Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Classic LPs

I bought a record collection yesterday. Here are a few of the LPs that I will be keeping. Others will be going on Ebay.
Top row: A Gene Vincent Record Date (Capitol), Junior Walker & the All Stars - Road Runner (Tamla Motown), (early) Byrds - Preflyte (Bumble), Gene Vincent Rocks & the Blue Caps Roll (Capitol).
Middle row: Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Little Walter - Super Blues (Chess), Fats Domino - Rock and Rollin' (London), Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers (Parlophone), The Marvelettes (Tamla Motown).
Bottom row: Fats Domino - What A Party (London), The Best of Lee Dorsey (Sue), Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Marvelettes, Mary Wells - On Stage (Stateside), Various Artists - Put It On It's Rock Steady (Island).

Farewell to Mickey and Speedo

It's that time of year when music greats start to die in ever increasing numbers and this week has seen two of the greats pass away - Mickey 'Guitar' Baker and Earl 'Speedo' Carroll.
Mickey Baker, who was 87, was born in Louisville and became a jazz trumpeter before changing to the guitar when he discovered how lucrative guitar work could be. He was a session player with Savoy, King and Atlantic, backing artists such as the Drifters, Ray Charles, Ivory Joe Hunter and Ruth Brown, before forming a harmony duo with Sylvia Robinson and enjoying a smash hit with Love Is Strange in 1956. After a few more records, including Sweeter As The Days Go By (see Youtube link), he moved to France where he lived until his death. Mickey was one of the most influential blues guitarists of the 50s and was number 53 in Rolling Stone's Greatest Guitarists Of All Time list.
Earl 'Speedo' Carroll was 75 and was the lead singer of New York doowop group the Cadillacs (pictured). He will always be remembered for his great line in the Cadillacs song Speedoo 'They often call me Speedoo but my real name is Mr Earl', along with other Cadillacs hits such as Gloria and Peek-a-boo. After the Cadillacs split, Earl joined the Coasters in the early 1960s before reforming the Cadillacs in the 90s. They performed memorably at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht in 1997. Definitely one of the doowop greats.
A final word too for Larry Hagman, who kept the nation glued to their TVs for his portrayal of J R Ewing in Dallas back in the 80s.
Also to Bernard Lansky, owner of the famous tailoring shop in Memphis, which supplied clothes to a young Elvis, Johnny Cash and B B King among others. I visited the Lansky store in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis last year and treated myself to one of their shirts.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Stones at 50

It's good to see Mick Jagger and the Stones still strutting their stuff after 50 years. It gives hope to other oldies like me. I wasn't at the O2 concert last night (ticket prices too high) but by all accounts the old boys did well. A shame, though, that they couldn't perform Satisfaction because of a 11pm curfew. That's the second time this year that big name acts have had their time cut short by a curfew - Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen lost their sound when they played in Hyde Park in the summer. It's all rather embarrassing: surely the powers that be can afford some latitude when thousands of people have paid good money to see these acts. Anyone would think we're still living in the fifties.
As for the Stones, I must admit that when they began 50 years ago and started to cover blues and soul numbers that I knew and loved I was not impressed. Give me the originals every time. But in their defence the guys truly loved the music and brought these originals to a wider audience. And they made some pretty decent records during their first 15 years or so. They are still going strong, which is good to see. Long may they last.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - early Columbia

