Wednesday, July 22, 2020

More music deaths

There are a few more music deaths to catch on I'm afraid.
I'm grateful to Las Vegas singer Monique Brewster for letting me know about the death from COVID 19 of blues and soul singer Bobby Jones, who also recorded under the name of Bobby Jonz to avoid confusion with the gospel singer of the same name. I saw Bobby on a couple of occasions at the City Lights lounge in Vegas in 2015 and 2016 where he hosted a Monday night blues jam (featuring Monique among others) and was impressed by his smooth B B King sounding vocals. Born in Louisiana in 1936, Bobby moved to Chicago in 1959 and played in blues clubs with the Aces blues band. His first record, 'Sugar Baby' was recorded in the early sixties and others followed for Veejay, USA and Expo, for whom he also recorded an album. Moving to Florida he recorded a local hit called 'I'm So Lonely' and reportedly said that his friend Tyrone Davis's 'Can I Change My Mind' was originally written for him. He returned to Chicago and recorded under the name of Bobby Jonz before relocating to Las Vegas in 1986. Albums included 'I'm In The Mood For Love', 'Bobby Jonz Country' and 'Your Freak Is Here'. In 2007 he recorded 'Big Plans' with the Mannish Boys. Bobby's shows at City Lights showed just what a fine performer he was, with songs including 'The Turning Point' and 'Sweet Little Angel'. The picture above shows Bobby in 2016 while the one below dates from my first visit in 2015.

Another victim of COVID 19 is Jamaican ska and reggae singer Dobby Dobson at the age of 78. Dobby recorded as one half of the duo Chuck and Dobby in 1960 and worked with both Coxsone
Dodd and Duke Reid as a member of the Virtues and Sheiks. He had great success with 'Loving Pauper', which became his signature song and had some UK success with 'Endlessly'. He moved into production, with the Mediations and Barrington Levy and later moved to New York where he recorded and performed occasionally.
Emitt Rhodes - Mirror (1971, Vinyl) | DiscogsAnother death to report is that of singer/songwriter Emitt Rhodes at the age of 70.. He played and recorded with The Merry Go Round in the late sixties and then recorded a home produced album which was released by ABC/Dunhill. This was successful with one number, 'Fresh As A Daisy' achieving success as a single. Other albums included 'An American Dream' (comprising material from his earlier A & M period), 'Mirror' and 'Farewell To Paradise'. He released 'Rainbow Ends', his first album in 43 years, in 2015.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

My first Porretta - 1997

Next week should have seen the 33rd staging of the Porretta Soul Festival, the world's greatest annual soul event. It's a time when the quiet hill town of Porretta Terme, 50 kilometers south of Bologna, comes alive with the arrival of top quality US soul acts and visitors from all over the world. Sadly this year's festival has been cancelled because of COVID 19 and we have a whole year to wait until next year's show takes place. But knowing Graziano Uliani, the man who has organised the festival since its beginning in 1988, it will be well worth waiting for.
My first visit to Porretta was in 1997, a couple of years after some of my friends first made the trip,  but I have been back many times since. The shows that year were held in the town football field as Rufus Thomas Park, where the festival is now held, was still under construction. It was appropriate, however that Rufus Thomas, the man who was first persuaded to appear at Porretta in what was described as a tribute to Otis Redding, was one of the stars that year (pictured above). Other artists appearing that year were the Bar-Kays, Mable John, Jackie Johnson, James Govan, Isaac Hayes, J Blackfoot, Otis Clay and the wonderful Irma Thomas so, as ever, it was a stellar line-up.
I remember that I had camera problems that year so don't have as many photos as I would like. But there are a few that came out, so here they are as a memento of that year's festival.
Here's one of me with J Blackfoot, former member of the Soul Children and a great solo act.
Here's one of Graziano with Isaac Hayes.
This is a photo of me with Mable John.
Much of the time when the festival isn't on is spent outside the local Irish bar, The Califfo pub. Here we are enjoying the local beer: L-R me (Nick Cobban), Mary Howard, Dave Carroll, John Jolliffe, Julie Thomas, Dave Thomas (obscured), John Howard.
This is the Sassocardo Hotel where I stayed that first year. It's now an old peoples' home.
Finally here are a couple of me - at the swimming pool at the top of town, and in the main street.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Three more Stomp artists pass away

Three artists who I saw at the much missed Ponderosa Stomp have died recently.
The first is Rudy Palacios (pictured above), who was a guitarist and vocalist with San Antonio band Sunny and the Sunliners. The band began as Sunny and the Sunglows and came to my attention via a UK release on London of Little Willie John's 'Talk To Me', which was produced by Huey Meaux for his Teardrop label. Whether Rudy was a member at that time I'm not sure, but the band went on to record several records under the latter name including 'Put Me In Jail', 'Smile Now Cry Later' and 'The One Who's Hurting Is You'. Rudy later played in a number of local bands and his appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2015 was as part of the San Antonio West Side Soul Revue with Rudy T Gonzales, Little Henry lee, Manuel Bones Aragon and Jack Barber. It was a pleasant set with included some soft soul, rock and Tex Mex flavoured pop.
Another Stomp singer to have died is Tami Lynn, who is best known for her reissued 1971 hit 'I'm Gonna Run Away From You'. Born in New Orleans, Tami met Allen Toussaint and Harold Battiste and recorded for the AFO label. She was heard by Jerry Wexler who recorded her on 'I'm Gonna Run Away With You' which failed to chart when first released on the UK Atlantic label in 1967 but was a big Northern soul hit when reissued on Mojo. She recorded an LP called 'Love Is Here and Now You're Gone', produced by John Abbey, and sang backing for many major acts, including Dr John, the Rolling Stones and Wilson Pickett. I only got to see Tami perform once - at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008 when she did a short set (pictured below).

It's farewell too to Max Crook, who was an early exponent of electronic music when he invented the Musitron, which can be heard to good effect on one of the greatest pop records of that or any era, Del Shannon's 'Runaway'. Max also recorded in his own right under the name Maximilian. His best known number was 'The Snake'. which was mistakenly issued as the B side of 'Runaway' on some early pressings.
Another reported death is that of Charlie Daniels, who is best known for his 1979 hit 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia'. He played fiddle with the Marshall Tucker Band and also formed his own band, having some success with 'Uneasy Rider'. He recorded some political songs and his views became increasingly right wing. He was 83 when he died.
And now there's news of a third Ponderosa Stomp artist to have died - swamp pop singer Rod Bernard, at the age of 79. Born in Opelousas in the heart of Cajun country, Rod had a love of rock and roll and formed a band called the Twisters. He recorded one of the biggest swamp pop hits 'This Should Go On Forever' for Floyd Soileau's Jin label in 1958 and then recorded for the Hall-Way label with less success. He was a founder of local band the Shondells, along with Warren Storm and Skip Stewart (not be confused with Tommy James's band) and recorded for Huey Meaux's Teardrop and for Jin. He concentrated mostly on country music during the 70s but reappeared with a performance with the Li'l Band of Gold during the Ponderosa Stomp in 2007 and again at the Stomp in 2015 (pictured below).