Did The Joint Rock!
Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Show No. 36
5th May to 7th May 2006.
The UK rockin’ season for 2006 is still reasonably young but the mouth-watering line-up for Hemsby 36 promised that we were going to be cresting on an early peak. This proved to be the case as there were some simply stunning shows during the three nights of rockin’. The Hemsby magic and excitement was clearly in evidence, especially on the Saturday night. Attendance was well up again and there were many European and Scandinavian dialects heard throughout the course of the festival. Record stalls, clothes dealers and all the normal peripheries associated with these weekenders abounded. This was to be the last Hemsby at its home for many years of the Pontins Leisure Centre as the event is relocating to new premises with effect from the October 2006 weekender but more about that later.
Friday, 5th May 2006 (what a flying start).
Opening act in the main hall was Dutch band Junior Marvel & his High Flyers who have been rockin’ away on the Continent since 1994 appearing at most of the big festivals. It was then time for the first of the American visitors, Bobby Crown from Fort Worth, Texas. His big song is of course the pounding ‘One Way Ticket’ and, as Bobby remarked from the stage ‘I’ve been riding on a one way ticket for forty five years now’. Whilst relatively immobile on stage, Bobby revealed that he possesses a strong voice and it is to his credit that he chose in the main to perform his own numbers or other relatively obscure songs such as ‘Sometimes’ which I believe was by Gene Thomas.. There were plenty of good rockin’ ditties such as ‘Bouncy Beat’, ‘Chicken Is The Bird’, ‘I Gotta Hurry’ and ‘I Think I’m Cool’. The pace was nicely varied with the likes of mid-tempo numbers like ‘Your Conscience’, ‘Lucky Lucky Me’ and ‘’If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go’. He included quite a few numbers from the recently released CD album of new recordings such as ‘Lover Man’ along with covers that he recorded way back when such as a sparkling version of ‘Henrietta’. At the end of his act after ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’, Bobby declared that he ‘used to be pretty-wild’ and dropped his trousers to reveal black boxer shorts with brightly coloured guitars printed thereon. Trouble is, he dropped his spectacles as well and so after the second, and good, performance, of ‘One Way Ticket’ he had to fumble about the stage gathering up his clothes, shoes and guitar. We got a good view of those boxer shorts, front and back. (He eventually found his glasses).
The second American visitor for the night was the maniacal Barrence Whitfield. The programme described him performing Little Richard/Screamin’ Jay Hawkins style rock ‘n’ roll and that neatly sums Barrence up. From the outset, it was straight in your face, no holds barred frantic screaming r ‘n’ r. Opening up with an instrumental by the excellent Hemsby House Band, it was straight into ‘Bloody Mary’ followed by ‘Rockin’ The Mule In Kansas’. It was time then for the high-pitched strangulated vocals on ‘The Girl From
Outer Space’ followed by the solid pounding beat of ‘Caveman’ with a bit of ‘Frieda Frieda’ thrown in for good measure. Barrett was throwing himself all over the stage and the backing musicians were playing away like crazy men on the likes of ‘Juicy Fruit’, ‘That’s Real’ and ‘Is it True’. The set continued without let up and bags of visuals, possibly too much so as the performance would have benefited from the occasional change of pace and a little less screaming. That said, I was in seventh heaven when Barrence launched into one of my favourite numbers, namely his version of Bobby Peterson’s ‘Mama Get Your Hammer (There’s A Fly On Baby’s Head)’. Crazy, insane but most enjoyable rock ‘n’ roll as was his version of Pretty Boy’s (Don Covay) of ‘Bip Bop Bip’. I was drained as the set closed out with ‘Stop Twistin’ My Arm’ and Big T Tyler’s ‘Sadie Green’ and so I can only imagine how Barrett and the band felt. This had been music at its ultimate high energy level. As a footnote: has anybody else noticed the close physical resemblance between Barrence and the recent UK chart topper Gnarls Barkley?
The closeout act for Friday was the seasoned and good rockers ‘Wild Fire Willie & The Ramblers from Sweden. They demonstrated why they have the deserved reputation as one of the best young bands on the circuit. This was good music performed with an authentic but modern style.
Saturday, 6th May 2006 (the rockin’ reaches fever pitch).
