Monday, February 25, 2019

Latest music deaths

As ever at this time of year, there are several music deaths to report, a cause for sorrow but also celebration.
The latest is bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman, at the age of 93. Born in Virginia, Mac became the
guitar player in the Foggy Mountain Boys, the band formed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. He co-founded the Country Music Association in 1958 and the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1986. Signed by Dot, having been discovered at the Louisiana Hayride, his UK releases on London  included 'The Kentuckian Song', 'Fireball Mail', 'Jimmy Brown The Newsboy' and the highly collectable rockabilly number 'Step It Up And Go', plus three EPs and a couple of LPs.
Another death in the country field is that of Fred Foster, a real giant of the music business who, as owner of Monument records, produced Roy Orbison's long string of magnificent hits from 'Only The Lonely' until the time he left the label in 1964. Before co-founding the label he worked with Mercury and tried to persuade them to sign Elvis from Sun, and ABC Paramount where he signed Lloyd Price. In 1963 he formed the Sound Stage 7 label, whose artists included Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Later he was involved in Dolly Parton's career and produced records by numerous artists, including Kris Kristofferson (with whom he co-wrote 'Me And Bobby McGhee'), Willie Nelson, Tony Joe White and Ray Stevens.
Girl group The Angels changed personnel several times and the lead singer on their first hit, 'Till', was Linda Jansen, who has also died. She didn't sing lead on their smash hit 'My Boyfriend's Back' but that didn't stop her singing the song, along with 'Till' and 'Cry Baby Cry' (on which she did sing lead) when she appeared at the Long Island Doowop weekend in 2014 and 2016 (see photo).
The manufactured group the Monkees were huge in the late sixties and the slightly goofy character of Peter Tork, who played keyboards and bass
guitar and also sang on occasions, was a key part of their appeal. His death at the age of 77 was announced recently. Peter was the best musician in the band and was allowed to play his own instruments, including the piano introduction on 'Daydream Believer' and the banjo part on 'You Told Me'. Attempts at creating his own band Peter Tork and/or Release and solo demos for Sire failed and his later career was given a boost by Monkee reunions.
Jackie Shane, who has died at the age of 78, was among the first transgender singers. A soul and R and B singer based in Toronto, she was born in Nashville and although well known locally she didn't find widespread fame, despite some good records, including 'Money (That's What I Want), coupled with 'I've Really Got The Blues', 'Any Other Way' and 'In My Tenement'.

Finally The Vinyl Word raises a glass to Artie Wayne, a record producer and songwriter who co-wrote the song 'Midnight Mary' and Helen Shapiro's 'Queen For Tonight' and produced records by the Shirelles, the Kingsmen and the Guess Who while at Scepter records.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Photos from the Rockin' Race

As promised, here is a batch of photos from the Rockin' Race Jamboree in Torremolinos - a great weekend of rockabilly. 
First here is the 'Argentinian Elvis' Johny Tedesco: a pretty good act but one who divided opinion.
Appearing as a preview act on the evening before the main show, here is Mike Hillman and the Latin Hillbillies.
This is the Kabooms.
This is hillbilly singer Portuguese Pedro.
Johnny Knight was the star of the first night proper. Here he is as his alter ego The Gamma Goochee.
Deke Dickerson backed Johnny and also had a set of his own as well as appearing with Eddie Angel at the Sunday afternoon Guitar Party.
Here is Texas troubadour Dale Watson.
Dale introduced Celine Lee who records for Sleazy records.
Here's the Western styled Sarah Vista.
Jerry Phillips, son of Sun studio owner Sam Phillips, gave a fascinating interview.

This is the lead singer of German band Smokestack Lightning.
Sonny George and Eddie Angel, front men of the Planet Rockers.

Here's Jerry Phillips on stage with Sonny George.
This is Augie Burriel of the Velvet Candles with another of his bands The Torontos. Augie also backed Johny Tedesco on his Elvis covers.
Spencer Evoy showed off his sax expertise with The Torontos and also backed J D McPherson on some numbers.
This is a rock and rolling mayor, Mitch Polzac.
J D McPherson put on a polished set, backed by Los Straitjackets.
And here are two of Los Straitjackets in their usual Mexican wrestling masks. 
Here is German band Hot Boogie Chillun.
Finally, here is Phil Alvin, lead singer of The Blasters.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Back at the Rockin' Race Jamboree

