Ponderosa Stomp, day one, part one
Day one of the 12th Ponderosa Stomp was all I could have hoped for and more, with a wonderfully varied selection of acts and some great performances. The highlight was soul singer Willie Hightower, but there was much more to enjoy as well and organiser Dr Ike is to be congratulated on putting such an imaginative line up together.
The show began with a Blondie type group called Miriam and Nobody's Babies and continued with blues from Guitar Lightning Lee and R L Boyce. Things really got going with the swamp pop revue featuring the Mama Mama Mamas, who comprise the nucleus of Lil Band of Gold (the excellent guitar of C C Adcock, the Cajun styles of Steve Riley and Dickie Landry's sax). C C and Steve shared leads on Congo Mambo (a tribute to former drummer Jockey Etienne, who died recently), Cajun Twist and Bobby Charles' Teenagers. Newcomer Michael Hurtt then took the lead on Lonely Mardi Gras, before swamp pop legend Rod Bernard took the stage. Now 75, Rod's voice is not what it was, but he was fine on Recorded in England, his big hits This Should Go On Forever and Colinda, plus Nobody But You, originally recorded by Lil Bob (and the Lollipops), who also died recently. Next on was Gene Terry who absolutely nailed his hit Cindy Lou. Other songs included Never Let You Go, Sea Cruise (yet another tribute, this time to Frankie Ford), Fool To Care, Woman I Love and Teardrops In My Eyes. C C sang the Bobby Charles number Street People, before introducing the white bearded Tommy McLain to the stage. Still sounding good, his set included Jukebox Songs, the Woodies anthem Before I Grow Too Old, Baby Doll, I'll Change and Sweet Dreams, before he was joined on stage by Gene for the swamp pop classic Mathilde.
Two hours of quality soul followed with the arrival on stage of the Bo-Keys, including Scott Bomar, the incomparable Howard Grimes on drums, keyboard player Archie Turner and sax player Scott Thompson. First of three ladies of soul on stage was Betty Harris, who looked glamorous in a long turquoise dress. It was a short set, backed by three backing singers, comprising Mean Man, Cry To Me, the funky Break On The Road and a snippet of I'm Gonna Get You - too short in truth - but she made way for the excellent Willie Hightower, a soul man who I haven't seen perform before. His voice is reminiscent of Sam Cooke, with a slightly rougher edge, and he was superb on Dee Clark's Nobody But You, the Cooke-ish Time Has Brought About a Change, It's a Miracle and Walk a Mile In my Shoes. Personally I could have done without the sing along on his biggest hit If I Had a Hammer, but there was no denying Willie's class and he would be perfect for Porretta. Next on was Brenda Holloway, looking great in a red gown. She struggled with the tempo of some of her Motown hits, including When I'm Gone, Operator, Every Little Bit Hurts and the rather dreary You Made Me So Very Happy. A pretty good set, but overshadowed a little by a sparkling set by 85 year old Mable John. Wearing a white lacy 'Miss Haversham' style dress, she wowed the crowd with Able Mable, Bad Water, from her time with the Raelets, a delicious Same Time Same Place, Another Man's Place and Your Good Thing Is About To End.