Friday, May 31, 2013

Tri centred London 45s

As well as being a superb guitarist, my buddy John Spencely is also an avid record collector, with a particular penchant for tri centred London 45s. The Decca Group released most of its early singles with tri centres, not only on London but also on the Decca, RCA, Brunswick, Coral, Vogue and Felsted labels, but around 1959 they started to issue them with round centres. Quite a few were issued with both tri and round centres, but the information isn't complete. It seems that some 45s believed to have been available only with round centres have also turned up in the tri format. John has made it his mission to track down any others not yet on the list.
The records in question mostly bear the numbers 8900 to 9070 (although there are a couple of much later anomalies) and these are listed on this website    which John describes as a 'record collector's wet dream', and he is seeking help with extending the list of London 45s that came with a tri centre that are not on the list.
I've looked through mine but haven't come up with anything very exciting. In fact many of the records I have that are known to have tri centres have round ones. My highest numbered London tri centre is Bonnie Came Back by Duane Eddy (9050) but that was known anyway. The only tri centre I have which is listed as a round centre only is Bonsoir Dame by Bud and Travis, which came out as London 8965, but as this is a demo I'm not sure if it really counts. If any readers have others that aren't listed please leave a comment - John would be very interested!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Farewell to Little Tony

Little Tony (Antonio Ciacci), who has died aged 72, was one of the most unlikely UK rock stars of the late 50s and early 60s. For a start, he was Italian and recorded for the Italian Durium label. What's more he had an uncertain voice that wavered off key frequently. Despite that, he made some exciting rock and roll records and had quite a bit of success in the UK before returning to Italy and continuing his career.
A citizen of San Marino, he formed a band in Italy and was recommended to TV producer Jack Good by Marino Marini. Good signed him up for the Boy Meets Girls TV show and his records, together with 'his brothers', began to be released on Decca, including I Can't Help It,The Hippy Hippy Shake (a cover of the Chan Romero US hit) and, his most successful single - Too Good, penned by Pomus and Shuman, which reached the UK top 20. The B side was another Pomus and Shuman number, the rocking Foxy Little Mama. His last Decca release was Teddy Girl, after which he returned to Italy, had success at the Sam Remo Festival, and went solo, having success in Italy for many years. Here are some of Little Tony's UK releases, with Youtube links where available.
1. Hippy Hippy Shake/ Hey Little Girl.
2. Too Good/ Foxy Little Mama.
3. Princess/ I Love You.
4. Teddy Girl/ Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
5. Four An' Twenty Thousand Kisses/ Bella Marie.  This was Tony's song at the Sam Remo Festival. The Youtube link features the Italian version, but the version released in the UK was in English.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ray Manzarek RIP

Ray Manzarek, keyboard player and, after Jim Morrison's death, singer with the Doors, has died aged 74. If Jim Morrison was the face of The Doors, Ray Manzarek was the sound. His brilliant keyboard work on Light My Fire was one of the musical high points of the late 1960s. It was music to get stoned to, and I remember sitting in a friend's flat in Balham in 1967 doing just that. Baroque rock
is how some people have described it and Ray's keyboard playing raised the band above the level of others of the era.
Tracks like Break On Through (To The Other Side), People Are Strange, Love Me Two Times, We Could Be So Good Together and Hello I Love You Won't You Tell Me Your Name set The Doors apart from other bands. After the death of Morrison in 1971 the band staggered on for a while with Manzarek taking the lead vocals much of the time, but it was on its way down. Manzarek made a number of solo albums and formed a band called Nite City in 1975, but nothing compared with his early efforts.
One more death to record is that of Ray Whitley, who wrote or co-wrote a series of classic songs for The Tams, including Hey Girl Don't Bother Me, What Kind Of Fool (Do You Think I Am) and Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy. His songs were also recorded by Joe South, Billy Joe Royal and Tommy Roe.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

15 minutes of fame - in Nashville

'Unhappy hotel guests shown door at gunpoint'. That was the headline in the normally sober UK Daily Telegraph today - telling the story of how two friends and I were treated when we arrived in Nashville at the start of our US road trip last month. This is how I reported it on the blog:
'We were due to meet the fourth member of our group, Lee Wilkinson, in Nashville but when we got to the hotel (the Knights Inn) the desk clerk said he hadn't arrived and there was no answer on Lee's phone when we tried to call him. We killed time by having a hot dog and an English beer in a bar in Printer's Alley and returned to the hotel. The desk clerk refused to let us use the rooms that Lee had booked and the inevitable row ensued, resulting in the three of us being escorted from the premises by an armed security guard. So, at 1am, with no sign of Lee still, we had to find another hotel, eventually getting a suite at Comfort Inn.
Next morning we went back to the Knights Inn to find that Lee had been there all the time.He had been let down by Virgin which meant that his phone wasn't working. The desk clerk had simply lied to us.
Fellow group member John Howard - like me a journalist by profession - was so incensed by this that he wrote the story up and got a pal to send it round to the UK national press. The story ended up in the UK's top selling paper The Sun, also the Daily Mail, The Times and London Evening Standard, as well as the Telegraph, which said that we had been 'frogmarched' out of the hotel by an armed guard 'at gunpoint'. This was a slight exaggeration, as we left of our own accord once the idiotic hotel desk clerk called the armed security guard 'Mr Miller'. Nevertheless, the experience left a bad taste in our mouths and did nothing to improve the reputation of Nashville as a tourist destination. The newspaper websites used a photo of the four of us at the Grand Ole Opry, which is reprinted below. Glad to say that our trip went well after that, but what a welcome!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Britannia

