Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Donnie Fritts RIP

Sorry to hear of the death of Donnie Fritts, the 'legendary Alabama leaning man'. a great songwriter and one of the best country/ soul singers around. His 1974 album 'Prone To Lean' is one I often go back to, with classics such as 'Rainbow Road (I also love the version by Arthur Alexander), 'We Had It All (first recorded by Dobie Gray but covered by many others) and 'Winner Take All, co-written as were many of his songs, with Dan Penn. Other songs he wrote included 'Breakfast In Bed, by Dusty Springfield and later UB40 featuring Chrissie Hynde, 'Easy To Love', a hit for Joe Simon, 'Choo Choo Train' (the Boxtops), and Irma Thomas's 'Zero Willpower'.
Aged 76, Donnie was Kris Kristofferson's keyboard player for many years and, despite his many fine songs and working closely with the likes of Rick Hall and Eddie Hinton at Muscle Shoals, recorded only sporadically. Later recordings included 'Everybody's Got A Song', featuring contributions by Willie Nelson, Tony Joe White, Dan Penn and others, in 1997, 'One Foot In The Groove' in 2007 and his last album 'June, a tribute to Arthur Alexander, last year. Through his association with Kristofferson he also appeared in several movies, including 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid', 'Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia' and 'Convoy'.
Donnie appeared in London in 2005 and I remember seeing him at Cargo, a venue under railway arches in the City, a few years ago. A sad loss.
Mercifully there haven't been too many music death in the last few weeks, but special mention must be made of Peter Fonda, whose film 'Easy Rider' featured songs by the likes of The Byrds, Electric Prunes, Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf, and who also sang a bit himself. Also Larry Taylor of Canned Heat, and Nicky Wonder, guitarist with Brian Wilson.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Orleans memories - 1991

My recent post featuring the diary entry from my visit to Jazzfest in 1997 seemed to go down well, so here's another one - from 1991, with photos taken at the time.
Thursday, April 25. A long, long day en route to New Orleans via Charlotte - same flights as the Festival Tours group. Eventually arrived on time to drive through to a damp NO. Picked up the car, a Mazda, after winning an argument over whether I pay extra for damage waiver.The first night hotel - the Howard Johnson Westbank - isn't bad - the rooms are huge, but it's too expensive. I'll be checking out in the morning. Had some gumbo in the French Quarter and a couple of beers in Bourbon Street. Not too crowded - yet. Tired though so went back to the hotel. 'Support Our Troops' stickers all over the place.
Friday. Thunderstorms all night and still raining in the morning so the festival was cancelled. Checked out and moved to the Rose Inn Motel, rather grotty but cheaper. Went to Record Ron's and Tower and bumped into Keith (Johnson) and others. Then to the Voodoo Museum - Jen would like it - and St Louis Cemetery, but the heavens opened before I could find Marie Laveau's tomb. Had a drink at the Landmark Hotel. Lonnie Brooks was there. Made up for no Jazzfest in the evening - a great night! Went on the Creole Queen river boat - Eddie Bo was fantastic, backed by Wayne Bennett and Red Tyler. Irma Thomas (pictured above) was good too, with an excellent brass section.Then to Muddy Waters, meeting up with Dave (Thomas) and Mick (McDonald) in the queue. Little Ed (and Imperials), a swivel eyed bluesman (pictured being carried aloft below), Lonnie Brooks - thrilling guitar, a couple of songs from Ko Ko Taylor (also pictured) and, to finish off a great show, some blistering guitar stuff from Kenny Neal. Back at 4.
