The Hemsby Buzz Remains With Us
Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Show No. 39
11th to 14th October 2007.
Where does the year go to as it was once again time to put on those rockin’ shoes and head up to the shores of Norfolk for a further edition of the Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekenders – number 39 in the continuing series. Waving a smiling Mrs. Wilkinson bye bye (why was she so cheerful?), I arrived at the Seacroft Holiday Camp to be greeted by a sea of familiar cheerful faces and it was evident that the famous Hemsby Buzz was again clearly in evidence.
The facilities at the camp are in four main areas: The Trafalgar Ballroom which had shows and a disc jockey playing each night and had the Record Stalls (oh my poor wallet) and a 50’s Vintage and Retro Market located nearby. A short walk leads to Mayflower Restaurant, where food was available until the early hours of the morning. Nearby was an even larger 50’s Vintage and Retro Market adjacent. From here it is into the Blue Lagoon bar which was well stocked and stayed open until midnight each night and was a great location to chill out and have a chat to the many friends one had not met for the last six months. This was the where first Hemsby Cocktail party was held on the Saturday. Finally, just across the way is the Nelson Ballroom, the venue for the main musical acts, and containing its own bar, verily the heart of the rockin’ action.
One notable change this time was the absence of the customary meet ‘n’ greets session. I missed this and hope that it will be back next May as it is a great way to ‘break the ice’ and make new acquaintances. I admit to being somewhat skeptical about the strength of the line-up but thankfully, the weekend was enjoyment from beginning to end. Read on….
Thursday, 11th October 2007 (the rockin’ prelude)
The practice is for a disc jockey to play rockin’ discs, followed by a live act, then another jock and a live act etc. in both ballrooms (except that there is a late night record hop in the Trafalgar Ballroom until the dawn starts to break). Hemsby 39 kicked off in the Trafalgar Ballroom with three disc jockies and two live British bands, namely the Itchy Feet Trio and Midnight Shift. Whilst business commitments prevented me arriving until Friday, I am given to understand that this was a finet rockin’ start.
Friday, 12th October 2007 (the rockin’ starts in earnest.)
This Hemsby was bugged by a series of happenings that were totally outside the control of the promoters and it is to their credit that they managed to overcome these with seemingly apparent little difficulty, although I guess it must have been somewhat frantic behind the scenes. The first of these was the non appearance of headliner Alvis Wayne. Alvis had been bitten in his leg by a dragon fly a short while back in his native Texas and this wound became infected. The end result is that Alvis has had to have one leg amputated at the knee. I am confident that all will join in wishing him a speedy recovery. His backing band, The Sureshots, took over the slot and played a great set – certainly a vast improvement on the shambles of the performance when I last saw them backing Glen Honeycutt.
Next up was Ervin Travis & His Band. Here to, there were problems as two of Ervin’s band failed to turn up – it transpires that they had been involved in a serious car smash in France. Thankfully, they only suffered whip lash but their car was a write off. Dave Brown substituted on piano and the bass player from The Sureshots took over that instrument. Ervin’s own bass player adopted the lead guitar duties for the night – and he was bloody marvelous, fully capturing that Johnny Meeks Bluecaps sound and style. Ervin Travis, in case anybody does not know, bases his act on Gene Vincent. He and his band capture the feel, sound and look of a Vincent show brilliantly. If only all tribute acts were of this caliber. The set comprised mainly Gene Vincent songs such as ‘Lotta Lovin’, ‘Dance To the Bop’, ‘Yes I Love You Baby’ and ‘Say Mama’ and it was pure enjoyment to watch and listen to. Ervin has clearly studied available footage of Vincent in concert and has learnt every nuance for his performances. It is just like watching Gene on the stage again. On the ballads ‘Someday’ and ‘Over The Rainbow’, it was simply pure Vincent, magical moments. The fifty odd minutes of this performance also included ‘Dance In the Street’, ‘Right Here On Earth’ and ‘Blue Jean Bop’. Of course, a show of Gene Vincent’s music has to include ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ and, on this night, we had both the original treatment and the 1962 version. If I have to single out one number for a special mention, it has to be ‘Well I Knocked, Bim Bam’, simply breath-taking.
