Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Latest music deaths

As ever. there are some music deaths to report. I only recall seeing one of them perform live and that was rockabilly singer Gene Summers who has died aged 82. Originally from Dallas, Gene recorded several records with his group the Rebels for the newly formed Jan label which went on to be covered by many later rock and roll bands. 'School of Rock and Roll' was later recorded by the Polecats, the Lennerockers, Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys and the Reverend Horton Heat among others, while his biggest hit 'Big Blue Diamonds' was recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Ernest Tubb and Merle Kilgore. Other well known songs included 'Straight Skirt', 'Nervous', 'Gotta Lotta That' and 'Alabama Shake'. After leaving the Rebels Gene formed a new band the Tom Toms. a period which included some of his most successful records in 1963/4 and later in his career he was a regular on the rockabilly circuit at festivals in the US and Europe. The one time I saw him was at Viva Las Vegas in 2017 (pictured above) where his accomplished set included 'Gotta Lotta That', 'Straight Skirt', 'Alabama Shake, 'Fancy Dan' and 'School of Rock and Roll'.
Another recent death is that of reggae great Ewart Beckford, better known as U Roy at the age of 78. A pioneer of toasting, U Roy was born in Kingston and worked on sound systems throughout the sixties before being discovered by John Holt toasting over a Duke Reid track. This led to U Roy, or Hugh Roy as he was also known at times, recording for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label including 'Wake The Town' and 'Wear You To The Ball'. He also recorded a DJ version of the Paragons' 'The Tide Is High' and performed in the UK on a tour organised by Rita and Benny King of R and B Records. His 1975 album 'Dread In a Babylon' was successful, as were others including 'Natty Dread', 'Rasta Ambassador' and 'Jah Son of Africa'. Another recent death is that of folk singer/songwriter Marc Ellington (75) who began his career with the Highwaymen. He moved to the UK to avoid the Vietnam War draft and recorded several solo LPs which are now highly collectable. These include 'Marc Ellington;, 'Rains/Reins of Changes' and 'A Question of Roads' for Philips and B and C. He bought and restored a castle in Scotland and served as deputy lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for Scotland. Other recent deaths include Gene Taylor, aged 68, a boogie woogie pianist who played with Canned Heat, the Blasters and the Fabulous Thunderbirds among others and recorded a solo album in 1986 called 'Handmade'. In later years he lived in Belgium and toured as the Gene Taylor Trio. It's farewell also to jazz composer and keyboardist Chick Corea at the age of 79. Regarded as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion, he played with Herbie Mann and Stan Getz in the 1960s and with Miles Davis on several live albums. He formed Circle with bassist Dave Holland and enjoyed success with 'Return To Forever' in 1972. He went on to record many more albums and picked up numerous Grammy nominations between 1976 and 2020.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Mary Wilson RIP

It's very sad that Mary Wilson, founder member of the Primettes and the Supremes - the most successful female group of all time - has died at the relatively young age of 76. It's good, though, that she is getting the recognition her long career undoubtedly deserves. Although she didn't sing lead on any of the Supremes big hits in the Diana Ross era, she was an integral member of the group, adding to its glamorous image and contributing to dozens of recordings from its early days as the Primettes in 1960 right through to 1977 when she left the reformed group. She enjoyed a fairly successful solo career and carried out a lengthy 'Truth In Music' campaign to stop the use of a group's name unless an original member is in the group or the successors are licensed to use the name by the last person to hold the title to the name. Her books - 'Dreamgirl' and 'Supreme Faith' - are among the most interesting memories of Motown from its earliest days, with much information about Berry Gordy and fellow Supremes Diana Ross and Florence Ballard. I was a big fan of the Supremes from the time of their first UK release, 'When The Lovelight Starts Shining Thru' His Eyes' in 1964 and loved the follow ups 'Where Did Our Love Go', 'Baby Love', 'Come See About Me', 'Stop In The Name Of Love' and the rest. A wonderful string of records throughout the sixties and into the seventies after Diana had left. Ironically, she didn't sing on 'Someday We'll Be Together'. Looking through my records it turns out that I have 24 LPs featuring the Supremes, plus many singles and EPs. So pictured are the earlier LPs above and later ones, including compilations and those with the Temptations shown below.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Nolan Porter RIP

