Monday, April 19, 2021

More music deaths

It's time to catch up on a few more significant musicians who have died recently. The latest is Mike Mitchell, (77) guitarist with the Kingsmen, whose guitar break on their 1964 smash hit version of 'Louie Louie' is one of the most famous of all time. Mike joined band founders Lynn Easton and Jack Ely in their home town of Portland, Oregon. when the band was formed. 'Louie Louie' became a huge hit (it also made number one in my personal top ten at the time). Based not on Richard Berry's original, but a version they heard on a juke box by Rockin' Robin Roberts, it was famously investigated by the FBI because the indistinct lyrics were thought to be obscene. Other hits followed including garage style versions of 'Money', 'Little Latin Lupe Lu' and 'The Jolly Green Giant' and the Kingsmen made a number of successful albums as well as being a popular live act. Mike was the only remaining original member who continued to perform with the band. Interestingly Jack Ely, whose mumbled lyrics are part of 'Louie Louie's' charm. doesn't get so much as a mention on the first LP by the band, as he fell out with Lynn Easton, who sang lead subsequently. Jack died in 2015 (see The Vinyl Word April 29, 2015).
Another recent death is that Willie Schofield at the age of 81. Willie was a member of the Falcons alongside Joe Stubbs (brother of Levi), Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice. He wrote or co-wrote the Falcons' two biggest hits 'You're So Fine' and 'I Found A Love'. When Stubbs left the group, Willie introduced Wilson Pickett to the Falcons. After Willie left the group in 1963 he wrote songs for other Detroit acts such as the Dramatics and the Miracles but also worked full time in the Ford motor plant.
Founder and bass player with War, Morris B B Dickinson, has also died, aged 71. Originally from Long Beach, California, he joined a band called the Creators at the age of 12. This became Nightshift and eventually War when they teamed up with Eric Burdon in 1970. Eric Burdon quit the band after two albums but War continued to enjoy great success with hits such as 'The Cisco Kid', 'Why Can't We Be Friends' and 'Low Rider'.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Quinton Claunch RIP

Sad to hear of the passing of the great Quinton Claunch at the age of 99. Quinton grew up in Muscle Shoals where he joined a country band and he went on to help form both the Sun and Hi labels in Memphis. His own Goldwax label recorded some of the greatest southern soul of the 1960s, including James Carr, Spencer Wiggins and the Ovations. When Goldwax closed down in 1969 he concentrated on his hardware business, but went on to record two more albums with James Carr and set up his own Soultrax label, working well into his nineties. I had the great pleasure of interviewing him at his home in 2014. Here's the interview.
James Carr is often described as the greatest ever soul singer. Sadly James is dead and gone, but Quinton Claunch, the man who discovered him, wrote many of his songs and produced his classic recordings for his Goldwax label, is still very much with us.
Now approaching his 93rd birthday Quinton still lives in the same house on the outskirts of Memphis that he moved in to 53 years ago. I had the pleasure of visiting him there while I was in town recently and asking him about his long and varied life in the music business. This was the man, remember, who worked with Sam Phillips at Sun in the early days, set up Hi Records, which went on later to nurture the likes of Al Green and Ann Peebles, and founded Goldwax, which many people regard as the label that represents the pinnacle of sixties southern soul. All this time he was making a living working for a hardware company travelling around the south and regarded music as something to do in his spare time, but even today he is involved with music and is looking for a major label to distribute a blues and soul CD he has produced on his current Soultrax label by an artist called Alonzo Pennington.
Quinton’s story begins in Muscle Shoals in the mid 1940s where he joined a country band called the Blue Seal Pals (named after a locally produced flour). They were big names on radio and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry but didn’t make a record and after a couple of years he and fellow band member Bill Cantrell decided to move to Memphis, where his friend Sam Phillips had set up Sun Records.