British rock and roll was a facsimile of American music. Not the real thing but a pale imitation. Jazz artists were trying their best to copy what was happening in the States, and not quite getting it. Early artists such as Tony Crombie and Tommy Steele didn't cut it. Lonnie Donegan had his skiffle, which was fine in its way, but it wasn't rock and roll. The BBC wouldn't play American popular music. The first TV show 6.5 Special was tame.
It was only when Cliff Richard recorded Move It that UK rock and roll began to make some progress. There was more progress with Marty Wilde and, particularly, Billy Fury and then Johnny Kidd. Larry Parnes owned most of the UK artists, including Billy and Marty, but also Vince Eager, Johnny Gentle and Joe Brown. But that was it, until the Beatles and Stones arrived in 1962/3.
This was the verdict of tonight's BBC4's Rock 'n' Roll Britannia, and it was hard to argue with this excellently researched programme. There were plenty of incisive interviews with the likes of Cliff, Marty, Joe, Vince, Bruce Welch, Brian Locking, Clem Cattini, even Cherry Wainer, and some early footage of the Southlanders. Also interviews with members of the Quarrymen (who cares?). There was some footage of Vince Eager at the 2Is show at the Borderline in January, with brief clips of one or two Woodies, including Lee Wilkinson.
Overall, it was a good review of Britain's attempt to take up American rock and roll and the influence of Bill Haley, Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Admittedly there were some errors, such as footage from the wrong era and records being played on the wrong labels. But I thought it covered the essential issues. This was a primitive era, with little access to the artists because of the Musicians' Union ban on visiting acts, or the records (other than via Radio Luxembourg). Even Fender guitars were unobtainable.
I first became aware of the music in the late fifties and I knew even then that I was being deprived of the real thing. I loved Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Elvis and other US greats, but it was difficult to hear them, never mind some of the more obscure, and equally brilliant, American artists of the time. Rock and roll was regarded as a passing fad, but we knew that wasn't the case: this was what pop music was all about. It was then and it still is now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

US vinyl finds

During my US trip I picked up quite a lot of vinyl, mostly 45s, in various record shops and thrift stores. Here are a few of them, most of them unissued at the time in the UK, with Youtube clips where available.
The first two are actually UK issues and I was surprised to find quite a few collectable UK 45s among the many US ones. Two were by the Crests - found in a thrift store in Prattville - and this is one of them: Trouble In Paradise/ Always You, released in 1960. The Crests' biggest US hit was Sixteen Candles, a UK copy of which was also among those I found on the trip.
Here's another and, surprisingly for a 45 found in the States, it's by a UK artist and still has its centre. It's Zoot Money's Big Roll Band: Let's Run For Cover/ Self Discipline. Released in 1966.
Jimmy Jones had huge hits in both the US and UK with Handy Man and Good Timin', yet this double sider (Itchin'/ Ee-I-ee-I-oh), also from 1960 wasn't issued in the UK. Itchin' is just as good as his other falsetto pop hits but doesn't seem to be available on Youtube so here's the B side - his version of Old MacDonald.
Next it's a big US R and B hit for Eugene Church and the Fellows from 1958 which wasn't released in the UK, despite being a classic. It's Pretty Girls Everywhere/ For The Rest Of My Life. Eugene was previously in the Cliques, along with Jesse Belvin.
Little Willie John was one of the greatest ever R and B singers whose life was cut short when he died in prison in 1968. This one (Leave My Kitten Alone/ Let Nobody Love You) was released in the UK on Parlophone in 1959.  The song was later covered by Johnny Preston and also the Beatles, whose version wasn't issued until the 90s.
Here's the man who wrote Leave My Kitten Alone, Titus Turner with an excellent double sider from 1953: Living In Misery/ Big Mary's. He wrote several other great R and B numbers including All Around The World and Stick and Stones and his biggest US hit was We Told You Not To Marry, an answer to Lloyd Price's I'm Gonna Get Married.
I don't know much about Bill Darnel, but this late 1950s version of the Billy Ward and the Dominoes number, Sixty Minute Man, (regarded as one of the most important early rock and roll songs), is pretty good.  B side is A Hundred Girls.
I couldn't go to New Orleans without picking up some New Orleans R and B, and I had a good look around Jim Russell's Rare Records, which sadly looks as though it will fall down soon, with rain leaking in from at least two places in the ceiling. Here's a slow Eddie Bo song which was successful locally - It Must be Love/ What A Fool I've Been.
Here's another New Orleans legend, Chris Kenner, with a follow up to I Like It Like That which is virtually identical. Still good though, and an excellent B side, Johnny Little.  Both are Allen Toussaint creations.
Jackie Dee was an early (1957) incarnation of Jackie DeShannon, who had just one release on Gone - the uptempo rockabilly number I'll Be True and the slower How Wrong I Was. She was noticed by Eddie Cochran who teamed her up with Sharon Sheeley as a songwriter, before Jackie went on to greatness.
The next one is a great rocker from around 1960 by Baby Boy Jennings and the Satellites - Goin' Home/ Little Girl. Seems to have been his only 45.