Ervin was followed by American visitor Nick Willett making his Hemsby return after quite a little while. Backed up by The Shufflers, this also was pure enjoyment. Nick previously could, with some justification, be accused of being an Elvis Presley clone in his stage act. However, he has now developed into being his own person, albeit he has considerably expanded his bases of influences. He has also mastered how to use the stage effectively and can now be classed as a top notch attraction. For sure, there remains traces of Presley in his delivery, but these now come across as pure ‘n’ natural Willett. He opened up with a sparking version of Charlie Rich’s ‘Lonely Weekends’ (just how often does one hear this neglected classic these days?) and quickly followed on with ‘Here Comes That Lonely Feeling Again’, ‘Ain’t That Loving You Baby’ and ‘Is It So Strange’. During his act, there were repeated raids on the Carl Mann songbook such as ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Pretend’ with ‘Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes’ done Mann style. Nick also included a gospel spot, the highlight of which was ‘The Man In The Sky’, simply a haunting a beautiful performance. He also went into the Conway Twitty repertoire for ‘Lonely Blue Boy’ segued into ‘Danny’, brilliantly nailed. Then there was the dive into the Presley songbook with the not often heard ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ and ‘How Do You Think I Feel’. A spotlight of his performance was ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ – but performed with a Buddy Holly ‘Peggy Sue’ beat, this really worked. My hat off to Nick Willett for a well balanced show, a must see again artist. In the USA, Nick is a member of the cast of ‘Million Dollar Quartette’, a show that is being developed for a hopeful debut on Broadway in New York.
Final act for the Friday night was the curiously named The Seatsnifers from Belgium. They have been on the scene for quite a little while and always please with their selection of songs played under the influence of Barrance Whitfield and/or The Blasters.
Saturday, 13th October 2007 (the rockin’ continues in earnest).
During the afternoon, Kav Kavanagh attempted to teach those with two left feet how to jive and in the Trafalgar Room, The Lonesome Valley Boys made the first of their two appearances along with the Topkats but, for the main action, one had to go over to the Nelson Ballroom with the second UK visit of the year by Art Adams who was accompanied by his long standing guitarist Bill Stewart. Bill had been off the scene for a little spell whilst battling cancer but, thankfully, he is now back with us picking ‘n’ grinning on stage. Backed up by the trusty Infernos, this proved to be a typical Art Adams show, i.e. non stop high energy rockin’ from beginning to end. I take my hat off to the man, he is a pure bundle of entertaining rockabilly dynamite. Launching into orbit with ‘Rocky Road Blues’, ‘Let It Rock’ and ‘Juke Joint Johnny’ (all included on his latest CD ‘Dancing Doll’ - Flying Saucer FSP1056), there was a balancing of pace and style with the haunting ‘Canadian Lady’. Such is Art’s popularity, this was his third Hemsby appearance and he ensured hopeful further visits with this show. He ranged through the whole gamut of rockin’ tricks in his show including dropping onto his knees still singing or rolling over on to his back, again still keeping up the vocals. In a word, this was a wild but totally entertaining show. The foregoing was clearly demonstrated on his calling card tunes ‘Dancing Doll’ and ‘Indian Joe’. During his performance, Art mentioned that he auditioned at Sun for Jack Clement but unfortunately (at that time) had not written either of the last two mentioned songs and so failed to gain a contract. Art also stated that he attended the funeral of the late, great and much missed Janis Martin. Seemingly, only he, Mart Brom and Rosie Flores from the entertainment world were at this sad event. Somewhat surprising considering this lady’s influence and all credit to this threesome. Also included in Art’s performance was a lovely version of ‘Sweet Dreams’, a top notch ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Ruby’ and ‘She’s Down In Tennessee’. A truly great show.
Then came the time for James Intveld, complete with his own American band (although the drummer is now based in the UK). This was to be the first appearance by James in Great Britain and as such, for the majority of the audience, was an unknown quantity. However, I have seen him twice previously during visits to America and was quietly confident that he would pull it of with the demanding audiences this side of the Big Pond – and that he did and then more. From the onset, it was evident that here was a very visual performer who knew how to work the stage and who was backed up by top quality musicians. Boy, did this show cook! James Intveld’s style of music is modern rock ‘n’ roll with a country tinge – I suppose an apt description is somewhat similar to that performed by Dwight Yoakam but with a decidedly harder rockin’ edge. His set consisted of a selection of original numbers such as ‘You And Me In A Perfect World’, ‘Nothing Can Stop My Loving’ and ‘Relentless’ with a few covers in the form of ‘Modern Don Juan’, ‘Blue Blue Day’ and ‘Rocky Road Blues’, but done Intveld style. Stage showmanship was evident throughout, an example being when the guitarist (who was superb) was picking the guitar strings whilst Intveld fingered the chords at the same time. I guess that a lot of nervous energy was the order of the day. Tempos of numbers varied from ‘One Sweet Letter’ through ‘Crying Over You’ through to the achingly beautiful ‘My Heart Is Aching For You’. ‘I’m Standing On A Rock’ bopped away like crazy and for the standing encores, James performed a selection of the numbers he recorded for the movie ‘Cry Baby’ and which, in the film, Johnny Depp mimed to. Somebody after this show remarked that he made many performers look like enthusiastic amateurs. Amen to that – and did I comment how good his backing band were….