‘I worked in pre-production and played guitar on a lot of sessions, including Carl Perkins and Charlie Feathers. Also the Miller Sisters, who should have been big,’ he recalled.  ‘Also tried my hand at songwriting . I wrote Sure To Fall In Love With You for Carl Perkins – worst song I ever wrote. But I found that the Beatles recorded it at the BBC so I got some royalties – they paid a few utility bills.’ While at Sun, Quinton got friendly with Elvis Presley and travelled with him to some live performances, including one at Helena, Arkansas. ‘I tape recorded a 30 minute show and it was a good tape, but I didn’t look after it like I should and it got lost along the way. Elvis was a super nice guy, and the girls loved him of course.’
He very nearly had one of his songs recorded by Elvis. ‘I made a demo of a song I had written which Elvis heard at Sun. He called my house and told my wife to get me to call round to his mansion. When I got there he said ‘I’m gonna cut your song’ and I replied ‘Have you got a soft place for me to fall!’ But this was just before Elvis joined the army and the song got lost in the shuffle.’ The song, The Voice Of A Fool, has now seen the light of day at last and is included on Alonzo Pennington’s Born With Nothin’ CD.
Quinton’s first songwriting success was a song called Daydreamin’, recorded at Meteor in Memphis by Bud Duckelman, which became a regional hit for Jimmy Newman and was also recorded by Wanda Jackson. He wanted Sam to record it at Sun, but he preferred to keep Quinton on pre-production work. He left Sun soon after and hints at problems with receiving royalties, which he said also led to other singers such as Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash moving on, although Quinton said that he got all his songs back in the end. Of Jerry Lee Lewis, Quinton said ‘He was alright, but an odd character. Crazy.’ He doesn’t see anything of Jerry Lee these days.
After Sun, Quinton, together with his old friend Bill Cantrell, Ray Harris and Joe Cuoghi, who owned Poplar Tunes in Memphis, set up Hi Records. They had big hopes with a record by Carl McVoy (You Are My Sunshine), a cousin of Jerry Lee, which was cut in Nashville and attracted interest in Philadelphia. But it wasn’t a hit and Quinton decided to leave Hi and concentrate on his hardware business. By the time Bill Black’s Combo gave Hi its first major hit with Smokie, Quinton was no longer a partner. ‘With a wife and two sons I couldn’t gamble on the music business,’ he recalled.
Despite these concerns he stayed connected to the local music scene and he ran into Doc Russell at a Charlie Feathers recording session. Russell wanted to start a record label and Quinton put up $600 and came up with the name Goldwax. They cut a record (Darling by the Lyrics) and got a distribution arrangement with Bell, but it wasn’t a hit. Quinton was unimpressed by Doc Russell. ‘He didn’t know a pair of shoes from a bass fiddle, plus he was a borderline alcoholic,’ he said.
Goldwax really took off when the doorbell rang at Quinton’s house at midnight one night and he found three guys standing there – O V Wright, James Carr and Roosevelt Jamison. OV and James had been members of the gospel group The Harmony Echoes and Roosevelt was keen to record them. He had just the song for O V with That’s How Strong My Love Is. ‘I made up my mind as soon as I heard their voices,’ Quinton said. ‘Roosevelt had written some good songs and we recorded That’s How Strong My Love Is.’  O V Wright’s Goldwax career was cut short when Don Robey claimed he had a prior contract with his Duke record label, but James Carr (pictured at Blackheath in 1996) was to prove a fantastic find.
Quinton went on to write many of his biggest hits, including Love Attack and I’m A Fool For You, and recorded two albums with him at Sun. But James had his problems. ‘He had some kind of mental problem. I took him to the doctor every two weeks for his shots and he thought the world of me. He couldn’t hardly write his name but he could memorise words and get the phrasing just right. James was very intense. I took him to New York where he was booked for three nights  but on the first night he couldn’t hardly talk and I had to cancel the other two nights.’
Other successes at Goldwax included the Ovations, whose first record It’s Wonderful To Be In Love, sounded uncannily like Sam Cooke, who had recently died. ‘I knew it wouldn’t hurt sales people thinking it was Sam Cooke,” Quinton admitted. A third success was Spencer Wiggins, (still sounding great today, as two appearances at the Porretta Soul Festival confirm). Many of the Goldwax hits for Spencer and the Ovations, as well as James Carr,  were written by Quinton, although Dan Penn’s masterpieces, such as James’s Dark End Of the Street, co-written with Chips Moman, also made a strong showing.
