Friday, August 21, 2020

Eddie 'Ghetto Baby' Daniels RIP

Another artist who appeared at the much lamented Ponderosa Stomp has passed away. Eddie 'Ghetto Baby' Daniels was one of the stars of the 2013 Stomp and made a big impression, with his bright red suit and hat, flashy rings and silver walking cane. Eddie recorded for the Ebb and Starla labels in LA in the late fifties and claimed, during an interview at the Stomp (where he wore his trademark turban),  to be the only black rockabilly singer. He met up with Eddie Cochran, both of whom were involved with Jerry Capehart who, he said, was a 'cheating dog' after he claimed co-writing credits for Cochran's 'Little Lou' which Daniels said he wrote.
He teamed up with Jewel Akens as one half of Jewel and Eddie on 'Opportunity', which featured Cochran on guitar. He went on to play on Bobby Day's 'Rockin' Robin' and Bob and Earl's 'Harlem Shuffle', but the bulk of his career was spent touring with versions of the Platters and in latter days led a tribute band called The Amazing Platters. I wrote of his Ponderosa Stomp performance:'And so at last it was the turn of Ebb recording artist, the multi talented 75 year old Eddie Daniels, dazzling in a red suit, dripping in jewellery and carrying a silver cane, who blasted his way through some rockabilly flavoured numbers including 'I Wanna Know', 'Hurry Baby', the Everlies sounding Opportunity' and 'Little Lou', before turning to the keyboard and hammering out 'Going to the Mardi Gras', 'Lucille' and 'What'd I Say'.
I saw Eddie again at the Rhythm Riot in 2014 (pictured below) where I was fortunate to be on the left hand side of the stage where he was visible (people on the right would only have seen his music stand). On that occasion I wrote:  'The fifties original starring on the final day was Eddie Daniels. Eddie recorded several tracks for Ebb in the fifties and revealed that he had been to the UK three times before as a member of a version of the Platters. His set this time was very different from the last due, I'm sure. to a road traffic accident a few weeks ago which damaged his right knee. He spent nearly all his set seated at the piano, the music stand of which prevented anyone to the right seeing anything but the top of his red hat. His set included a couple of Ebb recordings including 'Whoa Whoa' and 'Mardi Gras' (although not his best known number 'I Wanna Know') and one of his Jewel (Akens) and Eddie duets 'My Eyes Are Crying' (although, again. not their best known number 'Opportunity'). After insisting that all the audience should believe in God he complained that he had been ripped off over Larry Williams' 'Bony Moronie' and finished with several covers, including 'Oh Lonesome Me', ;'What'd I Say', 'Lucille' and 'Send Me Some Loving'. Despite his obvious lack of mobility I enjoyed his set. although others I was with were less impressed'.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mark Wirtz/ Trini Lopez RIP

He might have become the UK's Phil Spector, but it didn't quite work out that way. I'm talking about Mark Wirtz who has died aged 76. Originally from Alsace, he was taken on by EMI to work with Beatles producer Geoff Emerick as in-house producer for Parlophone. This led to the Keith West hit 'Excerpt from a Teenage Opera' ('Grocer Jack') which reached number two in the UK, but although this psychedelic work never led to a full scale 'opera' project as planned it was influential (The Who's 'Tommy' for example). Mark was described by Mojo magazine as 'Phil Spector scoring Camberwick Green' and he was multi talented as producer, composer, singer, musician, author and comedian. He was involved with the psychedelic band Tomorrow, whose 1968 LP is now highly collectable. Early productions included 'A Touch of Velvet - A Sting of Brass' by Mood Mosaic. Solo records included '(He's Our Dear Old) Weatherman' which was supposed to be part of the Teenage Opera but success
eluded him.He recorded with Les Reed's Chapter One label and with Larry Page's Penny Farthing, but after leaving EMI he moved to California where he worked with the Shelter label. Two albums were made with Capitol and he moved on to record production with the likes of Helen Reddy, Leon Russell and Anthony Newley. After a further solo album called 'Lost Pets' he took up a variety of jobs including comedian and voice over artist and moved to Georgia where he became a successful magazine columnist, drama critic and novelist. In 2004 he moved to Spain where he produced his daughter's rock band boyfriend's album plus a couple of albums of his own.
Another death that has been announced - from COVID 19 - is that of Trini Lopez who had huge success with songs such as 'If I Had A Hammer' and 'Lemon Tree' for Reprise and was best known for his night club performances. Prior to that he recorded 'The Right To Rock' for the Dallas based Volk label which is popular on the rock and roll scene. He also recorded for King and to capitalise on his later success one of his King recordings, 'Jeanie Marie', was re-released on London in the UK.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Wayne Fontana RIP

