Friday, 30 January 2009
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Track listing: You`re Gone, Gone, Gone, My Poor Old Heart, Miserlou, Come Home To You, My Baby Thinks She`s A Train, You`re Crazy, A Murder Of Crows, I Wish I Had Died In My Cradle, The Alibi, I`m Shakin`, The Devils Slate, Mary Jane, The Sun Shines Brighter, An Unhealthy Obsession, Go On Your Way, The Vanishing Race
Carlos & the Bandidos go from strength to strength with each release enhancing their reputation. This latest release maintains the momentum and sees them taking their sound to new levels of mexibilly. For those unfamiliar with their sound, it’s basically hard-edged rockabilly played to a spaghetti western theme. Paul "Monkey" Maitland, Neil Scott and Roger Van Niekerk lay down a solid, sometimes exotic beat, underpinned by hot guitar picking from Malcolm Chapman. Bringing it all home is Carlos Mejuto who’s vocals are never less than interesting and one of the best on the current rocking scene. This time round we've got the lovely Mr Big Boy Bloater working the desk. There's a few special guests including Lil Lisa (Bloats better Half) on Sax and Dave Priseman playing Trumpet on a couple of tracks
There don’t appear to be any weak spots on the album, but the standouts for me are Mary Jane, Miserlou, An Unhealthy Obsession and the best of all, You’re Crazy, a full-on blasting rocker. Also on the market is a best of Carlos & the Bandidos, a great place for novices to start their Carlos collection. You won’t regret it.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
He turned up on our tv screens in the late 70's when "Oh Boy" was revamped with Freddie, Shaky, Les Gray and others making a big impression right across Europe. It's on the Continent where he has made his biggest impression and still plays the festivals over there, complete with his legendary cowboy hat and eye-patch attire. The patch is no Johnny Kidd tribute thing though, he actually only has one eye.
His cover versions of things like Break Up and Down On The Farm are high quality and he and the band (he always works with the best in the business) always treat the originals with respect, giving them a new lease of life. He's a pretty good country singer as well, have a listen to So Long for proof.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
There's some drummers from the 50's that became legendary like Earl Palmer and Jerry Allison as well as some great ones who seem to have been forgotten, Roy Harte for example who worked at Capitol (listen to Shotgun Boogie by Tennessee Ernie Ford). But to me, nothing enters my ears quite like the backbeat provided by Jimmy (J.M.) Van Eaton. He played on countless sessions for Sun records in Memphis and helped give many recordings that little bit extra. His work with Jerry Lee Lewis was stunning, they played in complete syncopation. Jerry Lee usually only did one take of a song, so it's not as if Jimmy could have a think about what drumming might fit the song. He had to adlib on the same channel as the Killer - and they didn't miss the mark very often. Jerry Lee has said that he was "...THE creative rock'n'roll drummer....". I'm not one to argue with the Killer, so I won't start here.
Although he worked with no end of one-shot artists, he was also a semi-permanent member of Billy Lee Riley's legendary band, The Little Green Men. They were the mainstay of many of Sun sessions as well as creating a couple dozen classics with Riley. Listen to Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll - Roland Janes' guitar intro is suitably "other planetish" but wouldn't have had half the impact without Jimmy's crashing symbols.
Jimmy Van Eaton was born and bred in Memphis and saved his paper-round pocket money to buy his first set of drums. He wound up with a music scholarship to the University of Memphis - Memphis State. He formed his first band, The Jivin' Five while still in high school. They played a Dixieland style but it was with a rock 'n' roll band, The Echoes, that he cut a demo at Sun studios. Jack Clement engineered the session and was impressed enough to point him and the bands bass player, Marvin Pepper in the direction of Riley, whose debut single had been released and was ready to take a band on the road.
With Jimmy becoming the studio's premier drummer, his usual week entailed sessions during the week, followed by live shows on the weekends. The Little Green Men had taken to wearing matching green outfits on stage, custom made by a Memphis tailor. Another thing they did for publicity was a 72 hour music marathon at the Starlite Club in Memphis.
