Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Tommy DeVito RIP + others

It seems as though all The Vinyl Word ever does is report on music deaths these days. Sadly, the lack of live gigs and the impossibility of music trips to the States or Europe has made this somewhat inevitable. As ever, there is no shortage of deaths to report, with more taking place almost every day.

One that I missed recently was that of Tommy DeVito, an original member as vocalist and guitarist with the Four Seasons, a group who came closer than anyone to achieving vocal group perfection in the sixties. Tommy, who was 92, teamed up with Frankie Valli in 1954 and recorded as the Four Lovers before teaming up with Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi to eventually become the 4 Seasons, named after a bowling alley in Union, New Jersey. Their first single 'Bermuda' was unsuccessful but the next one, 'Sherry', was a huge hit and led to a decade of success on Veejay and then Philips, with such hits as 'Big Girls Don't Cry', 'Walk Like A Man', 'Dawn (Go Away)', 'Working My Way Back To You'...the list is endless as the photo of some of my Seasons LPs shows. DeVito left the group in 1970 citing the constant travelling and sold his rights to the 4 Seasons material to Valli and Gaudio.

Another recent death is that of W S 'Fluke' Holland, (aged 85), a drummer who played with Carl Perkins at Sun and toured as part of Johnny Cash's band for many years. My photo above shows him at Viva Las Vegas in 2018 where he played in part of the Sun reunion. 

Today's news reveals two more deaths. One is Mac Davis, a country music singer and songwriter who wrote a number of hits for Elvis, including 'In The Ghetto' and 'A Little Less Conversation'. As a solo artist he had great success with 'Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me' and also with 'Stop  And Smell The Roses' and 'Rock and Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life)'. He was also a successful TV show host and actor.

Helen Reddy, who has died aged 78, was one of Australia's most successful singers, who made her name in the US, incitially with 'One Way Ticket' and 'I Believe In Music' (penned by Mac Davis) and then with the feminist anthem 'I Am Woman'. She sold millions of records in the seventies and enjoyed US number ones with 'Delta Dawn' and 'Angie Baby'.  As her chart career declined she moved to stage musicals and the one woman show 'Shirley Valentine'. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Roy Head and others RIP

The death of Roy Head at the age of 79 has come as a shock. He was a dynamic performer. a real wild man whenever he appeared on a stage and a great showman. He was a blue eyed soul singer, but also successful in the fields of rockabilly and country. Born in Three Rivers, Texas, he formed his band, the Traits, while still at school and recorded for the San Antonio based TNT and Renner labels. Later he signed with Scepter but the big breakthrough came in 1965 when he met up with Huey Meaux and recorded 'Treat Her Right' in Houston, which was released on Back Beat. It was a smash hit (and a number one in my personal top ten) and sold heavily at a time when British acts dominated in the US. Follow ups, including 'Just A Little Bit' and 'Apple Of My Eye' were also successful and 'Same People', recorded for Dunhill, also sold well. He moved into the country field in the seventies and eighties and had success with 'The Most Wanted Woman In Town', 'Bridge For Crawling Back', 'The Door I Used To Close' and 'Come To Me' among others.

I first saw Roy live in 1995 when he replaced Freddy Fender in Doug Sahm's Last Texas Blues Band at a show at Tipitina's. He was a regular performer at the Ponderosa Stomp and his high octane act and wildly over the top performances were always one of the highlights. The photos above and below show Roy at a Stomp related show at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans in 2016.

Roy at the Stomp in 2017.

Roy with Doug Sahm's Last Texas Blues Band in 1995.
Roy at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2005.

A few of Roy's many albums.
Sadly there have also been other music deaths, including Terry Clemson, formerly of the Downliners Sect. Terry appeared at a Tales From The Woods show in 2016 and made a great impression. I wrote at the time: 'Sadly one of the artists booked to appear on the show, Danny Rivers, was too ill to perform, but his replacement Terry Clemson, once a member of the Downliners Sect, was an excellent replacement. A great guitarist, the place really rocked to a selection of numbers made famous by Chuck Berry (Roll Over Beethoven, Carol, Route 66 and The Promised Land), Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson and Conway Twitty. This was all familiar material, with no Sect numbers on show, but exciting, with two excellent guitarists on stage and a driving beat throughout. The crowd loved it.'  After his time with the Sect Terry was a member of the Houseshakers, who backed Gene Vincent on his European tours, and the Hellraisers.
Another who has died is Pamela Hutchinson, aged just 61, a member of the Emotions, whose biggest hit was 'Best Of My Love'. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

More music deaths

There are a few more music deaths to report sadly.

