Thursday, March 26, 2020

Phil Phillips RIP and others

One of the real highlights of the Ponderosa Stomp in 2005 was the appearance of Phil Phillips, a Louisiana singer who had not performed for many years. It took a great effort of will for him to sing his massive 1959 hit 'Sea Of Love', but so great was the audience reaction that he sang it a second time. It was truly a spine tingling moment. Now Phil has died on his 94th birthday and I regret that I was not among the group of Woodies who visited him at his home on a subsequent visit. 'Sea Of Love' has been widely covered, including by Marty Wilde at the time, and was the inspiration for the 1989 film of the same name starring Al Pacino. It was produced by Eddie Shuler and released on Khoury Records, before being picked up by Mercury when local sales exploded.
Phil's career failed to take off as an album he recorded was not released. Phil was unhappy about the unfavourable deal he had. But he did record intermittently. One such 45 was 'The Evil Dope', a
spoken word record released on the Lanor label about the evils of marijuana. Phil begins 'Little boy, little girl, this is THE Phil Phillips, king of the world' and goes on to recount how a young man loses his money and eventually his life as a result of dope. When I visited Church Point, Louisiana in 1998 I chatted to label owner Lee Lavergne and bought a brand new copy of the single.
Another much more high profile death in recent days is that of Kenny Rogers, aged 81, who can lay claim to being the most successful country singer ever, certainly so far as the UK is concerned. Starting off singing rockabilly in native Texas, he joined a jazz group called the Bobby Doyle Three and found success as a
member of the New Christy Minstrels. Kenny along with group members then formed the First Edition and, with Kenny's name in the lead, had a great success in the late sixties with 'Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town', 'Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In' and 'Something's Burning'. among others. His career really took off when he went solo and recorded some of the most memorable songs of the era, including 'Lucille', 'Coward Of The County' and 'The Gambler'. Duets with Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton and, most notably, Dolly Parton on 'Islands In the Stream' merely cemented his star status. I saw Kenny on one of his London visits and was impressed: truly a star right up to his death.
There have been several other music deaths recently. The most recent is that of Liverpool based Cy Tucker, aged 76, who was the city's first coronavirus fatality. Cy played with the Beatles and Cilla Black and had a couple of 45s released on Fontana in 1963/4, including 'My Prayer'..
Another recent death is that of Californian folk singer Julie Felix, who became well known in the UK in the late sixties after signing for Decca and appearing regularly on TV shows such as 'The Frost Report' and her own series 'Once More With Felix'. Best known possibly for the children's song 'Going To The Zoo', and 'Some Day Soon', Julie's other hits, in the early seventies, included 'If I Could (El Condor Pasa)' and 'Heaven Is Here' and she had over 20 albums released.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Sixty years since my first Top Ten

