Tuesday, June 26, 2012

R & B at The Marquee

A few weeks ago I went to a talk on the early days of British R and B at the British Library. These early attempts at R and B were very influential on the direction of music in the UK and worldwide, even though these UK efforts weren't a patch on the US originals.
By coincidence, I picked up a collectable LP at the car boot sale on Sunday - R and B From The Marquee, with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated playing at the famous Soho club in 1962. Cyril Davies and Long John Baldry do the vocals and the record was produced by Jack Good. It's valued at £120 in mint condition and this copy is pretty close to that. Not bad for a quid, and the reason why scouring car boots and charity shops is so addictive. Also picked up a couple of rockabilly LPs (Ronnie Dawson and a compilation of Imperial sides), a US LP by Santo and Johnny (In The Still Of The Night) plus a few others that went straight onto Ebay. So, despite the poor weather, a good morning's work.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Slim Whitman years

Just been listening to Scouser John Bishop on Desert Island Discs and it took me back to the early seventies when I lived in Skelmersdale (Skem as it's commonly known) a Liverpool overspill estate where about two thirds of the population were unemployed single mothers. Scousers have a wicked sense of humour but an inferiority complex when it comes to London and Londoners. Fortunately I was accepted, more or less, because I was a reporter on the local paper. I even stood on the Kop with a bunch of Liverpool fans when my team Crystal Palace surprisingly won one nil. I managed to hold my enthusiasm in! On another occasion I went on a pub crawl along Scottie Road - in those days there was a pub on every corner and I can't remember how the evening ended.
The early seventies were the time of the three day week, factory closures (especially in Skem) and industrial unrest. The Workers Revolutionary Party had quite a following locally and even seemed to make a certain amount of sense. People in Skem were poor, but, being Scousers, resourceful. Everyone knew how to bypass the electricity meters and word got round quickly when the 'leccy' man came around to allow people to quickly replace the connections.
It has often been said that Liverpool people are over sentimental and musically that was certainly the case, despite the Beatles era. John Bishop exemplified this by choosing Jim Reeves' Bimbo and Elvis's Wonder of You among his discs. I think of this period as the Slim Whitman years, as he was one of the most popular singers in Merseyside at the time. I remember seeing him at the Floral Hall in Southport and the place was packed. At the local working mens clubs the audience would stand up in unison when Jim Reeves' You're The Only Good Thing got to the line 'We've had our ups and downs, as all lovers do.' Other favourites were Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man, Marty Robbins' El Paso, Billie Jo Spears' Blanket On The Ground and anything by Charley Pride.
I have never been back to Skem and probably never will. It holds no particularly pleasant memories. It was a run down place then and, I would think, even more run down now. I don't believe that it was typical of the north west, or even of Liverpool, but a victim of being artificially created in the West Lancashire countryside, close to Wigan but definitely not part of it, and cut off from its Liverpool roots. There are other examples elsewhere in the country - New Addington comes to mind: places that don't quite belong to the town or city that spawned it.
As for music in the early seventies, I am well aware that there was a lot more to Liverpool and the north west than country and western, Northern soul being just one example. But in Skelmersdale it was the music of choice for most of the inhabitants.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - Capitol

