Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Catching up on some music deaths

It's been a couple of months since I caught up on some of the musicians who have died recently. As ever, there have been quite a few, although the list is not as long as on some other occasions.
Two of those who have passed on in the last two months have appeared at Tales From The Woods shows in recent years. Roy Young (pictured above), who has died aged 81, was a great showman and also a keyboard player and singer who could give Little Richard a run for his money. Having auditioned successfully for the Oh Boy! TV show in 1958, he recorded a cover of Just Keep It Up for Fontana the following year with a great B side, Big Fat Mama. Other Fontana  recordings followed but he made his name in Hamburg, playing with Tony Sheridan and at the Star Club with the Beatles. He joined Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers and later formed his own band, backing Chuck Berry on tour. Later he worked with David Bowie on Low and worked with Long John Baldry among others. His appearances at a number of TFTW shows, in 2010, 2011 and 2013, were memorable: he always gave his all and was among the most convincing of UK rock and rollers.
 Stuart Colman, who died recently of cancer aged 73,  was a musician, record producer and broadcaster, who hosted a TFTW show starring P P Arnold in 2016. In the sixties he was a member of Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, which evolved into The Flying Machine, but it was his career as a broadcaster, first with the BBC and then with Radio London, that he is best remembered for by many of my generation. He was quite simply essential listening music wise. As a producer he was instrumental in Shakin' Stevens' success, worked with loads of artists from Kim Wilde to The Shadows, and made albums with Phil Everly and Little Richard. I remember seeing Stuart backing Johnnie Allen at a hot, sweaty Weavers Arms in London in the early nineties, but then he moved to Nashville and worked with a whole other group of musicians, including Nanci Griffith, the Crickets and Linda Gail Lewis. A great guy who will be much missed.
My first visit to New Orleans in 1989 was a life changing event, not least because I got to see the Neville Brothers play for the first time. I had always loved Aaron's voice and Art's rock and roll records, but the four brothers together was something else. The most jazz influenced of the four was sax player Charles Neville, who has died aged 79. Their album Yellow Moon featured Charles's superb playing at its best and when Aaron toured solo it was Charles who provided some classy musicianship behind his fabulous voice. I've seen the Nevilles many times - in New Orleans, London and Porretta - and it's sad that we will never get to see the classic line up again.
The Staple Singers were a wonderful gospel and soul group who made great records in the sixties, seventies and beyond. Now, Yvonne Staples, a key part of the group throughout their Stax years, has died aged 80. Always in the background, Yvonne's voice was strong enough to take the lead, but she was supportive of the family. Even in 2014, when sister Mavis was on tour, Yvonne was there to provide back up. Another wonderful group which we will never see again, although Mavis is still around and will be playing to sold out audiences in London soon.
A final word too for drummer John 'Jabo' Starks, who, along with Clyde Stubblefield, provided the beat that helped make James Brown, and his associates such as Lyn Collins, the J Bs and Bobby Byrd, so funky. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Brenda Holloway in London

Brenda Holloway's star burned brightly but fairly briefly during her stay at Motown in the 1960s and for many years she turned her back on performing. Her biggest hit, Every Little Bit Hurts, is a Tamla Motown classic and she recorded several other memorable songs, as well as co-writing You Make Me So Very Happy - later a smash for Blood Sweat and Tears - with her sister Patrice. Today she seems happy with life and came across strongly last night at 229 The Venue in London in a set lasting just over 45 minutes.
Backed by a fairly mediocre band (she insisted on a couple of numbers being restarted) and two blonde backing singers, Brenda, wearing a sparkly long green dress which showed off her curvy figure to the full, got things going with Just Look What You've Done, with its memorable lines about 'turning my dreams to dust' and 'my heart to stone.' Brenda was regarded by Berry Gordy as something of a replacement for Mary Wells after Mary left Motown and the next two numbers, When I'm Gone and Operator, were both covers which, good though they were,  may have hindered rather than helped Brenda's career at the label.
The next song, Reconsider, was unissued at the time, despite its excellence, before being discovered in the nineties. Apparently unsure of the words, Brenda borrowed some reading glasses from a member of the audience but pulled it off well. Next came her first, and most successful, Motown record Every Little Bit Hurts, written by Ed Cobb of the Four Preps (who also wrote Tainted Love). More northern soul excellence followed with Crying Time and Starting The Hurt All Over Again, before Brenda moved on to the ballad You Make Me So Very Happy. After Berry Gordy and Frank Wilson claimed some of the writing credits for Brenda and Patrice's song, Brenda became disillusioned with Motown and her recording career effectively came to an end. Personally I've never liked the song very much, but it should have made her a fortune when it became a rock hit in 1969. To be fair, Brenda sounded great on the song. As an encore she returned to another mid sixties Motown hit, this time I'll Keep On Holding On, originally recorded by the Marvelettes.
It's not often that sixties Motown artists appear in London these days so it was good to see Brenda enjoying herself, even if the band's failings made things a little flat at times. I saw her at the Ponderosa Stomp a few years ago and this was a longer, and more satisfactory set in many ways. Long may she thrive.

