When Winter approaches, it's still mighty hot at Hemsby.
Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Show No. 45
Seacroft Holiday Centre
7th to 10th October 2010.
After the mixed weather of the summer months here in the UK and the gathering economic clouds of doom, it was a pleasure to drive the car northwards and head to the Seacroft Holiday Centre that is host to the Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Weekender. There was a look of contentment on the face of Mrs. Wilkinson as her twice a year smile reappeared. The whole rockin' scene was once again in place from the start and stayed that way throughout the whole weekend - yes, this was THE place to be for rock 'n' roll music. Hemsby continues to reign supreme as the festival covering all shades of rock 'n' roll - promoter Willie Jeffery had maintained that winning streak.
All four main sections at the centre were again thriving. Going from west to east, the first is reception and the Harlequin Ballroom which had shows, a good bar and disc jockies playing through each night until after dawn had broken. This was also the area that contained Record Stalls (where I continued my on-going investments for the children's future inheritance)' From here it was on to the Mayflower Restaurant, where food and refreshments were available until the early hours of each morning, and an even larger adjacent 50's Vintage and Retro Market. Next along is the Blue Lagoon bar that was well stocked and stayed open until midnight each night plus hosted a cocktail party on the Saturday night where the ladies appeared in their magnificent finery. Finally, just across the way is The Starlight Ballroom which is where the main musical acts took the stage, again the heart beat of Hemsby.
Thursday night saw the first wave of live music for early arrivals. On this occasion, the rockin' was provided by three acts. The first was the Gloucester based trio The UXB, a reconstituted and even better Rob Glazebrook's Houserockers and finally the crowd pleasing psychobilly band Jack Rabbit Slim, lead by Bob Butfoy.
Friday, 8th October 2010 (that big beat keeps you rockin' in your sleep...)
Kat & K'9s (boat)
In the Harlequin Ballroom, Hemsby 45 really took off with a performance from the attractive and talented Kat along with her The K9's. The latter was lead on this occasion by rockabilly guitarist supreme Malcolm Chapman and this was a great show, especially on the number 'Hey Little Dreamboat'. They were followed by Hot Doggin', a relatively new band that comprised members of Paul Ansell's No. 9 both past and present. This was a great selection country tinged rockabilly, including selections from their new CD 'Back On The Road'.
Over in the main Ballroom, the opening act was the Spanish and German outfit The Obsidans, fronted by the delightful Ella. She possesses a powerful voice but the backing musicians played way too loud and she, at times, struggled to make herself heard on a selection rightly described in the programme as Frat House rock 'n' roll of the fifties and early sixties. They were followed by the great Art Adams, who on this occasion was backed by the aforementioned Jack Rabbit Slim. Art always gives 110% of himself and this performance was no different. By the third number, 'Dancing Doll', the sweat was pouring off him. He rocked out like there was no tomorrow and, on occasion had to overcome the style of the backing band who were not ideal for his brand of music. However, this did not really mar an otherwise great show as Art pounded out 'Juke Joint Johnny', 'Rock 'n' Roll Ruby' along with his own 'Rock Crazy Baby' and 'Indian Joe'. He really knows how to work the stage and vary the content ranging from the delightful 'Canadian Lady' through the relatively new 'Honey Girl' and 'The Truth' to a wild and abandoned 'Ubangi Stomp' and an excellent 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby'. With this fifth appearance at Hemsby, Art equaled the record held by Jack Earls.
Next up was Texas wildman Mack Stevens who was accompanied by the powerful and in keeping sounds of Rob Glazebrook's Houserockers. This combination provided nearly an hour of pulsating rock 'n' roll that never let up and was always entertaining. This was truly a wild and demonic act that was a delight to watch and listen to. There were many original songs contained in the set such as 'She Won't Come Back From The Back Of That Old Cadillac', complete with its NPC lyrics but who cared, this was Hemsby and this was Mack Stevens. Somewhere along the line, he sang a song complete with two live snakes draped around his neck who attempted to crawl up his arms. Like the preceding act, Mack gave his all and literally threw himself into the proceedings with straight in your face out and out rockin' of 'Crazy Mama', 'Let's Rock Tonight' and a superb interpretation of 'Save My Soul'. He inveigled some young ladies from the audience to participate at the appropriate moments on 'Scream' which ended up with Mack being trouser less. This was followed by an excellent workout on Jimmy Johnson's 'All Dressed Up' (appropriately with his trousers back on) before concluding -to rapturous applause - with 'Good Rockin' Tonight'. The final act for the night was The Rimshots who comprised, for this occasion, their original 1985 line-up. John Lewis's voice has lost none of its power and the rest of the guys had clearly retained their musical prowess. Once again, they demonstrated as to why they had come to be regarded as one of the top UK rock 'n' roll bands.