Recently Woodie and ace guitarist John Spencely posted photos of a stack of great Capitol 45s that he owns on Facebook. There's no way I can match that selection, but for my Vinyl Obscurities this time I've selected ten Capitol singles, none of which, as far as I know, were included in John's photo gallery. I have excluded 45s by the bigger name Capitol acts (Gene Vincent, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Otis, Beach Boys for example) and also the Twisters single that I featured recently. So here goes.
1. Les Paul and Mary Ford - Alabamy Bound/ Texas Lady. Mint value £8.
Les Paul's fame as a guitarist, songwriter, inventor of the solid body electric guitar and pioneer of multi-track recording makes him a true originator in the music field of the 20th century. Les died aged 94 in 2009. Here he is with his wife Mary Ford on an early Capitol 45 released in 1956. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Y8uW1UQuw
2. Faron Young - I Can't Dance/ Rosalie. Mint value £15.
Faron Young was best known for country hits such as Hello Walls and Four In The Morning, but this is a pretty good rockabilly number and showed that he could rock the joint when in the mood. This is one of the few of his 45s that wasn't featured on John's photo gallery. Faron died in 1996. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdsQieP9hic
3. Marie Adams - A Fool In Love/ What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? Mint value £40.
Marie is one of the great under-rated R and B singers of the 50s, chiefly because as the singer with Johnny Otis's band she recorded under Otis's name on such records as Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me) and Romance In The Dark. She recorded for Peacock in the 50s and stayed with Otis until well into the 1960s before fading from the scene. Here she is, solo for once, and it's a great record, as is the B side (ask Emile Ford). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEmABF3UfRs
4. Jordanaires - Don't Be Cruel/ Don't Worry. Mint value £18.
Neither the song nor the group need any introduction and it's not really surprising that this cover version of a song they helped make famous failed to make it big. The B side is a cover of the Marty Robbins number . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8POwDE2WP48
5. Roy Clark - Texas Twist/ In The Mood. Mint value £15.
Roy Clark is probably best known for his later country hit Tips Of My Fingers, but he was also a noted guitarist and here he is on a rather run of the mill instrumental which was featured on his LP The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyoi7LR8vQ
6. Dick Dale & the Deltones - Peppermint Man/ Surf Beat. Mint value £20.
Dick Dale is the King of Surf Guitar and something of a legend. I saw him a few years back at the Forum and my ears were bleeding afterwards. (Mr) Peppermint Man is untypical in that it is a garage style vocal, but Surf Beat is more typical of his style. Here are both sides on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsuxJLzXtwQ  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXq7e4Zbrx0
7. Chantels - Eternally/ Swamp Water. Mint value £40.
The Chantels, discovered by Richard Barrett, were only the second black girl group to make it big (after the Bobbettes) with Maybe and, later, Look In My Eyes. This single was recorded for Ludix, a label set up by Luther Dixon (of Shirelles fame) who was offered the chance of setting up his own label by Capitol. Sadly the label was not a great success. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLGc7IJgTbo
8. Johnny Burnette - Sweet Suzie/ Walkin' Talkin' Doll. Mint value £30.
Released shortly before his untimely death in 1964, this was something of a return to his rock and roll roots but failed to make the charts. It was produced by David Gates. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_QrxsJrwEM
9. Jody Miller - Home Of The Brave/ This Is The Life. Mint value £15.
Country singer Jody had considerable success with this, but in my opinion it paled in comparison with the rival version by Bonnie and the Treasures. Rumour had it that Bonnie was in fact Ronnie Spector, as the record was produced by Phil Spector protege Jerry Riopelle, but apparently this was not the case as the the singer was actually Charlotte O'Hara. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXvSxIuf-_o
10. Outsiders - Respectable/ Lost In My World. Mint value £20.
The Outsiders were a garage band from Cleveland who had considerable US success with Time Won't Let Me, Girl In Love and this lively cover of the Isley Brothers hit. My copy of this particular 45 dates from when I wrote records reviews for the Croydon Advertiser back in the day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHf99MQsGVY

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Funny how time slips away

Ain't it funny how time slips away? It's all of 19 years since I and some fellow Woodies came across Jimmy Elledge playing in a neighbourhood bar in Metairie, just outside New Orleans. The gig wasn't advertised and I think we were probably the only people in there who weren't locals. Jimmy played at a piano, with another guy playing a second piano as I recall, and he sang his million selling RCA hit Funny How Time Slips Away in his sweet high pitched voice to perfection. He was a fine boogie woogie pianist, as the Jerry Lee Lewis styled B side Swanee River Rocket demonstrated, and he went on to record some country material for the Hickory label. But his Chet Atkins-produced version of the Willie Nelson song remained his finest achievement. Now Jimmy has slipped away aged 69. RIP.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Johnny Adams Story

