RHYTHM RIOT No. 11
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Rye, England
23rd to 26th November 2007
To quote either Willie Nelson or Joe Simon, it is funny how time slips away. It hardly seems a year since the last Rhythm Riot but here I was once again heading across those windswept Romney Marshes for a weekend of hot hot music. In this eleventh year of this weekender, it was again evident that this is probably the world’s leading celebrations of forties and fifties music. The people congregating there literally hailed from all over this planet. I met people from Japan, Australia, America and simply oodles of boppers from the Continent. From the evidence on the dance floors, the jivers in those ‘classic’ rock ‘n’ roll movies from the fifties were put to shame. However, whilst the music is the prime focus, the whole scene is important. Apart from one of the biggest specialist vintage clothing market (complete with changing rooms) at any event in Europe and the specialist record dealers, there is also the classic car cruise to nearby Rye. In addition, there was a constant queue at the beauty parlor, hairdresser and barber. One of the important things about the Rhythm Riot is that the promoters constantly seek to provide new innovations. This year there was the opportunity to be a Dee Jay for fifteen minutes under the guidance of Wildcat Pete (and his comments later were that there were a few who have the potential to adopt his mantle), meet Vince Ray who is a world famous T-Shirt and album cover designer. Finally for this summary, there was a courtesy shuttle bus laid on to take people to Rye – but not just any bus as it was a fully restored 1956 Bedford coach – a service that was taken up by many. For those with stamina, there was dance music until 5 am in the morning on each of the three days. The following review, as usual, concentrates mainly on the happenings in the upstairs big hall but also attempts to cover other of the happenings.
Friday, 23rd November 2007 (the joint started to jump)
First act up was UK favourite The Houserockers fronted by the inimitable Rob Glazebrook. It is always difficult to be the opening act but these guys set about
launching this weekender off into orbit with a no holds barred rockabilly set. The band performed a selection of well chosen covers such as Sleepy LaBeef’s ‘All The Time’, Sonny Fisher’s ‘Sneaky Pete’ and Bob Doss’s ‘Don’t You Be Gone Long’. Lessening the impact was a sound system that was not quite there (but which was corrected for all subsequent acts). I found it somewhat amusing listening to Rob’s mid-transatlantic accent between numbers spiel as I know he hails from South London. It was good to hear ‘Swinging Baby Doll, ‘All Messed Up’ and ‘Take My Heart’ with the set closing our with a great mini Joe Clay tribute in the form of ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘Get On The Right Track Baby’.
Developing the international theme, the next performers were The Big Four from Holland and Belgium. Guess it must be due to metrication but there were five guys on stage. One unusual feature was the drummer was there right up front in the line-up whilst the singer doubled as the sax player. My hat is off to the Rhythm Riot organizers as up there on stage was a white mini-grand piano, not one of those electric contraptions that one normally gets these days. Call me old fashioned, but the sound emanating from a proper piano leaves the electrified versions standing. Basically, this outfit was a jump jive band that veered towards early sixties soul as the session progressed. I thought that the band was excellent as they varied the content and tempos from ‘One, Two, Three, Four’, ‘Rocket To The Moon’ through ‘Fever’ to ‘The Pink Panther Theme’. For yours truly, the last number really worked. The sound produced by the band was great and they demonstrated that they were quality musicians on the Ray Collins ditty ‘Knockout Boogie’ plus the tunes ‘Hot Barbeque’ and a truly rousing ‘Bim Bam’. A band to see again, that’s for sure
Then came Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne making his third Rhythm Riot appearance. This guy can truly be regarded as a discovery for this weekender. Whilst hailing from the USA, he is based in Canada, but from the style and content of his set, one would be forgiven for having thought that he was a New Orleans resident. He is a great boogie piano player in the best Fats Domino tradition and received magnificent support from the Rhythm Riot Kings Of Rhythm lead by the ubiquitous Big Boy Bloater. Kenny was deputising for the ailing Roscoe Chenier - but it was great to see him perform again. Get this schedule. On the preceding Wednesday night, Kenny was playing a show in Hawaii. He arrived in the UK on the morning of this performance and the next day, he was jetting off to Vancouver for another gig. As the programme stated, that is dedication. Verily flamboyantly dressed in a red suit with matching shirt, shoes and hat, he launched into ‘Nadine’ (not the Chuck Berry song) and then pounded the 88 keys into submission with ‘Blackberry wine’ and ‘Toogie Woogie’ before slowing down the tempo with ‘Blueberry Hill’. Next came a song I believe was titled ‘Roll Roy’ but there is no doubt that ‘My Toot Toot’ followed. During this song, Kenny undertook a second line walk through he audience followed by two sax men. A thoroughly enjoyable set closed out with an extended workout on Fats Domino’s ‘La La’, a number that one does not hear too often. The final act for this night Daddy Rebel’s from Italy. The music continued in this hall until 5.00 am with sets from DJs Big Bob and Flo.
