Sunday, January 31, 2021

Grady Gaines and Hilton Valentine RIP

There are a couple more music deaths to report I'm afraid. R and B saxman Grady Gaines has died aged 86. Originally from Houston, Grady played in Little Richard's band the Upsetters as its leader in the 1950s and played on such rock and roll classics as 'Keep A Knockin' and 'Ooh My Soul'. The Upsetters continued when Little Richard gave up rock and roll and backed artists such as Dee Clark, Jackie Wilson , Little Willie John and James Brown. He also played in Sam Cooke's backing band for several years. Grady continued playing when the Upsetters broke up, playing with Millie Jackson and Curtis Mayfield and reformed his band as the Texas Upsetters in 1985, recording the albums 'Full Gain' and 'Horn Of Plenty' for Black Top. I saw Grady in 1992 at the Black Top Records show at Tipitina's in New Orleans when he backed Carol Fran, Clarence Holliman and the Upsetters' regular vocalist Big Robert Smith. After much searching, I found a photo of him taken at the gig with Clarence Holliman. Record shown below is a Black Top compilation featuring Grady. Grady's brother is blues man Roy Gaines.
Another death is that of Hilton Valentine, aged 77, guitarist with the Animals, who were probably the most authentic of the British R and B bands of the sixties. Hilton came from North Shields on Tyneside and it is his guitar riff that makes the intro to 'House Of The Rising Sun' so memorable. Hilton played with skiffle group the Wildcats before being invited to join the Animals by Chas Chandler. After the group broke up in 1966 Hilton moved to the US and recorded a solo album which was not successful. Later he returned to his skiffle roots with his Skiffledog project. Reunions with the Animals included the underrated 1977 album 'Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted', which is shown below with the Animals' first LP.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Bluesman Sherman Robertson RIP

I've read reports that Sherman Robertson, one of the most consistent and best bluesmen that I've seen over the last 30 or so years, has died at the age of 72. It's a real shame, as he always put on a first rate show wherever he played - and I've seen him many times in London, New Orleans, Utrecht and elsewhere. Born in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, his music had influences of zydeco and swamp blues as well as straight ahead blues and his performances always involved real showmanship and great guitar work. He began playing with bluesmen in Houston including Bobby Bland and recorded two albums with his band the Crosstown Blues Band for the Lunar II label. He went on to join Clifton Chenier's band and, after Chenier's death, played with Rockin' Dopsie, Johnny Copeland and Terrance Simien and also played on Paul Simon's 'Graceland' album. His first solo album was I'm The Man', recorded for the Code Blue label in 1994 and produced by Mike Vernon, followed by 'Here and Now'. Other albums included 'Going Back Home' and 'Guitar Man -Live'. Together with his band BluesMove he played at the Rhythm Festival in the UK in 2011 but reportedly had a stroke the following year. RIP to one of the blues greats.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

James Purify RIP

COVID-19 has claimed the life of yet another soul man - this time James Purify at the age of 76. Born in Pensacola, James joined up with his cousin Robert Dickey to form James and Bobby Purify and had immediate success in 1966 with the Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham song 'I'm Your Puppet' having been signed to Bell records by Papa Don Schroeder. It was produced by Papa Don at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Successful follow ups included 'Wish You Didn't Have To Go', a revival of the Five Du-Tones' Shake A Tailfeather', 'I Take What I Want'. 'Do Unto Me' and 'Let Love Come Between Us'. After Bobby left through illness in 1971 James continued as a solo artist before joining up with Ben Moore in 1974 to form another version of the Purifys. Success came with a re-recording of 'I'm Your Puppet' which reached number 12 in the UK in 1976 before the duo split up in 1978.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

