Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wee Willie Walker RIP

So sad to hear of the death of Memphis soul man Wee Willie Walker, one of the last of the great sixties soul men, who recorded for Goldwax and was one of the stars of the Porretta Soul Festival in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. With his big smile, warm personality, jaunty hat and wonderfully soulful voice there were few, if any, singers at Porretta to match him and he will be badly missed. Fortunately he had just finished an album with Anthony Paule before his sudden death so his recorded legacy goes on, but his death is a real blow to all soul lovers.
Here are a few photos from his appearances at Porretta. The first two are from 2015.
He did several duets with Terrie Odabi. Here's one from 2017.
This is from 2018.

This is Willie with Terrie in 2017.
Here he is with Marc Engel and Noah Shaffer.
This one is from 2018.
Here's Willie with Curtis Delgado in 2019.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Recent music deaths

It's been a long time since I caught up with significant music deaths but, as ever, there have been plenty.
The latest is Papa Don Shroeder, aged 77, a Pensacola based DJ and record producer who did as much as anyone in promoting southern soul artists in the 1960s. He introduced Mighty Sam McClain to the world, producing such records as 'Sweet Dreams', 'Fannie Mae' and 'Papa True Love'. His 'Mighty Soul' LP from 1969 is a classic, Not only that but he produced James and Bobby Purify's 'I'm Your Puppet' and 'Shake A Tailfeather' and was the man behind Oscar Toney Jr's wonderful soul sides. Later he produced Carl Carlton's version of 'Everlasting Love'. For a more detailed tribute to Papa Don read Red Kelly's excellent post.
Another major soul figure who has died is Jackie Moore whose 1970 hit 'Precious Precious' is superb. She had success throughout the seventies with soul and disco recordings, the most successful being 'Sweet Charlie Babe' and 'This Time Baby'.
The music death that has attracted the most attention in recent weeks is that of Ginger Baker, the maverick drummer who was one third of Cream. He was a member of Blues Incorporated and the Graham Bond Organisation and after Cream broke up was a member of Blind Faith and his own Ginger Baker's Air Force. He had a great interest in African music and recorded with Nigerian Fela Kuti. He was also noted for his self destructive lifestyle.
It's Rhythm Riot time again (not that I will be there since they stopped booking original US acts) and one of the stars of recent years was Beverly 'Guitar' Watkins. She made a big impression in 2013 with her aggressive guitar style learned over several decades with the likes of Piano Red, B B King and Ray Charles.
Other music deaths over the last couple of months have included Robert Hunter of Grateful Dead, Ric Osacek of The Cars, singer Eddie Money, Barrie Masters of Eddie and the Hot Rods, Larry Junstrom of Lynyrd Skynyrd and reggae artist Glen Brown. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Jazz Fest memories 1993 - part two