The late Johnny Adams was possibly the greatest singer of soul, blues and jazz ever to emerge from New Orleans. But, according to his widow Judy Adams in her biography of her husband The Johnny Adams Story, he was cheated out of money due to him by Joe Ruffino, owner of Ric Records where he made his first records, and later by other record labels such as SSS International and Ariola. Even Rounder Records, for whom Johnny recorded nine albums in the 1980s and 1990s, "didn't allow Johnny to have an attorney present at the signing of his contracts, and they paid him almost nothing."
Johnny was undoubtedly a great singer with a voice that spanned several octaves and which could turn almost any song into gold. Known as the Tan Canary (possibly because of his whistling ability rather than his voice, according to a WWOZ DJ quoted in the book) Johnny was born in Hollygrove, near New Orleans, in 1932 and was discovered by Dorothy LeBostrie, writer of Tutti Frutti, who heard him singing in his bath tub. After a brief spell singing gospel he signed for Ric and recorded a local hit I Won't Cry in 1959 (produced by an 18 year old Mac Rebennack) and had even more success a couple of years later with A Losing Battle. One of his Ric tracks - Come On - was even released in the UK on Top Rank (see previous blog).
Apparently Ric's owner Joe Ruffino prevented Johnny from joining Motown and after his death in 1963 Johnny recorded for a number of local New Orleans labels including Hep Me and Watch. After signing for Nashville-based SSS International he had major country-flavoured successes with Release Me and Reconsider Me, both of which were issued in the UK on Polydor, and more success with Ariola with the soulful After All The Good Is Gone along with an excellent LP of the same name. Despite these successes Johnny continued to be little known outside New Orleans and it was only when he was signed to Rounder that his international reputation grew, with a string of first rate albums including From The Heart, After Dark, Room With A View Of The Blues, Walking On A Tightrope and Johnny Adams Sings Doc Pomus. He died of cancer in 1998.
I was lucky enough to see Johnny a number of times in New Orleans - at Jazzfest, the Rock 'n' Bowl and Irma Thomas's Lion's Den club -  and on at least two occasions in London - at a New Orleans Gala Night at the Royal Festival Hall in 1992 and at the 100 Club the following year. In 1998, the year of his death, he was too unwell to appear at Jazzfest but I recall that he attended the W C Handy Awards in Memphis, where he was nominated as Soul/Blues Male Artist of the Year.
Judy Adams' book is an angry one, as well as being a tribute to her much-loved husband. It is. sadly, littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and could have done with some proof reading, but it is clearly written from the heart. She has set up The Johnny Adams Blues Organisation in Alexandria, Virginia, and apparently a blues festival is planned is Johnny's memory. You can get the book at http://www.johnnyadamsblues.org/, price $39.95 including international shipping.
Here are a few of the photos that I took of Johnny during the 90s. First, here he is at the Rock 'N' Bowl in 1991. As ever, he is smartly dressed and wearning dark glasses, which apparently he wore to hide the fact that he had lost an eye as a child.
Here's another one, also at the Rock 'N' Bowl I think, in 1992.
Johnny guested memorably at Irma's Lion's Den Club, also in 1992.
This is Johnny at the 100 Club in London in 1993.
Finally, here are two photos of Johnny, also at the Rock 'N' Bowl, in 1997. I notice that the first picture is included on Judy's website, which is somewhat ironic given that she is very upset about Johnny's image being used without her consent.
Does anyone know who the sax man is in this photo?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - blue Top Rank

This time for my Vinyl Obscurities I'm featuring some early 45s on the independent Top Rank label, which released some of the more obscure US (and UK) singles from the late 50s. Top Rank later changed to a red and white label and was taken over by EMI, before being scrapped in 1961 and its releases transferred to HMV and, later, the Stateside labels.
1. The Bell-Notes - I've had it/ Be mine. Mint value - £12.
The Bell-Notes were a New York rock and roll group who had three UK releases on Top Rank. A pretty raw sound but effective.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3IydWlCXJ0
2. Wilbert Harrison - Kansas City/ Listen, my darling. Mint value - £20.
Wilbert Harrison hit it big with this Leiber/Stoller song first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield and recorded for Bobby Robinson's Fury label. Ten years later he had success with Let's Stick Together. He died in 1994.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baDi3WpQZnI
3. The Crests - Flower of love/ Molly Mae. Mint value - £25.
Doowop group The Crests featured the voice of Johnny Maestro and had a major hit with Sixteen Candles. This follow up was less successful but they continued to produce a string of classics including Six Nights A Week, The Angels Listened In, Step By Step and Trouble In Paradise.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-VHELtGHAk
4. Skip and Flip - It Was I/ Lunch Hour. Mint value £10.
The duo comprised Skip Battin and Gary Paxton, who had a major US hit with It Was I and a couple of successful follow ups - Fancy Nancy and Cherry Pie. Gary Paxton went on to success with Alley Oop (Hollywood Argylls) and Monster Mash ( Bobby 'Boris' Pickett.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nbm1yfWi-e0
5. Billie and Lillie - Bells Bells Bells/ Honeymoonin'. Mint value £10.
Billy (Ford) and Lillie (Bryant) had a number of US hits on Swan, starting with La Dee Dah. Most were written by Bob Crewe and produced by Frank Slay who later had huge success with Freddy Cannon and the Four Seasons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3gz5ltJi1U
6. Little Bill & The Bluenotes - I Love an angel/ Bye Bye Baby. Mint value £25.
'Little Bill' Engelhart led this Tacoma, Washington, based white R and B band and this, their first record, was produced by Bonnie Guitar. The band is still around today and, I would think  well worth seeing should you ever get their way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcXC3qOL4sY
7. Big Bob - Your line was busy/ What Am I. Mint value £30.
This is a great rock and roll record by Bob Komegay, formerly bass singer with the doowop group the Du Droppers. A one off UK release which is much more popular now than back in the day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv1hqgVNLeE
8. Frankie Ford - Alimony/ Can't Tell My heart. Mint value £12.
New Orleans legend Frankie Ford released this as the follow up to Sea Cruise, and it's very nearly as good, with fantastic backing from Huey 'Piano' Smith's band once more. Frankie was on the bill at the Ponderosa Stomp last year, and long may be last.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qma30FthZE8
9. Johnny Adams - Come On/ Nowhere To Go. Mint value £10.
Here's another New Orleans legend - the Tan Canary Johnny Adams, who had one of the most beautiful voices of all time. Here he is with New Orleans group The Gondoliers on a one off release in the UK. Sadly he died in 1998. Watch out for a Vinyl Word feature on Johnny coming soon.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ghvqoxDiso
10. Bobby Hendricks - Sincerely Your Lover/ Little John Green. Mint value £20.
Another great voice was that of Bobby Hendricks, who sang lead on The Drifters' Drip Drop and who had a big solo hit with Itchy Twitchy Feeling. I can't find Sincerely Your Lover on YouTube so here is what may well have been the official A side, the equally good Little John Green.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0XjMuWuvPw
11. Five Satins - Wonderful Girl/ Weeping Willow. Mint value £50.
The Five Satins were one of the foremost doowop groups of the fifties and their smash hit In The Still Of The Night is the archetypal doowop song. This later release shows that despite personnel changes they retained their high standards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_2luVCTdZw