EMI's Columbia label issued hundreds of 45s during the 50s and 60s. The majority were recorded in the UK (Cliff Richard, Helen Shapiro, Frank Ifield, Gerry and the Pacemakers etc etc) but at various times some of the great US labels had Columbia as their UK outlet, among them Atlantic, Vee Jay, Roulette, Del Fi and Ace. For my obscurities this time I've picked a dozen of the earlier Columbia singles from the rock and roll era, most of them American and some of them true R and B or rock and roll classics. Check out the Youtube links - some great stuff here.
1. Ivory Joe Hunter - Since I Met You Baby/ You Can't Stop This Rocking And Rolling. Released in 1956. Mint value £250.
Ivory Joe Hunter was born well before the rock and roll era began - in 1914 - and had already enjoyed success in the R and B field with Blues At Sunrise and I Almost Lost My Mind among others. This classic recording was another huge success, recorded for Atlantic, and is hard to find on 45. Joe died in 1970.
2. Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - Goody Goody/ Creation Of Love. Released in 1957. Mint value £20.
The sad story of Frankie Lymon is well known and is an early example of pop music damaging its most talented stars. A hitmaker aged 14 with Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Frankie became addicted to heroin and was dead aged 25. Goody Goody was Lymon's eighth release in the UK and, although it is credited to the Teenagers, he had actually split from the group by this time. He dared to dance with a white girl on Big Beat, an American TV show, and the show was promptly scrapped after protests from southern white TV station owners. By this time Frankie was on heroin and his career quickly declined.

3. Huey (Piano) Smith & the Clowns - Don't You Just Know It/ High Blood Pressure. Released in 1958. Mint value £85.
This is undoubtedly one of the greatest double sided rock and roll records of all time (I must do a blog on great double siders some time). One of many great R and B pianists to come out of New Orleans, Huey's band featured a number of vocalists, including Bobby Marchan, Gerri Hall and Frankie Ford. This was a million seller but after some less successful follow ups under various band names (the Hueys, the Pitter Pats for example) Huey left the music business and joined the Jehovah Witnesses. It was rock and roll's loss.
4. Janice Peters - This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'/ Kiss Cha Cha. Released in 1958. Mint value £30.
Janice Peters is just a footnote in British rock and roll history with just two Columbia singles, which is a shame as she had a strong voice and could really rock, as she demonstrated, especially on the follow up to this lively Ruth Brown cover, A Girl Likes.
5. The Drifters - Feelin' Fine/ Don't Be A Fool (With Love). Released in 1959. Mint value £50.
Another British recording - this time by the Shadows before they changed their name to avoid confusion with the US soul group. It's a vocal track, very much in the light pop style of the time and not at all like Cliff's Move It which was recorded around the same time.
6. Dickie Pride - Fabulous Cure/ Midnight Oil. Released in 1959. Mint value £40.
Discovered by Larry Parnes and given a typical over the top Parnes-styled name, Dickie looked for a while like a British rock and roller who had real potential. He appeared on Oh Boy and Wham but never had a major hit. Sadly, he went on to become another example of a pop star who became addicted to drugs and, allegedly after a lobotomy was carried out, he died aged just 27 in 1969.
7. Buddy Knox - I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself/ To Be With You. Released in 1959. Mint value £20.
Rather a depressing song title from a singer who made his name with the much happier Party Doll in 1957, recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. He made several more decent records for Roulette, including Somebody Touched Me and this bouncy little epic of lost love, and also several for Liberty in the 1960s, but faded from the scene. He died in 1999.
8. Chan Romero - The Hippy Hippy Shake/ If I Had A Way. Released in 1959. Mint value £100.
Later ruined by the Swinging Blue Jeans, this great rocker is very much in the Ritchie Valens mould, and in fact was released on Del-Fi, Valens' label, a couple of months after his death. Romero had just one more Columbia release and today lives in California.
9. Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks - Mary Lou/ Need Your Lovin'. Released in 1959. Mint value £50.
This was the second UK release by Arkansas-born rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins, with his band the Hawks, many of whom went on to become The Band. It's another rock and roll classic, originally recorded by Young Jessie.
10. Rock-a-Teens - Woo-Hoo/ Untrue. Released in 1959. Mint value £40.
The Rock-A-Teens, an early garage rock outfit from Richmond, Virginia, were the archetypal one hit wonders. But what a hit! It's since turned up in the film Kill Bill and (covered by Japanese girl punk band as an advert for Carling beer. Unfortunately, despite an LP on Roulette, the band never repeated their original success.
11. Charlie Gracie - The Race/ I Looked For You. Released in 1960. Mint value £10.
This came out several years after Charlie's big hits Butterfly, Fabulous, Wandering Eyes, Cool Baby and Crazy Girl but it's a pleasant enough number - and Charlie is still actively performing today.
12. Dee Clark - Don't Walk Away From Me/ You're Telling Our Secrets. Released in 1961. Mint value £40.
Dee Clark had one of the best R and B voices of the time - similar to Clyde McPhatter and Marv Johnson - and made some really good records, including Nobody But You, Just Keep It Up, Hey Little Girl, How About That and Raindrops, his biggest hit. This one was the follow up to Raindrops and for some inexplicable reason it was a flop and signalled a decline in his career, although he had a UK hit in 1975 with Ride A Wild Horse.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Si Cranstoun at the Half Moon