Here's the conclusion of my diary entries for my trip to New Orleans Jazz Fest in 1993, with accompanying photographs.
'Wednesday, April 28. Spent most of the early afternoon at Goldmine Records hunting through millions of 45s and LPs. Eventually bought half a dozen singles and three albums - another 50 bucks gone. It was Black Top night at Jimmy's so a real hard night's blues. After a burger the show started with Lynn August who was excellent. Next was Bobby Parker - 'Mr Bent Out of Shape' - who was pretty good but didn't do 'Watch Your Step'. The low point was Maria Muldaur, who was followed by Carol Fran, who didn't seem on top form. Guitar Shorty was good fun, with amazing acrobatics while still playing his guitar. Finally Robert Ward (pictured above), formerly of the Ohio Untouchables, who was excellent again, with his unusual guitar sound produced by his Magnotone amplifier By now it was 3.30 so we left without seeing Earl King.
Pictures below show Guitar Shorty, Maria Muldaur and Carol Fran with Clarence Holliman.
Thursday. Jazz Fest second weekend. Weather still good. A quiet day at the Fest, but enjoyable. Watched Boozoo Chavis, who was OK, then some good quality Cajun music with the Savoy Doucet Band. A quick look at Snooks Eaglin, then to Lenny McDaniel, a white blues band. Nina Simone was magnetic on 'I Put a Spell on You' but didn't really suit the festival. Saw a little of the excellent Paula and the Pontiacs and some blues with Troy Turner. Finished off with some New Orleans R and B fun with Clarence 'Frogman' Henry - looking well. In the evening went to the Dew Drop Inn Revisited concert at the Sheraton: Roland Stone, who I had never seen before, turned out to be white and looked like an accountant; George French; Bobby Marchan - a real pro; Benny Spellman, whose 'Lipstick Traces' is one of my favourite records, crippled on his left side from a stroke but trying hard; the ever impressive Marva Wright and the excellent Lloyd Price. Too much of Wardell Querzerque's orchestra perhaps, but superb overall. Finally on to the Lion's Den for more of Irma. Great as ever.
Pictured below is Benny Spellman. Others show Benny with Marva Wright and Roland Stone, and Lloyd Price.
Friday. Day five of the festival and a wet one. After breakfast went to the car hire place at the airport finding yet another record shop - Memory Lane - on the way. At the festival saw Tommy Ridgley with Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson and Chuck Carbo and then a bit of Henry Gray before the rain came down hard. Got soaked watching the Meters, who were good, and Lloyd Price again, who was excellent. Fortunately the rain stopped for Delbert McClinton, who was also very good. In the evening went to Tower and bought some CDs and had crawfish and shrimp creole in a restaurant on Decatur St. Tried to get into Snug Harbor but couldn't because it was full so walked with John, Jonathan and Adrian, finding an interesting book and record shop on Royal, and finished with a couple of drinks.
Saturday, May 1. Another wet day eventually culminating in a quagmire at the Fairgrounds and an early finish because of a thunderstorm. Spent the morning shopping in the French Quarter. Eventually made it to Jazz Fest and did a quick interview with WWOZ Radio with Jonathan. Saw some rock and roll with Kenny Bill Stinson, followed by a bit of Deacon John, an interview with Walter Washington, a quick look at Buddy Guy, some fun with the Dixie Cups (pictured below) and some gospel with Johnson Extension. By then the weather was appalling and a halt was called. Still very wet in the early evening but went with John J and Jonathan for a nice steak in Metairie and then went to a bar in Hessmer where, quite unpublicised, Jimmy Elledge, famed for  'Funny How Time Slips Away' was singing and playing piano. Spent the rest of the evening (until 3) in various bars and low down joints in Metairie.
Sunday. More heavy rain around so decided against going to Jazz Fest. Dropped John J off at the Fairgrounds and set off with Jonathan for Lafayette, meandering through Opelousas and Scott on the way. In the evening had a pleasant Cajun meal at Prejean's and then went on El Sido's Zydeco Club - a wonderfully authentic place. Zydeco Force were playing and we were virtually the only whites in the place.
Photo shows Sid Williams, owner of El Sido's, with his brother Nathan of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas.
Zydeco Force at El Sido's.
Overall, I guess this trip hasn't quite lived up to previous ones because of the rain, higher prices generally, a little bit of staleness and perhaps too much chauffering. All the same, there were plenty of highlights: in no particular order Bob Dylan, Tyrone Davis, Fats Domino, Robert Ward, Lloyd Price, Benny Spellman and of course Irma, no matter what Dave or John H may have said about her doing cabaret. And of course there was the evening in Metairie and, not least, El Sido's. I may give New Orleans a miss next year (I didn't) - maybe go to another festival. But I'll be back - I hope!'
Here's John Jolliffe, Nick Cobban and Jonathan Coke-Smyth at Jazz Fest.
John J, Adrian and myself brave the awful weather at Jazz Fest.
Jonathan gets more than he bargained for at one of the joints in Metairie.
Dave Thomas and John Jolliffe in typical pose.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Jazz Fest memories of 1993 - Part One