Image result for brenda lee photos
Time to think about happier, less pressured times, when we were young.
It's exactly sixty years since my first Top Ten. Back in the day I made a note of my ten favourite records of the day up to twice a week, between 1960 and late 1965. But the very first Top Ten was a bit of a one off and the second personal chart didn't appear until mid April, by which time I had reached the grand old age of 14.
Here's my very first personal Top Ten.
1. Sweet Nuthin's - Brenda Lee
2. String Along - Fabian
3. Beatnik Fly - Johnny and the Hurricanes
4. What In the World's Come Over You - Jack Scott
5. He'll Have To Go - Jim Reeves
6. Who Could Be Bluer - Jerry Lordan
7. Summer Set - Acker Bilk
8. California Here I Come - Freddy Cannon
9. This Love I have For you - Lance Fortune
10. Cradle of Love - Johnny Preston.
A year later, on March 21, 1961, to be precise, the top ten was as follows:
1. I Told You So - Jimmy Jones
2. Once In A While - The Chimes
3. I'm Hurtin' - Roy Orbison
4. Tear Of The year - Jackie Wilson
5. Good Time Baby - Bobby Rydell
6. Lazy River - Bobby Darin
7. Pony Time - Chubby Checker
8. Ram Bunk Shush - The Ventures
9. Muskrat Ramble - Freddy Cannon
10. Havin' Fun - Dion.
Image result for bruce channel
Moving on to 1962, here's the top ten from March 21:
1. Hey Baby - Bruce Channel
2. Hey Little Girl - Del Shannon
3. B'wa Nina - The Tokens
4. Young World - Rick Nelson
5. Speak To Me Pretty - Brenda Lee
6. Lucky Star - Gene Vincent
7. Teen Queen Of the Week - Freddy Cannon
8. When My Little Girl Is Smiling - The Drifters
9. A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody - The Piltdown Men
10.  Dream Baby - Roy Orbison.
On to 1963. Here's my top ten for March 20:
1. Sandy - Dion
2. Good Golly Miss Molly - Jerry Lee Lewis
3. You Really Got A Hold On me - The Miracles
4. In Dreams - Roy Orbison
5. Walk Like A Man - The Four Seasons
6. He's Got the power - The Exciters
7= So It Always Will Be - The Everly Brothers
7= Baby Workout - Jackie Wilson
7= The Puzzle - Gene McDaniels
10= Let's Turkey Trot - Little Eva
10= Remember Me - Johnny Burnette
10= Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts - Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans.
Image result for beach boys
Here's my top ten on March 25, 1964:
1. Fun Fun Fun - The Beach Boys
2. High Heel Sneakers - Tommy Tucker
3. Heigh Ho - Big Dee Irwin
4. Good News - Sam Cooke
5. That Girl Belongs To Yesterday - Gene Pitney
6. Hoochie Coochie Man - Dion
7. I'm On Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
8. Nadine - Chuck Berry
9. New Orleans - Gary (US) Bonds (reissue)
10. I Wonder - The Crystals.
Finally, here is the chart from March 20, 1965:
1. King Of The Road - Roger Miller
2. Little Things - Bobby Goldsboro
3. Voice Your Choice - The Radiants
4. My Girl - Temptations
5. Hurt So Bad - Little Anthony and the Imperials
6. Hold What You've Got - Joe Tex
7. Yield Not To Temptation - Bobby Bland
8. Baby Baby Baby - Anna King and Bobby Byrd
9. Don't Mess Up A Good Thing - Bobby McClure and Fontella Bass
10. Do You Wanna Dance - The Beach Boys.
My tastes changed over the years and there was a distinct absence of UK recordings after 1960. It's quite surprising, though, that my favourite singer, and top points scorer of the era, Sam Cooke, hardly gets a mention in these particular top tens. But it's just a snap shot of what was a fantastic musical time. Happier times!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Doom and gloom in the music world

This year, for the first time in many years, I decided not to make a spring music trip to the States. Turned out this was a good move, as we are now seeing the collapse of live music in the face of the coronavirus threat. Viva Las Vegas has been cancelled; so has SXSW in Austin; Jazzfest is under threat. The Tales From the Woods swamp pop show, starring Jivin' Gene, Johnnie Allan and Gene Terry, has been postponed until the autumn some time. Even the monthly Woodies meet up has been scrapped this month and a day out planned for next month has gone.
It seems unlikely that American artists will be able to perform in the UK for the foreseeable future, and of course, Trump's sudden ban on flights from Europe has cast another shadow over things. Will Porretta go ahead? Seems unlikely at this stage. So it's all doom and gloom really. Hopefully the situation will improve by the autumn and a Stomping USA road trip will be possible then - but I wouldn't bank on it.
Of course, music deaths have continued to take place. One of the most recent was that of guitarist Charlie Baty, leader of Little Charlie and the Nightcaps. Together with singer Rick Estrin the band, which was formed in 1976, recorded 14 albums and were a popular act at many festivals.
Another artist to have died is Cajun accordion player Ray Abshire, who spent many years playing with the Balfa Brothers band. On the day of his death he played alongside Steve Riley at a Mardi Gras event in Mamou.
Barbara Martin, who has died aged 76, was a member of the Primettes, the forerunners of the Supremes, when they were a foursome, and was with the group when they signed for Motown. She sang on many of the numbers on the Supremes first album but left in 1962 when she was pregnant and has been somewhat airbrushed out of the group's history ever since.
Image result for barbara martin
The Vinyl Word wishes RIP to them all, and good luck with avoiding the coronavirus to everyone.