15 years of The Vinyl Word

It's exactly 15 years to the day since the first edition of The Vinyl Word. Since then there have been nearly 1400 posts, 1100 comments and nearly two million views. That first edition came the day after Wilson Pickett died and I speculated at the time on who might be the last soul man. Since then we've seen the deaths of many of those I named as possible contenders: Solomon Burke, James Brown, Bobby Bland, Percy Sledge and Ben E King. Of those who I listed who are still with us there are Sam Moore, Eddie Floyd and Clarence Carter. Of course we have also lost three of the big four survivors of rock and roll: Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Jerry Lee Lewis really is the last man standing. Over the last 15 years I have covered hundreds of gigs, including many in London and festivals in New Orleans, Memphis, Porretta, Las Vegas, Long Island and Torremolinos plus Blackpool and Cleethorpes in the UK. I have occaionally focused on records that I have obtained, often at car boor sales and charity shops; reminisced about events from my youth, especially those those involving music; and recorded the day to day activity of dozens of US road trips carried out with my Woodie friends, from as far afield as New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Austin, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. And I've reported on the great series of London shows put on by Keith Woods. All of these entries can be easily discovered by using the search box and it's amazing how many memories a few minutes of searching can reveal. I have tended to steer clear of politics, not because I don't have political views (very much anti Brexit for example) but because I don't want to alienate music fans who disagree with me. I will make an exception today as Donald Trump is leaving the White House for the last time. He was the worst President in history without doubt and his departure can only be good for the world. Of course the last year has been generally a real let down because of COVID. I haven't been to a gig in nearly a year and many entries focused on music deaths, some of them from the dreaded virus. The whole point of the blog originally was the celebrate those artists who are still with us by seeing them whenever possible, and by playing the vinyl records of those who have passed on. Needless to say there has been another death to report - that of Winfield Parker (78), a popular figure on the Northern Soul scene. He was a saxophone player in the Little Richard band, soemthing he spoke about at the interview session during the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp (pictured below). He recorded for several different labels and his most successful record, on Ru-Jac, was a revival of 'Stop Her On Sight (SOS)'. Other records, popular on the soul scene include 'Mr Clean', 'My Love For You' and 'Shake That Thing'. Winfield played the Forum in London in 2007 as part of the Kent Records 25th anniversary show, along with Mary Love, the Flirtations, Tommy Hunt and Maxine Brown. His act at the Stomp in 2017 featured him dancing around the stage wearing a sparkly jacket and gold shoes and he was excellent on 'SOS', 'Rocking In The Barnyard' and 'Mr Clean'. Another soul man has departed the scene: RIP.
*** Brian Clark has alerted me via Facebook to two further music deaths today. Jimmie Rodgers had enormous success, particularly in the UK, with a string of pop hits, including 'Honeycomb, 'Kisses Sweeter Than Wine'. 'Oh Oh I'm Falling in Love Again', Secretly', 'Woman From Liberia', 'Soldier Won't You Marry Me' and 'English Country Garden'. Born in Washington State, Jimmie was 87. The second death is that of Peter Wynne, once a member of the Larry Parnes stable of singers, who toured with Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and appeared on 'Wham,, 'Boy Meets Girl' and 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'. His records included 'Twilight Time', 'Ask Anyone In Love' and 'Our Concerto'.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Phil Spector RIP: flawed genius

There will be many obituaries of Phil Spector, who has died aged 81 apparently from COVID, over the next few days and most of them will be negative, at least in terms of his private life. True, he had severe personality problems, as Ronnie Spector. who had the misfortune to marry him, will attest. And his imprisonment for the murder of Lana Clarkson marked the beginning of the final chapter in his troubled life. But it is hard to argue with his role as one of the most influential record producers of all time. He began as a member of the Teddy Bears who had a huge hit with 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' in 1959, but soon moved into production. Early successes were among my favourites at the time, including Ray Peterson's 'Corrine Corrina'. Curtis Lee's 'Pretty Little Angel Eyes', Gene Pitney's 'Every Breathe I Take' and 'I Love How You Love Me' by the Paris Sisters. Joining up with Lester Sill, who was a mentor to Leiber and Stoller, he formed the Philles label and the 'Wall of Sound' was born. Some of the most exciting records of the early sixties, or indeed any period, emerged from Phil's ability to combine massed amounts of intrumentation into an all encompassing sound. The Crystals, the Ronettes, Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans and Darlene Love (disguised as the Crystals on 'He's A Rebel') made landmark recordings produced by Phil. Sill departed but Phil continued his run of success with the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and Sonny Charles and the Checkmates. I remember hearing the Crystals' 'There's No Other Like My Baby' and being knocked out. All of the Crystals and Ronettes records at that time went straight to number one in my personal top ten, including 'He's A Rebel', 'He's Sure The Boy I Love', 'Da Doo Ron Ron', 'Then He Kissed Me', 'I Wonder', 'Be My Baby'and 'Baby I Love You'. Then came the Righteous Brothers 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' and Ike and Tina's 'River Deep- Mountain High', which amazingly didn't become a hit in the US. Phil went on to work with the Beatles on 'Let It Be' and with John Lennon and George Harrison, both of whom regarded him highly, on various projects and also with Dion on 'Born To Be With You', but by this time Phil was decidedly flaky. Adter working with the Ramones in 1980 he faded from the scene before dramatically coming back into the public eye with the death of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. His first trial was inconclusive but a second trial in 2009 resulted in a sentence of 19 years to life and he never regained his freedom. Despite his flaws, Phil Spector was undoubtedly one of the all time greats of popular music. His Christmas album, featuring all of his Philles acts, remains the ultimate album of the festive period year after year. Phil was a genius - a flawed one, but undoubtedly a genius. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Latest music deaths

