Monday, September 26, 2016

Rockabilly legend Joe Clay passes on

Sorry to read of the death of Louisiana rockabilly singer Joe Clay aged 77. Joe was a wild man on stage and his energetic act at a couple of Ponderosa Stomps and at last year's Viva Las Vegas will live long in the memory. Back in 1956 he recorded two rockabilly classics for the Vik label, Duck Tail and Sixteen Chicks, and played the Louisiana Hayride at around the same time as Elvis and even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show before the King did. He made another record for Vik and a few in the early sixties but then faded from view, becoming a school bus driver for 25 years.
At the time of the rockabilly revival in the eighties he was rediscovered and played in the UK, as well as having a retrospective album released by Bear Family. When I saw him at the Stomp in 2011 and 2015 he put on a good and exciting show. At Viva Las Vegas, where he performed in the legends of rockabilly segment, taking a turn on the drums as well,  I wrote: 'Final act of this segment was Louisiana born Joe Clay, who leaped around the stage and into the audience like a man half his age. Numbers included his best known ones Don't Mess With My Ducktail and Sixteen Chicks and he also did a swamp pop number called Don't Know What To Do, which he apparently recorded (for Samter Records) under the name of Russ Wayne.'
Top photo shows Joe at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2015; the middle one at Viva Las Vegas in 2015 and the photo below at the Ponderosa Stomp of 2011.
Here's an article on Joe from the Stomp website:   http://blog.ponderosastomp.com/2015/08/joe-clay-dont-you-dare-mess-with-this-cajun-rockabilly-monsters-ducktails/
And here are his two biggest hits:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01bB6tCxpqI     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8AWJ5_KfVU

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Buckwheat and John D RIP

The Vinyl Word raises a glass to some more influential musicians who have died in recent weeks.
Stanley Dural, aka Buckwheat Zydeco, who has died aged just 68, was a top zydeco accordionist
who helped to raise the profile of the genre. When I first visited New Orleans and went to Jazzfest in the late eighties, I knew little about zydeco but soon became aware of Buckwheat Zydeco, who were one of the leading zydeco bands. The first time I went to Antone's in Austin a few years later it was Buckwheat Zydeco who were top of the bill. I saw him at Jazzfest on several occasions and at the Ponderosa Stomp, when he played organ with Lil Buck Sinegal. Stanley and his band were always excellent.
Originally from Lafayette, Stanley formed a funk band in 1971 but switched to zydeco when he began backing Clifton Chenier, the king of zydeco. He was an organist, but took up the accordion in 1978 and set up his zydeco band a year later. He went on to record albums for Blues Unlimited, Black Top and Island and was invited to tour with Eric Clapton. Performances with Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant and many others followed. His final album, Lay Your Burden Down, was recorded for Alligator in 2009.
Another significant music death is that of John D Loudermilk at the age of 82. John had only one major solo hit, Language of Love, but was a very successful songwriter. Some friends of mine will know that my party piece is a rendition of the Everly Brothers' Ebony Eyes, with its spoken segment about the plane being delayed by 'toibulent' weather and having
to alter course. That was one of John's. And the list of great songs that he wrote is a long one, including Tobacco Road and Indian Reservation, hits for the Nashville Teens and Don Fardon but also recorded by John himself. Other successful songs included George Hamilton IV's A Rose and a Baby Ruth, Eddie Cochran's Sitting In the Balcony, Angela Jones, a hit for Johnny Ferguson and Michael Cox, The Great Snowman (Bob Luman), Norman, Paper Tiger and Sad Movies (all hits for Sue Thompson), Talk Back Trembling Lips (Johnny Tillotson) and Thou Shall Not Steal (Dick and Deedee).
A final word too for Fred Hellerman who, at 89, was the last surviving member of the Weavers, the folk group which also included Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays and which was accused of Communist sympathies during the McCarthy era. Fred went on to record with Joan Baez and produced the Alice's restaurant album by Arlo Guthrie.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sound of Fury and Harmonies From Heaven