Saturday. Didn't sleep well, up at 8.30. Had breakfast in the Clover Grill, then to St Louis cemetery again to find MV's tomb. Got to Jazzfest about 12.30. Parked the car in the yard of a black guy who offered me some crack. Saw Jean Knight first - Mr Big Stuff was excellent but others rather Aretha-ish. Dave and Mick there. Marva Wright - excellent searing R and B; Harmonica Red - a quite lively harp man from Baton Rouge; Charmaine Neville - athletic and tuneful if a trifle unexciting. Another evening to remember as I went to the Creole Queen again where a very thin crowd watched Ernie K-Doe, Barbara George and Jessie Hill. Ernie was his usual cocky self. I sat next to him and he seemed rather subdued (pissed maybe) off stage. Barbara gave it all she's got and I felt obliged to buy her new album - on cassette ('Bad Luck and Trouble', now a collector's item I believe). Jessie Hill did a short but lively set. None of them in their heyday but all of them legends (see photos below)
Sunday. Breakfast at the Clover Grill again and then off to Jazzfest. Met up briefly with Dave and Mick at Willie Tee. Caught a bit of the Ohio Players' funk and a bit of Rockin' Dopsie - he's getting more commercial. Clarence 'Frogman' Henry was in a wheelchair but in great voice. Caught John Mooney and Bluesiana (good but not great), Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown (varied but very good), Troy Turner (young Hendrix style blues man from Baton Rouge), Finally the good Dr John (highly enjoyable). I've spend nearly 600 dollars already - records, gigs, hotels etc. In the evening went to Irma Thomas's Lions Den club with Dave and Mick. Irma was fantastic - particularly in her second set where she did a string of great deep soul songs. Dave and Mick were very pissed and I had too much but what a great evening. Had a chat with a new Orleans music man called Don Bell. Emile Jackson was less friendly though. Back at 4.
The night before the morning after for Michael.
Monday. Weather appalling.Decided not to go out of town as planned - partly because of that and partly because Dave and Mick were suffering from last night's excess. Mick had stumbled away when I dropped them outside their hotel, the French Market Inn, fell asleep in a gutter and was robbed of his money, cards etc. I booked into a fleapit motel on Airline Highway and bought yet more records (I'm going to have to control this addiction). Went to the River Walk and bought some books and had some red beans and rice and then to the Landmark. From there went to the Piano Night at Tipitina's. Highlights were Jon Cleary and Eddie Bo, plus Art Neville who failed to finish a song. Willie Tee was pretty good and Tommy Ridgley  was enjoyable. Eric Burdon also did one number. Back at 3.30.
Tuesday. Weather still miserable but decided to do a bit of touring anyway. Drove along the Gulf Coast stopping for a shrimp po'boy at Bay St Louis, quite a pleasant spot. Carried on to Mobile and hit upon a record shop - a cheap one -  on the way out. Went to Dauphin Island, a pleasant spot where Fort Gaines is located -  the site of the battle of Mobile Bay between the US and Britain. Had a seafood meal and drink: the barman told me that the saying 'Raising Cane' came from Joe Cane, a Confederate who had seven wives and who invented Mardi Gras. When he died a custom grew up whereby seven widows would visit his grave on the Sunday before Mardi Gras to try to 'raise' him from the dead.
Wednesday, May 1. Took the ferry across Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan, scene of two battles in the War of 1812 and also the Civil War. Weather beginning to brighten up. Got bitten by mosquitoes. Drove up through Mississippi to Lucedale, stopping off for lunch on the way. Went back to NO via Poplarville where I chatted to an 82 year old man who said he owned two Stradivarius violins. Rainy again in NO. Went to the Landmark and who should be there but John (Howard): he couldn't keep away! Went for a meal at Mulate's with him and Jonathan (Coke-Smyth), Then John and I went to Jimmy's. Carl Sonny Leyland (from Southampton) was on first but we got a bit fed up with the main act Buddy Guy and went to see Marva Wright at Muddy Waters instead.
Thursday. A quick dip in the motel pool then off to the Landmark, breakfast at the Clover Grill, then to Jazzfest by bus with John and Jonathan. Snooks Eaglin was on first -  a set which improved as it went on. Lynn August proved to be a very good zydeco singer, but Kate and Annie McGarricle were boring. Bobby Marchan was good NO R and B, although the band Higher Ground were uninspired. Took in a bit of Taj Mahal and Eddie Bo (3rd time this trip) finishing up with C J Chenier, who wasn't bad. In the evening met up with John and Jonathan and went to Michauls's for a much better Cajun meal (catfish). Then on to the Lion's Den for another great evening. Allen Toussaint guested on keyboards. Irma seemed much more relaxed and did a completely different set. Even Emile Jackson smiled. Large UK contingent there including Dave, Keith, Bob and several others. For good measure Lee Bates did a couple of convincing Otis Redding songs.