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My number ones 1960-65

As long term readers will know, I kept my own personal top ten from March 1960 to December 1965 when I was a teenager, and it didn't bear much relationship to the UK top ten of the time. Here, for lovers of lists, are all the records that made it to number one in my top ten in chronological order.
Sweet Nuthin's - Brenda Lee; Stuck On You - Elvis Presley; Got A Girl - Four Preps; Robot Man - Connie Francis; Three Steps To heaven - Eddie Cochran; Good Timin' - Jimmy Jones; Down Yonder - Johnny & The Hurricanes; Wonderful World - Sam Cooke; Please Don't Tease - Cliff Richard; Alley Oop - Hollywood Argylls; Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison; Please Help Me I'm Falling - Hank Lochlin; I Just Go For You - Jimmy Jones; Chain Gang - Sam Cooke; So Sad - Everly Brothers; MacDonald's Cave - Piltdown Men; Devil Or Angel - Bobby Vee; It's Now Or Never - Elvis Presley; Blue Angel - Roy Orbison; Learning The Game - Buddy Holly; Perfidia - Ventures; Poetry In Motion - Johnny Tillotson; Hushabye Little Guitar - Paul Evans; My Girl Josephine - Fats Domino; Last Date - Floyd Cramer; Like Strangers - Everly Brothers; You're Sixteen - Johnny Burnette.
Are You Lonesome Tonight - Elvis Presley; Calendar Girl - Neil Sedaka; Walk Right Back - Everly Brothers; Shop Around - Miracles; Ja-da - Johnny & the Hurricanes; Once In A While - Chimes; I Told You So - Jimmy Jones; Little Boy Sad - Johnny Burnette; On The Rebound - Floyd Cramer; Theme From Dixie - Duane Eddy; Mother In Law - Ernie K-Doe; What'd I Say - Jerry Lee Lewis; Little Devil - Neil Sedaka; Running Scared - Roy Orbison; That Old Black Magic - Bobby Rydell; Hello Mary Lou - Ricky Nelson; I Feel So Bad - Elvis Presley; Baby I Don't Care - Buddy Holly; Cupid - Sam Cooke; Girls - Johnny Burnette; Baby Face - Bobby Vee; Sea Of Heartbreak - Don Gibson; Hats Off To Larry - Del Shannon; Cryin' - Roy Orbison; I Like It Like That - Chris Kenner; You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby - Bobby Darin; One Track Mind - Bobby Lewis; Take Good Care of My Baby - Bobby Vee; His Latest Flame - Elvis Presley; Under The Moon Of Love - Curtis Lee; So Long Baby - Del Shannon; Happy Birthday Sweet 16 - Neil Sedaka; Run To Him - Bobby Vee; Lonesome Number One - Don Gibson.
The Wanderer - Dion; La Bamba - Ritchie Valens; It Will Stand - Showmen; I Could Have Loved You So Well - Ray Peterson; Chip Chip - Gene McDaniels; Twistin' The Night Away - Sam Cooke; Please Don't Ask About Barbara - Bobby Vee; Dream Baby - Roy Orbison; Hey Baby - Bruce Channel; What's Your Name - Don & Juan; Come Back Silly Girl - Lettermen; Salvation - Johnny & the Hurricanes; Don't Play That Song - Ben E King; Good Luck Charm - Elvis Presley; Soldier Boy - Shirelles; Number One Man - Bruce Channel; That's Old Fashioned - Everly Brothers; The Crowd - Roy Orbison; Lipstick Traces - Benny Spellman; Sealed With A Kiss - Brian Hyland; Cry Myself To Sleep - Del Shannon; I Wanna Thank Your Folks - Johnny Burnette; Let's Dance - Chris Montez; He Got What he Wanted - Little Richard; Workin' For The man - Roy Orbison; He's A Rebel - Crystals; Nothing Can Change This Love - Sam Cooke; Up On The Roof - Drifters; Stop The Music - Shirelles; Love Came To me - Dion; Chains - Cookies.
Zip A Dee Doo Dah - Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans; Little Town Flirt - Del Shannon; He's Sure The Boy I Love - Crystals; Sandy - Dion; In Dreams - Roy Orbison; You Really Got A Hold On Me - Miracles; He's So Fine - Chiffons; If You Want To Be Happy - Jimmy Soul; Foolish Little Girl - Shirelles; Another Saturday Night - Sam Cooke; It's My Party -Lesley Gore; Da Doo Ron Ron - Crystals; Go Go Go - Chuck Berry; Easier Said Than Done - Essex; Come Go With Me - Dion; Surf City - Jan & Dean; Two Silhouettes - Del Shannon; Then He Kissed me - Crystals; Pretty Thing - Bo Diddley; Let It Rock - Chuck Berry; Be My Baby - Ronettes; Walkin' The Dog - Rufus Thomas; Swingin' On A Star - Big Dee Irwin; Run Rudolph Run - Chuck Berry.
Baby I Love You - Ronettes; Louie Louie - Kingsmen; Nadine - Chuck Berry; I Wonder - Crystals; Good News - Sam Cooke; Fun Fun Fun - Beach Boys; Hi-Heel Sneakers - Tommy Tucker; Walk On By - Dionne Warwick; Shoop Shoop Song - Betty Everett; My Guy - Mary Wells; Bama Lama Bama Lu - Little Richard; When You Walk In The Room - Jackie De Shannon; I Get Around - Beach Boys; Good Times - Sam Cooke; I'm Into Something Good - Earl-Jean; Where Did Our Love Go - Supremes; Baby I Need Your Loving - Four Tops; When I Grow Up - Beach Boys; Dancing In The Street - Martha & The Vandellas; Needle In A Haystack - Velvelettes; Oh No Not My Baby - Maxine Brown.
You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling - Righteous Brothers; Shake - Sam Cooke; Hold What You've Got - Joe Tex; Yield Not To Temptation - Bobby Bland; My Girl - Temptations; King Of The Road - Roger Miller; Voice Your Choice - Radiants; People Get Ready - Impressions; Mr Pitiful - Otis Redding; Help Me Rhonda - Beach Boys; I Can't Help Myself - Four Tops; It's Wonderful To Be In Love - Ovations; In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett; It's Too Late Baby - Arthur Prysock; Treat Her Right - Roy Head; 1-2-3 - Len Barry; My Girl - Otis Redding.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Herb Reed and Lou Pride