BBC4 was back on top form last night with a documentary on Billy Fury, accurately described by one of the contributors as not just Britain's greatest rock and roller, but Britain's only genuine rock and roll star. The programme was called Sound of Fury, the name of his ten inch LP which was easily the best home grown album of the era, with ten songs written by Billy himself which still stand up today. Born Ronald Wycherley in Liverpool in 1940, he was given his stage name by impresario Larry Parnes, who also gave pet names to Tommy Steele, Johnny Gentle, Marty Wilde and Vince Eager among others. Billy came from a working class family and had tremendous talent, as his early records showed, but his career went down a dead end when he was forced to record covers of American ballads. Larry Parnes was only interested in money and the programme made it clear that his artists, including Billy, were treated badly, with little or no royalties from their record sales.
British rock and roll was a pale imitation of its US counterpart and weak attempts to copy the likes of Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were well represented on the programme, with some good early film footage of the originals in their prime. There were some interesting contributions from his mother and brother, Vince Eager, Clem Cattini, Joe Brown, Ray Connolly, Alvin Stardust, John Leyton and Amanda Barrie. There was also clips of interviews with Billy himself, Parnes and Adam Faith. But the film clips of Billy in action were disappointing. Those of us who were around at the time know that his stage act was exciting, considered lewd by some, but here was Billy singing a virtually static rendition of I'd Never Find Another You and a couple of standards. Is there no other original footage left?
Billy was a chain smoker - in fact just about everyone on film from the era had a ciggie in hand - and was passionate about animals, But he seems to have been quite a shy and withdrawn individual. There was little in the programme that was terribly revealing, although Vince Eager's contribution, including visits to the site of the 2Is and the Freight Train club in Soho, was telling. Billy died in 1983 aged just 42. His early success was over shadowed by his more successful near neighbours the Beatles and he never had any success in the States, unlike the Tornados, with whom he recorded a live LP. But compared with other British rock and rollers Billy was in a different league, and his first LP is one of the very best there is.
BBC4 came up trumps too with another documentary last night called The Everly Brothers: Harmonies From Heaven. It traced the rise of the greatest harmony group of the fifties and early sixties from their early radio appearances with dad Ike Everly through their sublime recordings for Cadence and, later, Warner Brothers. The relationship with Chet Atkins and songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant was explored, with film clips of classics like Bye Bye Love, Wake Up Little Suzie, All I Have To Do Is Dream, When Will I Be Loved and Cathy's Clown. Their decline post 1962 was caused partly by the British invasion, but also by the ban, following their move to Warner,  by former manager Wesley Rose on them recording any songs written by the Bryants or, indeed, themselves. The later years, when the two brothers didn't talk to each other for ten years, were skipped over somewhat but Don Everly's contribitions were interesting, as were Felice Bryant's. Some of the other contributors had little of interest to say. Tim Rice was an exception to this, but who the hell is Jake Bugg?
The Everly Brothers reached the pinnacle of their craft, combining rock and roll and country in a way which very few if any others did. I saw them top the bill in 1963 with Bo Diddley and a new band called, I seem to recall, the Rolling Stones low down on the bill, and in my personal top ten, from 1960 to 1965, they had more chart entries than any other act. A truly great act, and an interesting, if slightly disappointing programme.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Top tunes of 1961

Continuing the series of top tunes, here is the missing year from the ones I've done so far, namely 1961. For that year I selected top tens for January to June and for July to December in January 1962, so they were still very fresh in the memory. Would I make the same choices now? Probably not in many cases, but there are some great records in the two lists all the same.
Here's my top ten for the first half of the year:
1. Once In A While - The Chimes.
2. Little Boy Sad - Johnny Burnette.
3. Baby I Don't Care - Buddy Holly.
4. Running Scared - Roy Orbison.
5. What'd I Say - Jerry Lee Lewis.
6. You're Sixteen - Johnny Burnette.
7. Shop Around - The Miracles.
8. Sad Mood - Sam Cooke.
9. More Than I Can Say - Bobby Vee.
10. I Told You So - Jimmy Jones.

And here's my top ten for July to December, 1961:
1. Cryin' - Roy Orbison.
2. Take Good Care Of My Baby - Bobby Vee.
3. So Long Baby - Del Shannon.
4. I Like It Like That - Chris Kenner.
5. His Latest Flame - Elvis Presley.
6. Girls - Johnny Burnette.
7. Without You - Johnny Tillotson.
8. Under The Moon Of Love - Curtis Lee.
9. Hats Off To Larry - Del Shannon.
10. Sea Of Heartbreak - Don Gibson.

Here's a photo of Jerry Lee at the farewell London Palladium show last year.