Friday. Got some money and got to Jazzfest just in time to see the end of C P Love, who seemed very good. Watched a bit of George Porter but there followed a rather slack period although Deacon John was pretty good. Watched half an hour of the tall and exciting Marcia Ball, followed by some swamp pop with Tommy McLain (pictured below) and Warren Storm. Drove John, Jon, Dave and Mick into town. Had two bloody Mary's in Dave and Mick's hotel happy hour and then sort of watched a spaced out Willie DeVille in Tower Records. Another great night. Met up at the Landmark and went with Jonathan and Mick to the Mid City Bowl to see the excellent Johnny Adams. Then to Michaul's where John and Dave were watching Wayne Toups and then on to Tip's where we got in free and saw a whole hour of Irma - wonderful as ever. Back at 4.30. Call signs: Stella (as in Streetcar Named Desire), Jimmy Barnes (an Aussie singer) and Kenny Ball (ie Can'e bowl?)
Saturday. Went to River Walk to buy presents for the kids. Then it was off to Jazzfest again. Not a vintage day but enjoyable. Kenny Neal was very good; Wayne Toups was crowded (the whole place was); the Jolly Boys from Jamaica were fun; Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham's jump blues was excellent, but the best spot was the Dixie Cups. Met up with John, Jon, Dave and Mick in the evening and went to a huge glitzy honky tonk called Mudbugs: very strange place, straight out of Dallas. Then on to the Bowl (again) where the Iguanas were playing. Had a game too.
Photo shows us in Mudbugs L-R John Howard, Nick Cobban, Jonathan Coke-Smyth, Dave Thomas, Michael McDonald.
Sunday. Last day of Jazzfest (sad). Started with Mr Google-Eyes - ancient, offbeat, suffering from a stroke apparently; Oliver 'La La' Morgan, a bit of Frankie Ford (rather MOR), an amusing interview with Champion Jack Dupree, 5 Blind Boys of Alabama (highlight of the day), some Allen Toussaint , some Champion Jack, a bit of Robert Cray, a little Dewey Balfa and finally the Neville Brothers. What a festival. What a downer heading home. Went to the Landmark for one final drink. The usual guys there. Had an interesting talk with Dick Waterman, legendary manager of many bluesmen and rediscoverer of Son House. Also Ken Lending, Champion Jack's guitarist. Richard Thompson also there.
Monday. Up at the unearthly hour of 5.30 to return the car and catch the plane.Went into Charlotte to pass the time. Modern and rather soulless. Got films developed (remember that?) Then the long flight home.
Here's the great blues guirarist Wayne Bennett.
Troy Turner at Jazzfest.

Here's a shot of Allen Toussaint guesting at The Lion's Den.
Me with Barbara George.
And with a rather bored looking Ernie K-Doe.
Bowling at the Mid City Lanes.
Mick and Dave in typical pose.
There may have been some alcohol involved here as well: happy hour at the French Market Inn.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Memories of Jazzfest, 1997

For a change, here's my diary entry for my New Orleans trip in April/May, 1997. Hope it's of interest and brings back memories for some.
Wednesday, April 23: Off to New Orleans with John (Howard) and Jonathan (Coke-Smyth). Stopped off at Detroit where we talked to a fascinating newsman called Ty Cusiak who was bombed in Beirut and had been everywhere. Got into New Orleans at 8.30, picked up a car and booked into the Days Inn. Went to Uncle Larry's bar in 18th Street, Metairie, where we chatted to some great characters: repo (repossession) men called Don and Scooter, who told us some hilarious stories about the tricks they pull to get people to part with money, a guy named Radar and a female goth called Alex.
Thursday: A quiet day in New Orleans lining up for Jazzfest tickets, drinking cafe au lait and eating beignets at the Cafe Du Monde and then having lunch at Doug's Place, the former Cosimo's studio. Bought some 45s at Jim Russell's Rare Records. Jim helped to bring about integration in the south when he was a DJ and taught Denise LaSalle to talk dirty, or so he claimed. Met up with John and Jonathan at the Royal Sonesta where they are staying (I'm at the Rose Inn motel again) and had some beers in the Crescent City Brewhouse. Then for a very nice but filling meal at K-Pauls - crawfish etoufee. Later went to a club called The Angel which Alex had mentioned, but it was dark and very noisy.
