Monday, October 30, 2017

Doowop and more at the Tales From The Woods show

Classic doowop made a rare venture into London last night with the Tales From The Woods Rock & Roll Heritage Show at the 100 Club, promoted by Keith Woods. The headliner was former lead singer of the Flamingos Tommy Hunt (pictured above), who was backed by the excellent Spanish doowop group The Velvet Candles. But the show wasn't just about doowop: there was soul and R and B from Zoot Money, Chuck Berry flavoured rock and roll from Earl Jackson and blues from Ray Phillips. And they were all backed by the unrivalled Tales From The Woods band, featuring the 'lovely' John Spencely on lead guitar (pictured below with Rob Davis), Claire Hamlin on keyboards, Jeff Tuck on drums, Rob Davis on bass, Alex Bland on sax and Dave Priseman on trumpet. It was a terrific show - possibly the best yet in this long running series of rock and roll events.
DJ John Howard dedicated the show to Fats Domino, but it was another late lamented rock and roller, Chuck Berry, who dominated the first set by Earl Jackson. Earl describes himself as the 'love child of Chuck Berry', and he certainly has more than enough showmanship, excellent guitar work and vocal ability to back that up. He rocked his way through a series of Chuck Berry numbers, including Roll Over Beethoven, No Particular Place To Go, You Never Can Tell, Nadine (well supported by the horn section), Little Queenie and Johnny B Goode. He duck walked, played his original Gibson guitar (bought for £2.5k, he said) behind his head, popped his eyes and generally worked up a storm during his 45 minutes on stage, ending, not with Chuck, but with Howlin' Wolf's Howling For My Baby. An excellent start to the evening.
Following him was former frontman of the Nashville Teens Ray Phillips, who included quite a bit of blues in his set. He began brightly with Bo Diddley's Mona, but Red House, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Willie John's Need Your Love So Bad and Parchman Farm showed he's a blues man at heart. He changed the tempo with Nadine (again), Route 66 and Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On and finished off, naturally enough, with his big hit Tobacco Road. Ray isn't a dynamic performer, but at 78 he showed that his vocal pipes are still good.
The next set, by Zoot Money, playing his Hammond organ, brought back memories of smoky sixties nights at the Flamingo and was a joy. Zoot demonstrated his love of Ray Charles with Hide Nor Hair and It Should've Been Me, and did a great version of Sam and Dave's You Don't Know Like I Know. Alex and Dave's horn breaks were a match for the Memphis originals on that one. Zoot had a light hearted moan about others making it big back in the day on the back of three minute 45s. His band's biggest hit Big Time Operator showed that on his day he was more than a match for some of the other sixties heroes. He rocked through Robert Parker's Barefootin', and brought a jazzy feel to Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Rock and Roller, giving John Spencely a chance to show off a different side to his always first class guitar work. Finally, Zoot sang If Age Brings Wisdom, a jazzy number with a wistful lyric: 'When will I find it?' was the essence. This was a highly enjoyable set and Zoot remains a master of the Hammond, well supported by Claire's piano work.
Doowop came to the fore in the next set with the Velvet Candles, a four man doowop group from Barcelona led by Augie Burr, who were making their London debut. Keith Woods rightly described them as the best doowop group outside New York. Dressed, for this set, in white jackets, their harmonies were just gorgeous on doowop classics like the Velvets' Tonight Could be the Night, Honey Babe, Dance Girl Dance, a note perfect version of the Gladiolas' Little Darling and Clyde McPhatter's A Lover's Question among others. They were joined on stage by Johnny Stud, formerly of Rocky Sharpe and Replays for their revival of Rama Lama Ding Dong and Never. The group's final number, Lock Up My Heart, really rocked and the band gave them superb support throughout. There can be little doubt that these guys are among the very best of modern doowop singers - quite possibly the best of the lot.
They were, in fact, the perfect support for Tommy Hunt, now 84, who has enjoyed successful careers both in the doowop field, as lead singer of the Flamingos, and as a soul singer. This was purely a doowop set and highly enjoyable it was too. The Velvet Candles provided superb support throughout, beginning with Kokomo and following up with the Sam Cooke penned Nobody Loves Me Like You,  Let's Make Up and the rocking Crazy Crazy Crazy. During A Kiss From Your Lips a young couple crouched down in front of the stage as the guy proposed to his girlfriend, and the tender theme continued with Lovers Never Say Goodbye. Tommy and the group were quite stunning on Ol' Man River, the Candles providing dramatic and quite brilliant support to Tommy's vocals. Other songs included Your Other Love, Heavenly Angel, Besame Mucho and the jive favourite Jump Children. And then it was time for the encore - a spell binding version of the Flamingos' biggest hit I Only Have Eyes For You. The whole set was doowop at its supreme best - great vocals from Tommy and harmonies to die for from the Velvet Candles.
What a show this was: great singing, magical moments of harmony, and wonderful backing from the band, who had to learn upwards of 60 songs for the evening. Keith Woods - take a bow!
Finally, here a photo of me with Earl Jackson.
Nick Cobban