Monday, September 12, 2016

The Fatback Band in Westcliff

Here is another review by music journalist Seamus McGarvey, this time of a show by the Fatback Band in Westcliff On Sea, Essex on September 5.
Although I'd seen The Fatback Band last February, it had been a while since I'd seen them in a theatre setting but here they were in Westcliff's Palace Theatre, a wonderfully atmospheric old-style concert venue with an informal feel, dating from 1912, drawing a large enthusiastic crowd who were really 'up' for a good time. 
Support act Basingstoke-born singer-songwriter Natasha Watts (pictured below), with her strong, wide-ranging voice and a good sense of humour ('you can move in your chair!'), set the scene well for the band. Although I was unfamiliar with her material, she worked hard at getting the audience involved, and on numbers like 'Love Who You Are', written for her son, left a deep impression.
When The Fatback Band hit the stage led by original founder-member Bill Curtis (top picture), with Ledjerick Woods (trumpet), Darryl McAllister (guitarist), Roby Lock Jr, (tenor sax), Desmond Humphrey (drums and vocals), Isabella Gordon (lead vocals), Zack Guinn (bass and vocals) and Bob James (keyboards), it was straight into a pace-setting instrumental and on through numbers like the mid-tempo 'Groovy Kind Of Day' and dancers like 'Wicky Wacky' and 'Keep On Steppin'' which took Ledjerick and Roby out into the audience, spreading the funk. The set had a well-rehearsed and well-structured feel, the band members very much in sync vocally and instrumentally, while making the most of the theatre's intimate setting with the audience up close and involved. Later highlights included the driving 'Gotta Get My Hands On Some (Money)' and the bluesy, soulful 'In The Morning' which placed Isabella firmly in the spotlight, enabling her to shine and register strongly with the audience, while 'Bus Stop' won another positive response, with Roby, Ledjerick and Isabella down in the aisles demonstrating the steps to the fans. 'Spanish Hustle' added nicely to the mix, as did the catchy 'Put Your Love (In My Tender Care)' plus the melodic mover 'I Found Lovin'', which by then saw just about everybody up, much to Bill Curtis's obvious delight. The band delivered an encore featuring 'Backstrokin'' and that was it – an exciting conclusion to a highly entertaining evening in a fine venue. 
Seamus McGarvey (with thanks to Bill Curtis)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Brian Wilson at Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Here's a very welcome review by Seamus McGarvey of Brian Wilson's recent show in Southend. Many thanks.
Brian Wilson played Southend's Cliffs Pavilion to a sell-out crowd as part of his 'Pet Sounds' tour built around the 1966 album. With no support act, he and his ten-piece band hit the stage right on time and headed straight into a brace of Beach Boys classics from 'California Girls' and 'I Get Around' to 'Shut Down' and 'Little Deuce Coupe', all keeping faithfully close to the original recordings in terms of sound and feel. Key band members included original Beach Boys' singer-guitarist Al Jardine who, standing alongside Wilson who was seated at the piano, played a crucial role up front, both vocally and keeping a watchful eye on everything, while Al's son Matt filled in for any vocal gaps and carried off  the high-end falsetto sequences which were part of the group's trademark sound.
Despite whatever personal problems he may have experienced over the years, Wilson seemed in reasonably good form this evening with his vocals and some piano figures coming through well. Matt sang 'Don't Worry Baby', and early '70s member Blondie Chaplin sang 'Wild Honey' and 'Sail On, Sailor', his own 1973 recording with the group, before the main part of the evening, focusing on Wilson and the band's  performance of all the tracks from the 'Pet Sounds' album. This included familiar numbers such as 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', 'Sloop John B', 'God Only Knows', sung by Wilson, and 'Caroline, No', plus the two instrumental tracks on the album, though Wilson did quip when introducing one of the instrumentals: 'no voices, no singing, just instruments!' Although the audience didn't appear at times to be as fully engrossed by some of the album tracks, the songs generally came across well with, for example, Wilson's handling of 'I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times' seeming particularly poignant and moving.
Having worked through the album, it was back to what Wilson termed 'rock 'n' roll' and more familiar territory with hits including 'Good Vibrations', 'Help Me, Rhonda', 'Barbara Ann', 'Surfin' U.S.A.' and 'Fun, Fun, Fun', all enthusiastically received by the audience, before he ended the evening on the mid-tempo 'Love And Mercy' from 1988. 
Maybe the last tour of this type, maybe not - who knows? - but a highly enjoyable and memorable show featuring a number of strong performances with excellent playing and vocal harmonies: I'm glad I was able to make it. 
Seamus McGarvey
Here is Al Jardine.
Blondie Chaplin.
Here's another photo of Brian Wilson.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Farewell to Prince Buster

More dreadful news while I've been away in the Northern Isles: the death of the King of Ska and Rocksteady Prince Buster at the age of 78. A prolific producer, singer and songwriter, who released dozens of 45s during the mid sixties, he was far and away the best known Jamaican artist of the era and a huge influence on later ska revival bands such as Madness and The Specials. His label Blue Beat, a subsidiary of Melodisc, became the popular name for ska, and Buster - real name Cecil Bustamente Campbell - was definitely in a league of his own. He also had records released on the Fab and Prince Buster labels, and even one on Stateside (30 Pieces of Silver).
I remember a very hot sweaty evening at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in 1999 when Prince Buster played to a packed and very excited hall. Dressed in a black leather suit, he was quite superb on a string of his better known compositions, including his biggest UK hit Al Capone, Shaking Up Orange Street, Too Hot, Madness, Whine and Grine, Big Five, Enjoy Yourself, One Step Beyond and Rough Rider. One number he didn't do that night was the controversial Ten Commandments of Man but this is perhaps the song for which he is best known. Other classic tracks include Judge Dread, Ghost Dance, Earthquake, Texas Hold Up and Wash Wash. A couple of photos from the gig are above and below.
The Vinyl Word also raises a glass to R and B and Beach Music singer Clifford Curry, who has died aged 79. Best known for his 1967 R and B hit She Shot A Hole In My Soul, he went on to become a major figure in the South Carolina Beach Music scene. Earlier in his career he was a member of several doowop groups, including the Echoes and the Five Pennies, and recorded for Excello as Sweet Clifford. The photo above shows Clifford at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht in 1995 when he was one of three Excello Legends, alongside Earl Gaines and Roscoe Shelton. The photo below shows Clifford at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2011. Another great loss. RIP to both.