Having heard some good things about Si Cranstoun I checked him out last night at the Half Moon, Putney. He's been compared to Jackie Wilson and, although no one really can compete with Jackie in terms of excitement, I can see where the comparison came from. Si's got a strong voice and a dynamic stage act and his version of Reet Petite was excellent.
There were moments when I though Si and his very good five piece band were just a bit middle of the road - a sort of high class cruise ship act - but they kept the beat swinging and the jivers in the audience jiving. Beginning with 50s Pin Up Girl, from his Alternative Floor Fillers album, he sang quite a few songs from his latest album Dancehalls and Supperclubs, including Coupe De Ville, Run Free, Tweet On Twitter, Bella Principessa, the reggae flavoured Rise and Shine, Moon and Stars and the cheesy Hawaiian styled Ella Hula Hula, with Si wearing a brightly coloured lei around his neck. Along the way he did a couple of Nappy Brown numbers, including Little By Little, some other catchy numbers, such as Throwback, Don't Be Angry and Lonesome Heart Bandit, before finishing with his best known number, the excellent Jackie Wilson styled Dynamo. This was undemanding (on the audience) retro rock and roll lite, but overall it was a laid back and enjoyable show and I'm sure I will catch him again some time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Collectable EPs

The vinyl EP (extended play) was the only common type of UK 45 in the 1950s and 60s to be given a picture sleeve. Very often they featured the A and B sides of two recent hits by the artist, but among them are some featuring tracks that never got a release as a single or even on an LP. Collectors insist of having the picture sleeve as well as the record, so EPs without sleeves are normally not worth much. But some of them (with sleeves) are well worth owning and have high values. For my Vinyl Obscurities this time I'm featuring a dozen of the more collectable EPs of the era, with Youtube links.
1. King Size Taylor & the Dominos - Teenbeat 2. Released in 1964 on Decca DFE 8569. Mint value £130.
This is the EP that prompted me to feature EPs this time, as I picked this copy up for a mere 30p in a charity shop this week. Recorded live at the Star Club in Hamburg (where Liverpool-born Ted Taylor made his name and still lives) the tracks are all rock and roll classics: All Around The World, Slippin' And Slidin', You Can't Sit Down and Hello Josephine. The recordings were licensed from the German Ariola label and are different from a similar EP released over there. None of these tracks are available on Youtube so here's Stupidity by King Size.

