Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Top ten music photos of the year

2017 has been a pretty good year music-wise. I've been to several interesting shows in London, including Betty Harris, Leroy Hutson, the Wiggins brothers and two Tales From The Woods shows, including an excellent one starring Tommy Hunt. I went to the Rockin' Race in Spain, the Doowop Weekend in Long Island, blues clubs in Chicago and to the ever brilliant Viva Las Vegas festival. The Porretta Soul Festival was as good as ever, as was the Blackpool International Soul Festival. And on my last US road trip I took in the Ponderosa Stomp, The New Orleans Blues and Barbecue festival, the North Louisiana Blues Festival and shows in Lafayette, Cleveland, Clarksdale, Jackson and a real find at Neal's Juke Joint in Baton Rouge.
I've taken hundreds of photos during the year, but here are a few of the best. First, here's Dale Watson, soon to be in London again, at the Rockin' Race in Torremolinos. I will be back there again soon. 'Looking very much the part of the Texas troubadour, his set ranged from rockabilly through Tex Mex and country.'
Betty Harris made a rare appearance at the 100 Club in London in February. 'Betty may be in her 78th year, but she can still hold an audience, even if her voice isn't quite what it was.'
In April I set off to the Doowop Festival on Long Island, where one of the stars was La La Brooks, former lead singer of the Crystals. 'She looked Fantastic for her near 70 years and sounded great on Then He Kissed Me, There's No Other Like My Baby, Da Doo Ron Ron and Proud Mary, during which she bounded around the audience like a teenager. I think I'm in love.' 
We travelled on from New York to Chicago and then along Route 66 to Las Vegas. As ever, Viva Las Vegas was brilliant, with stars such as Brenda Lee, Sonny Burgess, Wanda Jackson and Freddy Cannon among many others. Here's a photo of Larry Collins, once of the Collins Kids, with Deke Dickerson. 'Larry showed that he's an excellent guitarist with dramatic flourishes which created a moody sound.'   
One of the younger stars of Viva Las Vegas was Vicky Tafoya. 'First on at the festival was the wonderful Vicky Tafoya, who lights up the stage with her sparkly jewellery. huge eye lashes, red lips and bouffant hair.' 
In June I went to the Blackpool International Soul Festival for the second time. This event has quickly established itself as a must see festival and I very much enjoyed the last ever UK appearance of the Impressions along with Little Anthony, pictured here. 'Sounding very much as he did when his career began in the fifties, with a light but strong voice and a range which is still very much intact, his set was short but excellent.'   
The Porretta Soul Festival in July lived up to its previous level of excellence with a line up which included Carla and Vaneese Thomas, Falisa Janaye, Willie Hightower and Wee Willie Walker. One of the discoveries for me, not listed beforehand, was Terrie Odabi. Here she is with Wee Willie. 'I thought she was great and can't wait to see her again.' 
My second US trip of the year was jam packed with music - in New Orleans, Lafayette, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Baton Rouge and Jackson. The North Loiusiana Blues Festival in Monroe featured some southern soul artists who I am unlikely ever to see in London, including Theodis Ealey, Nathaniel Kimble and Sweet Angel. Here's another, less well known singer, by the name, I think of Lady Trucker. 'Southern soul is very much a black genre and fairly limited in its geographical range, but exciting and interesting. I love it.'   
 The Blues and Barbecue Festival in New Orleans is always enjoyable and this year's was no exception, with artists such as Robert Cray, Robert Finlay and Grady Champion, among others. Naturally the star was the ageless Bobby Rush, with two female dancers, including the wonderful Mizz Lowe. 'With Bobby was Mizz Lowe, looking fine as ever, plus a new lady dancer. Even though I've seen his act many times, Bobby remains a true delight.'   