It's a new year but nothing much has changed on the live music front. We're in another lockdown. Music deaths, however, continue, so it's time to catch up on a few. The latest is Sylvain Sylvain, aged 69, guitarist with the New York Dolls, the band that foreshadowed the punk era of the late seventies with their fuck you approach and loud and often out of tune stage act. Synvain was born in Cairo but grew up in New York where he was in a band called Actress, with Johnny Thunders before joining the Dolls in 1971. I never got to see them at the time, but I did catch Sylvain and singer David Johansen at the Forum in 2006. Here's what I wrote on The Vinyl Word at the time: 'Being at a loose end last night I went to see the New York Dolls at the Forum. It was a fairly ear splitting experience but an interesting one. The two remaining original members David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain showed plenty of energy and enthusiasm and the show improved as it went on. It would have been good to have seen them in their heyday in the early seventies when their outrageous camp appearance and in your face stage act paved the way for the punk era that followed. I have a soft spot for punk, because it re-awakened my interest in pop music at a time when the blandness of seventies music seemed to have killed it stone dead. But I was only marginally aware of the New York Dolls, who by that time had long since drifted into drug-fuelled oblivion. Today, Johansen continues to look like an ageing clone of Mick Jagger and his cigarette smoke ravaged voice is rough and out of tune but he still has a degree of stage presence. Highlights of the show were 'Pills', 'Trash', 'Fishnets and Cigarettes' and 'You can't put your arms around memories', a tribute to Johnny Thunders who died of an overdose in New Orleans during Jazzfest 1991. Many of the numbers were unfamiliar to me, but the ageing ex-punks in the audience seemed to know them all. I'm not going to rush out to buy their newish CD on the basis of this occasionally exciting but basically tuneless performance, but the New York Dolls can still put on a polished show, even if they do assault the eardrums mercilessly.'
Another recent death is that of Gerry Marsden of Pacemakers fame at the age of 78. He was a legend in Liverpool where his version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' remains the anthem of the Reds and 'Ferry Across The Mersey' is also fondly remembered. They enjoyed mega hits with 'I Like It' and 'How Do You Do It', their first two records, and continued their success for a couple of years, including an appearance in the musical film 'Ferry Across the Mersey', before the group disbanded in 1966. Gerry continued a solo career but never regained the heights of his early days. Also passed away, aged 76, is Tim Bogert, one of the founders of Vanilla Fudge, who enjoyed success with distorted but interesting versions of 'You Keep Me Hanging On', 'Eleanor Rigby, 'The Look Of Love' and 'Shotgun' and recorded five albums. He moved on to the rock band Cactus and joined up with Jeff Beck in Beck, Bogert and Appice. Photo shows Vanilla Fudge's first LP produced by Shadow Morton.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Here's to a musical 2021

So it's new year and we can say good riddance to 2020 and look forward, hopefully, to a better 2021. I managed to get to the Rockin' Race in Spain in February before lockdown came in but that was the only live music i was able to enjoy during the year. It was a bad year too for my record hunting addiction as car boot sales and charity shops were closed for much of the time. And of course it was a year of more music deaths, including Little Richard, Toots Hibbert. Charley Pride and Roy Head among many others (see my recent 'death list' for the year). The latest deaths to have come to my attention include English songwriter Geoff Stephens at the age of 86. Geoff wrote or co-wrote such hits as 'Tell Me When' (Applejacks), Dave Berry's 'The Crying Game', 'There's A Kind of Hush', a hit both for Herman's Hermits and the Carpenters, 'Sorry Suzanne' (the Hollies) and 'Like Sister and Brother' (the Drifters). He also discovered and managed Donovan and formed the New Vaudeville Band, who had a worldwide smash with 'Winchester Cathedral'. Another who has died is Phyllis McGuire, last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters, who had a run of fifties hits (often cover versions) including 'Sincerely', 'Goodnight My Love Pleasant Dreams', 'Sugartime'. 'Volare' and 'Red River Valley'.
I saw the New Year in traditional style with Jools Holland's 'Hootenanny'. It was a scaled down show without the usual audience or American visitors and with several clips from the archives. I have a lot of time for Jools Holland and his regular singer Ruby Turner (pictured at the Jazz Cafe in 1999) was on good form with Joe Turner's 'Morning Noon and Night' and a duet with Jools on 'Alright, OK You Win'. Also on good form was Sir Tom Jones, whose voice shows no signs of being affected by his 80 years. He also featured a Joe Turner song 'Flip Flop and Fly' as well as Jimmy McCracklin's 'Think'. There was also an impressive contribution by Celeste on 'Love Is Back'. She has the potential to be the new Amy Winehouse perhaps. Other guests included the winner of the Mercury prize Michael Kiwanuka, Jools' old mate from Squeeze Chris Difford, who sang 'Cool For Cats', and Roisin Murphy who sang David Bowie's 'Let's Dance'. Rick Wakeman was also there but didn't contribute much apart from a duet with Jools on one number. Jools often features New Orleans artists and the archives featured Trombone Shorty from three years ago with Ernie K-Doe's 'Here Come the Girls'. My photo shows him at Cleveland, Mississippi in 2018. Other archive flashbacks included Jamiroquoi and Franz Ferninand. So what does 2021 have in store I wonder? Assuming I get a jab fairly soon I can at least start to think about foreign trips, indeed I've already booked my hotel for the Porretta Soul Festival in July. And maybe we can think about a US trip in the autumn. Let's hope so. In the meantime, Happy New Year to any readers who may be out there.