2. Doris Troy - What'cha Gonna Do About It. Released in 1964 on Atlantic AET 6007. Mint value £75.
Doris Troy had one of the great soul voices of the sixties and this EP features the A and B sides of her first two UK singles. They are What'cha Gonna Do About It, Tomorrow Is Another Day, Just One Look and Bossa Nova Blues.
3. Wanda Jackson - Part One. Released in 1958 on Capitol EAP1 1041. Mint value £75.
Known as the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda made her biggest impact in the UK with a couple of wild rockers - Let's Have A Party and Mean Mean Man, although she also recorded many country numbers. This EP includes Party but the other tracks weren't released as singles here: Heartbreak Ahead, Money Honey and Just Call Me Lonesome. Wanda still performs today.
4. Zoot Money's Big Roll Band - Big Time Operator. Released in 1966 on Columbia SEG 8519. Mint value £200.
Zoot and his band was one of the leading figures in the British beat boom of the 60s and played regularly at the Flamingo Club in London. The title track of the EP Big Time Operator was the band's biggest hit and the other tracks are It Should've Been Me (the title of the band's debut LP), Florence Of Arabia and Chauffeur (both live tracks). The band went on to become Dantalion's Chariot and Zoot still performs today.
5. The Majors - Meet The Majors. Released in 1963 on London RE-P 1358. Mint value £100.
The Majors were an R and B group from Philadelphia who sounded, at first listen, like a girl group. But although one of the group's five members was indeed female (Idella Morris) the lead singer was Ricky Cordo, who had a great falsetto voice. Their best known record was A Wonderful Dream but the EP comprises two of their follow ups (What In The World and She's A Troublemaker), a B-side (A Little Bit Now) - plus Twist And Shout.
6. Solomon Burke - Tonight My Heart She Is Crying. Released in 1963 on London Atlantic REK 1379. Mint value £70.
Solomon was a giant of soul music and his death in 2010 was a great loss. This EP features four tracks that weren't released as singles in the UK - the Latin-flavoured title track, I Really Don't Want To Know, I Said I Was Sorry and Go On Back To Him.
7. Various Artists - Singing The Blues. Released in 1963 on London RE-P 1403. Mint value £100.
This EP features four classic New Orleans R and B hits from a couple of years earlier - Mother In Law by Ernie K-Doe, It Will Stand by The Showmen, Ooh Poo Pah Doo by Jessie Hill and I Like It Like That by Chris Kenner. All of them are brilliant, but here's the Showmen track, featuring the voice of General Norman Johnson.
8. Freddie Bell & The Bell Boys - Rock With The Bell Boys. Released in 1956 on Mercury MEP 9508. Mint value £30.
Freddie was his group were from Philadelphia and had a big hit in the very earliest days of rock and roll with Giddy Up A Ding Dong, which was featured in the film Rock Around The Clock. Other tracks on the EP are All Right, OK, You Win, Stay Loose Mother Goose and I Said It And I'm Glad. Not a particularly valuable EP, but certainly an early one in rock and roll terms.
9. Charlie Gracie - The Fabulous Charlie Gracie. Released in 1957 on Parlophone  GEP 8630. Mint value £50.
Another early rock and roll EP, this one from a man who is still around well over 50 years after his initial run of hits. The EP features the A and B sides of his first two singles in the UK - Fabulous, Just Lookin', Butterfly and Ninety Nine Ways.
10. Various Artists - R and B Chartmakers No 3. Released in 1964 on Stateside SE 1022. Mint value £125.
Four EPs featuring Tamla Motown records were released on Stateside before the label got its own UK outlet (I have two of them) and all are collectable. This one features two well known tracks - Marvin Gaye's Can I Get A Witness and Quicksand by Martha And The Vandellas - and two rather more obscure tracks - Too Hurt To Cry, Too Much In Love To Say Goodbye by the Darnells and Leaving Here by Eddie Holland. Here's the Eddie Holland track - a real soul stomper:
11. Martha & The Vandellas - Hittin. Released in 1966 on Tamla Motown TME 2017. Mint value £125.
The series of early EPs on the Tamla Motown label (including two by Martha and the girls) are highly sought after by soul collectors and rightly so. This one features What Am I Going To Do Without Your Love, You've Been In Love Too Long, Nowhere To Run and Quicksand.
12. Shirley and Lee - Shirley and Lee. Released in 1960 on Vogue VE 170145. Mint value £250.
It's back to New Orleans for this rare EP by the Sweethearts Of The Blues Shirley (Goodman) and (Leonard) Lee, recorded for Aladdin. Tracks are Shirley Come Back To me, Baby, Lee Goofed and Why Did I.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Major Harris/Cleve Duncan