I'm continuing my occasional series of trips down memory lane with my diary entries this time for my visit to New Orleans Jazzfest in 1993. Hope it's of interest to those who were there (and even those who weren't). Part one of two. Second instalment will follow soon.
Thursday, April 22. Up at 6 feeling rotten but got to Gatwick OK and the flight (BA) was early into Houston. Lovely sunny, hot day. Picked up the car, a Chevy Cavalier, from Alamo and headed east. Stopped for a Cajun meal (seafood buffet - very nice) at Pierre's near Lake Charles and stopped overnight at a Motel 6 near Baton Rouge.
Friday. Up very early after going to bed at 9. Stopped for breakfast at a Shoney and got to the Rose Inn Motel in New Orleans at 9am. Went to Tower Records with John J (Jolliffe) and Mick from Harrogate and got an Irma Thomas CD. Beautiful weather. And so to the Jazzfest. Had a quick look at Bruce 'Sunpie' Barnes and then enjoyed Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers. Marcia Ball was excellent, then some foot-tapping with Beausoleil (see photo below). Theryl and Reel Life were a great find - Otis Clay styled soul. Next was the legend, Bob Dylan. He started ten minutes early and even though his vocal range is now down to about four notes he gave a varied, interesting and quite enjoyable set. Before leaving had a quick look at Bobby Cure (not impressed). In the evening called into the Palm Court Jazz Club to say hello to Nina Buck, the owner, who I've been asked to interview for The Times, then met up with John H (Howard), Dave (Thomas) and spouses, John J, Adrian and Mick at the Crescent City Brew House. We went on to Irma Thomas's club the Lion's Den. It's been done up but it's still intimate and Irma's voice was great as ever. although her material is getting rather MOR. Back at 3.15.
Saturday. Felt awful overnight from too much booze and not enough food. Had breakfast near the hospital and phoned home - everyone's fine but a bomb's gone off at the Natwest Tower. On to Jazzfest where I saw a little bit of Rockin' Dopsie and a fabulous set by Kat and the Kittens - James Brown style. Watched Zachary Richard for a few minutes, then some of bluesman Robert Lowery and some fine piano playing from Carl Sonny Leyland in the Grandstand. Then the real highlight - Tyrone Davis (top picture) - the dog's bollocks as John J said. Finished off with a bit of Johnny Adams - great as usual. In the evening walked through the French Quarter with John (not clear from the diary if it was John H or John J) and ate just off Bourbon. Then on to the Municipal Auditorium to see Johnnie Taylor, who did a short and rather half-hearted set, and Patti Labelle (see photo below), who was wonderfully over the top in front of a 90 per cent black audience.
Sunday. Jonathan (Coke-Smyth) arrived. Earlier John, Mick and I had breakfast at the Clover Grill. Checked out a flea market on the West Bank but no luck. First on at Jazzfest was Kenny Neal, with his whole family. Had a quick listen to the smooth Earl Turbinton (see photo below) and a look at the excellent Mighty Imperials in the gospel tent, then settled down to some New Orleans funk with Allen Toussaint, dressed in bright peach. There was some dull gospel from the New Zion Trio and I spent a few minutes listening to Steve Riley, followed by some dirty blues with Tabby Thomas and a disappointing gospel spot with Dorothy Love Coates. On to the New Orleans legends: Jessie Hill, his voice completely gone, and Ernie K-Doe, drunk and dishevelled. Could be the last time I see them - Ernie looked particularly bad. Finally the day's highlight - a great set from Fats Domino and his band. In the evening met up with John H and Dave and co at Cucos Mexican bar on Carrollton for Margaritas. Not much on musically so landed up at the Blues Harmonica Showdown at the Mid City Lanes where John J, Jon, Mick and I watched Jumpin' Johnny.
Monday. Lazy day mooching around record shops in the French Quarter and Metarie. Had a po-boy with John J and Jon near Lake Pontchartrain, and ice cream and then a drink at the Landmark. In the evening went to the Palm Court jazz club to interview Nina Buck, a Briton who has made her home in New Orleans. It was a gala night with 88 year old trumpeter Doc Cheatham and 84 year old New Orleans banjo player Danny Barker. Different, but quite enjoyable. Went with Jonathan to try to get into Tipitina's, but much too crowded. Spotted John H and Dave and co outside and we all went to see Walter Washington at Jimmy's - good soulful stuff - and then to Muddy Waters for Marva Wright, who was in lively form. Here's a photo of Nina Buck outside the Palm Court and one of Danny Barker with Doc Cheatham.
Tuesday. A fairly quiet day despite John J celebrating his 50th birthday. Drove out of town heading for Grand Isle but after lunch at Larose decided it was too far so drove instead through Houma and Thibodaux, where we looked at the Acadian museum. Got a few old but scratched 45s at a thrift store and had a quick look in Goldmine Records which was just closing. In the evening went to eat at Chez Helene, an interesting Creole and soul food restaurant, and then met up with John, Dave and co at Cucos. Irma's club was closed so we went to Maxwell's in Toulouse St to see Barbara George. The band was dreadful and Barbara struggled.
To be continued...
Here's a photo of Tabby Thomas.
This is Walter 'Wolfman' Washington.
Here is the great Ernie K-Doe, looking somewhat dishevelled.
Another New Orleans legend, Barbara George at Maxwells in Toulouse St.
Here are some of the UK contingent: L-R John Howard, Nick Cobban, Jonathan Coke-Smyth, Mary Howard, Mick from Harrogate, Dave Thomas, John Jolliffe, Julie Thomas.
John Jolliffe celebrates his 50th birthday at a Mexican restaurant on Carrollton.
Finally here's another photo of Tyrone Davis, the 'dog's bollocks'. More diary entries and photos from 1993 soon.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Johnny Adams: his widow writes