Friday: First day of the Fest - a cool and cloudy one with showers. After breakfast at the Clover Grill met John and Jon and went early with John to see the Bluebirds, a good white soul band, and bluesman Tabby Thomas. Highlights of the day were Rosie Ledet (sexy) (pictured above), and an amazing duet/interview between Dr John and Allen Toussaint in which they chatted and played piano. Also saw Oliver 'La La' Morgan, Chubby Carrier, Kat and the Kittens, C J Chenier, James Taylor, Bruce Daigrepont, Davell Crawford, Slim and the Supreme Angels and veteran jazzman Doc Cheatham. A pretty good day overall. In the evening I had a drink on Carrollton and then went to Irma Thomas's Lion's Den Club - very good as always. Keith (Johnson) there - as always.
Saturday: A horrible wet night followed by a very wet day. After breakfast at the Anita Grill I went to a flea market at Jefferson for records and then got some more at Wild Bill's junk shop. Decided eventually to go the Fest and got soaked. Didn't stay long, but saw Clancy Blues Boy Lewis in the blues tent and some of Keb Mo and Allen Toussaint. Ate in the Quarter and then went to the Mid City Bowl to see the great Johnny Adams (above) and a bit of Marva Wright, then to the River Shack for the Bluebirds before ending up briefly in one of the dives in Metairie.
Sunday:Up late. It poured down again as I had breakfast at the St Charles Tavern but it cleared up so went to Jazz Fest. Not a bad day: Margaret Lewis and Kenny Bill Stinson (pictured above) were good, as were The Meters, Earth Wind and Fire and Irma. Also saw some of Frankie Ford, Sonny Landreth, Chris Smither and Houston Person/Etta Jones. A great evening at the House of Blues watching the Neville Brothers, who were excellent. Got picked up by a stunning blonde called Christine, chaperoned by her equally stunning friend, who disappeared as quickly as she arrived. 
Monday: Checked out of the Rose Inn and drove up through Baton Rouge and Natchez to Ferriday, where I had a look at the museum and Jerry Lee Lewis's house. Next stop was Winnsburg where I got some records in a junk shop and then Monroe where I got some more at Twin City Records. Stopped off in a bar in Ruston where I played a video quiz against some of the locals. One of them asked me where I was from and when I said London he exclaimed: 'London? What the hell you doing in Ruston?' I went on to Shreveport, checking in at the Motel 6 in Bossier. Nothing much going on apart from a Mexican place where I ate and a crowded club called Tommy's Place which had a blues jam.
Tuesday: Left Shreveport heading south calling in at junk shops on the way. Had lunch at the Pig Stand in Ville Platte in the heart of Cajun country. Weather better so decided to go back to New Orleans arriving a 6.30. Checked in the Rose Inn and met J and J at the Sonesta. Ate at the Camellia Grill (uncrowded for once) and then went to Jimmy's. Very few people there and after watching Maria Muldaur we gave up.
Wednesday: Met up at the Sonesta for a tour of St Louis No 1 Cemetery. Then to Record Ron's which was selling 45s for 50 cents. Met John at the Crescent City in the evening and ate there before heading off for a varied evening. Started at Ernie K-Doe's Mother In Law Lounge: he was sitting on a sort of throne and was completely out of it. The only others there were his family - his new wife Antoinette complained that Jazz Fest should be paying a legend more to perform. Went on to the River Shack for Tab Benoit - it was packed with bikers. Then on to The Angel for some industrial rock from some band or other and some thrash rock from the Evil Mothers.
Thursday, May 1: Breakfast in St Charles and then off to the Fest. Watched some Beausoleil, J Monque, Frogman Henry, some Eddie Bo, Mary Chapin Carpenter and a short bit of Galactic. Left early with Jonathan to watch the election results on C-Span at the motel, A Labour landslide with Michael Portillo out among many others and quite a few Lib Dem gains. Satisfied (me anyway), we left at 9 to go to the House of Blues to see King Floyd, who was rather lacklustre, and Taj Mahal, who was a revelation. 