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fats Domino RIP

The news has just come in that Fats Domino has died at the age of 89. It's not a surprise. He hasn't performed for several years and when I visited his house in New Orleans last week it was apparent that no one was there. Yet it's still a shock. Fats Domino and his music meant so much to me, ever since my sister brought home a 78 of Blueberry Hill when I was ten years old. I loved his voice, his expressive piano playing, everything about him really. He was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to New Orleans, just to experience the ambience of the place, the vibe that influenced his music. I saw him perform several times at Jazzfest although unforgivably I missed his famous show at the Savile Theatre in London in 1967. Whenever he performed it was great fun. He would have a first rate band behind him, with musicians of the calibre of Herb Hardesty. He would push the piano across the stage with his big frame. But most of all he always seemed happy, with a big smile on his face. It was a happiness that was infectious. You couldn't help smiling in return.
Of course, Fats was one of the giants of rock and roll, and the only major rock and roll star who predated its emergence, The Fat Man was recorded as long ago as 1949. Throughout the 1950s he produced million seller after million seller, including Ain't That A Shame, My Blue Heaven, Blue Monday, I'm Walkin'. The Big Beat, Sick and Tired, Whole Lotta Loving, I'm Ready - so many great records it was hard to keep score. He continued into the sixties with the likes of Country Boy, Walking To New Orleans, It Keeps Rainin' and Let The Four Winds Blow. His hits began to dry up, but even after moving from Imperial to ABC Paramount he continued to make excellent records, including There Goes My Heart Again, When I'm Walkin' and Red Sails In the Sunset. After that, changing trends meant that he was no longer someone who troubled the top ten, but he remained a major star of the rock and roll era.
Fats was a family man, loyal to the Lower Ninth Ward where he lived all his life until Katrina flooded his house. He was thought to be dead but was rescued by helicopter from his mansion. He was scheduled to appear at Jazzfest in 2006 but pulled out due to ill health. But he performed for the final time at Tipitina's in 2007. How I wish I could have been there. Here's a rather grainy photo of Fats at Jazzfest in 1993.
Fats, I know that you will missed by millions of people who, like me, were brought up on your music. His death will be big news throughout the world and I will leave it to the many obituaries to tell his life story. All I will say is that he was unique and will be missed. RIP.
Nick Cobban

Monday, October 23, 2017

Final photos from our US trip

Here's the final batch of photos from the US trip, covering our journey to Jackson and Baton Rouge and back to New Orleans. Monday night in Jackson is made memorable by the Blue Monday blues jam at Hal and Mal's, where local blues artists show off their considerable skills. In the house when we were there, but not singing unfortunately, was the great Dorothy Moore and here's one of me with her.
Other singers included Pat Brown and Abdul Rasheed.
Here's one of me with another singer, Patricia Thomas.
After Jackson we headed to Natchez, where we were given a tour and talk about African American culture in the area at the African American Museum.
From there we headed to Baton Rouge where we sought out Slim Harpo's marker and grave a few miles out of town.
Here are Lee, Dave and Alan by the grave.
We took the opportunity of calling in at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary. Here's one of the group with Teddy Johnson and another of Alan and Teddy sharing a beer.
On our way back into town we came across Kenny Neal's Juke Joint, which we returned to in the evening for a brilliant night of blues.
A few shots from the evening: singer Sexy Red, Louis Toussaint with Samuel Hogan on bass, Tyree Neal, some of the dancers, and a lady who danced to her reflection in a big mirror.
On our return to New Orleans we did a bit of music sightseeing. Here's me outside the Mother In Law Lounge, now owned by Kermit Ruffins. We went inside a couple of days later and there are no mementos of Ernie K-Doe there now.
Here's the plaque commemorating Ernie K-Doe on a tomb in the St Louis No 2 Cemetery, which he shares with his wife Antoinette and Earl King. Cosy.
This is the famous Dewdrop Inn where many 50s and 60s greats played. There are rumours that it may be restored.
Fats Domino's house in the Ninth Ward. Not sure who lives there now.
And finally, here's one of Lee and Ronnie Cook with Little Freddie King and members of his band at Siberia.
Nick Cobban

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ponderosa Stomp photos

The Ponderosa Stomp may be over but great memories remain. Here are some photos of acts who did, or, in one case, didn't, appear this year. First, the man who has organised all 13 Stomps, Dr Ike. Thanks Ira for your efforts over the years.
Friday night's show at the Orpheum began with bluesman Billy Boy Arnold.
A Louisiana swamp pop session followed, with T K Hulin, G G Shinn and Warren Storm.
Next up was swamp pop singer turned soul man Willie West.
Backing up Willie and a number of other singers were a group of backing singers, which included an old friend from my mining company days Greg Probst.
Soul man Winfieild Parker showed some nifty dance steps during his set.
Another soul singer with some good moves, here is Archie Bell. 'If you see any Drells you're drunk as hell.'
The star of the first night was the Gulf Coast Soul Queen Barbara Lynn.
Backing Barbara and one or two other acts was Woodie Armand St Martin.
Now recovered from illness, Roy Head was as wild as ever in his set.
Also pretty wild was the Ragin' Cajun Doug Kershaw.
The cancellation of the second night due to the threatened hurricane meant that some of the acts ended up appearing on a small stage at the Ace Hotel during the day. Here are Los Straitjackets.
Several vocalists joined them on stage including Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, who sang Ooh Poo Pah Doo.
Providing plenty of excitement were Japanese band the Stomping Riff Raffs, comprising a male vocalist and three masked females.
The Mummies were one of a number of garage bands on the bill. They were loud, but popular.
Making an excellent impression was rockabilly man Johnny Knight.
Also very impressive in her short set, here is Evie Sands.
Gary US Bonds did a short but enjoyable and highly amusing set.
Finally, an act we didn't get to see, despite the best efforts of Lloyd (Mohair Slim), here's Roy Gaines with me, Noah Shaffer and Marc Engel.
Nick Cobban