This year's Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans was curtailed by a hurricane warning which meant that the second night did not take place as planned. The first night, though, was excellent, with Barbara Lynn, Roy Head and Doug Kershaw putting on great acts, and the second day was enlivened with some impromptu shows at the Ace Hotel, including Evie Sands, Gary US Bonds and rockabilly man Johnny Knight. 'Looking dapper with shiny black hair and matching moustache, (Johnny) was very good on Rock and Roll Guitar, Snake Shake and Whatever Happened Last Night. He was backed by Deke Dickerson, which helped of course.'   
That's my top ten, but I couldn't fail to include a photo from one of the Tales From The Woods shows taking place during the year, possibly the best yet, starring the excellent Tommy Hunt, the Velvet Candles, Zoot Money and Earl Jackson. Here is Tommy with Earl. 'The whole set was doowop at its supreme best - great vocals from Tommy and harmonies to die for from the Velvet Candles.' 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Keely Smith RIP

The latest addition to the list of musicians who have died this year is Keely Smith, at the age of 89, who found fame singing with husband Louis Prima for many years and as a solo singer. Of Irish/Cherokee parents from Virginia, she met Prima in New York in 1949 and the couple performed at the Sahara in Las Vegas and at the Mocambo in Hollywood and recorded together throughout the fifties, eventually having a major hit with That Old Black Magic on Capitol in 1958. 
As a solo artist she had success with I Wish You Love and made a string of recordings in the late fifties and early sixties, both with Prima, and Sam Butera and the Witnesses, and solo. Louis and Keely moved to Dot and after divorcing Prima in 1961 she signed for Reprise and enjoyed success with an album of Lennon and McCartney covers in 1964 and the single You're Breaking My Heart. She returned to recording in 1985 with the album I'm In Love Again and won a Grammy nomination for Keely Sings Sinatra in 2001.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Otis Redding 50 years on

I have a 'pain in my heart' remembering Otis Redding on the 50th anniversary of his death. When Sam Cooke died in 1964 it was Otis who carried the flame so far as I was concerned, and it was his first UK 45 Pain In My Heart that first made an impact on me. His upbeat songs were great, but his slower ones were even better. Tracks like I've Been Loving You Too Long, My Lover's Prayer, Try A Little Tenderness, The Glory of Love and I've Got Dreams To Remember are achingly beautiful. There was no one quite like Otis, and Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay, despite me having heard it countless times, still has an impact.
I remember, of course, his TV appearances, on Ready Steady Go for example, but I treasure the memory of seeing him in 1967 on the Stax/Volt show at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon. I wrote at the time, in my review for the local paper: 'Suddenly there was Otis, doing his jigging routine on numbers like Mr Pitiful, Satisfaction and Shake. I could hear little because of the noise from the backing group and the crowd. It wasn't until he sang a couple of slow numbers, My Girl and I've Been Loving You Too Long, that I became really enthusiastic. On these, particularly the latter, he was brilliant. If anyone did not know before, they certainly knew then what soul music is all about. The climax of his act was Try A Little Tenderness, which started very slowly but became wilder and wilder.' 
Two years ago I visited Otis's home town of Gray, a few miles from Macon, Georgia. There's a plaque in Gray and a statue in a park in Macon. There's also a small museum in Macon dedicated to his memory. Here are some photos.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Christine, Johnny & the 2017 Death List

Every year at around this time the Vinyl Word includes a list of some of the music related people who have died during the year. As ever, this year's list is a long one and includes two rock and roll originators whose influence is still huge today, namely Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. Today saw the announcement of the deaths of two people who also had a big influence in their way - Christine Keeler and Johnny Hallyday. No doubt there will be more before the year ends.
Christine Keeler, who has died aged 75, was at the centre of the Profumo scandal in 1963 which
grabbed the attention of the nation and led to the resignation of a Cabinet minister and indirectly to the fall of Harold MacMillan's government. As a teenager I was fascinated by Christine and by Mandy Rice-Davies, avidly collecting any photos or news snippets that I could find. Among her lovers was another figure who died this year, Lucky Gordon, a Jamaican jazz musician who went on to work for Chris Blackwell at Island records. Lucky Gordon was attacked outside the Flamingo Club  in Soho by another player in the sordid affair, Johnny Edgecombe, so there are several links to music in this tale. Christine never came to terms with her notoriety and tried many times to put across her side of the affair. She was young when her affair started, just 19, and today she would be considered a victim. Then, however, she was regarded as just a prostitute. RIP Christine.
