Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis RIP

Back in the 1950s, Tony Curtis was as famous for his hairstyle as for his acting. A 'Tony Curtis', like a DA (duck's arse), was a style that every young dude tried to copy. And pop stars from Elvis, to Frankie Avalon, to Fabian and Bobby Rydell had a similar style.
Despite this trivia, Tony Curtis was a pretty good actor. The high point was undoubtedly Some Like It Hot, but other films like Spartacus and Defiant Ones showed he was a true Hollywood superstar. In the seventies he camped it up in The Persuaders with Roger Moore, and although he got into drink and drugs and, in his later days, looked like a travesty of his earlier self, Tony Curtis was one of the greats. Now he's dead, and the list of genuine living Hollywood legends has grown even smaller. Married six times, his legacy lives on through his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.
On the music front, a recent death was that of 50s actor and crooner Eddie Fisher, who also leaves an acting legacy in the shape of daughter Carrie Fisher. His former wives included Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens - an impressive list.
A word too in memory of Don Partridge, the busker who made it big briefly with Rosie.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Record Makers and Breakers

Well, I've finally done it. I've read John Broven's epic history of the US independent record men and women, Record Makers and Breakers. I bought it last year but it's anything but a slim volume so I've been putting off reading it until I had plenty of time to spare. I started it when I went to Cornwall for a rainy week in August and have now finished it. And what a great book it is.

I've always been interested in how the US R and B, rock and roll and pop music scene developed in the 50s and 60s. After all, I've got a record collection made up of little else. I was aware of the major independent labels such as Atlantic, King, Modern, Apollo, Vee-Jay and Chess, and, in the sixties, Stax and Tamla Motown. I've read about Alan Freed and payola, about Dick Clark and about the better known record men such as Jerry Wexler, Berry Gordy and Armet Ertegun. But never before have I got under the skin of the rise and fall of the indies the way that John has chronicled in this superb book.

For anyone who has bought the book but hasn't yet got round to reading it, and for those who don't yet have it but love American R and B and rock and roll, this is a book that is well worth the read. There is so much detail, so many fascinating details and so many great quotes from these larger than life record people that it stands as the definitive work on the music that so many of us love.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is this the end for the 100 Club?

Like many music lovers, I was saddened to read that the 100 Club in Oxford Street, one of the world's oldest music clubs, could close by Christmas because of rent increases and tax demands. Here is the info on the 100 Club website
There is no better venue in London for roots music and its closure will leave an enormous gap in the capital's cultural life. I have been there many times over the years and have so many happy memories. Among many others, I remember seeing Lazy Lester, Champion Jack Dupree, Jimmy Witherspoon, Ray Sharpe, Johnny Adams, Richard Berry, Barrence Whitfield, Doris Troy, Sonny Rhodes, Don and Dewey (pictured) and so many others, not to mention the Tales From The Woods 2 Is shows. Comments on other great shows are welcome.
The 100 Club has been a wonderful venue for jazz, blues and soul lovers, as well as hosting shows by the likes of the Sex Pistols and David Bowie and is irreplaceable. No other venue in London has been capable of producing as wide a range of music gigs as the 100 Club.
Let us hope that somehow a solution to the club's present problems can be found. Because without it the London music scene will never be the same.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brad Pitt as Jerry Lee

For a mean old man of nearly 75 (on September 29), Jerry Lee Lewis continues to attract a fair amount of attention. Not only is his latest CD Mean Old Man hitting record shops, but apparently Brad Pitt is scheduled to portray The Killer in a biopic. The last one, featuring Dennis Quaid, back in 1989, was a bit of a disappointment, but it's a tribute to the old man's longevity that despite a life filled with controversy, booze and drugs he is still not only around, but in the headlines.
Jerry Lee's early years as a rock star and, some would say, child molester, are well documented. But for me he was one of the great rock and rollers, a southern white rebel and a victim of old fashioned prejudice when he was run out of town in England when he toured in 1958. It's great to see him still doing his thing after all these years. but I have a feeling that Brad Pitt's portayal will merely drag up an old story that is not worth the telling. I await it with interest, but some scepticism, if and when it happens.
Here's a clip of Jerry Lee in the US recently
And here's one of the recent stories about Brad Pitt's biopic,
Here's Jerry Lee's Wikipedia entry for anyone sho still hasn't caught up with his eventful life:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Southern soul