I'm back at the Rockin' Race Jamboree in Torremolinos enjoying some warm and sunny weather and some decent music, mostly of the rockabilly variety. As ever there's a good UK contingent here, including John Howard,  Gordon Fleming, Jonathan Batten, Mike MacDonald, Ron Cook, Dave and Julie Thomas and Tony Rounce.
The music has been good, the highlight on the first evening being 82 year old Mr 'Rock and Roll Guitar' Johnny Knight, (pictured below) backed by the Deke Dickerson band, with Johnny's son on keyboards. Dressed in a splendid sparkly black jacket, Johnny was good on his sole hit, 'Rock and Roll Guitar',and it's B side 'Snake Shake', plus 'Got My Mojo Working', 'What Happened Last Night', 'I'm Going To Buy Me A Dog', 'Two Ton Annie', 'Ooh Poo Pah Doo' and 'Shake A Hand'. He also reappeared as his alter ego, the comedy character Gamma Goochee. Only 30 minutes on stage but effective.
Next up was Texas troubador Dale Watson, looking very much the part with his shock of silver hair but maybe just a little too country for this rockabilly show. His songs included 'I Lie When I Drink' (although it didn't stop him promoting Texas's Lone Star beer, a rather pointless exercise in the Costa Del Sol). He's recently recorded a new album at Sam Phillips studio in Memphis entitled 'Call Me Lucky', and his set included 'Elvis Was A Love Affair' written by Sam's son Jerry, who is also attending the festival. Other songs included 'Mama Tried', a tribute to Merle Haggard, Carl Perkins 'Long Legged Guitar Picking Man', a song made famous by Johnny Cash, and 'Down Down Down Down'. Dale introduced Celine Lee on stage, an attractive Sleazy recording artist, who looked great and whose rather average numbers included 'Big Girls Cry' and a couple of duets with him.
Elsewhere in the festival  Portuguese Pedro's rather whiney hillbilly set was quite effective , Mike Hillman and His Latin Hillbillies did a lively set, but the Kaboons failed to set the crowd at the Barracuda Hotel alight. There's plenty of music still to come and, unlike in England, the sun is shining.
Next day the western styled Sarah Vista was visually appealing and proved entertaining and Walter Broes and the Mercenaries were OK in their set at the Barracuda. An interview session with Jerry Phillips, son of Sam Phillips, however, was riveting.  Jerry came across as a thoughtful and amusing man with some solid ideas on being a rock and roll singer (be yourself and don't be an imitator) and shared reminiscences of his dad, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Howling Wolf and other Sun artists. He also talked about his time at Stax working with Louis Paul, and what is happening now at the Sam Phillips studio in Memphis.
The evening session of the festival began in great style with a super rock and roll set by Deke Dickerson, kicking off with 'Mexicali Rose' and good versions of 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man' and 'Monkey's Uncle'. There was a number by drummer Chris 'Sugar Balls' Sprague playing guitar while being held upside down, some guitar playing and Cossack dancing by Mitch Polzac, plus two numbers by Johnny Knight including 'Rip It Up'.
Next up was German band Smokestack Lightning. Not the most exciting of acts they were melodic enough with numbers including The Beatles ' 'Hey Little Girl' and 'Polk Salad Annie', a tribute to Tony Joe White. Things really began to heat up with the arrival on stage of The Paladins, (pictured below), a hard rocking trio from San Diego who I last saw about 30 years ago. Their frantic and professional set included snatches of a number of songs I didn't recognise plus 'Keep Changing' from their first new album in many years and 'Slip Slipping In', a tribute to Reggie Young who died recently and played on the Eddie Bond original.
More hard rock followed with The Planet Rockers featuring Sonny George and Eddie Angel who very much look the part, especially Sonny in his leathers and cowboy hat. A little subdued to begin with they got into top gear with 'Lonesome Traveller' and 'Truck Drivers Rock'. Jerry Phillips  wearing a gold lame jacket, came on for a couple of numbers including 'My Babe and 'That's Alright With Me'.
On Saturday there was an event on the sea front featuring hot rods and souped up cars called The Dash. Two excellent groups played sets. The Torontos, one of whose members is Augie Burriel of the Velvet Candles,  played some excellent guitar and sax rock and roll, including Don and Juan's 'Chicken Necks' and Don and Dewey's Kokomo Joe'. The sax player, Canadian Spencer Evoy, also appeared later in the festival alongside J D McPherson. Thanks to John Clark for finding out his name. One of the best sets of the entire weekend I thought , and the other band led by Mitch Polzac was equally good with humour from Mitch and some good rocking material.
The main venue was rammed on Saturday night but the music started in quite a low key way with Johny Tedesco, the 'Argentinian Elvis'. Apparently he recorded the first big Spanish language rock and roll record,  'Rock Del Tom Tom', in 1958. His mostly pop styled songs, sung in Spanish, went down well with the audience and his band was pretty good but I thought he was rather bland. He was definitely helped by having members of the Velvet Candles supporting him on a string of Elvis songs, including 'Rock a Hula Baby', 'She's Not You ', 'Devil In Disguise ', 'Little Sister ' and 'Good Rocking Tonight".
Much more exciting, and the best act of the night, were Los Straitjackets, who backed the excellent J D Mcpherson as well as performing a series of high powered instrumentals which included 'Rampage '. There were only three masked men on this occasion but JD made up for any lack of manpower with some good guitar on his numbers. These included 'Fire Burns', Ritchie Valens' 'Ooh My Head', 'Hillbilly Blues', the Troggs' With A Girl Like You, 'Let The Good Times Roll', a Spanish version of 'Lucille, What Am I Living For', JD's own excellent 'North Side Gal' and, as an encore 'Seven Nights To Rock'. The huge crowd thoroughly enjoyed this top notch set, as did I.
Next up were German band Hot Boogie Chillun who to my mind were loud, monotonous and rather dull. Their numbers included 'I Want To Hear You Scream', 'Tonight', 'Twist Of Fate', 'Have Love Will Travel' and their final song 'Fuckin' Sweet'. There was an element of repetition about their approach which left me cold.
I expected to be lifted by the final act of the night for me, the Blasters, but was a bit disappointed. Phil Alvin's singing and guitar playing was fine but he was immobile and seemed to be going through the motions somewhat.  Keith Wyatt by contrast was all action on lead guitar and numbers such as 'Down The Line', 'Rebound', 'Dark Night', 'I'm Shakin'', 'Shovel Bound' and 'Marie Marie' were performed well. It was an enjoyable set, if not quite up to the standard of some I've seen in the past.
The highlight of Sunday afternoon's music was Eddie Angel's Guitar Party with 'Sugarballs' on drums, which featured excellently executed instrumentals in the Link Wray/Duane Eddy mould. Los Torontos' sax player joined them (as he did during the JD McPherson set last night) for some Johnny and the Hurricanes/Champs numbers and Deke Dickerson came on stage to do a brilliant version of 'The Bird's The Word' with maniacal cackling. Earlier the Radions, a lively if bog standard rockabilly band, played on the sea front.
Overall this was one of the most enjoyable Rockin' Races I've been to and the combination of the Paladins, Los Straitjackets and the Blasters, not to mention the Planet Rockers and the Torontos, would be difficult to beat for hard rocking pleasure. More photos will appear shortly.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Harvey Scales (and others) RIP

