Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mike Sagar RIP

Mike Sagar, one of the stars of a Tales From The Woods show in 2015, has died. He was best known for his 1961 record 'Deep Feeling' with the Cresters. He appeared with fellow Cresters member Richard Harding at the 2015 show, who himself had some success with a version of 'Jezebel'.
I recall that Mike and Richard put on an amusing and entertaining double act. Here's what I wrote at the time:
'The next act was something of an unknown quantity - a double act featuring Mike Sagar, who had a 1961 hit with 'Deep Feeling', and his guitarist friend Richard Harding, who had some success in the same year with an instrumental version of 'Jezebel'. Between them they brought some great Northern humour to the show with a series of amusing anecdotes and jokes. It was like Sunday night at the Wheeltappers and Shunters. Musically, both Mike and Richard proved highly effective, with Mike's voice and Richard's top notch guitar work working well together on a series of rock and blues numbers, plus their own hits of over 50 years ago. Mike began with Charlie Gracie's 'Fabulous''and followed with 'Bye Bye Johnny', 'One Night', 'Matchbox', 'Goofin' Around' (showing off Richard's expertise) and the country styled 'How's My Ex Treating You'. Richard again showed off his guitar playing with Jerry Reed's 'Guitar Man' and two tunes played together - 'Yankee Doodle 'and 'Dixie'. Finally it was 'Bony Moronie', with John Spencely joining them on guitar, and Chuck Berry's 'Carol' for an encore. A very good double act - and very funny.'
Freddy Cole - WikipediaRIP Mike.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwgMjT56j6k
Another who has died is jazz singer and pianist Freddy Cole, aged 88, who was the brother of Nat 'King' Cole and uncle of Natalie. His career spanned over 70 years.
Also, at the age of 75, Jamaican guitarist Hux Brown, a member of Toots and the Maytals for over 30
years. He formed early ska band the Vikings and played on successful records by Alton Ellis and the Jamaicans, as well as playing on 'Rivers of Babylon' by the Melodians and 'The Harder They Come' by Jimmy Cliff.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWMtxknzGOk
It's farewell, too, to Tom Finn, bass player and singer with the Left Banke, and to Pete Carr, lead guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who recorded on many records by the likes of Bob Seger, Art Garfunkel, Rod Stewart and Johnny Rivers. He also recorded two albums as half of the duo LeBlanc and Carr.
I mustn't forget a belated farewell to Dame Vera Lynn, aged 103, who kept the spirits up of many during the war and who was the oldest person to have a number one when aged 100.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hybrid HMV 45s

Donald Trump's recent less than overwhelming rally in Tulsa brought to mind Gene Pitney's 1963 smash hit '24 Hours From Tulsa', which in turn made me wonder why the UK 45 came out both on the black United Artists label and a blue hybrid HMV/United Artists label. The US United Artists label was formed in 1957 to issue movie soundtracks but by the earlier sixties it had begun to release pop and soul records (Marv Johnson for example). In the UK these were issued on Decca's London label but distribution was taken up by EMI in 1961, who chose its His Masters' Voice label as the host.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zugy2rkSM7g

Presumably there was pressure from the US end for EMI to set up a separate United Artists label in the UK and as a compromise EMI agreed to a hybrid HMV/United Artists branded label. This was similar to an agreement with Verve, which had issued many mostly jazz LPs on a co-branded label. The new hybrid HMV/UA label featured records by, among others, the Phil Upchurch Combo, the Highwaymen (who gave them a UK number one with 'Michael'), Al Caiola, Kenny Dino, Jay and the Americans ('She Cried') and Steve Lawrence. The biggest name, however, was Gene Pitney. He recorded for Musicor, which had a distribution deal with UA in the States, and his records appeared on London, HMV, the separate United Artists label and, later, Stateside, when Musicor's US distribution deal changed (I assume).    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYPqEczbFHE
The curious thing, however, is why '24 Hours From Tulsa' appeared both on the UA imprint and the blue HMV hybrid label. It was issued many months after UA became 'independent' and carried the United Artists UP label number, rather than HMV's POP series number. Was this because sales were so good that they ran out of labels? Seems hard to believe, but if anyone knows the answer please put a comment.
Here are a few more examples of the hybrid HMV/United Artists label.
Some LPs appeared on the dual format, including the first albums by Gene Pitney and the Highwaymen.
Here's the LP label design, which again is similar to the HMV/Verve LP label.
The hybrid HMV/Verve had only a few 45 releases. Here's one of the best.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IoGehtkQ2M

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Three months on...