The first act that I caught this night was The Arousers who describe themselves as a surf band. Whilst I would describe their sound as more akin to the garage bands of the sixties from the Pacific North West, USA. They demonstrated first-rate stage presence and it was great to hear an un-amplified drummer. Highlights of a show that got better as it proceeded were ‘Out In The Street’, ‘Monkey Man’. Little Latin Lupe Lu’, ‘Louie Louie’ (done Paul Revere/Kingsmen style) and a truly marvelous reading of Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’. Lead vocals alternated between band members and the lead guitarist took it upon himself to jump off the stage into the audience still playing.
Opening act in the main ballroom was the Dutch outfit Lil’ Ester & The Tinstars. I raved about this band when I saw them previously and tonight only reinforced the opinion that they are simply one of the best Continental bands currently around. Lil’ Ester was previously with The Ranch Girls and has a powerful rockin’ voice. As for the Tinstars, they are pure magic, especially the lead guitarist with his James Burton/Joe Maphis Imperial Records sound and the guy on steel guitar had plenty of tasty licks as well. . Their brand of music is the honky tonk music of the late fifties/early sixties rocked up in their own styling. Opening up with ‘Gotta Go, Go Go’ the set was balanced in style and content. Particular highlights were the splendid rockin’ Buddy’, ‘Mercy’ ‘, Drugstore Rock ’n’ Roll’ and ‘Flame Of Love’. Other good numbers was a ere selection from the songbook of Skeets McDonald with ‘You’re Near Me’ along with Mercy’ originally by The Collins Kids and a real tasty workout on Zeb Turner’s ‘Ain’t Had No Lovin’. All the time the stage was full of visuals complete with exciting sounds. They ended up gaining a great reception.
Next up was a guy who I have been salivating for years to see, namely recording legend Carl Mann. Backed by his European touring band from the seventies/eighties (lead by Dave Travis), it was clear from the outset that here was a bunch of seriously good professional musicians who knew what was required - and then made a special delivery. Carl was in excellent voice as he commenced with ‘Ubangi Stomp’, followed by ‘Gonna Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonight’, ‘Baby I Don’t Care’ and ‘Ain’t Got No Home’. This was a fast moving show and Carl looked and performed like the true rock ‘n’ roll star that he is. This was classic music that really built as we were treated to the likes of ‘I’m Coming Home’, ‘South Of The Border’, ‘Rockin’ Love’, ‘Pretend’ and Mona Lisa’. It was also pleasing to see Dave Travis back on the stage and basically what was his Bad river Band with Eddie Jones on lead guitar and Howard Tibble on drums. Unfortunately the bass player had recently passed away and so the honours this night fell to the hard working Wayne Hopkins. I realised that I had missed the look of pain on Dave’s face as he played rhythm guitar and sang back up vocals – but hey, he even smiled a few times. On we rolled with classic Memphis music such as ‘If I could Change You’. Carl included his treatment of several well worn rock ‘n’ roll standards like ‘Kansas City’ and ‘Matchbox’ but they sounded fresh, such was the good vibes being generated. Mention must be made of the inclusion of two gospel numbers with ‘I Saw The Light’ and a marvelous ‘I Can Hear the Angels’. Near the end of his performance, Carl switched from guitar to piano and played standards such as ‘You Win Again’ and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ plus ‘Blue Suede shoes’. The last mentioned was the only song in the whole show that did not really work but in all honesty, by this time, he could have sung the telephone directory and still gained rapturous applause, he was that good. The set closed out with a marvelous rendition of ‘Look At That Moon’.
But then on came a man who went flat out to top show that with a cornucopia of blindingly good west coast style rock ‘n’ roll and here I mean Roddy Jackson. I had seen Roddy eighteen months previously and I raved then about how he pounded the keyboards into submission and belted out on the saxophone (not at the same time) as he gave a wild man performance. I wondered if he could top that show and on reflection, I believe he did just that. He was well served by the hard working Hemsby house band as he tore into ‘I Got My Sights On Someone New’, ‘Hiccups’ and ‘Moose On the Loose’. This was also a balanced show as he slowed down the pace with powerful beat ballads such as ‘Consider’ and ‘I’ll Forever Love You’. Then there were the simply marvelous performances of ‘Gloria’, ‘I Found A New Girl’, ‘Give A Little Love’ and ‘Love At First Sight’. There was supposed to have been a CD available of the tracks issued by Specialty Records along with powerhouse un-released material such as ‘Juke Box Baby’, ‘I Love Her Just The Same’ and ‘Give A Little Love’. Seemingly, the ownership of these tracks has recently changed in the USA and there is a (hopefully temporary) block on anyone licensing these tracks. He humorously related this story through the act but did perform the aforementioned songs plus a few such others. Roddy alternated between pumping the piano and playing the sax whilst singing real rock ‘n’ roll. This was pure excitement, one hundred per cent stimulating enjoyment , real seventh heaven stuff. Did I mention that he is a wild man? Oh boy, he was simply wonderful.