Asked by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame whether he thought the band played with "an almost telepathic ability" he replied, "Well, I think we did. I think Roland and that whole bunch did have that. Because I could play with players today, and I could be listening for them to do certain things, and when they don't - then the "feel" is just not there. These days, you have to generate your own enthusiasm during a song, where before you could play off of each other. I could do a session now with a guitar player, and if he's not as hot as another good guitar player then chances are, I'm just going to play methodically through whatever is playing. But if you're with another guy, and he's really jammin' - they you're going to pick it up a bit. And at the time, me, Roland, Jerry Lee, and Martin Willis, we were all in synch. We had very little, if any, arrangements. Especially on Jerry Lee's stuff. Now Riley's stuff, especially when Martin Willis started playing with us, he was more likely to give us an arrangement or a plan to follow. But with Jerry, you just hung after him, man. "Crazy Arms," his first record - we only did that one time, just the drum and the piano. We didn't even have any other instruments on there. And then "Whole Lotta Shakin'" was only cut one time. So, we didn't have any rehearsal time, there wasn't any "Let's go work this up." Jerry Lee might say "I'm going to do it in this key." Then he'd just start playing, and then Roland would just play along a little bit until he got the feel of it, then you'd be ready to go! Now Charlie Rich was more of a constructive type guy who brought in arrangements and all that. Most of that was just three chord changes and GO for it! That didn't affect me of course, I wasn't into chords." Continuing about Jerry Lee he said, "He's a great entertainer and he doesn't get near the recognition he should for his vocals, I think he's an excellent singer. Those country things he did where he could really sing and get into the song, "Another Place Another Time," "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye," and "What Made Milwaukee Famous," that's great stuff. Oh yeah. As a matter of fact, I listen to his stuff all the time, whether I played on it or not. I like a lot of that stuff. I don't know if you heard that song in the "Great Balls Of Fire" movie "Lucky Old Sun?" Man, that's great singing."
Among Jimmy's many satisfied customers are Roy Orbison ("Devil Doll," "Sweet And Easy To Love," "Chicken Hearted," "Claudette"), and Johnny Cash ("Straight A's In Love"). As well as with Billy Lee and Jerry Lee, he also toured with Conway Twitty, but left about a month before Conway skyrocketed to fame with "It's Only Make Believe."
As well as the biggies that he played on, there's more than a few that didn't become hits that perhaps should have. He recalls "I thought Riley's record of "No Name Girl" was going to be a big record - and it never did do anything. There was a guy I think was named Jimmy Pritchard, had a record called "That's The Way I Feel," and I thought that was going to be a good one. "Flyin' Saucers Rock 'n' Roll," that was popping up in areas other than Memphis. With a little bit of promotion it might have been a hit."
Jimmy finally left Sun when he went north with Billy Lee. He also worked in the Memphis area away from Sun, playing on "Mountain Of Love" by Harold Dorman, for Rita Records. Other labels he worked for included Hi, Pepper, and Fernwood.
He started to drift away from music and got into the vending machine business. He found God and gave up music altogether until he started a gospel group, The Seekers, with some friends. Nowadays, Jimmy is a successful investment banker, but he has had the odd foray into the rockabilly world. He was the original drummer for the Sun Rhythm Section but when he got tired of the travelling, moved aside for DJ Fontana. He did the 706 Reunion album with Billy Lee Riley and Roland Janes and for a while in the early 80's he worked with Jerry Lee again. He worked on Charlie Feathers Elektra album as well as with Billy Lee for Hightone. His most recent album is The Beat Goes On (706 Records, 1998).