Saturday, 9th October 2010 (rockin' into orbit).
Levi Dexter (boat)
The day's proceedings commenced with jive lessons from Kav Kavanagh (once again proving that is the rock 'n' roll version of Bruce Forsyth on television's 'Strictly Ballroom'). In the Retro Market and the Record Dealers areas, all the stalls were open and going great guns. The afternoon also included live music from the Bonneville Barons duo and a jam set lead by the great Levi Dexter who stepped into the breach - and how - when the German band Little Neal & The Blueflames had to unavoidably drop out at the last minute.
In the Starlight Ballroom, the opening act was Slim Slip & The Sliders who were making their final performance before calling it a day as a working outfit. I came in towards the conclusion of the set, the band was playing loud and the crowd was going wild. The guys certainly went out in style but, judging from the audience reaction, I was left wondering as to how long it will be before they reform. The came a band that has the name of Johnny Cash Band - The Tennessee 3 that was lead by long time Johnny Cash guitarist Bob Wootton. In actuality, this is a six piece outfit comprising Wootton, his wife Vicky and daughters Scarlet and Montana on acoustic guitars, Lisa Horngreen on doghouse bass plus drummer Derrick McCullough. This group had the Cash sound nailed down to perfection and proceeded to plough the furrow created by the much missed artist. The vast majority of numbers were from the Cash songbook and there was not a duff rendition in the whole set. The excitement built layer by layer as the show went on for an astonishing 26 songs, with Wootton's voice sounding uncannily similar to that of Johnny and the rest of the band achieving that unique sound of The Tennessee Three. It is difficult to select certain numbers as all were preformed to a high standard but I must mention the treatment given to 'Big River' with its Chip Taylor atmospheric backing of thrashing acoustic guitars and the set piece routine of the ladies playing their instruments held high at specific points of the song - inspired stuff! Each daughter got to sing a song of their own, Scarlet with a great 'Wild Liar' and the young Montana sang a great 'Scream And Shout'. There was an amusing moment at the end of 'Jackson' when wife Vicky gave Bob a full blown kiss and the look of disdain on the two daughters faces was a joy. The compere at the eventual end of the set commented that this was the greatest reception given to any act at Hemsby. Not sure about that, but certainly the audience reaction was one of the best of recent Hemsbys'. Somehow I suspect that it will not be too long before the band are back in the UK again.
Vince & The Peaktones
Next up was Swedish band Vince & The Peaktones who were somewhat individualistic in that they had a back-up vocalist whose sole job was to sing whilst not playing any musical instrument. In addition, they had the piano player previously seen with the Eva Eastwood band in the line-up. They were skilled musicians and Vince certainly knew how to work the stage. His movements were parlayed into an exciting presentation and the selection of numbers was first rate in that it contained many tunes not normally performed at Hemsby. I cannot recall when I last heard the Tony Bellus song 'Robbin' The Cradle' sung live and oh so well. The tempos and stylings were expertly blended and included a very tasty 'One Sided Love Affair', and top notch 'Didn't It Rock' and an excellent treatment of the Ral Donner beat ballad 'Tears Of Misery'. This was a good mixture of rock 'n' roll and teen beat and did feature some original numbers such as 'Powerglide' and 'Cobra 289' - both of which went down a storm. All in all, another exciting Hemsby find. The close-out band for the night was Restless, one of the leading Neo-Rockabilly bands currently around. They have sold records by the bucket load but, for some inexplicable reason, have failed to chart despite selling at least 25,000 copies of their album on the Nervous label. Their calling card is the song 'Ice Cold', a near rockabilly standard. To sum up, they play loud and are popular.
