Monday, October 30, 2017

Doowop and more at the Tales From The Woods show

Classic doowop made a rare venture into London last night with the Tales From The Woods Rock & Roll Heritage Show at the 100 Club, promoted by Keith Woods. The headliner was former lead singer of the Flamingos Tommy Hunt (pictured above), who was backed by the excellent Spanish doowop group The Velvet Candles. But the show wasn't just about doowop: there was soul and R and B from Zoot Money, Chuck Berry flavoured rock and roll from Earl Jackson and blues from Ray Phillips. And they were all backed by the unrivalled Tales From The Woods band, featuring the 'lovely' John Spencely on lead guitar (pictured below with Rob Davis), Claire Hamlin on keyboards, Jeff Tuck on drums, Rob Davis on bass, Alex Bland on sax and Dave Priseman on trumpet. It was a terrific show - possibly the best yet in this long running series of rock and roll events.
DJ John Howard dedicated the show to Fats Domino, but it was another late lamented rock and roller, Chuck Berry, who dominated the first set by Earl Jackson. Earl describes himself as the 'love child of Chuck Berry', and he certainly has more than enough showmanship, excellent guitar work and vocal ability to back that up. He rocked his way through a series of Chuck Berry numbers, including Roll Over Beethoven, No Particular Place To Go, You Never Can Tell, Nadine (well supported by the horn section), Little Queenie and Johnny B Goode. He duck walked, played his original Gibson guitar (bought for £2.5k, he said) behind his head, popped his eyes and generally worked up a storm during his 45 minutes on stage, ending, not with Chuck, but with Howlin' Wolf's Howling For My Baby. An excellent start to the evening.
Following him was former frontman of the Nashville Teens Ray Phillips, who included quite a bit of blues in his set. He began brightly with Bo Diddley's Mona, but Red House, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Willie John's Need Your Love So Bad and Parchman Farm showed he's a blues man at heart. He changed the tempo with Nadine (again), Route 66 and Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On and finished off, naturally enough, with his big hit Tobacco Road. Ray isn't a dynamic performer, but at 78 he showed that his vocal pipes are still good.
The next set, by Zoot Money, playing his Hammond organ, brought back memories of smoky sixties nights at the Flamingo and was a joy. Zoot demonstrated his love of Ray Charles with Hide Nor Hair and It Should've Been Me, and did a great version of Sam and Dave's You Don't Know Like I Know. Alex and Dave's horn breaks were a match for the Memphis originals on that one. Zoot had a light hearted moan about others making it big back in the day on the back of three minute 45s. His band's biggest hit Big Time Operator showed that on his day he was more than a match for some of the other sixties heroes. He rocked through Robert Parker's Barefootin', and brought a jazzy feel to Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Rock and Roller, giving John Spencely a chance to show off a different side to his always first class guitar work. Finally, Zoot sang If Age Brings Wisdom, a jazzy number with a wistful lyric: 'When will I find it?' was the essence. This was a highly enjoyable set and Zoot remains a master of the Hammond, well supported by Claire's piano work.
Doowop came to the fore in the next set with the Velvet Candles, a four man doowop group from Barcelona led by Augie Burr, who were making their London debut. Keith Woods rightly described them as the best doowop group outside New York. Dressed, for this set, in white jackets, their harmonies were just gorgeous on doowop classics like the Velvets' Tonight Could be the Night, Honey Babe, Dance Girl Dance, a note perfect version of the Gladiolas' Little Darling and Clyde McPhatter's A Lover's Question among others. They were joined on stage by Johnny Stud, formerly of Rocky Sharpe and Replays for their revival of Rama Lama Ding Dong and Never. The group's final number, Lock Up My Heart, really rocked and the band gave them superb support throughout. There can be little doubt that these guys are among the very best of modern doowop singers - quite possibly the best of the lot.
They were, in fact, the perfect support for Tommy Hunt, now 84, who has enjoyed successful careers both in the doowop field, as lead singer of the Flamingos, and as a soul singer. This was purely a doowop set and highly enjoyable it was too. The Velvet Candles provided superb support throughout, beginning with Kokomo and following up with the Sam Cooke penned Nobody Loves Me Like You,  Let's Make Up and the rocking Crazy Crazy Crazy. During A Kiss From Your Lips a young couple crouched down in front of the stage as the guy proposed to his girlfriend, and the tender theme continued with Lovers Never Say Goodbye. Tommy and the group were quite stunning on Ol' Man River, the Candles providing dramatic and quite brilliant support to Tommy's vocals. Other songs included Your Other Love, Heavenly Angel, Besame Mucho and the jive favourite Jump Children. And then it was time for the encore - a spell binding version of the Flamingos' biggest hit I Only Have Eyes For You. The whole set was doowop at its supreme best - great vocals from Tommy and harmonies to die for from the Velvet Candles.
What a show this was: great singing, magical moments of harmony, and wonderful backing from the band, who had to learn upwards of 60 songs for the evening. Keith Woods - take a bow!
Finally, here a photo of me with Earl Jackson.
Nick Cobban


At 2:45 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree............what a show. Pity I had to miss the last number as I had to get my last train home.

At 9:30 pm , Anonymous Mike said...

Just simply outrageous. The best night out for years and the best (so far) of Keith's annual gigs. And what's more - back at the 100 Club. And just imagine if Tommy Hunt did sing at that young couple's wedding.
Mike Draper

At 7:25 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that great report and these beautiful pictures. What a show! The artists and the TFTW backing band did a perfect job bringing not only songs and music but also fun and loosely acting. It was real cool, pure rockin' joy ... Having Mister Tommy Hunt doing "Jump Children" was just unexpected and crazy. I told him it bring me back in my days of youth when the primitive VHS format allowed me to see the 1959's crazy performance from "Go Johnny Go". Then I will never believe anybody who should have told me ... wait to 2017 and you will see Tommy singing that classic but also "Lovers Never Say Goodbye", "Old Man River" and the all time classic "I Only Have Eyes for You", that stands among our 50 favorite 45 rpm. The last but not the least, dancing on "Jump Children" had bring my winklepicker shoes to death ... Good news it mean i am still young and able to be as crazy as when being 20 years old. What a "Crazy Crazy Party" ... Thanks to everybody involded in that great event! Dominique "Imperial" ANglares


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