Clovis Rocks! – Stars of the Clovis Music Festival - Various Artists (Rollercoaster Records RCLJ 6501)
Friday, 23 January 2009
Died 19 January 1998, Jackson, Tennessee
Carl Perkins is the epitome of a rockabilly singer, from his singing and guitar playing to his choice of material, all revved up stories of dances,clothes and slitting throats with razors. Born to sharecroppers he spenthis early years picking cotton and playing guitar. With his brothers Jayand Clayton he formed the Perkins Brothers Band and played the tough honky tonk bars of Jackson, developing a sound that mixed hillbilly with flashes of rhythm and blues. It was a new style that no-one had heard before so upon hearing Elvis on the local radio one day, Carl knew that there was someone out there who shared his ears and vision, and more importantly, that there was someone who was willing to record and issue the stuff. That someone was Sam Phillips and his label was Sun Records, sixty miles down the road in Memphis. The brothers drove to Memphis and auditioned for Sam The Man who was impressed with what he heard.
He cut their first single, the hillbilly duo, Movie Magg and Turn Around. It wasn't until Elvis had moved to RCA that Sam really let the Perkins boys put their cat clothes on, but when he did, the sparks flew. Blue Suede Shoes backed with Honey Don't became the first single to top the pop, country and blues charts and was also the first million seller for Sun. They went to New York to promote the song on the Perry Como show but smashed into the back of a poultry truck on the way. Carl fractured his skull and Jay suffered a broken neck, an injury that he never really recovered from, dying a couple of years later. To add insult to injury, as the brothers lay in their hospital beds, Elvis was singingBlue Suede Shoes on the Dorsey Brothers Show.
When Carl returned from his lengthy lay-off he was unable to repeat the success of Shoes despite some classic rockabilly numbers like Boppin' The Blues, Dixie Fried,Your True Love, Put Your Cat Clothes On and Matchbox which featured young wildcat Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. In 1958 Perkins followed Johnny Cash to Columbia but numbers like Pointed Toe Shoes failed to find an audience. A spell at Decca was just as fruitless, but the spirits were raised with a triumphant tour of Britain in 1964.
He became a member of the Johnny Cash entourage where he stayed for a decade. His song-writing remained constant and Johnny Cash (Daddy Sang Bass), Patsy Cline (I Was So Wrong) and the Judds (Let Me Tell You About Love) all benefited from his craft. He was elected into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He fought a long battle with throat cancer before succumbing to the illness in 1998. I visited his house in 2000 and was really pleased to see that he'd spent so many years in such a lovely area of Tennessee. A true Southern gentleman, and the King of Rockabilly - not a bad combination.
The Classic Carl Perkins - Bear Family (5CD)
Back On Top - Bear Family (4CD - late-'60s and early-'70s )
Born To Rock - Liberty
Born Geraint Meurig Vaughan Watkins in Abertriwr, South Walesin February 1951 his music career began in the early 70's with localWelsh language bands as well Buck Dancer, Juice on the Loose andRed Beans & Rice. He did a session for Stuart Colman's It's Rock 'n'Roll radio show and was included on the second volume of the show'salbums. Similarly, Charlie Gillett's Honky Tonk radio show and Demosalbum. He made a name for himself as a fine session player and overthe years has worked with such artists as Rory Gallagher, AndyFairweather Low, Sting, George Harrison, Status Quo, Eric Clapton,The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Paul Young, Mark Knopfler, The BluesBand and Box Of Frogs (featuring ex-Yardbirds). As well as Edmunds and Stevens he's also played on many a rockin' album including CarlPerkins, the Stray Cats, Frankie Ford, Restless, Matchbox and yet another Welsh band, the great Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers.He played on the five albums by the good-timey roots/cajun pub band,The Balham Alligators.