Sunday, 10th October 2010 (the Rockin' Finale)
The Sunday commenced with the regular boot fair with a few bargains again to be had. Then, at the appointed time of 13:00 hours, a bunch of modern day pirates set off from the camp site to the nearby Norfolk Broads to join the boat for two hours of rockin' on the water organised by Andy Molineux and Liz Holt. Upon boarding the boat, we were greeted by Willie 'Captain Pugwash' Jeffery, the ropes were cast off and we rockin' from the go to records played by Wild Cat Pete.
Then came an excellent live set from Kat and The K9's. The bar had opened and the main brace was spiced so frequently that it was a wonder that there was not a cry of 'man overboard'. For Kat's second set, she was joined by the special guests on the boat. First up, we had Levi Dexter boppin' away very tastily on 'Oakie Boogie' and 'Baby Let's Play House. This was great music and Levi has charisma by the bag full. He was succeeded by wildman Mack Stevens who regaled us with 'Woman Love' and 'Sixteen Chicks'. Boy, he nailed the first number to perfection. The final guest appearance was by Art Adams who launched into hot rockin' with his calling cards, namely 'Rock Crazy Baby' and 'Dancing Doll'.
After further excellent songs from Kat and her boys, some more hot wax rom Pete, the boat rearmed to port, we disembarked and joined the waiting coaches to take us back the Seacroft Camp to freshen up and enjoy some more rockin' performances.
Back at the camp, there had been an afternoon jam session with Blue De Ville and a performance by The Groove Diggers, a band from the North East of England. In addition, there was the second round of Kav's Jive Lessons which was followed later that night in the main ballroom with a jive contest that left me wounded and breathless from just watching.
The evening's events in the main ballroom commenced with a performance by Rob Ryan's Road Show. Ryan hails from Nashville and for this date, was supported a a top notch German band. Like Levi Dexter, he has charisma in abundance and a great singing voice as well. Starting off with straight country songs performed well, he subsequently upped both the tempo and style and came on in the Ronnie Dawson mould. Ryan's treatment of 'Back In The Ground' and 'Rockinitis' certainly make him an act to watch out for in the future. The came what can only be classified as a let down. The Swingkings took the stage for a mercifully short thirty minute segment. Let's leave it at that.
However, they were back on stage a short while later to back Bobby Hendricks and came over like a totally different band. With Bobby leading the fray for his second Hemsby appearance, this was vocal group excellence and it was oh so good to see some doo wop back at Hemsby. Hendricks is a former member of The Drifters and it was from this group that he drew the majority of his material for this performance. His guy is a seasoned professional and he demonstrated his stage expertise and great voice in no uncertain terms. Opening up with 'Dance With Me' lead to further raids on the Clyde McPhatter and Drifters songbook with such as 'A Lover's Question', 'Under the Boardwalk', a sublime 'This Magic Moment' and a great 'Save the Last Dance For Me'. 'Drip Drop' saw a great falling to the stage crying routine whilst 'Ruby Baby' and 'Money Honey' really rocked. Sadly he did not feature his top rocker 'Cast Your Vote' but did include his own chart smash 'Itchy Twitchy Feeling'. He left the stage to loud and prolonged applause - he had certainly made a significant impact.
Regrettably, that was it for this Hemsby and a further return to the reality of these troubled times. However, there is next January to look forward to with the welcome return of top rocker Roddy Jackson. Then come May 2011, there is a great line-up for the next Hemsby to salivate over. Narvel Felts is back again and then there is the first time appearance of Texas originator Clyde Stacey and his original fifties guitarist John D. Levan. Then there are British rockers Roy Young and Howie Casey making their Hemsby debut. Other headliners include Si Cranstoun, Union Avenue and Crazy Cavan. Make a note of 13th through to 15th May 2011 in your diaries. For further information, go to web site www.hemsbyrocknroll.co.uk or MySpace.com/vivofhemsby.
© Tony Wilkinson
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