It's time to catch up on some music deaths over the last few weeks. I was sorry to hear of the death of Milwaukee based soul man Harvey Scales, who appeared memorably at Porretta in 2011. Here what's I wrote at the time: 'The evening began with Harvey Scales, who I hadn't seen before and who had a soul hit in the late 60s with Get Down backed with Love-It-Is. Dressed in a lime green suit Harvey proved he is a real showman and any limitations vocally were more than made up for by his dynamic stage act. Kicking off with Sweet Soul Music, which got the crowd going, he moved into more imaginative territory with Wilson Pickett's I'm In Love and his own material - Spend The Nite Forever, What's Good For You, Broadway Freeze and snatches of Get Down and Love-It-Is. He finished with Disco Lady, a song he wrote for Johnnie Taylor and which was the first ever platinum single by an African-American artist.'

Another recent death is that of Reggie Young,at the age of 82,  a brilliant guitarist who was a member of 'The Memphis Boys' and whose work can be heard on records by Elvis, the Box Tops, Dusty Springfield, Merrilee Rush, Willie Nelson and many others, including soul greats such as James Carr, O V Wright, Joe Tex and Solomon Burke.. Reggie was interviewed by Red Kelly at one of the Ponderosa Stomp conference sessions in 2017 (pictured).
Also passed on is James Ingram, at the age of 66, a soul singer and songwriter whose greatest success came in the 1980s with hits such as 'Just Once' (with Quincy Jones), 'Baby Come To Me'
(with Patti Austin), 'Someone Out There' (with Linda Ronstadt) and 'I Don't Have The Heart'. He won two Grammy Awards and was twice nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
A final word, too, for country singer Bonnie Guitar, who has died aged 95, and Nashville session guitarist Harold Bradley, aged 93. RIP to them all.