Recent times have seen him work with Nick Lowe, Van Morrison andBill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. As well as all this he's also released a coupleof solo albums, the first one, GW and the Dominators coming out in 1978.Anyone who caught Johnnie Allan's great shows in 1992 couldn't havefailed to be enthralled by Watkins. He was part of a blinding backing bandand really seemed to enjoy himself on backing vocals on Running Bear.He was also a part of the superb Carl Perkins and Friends RockabillySpecial. With ten guitarists on the go, GW still manages to keep his rolling piano up in the mix. Apart from the Balham Alligators, his most prolific timehas been as a member of the Refreshments. If the UK had it's own A-Team of musicians, Geraint Watkins would be the equivalent of Pig Robbins orFloyd Cramer. There aren't many Dave Edmunds produced sessions where he doesn't call on Geraint, even flying him to Texas for a Fabulous Thunderbirds album. As an aside, I was just playing Honeyboy Hinkling's Wonderful Night and the woman opposite me said, "that sounds like Dave Edmunds with that squeezy thing". I didn't say she was bright! But she did recognise the accordion of our man Geraint, so it does prove the point. I must confess to not having any of his solo releases but I've got two self explanatory bootlegs called The Sessionman Vol's 1 and 2. They perfectly demonstrate how his piano and accordion can bring a new dimension to a song, adding just the right amount of sparkle.
Here's a butcher's dozen to tap your feet to:
Dave Edmunds - Run Rudolph Run or Dear Dad - GW's piano plays theJohnnie Johnson to Dave's CB.
Shakin' Stevens - Oh Julie - almost a cajun rocker thanks to GW's accordion.
Crazy Cavan - Both Wheels Left The Ground - stomping JLL piano poundingfrom GW, and CC and the boys follow suit. Brilliant.
Southside - Don't Lie To Me - great GW boogie intro.
Nick Lowe - True Love Travels On A Gravel Road - to be honest GWis fairly restrained on the organ here, but what a version.
Memphis Bend - Choo Choo Ch'Boogie - driving accordion.
Refreshments - Veronica - I love Ronnie Dawson's version but this kicksass as well.
Mason Ruffner - Baby I Don't Care No More - sounds as much like DaveEdmunds as DE sounds like Chuck Berry!!
The Balham Alligators - Gotta Have Money - does ever have a boring session?
Honeyboy Hinkling - It's Over - nice moody piece with some tasty brass andguitar.
Willie & the Poor Boys - Saturday Night - GW takes the vocals on a stonkingversion of the Roy Brown rocker.
Juice On The Loose - The Blue Flames Boogie - hot rocking boogie babywith GW in fine fettle.
Stray Cats - Look At That Cadillac - last but not least. GW works in fineunison with Mel Collins' sax. A romp.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Today the world lost one of the great rock ‘n’ roll guitarists when Mickey Gee passed away after suffering from emphysema. It’s a sad day for music in general and Wales and rockabilly in particular. His passing will probably go criminally unnoticed by the outside world but for us lucky enough to have appreciated him, the loss is immense. Born in Cardiff in the 40’s, Mickey Gee was like a generation of teenagers who fell in love with the guitarists from across the pond like Carl Perkins.
The 60’s saw him backing Tom Jones as part of the Squires, as well as one of Lulu’s Luvvers and he even had a spell with Joe Cocker. Don’t blame him for that though – you gotta pay the bills! He was influential in the sounds of Love Sculpture and Rockpile and sang and picked for the tragically short-lived Welsh band Memphis Bend. Everyone will have heard his playing on the early Shakin’ Stevens hits and who hasn’t grooved to his hypnotic playing on Dave Edmunds’ I Hear You Knockin’. Highlights of his career had to be the wonderful Carl Perkins tv special where Mickey traded licks with the likes of Clapton and George Harrison and Dave Edmunds’ New Years Eve MTV Party as 1986 turned into 1987 with Edmunds and Gee trading licks with Brian Setzer and Carl Perkins. I can’t remember what I was doing that night but I bet you everyone at that gig remembers. Always so unassuming, he just stood to the side and played in his easy, flowing style – steeped in the tradition of the rock ‘n’ roll he loved. This guy was a genius, the Welsh flags should be flying at half mast tonight. Rest In Peace Mickey, those that believed, truly believed. If you were Dave Edmunds’ favourite guitarist, that was good enough for me.
