End of a long and winding road
Our American odyssey is nearing its end. We started off in Long Island for the Doowop weekend, then flew to Chicago for some blues, before travelling the highways and byways of Route 66, taking in St Louis, Springfield, Oklahoma City, Tucumcari, Gallup and Kingman before finally arriving in Vegas for Viva Las Vegas. Over 2500 miles in total. We took loads of photos and I will be featuring some of the music related ones in the next few days so keep an eye open.
The world's largest rockabilly festival ended last night with more of a focus on Doowop and very good it was too. But first a couple of us went with Noah Shaffer and Dave Thomas to the Champagnes bar to see Walter Waiters sing and play keyboards in his regular gig. He has a great bluesy voice and his southern soul number Don't Scratch My Back is a beauty. First on at the festival was the wonderful Vicky Tafoya, who lights up the stage with her sparkly jewellery, huge eye lashes, red lips and bouffant hair. Her voice makes an even bigger impression, especially her take on the Doowop classic I'm So Young. The band was loud, maybe too loud, but Vicky was brilliant, with great versions of Never Let Go, a superb wedding song I Vow To You, dedicated to two newly weds in the crowd, Coming Late, Please Don't Leave Me and I Put A Spell On You. It was a spellbinding set, possibly the best of the whole weekend.
Next up was Michael Hurtt and the Haunted Hearts, who were enjoyable on songs such as Searching For Shadows and Breaking Hearts. And then it was time for a quartet of older Doowop and rockabilly acts. After a couple of numbers from Carl Sonny Leyland, who did a sterling job on keyboards throughout the weekend, Gene Summers brought some old school rockabilly to the stage with Got A Lot Of That, Straight Skirt, Alabama Shake, Fancy Dan and School Of Rock And Roll. Next up was some classic Doowop from Otis Williams and the Charms. Their mini set included Two Kisses, a song for which, Otis said, he received no royalties, despite it being covered by the likes of Pat Boone and Frank Sinatra, Just One Kind Word and the 1954 million seller Hearts Of Stone. No Ivory Tower however, but highly enjoyable. Next on stage, and fresh from his recent success at the Spice of Life in London, was the mercurial Charlie Gracie, still a great guitarist at the age of 80. His hits Fabulous and Butterfly were there, as was his tribute to his friend Eddie Cochran I'm All Right. The second great Doowop act of the night were the Cleftones, looking great in gold lame jackets, who were quite superb on hits such as Heart and Soul, I Love You For Sentimental Reasons, Right From The Start, The Flamingos' I Only Have Eyes For You and, of course, Little Girl Of Mine. A great set, further enlivened by some body bending contortions by one of the group. Leader and original member Herb Cox still has a great voice. Finally, in this segment, there were more gymnastics by young British group the Extraordinaires, who were excellent on Gonna Rock With You, Why Do Fools Fall In Love and the Cadillacs' Tell Me Why. Some of our group were a bit tired by now but John Howard went on to see Deke Dickerson' s Hillbilly party, which included a segment with the Ragin' Cajun Doug Kershaw.
Tomorrow it's off to London but it's been a superb three weeks and will live long in the memory.