Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Henry Gray RIP

Sad to hear that Henry Gray, one of the last of the original Chicago blues men, has died at the age of 95. Henry was born in Louisiana and grew up in Baton Rouge before moving to Chicago in 1946. His piano playing can be heard on many blues records of the early fifties by the likes of Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley and Billy Boy Arnold. In 1956 he joined Howlin' Wolf's band where he stayed for 12 years before moving back to Baton Rouge. He became an important figure in the Louisiana swamp blues scene and recorded upwards of 50 albums. He was a regular performer at New Orleans Jazzfest, the Chicago Blues Festival, the King Biscuit and other blues festivals and I saw him several times in the 1990s, including one occasion at the World's End pub in Finsbury Park. He had a weekly residency at a bar in Baton Rouge but unfortunately when Alan, Dave, Lee and I visited a few years back he was indisposed. We did, however, see him in 2018 at the New Orleans Blues and Barbecue Festival when, at the age of 93, he played a 60 minute set backed by Terrance Simian, Li'l Buck Sinegal (now sadly deceased) and Bob Corritore. Numbers, of which there were over 20, included 'Sweet Home Chicago', 'Bright Lights Big City', 'Going Down Slow' and 'Blueberry Hill'. RIP to one of the blues greats.
Another death is that of Cavan Grogan of South Wales band Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers at the age of 70. Cavan's band played Teddy Boy rock and toured extensively since its original foundation in 1964. They played a major part in the rock and roll revival of the 1970s and were popular with many British rockabilly fans. Here he is at Viva Las Vegas in 2014.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Photos from The Rockin' Race

I'm now back from the Rockin' Race in Torremolinos. The weather got steadily warmer while I was in Spain, in marked contrast to the awful weather back in the UK. After the festival ended John Howard, Jonathan Battan, Gordon Fleming, Jackson Sloan and Naimi Scognamiglio took a trip to Gibraltar where the weather couldn't have been more pleasant. Anyway, now I'm back, here are some photographic memories of the festival. First, here is Rosia Flores.
This is Scottish band Rusty and the Riots, who played at the Barracuda Hotel.
Opening up on the first evening, this is Anita O'Night.
Star of day one was the Ragin' Cajun, Doug Kershaw.
Backing Rosie on double bass, and also making several more appearances on stage, here is Deke Dickerson.
Rosie Flores was joined on stage for several numbers by James Intveld.
This is Paul Ansell's Number Nine.
This is Darrel Higham, who sang several numbers and also backed Robert Gordon (below) during his set.
Richard Weize, founder of Bear Family Records, was interviewed on day two, and was joined for part of this by Doug Kershaw.
First act on the second evening was Charlie Rich Jr, who did a tribute to his dad's time at Sun.
Here's the lead singer of the Hi-Jivers.
This is the Dave and Deke Combo, featuring Dave Stuckey and Deke Dickerson.
Most exciting act of the weekend was Barrence Whitfield with the Mambo Jambo Arkestra.
Mambo Jambo, together with big 'Arkestra' also performed an instrumental set during the car show.
This is a lady called Lily Locksmith. who impressed.
Opening on the third evening were Sun and Lightning.
Here is James Intveld during his solo set.
Here are some of the members of MFC Chicken who did a tribute to the Fabulous Wailers.
This is The Country Side of Harmonica Sam.
Finally, the Barracuda Hotel basement was packed on Sunday evening for the Graverobber Revue featuring Deke Dickerson.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Rockin' Race 2