A couple more music deaths to catch up on.
Major Harris was a member of the soul group the Delfonics and then had a number of smooth soul successes in the mid 70s on Atlantic, including Each Morning I Wake Up, Love Won't Let Me Wait, I Got Over love and jealousy. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Harris had previously been a member of the Charmers, the Teenagers, The Jarmels and Nat Turner's Rebellion. He was 65.
Another death is that of Cleve Duncan, a founder member of the Penguins, who has died aged 87. They had a huge hit in 1955 with doowop classic Earth Angel on Dootone. Duncan sang lead on this record, which was originally the B side of Hey Senorita, but sadly this was their only substantial hit, as they found themselves in legal battles and later releases on Mercury were not successful. The original gold label London 45 of Earth Angel is extremely rare and is valued at £1750. Wish I had a copy!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Linda Gail Lewis & Chas Hodges at the Half Moon

Two sets of keyboards took a real pounding at the Half Moon, Putney, last night when rock and roll queen Linda Gail Lewis shared the stage with cockney piano thumper Chas Hodges. Between them they set the place alight, roaring through such classics as Linda's brother Jerry Lee's Whole Lotta Shaking Goin' On, Roll Over Beethoven, Crazy Arms, Great Balls Of Fire and Long Tall Sally, among others. Linda has greater finesse than Chas on the keyboards, but Chas can certainly hammer out a tune and their voices harmonised well together.
Woodies hoping to see Linda Gail at the weekend would have been disappointed by the show's cancellation, but this was a chance to catch her live and it was surprising that more weren't there. Those who did attend saw an exciting show, with Linda Gail in typical rocking mood and excellent support from her daughter Annie Marie Dolan and backing band Some Like It Hot, with guitarist Andy Williams outstanding. She rocked right from the start, with Boogie Woogie Country Girl and Rip It Up. After the country flavoured Gas Station Flowers she handed over to Annie Marie, who sounded (and looked) great on Should I Ever Love Again from her album Heart To Heart. Then it was back to more rock and roll with Good Golly Miss Molly and High School Confidential before Chas joined her on stage for the final half hour.
Earlier Chas Hodges stuck mostly to his good time cockney songs, many of them first recorded with Dave, including London Girls, Down To Margate, Mike Berry's Sunshine Of Your Love, Gertcha, My Blue Heaven, I've Got A Ticket For The Darts, That Old Piano and Ain't No pleasing You, the only genuine rock and roll song being Breathless. A predictable, but lively set.
Between them, Linda Gail and Chas really thumped up a storm as the two boogie woogie players went head to head. It was good fun and the rather thin crowd certainly enjoyed the evening.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the Sue label

The Sue label was THE collectors label for soul and R and B releases in the mid 60s. Launched in 1963 by Island boss Chris Blackwell, and featuring the same label design, only in yellow rather than white, it originally featured just records from the US Sue and Symbol labels, but under the guidance of Guy Stevens, who ran the great Scene club in London, it expanded into issuing records from a range of US labels, including Vee-Jay, King, Ace, Federal and Kent. Some of these had previously been issued on other UK labels such as London and Parlophone, but nearly all of them were classics. I wish I had had the sense (and the money) to buy all the releases at the time, as they are hard to get in really good condition nowadays, but here, for your delectation, are a dozen of the best.
1. Inez Foxx - Mockingbird/ He's The One You Love. Mint value £25.
This was the first release on the label in 1963 and one of six releases on Sue by Inez and her brother Charlie Foxx. The duo, from North Carolina, had their greatest success with this song in the UK six years later but their other releases on Sue - Jaybirds, Ask Me, Hurt By Love, Competition and La De Da I Love you - were all equally good.

2. Derek Martin - Daddy Rollin' Stone/ Don't Put me Down Like This. Mint value £100.
This R and B cracker was written and first recorded by Otis Blackwell in 1953 but this was the definitive version for me. Shame about Derek's name being mis-spelt on the label. Later covered by the Who.

3. The Daylighters - Oh Mom (Teach me How To Uncle Willie)/ Hard-headed Girl. Mint value £45.
Another brilliant R and B dance number, this was written by Daylighters member Chuck Colbert. Zoot Money's cover version is probably better known but this, for me, is the real deal.
4. Freddy King - Driving Sideways/ Hideaway. Mint value £40.
Freddy (or Freddie) was one of great Kings of the blues guitar, along with B B and Albert, and this is typical of his work. Hideaway, his best known record was previously released on Parlophone in 1961.  Freddy died in 1976.