Friday; Met John for breakfast (Jon was ill), then went to the French Market where I got some LPs. Not the greatest day at the Fest: Ernie K-Doe didn't show, Delbert McClinton was good and there was an interesting interview with Carol Fran and Clarence Holliman. Saw some of Sherman Robertson, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau and Coco Robicheaux. Met John and Jon in the evening and had a steak at Nick's on Carrollton. Saw Paula and Pontiacs and Marcia Ball at Jimmy's and then went to Ernie K-Doe's place for some great blues (Ernie pictured on our first night at the Lounge above, and our second night, below). Jon Cleary came in after opening for James Brown.
Saturday: Up quite late - no breakfast. Went to House of Blues for T shirts and Record Ron's for more 45s. A really great day at the Fest: Cookie and Cupcakes (pictured below), who had reformed and making only their second appearance (after Utrecht) (and sadly their last), Syl Johnson and Fats Domino on great form, made all the more pleasant by Sakiko from Tokyo who I chatted to. Met J and J at the Crescent City and then to the Mermaid Lounge for the Hackberry Ramblers and C C Adcock, who were playing outside. Finally John and I went to place called the Showcase, a black club on Elysian Fields, to see Davell Crawford.
Sunday: Final day of Jazzfest. Watched some of Snooks Eaglin, all of the Zion Harmonizers (minus Aaron Neville), a bit of George Clinton, C C Adcock and left early. In the evening went to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel and found Sakiko there and then on to see Irma (pictured with me below) at the Lion's Den. Sakiko and other Japanese visitors were there. Had a good chat to Irma's daughter Dorell.
Monday: Last full day in New Orleans. Met up with J and J who have checked out of the Sonesta and into the Rose Inn. Drove to Slidell and then to the North Shore for a burger, then back along the Causeway. In the evening had a meal at a soul food place and John exploded at Jonathan when he complained yet again about the split of the bill, A Mr Angry moment! John and I went on to Monaco Bob's stripper night, where we talked to Lisa, an exotic black domme, and Gemma. two fabulous looking showgirls from Rick's Cabaret (pictured below). Left at 2.30am.
Here's Marva Wright, who died much too young.
This is Syl Johnson.
Here's a photo of John, just after he got out of rehab by the looks of it.
Me with Sakiko.
John, me and Jonathan on the North Shore.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Louisiana comes to London

Louisiana came to London last night when swamp pop legend Tommy McLain and the Lafayette Marquis, C C Adcock, put on a short but sublime set of swamp songs. The venue was the tiny basement bar at the Laylow Club, a place new to me that apparently attracts the Notting Hill set and which is located near Ladbroke Grove in west London. Tommy and C C are in London for a recording session and this was the second of a scheduled three Sunday night shows at the Laylow. And what a treat it proved to be.
Tommy, now aged 80, played keyboards and showed that he retains a fine voice, while CC, always an excellent guitarist in whatever style of music he is playing, provided instrumental and vocal support. They were joined on stage by a very young drummer and a second guitarist for part of the time as they tackled songs associated with Little Band of Gold, the much lamented former Louisiana super group, songwriter Bobby Charles and Tommy himself. These included LBOG's 'Jukebox Songs' and 'Memories' and Bobby Charles' 'Street People'. Tommy was wonderful on my personal anthem 'Before I Grow Too Old', which was released on Charlie Gillett's Oval label in 1975, and he finished with 'Sweet Dreams', the song that brought him universal fame in 1966. He explained how this record changed his life. I've seen him performing solo in New Orleans in the past, but in recent years he has been a star guest with Little Band of Gold and other versions of it.. Still sporting his trademark Father Christmas beard, now totally white, along with spangly jacket and rings, Tommy finished appropriately enough with a brief snippet of 'Jingle Bells'.
Each week there is apparently a support act who follows CC and Tommy on stage and this week it was Little George Sueref, with drummer and bass player, who was joined on stage for part of the set by CC, crouching at the side, as George's beautiful high pitched voice and harmonica playing filled the tiny space with soulful blues. This was truly a night to remember.
Finally here's a photo of me with Tommy.