Closing out Saturday was Sweden’s own Fancy Dan & The High Shouters who can best be summed up as frantic rockers.
Sunday, 14th October 2007 (the rockin’ finale).
Sunday morning saw the customary boot fair and my visit resulted in a much thinner wallet (and a bit of smuggling into the house when Mrs. Wilkinson was not looking.) whilst the afternoon saw the second rockin’ boat cruise on the nearby Norfolk Broads. This was a fun event organised by Andy Molyneux and Liz Holt. Leaving the camp on vintage double decker buses, the 100 trippers joined the boat for a two hour cruise after a short journey through quiet Norfolk villages and countryside. Records ere played by DJ Wild Cat Pete whilst live music was provided by The Lonesome Valley Boys. Art Adams, Nick Willet and Ervin Travis were all on board and each had to sing a few numbers or be forced to walk the plank. The weather was fine and the boat came complete with a bar – it was one of the most perfect ways to celebrate my birthday.
Back at the camp, Kav Kavanagh had held another jive lesson whilst Bill Fadden & The Rhythm Busters had kicked off the live music for the day. The first act in the main hall was scheduled to be Kick’em Jenny from Holland but, in a recurring theme, her Italian backing band had been involved in another bad car accident and therefore she had to declare a no show. This is a pity as Holland has a habit of producing femme rockin’ singers of the highest quality. Hopefully she will be able to make these shores before not too long. Her place on the bill was taken by another Dutch act, the fine rockabilly trio Mischief whom I have seen previously. They were good then and repeated this high level of rockin’ entertainment on this occasion. Featuring a considerable quantity of original material and a few covers, these guys made 45 minutes pass oh so quickly. I particularly liked ‘Driving Along In My Automobile’ and ‘Hello Blues, C’mon In, I’ve Made A Friend Of You’. All three of the band took their turn as the lead vocalist and so there was a nice varying style evident. Of the covers performed in their own style, ‘Hey Mae’, ‘Say Mama’, the Everly’s ‘Problems’ and the Burnette treatment of ‘Train Kept A Rollin’ worked real well. A nice enjoyable performance.
Next to tread the boards were The Keynotes, a UK band who were at the front of the rockabilly revival, who have been professional for 21 years but who made it bigger on continental Europe. To be honest, I have a problem with this band. For sure, it was evident that they were high caliber musicians who sang and played well. But it was their choice of material that I often failed to appreciate. Much of their set was in the style of The Gaylords or the Four Freshmen or even the Hi Los, i.e. pre rock ‘n’ roll era clean cut vocal group music. Take ‘Marie (the dawn is breaking)’ for example, more than competently performed but hardly rock ‘n’ roll. I shall draw a veil over ‘Volare’, ‘Mr. Sandman’ (done in true Chordettes style) and the self composed ‘Lonely Road’. As for performing ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’ Gaylord style, well that is a matter for a war crimes court. That said, when they rocked as on Roc La Rue’s ‘Baby Take Me Back’ or Larry Williams ‘Slow Down’, they were first rate. The lead guitarist nailed Dick Dale’s ‘Miserlou’ in no uncertain manner and got a rapturous reception (thought, how about Dick Dale as a Hemsby headliner?). As I said, mixed feeling on this outfit but I concede that I am in a minority as they were called back for four encores.
Close out act for this Hemsby were The Slapbacks from Australia. As their name suggests, three musicians without a drummer. Competent for sure but lacked that vital spark of excitement on numbers such as ‘Rockabilly Boogie’, ‘Bottle To The Baby’ and ‘Mean Devil Woman’. I would like to see them again in a couple of years time when they have a few more gigs under their belt.
Well, that was another Hemsby concluded, certainly good from an enjoyment perspective. We have number 40 to look forward to between 16th and 19th May 2008 at the Seacroft Holiday Site. Headliners include Sonny Burgess with two original Pacers, Dale Hawkins, Levi Dexter, the fine R&B outfit Ocean’s Seven, the original line-up of The Blue Cats and the excellent Carlos & The Banditos. See’s you there….
© Tony Wilkinson,