Finally here is Porretta favourite Sugar Pie DeSanto with Slip-in Mules, a follow up to Tommy Tucker's Hi Heel Sneakers. B side is Mr and Mrs.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Catching up on music deaths

As ever there have been quite a few music deaths over the last couple of weeks while I have been away in the States.
One who we might have seen, if he had been well and still alive, was country singer George Jones,
who died aged 81 a couple of days before he was scheduled to do a show in Huntsville, Alabama, where we were close to at the time. Born in 1931, George recorded a number of rockabilly numbers under the name of Thumper Jones but by the early sixties he had moved into country music, where he achieved huge success with tracks such as Tender years, She Thinks I Still Care and Love Bug. He duetted with several female stars, including Melba Montgomery and, most significantly Tammy Wynette, who he married. Hits in the seventies included A Good Year For The Roses, The Grand Tour, I Always Get Lucky Eith You and If Dinking Won't Kill me (Her Memory Will).
Artie 'Blues Boy' White is another singer to have passed on, aged 76. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, he began in gospel before moving to blues and having success with Jewel in the 1980s. In later years he suffered from Parkinson's Disease, as was obvious when he appeared at Castor with Travis Haddix in 2006 (see photo).
Another death is that of Richie Havens, aged 72,
a guitarist who didn't quite fit in to any genre, with elements of folk, soul and blues. Possibly best known for his appearance at Woodstock in 1969 I saw him at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2007 ( see photo).
A couple more deaths to report: gospel singer George Beverley Shea, who was 104 no less, and Deanna Durbin, perhaps better known as an actress, who was 91.

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Orleans photos - part 3

This is the final batch of photos from my US trip, including several from the final day of Jazz fest, which was one of the best I can remember. For more details check out my earlier blog entries.
First, this is soul singer Lee Fields who was excellent with his band the Expressions at One Eyed Jacks.
Supporting Lee was this good looking but rather boring singer/songwriter Kriston Diable.
On to Jazz Fest now, with Cajun star D L Menard.
The classic New Orleans R and B revue featured four of the surviving artists from the late 50s and early 60s. This is Frankie Ford, most famous for Sea Cruise.
Here is Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson.
Still going strong, his voice as good as ever, is Clarence 'Frogman' Henry.
And this is 83 year old Robert 'Barefootin'' Parker.
Next on the Gentilly Stage, and still looking and sounding great, this is the Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas.
Playing to a big audience on the Congo Square stage, this is soul singer Jeffrey Osborne.
And in the Blues Tent, here is Walter 'Wolfman' Washington.
In the Gospel Tent, here is Kathy Taylor.
Back on the Gentilly Stage, and backing brother Aaron, this is Charles Neville.
Providing a superb finale to Jazz Fest, here is the incomparable Aaron Neville.
Aaron performed Hercules with one of the younger Neville family members Jason.
On our final day we had a meet-up with another groupof Woodies, who started off in Dallas - Ken Major, Gordon Fleming, Brenda Guest, Brenda Gunn and Dave and Julie Thomas.
We went on for a meal at Mulate's Cajun restaurant, where the music was provided by La Touche.
Nick Cobban.

New Orleans photos - part 2

Another batch of photos from my US road trip coming up, including some from the second Friday of the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Here is young Cajun fiddler and singer Amanda Shaw.
This is Walter 'Wolfman' Washington guesting with the Spiritland Band in a tribute to Coco Robichoux.
The Mavericks at Jazz Fest.
Me at the Gentilly Stage. It was a cold, overcast day - most unlike the usual weather for this time of year.
Here are Jo-El Sonnier and Michel Doucet, leader of the Cajun band Beausoleil.
Marcia Ball.
Ruby Wilson performing a tribute to Bessie Smith.
Another tribute - this time to Mahalia Jackson performed by Irma Thomas in the Gospel Tent.
Reggae star Jimmy Cliff.
Willie Nelson.
Here are Lil Buck Senegal with the Buckaroos at One Eyed Jacks - a show organised by Dr Ike.
Bobby Allen, best known for Soul Chicken, who performed at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011.
Left handed guitarist and singer Barbara Lynn.
Me at the Algiers ferry across the Mississippi from New Orleans.
Me and Alan Lloyd on the ferry.
The Natchez paddle steamer on the Mississippi.
Nick Cobban.