Sad to hear of another death in the world of soul - this time Northern Soul favourite Nolan (NF) Porter, at the age of 71. Nolan recorded for the Lizard label in the early seventies and tracks such as 'Oh Baby', 'If I Could Only be Sure' and 'Keep On Keeping On' became popular on the Northern Soul scene. He recorded two albums - 'No Apologies', which included songs written by Steve Cropper, Booker T Jones and Randy Newman, and 'Nolan', which featured 'Groovin' (Out Of Life)' and 'If I Could Only Be Sure'. I saw Nolan on the couple of occasions. The first was at the 100 Club in 2014 (pictured below). I wrote at the time: 'It was good to be back at the 100 Club last night for an evening of Northern soul with LA resident Nolan Porter backed by British soul band the Stone Foundation. It was the first time I'd been there since its recent renovation. There may be more photos on the wall, the loos may be marginally better, but it hasn't changed: the place was packed and as hot and sweaty as ever, the way a good music venue should be. I wish the sound was better though.
Nolan Porter proved to be a dynamic performer with an engaging smile and bulging eyes, wearing a hat and scarf throughout on what was one of the warmest evenings of the year. His two best known numbers, 'Keep On Keepin' On' and 'If I Could Only Be Sure' (which he dedicated to his friend and mentor Johnny Guitar Watson), both from the early seventies, were sung with aplomb, as were the other numbers in his set, which included 'Oh Baby', 'I Like What You Give', 'The Fifth One', Darrell Banks' 'Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You', Van Morrison's 'Crazy Love' (his first recording), 'Fe Fi Fo Fum', and a great version of Brenton Wood's 'Gimme Little Sign', before finishing with 'Jumping Jack '.
Nolan has recorded some of these numbers with the Stone Foundation, whose earlier set showed that that they are loud, unsubtle but very effective at putting across their soulful numbers. It was a highly enjoyable evening and I wish there were more such nights at the 100 Club, as there used to be in the distant past.'
The second occasion was at the Blackpool Soul Festival where he was excellent on his measly allocation of just three songs and 16 minutes on stage.
There have been a few other deaths to mark as well. One of these is Danny Ray, who was James Brown's 'cape man' for many years, who has died at the age of 85. Sometimes known as 'the second hardest working man in show business', he appeared at Porretta in 2017 where he acted as MC for the James Brown orchestra which included bassist Fred Thomas and singer Martha High.
Another death is that of singer/songwriter Jim Weatherly, aged 77. Jim wrote many of Gladys Knight's biggest hits of the seventies including 'Midnight Train To Georgia', 'Neither One Of Us' and 'Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me'. As a performer he began as Jim Weatherly and the Vegas before forming the Gordian Knot and releasing an album on Verve. Further solo albums followed in the seventies and he had success with 'The Need To Be' and 'I'll Still Love You'. It's farewell also to Gil Saunders who became lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1982. Another recent death is that of Australian singer Patsy Ann Noble who had a string of pop releases in the 1960s. After initial success down under with 'Good Looking Boy' she moved to England where she was signed to the Columbia label and recorded many girl group style records which were highly listenable without ever becoming major hits. These included 'Accidents Will Happen','I Was Only Fooling Myself', 'It's Better To Cry Today', 'I Did Nothing Wrong' and 'Tied Up With Mary'.She turned to acting appearing in TV series such as 'Danger Man' and 'Callan' and changed her name to Trisha Noble, moving to the US where she had a successful acting career before returning to Australia in the 1980s. RIP to them all.