Take a mix of Barrence Whitfield, probably the most dynamic rock and roller currently around, Los Mambo Jambo, Spain's most exciting instrumental group, and a dozen horn players comprising the band's 'Arkestra' and what do you get? The answer is a blend of excitement and power second to none. Barrence's high energy screams were channelled into a set of pure energy from beginning to end, with the Mambo Jambo Arkestra providing thunderous and very loud accompaniment and visual brilliance. The band's front men on sax, bass and guitar drove the set throughout with no fewer than three trombones, three trumpets and half a dozen more sax men, all of them wearing a fez, causing mayhem and noise behind Barrence's exciting vocals. From the initial scream introducing 'Bloody Mary', through 'Georgia Slop', 'Have A Good Time', 'My Hi-F Baby', 'Big Fat Mama' to 'Stop Twisting My Arm' it was raw power all the way.  For an encore Barrence stripped into a caveman costume for one final number of the same name. A great, if loud, set and one which will live long in the memory.
That was the highlight of day two of the Rockin' Race but there was plenty more to enjoy too. Earlier there was a fascinating interview with Richard Weize, the founder of Bear Family records, who reminisced about his early visits from Germany to London and bemoaned the current state of the record industry. Richard has been responsible for a huge number of box sets over the years but has now bowed out of the company. He seemed disillusioned with the world of recorded music but still owns a massive personal record collection. A man after my own heart. He was joined on stage briefly by Doug Kershaw.
First music of the evening came from Charlie Rich Junior, who paid tribute to his dad's years at Sun and showed that he's a decent piano player with a fair voice. Numbers included 'Mohair Sam', 'Who Will The Next Fool Be', 'Big Hunk Of Love', 'Rebound', 'Lonely Weekends' and 'Break Up'. It was a fine start to the evening.
Next up were the Hi-Jivers from Nashville, a group with a bluesy feel to them and a female singer with a gravelly voice in the mode of Ko Ko Taylor. She made a very good stab at 'Long Tall Sally' and the more country flavoured 'Just One More Time' and the band made a very good impression overall.
Following them were the Dave and Deke Combo featuring Dave Stuckey and Deke Dickerson in their hillbilly mode. There was humour, rockabilly, rock and roll and even hints of The Shadows and Duane Eddy at times, all performed with great skill. Numbers included 'Hillbilly Twist' and the amusing 'Chew Tobacco Rag' which included whistles from Deke. Good fun throughout
Next day we walked down town to watch the Mambo Jambo Arkestra playing for free. This was a purely instrumental set but veered into Big Band territory with some numbers sounding like the Ted Heath band or Elmer Bernstein and others more like movie soundtrack scores. Despite the great skill of the performers, and the dynamic front men, the lack of vocals meant there was rather a lot of sameness about many of the numbers. A good way to wile away an hour however. Back at the Barracuda I took a quick look at a duo called Modern Sound, but they appeared to be doing MOR versions of Beatles songs so I didn't stay long. They were followed on stage by a lady called Lily Locksmith, a feisty R and B singer wearing a leopard print top and a sailor's hat who came across well.
Saturday evening's show started with Sun and Lightning, a competent and fairly pleasant rockabilly outfit. Next up was the ever popular James Intveld, once of the Blasters, whose set included some laid back country vocals, finger snapping, rock and roll, even Happy Birthday to his mum. Numbers included 'Stop The World And Let Me On', 'I Ain't Nothing But a Man In Love', 'Crying Over You' (a duet with Rosie Flores), 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man', 'Playboy' and an extended version of 'Polk Salad Annie'. It was an entertaining if less than overwhelming set.
MFC Chicken came next playing a tribute to Seattle band the Wailers (not the reggae group). Dressed in white suits there was something of  a garage feel to this largely instrumental set, which included 'Tall Cool One', 'Dirty Robber', 'Mau Mau' and vocal versions of 'Louie Louie' and 'Bama Lama Bama Lu'. Anita O'Night contributed one number. Finally, for our group at least, as we were nipping back and forth to a Spanish bar we had found, came the Country Side of Harmonica Sam, a rather plodding Swedish honkytonk band who weren't really to my taste.
Photos and a further report will appear soon.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Back at the Rockin' Race 1