Quinton closed Goldwax in 1969, partly because he and Doc Russell were not getting on well, and he returned to the hardware business. But Goldwax was to reappear in the early nineties when a businessman named Elliott Clark revived the name and Quinton briefly became president of the new company. Two further James Carr albums were recorded – Take Me To The Limit and Soul Survivor – both produced by Quinton, cementing James’s reputation as one of the all time greats. ’Despite his mental problems James never lost his voice and I recorded him at a little studio down in Mississippi which looked like an outhouse.’ Quinton has a low opinion of Elliott Clark, however. ‘He was as bogus as a three dollar bill. He tried to use me and he was just a crook.’
Now living with his son Steve, who is planning a biography of his illustrious dad, Quinton clearly misses his wife of 69 years who died last year. He still has a record label, Soultrax, and has made records with Al Green (Precious Lord) and Toni Green. He has also worked with a blues singer named Joe Thomas and with Johnny Nash in Nashville (although that last venture looks like it won’t see the light of day).He is particularly enthused by his latest discovery Alonzo Pennington (pictured above), from Kentucky, and is looking for a major distributor to release Born With Nothin’, recorded at Wishbone Studio in Muscle Shoals. He is hoping to hear back from Ace soon! One more success for this great music man as he approaches his 93rd birthday would be quite something!
Nick Cobban

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Howard Grimes - the Bulldog's story

Howard Grimes is one of the greatest drummers of all time and his metronomic backing behind Memphis artists such as Al Green, Syl Johnson and O V Wright is instantly recognisable. He was nicknamed the Bulldog by Willie Mitchell, who said 'When a bulldog get mad, you hear him knockin’ over shit, he don’t want to be bothered. I can hear you comin’, Howard, I know when you’re comin’, you put that foot down and clamp on that beat.' His autobiography 'Timekeeper: My Life In Rhythm', written with Preston Lauterbach (whose earlier book 'The Chitlin Circuit' is essential reading for lovers of soul and R and B) is due out in July. Howard's drumming career goes back to the earliest days of Stax and he played on such classic tracks as 'Gee Whiz' by Carla Thomas and 'You Don't Miss Your Water' by William Bell, but it's his work with Willie Mitchell at Hi that really made its mark. He played on Willie's 'Soul Serenade' and on tracks such as 'A Nickel and Nail' and 'Ace of Spades' by OV Wright - a man who he describes as the 'the finest vocalist I ever worked with'. He was the man keeping the beat on Ann Peebles' 'I Can't Stand The Rain', Denise Lasalle's 'Trapped By A Thing Called Love', 'Get Your Lie Straight' by Bill Coday and 'We Did It' by Syl Johnson. But it was his work behind Al Green, for whom he shared the drum kit with his friend Al Jackson, that he is perhaps best known. 'Tired Of Being Alone', 'Take Me To The River' and 'Love and Happiness' all featured Howard's drum work. Howard presents a gritty account of his life in Memphis, with violence, drugs and women problems never far away. He is less than complimentary at times about Al Green and Hi Records guitarist Teenie Hodges and even Willie Mitchell. He recalls how Johnny Baylor, who managed Luther Ingram and who screwed Isaac Hayes over after he had brought him into Stax, took a shine to him when he visited Hi and gave him his card, saying 'I Kill For A Living'. Memphis was a violent town. Howard's brother was murdered as was Al Jackson. And then Willie sold Hi Records and Howard was out of a job. His marriage had broken down and he became homeless. Howard says that despite problems between them Al Green did what he could to help and he says OV Wright never turned against him. He played with OV in Japan, but OV's drug and alcohol problems worsened and he died two years later. By the end Willie had to carry him into the studio to do his sessions, he recalls. Racism was another problem and he recalls a tour he made with Paul Revere and the Raiders when singer Mark Lindsay refused to perform because of racism towards Howard. Howard eventually found happiness with a new wife and his belief in God. The Hi Rhythm Section got back together in a tribute to O V Wright in 2009 with Otis Clay and the Masqueraders singing his songs. They played at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans and he was invited by keyboard player Archie Turner, known as Hubbie, to play at Wild Bill's juke joint in Memphis. Hubbie introduced him to Scott Bomar who had formed the Bo-Keys with former Stax and Hi musicians. Howard says: 'I’m not angry with Stax. I’m not angry with Hi. But Scott Bomar at Electraphonic is the only person who’s ever paid me right.' His final words: 'When Elvis lifted Memphis music, we already had so much to work with. Nightclubs were full of talent. The schools developed talent. The fans wanted to come out and hear the best. That already existed before the big business side of things happened. Elvis’s hit records inspired studios to open up. Those studios found their own sounds, and made their own artists. The money and success that followed ended up being bad for the music. Greed, corruption, and violence killed us. It killed Al Jackson Jr. It killed Stax. It killed Hi Records. If we could have stayed on peace and togetherness, we’d still be on top.' The photo below shows Howard during one of the interview sessions at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2015 when he played with other members of the Hi Rhythm Section.