Wayne Fontana, who has died aged 74, was one of the bigger UK pop stars of the 1960s, first with the Mindbenders and then as a solo artist. Born Glyn Ellis in Manchester, he named himself after Elvis's drummer D J Fontana rather than the record label that he spent much of his career with. Significant hits with the Mindbenders included 'Game of Love' and a cover of Major Lance's 'Um Um Um Um Um Um'. As a solo artist he was effective on Garnet Mimms' 'It Was Easier To Hurt Her' and also had success with 'Come On Home' and 'Pamela Pamela', his last hit. After his career came to an end and many years later he experienced mental health issues and bankruptcy and spent several months in prison after setting fire to a bailiff's car with the bailiff still inside it. He was criticised in his later years for his racist and extreme right wing views, including online attacks of Jews, gays, immigrants and muslims, but continued to take part in oldies package shows in the UK. According to Noah Shaffer, who bravely attended one of these shows a few years back, he still had a decent voice. He commented that 'with his trademark wide-brimmed hat (variations of which were on sale on his merch table) and long grey hair Fontana is certainly a character, and the many jokes he told between songs were as vintage as the music.'
Pictured above is his first solo album. So far as I can remember I never saw him live, not had any great desire to do so, but he was certainly a big name in his day.
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac | DiscogsAnother death is that of one of the major names in the early days of British blues, the highly regarded guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, aged 73. He first recorded with a band called Peter B's (an
instrumental cover of Jimmy Soul's 'If You Want To Be Happy') before joining first Shotgun Express (with Rod Stewart) and then John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He achieved huge success in the early days of Fleetwood Mac (originally Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac) along with Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer. As well as blues covers the band had success with Green originals such as 'Albatross', 'Black Magic Woman', 'Oh Well' and 'Man Of The World'. After leaving Fleetwood Mac he recorded a solo album called 'End of the World' and, after a period of mental illness re-emerged in the late seventies and made several albums from 1991 onwards as Peter Green's Splinter Group.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Denise Lasalle - Always The Queen

I have long been a fan of Denise Lasalle who died in 2018 and I've just finished reading her autobiography 'Always The Queen', written with David Whiteis. She grew up in rural Mississippi in poor circumstances, moving to the town of Belzoni  in 1947. She married young (twice) and has little good to say about her early relationships, but moved to Chicago where she met Billy 'The Kid' Emerson, who introduced her to Chess records. Nothing came of that but she gradually built a name for herself at Westbound and, later, ABC, Malaco and Ecko records. Her 1971 record 'Trapped by a Thing Called Love' was a bit hit and other successful and sometimes controversial records followed, including 'Married, But Not to Each Other', 'A Lady In the Street', 'Man Sized Job' and 'Someone Else Is Steppin' In'. By far her biggest hit in the UK and Europe was 'My Tu Tu' better known as 'My Toot Toot, a cover of a Rockin' Sidney zydeco hit. She set up the Crajon record label with her then husband Bill Jones. Her later marriage to James Wolfe lasted 40 years until her death and she set up several businesses in her adopted home of Jackson, Tennessee.
Denise was a regular performer at soul and blues festivals and she raises the interesting question of whether her music is 'blues', 'soul-blues' (a term she says she invented), 'southern soul' (which she doesn't much like) or just 'R and B' (which now means something quite different).. In later life she was was often called the Queen of The Blues but, although very proud of that, she is sceptical about the term. She says that the blues now appeals primarily to whites and black people do not like the term because it represents hard times and being downtrodden. She even set up a group called National Association for the Preservation of the Blues to try and reclaim blues, or soul-blues. 
She was a songwriter, record label owner and business woman and the book shines a light on many of the artists associated with southern soul and blues, including Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland, Z Z Hill, Latimore, Bobby Rush and Marvin Sease - even Bob Dylan - as well as various producers, most notably Willie Mitchell.
I first saw Denise in 1993 when she appeared at the Mean Fiddler on a Malaco show which also starred Little Milton and Latimore. Later I saw her several times including at Porretta in 2014 where she opened her set, aptly, with 'Still The Queen'. I also saw her at the Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival later that year (pictured below). She was interviewed there and was unrepentant about her often X rated lyrics, saying that they reflected real life. She remained a fantastic performer until the end. 
Sadly she suffered increasing bad health during her last couple of years and had a leg amputated. She died in January 2018, but there is uncertainty about her actual age. Her year of birth is usually cited as 1939 or 1941, but subsequent research showed that it may well have been 1934.