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.


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