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Ray Campi RIP

Ray Campi, often called the 'King of Rockabilly' has died at the age of 86. Born in New York, he moved to Austin as a child and made his first record in 1956. I visited his bungalow in Los Angeles in 2014 and Ray was a superb host, making us feel very much at home. Here's what I wrote at the time. 'One of many highlights of my recent US trip was a visit to the Los Angeles home of the King of Texas Rockabilly Ray Campi. The visit was thanks to the Jive Aces, who extended their invitation to his house to John Howard, Paul Waring, Gordon Fleming and myself. Ray turned 80 a few days before our visit, but he is still rocking. Next month he appears at the Ink-N-Iron festival in Long Beach with a diverse line-up, including the Buzzcocks, Merle Haggard, the Damned, Wanda Jackson, the Skatalites and Si Cranstoun.
Ray was an excellent host at his modest bungalow, happily showing us his music and film posters and mementos of a career that actually  stretches back to the age of one, when he appeared on an advertising poster. Over the years he has recorded cassette interviews with dozens of Hollywood figures which really should be transcribed and published.  His musical career dates back to 1956 when he recorded Caterpillar for the TNT label, which was followed by 45s for Dot, Domino, D, Verve and Colpix, but his career really took off in the 1970s, when, after many years as a teacher, he was rediscovered by Ronny Weiser, owner of Rollin' Rock Records. and recorded some great rockabilly tracks, including Rockin' At The Ritz and Tore Up. Over the last 20 years or so Ray has been a regular visitor to the UK and other European countries, playing his.exciting brand of rockabilly, and his white stand up bass has become a trademark.
In 1959 Ray recorded the first tributes to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper shortly after their deaths, backed by the Bopper's band, and he has recently re-recorded these tracks - Ballad of Donna and Peggy Sue and The Man I Met - with his long time piano player Rip Masters. He was good enough to give each of us a signed copy.'
Photos show Ray at home and at Viva Las Vegas in 2018 and 2019.
Another recent death is that of Trevor Peacock.Best known for his role in 'The Vicar of Dibley', he made a record in 1961, a cover of Ral Donner's 'I Didn't Fugure On Him To Come Back'. We also say a fond and sad goodbye to my friend Pierre Baroni, a top photographer, DJ and radio announcer in Melbourne, Australia, who has died of pancreatic cancer. I got to know Pierre on one of our many visits to New Orleans in 2008 and drove him, along with my late girlfriend Maxine to Memphis, where we spent a great evening at Wild Bill's. We met subsequently on other trips to New Orleans for the Ponderosa Stomp and my photo shows us at DBA in 2013.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Chris Barber and Bunny Wailer RIP

Two towering figures in music have died in the last day or so. Chris Barber's love of jazz made him one of the key figures in the development of music in the UK from the time he bought his first trombone in the late forties. His New Orleans style band had enormous success and started the trad boom, as well as enjoying success both in the UK and the US with 'Petite Fleur'. But he also led the way to the the emergence of rock and roll in the UK with his encouragement and support of Lonnie Donegan, the banjo player in his band, who personified the rise of skiffle. Chris made sure that skiffle featured heavily in the band's sets and played bass with Lonnie on his early hits such as 'Rock Island Line' and 'Lost John'. It was Chris who arranged for blues artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim to visit the UK, which led to the R and B boom in the sixties. Chris's love of New Orleans music led to him recording with Dr John and I remember him playing trombone in Dr John's band on my first visit to JazzFest in 1989. His death at the age of 90 brings an end to a story that has been central to the UK music scene for over seven decades. His career is well documented in Pete Frame's excellent book 'The Restless Generation'. May be Rest In Peace.