Barry St John, who has died aged 77, was born Eliza Thomson in Glasgow and was a leading background singer in the seventies. Prior to that she had several solo records and touched the lower reaches of the top 50 in 1965 with 'Come Away Melinda'. The B side 'Gotta Brand New Man', which closely resembled James Brown's 'Papa's Got A Brand new Bag', later became popular on the Northern soul scene. Other singles included covers of the Jarmels' 'A Little Bit of Soap' and the Newbeats'  'Bread and Butter'. Her backup work included Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of the Moon' and records by Bryan Ferry and Elton John among others and continued into the nineties.

Songwriter Rudy Clark, who has died aged 85, discovered James Ray and wrote his hits in his all too brief career, including 'If You Gotta Make A Fool of Somebody' and 'Got My Mind Set On You'. Other classic songs composed by Rudy included 'It's In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)' for Betty Everett (later covered by Cher), 'Good Lovin' for the Olympics and the Young Rascals and 'Everybody Plays The Fool' for the Main Ingredient (later covered by Aaron Neville).

Another death is that of Brill Building songwriter Al Kasha (83), whose writing credits included Aretha Franklin's 'Operation Heartbreak', I'm A Fire' for Donna Summer, Bobby Darin's 'Irresistible You' and several songs for Jackie Wilson including 'I'm Coming On Back To You' and 'My Empty Arms'. Together with Joel Hirschhorn he won Oscars for 'The Morning After' from The Poseidon Adventure and 'We May Never Live Like This Again'  from The Towering Inferno.

The latest death I hear of is that of Roy Hammond, better known as Roy C, whose 'Shotgun Wedding' was a major UK hit on two occasions, and which was issued on Island with two different B sides. Roy, who was 81, started his career in a vocal group called the Genies, and had his big hit after a spell in the air force. He went on to record for several labels, including Mercury, which released two albums 'Sex and Soul' and 'More Sex and More Soul'. He was outspoken politically and his 1973 record with the Honeydrippers, 'Impeach The President' has been much sampled. He also released records on his own labels, including Alaga and Three Gems. Sadly, I never saw Roy perform live. May he, and the others, Rest In Peace.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Farewell to Toots


Very sad to hear of the death, from COVID 19, of reggae great Toots Hibbert. He was 77. Toots was one of the true greats of Jamaican music and was quite superb on every occasion that I was lucky enough to see him and the Maytals perform. The Maytals began recording ska in the early sixties with the likes of Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Byron Lee and Lesley Kong. He served 18 months in prison in 1966 for possession of marijuana which was the inspiration for one of his best known songs '54-46 Was My Number', released in 1968. He was one of the first artists to use the word 'reggae' with 'Do The Reggay' and other classic tracks included 'Bam Bam', 'Pressure Drop' , 'Pomps and Pride' and 'Monkey Man'. Toots had an incredibly soulful voice and he was invited to Memphis by Jim Dickinson where he recorded 'Toots in Memphis' with the likes of Eddie Hinton, Teenie Hodges and Andrew Love. His covers of soul numbers such as 'I've Got Dreams To Remember', 'Love and Happiness' and 'Precious Precious' were excellent. The 1978 LP 'Reggae Got Soul' was further proof of his soul greatness. Other albums included 'Never Grow Old' and 'Life Could Be A Dream' from the sixties, 'Slatyam Stoot', 'Funky Kingston', 'From The Roots' and 'Pass The Pipe'.

I've dug out my Toots and the Maytals LPs and 45s  and will spend the rest of today playing them in memory of a true reggae superstar. RIP Toots.

And now I hear of the death of Edna Wright, sister of Darlene Love, who was a background singer on many recordings, a member of the Blossoms and a member of Honey Cone, who recorded some great soul for Hot Wax in the early seventies, She also recorded as a solo artist. She appeared at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2001, the Bologna edition, as a member of the Sweet Inspirations (centre of photo below).

Friday, September 11, 2020

RIP Diana Rigg (aka Mrs Emma Peel)

 Censored, sexy proof that Emma Peel inspired X-Men's Dark Phoenix

Sad to hear of the death of Diana Rigg who, as Emma Peel, fuelled erotic fantasies in The Avengers in the sixties. The adventures of Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel were essential viewing at the time and are still highly enjoyable today. The most watched episode apparently (and understandably) was 'A Touch of Brimstone', which featured Mrs Peel as The Queen of Sin in an outfit designed by Diana Rigg herself at a recreation of the notorious Hellfire Club. Diana went on to enjoy a stellar acting career and was the only woman to marry James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. RIP Dame Diana.

