Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Picks of the Ponderosa Stomp

It's been a long two years since the last one, but the 12th Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans is almost upon us. As ever there's a fantastic line up which includes some of the greats of female soul music such as Mable John, Irma Thomas, Brenda Holloway, Barbara Lynn and Betty Harris, as well as many names from rock and roll, swamp pop and blues, including Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyers, Joe Clay, Warren Storm, Rod Bernard and Roy Head to name but a few. John Broven will be interviewing some of the swamp pop stars during the conference sessions which accompany the Stomp.
Many of the artists I've seen before and I am looking forward to seeing them again, but there are some I've never seen perform live and never thought I would. Here are three in particular that I'm excited about.
Willie Hightower is one of the lesser known names of soul music who has a voice that has been compared to that of Sam Cooke, only with a grittier edge. Originally from Alabama, he began singing gospel but moved into R and B and was signed by Bobby Robinson in New York, who released a couple of singles on his Enjoy and Fury labels. The Fury single, featured here, So Tired (Of Running Away From Love), is a gorgeous piece of soul and shows just how good his voice is. His contract was transferred to Capitol but Bobby continued to produce him, including It's A Miracle, another great track. Capitol released an album named after the B side of his Fury release, If I Had A Hammer, but he lost out promotion-wise to bigger names on the label such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Capitol sent him to Fame in Muscle Shoals, with whom they had a distribution deal, and he recorded the third of the 45s featured - a great double sider comprising Joe South's Walk A Mile In My Shoes and the even better self-penned You Used Me Baby, produced by Rick Hall. Red Kelly, who has written about Willie on his excellent blog, will be interviewing him in the conference section of the Stomp. Should be fascinating.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IceI9-rrpRU

P F Sloan became better known as a songwriter than as a singer, most notably as the writer of Barry McGuire's Eve Of Destruction. Together with his singing partner Steve Barri he came to the notice of Lou Adler who used them as backing singers on a string of Jan and Dean records - indeed he took the falsetto lead on The Little Old Lady Of Pasadena. He also sang with the Rip Chords and the duo released records of their own as The Fantastic Baggies. He became a member of LA's famed Wrecking Crew as a session guitarist and his songwriting prospered with hits by Johnny Rivers (Secret Agent Man), Hermans Hermits (A Must To Avoid) and the Searchers (Take Me For What I Am). He recorded under his own name and had two 45s released in the UK, including the folksy Sins Of A Family, which shows off his high voice to good effect. After Jan Berry's car accident he took his place with Jan and Dean and he and Barri recorded as the Grass Roots. He later recorded an album called Measure For Pleasure in Memphis but it failed to sell and he disappeared from the music scene. His mixed success is alluded to in 'P F Sloan', a song written by Jimmy Webb. Fascinating to see him perform at the Stomp and to hear him at the conference.
Finally, I'm interested to discover who was who in the San Antonio West Side soul scene, which is represented by Rudy T Gonzales, Little Henry, Rudy Palacios, Chente Montez and Manuel 'Bones' Aragon. It's a genre about which I know little, apart from Little Willie John's Talk To Me by Sunny and the Sunglows, who morphed into Sunny and the Sunliners. Other groups in this scene included Rudy and the Reno Bops, the Laveers and the Royal Jesters. My copy of Talk To Me on Huey Meaux's Tear Drop label has Pony Time by Sunny and the Sunglows on the B side, but others, including the UK release on London, has Every Week, Every Month, Every Year by Sunny and the Sunliners on the flip.


At 6:37 pm , Blogger Lex Jansen said...

I'll be heading to Nawlins too for the Stomp (after visiting Memphis and Clarksdale). Looking forward to a great Stomp!



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