The Grim Reaper has been busy while I've been away in hospital over the last week, claiming the lives of several musicians from various genres who were at the top of their fields.
Herb Reed, who was 83, was the last surviving original member of the Platters, who were without doubt the biggest doowop group of the 50s, recording classics such as Only You, The Great Pretender, Twilight Time and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. He sang bass on over 400 tracks and came up with the group's name when he realised that DJs were calling records platters. When doowop declined in the early 60s the Platters found a new lease of life with smooth soul hits like With This Ring and Washed Ashore and Herb kept the name alive by touring and eventually gaining the rights to the group's name after various fake Platters sprung up. Picture shows the Platters with Herb (far left). Here's more in the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/9314992/Herb-Reed.html
Lou Pride, 68, was a dynamic soul singer who was often described as 'Chicago blues meeting Memphis soul'. Popular with Northern soul fans among others, he made several memorable visits to the UK, including a performance at the 100 Club a few years back. His first record was the great I'm Com'un Home In The Morn'un and later records included Look Out On Love, We're Only Fooling Ourselves, You've Got To Work For Love and Been Such a Long Time. Here's Lou's classic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9WgdrSGKzU
Another recent death is that of Doc Watson, aged 89, a renowned guitarist, songwriter and singer of blue grass, folk, country and blues. Also, not really in my area of interest, Bob Welch, who was a member of Fleetwood Mac for a few years in the early seventies and later formed a hard rock band called Paris and had a couple of solo hits.