Diana Rigg RIP : an appreciation of Emma Peel a pop culture icon

Among recent music deaths is that of Lucille Starr, a Canadian country singer who was one half of
Bob and Lucille, who had some success with country, pop and rockabilly numbers in the early sixties. Her biggest solo hit was 'The French Song' in 1966, My copy, bought in the US, was on a UK London label but was aimed at the Dutch market (she was particularly popular in the Netherlands), hence its non standard number.  

Another death is that of singer and sax player Ronald Bell, a founder member of Kool and the Gang, who wrote several of their biggest hits including 'Celebration' and 'Jungle Boogie.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Stomping USA 2005

C C Adcock

In the continued absence of any gigs or festivals, my mind turns to music trips I've made in the past.  In 2005, the year before The Vinyl Word began life, I joined at fairly last minute a Woodies trip to the southern states. The centrepiece was the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, but either side of that we toured Cajun country and then went up to Memphis, with eventually three of us spending a day in Clarksdale. I've published photos of the Stomp previously, but not those from the rest of the trip, so here is a selection covering those portions, with some of my notes made at the time.

April 24, 2005: I'm in Lafayette, three days into a ten day trip organised by Ken Major. There are 28 of us, many of them unknown to me (who we are calling the pensioners). I'm spending most of my time with John Howard, Alan Lloyd and Bunter Brian (Clark). We arrived on Friday in Houston. We then flew to New Orleans and then drove to Lafayette. After a meal at Don's Seafood (with the above plus Paul Waring) we went to the Grant Street Dance Hall to see the Curley Taylor Zydeco Band plus C C Adcock (pictured above). He was a little too heavy metal for me but very professional.On Saturday we drove to Crowley, where I bought some LPs in the record shop there, then on to Jennings and then to Lake Charles where we had lunch. Sadly Goldband Records was closed (it's now demolished), seemingly permanently. Later we went to Eunice and the Liberty Theatre radio show - a quaint, anachronistic affair with an old style Cajun band plus the Sheryl Cornier band. Later we went to the Grant St Dance Hall again to see Sonny Landreth - again rather on the heavy side. Sunday, and a rather lazy day in Lafayette. Spent some some at the Festival Louisianne (Sharron Lawson was good) and by the hotel pool. In the evening we went to Randol's for an excellent meal and the Corey Ledet Zydeco Band.

Alan, Brian and John in Lake Charles.
Goldband Studio (above) and Alan, Brian and John in Lake Charles.

Corey Ledet band at Randol's.

Liberty Theatre, Eunice.
Monday (April 25) we drove to New Orleans stopping off for a swamp cruise. A cool day but saw some alligators and a bald headed eagle. It rained in New Orleans so John, Alan and I went for a drink at the Crescent City Brewhouse and Snooks on Bourbon St. Next day was warm and sunny and I walked around the French Quarter before heading to the Ponderosa Stomp. Saw Larry De Ruex, Barrance Whitfield, Little Freddy King, Travis Wammack, Ace Cannon, Link Wray, the Carter Brothers, Nokie Edwards, H Bomb Ferguson, Hayden Thompson, Scotty Moore and Billy Swan, Dale Hawkins, Brenton Wood and Lady Bo. What a day! Next day, April 27, went to the Stomp again. It was rather a shambles with acts over running but I caught Archie Bell, Roy Head, Barbara Lynn, Lazy Lester, Phil Phillips, Eddie Bo, Betty Harris, Al Johnson and Frogman Henry, among others. April 28: Hot day. Went to Jazzfest via Louis Armstrong Park and saw Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson and Clarence 'Frogman' Henry again, plus Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and B B King. Rushed to the House of Blues in the evening for Bobby Bland and Dr John. Great show.
Alligator trip plus group photo at the Bayou Delight restaurant.

Me by the Louis Armstrong statue, Al Johnson and Frogman Henry.
April 29: Off to Memphis where it was cold and very wet. Went down to Beale Street and saw Ms Zeno and James Govan (at the Rum Boogie Cafe). April 30: Off to the Beale Street Festival but first to the Stax Museum and later the Rock and Soul Museum, both excellent. At the festival (no cameras allowed) saw Jerry Lee Lewis, KC and the Sunshine Band and a few minutes of Nelly. In the evening had a steak at Isaac Hayes's restaurant. May 1: rented a car and drove with Ken and Alan to Clarksdale - the Hopson Plantation - where blues was provided by Bob Strogha and Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith. Also there was Pinetop Perkins, who didn't play because it was a Sunday. In the evening went to Red's juke joint for more blues - very authentic.

Ms Zeno on Beale St, group of us at the Stax Museum and me on Beale.

In Clarksdale: Hopson's; Ken Major and me with Pinetop Perkins; Red's juke joint.