Before we go any further, mention must be made of the Hemsby House Band lead by bassist Wayne Hopkins. Other members included Paul Atkinson on drums, Clive Osborne and Alex Bland on saxes, Dan Edwards on piano and either Rob Glazebrook or Antonio Coni on lead guitar. They backed up all the visiting American headliners, apart from Carl Mann, and did a blindingly good job. They worked had, learnt the numbers and played well. Who could ask for anything more.
The evening closed out with yet another American band – and one with a good reputation – in the form of the four piece Hi-Strung Ramblers who are also west coast based. It was difficult to make a sizeable impact after what had preceded them but such is their potential, they held their own.
Sunday, 7th May 2006 (a rockin’ finish).
Early in the evening, there had been a show by Sweden’s Boppin’ Steve & The Ramblers that sadly I was unable to catch. By all accounts it was straight out of the Jerry Lee Lewis fifties school of rock ’n’ roll. However, I was there when Bobby Brown took the stage. Now this is the guy from Arkansas who was label mate to Larry Donn and Teddy Redell and is not the same gentleman who is married to the screaming diva Whitney Houston. Whilst looking an unlikely rock ‘n’ roller, it quickly became clear that here was a professional with a powerful voice and who knew how to use the boards. Starting off with a first rate version of the song ‘I Viberate,’ previously known from Conway Twitty’s first album, it was straight into his own ‘Please Please Baby ‘ followed by ‘Slippin’ And Slidin’ and Sonny Burgess’s ‘Mama Loochie’. This was great rock ‘n’ roll, southern style. Launching into ‘Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll’, Bobby had clearly read the audience, knew what was required and delivered. After mentioning Elvis Presley’s gospel roots, we had an excellent change of pace with the medley ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy/I get The Blues/Blues At Midnight’. Very tasty, virtually all the preceding numbers had been tunes that Bobby had recorded throughout his career as a professional musician.. Then came the big one, ‘Down at Big Mary’s House’ and it was a masterpiece. This was followed by his ‘New Bo Diddley’ (aka ‘Hey Bo Diddley’) and then for some puzzling reason, Bobby concluded his set with repeats of ‘I Viberate/Flying Saucers/Please Please Baby’. Sadly no ‘Bobby’s Blues’ or ‘Chicken Back’. He is one performer that I certainly wish to see again.
Hemsby has justifiably earned a good reputation for appearances by some of the top vocal groups – Jive Five, The Spaniels, Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs and The Five Discs readily spring to mind. Tonight we had The Velours but, sadly, they did little to live up to the aforementioned reputation. They were clearly not at one with the backing group that suggested a lack of rehearsal and their stage movements were not that well coordinated. To add to this, two of the singers sounded hoarse. The songs were a mixture of their own material and covers. In the former camp, we had ‘Where There’s A Will’, ‘This Could Be The Night’, ‘Remember’ and the classic ‘Can I Come Over Tonight’. These were, in the main, competently performed but, sadly, lacked that extra spark. The set was bulked out with their rendition of standards like ‘Devil Or Angel’, ‘Love Potion No. 9’, ‘Goodnight My Love’ and ‘Harbour Lights’. They concluded with an exciting treatment of the Jackie Wilson soul favourite ‘Higher and Higher’. This was not exactly a memorable show but, fortunately, it did little to detract from the otherwise great music that we had been witness to for the rest of the weekend.
I mentioned previously that the location for Hemsby was changing. Well, it is relocating to Hemsby Seacroft, sited just down the road from Pontins. I was able to have a look at the ‘new’ premises and my first impressions are most favourable. A well laid out, spacious and clean site with good facilities. When I spoke to the entertainment manager for Seacroft, it was clear that he is a rock ‘n’ roll fan, having previously been a musician himself. This all looks good for the October Hemsby when we shall be seeing Roy Head (hopefully doing his alligator crawl across the stage), Gene Summers, Rudy ‘Tutti’ Grayzell, Bobby Mansfield of the Wrens, The Deltas, Eva Eastwood, Wreckless , Travis Ledoyt, The Go-Getters and a whole host of other rockin’ acts. See’s you there….
© Tony Wilkinson,