Rockabilly Hall of FameŽ Archives
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ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME

REVIEWS

Fri., 9 January '98
CHARLIE GRACIE AT THE TOWNHOUSE, ENFIELD (UK)
by Rod Pyke

Barry Dixon (Photographer) and I met as usual in the West End of London at noon, parked the car in Grosvenor Square and spent a couple of hours in the record and book shops in the area. It was a beautiful day in London with blue skies and temperatures of sixty degrees, almost double the normal for this time of year. At 2pm we headed on to Camden which has probably the best collection of shops selling second hand records in London. It is also the home of No Hit Records and Vinyl Japan. Our first port of call was to Sounds That Swing where we renewed acquaintances with owner Barney Koumis (Viva Las Vegas). Barney has one of the best shops for Rockabilly music and is a must for anybody visiting the area. Barry and I both made several purchases of records and books. We also bought our tickets for Curtis Gordon and the Rimshots who appear at Camden Town Hall on February 7th. Barney was pleased how the arrangements were going for the Viva Las Vegas weekender and was really looking forward to it. As time was limited we moved on to Tower Records, Out On The Floor, Rhythm Records and Compendium Books where several other purchases were made. We did manage to fit in a coffee in-between and get a new battery fitted for my camera.

The time came to move on and we headed off towards Enfield where we were to see Charlie Gracie perform at the Townhouse. It was the height of the rush hour in London now and traffic was very heavy. It really tested my knowledge of North London's Back streets to beat all the heavy traffic jams. We eventually arrived in Enfield at 6.15pm and parked up near the Townhouse, the venue for the show. We checked at reception if Charlie was around and were told he was expected at 8pm and that the doors would open at 9pm. This gave us the opportunity to get a meal at a local Pub Restaurant. and rest our tired legs. We made our way back to the venue at 7.50pm and enquired if Charlie had arrived and were told yes. Barry knows Charlie and his wife Joan very well and this enabled us to be allowed up into the hospitality area. When we got up there we found that Charlie was in the middle of an interview for BBC Radio. We waited about 15 minutes until he had finished. Charlie was surprised and pleased to see Barry and came over to us. Barry introduced me to him and Charlie invited us up to his dressing room to meet his wife and some other friends who were there. After negotiating the maze of corridors and stairways we got to the dressing room. There were about a dozen people in there including Charlie's wife, Joan and Class of '58 who were backing Charlie on his short tour. Also there I was introduced to Steve Aynsley, who is probably more familiar to everyone through his Gene Vincent/Blue Caps connections.

Charlie came to talk with me and asked me all about the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, he was really interested and I gave him a print out of his page which I had printed out prior to leaving home that morning. He was really pleased and grateful for all that Bob Timmers was doing and said he would donate a couple of songs for him for use on the proposed Hall of Fame CD. I spent several minutes also speaking to Steve Aynsley who has also agreed to do a page for the RAB HOF. We were then told that today was a very special day. It was Joan's birthday and a birthday cake was brought into the room and Joan cut it into slices and gave a piece to everybody. Barry and I had to decline as we had just eaten the biggest mixed grill imaginable at the Restaurant. I had a HOF T-shirt with me and I thought it would be a nice gesture to present Joan with a birthday present from us. She was really thrilled to receive it. Charlie said jokingly, "I have been singing and performing for over 40 years and Joan gets into the RAB HOF just for having a birthday". Charlie and Joan posed for the cameras holding the T-shirt. By this time it was now 9.20pm and the band had to get changed as they were due on in 10 minutes so we all vacated the dressing room and went down into the gallery area which was situated up above the back of the stage which gave a good vantage point.

A reasonable sized crowd had assembled by now and the dance floor was in full swing. Many of the Hemsby crowd were here and many old friends, Tony Barrett of Rockstar records and Ritchie Gee from the Tennessee Club to name but a few. Class of '58 were introduced to the audience and did a great set of Oldies. The trio of lead Guitar, drums and Upright Bass (played by a girl) did numbers by Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and many more. After their set Barry and I went downstairs to the main area to find a good vantage point to watch Charlie and take some photos. Barry had seen Charlie perform many times, but this was going to be my first viewing. At 10.45pm the band returned and everybody was ready for Charlie to appear and great applause broke out as he appeared on stage looking immaculate in his grey double breasted suit and tanned complexion.

He acknowledged the crowd and went into his first number, Just Lookin' and followed this with a favorite of mine Rock A Beatin' Boogie. The crowd were warming to him and his act continued with Go Man Go and the ever popular Wandering Eyes. After Head Home Baby he did a medley of Blueberry Hill and Be-Bop-A-Lula. Then came Ain't That A Shame and Blue Monday. The biggest cheer went up as his fans recognised the next song, Butterfly. His relationship with his audience was very warm and he wanted everybody to enjoy themselves and was encouraging them to come forward and dance. They duly obliged. The next numbers were Honky Tonk and Tootsie. Charlie then invited all the young lovers to dance to, I Love You So Much. Another of Charlie's greatest numbers followed, Fabulous. The excellent backing and harmonies by Class of '58 helped Charlie to perform at his best. The medley Rockin' Pneumonia and Talk Too Much was next up followed by my favorite number of his, 99 Ways. You could see that Charlie was really enjoying himself and wanting everyone else too. Next was Cool Baby followed by Guitar Boogie, which was breathtaking. Another great favorite of mine had Charlie getting audience participation with Heart Like A Rock. He finished his 75 minute set with a string of oldies including Stagger Lee and Sweet Little Sixteen and ended to rapturous applause from everybody. The crowd would not let him go and their persistent shouts of more encouraged him back for one more medley of old 50's numbers. At midnight he finally left the stage after a really professional show that only someone with forty years ofexperience could have put across. Why had I waited so long to see this legend, I will probably live to regret not doing so. One thing I did not realise about Charlie was that he is one hell of a guitarist. He can make that instrument talk.



Barry and I said our goodbye's to Charlie and Joan at 12.30am and will have great memories of another fabulous night watching another of our music's legends. Charlie Gracie is a warm, sincere, genuine person and a real gentleman.


Steve Aynsley with Charlie

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