I'm back in sunny, if rather chilly Spain for the 26th Rockin' Race Jamboree and I reckon it's the best line up I've seen here. The afternoon session at the Barracuda Hotel featured a couple of decent acts - Rusty and the Riots from Scotland and Bailey Dee - but the evening action at the Auditoriun Principe De Asturias was exceptional.
Anita O'Night and the Mercury Trio, who kicked things off, were OK but the evening took off with the arrival of Rosie Flores. I saw Rosie twice in Nashville last year and enjoyed her more rock influenced numbers but was less enamoured with her country stuff. Backed by Deke Dickerson on double bass her set began with 'Get Rhythm' and continued with the self-penned 'A Simple Case Of The Blues' before she was joined on stage by sax player Kenny Thomas and then James Intveld, who duetted with her to good effect on 'Crying Over You'. Towards the end of the set the two of them moved towards a more rockabilly flavoured mood and she finished strongly with 'You Tear Me Up' and finally a Wanda Jackson style 'Let's Have A Party'.
Highlight of the night was the Ragin' Cajun Doug Kershaw who as always produced an enjoyable and amusing, if slightly chaotic, set of Cajun influenced rockabilly. Supported by the Dave and Deke Combo he began with 'Diggy Liggy Lo' and smiled and fiddled his way through the amusing 'Hey Sheriff', 'Better To Be A Hasbeen Than A Never Was' and 'Sweet Love Is Hard To Find'. After some excellent fiddle work on 'Cajun Joe (The Bully of the Bayou' there was 'Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do' , 'Love Me To Pieces' and 'Hey Mae', with enthusiastic audience participation.  Now looking a little weary (he is 84 after all despite his slim frame and the glint in his eye), he ended with 'Louisiana Man' and a brief reprise of 'Hey Mae'. An entertaining and all too short set.
Next up were Paul Ansell's Number Nine who produced a melodic and varied set. Paul's vocals on such numbers as 'Lonesome Train', 'If I Ever Get To Memphis' and 'Sea of Heartbreak' were exemplary. So too were 'Train Of Love', Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger', 'Hey Joe'  (maybe not the best of choices) and  couple of Elvis songs, 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' and 'She's Not You'. Overall an enjoyable set.
Final act for me, were Darrel Higham and Robert Gordon. Darrel did three numbers, including 'Dark Haired Woman' and 'Ghost Of Love', and performed them well, before Robert Gordon came on stage, looking perhaps a little the worse for wear. He strutted around the stage grimacing and posing, but to be fair his voice came across strongly on numbers such as Jack Scott's 'The Way I Walk', 'I'll Be Your Lover Boy', 'I'm Coming Home' and 'Little Boy Sad'. Not  a bad start to the festival. The 'surprise band', due to appear at 3am, was the Jets, but by this time I had taken my leave. Much more to come though.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Doris Duke - a belated RIP

It's a little on the late side, but I've just learned, from Tony Burke, that soul singer Doris Duke died last March. Doris recorded some of the greatest deep soul songs of the early seventies and recorded two great LPs that very much stand the test of time.
As Doris Willingham, taking the name of husband Gus Willingham, an original member of the Cadillacs, she recorded a single called 'You Can't Do That' released on Jay Boy in 1965. She was a backing singer and even recorded some demos for Motown, which were unreleased. But it wasn't until 1969, when she was signed as a solo artist by Swamp Dogg (Jerry Williams Jr) that she really made an impact with the album 'I'm A Loser', recorded at Capricorn in Macon, which was released on the Canyon label. This included heartbreaking tracks such as 'I Don't Care Anymore' and 'To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman)' and is one of the great soul LPs of all time. A couple of singles on the album did well, but the label collapsed. According to the sleeve notes, Doris can be heard on recordings by Jerry Butler, Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin among others, and started her career singing gospel in groups including the Caravans.
Swamp Dogg recorded Doris on a second album called 'A Legend In Her Own Time', recorded in Sheffield, Alabama, which was released on the Mankind label (Contempo in the UK). It didn't sell well, and neither did a further LP called 'Woman', recorded in London. After that it seems that she became confused with a white heiress also called Doris Duke, who recorded some gospel, and faded from the scene. A strange postscript was an LP called Funky Fox, attributed to 'Sister' Doris Duke, released in the UK on the Manhattan label, which featured a variety of artists, none of whom were the real Doris Duke. (see The Vinyl Word, March 10, 2019). Dave Godin regarded Doris as one of the greatest deep soul singers of them all, and who am I to argue. So The Vinyl Word wishes her a belated RIP.