The second music great to have passed on at the young age of 73 is Bunny Wailer (Livingstone), an original member of the Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Bunny's father lived with Bob Marley's mother in Trench Town so they were close from an early age. When they met up with Peter Tosh via reggae pioneer Joe Higgs to form the Wailers they went on to become the first global reggae band, beginning with their debut album 'The Wailing Wailers' in 1965. They signed with Johnny Nash's JAD label and Bunny sang lead on occasions showing off his roots reggae vocal style but was mostly in the background on their recordings. After recording 'Burnin' for Chris Blackwell's Island label, on which he sang lead on two numbers, he left the Wailers in 1973, along with Peter Tosh, and began a solo career. He had success with 'Blackheart Man' and formed his own Solomonic label, recording albums such as 'Protest', 'Struggle', 'Rock n Groove' and 'Roots, Radics, Rockers, Reggae'. He went on to win three Grammy Awards for albums recorded in the nineties.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Latest music deaths

As ever. there are some music deaths to report. I only recall seeing one of them perform live and that was rockabilly singer Gene Summers who has died aged 82. Originally from Dallas, Gene recorded several records with his group the Rebels for the newly formed Jan label which went on to be covered by many later rock and roll bands. 'School of Rock and Roll' was later recorded by the Polecats, the Lennerockers, Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys and the Reverend Horton Heat among others, while his biggest hit 'Big Blue Diamonds' was recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Ernest Tubb and Merle Kilgore. Other well known songs included 'Straight Skirt', 'Nervous', 'Gotta Lotta That' and 'Alabama Shake'. After leaving the Rebels Gene formed a new band the Tom Toms. a period which included some of his most successful records in 1963/4 and later in his career he was a regular on the rockabilly circuit at festivals in the US and Europe. The one time I saw him was at Viva Las Vegas in 2017 (pictured above) where his accomplished set included 'Gotta Lotta That', 'Straight Skirt', 'Alabama Shake, 'Fancy Dan' and 'School of Rock and Roll'.
Another recent death is that of reggae great Ewart Beckford, better known as U Roy at the age of 78. A pioneer of toasting, U Roy was born in Kingston and worked on sound systems throughout the sixties before being discovered by John Holt toasting over a Duke Reid track. This led to U Roy, or Hugh Roy as he was also known at times, recording for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label including 'Wake The Town' and 'Wear You To The Ball'. He also recorded a DJ version of the Paragons' 'The Tide Is High' and performed in the UK on a tour organised by Rita and Benny King of R and B Records. His 1975 album 'Dread In a Babylon' was successful, as were others including 'Natty Dread', 'Rasta Ambassador' and 'Jah Son of Africa'. Another recent death is that of folk singer/songwriter Marc Ellington (75) who began his career with the Highwaymen. He moved to the UK to avoid the Vietnam War draft and recorded several solo LPs which are now highly collectable. These include 'Marc Ellington;, 'Rains/Reins of Changes' and 'A Question of Roads' for Philips and B and C. He bought and restored a castle in Scotland and served as deputy lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for Scotland. Other recent deaths include Gene Taylor, aged 68, a boogie woogie pianist who played with Canned Heat, the Blasters and the Fabulous Thunderbirds among others and recorded a solo album in 1986 called 'Handmade'. In later years he lived in Belgium and toured as the Gene Taylor Trio. It's farewell also to jazz composer and keyboardist Chick Corea at the age of 79. Regarded as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion, he played with Herbie Mann and Stan Getz in the 1960s and with Miles Davis on several live albums. He formed Circle with bassist Dave Holland and enjoyed success with 'Return To Forever' in 1972. He went on to record many more albums and picked up numerous Grammy nominations between 1976 and 2020.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Mary Wilson RIP

