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