Johnny Hallyday, 74, was France's answer to Elvis and was the only convincing French rock and
roll singer of the sixties. His cover of Let's Twist Again was a big hit in Europe and he sold over 100 million albums during a lengthy career without ever becoming a big name in the US or UK.
And so, here is the Death List for 2017 (so far). Not surprisingly people who made their names in the fifties, sixties and even the seventies are now reaching the end of their lives. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.
Greg Allman - Allman Brothers Band singer and musician; Tommy Allsupp - rockabilly musician and member of the Crickets; Jimmy Beaumont - lead singer with the Skyliners; Chuck Berry - the father of rock and roll; Big Cynthia - blues singer; Charles Bradley - Daptone soul man; Buddy Britten - UK skiffle and pop singer; Lonnie Brooks - blues guitarist also known as Guitar Junior; Sonny Burgess - Sun rockabilly artist; Glen Campbell - country star; David Cassidy - seventies teen idol; Larry Coryell - jazz guitarist; James Cotton - blues harmonica player; Cedell Davis - blues singer; Ronnie Davis - Jamaican reggae singer and member of the Tennors;  Johnny Daye - Stax recording artist; Fats Domino - New Orleans R and B originator; Jimmy Dotson - Louisiana blues singer; Raye Duval - British drummer; Bobby Freeman - rock and roll/R and B pioneer; J Geils - guitarist and leader of J Geils Band; Jack Good - creator of Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girls and Shindig; Cuba Gooding Senior - soul singer with the Main Ingredient; Buddy Greco - jazz vocalist; Guitar Gable - swamp pop guitarist; Lucky Gordon; Tony Hall - UK sax player; Johnny HallydayRosie Hamlin - singer with Rosie and the Originals; Linda Hopkins - blues and gospel singer and actress; Richard Ingui - member of the Soul Survivors; Al Jarreau - jazz and R & B singer and musician; Brenda Jones - member of the Jones Girls; Christine Keeler; Robert Knight - soul man famous for Love On A Mountain Top; Willie Joe Ligon - leader of the Mighty Clouds of Joy; Earl Lindo - reggae musician and member of the Wailers; Tex Makins - skiffle player; Larry Marshall - reggae singer; Brian Matthew - influential DJ and TV presenter;  Maurice McAlister - Maurice and Mac and Radiants singer; D L Menard - king of Cajun music; Warren 'Pete' Moore - bass singer in the Miracles; Walter 'Junie' Morrison - Ohio Players member and P-Funk music director; Sylvia Moy - Motown singer and songwriter; Tom Paley - American folk singer; Anita Pallenberg - glamorous muse of the Stones; Frankie Paul - dancehall reggae artist; Tom Petty - singer/songwriter and member of the Travelling Wilburys; Sylvester Potts - member of the Contours; Della Reese - jazz and blues singer; Belton Richard - Cajun accordionist; Peter Sarstedt - British singer and brother of Eden Kane; John Schroeder - musician and record company executive; Bunny Sigler - Philly singer and record producer; Noel (Zoot) Simms - ska and reggae pioneer;  Peter Skellern - English singer/songwriter; Joni Sledge - member of Sister Sledge; Mick Softley - folk singer and guitarist; Clyde Stubblefield - James Brown's drummer; Tommy Tate - soul singer; Bobby Taylor - Motown artist and leader of the Vancouvers; Marvell Thomas - Memphis keyboardist and brother of Carla and Vaneese; Mel Tillis - country star; Thomas Tribble - jazz trumpeter; Robert 'Bilbo' Walker - blues singer/guitarist (pictured in 2013);  Leon Ware - soul songwriter and performer; Curtis Womack - brother of Bobby and member of the Valentinos;