Saturday, 24th November 2007 ( the rockin continued with some bum ‘n’ grind thrown as well)
Live music started at lunchtime with Ponchartrain, a UK based band including Pete Goddard and (ex Rimshots) John Lewis in the line up with a Cajunish inspired rockin’ set. This happening took place in the downstairs Queen Vic Pub - but rechristened The Honky Tonk Bar for the event. These lunchtime sessions are immensely popular and, for many, is the highlight of the weekend.
As is the custom, Saturday night at the Rhythm Riot is the time for the ladies and gentlemen to strut their stuff, dressed in vintage glamour. This year was again no different and the outfits and hair styles in evidence in the main hall were a joy to these eyes. It certainly made this ol’ man feel frisky again.
For openers, Pete Anderson, with his own band of great musicians, served up a straight in your face exceptionally good rock ‘n’ roll set. Pete and the guys hail from Latvia, which, in the late fifties, was under the domination of Russia who banned decadent rock ‘n’ roll music. However, Pete and others got to hear rock ‘n’ roll from radio broadcasts such as The Voice Of America. Apart from a few smuggled in discs, they could not get their hands on copies of rock ‘n’ roll wax. Somebody in Leningrad came up with making pirated copies on used x-ray film. This could be cut into shape and then a crude cutting machine could engrave the rockin’ grooves into the soft plastic. However, more often than not, the skeleton on the original source material remained and thus they became known as ‘on-bones’ records. Such discs managed to find their way to Pete Anderson.
Fast forward to 2007, and the leading light in Latvian rock ‘n’ roll was on stage showing all that he and his band had absorbed these influences well and were capable of making music as good as from anywhere else in Europe. Leading a six piece band that included a great sax player straight our of the Rudy Pompeii mould and a guy who could really pound the piano keys, it was into ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘Stood Up’ and ‘You Never Can Tell’. All remained faithful to the spirit of the original recordings but, at the same time, were enhanced by the band’s own style and interpretations. The band demonstrated their competence with a superb workout on the instrumental ‘Calling All Comets’ before Pete returned to the stage for the original ‘Crazy Rhythm’ and a stonkin’ ‘Pink Cadillac’. The set continued in this fashion, a mixture of covers, a couple of originals and a splendid piano instrumental titled ‘Boogie Jean’. It closed out with ‘Rip It Up complete with Little Richard style vocals and Bill Haley inspired backing plus a fine ‘Jambalaya’. This is a band that I shall go out of my way to see again.
Next up was a trio of young musicians from Sweden by the name of The Domestic Bumblebees. Looking just like rockabillies, I was not expecting the high quality Elmore James inspired blues based music that came from the stage. This band was good, no question, especially on numbers such as ‘Let’s get High’ and ‘Shake and Roll’. I understand that they are scheduled to play at some of the weekenders throughout Europe in 2008. Make a point of seeing them, they are recommended. They were followed by Les Spikebones from France. Their style of music is a mixture of cajun colliding with western swing. Enjoyable, their set was full of enthusiasm, especially on ‘Pistol Boogie’ and ‘Keep A Light Shining In Your Window’.