5. Ike and Tina Turner - I Can't Believe What You Say/ My Baby Now. Mint value £40.
Ike and Tina were another staple of the Sue label, with four single releases. This is another R and B classic.  Check out this great live clip on Youtube.

6. Chris Kenner - Land of 1000 Dances/ That's My Girl. Mint value £35.
Chris was one of the greats of New Orleans R and B and this is his best known track, apart from his big hit I Like It Like That. It's a wonderful slow rocker recorded in 1961, but it became much more famous through Wilson Pickett's faster version in 1966 and went on to be covered by numerous other acts including Cannibal and the Headhunters. Chris died in 1976 having served time in Louisiana's notorious Angola prison. The Youtube version includes the rarely heard intro to the song.

7. James Brown - Night Train/ Why Does Everything Happen To Me. Mint value £35.
This one of James Brown's most famous records (first released on Parlophone in 1961) with its shouted list of US destinations for the train, but the song was originally recorded by Jimmy Forrest in 1952. A live version was the closing track on Brown's Live At The Apollo LP.

8. Huey 'Piano' Smith & The Clowns - If It Ain't One Thing Or Another/ Tu-ber Cu-lucas And The Sinus Blues. Mint value £25.
Another New Orleans great, pianist Huey Smith and his band recorded some of the greatest good time rock and roll of the late 50s, with various singers including Bobby Marchan and Frankie Ford. His most famous record is the classic double sider Don't You Just Know It and High Blood Pressure and the B side of this Ace single is in a similar vein to his other big hit Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.

9. Donnie Elbert - Little Piece Of Leather/ Do What'cha Wanna. Mint value £35.
This is another absolute classic by a man with a great falsetto who later became big on the Northern Soul scene when this one was re-released in 1972. An under-rated singer, Donnie first recorded for DeLuxe in the 50s and later for Vee-Jay, Parkway, Checker and Gateway, where this one was recorded. He relocated to the UK in 1966 and recorded for Polydor and Deram and later, in the 70s, for Avco-Embassy and All Platinum. He died in 1989.
10. Little Richard - Without You/  Dance What You Wanna. Mint value £40.
Little Richard's period with Vee-Jay in the mid 60s was not his finest and included some rather average re-recordings of his Specialty hits. This one is good though - a soulful version of the Danny Small song first recorded by Clyde McPhatter in 1957.
11. Thurston Harris & The Sharps - Little Bitty Pretty One/ I Hope You Won't Hold It Against Me. Mint value £30.
This reissue of Harris's 1957 hit is a rock and roll classic, first recorded by Bobby Day and later by Frankie Lymon and Clyde McPhatter, among others.
12. Shades Of Blue - Oh! Happy Day/ Little Orphan Boy. Mint value £35.
Shades of Blue were a blue eyed soul band from Michigan who had a major hit with this Edwin Starr song, which was later recorded by Edwin himself, with Blinky (withdrawn in the UK and now very collectable) and the Jackson 5.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Terry Callier

Jazz/soul singer and guitarist Terry Callier has died aged 67. Terry became best known in the late 80s when he was rediscovered by British DJs and became a favourite of the acid jazz scene, touring the UK on several occasions.
Born in Chicago and a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance and Jerry Butler, Terry recorded for Chess in 1962 and later made a folk styled album for Prestige. In the 1970s he recorded three albums for Cadet - Occasional Rain, What Color Is Love and I Just Can't Help Myself - and two for Elektra - Fire On Ice and Turn You To Love. He gave up performing in the 1980s but made a comeback when Acid Jazz record head Eddie Piller reissued a 1983 track I Don't Want to See Myself (Without You). This led to a string of new albums including Timepeace in 1998 and five others, including collaborations with Paul Weller and Massive Attack.
I have to be honest and say that despite my best efforts I never did find Callier to be my cup of tea - too jazzy for my taste -  but I know many soul friends liked him a lot. It's sad to see him go.