It's very sad that Mary Wilson, founder member of the Primettes and the Supremes - the most successful female group of all time - has died at the relatively young age of 76. It's good, though, that she is getting the recognition her long career undoubtedly deserves. Although she didn't sing lead on any of the Supremes big hits in the Diana Ross era, she was an integral member of the group, adding to its glamorous image and contributing to dozens of recordings from its early days as the Primettes in 1960 right through to 1977 when she left the reformed group. She enjoyed a fairly successful solo career and carried out a lengthy 'Truth In Music' campaign to stop the use of a group's name unless an original member is in the group or the successors are licensed to use the name by the last person to hold the title to the name. Her books - 'Dreamgirl' and 'Supreme Faith' - are among the most interesting memories of Motown from its earliest days, with much information about Berry Gordy and fellow Supremes Diana Ross and Florence Ballard. I was a big fan of the Supremes from the time of their first UK release, 'When The Lovelight Starts Shining Thru' His Eyes' in 1964 and loved the follow ups 'Where Did Our Love Go', 'Baby Love', 'Come See About Me', 'Stop In The Name Of Love' and the rest. A wonderful string of records throughout the sixties and into the seventies after Diana had left. Ironically, she didn't sing on 'Someday We'll Be Together'. Looking through my records it turns out that I have 24 LPs featuring the Supremes, plus many singles and EPs. So pictured are the earlier LPs above and later ones, including compilations and those with the Temptations shown below.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Nolan Porter RIP

Sad to hear of another death in the world of soul - this time Northern Soul favourite Nolan (NF) Porter, at the age of 71. Nolan recorded for the Lizard label in the early seventies and tracks such as 'Oh Baby', 'If I Could Only be Sure' and 'Keep On Keeping On' became popular on the Northern Soul scene. He recorded two albums - 'No Apologies', which included songs written by Steve Cropper, Booker T Jones and Randy Newman, and 'Nolan', which featured 'Groovin' (Out Of Life)' and 'If I Could Only Be Sure'. I saw Nolan on the couple of occasions. The first was at the 100 Club in 2014 (pictured below). I wrote at the time: 'It was good to be back at the 100 Club last night for an evening of Northern soul with LA resident Nolan Porter backed by British soul band the Stone Foundation. It was the first time I'd been there since its recent renovation. There may be more photos on the wall, the loos may be marginally better, but it hasn't changed: the place was packed and as hot and sweaty as ever, the way a good music venue should be. I wish the sound was better though.
Nolan Porter proved to be a dynamic performer with an engaging smile and bulging eyes, wearing a hat and scarf throughout on what was one of the warmest evenings of the year. His two best known numbers, 'Keep On Keepin' On' and 'If I Could Only Be Sure' (which he dedicated to his friend and mentor Johnny Guitar Watson), both from the early seventies, were sung with aplomb, as were the other numbers in his set, which included 'Oh Baby', 'I Like What You Give', 'The Fifth One', Darrell Banks' 'Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You', Van Morrison's 'Crazy Love' (his first recording), 'Fe Fi Fo Fum', and a great version of Brenton Wood's 'Gimme Little Sign', before finishing with 'Jumping Jack '.
Nolan has recorded some of these numbers with the Stone Foundation, whose earlier set showed that that they are loud, unsubtle but very effective at putting across their soulful numbers. It was a highly enjoyable evening and I wish there were more such nights at the 100 Club, as there used to be in the distant past.'
The second occasion was at the Blackpool Soul Festival where he was excellent on his measly allocation of just three songs and 16 minutes on stage.
There have been a few other deaths to mark as well. One of these is Danny Ray, who was James Brown's 'cape man' for many years, who has died at the age of 85. Sometimes known as 'the second hardest working man in show business', he appeared at Porretta in 2017 where he acted as MC for the James Brown orchestra which included bassist Fred Thomas and singer Martha High.