It's exactly three months since I wrote about the 'doom and gloom' in the music business due to the corona virus. That was a full ten days before the UK government belatedly ordered a lockdown - a delay that no doubt contributed to the UK having the highest number of deaths in Europe. Now we see signs of the lockdown being eased, but there is little prospect of any live music, festivals or European or US travel in the near future. The imposition of new quarantine rules - months after other countries introduced them - has effectively put a stop to foreign travel.The government, led by Boris Johnson, undoubtedly the worst PM in history, has dithered and obfuscated and has done little to foster confidence that they know what they are doing. Despite the worst recession in history, they remain devoted to the disastrous plan to complete Brexit on December 31, regardless of the damage it does to the country. (Sorry for the political rant, but there you are). Hopefully there will be real light at the end of the tunnel soon.
Anyway, life goes on. And so, too, does death, with several music people passing on in recent weeks.
The latest is Welsh singer Ricky Valance, aged 84, who had a number one hit in 1960 with his
insipid cover of Ray Peterson's 'Tell Laura I Love her'. The song was banned by the BBC because of its death theme, but was widely played on Radio Luxembourg. It became Ricky's only hit, although he had several more pop flavoured singles released on Columbia, including 'Movin' Away' and 'Jimmy's Girl', a Johnny Tillotson cover, and one on Decca, a dramatic ballad called 'Six Boys'.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CKy8PeJjLg
It was a shock to hear of the death recently of Frank Bey, aged 74, whose appearances at the Porretta Soul Festival over several years beginning in 2014 (pictured above) were without exception excellent. Originally from Georgia, Frank opened for Otis Redding on several occasions but his music career stalled and he left the business. His first solo album, 'Steppin' Out', was recorded in Phildelphia in 1998 and after teaming up with Anthony Paule in San Francisco Frank recorded three albums: 'You Don't Know Nothin', 'Soul For Your Blues' and 'Not Goin' Away'. His first appearance at Porretta took most people by surprise, as here was a superb soulful relaxed singer performing mostly original songs who few of us had heard of. Performances, again with Anthony Paule's band, in 2015 and 2016 were equally impressive' Later albums were 'Back in Business' (2018) and 'All My Dues Are Paid', released earlier this year. It's incredibly sad that two great soul singers associated with Anthony's band (the other being Wee Willie Walker) have passed on in a matter of months.Here's Frank singing 'It's Good To Have Your Company' at Porretta in 2014.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwmCfAgz7SQ
Me with Frank Bey at Porretta in 2016.
Another singer who has sadly died, much too young at the age of 69, is Bonnie Pointer, a founder member of the Pointer Sisters and a solo artist in her own right. She wrote the Pointer Sisters' 'Fairytale' in 1974 and after leaving the group in 1977 she joined Motown and had success with a remake of 'Heaven Must Have Sent You' in 1979.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=613IzbUQuQQ   https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jun/10/bonnie-pointer-obituary
Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters Dead at Age 69 - Rolling Stone

It's farewell too to highly regarded Texas born country singer/songwriter James 'Slim' Hand, who has died aged 67.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Gaynel Hodge and others RIP

It's time to catch up on some recent music deaths which, sadly, continue to be plentiful.
The latest is Gaynel Hodge, formerly of the Hollywood Flames and the Turks, at the age of 83. Gaynel co-wrote the Penguins' 'Earth Angel', with Jesse Belvin and Curtis Williams, and was on the original version of the Platters' 'Only You'. A long time resident of the Netherlands, I first saw him at the Rhythm Riot in 2015 and he was one of the stars of the Tales From The Woods doowop show two years ago. On both occasions, backed by Spanish doowop group the Four (Velvet) Candles, he was excellent. When I chatted to him at the record shop in Rye during Rhythm Riot (pictured below) he came across as a delightful guy who had a fund of stories about the west coast music scene in the 1950s and whose importance in pop music history has been under-appreciated.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJcGi4-n_Yw
Gaynel at the 2018 TFTW doowop show.
Image may contain: 3 people
Another recent death is that of extrovert blues man Lucky Peterson, aged 55, who was equally at home on both keyboards and guitar. A true showman, I saw him several times, including at Jazzfest in 2007 and the King Biscuit Festival in 2015 (pictured). Lucky started his career young, when he was discovered at his father's club in Buffalo by Willie Dixon at the age of five and appeared on prime Time US TV singing a cover of James Brown's 'Please Please Please'.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gruI4_C4MQA

New Orleans produced many great R and B artists in the fifties and sixties and one of its less well
known singers, but clearly one of the best, was Raymond Lewis, who has died. Raymond was a member of Huey's Smith's Clowns and recorded several 45s for Instant in the sixties, with superb backing from Allen Toussaint, including 'I'm Gonna Put Some Hurt On You' and 'Miss Sticks', both of which are quite brilliant examples of the genre.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Yay8tV0so    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8bzhPntBLA
It's a few weeks ago now but I cannot let the death of Earl Green, one of the UK's few authentic blues singers, go unremarked. Originally from Jamaica, Earl was a member of Otis Grand and the Dance Kings before starting his own band in the 1990s. He was a regular on the UK blues scene and one of the best. He's pictured here on stage with Eddie Floyd and Vaneese Thomas at the Half Moon in Putney in 2011.
It's farewell too to Phil May, singer with the Pretty Things who were in many ways the biggest challengers to the Rolling Stones in the 1960s with their in your face style of R and B. Their 1968 album 'S F Sorrow' is much admired and singles such as 'Rosalyn', 'Don't Bring me Down', 'Honey I Need' and 'Midnight To Six Man' brought them chart success. They continued to play well into the 2000s.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOgjEZJokvc