Thursday, December 17, 2020

Carl Mann and Albert Griffiths RIP

One of the last of the surviving Sun artists, Carl Mann, has died aged 78. He first recorded for the Jaxson label in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1957 and arrived at Sun having been discovered by W S 'Fluke' Holland, Carl Perkins' drummer. Many of Sam Phillips stable of acts had already left by this time but he had great success with a rockabilly version of 'Mona Lisa', which competed with another version by Conway Twitty. He followed it up with 'Pretend'. which was also successful, and 'South of the Border'. He was drafted into the US Army in 1964 and his recording career stalled. He recorded one single for Monument and moved towards country music, having a minor hit in 1976 with 'Twilight Time'. He returned to rockabilly after signing with the Dutch Rockhouse label and had two albums released - 'Gonna Rock and Roll Tonight' and 'Rockabilly Country'. I saw Carl at one of the Sun showcases at Viva Las Vegas in 2018 when he came across strongly on 'Ubangi Stomp', 'I'm Coming Home' and 'Mona Lisa' plus a duet with Miss Ruby Ann on 'Baby I Don't Care'.
Another death is that of reggae artist Albert Griffiths, founder of the Gladiators. The B side of the Ethiopians' 'Train To Skaville' in 1966, 'You Are The Girl', was actually by Albert and when the Gladiators were formed two years later they had success with 'Hello Carol', produced by Coxsone Dodd. They recorded with various producers and other releases included 'Kicks', 'The Train Is Coming' and 'Bongo Red' among others. They were signed by Virgin in 1976 and several albums were released, including 'Trenchtown Mix, 'Proverbial Reggae' and 'Country Living'.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Death list for 2020

As usual at this time of year I pay tribute to those musicians who have died during the last 12 months. As ever it's a long list, made worse by COVID 19 which has claimed quite a few. The latest casualty of this disease is black country star Charley Pride, who was RCA's biggest seller after Elvis with a string of hits in the late sixties and seventies. Charley brings back memories of the period in the seventies when I lived in Skelmersdale, an overspill town of Liverpool, where country music was incredibly popular. I had many Charley Pride LPs at the time, but the track that stays with me through the years is 'Crystal Chandeliers', a song first recorded by Carl Belew. It was a big hit in Liverpool for Charley and is credited with bringing together the two sides in Northern Ireland at the time. Charley was a remarkable singer - a black man in the pale world of country music - and it's a shame to see him pass on as a result of COVID 19, even though he reached the good age of 86.
Another recent death is that of Joseph 'Mojo' Morganfield. son of Muddy Waters. Here is a list of some others who have died during 2020. Barney Ales - Motown promotion man, Rance Allen - bishop and gospel singer, Tony Allen - Nigerian drummer with Fela Kuti, Bobby Ball - half of comedy act Cannon and Ball, Len Barry - lead singer of the Dovells and solo star, Charlie Baty - leader of Charlie and the Nightcats, Ronald Bell - singer/composer with Kool and the Gang, Rod Bernard - swamp pop artist best known for 'This Should Go On Forever', Frank Bey - soul singer who starred at Porretta, Hamilton Bohannon - disco band leader, Big George Brock - St Louis based bluesman, Hux Brown - Jamaican guitarist with the Maytals, Marvin Brown - member of the Softones, Van Broussard - swamp pop singer, Johnny Bush - country singer/songwriter, Edd Byrnes - actor in '77 Sunset Strip', Pete Carr - guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Big Al Carson - bluesman from New Orleans, Lorraine Chandler - Detroit soul singer, Rudy Clark - songwriter and discoverer of James Ray, Terry Clemson - guitarist with the Downliners Sect, Freddy Cole - jazz singer brother of Nat King Cole, Bobby Comstock - 'Let's Stomp' singer, Eddie Cooley - R and B singer who co-wrote 'Fever', Max Crook - electronic music pioneer, Charlie Daniels - southern rock/country singer/songwriter, Eddie 'Ghetto Baby' Daniels - rock and roll pioneer, Hutch Davie - orchestra leader and composer, Mac Davis - country singer/songwriter, Spencer Davis - Welsh singer and musician, Jackie Dennis - Scottish fifties pop singer, Tommy DeVito - founder member of the Four Seasons, Manu Dibango - Cameroonian sax player, Joe Diffie - country singer, Carl Dobkins Jr - 50s pop singer, Georgia Dobbins - co-writer of 'Please Mr Postman', Dobby Dobson - Jamaican singer and producer, Bent Fabric - Danish composer and pianist, Julie Felix - American folk singer based in the UK, Tom Finn - singer with the Left Banke, Wayne Fontana - UK singer with the Mindbenders, Dominic Grant - Guys 'n' Dolls singer, Henry Gray - blues piano player, Marty Grebb - member of the Buckinghams, Juliette Greco - French singer/actress, Earl Green - UK based Jamaican blues singer, Herman Green - jazz saxophonist, Peter Green - founder of Fleetwood Mac, Dave Greenfield - keyboardist and singer with the Stranglers, Crazy Cavan Grogan - UK based rockabilly singer, Roy C Hammond - soul singer best known for 'Shotgun Wedding', Gordon Haskell - bass player with the Fleur de Lys and King Crimson, Roy Head - wild man renowned for 'Treat Her Right',
Ken Hensley - English singer with Uriah Heep & the Gods, Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert - reggae superstar with the Maytals, Gaynel Hodge - Co-founder of the Platters and writer of 'Earth Angel', W S 'Fluke' Holland - drummer at Sun records, Pamela Hutchinson - member of the Emotions, Bobby Jones - bluesman who recorded as Bobby Jonz, Al Kasha - American songwriter, Lee Kerslake - member of Uriah Heep, Hal Ketchum - country singer, Eddie Large - half of comedy duo Little and Large, Bunny 'Striker' Lee - Jamican record producer, Bobby Lewis - 'Tossin' and Turnin' hit maker, Raymond Lewis - New Orleans R and B singer, Little Richard - the 'quasar of rock and roll', Brian Locking - member of the Shadows, Trini Lopez - American singer and actor, Tami Lynn - soul singer from New Orleans, Vera Lynn - wartime forces sweetheart, Ellis Marsalis - jazz pianist, Barbara Martin - original member of the Supremes, Ian Mitchell - bassist with the Bay City Rollers, Phil May - singer with the Pretty Things, Dave Munden - drummer with the Tremeloes, Johnny Nash - American pop and reggae singer, Des O'Connor - English comedian, TV presenter and singer, David Olner - American folk singer, Rudy Palacios - Tejano guitarist from San Antonio, Lucky Peterson - Bluesman who played guitar and keyboards, John 'Bucky' Pizarelli - American jazz guitarist, Bonnie Pointer - member of the Pointer Sisters, Steve Priest - bass player and singer with Sweet, John Prine - American country folk singer/songwriter, Ronan O'Rahilly - founder of Radio Caroline, Helen Reddy - Australian/American singer, Al Rex - bass player with Bill Haley's Comets, Emitt Rhodes - American singer/songwriter, Diana Rigg - Avengers star and all round actress, Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts - conga player with Professor Longhair, Mike Sagar - British rock and roll singer, Barry St John - Scottish female singer, Florian Schneider - founder member of Kraftwerk, Billy Joe Shaver - Texas singer/songwriter, Hylda Syms - Uk skiffle artist, Millie Small - ska singer famed for 'My Boy Lollipop', Lucille Starr - half of Canadian duo Bob and Lucille, Cy Tucker - Liverpool based singer, Ricky Valance - 'Tell Laura I Love Her' singer, Eddie Van Halen - rock songwriter and guitarist, Jerry Jeff Walker - 'outlaw' country singer/songwriter. Ian Whitcomb - English singer/songwriter, Rev John Wilkins - soul gospel family group leader, Bo Winberg - guitarist with the Spotnicks, Mark Wirtz - French producer and singer, Bill Withers - soul singer/songwriter, Betty Wright - soul songstress, Edna Wright - singer with the Honeycone, Young Jessie - R and B singer and songwriter.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Spine tingling moments - part four

Following on from my last post, here is the fourth instalment of my series of 'Spine Tingling Moments' - music gigs that were great at the time and which have stayed in the memory. 31. Bobby Womack - Jazz Cafe, 2011. I've seen Bobby on quite a few occasions dating back to the late eighties but this show was especially poignant as he was clearly unwell (he died three years later) although his voice was still in good shape. He had recently recorded with the Gorillaz - material that to my ears didn't suit him particularly well - but most of his set comprised the sort of material that made him so beloved of soul fans. I've always had slightly ambiguous feelings towards Bobby given his relationship with Sam Cooke's widow, but there was no doubt that he was one of the last great soul men.
32. Otis Clay, Ponderosa Stomp, 2011. Here's another of the great soul men and a man who I saw on numerous occasions. He never failed to put on a great show and this one, late in the evening at the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp was one of his finest (equal perhaps with his performance at Porretta the following year). I was devastated when he died in 2016 - yet another brilliant soul man who is no longer with us.
33. Bobby Rush - King Biscuit festival, 2013. Here is a soul/blues man who is thankfully still with us and who never fails to put on a great show. He is a throwback to the great R and B artists who played the chitlin' circuit back in the day, with his wonderful girl dancers, his lewd humour and his brilliant showmanship. I first saw Bobby at the New Daisy Theatre in Memphis in the nineties and vividly remember the impact he had. He was never more appreciated - or more over the top - than when performing to a predominately black audience as was the case at the King Biscuit Festival. I can't wait to see him again.
34. Dorothy Moore - Hal and Mal's, Jackson, MS, 2013. We struck lucky when we first visited Hal and Mal's for their regular 'Blue Monday' jam session in 2013. Dorothy Moore was about to go on a tour of South Africa and performed her full set as something of a rehearsal. We returned there several times on later trips as we were passing through Jackson and there was always great music from the likes of Pat Brown and JJ Thames. Dorothy sang one song on one of our later trips, but our first visit in 2013 was rather special.
35. Denise Lasalle - Porretta Soul Festival, 2014. Another great soul/blues star Denise Lasalle lit up Porretta in 2014. I first saw her on a Malaco show with Latimore and Little Milton in 1993 and her brilliantly earthy performances made her a must watch artist at various festivals in the south. Sadly Denise passed away in 2018.
36. Jerry Lee Lewis - London Palladium, 2015. This was Jerry Lee's 80th birthday tour and was billed as his farewell to London. When I first saw him - at Croydon's Fairfield Hall in 1963 along with Gene Vincent and Heinz (who was booed) - he was the most exciting performer I had ever seen with the exception of Little Richard. He didn't always live up to that billing, but on his day he could create genuine excitement. Now it's just a pleasure to see that he's survived and is still doing his thing and the Palladium show was highly enjoyable.
37. Santiago Jimenez - Carnitaz Uruapan, San Antonio, 2016. This was possibly the most unusual gig I've ever been to. Santiago, brother of Flaco, played regularly at this pork food place on a Sunday morning to an exclusively Mexican American audience. Four white guys from England were made more than welcome as we tucked into our roast pork and enjoyed Santiago's conjunto music. Truly a morning to remember.
38. Don Bryant - Ronnie Scott's 2017. Don Bryant and his wife Ann Peebles made some excellent records for Hi in the great Willie Mitchell days but it wasn't until his 'Don't Give Up On Love' album that he really came into his own as a solo performer. His show at Ronnie Scott's was a masterclass in soul music and other shows, such as at Porretta and the New Orleans Blues and Barbecue festival, showed what a sublime soul man he continues to be.
39. Big Jay McNeely - Joe's American Bar & Grill, Burbank, CA 2018. I was lucky enough to meet Big Jay at his LA home, along with Gordon Fleming and Paul Waring, in 2014 and enjoy his company at the local IHOP. Four years later John Howard and I saw what proved to be his last performance on the occasion of his 91st birthday. Despite having to be lifted on to the stage due to his infirmity, his sax playing and vocals were still top notch. Sadly he died four months later.
40. The Velvelettes - Detroit A Go Go, Detroit 2019. In 2019, the last year before COVID, I managed to make three US trips and enjoyed an enormous amount of great music. Add to those the Rockin' Race in Spain, the Blackpool Soul Festival and Porretta and it was quite a vintage year, despite the dwindling number of original performers still around. I'm choosing the Velvelettes as my spine tingling moment as, alone among former Motown acts, they comprise all the original members. There was a moment of drama when one of them, Mildred, slipped and fell backwards. Fortunately she was able to continue and 'Needle In A Haystack' sounded as fresh as ever.