Another death is that of singer/songwriter Jim Weatherly, aged 77. Jim wrote many of Gladys Knight's biggest hits of the seventies including 'Midnight Train To Georgia', 'Neither One Of Us' and 'Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me'. As a performer he began as Jim Weatherly and the Vegas before forming the Gordian Knot and releasing an album on Verve. Further solo albums followed in the seventies and he had success with 'The Need To Be' and 'I'll Still Love You'. It's farewell also to Gil Saunders who became lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1982. Another recent death is that of Australian singer Patsy Ann Noble who had a string of pop releases in the 1960s. After initial success down under with 'Good Looking Boy' she moved to England where she was signed to the Columbia label and recorded many girl group style records which were highly listenable without ever becoming major hits. These included 'Accidents Will Happen','I Was Only Fooling Myself', 'It's Better To Cry Today', 'I Did Nothing Wrong' and 'Tied Up With Mary'.She turned to acting appearing in TV series such as 'Danger Man' and 'Callan' and changed her name to Trisha Noble, moving to the US where she had a successful acting career before returning to Australia in the 1980s. RIP to them all.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Grady Gaines and Hilton Valentine RIP

There are a couple more music deaths to report I'm afraid. R and B saxman Grady Gaines has died aged 86. Originally from Houston, Grady played in Little Richard's band the Upsetters as its leader in the 1950s and played on such rock and roll classics as 'Keep A Knockin' and 'Ooh My Soul'. The Upsetters continued when Little Richard gave up rock and roll and backed artists such as Dee Clark, Jackie Wilson , Little Willie John and James Brown. He also played in Sam Cooke's backing band for several years. Grady continued playing when the Upsetters broke up, playing with Millie Jackson and Curtis Mayfield and reformed his band as the Texas Upsetters in 1985, recording the albums 'Full Gain' and 'Horn Of Plenty' for Black Top. I saw Grady in 1992 at the Black Top Records show at Tipitina's in New Orleans when he backed Carol Fran, Clarence Holliman and the Upsetters' regular vocalist Big Robert Smith. After much searching, I found a photo of him taken at the gig with Clarence Holliman. Record shown below is a Black Top compilation featuring Grady. Grady's brother is blues man Roy Gaines.
Another death is that of Hilton Valentine, aged 77, guitarist with the Animals, who were probably the most authentic of the British R and B bands of the sixties. Hilton came from North Shields on Tyneside and it is his guitar riff that makes the intro to 'House Of The Rising Sun' so memorable. Hilton played with skiffle group the Wildcats before being invited to join the Animals by Chas Chandler. After the group broke up in 1966 Hilton moved to the US and recorded a solo album which was not successful. Later he returned to his skiffle roots with his Skiffledog project. Reunions with the Animals included the underrated 1977 album 'Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted', which is shown below with the Animals' first LP.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Bluesman Sherman Robertson RIP

I've read reports that Sherman Robertson, one of the most consistent and best bluesmen that I've seen over the last 30 or so years, has died at the age of 72. It's a real shame, as he always put on a first rate show wherever he played - and I've seen him many times in London, New Orleans, Utrecht and elsewhere. Born in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, his music had influences of zydeco and swamp blues as well as straight ahead blues and his performances always involved real showmanship and great guitar work. He began playing with bluesmen in Houston including Bobby Bland and recorded two albums with his band the Crosstown Blues Band for the Lunar II label. He went on to join Clifton Chenier's band and, after Chenier's death, played with Rockin' Dopsie, Johnny Copeland and Terrance Simien and also played on Paul Simon's 'Graceland' album. His first solo album was I'm The Man', recorded for the Code Blue label in 1994 and produced by Mike Vernon, followed by 'Here and Now'. Other albums included 'Going Back Home' and 'Guitar Man -Live'. Together with his band BluesMove he played at the Rhythm Festival in the UK in 2011 but reportedly had a stroke the following year. RIP to one of the blues greats.