Monday, May 07, 2018

California travelling

At last, a final batch of photos from the US road trip carried out with Alan Lloyd, John Howard and Gordon Fleming. The memories are already fading, but the experiences in California will not be forgotten for a long time, particularly the 91st birthday show that Big Jay McNeely put on at Joe's American Bar and Grill in Burbank..
Our California trip started off in Sacramento, a pleasant city twinned with dozens of others it would seem.
While in Sacramento we saw Robert Cray at the Crest Theater. 
Whilst travelling south we stopped off at the James Dean memorial, near where he was killed. Here are John and Alan by the marker.
While there I sampled some of their locally produced cider. They also make jerkum, from plums.
Here's another one of me, this time testing out my muscles (!) at Muscle Beach, between Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
A year ago Alan, John, Jonathan Batten and I set off from Chicago to travel along Route 66. We didn't quite finish it, so this time Alan, John and myself located the finish line on Santa Monica Pier.
Here's one of me and John with Big Jay McNeely.
J P Miles was a smooth voice soul/jazz singer who we saw at La Louisianne in Los Angeles. 
Here's one of me with J P.
Our final night in LA was also spent at La Louisianne, where Sonny Green was performing.
Backing Sonny was a fine band led by Lester Lands.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Las Vegas round up

Here is the last batch of photos from the Las Vegas part of our US trip, beginning with some more from Viva Las Vegas. Here is Roddy Jackson, always a favourite with his enthusiasm and facial expressions, who performed at a TFTW show in London a couple of years back.
Also in the Stars of rock and roll show, here is Norman Fox with the Rob Roys.
Doowop group the El Doradoes put on a good show.
Here's another rock and roller, Mike Waggoner.
Pin ups are a big part of Viva Las Vegas. Here are some of them at a meet up.
Here is the lady who introduced the Miss Viva Las Vegas competition, showing off her tattoos, plus the winner and a couple who could have entered.
The Car Show is a big deal at Viva Las Vegas with dozens of beautiful motors. Here are a few.
Here's a general shot of the Car Show.
I took some time out during the festival to go with Noah Shaffer, Ruth Fitzgerald and Alan Lloyd to see soul singer Sonny Charles at Piero's restuarant in Las Vegas, where former film star Pia Zadora also has a residency. Here are a few photos.
Finally, here's something that has become an annual tradition - a visit to Red Rock Canyon. L-R: Nick Cobban, John Howard, Alan Lloyd, Gordon Fleming.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Viva Las Vegas photos - Part 2

Here's another batch of photos from Viva Las Vegas, beginning with Essex's own Jackson Sloan, who will be appearing alongside Sister Cookie at a Tales From The Woods Show at the 100 Club on May 13.
Best act on day one was the Italian doowop group Freddy Velas and the Silvertones.
Making a good impression was Brazilian model and rockabilly singer Cherry Rat.
Here are swing band Moonstone.
These are the B Stars, who appeared on day two.
Rhythm Bomb Records artists the Starjays made a big impression.
This is guitarist Chris Casello, who has played with Jack Scott, among others.
Tammi Savoy did a couple of impressive numbers with Chris and also had her own set.
A local band who are very popular are the Delta Bombers, but they didn't do much for me.
Doing a set comprising mostly covers, here is Robert Gordon.
Performing a set of country styled numbers, here is Michael Hurtt.
Always fun to watch, here are doowop group Little Mo and the Dynaflos.
Appearing both as an excellent MC and performer, here is Big Sandy.
Also seemingly omnipresent, with his Guitar Geek show and hillbilly fest, here is Deke Dickerson.
One of several artists taking part in the Wild Records showcase, here is Gizzelle.
Spanish band the Kabooms went down well with my colleagues.
Rip Masters has backed many Rollin' Rock artists over the years, including, below, Ray Campi.