Monday, August 29, 2016

Top 20 tunes of 1962

I came across a list of my 20 favourite records of 1962 today. It was compiled in May, 1964, so sufficiently after the event for mature consideration, but still quite contemporary. Interesting that the top four records were all from New Orleans. I'm not even sure that I realised that at the time. Also some early indications of Motown and Stax, as well as my all time favourite singer Sam Cooke and some girl group 45s. Here's the list:
1. Lipstick Traces - Benny Spellman.
2. I Know - Barbara George.
3.Do Re Mi - Lee Dorsey.
4. It Will Stand - The Showmen.
5. What's So Good About Goodbye - The Miracles.
6. Green Onions - Booker T and the MGs.
7. Nothing Can Change This Love - Sam Cooke.
8. Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon.
9. Soldier Boy - The Shirelles.
10. Dr Feelgood - Dr Feelgood (Piano Red).
11. He's A Rebel - The Crystals.
12. Down In The Valley - Solomon Burke.
13. Havin' A Party - Sam Cooke.
14. Do You Love me  - The Contours.
15. Working For The Man- Roy Orbison.
16. Little Bitty Pretty One - Clyde McPhatter.
17. Baby It's You - The Shirelles.
18. Bring It On Home To Me - Sam Cooke.
19. When My Little Girl Is Smiling - The Drifters.
20. He Got What he Wanted - Little Richard.
I don't think my tastes have changed much over the last 52 years. Any other similar historic lists out there?
Here's Benny Spellman in New Orleans in 1993 - the only time I saw him perform. He died in 2011.
And here is Barbara George on the Creole Queen riverboat in New Orleans in 1991.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Blues artists hit by Louisiana floods

My heart goes out to Louisiana residents who, yet again, have suffered severe flooding.The state is well used to flooding and songs like Randy Newman's Louisiana 1927 are testament to that scourge.This time it is Baton Rouge that has suffered worst, rather than New Orleans, but it seems that there has been little media coverage of this disaster, certainly not in the UK, but also in the US. Barack Obama has not paid a visit, although Donald Trump is threatening to go and no doubt do some electioneering.
A number of blues artists have suffered badly as a result of the floods. Singer and piano player Henry Gray (pictured at the 2005 Ponderosa Stomp), now aged 91, has reportedly lost everything. Bluesman Bob Corritore is raising money to help him. Larry Garner's home has been affected, and members of the Neal family, including Kenny, Darnell and Darlene, have also been badly hit.
I will be in Louisiana soon visiting the Blues and Barbecue Festival in New Orleans and also staying in Lafayette, and I can only hope that conditions have improved by then. But it's time that the US authorities and media took the situation seriously and provided more help for the victims.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ernie Johnson's Blues Bash

Guest contributor Noah Schaffer reports on what sounds like a great show at R.L.’s Blues Palace II, Dallas, TX. 
The recent deaths of B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland didn’t just mean the conclusion of their storied careers. It also meant the end of two of the last touring blues big bands.
Thankfully soul-blues belter Ernie Johnson is keeping the flame alive with his Ernie Johnson Show, a 9-piece orchestra that frequently performs around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. 
Johnson’s discography dips back to 1968’s 'Lovin' You' and includes Southern soul hits on Jewel and Malaco in the 90’s. For his birthday Johnson puts on an annual show at R.L.’s Blues Palace, which surely ranks as one of the greatest juke joints in the United States. Owner R.L. Griffin, who also has several rare 45s to his credit, hosts local and national blues and Southern soul talent every Friday through Sunday night. The club is especially known for its late-night Hen Call, where the band breaks into a Bo Diddley beat while ladies of all sizes climb on stage to shake their booty. 
The venue’s fine house band was given the night off so the Ernie Johnson Show could be showcased all night. The band started off with an instrumental before 25-year bandleader and guitarist Sam Honey was showcased. 
Next up was a raunchy set from Lady Lotion, whose own booty shaking didn’t overshadow the fact that she’s a singer of great depth and emotion. During a short break a DJ entertained the full house with a set of popular line dance tunes and current Southern soul hits like Pokey Bear’s “Sidepiece.” (Pokey Bear will surely fill the Blues Palace when he sings there next month.) 
Soon it was showtime, with the birthday boy taking the stage for originals like the pleading “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” A tribute to his friend Bobby “Blue” Bland followed, featuring cameos from soul luminaries in the audience who included Vernon Garrett, Rue Davis and, most emotionally, an ailing Big Charles Young, who passed away a few weeks later.
Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” found Johnson roaming the audience before he returned to originals with the title track of his “I’m the One You Need” LP and the masterpiece 'Loves on the Other Line.'  The night ended with Johnson’s two trademarks: the upbeat anthem “It’s Party Time” and his oft-requested version of Otis Redding's 'Dreams to Remember'. Johnson’s next high-profile appearance will be as part of the spectacular lineup on offer at Austin’s East Side Kings Festival on Sept. 11.

