Monday, June 25, 2018

Doo-wop Legends at the 100 Club

The Apollo Theatre in Harlem of the 1950s was recreated at the 100 Club in London last night when three original doo-wop singers appeared on stage at the latest Tales From The Woods show. Sadly there was a less than capacity audience, consisting mostly of older music fans, but the performances were top notch and this was definitely a night to remember.
Backed by the ever excellent Tales From The Woods Band, and supported by the superb Barcelona based doowop quartet The Four Candles (aka the Velvet Candles), John Cheatdom, Tommy Hunt and Gaynel Hodge, have a combined aged of over 240 years, but they have still got the sweet voices that served them so well back in the day. After an introduction from Keith Woods, who has masterminded all the TFTW shows over the last ten years or so, the band played four numbers, two instrumentals and two - Don't Come Knockin. and Chicken Shack Boogie - on which lead guitarist John Spencely took the vocals.
The sound seemed a bit muddy at this stage but it improved once the Four Candles (pictured above), who performed for the remainder of the show, took the stage.Their lead singer Augie Burriel took the lead on several classic numbers, including the Velvets' Tonight, Dance Girl Dance, Little Darling and She's The Most, while the soft tones of Miguel Garro sang Fools Fall In Love, Cry Cry Cry and the Cleftones' Heart And Soul. This was harmony group singing at its very best - something we've come to expect from this group over recent years. They look right, with their white jackets with bow ties and their choreographed stage moves, and they sound right too: a throwback to the doo-wop groups of the fifties.
First solo act on stage was John Cheatdom, who had spells with the Velours and Penguins and was with the Platters for over 30 years. Wearing a colourful music themed jacket, John has a light high voice, with a slightly unnerving falsetto at times, and came across strongly on ten numbers, including Tears On My Pillow, some Platters songs (The Magic Touch, My Prayer and Harbour Lights), the Velours' Remember and the Fiestas' So Fine. He followed with a solo effort on Unchained Melody, the soft Remember When, Can I Come Over Tonight and, as an encore, Gloria. John said he became a doo-wop singer after seeing Billy Eckstine and the Ink Spots 60 years ago, and he hasn't looked back since. But, he said, it was a pleasant change to be backed by a full band, rather than a backing tape.
Next up was the star of a previous TFTW show, the ageless Tommy Hunt, who has had careers both in doo-wop and in soul. Now 85 his sense of humour and vocal ability remains undimmed and he was an absolute delight. This was very much a Flamingos set and he described the Candles as the new Flamingos (someone in the audience suggested they should be called the Flamencos), and included many of their best known numbers. He began with Ko Ko Mo, moving on to the Sam Cooke penned Nobody Loves Me Like You, and the rather drone-like A Kiss From Your Lips. There was rock and roll with Crazy Crazy Crazy, sweet harmony with Lovers Never Say Goodbye, a baion beat on Your Other Love and Besame Mucho, and - a song he apparently hates - Heavenly Angel. Always a highlight in a Tommy Hunt/ Four Candles set, Paul Robeson's Ol' Man River went down a storm, and finally the upbeat Jump Children rocked the joint. Tommy left the stage, but obviously he couldn't go without singing the Flamingos' greatest hit, I Only Have Eyes For You, which completed a set of the highest class.
The third doo-wop legend, Gaynel Hodge, was a little late coming to the stage so we were treated to Shake Rattle and Roll by Jackson Sloan (pictured above with DJ John Howard), before the ex member of the Hollywood Flames and the Turks, dressed in a dark suit and sun glasses appeared. Gaynel, who I saw at Rhythm Riot a few years ago, kicked things off with The Hollywood Flames' Buzz Buzz Buzz, followed by the somewhat lugubrious Emily. Then came I'm In Love and the latin flavoured Hey Senorita. Gaynel was at one time a member of the Penguins and co-wrote the classic Earth Angel, a song he sang while taking Claire Hamlin's place on keyboards, before tackling the Platters' Only You, Little Bitty Pretty One, I'm A Fool, Rockin' Robin and It's You. Gaynel mumbled a little between songs but his vocals were good and this was another strong set.
Finally all three acts came on stage for a finale of So Fine, with enthusiastic applause from the audience. Keith Woods must again by congratulated on putting on this fine show, and the Tales From The Woods Band, this time augmented on sax by Nick Lunt, also deserves the highest praise, as do the Four Candles. Such a shame that a show of this quality wasn't sold out. Why is it that doo-wop doesn't attract a younger audience, whereas the equally venerable rockabilly does?
Here are some photos of members of the band, namely John Spencely, Claire Hamlin and sax players Alex Bland and Nick Lunt.
Here's Jackson Sloan on stage.
The man who made it all possible Keith Woods.
Finally, here's one of me with John Cheatdom.

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