Dennis Binder, backed by the Houseband then came on stage. Dennis is a very well preserved guy in his late seventies and had recorded for Sam Phillips in the early days of Sun Records and then joined Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm. The band started playing and we heard the vocals on ‘Everybody Sings the Blues’ but no Dennis. Eventually, he strolled on to the stage, still singing but with his arm around a very attractive young lady. What an entrance. This was followed by a different treatment of ‘Lucille’ before Dennis played the introduction to ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ on the piano prior to taking centre stage again. This was followed by ‘You’re Something Else’, a great ‘Big Legged Woman’, ‘I Need You So’ and ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Messing Around With Me’. It was evident that Dennis was changing the set around as he went on and spent time directing the band on several occasions. He commenced ‘Way Down Here’ and walked off stage singing. He then reappeared from the other side of the stage still vocalising. A couple more tunes followed before he launched into ‘We’re Gonna Rock’ and had the two sax players follow him around on the stage in a second line routine. This had been good rhythm ‘n’ blues music more that competently performed but one was left with the feeling that, if there had been more rehearsal with the band, this could easily have been stupendous.
Unfortunately, the Four Legends Of Doo Wop were reduced to three with Herb Cox of The Cleftones unfortunately being poorly. Still, we did have Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five, Earl Carroll of The Cadillacs and Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows joining forces on the stage, each singing the songs that he is justifiably famous for, with the others acting as back up vocalists. Great concept . As a scene setter, they sang ‘Money Honey’ before all taking the turns at lead on ‘No Chance’ and then Fuqua took the lead for ‘Sincerely’. Unfortunately, this degenerated into an audience sing-along as he got various members of the audience to sing lead. However, the powerful voice of Eugene Pitt then took over for the lead vocals on ‘I’m A Happy Man’ and this really worked. With Herb Cox missing, Earl Carroll took over his role on ‘For Sentimental Reasons’ whilst both Harvey and Eugene shared the honours on ‘Seesaw’. The enjoyable music and good fun continued with Earl on ‘Gloria’ before a three song set by Eugene Pitt on ‘Little Girl Of Mine’, ‘My True Story’ and ‘Under the Boardwalk’. As stated, he possess very strong vocals, so much so that (at times) he overshadowed the other two. Still, Harvey took centre stage on ‘Ten Commandments Of Love’ before Earl launched into ‘Speedo’. For an encore, we were treated to ‘Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go’ with lead by Eugene who, on this performance demonstrated that he is a natural successor to Hank Ballad. I really enjoyed this show.
For the final act in the main hall, we had the French band Stinky Lou & The Goon Mat. Take one guy on amplified one string upturned wash tub bass, another handing the lead vocals through a harmonica microphone whilst playing the guitar and drums at the same time and with the third member, who had his arm in a sling, playing a maniacal harmonica and jumping around like a mad man. Turn the amplifiers up to Link Wray level of discordance and what you get is total inspired blues based excitement. Actually this outfit played last year’s Rhythm Riot but in one of the midday slots. Such was their impact then, they were back again by popular demand. No doubt about the great reception again this time – hopefully catch them again next year.
Before we leave Saturday night, mention must be made of the happenings downstairs in the Queen Vic Pub. Renamed as The Lady Luck Room, it featured various DJs playing really obscure and different music. There were also two burlesque shows featuring Polly Rae and Ruby Blues. Now, strictly in the interests of trying to get an overall balanced review for you, the reader, I attempted to pop in and watch their routine. Unfortunately the joint was full to capacity and so I was unable to gain admittance. Consequently, I am unable to advise as to what was causing the cheering (darn it).
Sunday, 26th November 2006 (the rockin’ concludes – and how!).
The morning commenced with The Indoor Boot Sale which again was a whirlpool of buying and selling as multitudinous vintage items changed hands. As background, DJ Smokey Joe played shopping music. After that, it was time for another Lunchtime Session in the Queen Vic Pub with the clever title of ‘Blues From The East Sussex Delta’ and featured Little Victor (from Outta This World). Following on was the previously mentioned Classic Cars Cruise in a convoy through the streets of nearby Rye. Such is the popularity of this that members of the public line the High Street waiting for the cars to pass by (and not merely to avoid getting run over).