Friday, August 12, 2016

And now, Ruby Wilson

Fresh on the news that Ruby Winters has died comes news that another Ruby, the Queen of Beale Street, Ruby Wilson, has died aged 68. Although born in Texas, Ruby moved to Memphis aged 16 and became a regular performer on Beale Street. She was a superb blues singer who appeared regularly at B B King's club on Beale and at festivals throughout the US. She also had roles in several movies, including The Chamber, The People vs Larry Flint, Cookie's Fortune and Black Snake Moan. She suffered a stroke in 2009 but continued to perform and I saw her a number of times in recent years, including at the New Orleans Jazzfest in 2013 (pictured above), when she performed a tribute to Bessie Smith, and, most recently, at Ground Zero in Clarksdale in October 2014, where she was a guest performer with Super Chickan. Despite her disability she always looked glamorous and her voice was as strong as ever.
Below are a couple of photos at Ground Zero, including one with me. RIP Ruby (both of them),

Ruby Winters RIP

It's been reported that soul singer Ruby Winters has passed away at the age of 69. Born in Kentucky,
Ruby's first success was on a duet with Johnny Thunder in 1967 with Make Love To Me. She recorded several records for the Diamond label including I Want Action/ Better, which was released in the UK on Stateside  and became a highly collectable Northern soul favourite. Other Diamond releases included Always David (written by Dan Penn and Eddie Hinton), I Don't Want To Cry and Guess Who. After several less successful records for other labels she recorded I Will, a song that had been recorded earlier by Vic Dana in 1962 and Billy Fury two years later, which became a surprise top ten hit in the UK on the Creole label in 1977. She followed it up with another UK top 20 hit with Come To Me and had smaller hits with I Won't Mention It Again and Baby Lay Down.
Another recent death is that of producer and songwriter Leo Graham who was closely involved with many records by Tyrone Davis and the Manhattans. He wrote one of Tyrone's biggest hits, Turning Point.
It's farewell also to Bonnie Brown, a member of The Browns, who are best known for the 1959 hit The Three Bells. Other records included Scarlet Ribbons, The Old Lamp Lighter and Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Memphis '98

Following my last blog entry about the death of William Brown of the Mad Lads, I've been going through photos of my trip to Memphis in 1998, my second time there. It was the first time that I got to see the great Bobby Rush in action. He was at the Daisy Theatre on Beale Street and in those days he had four girl dancers. His act was rude, lewd and thoroughly enjoyable - just as it still is to day. Here are a couple of photos of him at the Daisy.
I drove up to Memphis from New Orleans with John Howard and we made our way to the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale, where James Govan was in residence. Here he is in action.
While we were there we went to a reception ahead of the Handy Awards attended by Otis Clay among others. The Handy Awards themselves featured Ruth Brown and Robert Cray as joint hosts. The highlights of a fabulous evening included a duet with Keb Mo and Honey Boy Edwards, a great set by Johnny Adams (the last time I saw him before he died) and a wonderful duet with Bonnie Raitt and Rufus Thomas. Later we went to a blues club called the Junkyard where Kevin Kimbrough, son of bluesman Junior Kimbrough, was playing. We also went to the Beale Street festival where the stars included the Holmes Brothers, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ruby Wilson, Shirley Caesar, the Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, the Jelly Roll Kings, the Neville Brothers, J Blackfoot, Steve Earle and Robert Cray, plus Anson Funderburg and Sam Myers (pictured). 
While we were in town we had a burger at Sun Studios Cafe (Jon Cleary was there) and also made our way to Al Green's church. We sat listening to the gospel music at the service for a couple of hours, while the collection plate came round several times, before they announced that the Reverend Green would not be there today!
One of the highlights, as already mentioned, was our visit to Royal Studios. Willie Mitchell was sitting at the entrance with his feet up. He was very welcoming and we went through to the recording studio with Donnie Mitchell where William Brown showed us around, before Otis Clay walked in with Scott Billington. Here's a photo of me with Willie Mitchell.
While we were at the Rum Boogie Cafe we bumped into Lee Wilkinson, Tony Papard and Keith Woods, Here they are with John Howard (left) and another guy we were chatting to.
At that time Stax Studios was just a memory, having been demolished. The only indication of where it had been was this marker. Thankfully the Stax Museum is now keeping its memory alive.
Finally, here's one of me at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park where Elvis made many appearances and which still hosts music concerts today.