I've had a moan before about the lack of exposure and appreciation for southern soul singers here in the UK. I'm sure the same is true in most of the US, but in New Orleans last weekend at the UNO Lakefront Arena there was a show that we can only dream about, featuring Bobby 'Blue' Bland (pictured), Marvin Sease, Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Latimore and a new name to me, and apparently the new breed of southern soul men, Sir Charles Jones.
Here's a story from
Opportunities to electric slide and slow grind will be plentiful on Saturday night at Blues Festival 2010, with smooth-talking old-school R&B singers Marvin Sease, Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Latimore and next-generation inheritor Sir Charles Jones lined up to sweet-talk the crowd at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
Sir Charles Jones, whose list of influences on his MySpace page includes fellow festival performers Mel Waiters and Marvin Sease, represents the next generation of American blues and R&B singers.
The polished, debonair big-band blues vocalist Bobby "Blue" Bland headlines the gig that promoter Rufus Johnson says is far more than a nod to nostalgia.
"I've been producing blues shows for 49 years, " said Johnson, who has worked with acts from Frankie Beverly & Maze and Tyrone Davis to Lil Wayne. "Bobby Bland and Latimore are considered legends of the blues. Right now, Sir Charles Jones is the king of Southern soul. And in Baton Rouge and Mobile, Willie Clayton is like Luther Vandross. If B.B. King played the same night in Baton Rouge, he'd outdraw B.B. King."
Three generations of soul men on one stage will surely be an enjoyable object lesson in the evolution of R&B.
Bland cut his share of wild sides early in his career, but by the late '50s, he was applying his butter-smooth crooner's voice to pop-influenced R&B, with plenty of horns and bass. For artists, such as Waiters, Clayton and Sease -- all just about a generation younger -- his sophisticated style was clearly influential.
Sease, Waiters and Clayton began performing in the '70s, but didn't genuinely emerge until a decade or so later. The three worked with Malaco, the well-known Mississippi label that partnered, for a time, with New Orleans arranger Wardell Quezergue. And most are still actively recording. Clayton's latest album, this year's "Love, Romance & Respect, " sent a single, "We Both Grown, " to the Billboard R&B 100. Waiters' latest album, "I Ain't Gone Do It, " came out this spring.
Sir Charles Jones, a former Sease backup singer in his 20s, put out an album last year of vintage Southern soul covers by the likes of Sam Cooke, Bill Withers and Brook Benton.
Saturday's festival represents a continuity between musical generations, right up into present day, Johnson says. And one doesn't need to look that much further on up the road to see the influence of seductive old-school soul.
The former gospel singer Sease, in particular, made a name for himself with graphic lyrics focused on paying attention to the ladies, with hits including the 10-minute "Candy Licker, " the title of which has become his nickname.
A recent spate of hits from artists young enough to be Sease's sons seem to be taking a page from his ribald book. Female fans cheered the 26-year-old Trey Songz as he doffed his shirt and promised ecstasy to all takers at the Essence Festival in July. While Songz's lyrics are less graphic, the point was the same: Pleasing women, in song, is back in vogue.
Johnson says he does expect the Blues Festival to attract the "30-and-over" crowd, but that doesn't mean it will be a sedate evening. At a recent show, it sounds as if disaster was narrowly averted when the 64-year-old Sease turned on a bit too much charm.
"Sometimes ladies come to the show, and their husbands tag along, " Johnson explained, seeming to choose his words carefully. "In Mobile, a guy got... upset because Marvin was singing to his wife, and it was kind of a problem." Johnson hastened to add that Sease, a veteran with a formidable discography, is capable of performing without raising the ire of husbands.
"Marvin's got enough hits that he can satisfy the crowd and not even get into the X-rated stuff, " Johnson said.
A hot summer Saturday night in New Orleans with Marvin Sease, rated PG-13?
Not likely.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Ponderosa Stomp returns

Oh to be in New Orleans now that the Ponderosa Stomp is there. The Stomp this year is on September 24 and 25 at the House of Blues and the new autumn scheduling means that I can't be there this time, having spent all my New Orleans money on my visit in the spring.
As ever there is a tempting line up, although I have to say that it's not as strong, or as extensive, as in previous years. Highlights, for me at least, would have been Johnnie Allen, The Midniters, The Trashmen, La La Brooks, Duane Eddy, Barbara Lynn and Young Jessie, although there are plenty of others which would have been good to see. Here's the full line up
Here's hoping that in future the Stomp will return to its original timing around Jazzfest. Two US trips in one year is just too much unfortunately.