MEMPHIS BEND – GOOD ROCKIN' TONITE
UAS 30036 1977
Musicians: Micky Gee - Guitars,Vocals. Lincoln Carr – Bass. Tom Riley – Drums, Vocals. Additional musicians: B.J.Cole - Pedal Steel Guitar. Mick Weaver – Piano.
John Jenkins – Piano. John David – Bass.
Produced by the band and John David at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, South Wales, Good Rockin’ Tonite is one of the finest tributes that a British band has paid to the American originators. A mix of straight ahead rockabilly and some Hank Williams’ covers, the band play with great respect for the originals but with their own splash of flair. Mickey Gee is astounding throughout, with flying fingers making new classics out of old favourites Red Hot and If You Can't Rock Me. Sun pervs can drool at the covers of Mystery Train and one the albums best numbers, a high-stepping wade through the Big River that Cash would've loved. If you think Jerry Lee's Folsom Prison Blues was funky (and it was!) you'll be changing your boxers during this one. There's a real pep-in-the-step to Hank's Setting The Woods On Fire where Mickey and BJ Cole sound like everything Nashville wishes it was. I love BR549 but they can only dream of being this good. I think everyone would agree that the glorious version of Tennessee is better than Carl Perkins’ original, just listen to that guitar – it’s splashed in more Tennessee than the lyrics.
22 January 2009.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
There must be something in the frozen waters of Scandinavia that keeps producing these razor-sharp rockabilly bands. The list is seemingly endless with bands like Jack Baymoore & the Bandits, Wildfire Willie, Hal Peters and one of the best, The Barnshakers. The first time I came across them was as the backing band on Darrel Higham's High Class Baby album. By the time I'd listened to the first few beats on Five Minutes To Live I was well and truly hooked.
The band sort of formed by accident when Goofin' Records president, Pete Hakonen booked the legendary rocker Johnny Carroll for a gig in Finalnd in 1992. And while filling the venue wasn't a problem for Hakonen, fulfilling the date was - he didn't have a band. He talked four musicians from various bands like The Whistle Bait and Hal Peters String Busters to form a band to do the honour. And so the Barnshakers were born with Vesa Haaja on vocals and guitar, Jussi Huhtakangas a.k.a. Lester Peabody on lead guitar, Mika Liikari on double bass and Mike Salminen on drums. The band hit it off straight away and it wasn't too long (1993) before they were in the studio cutting a 10" album, Cool Enough, for Goofin'. Later that year they cut a single She Done Quit Me, again for Goofin' and one (Big Sandy) the following year for Willie Lewis' Rockabilly Records out of Colorado.
The next EP, Complicated Fool came out in '94, followed by their first CD, A Honky Tonk Session for Goofin'. They toured Europe for the next couple of years and they backed High Noon's Shaun Young on his Scandinavian tour. They also backed him for his solo Goofin' album, Red Hot Daddy. In '96 they scored a record hop favourite with the Wiggle Like a Worm 45. That year also saw them undertake their first US tour on the back of their latest Goofin' release, String-O-Rama.
Now a seasoned band, the Barnshakers have backed mant Finnish visitors, old and new, among them Hank Thompson, Narvel Felts, Hayden Thompson, Alvis Wayne, Johnny Carroll, Sanford Clark, Huelyn Duvall, Sid and Billy King, Martí Brom, Shaun Young, Johnny Carroll, Darrel Higham, Kim Lenz and Mack Stevens. Some of these dates led to session dates and they cut the Hocus Pocus single in 1997 when Mack Stevens was struggling with a sore throat. In the same year they cut the Goofin' EP, Pretty Little Devil with Darrel Higham, followed a year by the High Class Baby CD.