Come the evening, the Queen Vic Pub took on yet another guise and was temporarily turned, like last year, into a swing club. This was an all French affair with DJ Flo spinning the discs before and after a set by the Smokey Joe Combo.
The first two acts in the upstairs main hall were Juke Joint Jump from the UK and Boogie Machine from Finland. Unfortunately, due to having to dash off to first grandson’s christening, I was unable to catch their performances (I had to go if Mrs. Wilkinson was ever going to let me in the house again). However, the reactions ranged from ’good’ through to ‘worth leaving home for’, especially for the latter who were described as a good rock ‘n’ roll band with rockabilly overtones.
However, I was there for Sugar Chile Robinson backed up by the Houseband. One of the facets that make the Rhythm Riot so good is that the organisers constantly seek out and book the unexpected. Such is the case with this act. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see, on the stage, an act who was big as a child prodigy boogie woogie piano player between 1946 and 1953 and who was one of the bill toppers at the London Palladium for three weeks in 1951. He basically retired from performing in 1953 and returned to college to complete his education, graduating in 1960 with a degree in psychology. From there, he joined his uncle in the latter’s chiropractor business until the uncle died in 1992. However, Sugar Chile did dabble in music and ran his own Lendo, Lando and Autocap labels. Since his retirement, he has played piano and organ in church although he has performed at a couple of Detroit blues festivals in recent years. Opening up with ‘After School Blues’, it was evident that he was a superb piano player but that he lacked stage charisma. The band was clearly not sure what was coming next, certainly as he played ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and a classical piece. The set included ‘Numbers Boogie, ‘Whop! Whop!’ and ‘Caledonia’. On the final number, a rousing boogie woogie instrumental, he and the band really got it together in no uncertain manner. This was excellent and one could only wish that it had been like that all the way through.
Deputising for the late, and much missed, Janis Martin was another key board pounder and sax player, the great Roddy Jackson. This made the fourth time I have seen Roddy play and was easily the best yet. This man has unbridled talent and is oh so professional. Opening up with the crowd pleaser ‘I’ve Got My Sights On Someone New’, the wild rockin’ continued with ‘Moose On the Loose’ and then slowed down a trifle for ‘Any Old Town’. He was driving the Houseband hard and clearly inspiring them to great heights. Roddy spoke a moving and sincere tribute to Janis Martin before returning to the music. The set continued with a full out rockin’ in the shape of ‘Hiccups’, ‘I Found A New Girl’ and beat ballads such as ‘Gloria’ (not the Cadillacs song). It was at this point, he left the piano (the first rate player with the Houseband took over) and picked up the sax. Here we had full throttle rock ‘n’ roll with three blaring saxes, pounding piano, great guitar and top notch drums and upright bass work as they worked out on ‘Love At First Sight’. Roddy then made mention of a new album that he is to record, many of the songs will be those he wrote back in the fifties and sixties. One such number was ‘Johnny’s Last Ride’ and another was ‘Consider’. With tunes such as these, the potential for a corking album is there. The wild and frantic (but controlled) rockin’ continued with ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Don’t You Do Me This Way’. He came back to tumultuous applause and sang the personal favourite ‘Juke Box Baby’ before reprising ‘I’ve Got My Sights On Someone New’. Sadly it was then all over but the crowd were stomping their feet, cheering like there was no tomorrow. This was the loudest and most sustained applause of the whole festival and I guess that he will be back in the UK before not too long – sincerely hope so as he is one of the best rockers on the circuit today.
The live music for this weekender closed out with a performance by King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys. They simply have to be the jump jive equivalent of Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers. ‘Nuff said.
That was it, all in all, a most enjoyable weekender. I am advised by the Promoters that the attendance was well up to previous levels and this is a truly an international event judging from all the various dialects and accents heard.
No headliners have been announced for Rhythm Riot 12 as yet but I do know that negotiations are well advanced with several top acts. Check out for details by telephoning (0)20 8566 5226 or contact the web site www.RhythmRiot.com for further information and booking details.
© Tony Wilkinson