I've had an email from Judy Adams, widow of Johnny Adams, responding to my review of her biography of her husband that I wrote over seven years ago (June 16, 2012, if anyone wants to check it out). In her book, The Johnny Adams Story, Judy complained that her husband, who in the opinion of many people, including me, was one of the greatest soul singers of all time, was cheated by record label owners and did not get the respect he deserved.
Judy is still angry. In her email she wrote: 'Johnny's music was internationally known years before he signed with Rounder Records. You claim Rounder Records gave Johnny stardom! If this is true then why did Rounder Records never submit Johnny for a Grammy nomination? Oh, by the way, none of Johnny's record labels ever submitted him for a Grammy nomination. Maybe that's why I was angry when I wrote Johnny's biography book. Maybe his record companies were only interested in selling his records and paying him a few pennies for record sales while they capitalised off his records, making several dollars off of each record sold. When Johnny died our daughter was only seven years old. We no longer had my husband's performing income and had a small child to provide for. Record royalties paid a few hundred dollars a year. You can't provide for a household and child with that.
Nick. with all due respect to you, Johnny's record companies and his fans don't know what this widow has been through without my husband. My book is a true story. Johnny's last words while dying in my arms made me promise to tell his story to the world. And I did.
Nick instead of pointing out my writing typos in my book and giving Rounder Records credit for Johnny's musical career, you should write about the non-Grammy submissions, and the last 15 years when Johnny's record producer Scott Billington didn't submit any of Johnny's records or albums for a Grammy nomination. Write about how several of the record labels continue to re-release Johnny's records using his image, releasing his records in the UK and around the world without contacting me before they release the records. Write about how the older African American musicians were caught up in the record signing Jim Crow era. Write about how the record companies made financial gains off of uneducated African American musicians. 
Tell how musicians' widows struggle to survive when their spouse dies and only receive a few pence of a record sale, only 6 or 7 cents. Nick, if you really love Johnny's music reach out to the record company and get all your friends and readers to give Johnny Adams the recognition he deserves by getting him nominated for a Grammy.'
Judy, you make your points clearly and with true sincerity and I sympathise. I am happy to pass them on to readers of the Vinyl Word and maybe that Grammy will eventually come. Thanks for your email.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore in London

It's quite a surprise to hear that Dave Alvin, once of the Blasters, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, who I last saw with the Flatlanders, had never performed together until two years ago, despite being friends for over three decades. As they showed last night at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, they have an easy relationship on stage and the resulting music is superb. Their album 'Downey to Lubbock' was the bedrock of many of their numbers but both of them took something from their past in a set which was highly enjoyable.
They began with their album title track and followed up with a Flatlanders song  'Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown' and a Dave Alvin number, 'Johnny Ace Is Dead'. In the past Dave has played with the Guilty Men and the Guilty Women but today their excellent band is the Guilty Ones ( their drummer is Lisa Pankratz, bass Brad Fordham and guitarist Chris Miller). 'Silverlake', written by Steve Young  came next, followed by the excellent Blasters number 'Long White Cadillac' and an original, from their recent album,  'Billy the Kid and Geronimo'.
In one of several fascinating stories between songs they revealed that the two of them had both frequented the Ash Grove, a blues club in LA, when they were young  and that they were both fans of Lightning Hopkins, whose song 'Buddy Brown's Blues' was beautifully delivered. Other songs included the Grateful Dead's 'Ripple', Dave's 'Dry River', with a lengthy drum solo, Jimmie's 'Get Together' and the Flatlanders' classic 'Dallas From a DC9'. I missed the encore as I had to leave but this was an exciting and energizing show by two masters of their craft, one a genuine LA rocker and the other one of the greatest Texas troubadours.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Detroit A Go Go photos - 3

Here's a final group of photos from my Detroit trip, covering the final Detroit A Go Go show and an after show meet up of some of the artists.
One of the highlights of the final show, here is J J Barnes.
This is Willie Kendrick.
Here's Ronnie Savoy.
This is Pat Lewis.
Here's Al Kent, who received a lifetime achievement award.
These are the Reflections.
Here are the Fantastic Four.
Here is Tony Michaels, lead singer of the Reflections, who also did a solo spot.
Finishing the show were backing group the Ladeez..
Here are a couple of photos from the finale, when all the artists came on stage.
Here's one of me with Rose Battiste.
Detroit resident Michael Hurtt was at some of the shows and, of course, Noah Shaffer was there.
The Marvelettes were among several artists who were at the Hotel St Regis for an after show meet up.
This is Frank Bryant of soul duo the Just Brothers.
Finally, here are soul brothers Ronnie Savoy and Al Kent.