A lot of their early singles, the 10" LP and other odds and sods were complied by On The Hill Records for the 1998 release Barnyard Stomp. In 1999 they backed the smouldering Marti Brom for a Scandinavian tour, and ended up recording the Maybe I Do EP with her in Sweden, at Jo-Allans legendary vintage studio. They rejoined her for her Snake Ranch album, along with Texan T. Jarrod Bonta on piano. It was a fantastic effort from both the Barnshakers and Brom, with the likes of Blue Tattoo and Eat My Words being particularly grand.
2001 saw the release of the brilliant mini album North of Juarez on Goofin', recorded with the bands newest addition, Harri Saanio on piano. A highlight of the year for the band was a tour in France backing the one and only Hank Thompson. Their sound, always authentic and always tight, must have been ideal for the great man.
In 2002 a 300 copy limited addition 45 coupling Boppin' In Roswell and Raining in My Heart was released to critical acclaim, followed shortly after by their finest album to date, Five Minutes to Live.
NORTH OF JUAREZ - Goofin' RecordsIf ever there was a case for less is more, then this is it. Only eight tracks, but it's a stunning stab of rockabilly that leaves you breathless. If nothing else it serves as a delicious appetiser for the Five Minutes To Live CD. The original '50s songs we love so much were packaged as hit-em-between-the-eyes singles - two and a half minutes of pounding, that left the listener stunned, reflecting on what he'd just heard. That doesn't happen these days when we get fed our music in 30 track compilations, where songs can sort of drift from one to another. This eight tracker is more like the singles and works really well because of it - you don't have time to get bored with it. The pace is unrelenting, from the opening strains of Heartbreak Train to the manic Killer Diller. Watchdog and Did You Tell Me do full justice to the originals, whilst their own compositions like the western bopper Mail Man and the latino Jaurez.... Life Long Bound is done like ala Johnny Cash's Sun period and is stunning.
A HONKY TONK SESSION WITH - Goofin' RecordsA really pleasant album with tasty hillbilly feel, but without any nasal moments!! Two absolute beauties are the easybilly numbers, Who's Gonna Be The Next One Honey and the oh-so catchy, Kissin' In The Carwash. Fast Jivin' kicks in ala Eddie baby, before turning into a piano instrumental with the Chuck Berry backbeat. Choo Choo Train sounds like Bo Diddley in Nashville, while I Couldn't Care Less and She Likes To Bop are straight ahead rockabilly. The band are so tasteful, concentrating more on the melody and rhythm that just tearing the guts out of each note. Another I eally rate is When I Take My Sugar to Tea, a fun little ditty not unlike some of Gene Vincent's '56 cuts.
FIVE MINUTES TO LIVE - Goofin' RecordsI don't think it's taking things too far to say that this is one of the top 5 rockabilly albums of the last twenty years. Again featuring a well balanced mixture of covers and originals, the sound is pure rockabilly augmented with some tasty steel guitar. The album kicks off with three boppers in Nature's Goodness, Too Tired Today (superb drumming here) and another crack at the marvellous Boppin' In Roswell. Add this thunderous rocker to the distinguished list of flying saucers rock 'n' roll that has been running as long as them little green men. Two-Gun Daddy is another flat-outer whilst Arizona Express and Don't Worry About Me have a beautiful western feel about them. They have really nailed this cactus and sand-storm sound and you have to pinch yourself to remember these guys are from Finland not El Paso. Which brings along nicely to Marty Robbins who is remembered with a pleasing version of his You Don't Owe Me A Thing - a commendable choice. Their acoustic heavy rhythm is ideal for Billy Lee Riley's Trouble Bound and George Jones' Maybe Little Baby. Gene McKown's 1964 Brass single Ghost Memories is given a mysterious sound and is superb, as is their cover of Ronnie Self's Black Night Blues. The album is rounded off in fine style with the title track, from the little known Johnny Cash flick of the same name. It's a brilliant way to finish (excuse the pun!).