to two clubs where southern soul and blues was definitely the order of the day, and saw some great talent. Here are a few photos from the City Lights club. Thanks to Noah Schaffer for giving us the info.
Regular act at the club is Bobby Jones, who sings very much in the style of B B King. He was celebrating 55 years in the music business and there were several guest singers in the house.
The most impressive of these was Monique Brewster, who has a brilliant soul voice and is an exciting performer.
Also excellent was Patrice Moncel, a cousin of Tyrone Davis.
Another impressive blues singer at the club was Lady Brandy.
This is Marion Williams, who has a really powerful voice.
Very much in the James Brown mould - and very impressive - this is Willie Ray.
Here are a couple of me with some of the artists.On the left (top photo) is legendary blues piano player Leon Blue.
After the City Lights we went on to the CEO Hookah Lounge where Walter Waiters, cousin of Mel Waiters, was performing a solo spot with just a keyboard and backing tape - and doing it well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Viva Las Vegas photos - days 3 & 4

Here are a batch of photos from days three and four of the Viva Las Vegas festival.
First, the great Dion, who put on a truly fantastic set at the VLV Car Show.
Here's what some doowop fans thought of it.
Also performing at the car show were 60s garage band The Sonics.
Making their debut at VLV were UK family band Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. This is Kitty.
This is the trumpet player with the band, Eddie Tan Tan Thornton.
A surprise hit at the Car Show were the Bop Hounds from Brazil.
Three original rockabilly artists performed on the Saturday night. Here is Huelyn Duvall.
This is Ray Campi, who celebrated his 81st birthday this week.
And here is Joe Clay.
One of the lesser known names making a good impression were Little Lesley and the Bloodshots.
Final act of the weekend was a feast of doowop with three of the all time greats: Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five, Bobby Lewis and Herb Cox of the Cleftones.
Here they are all together.