RHYTHM RIOT No. 10
Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Rye, England
24th to 27th November 2006
This was the tenth year for the Rhythm Riot Weekend. In that time, the event has grown into one of the biggest celebrations of music from the forties and, especially. the fifties in the world. People attend from over the globe to watch and dance in any the three venues, to look over one of the biggest specialist vintage clothing market at any event in Europe, witness the classic car cruise, purchase goodies from the record dealers and generally join in the living of a unique life style. Boy, it is fun and for those with stamina, there is dance music until 5 am in the morning on each of the three days. Once again, the line-up looked exceedingly strong and so Mrs. Wilkinson, daughter Colinda and I found ourselves zooming across the barren Romney Marshes heading for the now customary selection of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, western swing, jump and jive, rhythm & blues and down-home dirty blues plus the anticipation of meeting up with friends from all around the world. The following review concentrates mainly on the happenings in the upstairs big hall but I shall attempt to cover other aspects of the proceedings
Friday, 24th November 2006 (we wuz rockin’)
The opening night was an international affair with acts from the USA and Europe stepping on stage. First to tread the hallowed Camber Sands boards was Cherry Casino & The Gamblers from Germany. These were five guys who served up rock ‘n’ roll songs in a jump jive manner, as well as mixing in some originals. In the former category, we had ‘My Baby Left Me’, ‘Call Me Shorty’ and ‘All Night Long’. This treatment was reasonably successful but it is always difficult for the opening act to break out as people are still arriving. After playing some numbers from their new CD, including the title ‘Let’s Play Around’, the set ignited near it’s conclusion with good versions of ‘Rocket 88’ and ‘Tear Your Playhouse Down’. This nicely set the scene for the UK’s Swing Commanders, a five piece band who treated us to a first rate mixture of rockabilly tinged western swing with a little R&B included in the pot. The band demonstrated great stage presence as they launched into ‘San Antone Rose’ with lashings of good steel guitar picking and a lady fiddle player bopping away tastefully on the stage. They followed on with fine treatments of ‘Blackberry Boogie’. ‘Across The Alley From The Alamo’ and an atmospheric ’16 Tons’. This was a fast paced show and the visual musical excitement was maintained with ‘Let’s Rock ‘n’’ Roll’, ‘Big Balls In Cowtown’, ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and ‘Six Pack To Go’. I really enjoyed an original and good treatment of ‘my Dear Mr. Shane’ before the band built it all back up again with ‘Take Me Back To Tulsa’ before climaxing with an excellent treatment of ‘Mystery Train’. To enhance the foregoing, I shall leave it that this outfit gained the seal of approval from Mrs. Wilkinson
The first American visitor, Little Willie Littlefield, was next up. Seated at a white lacquered grand piano, that thankfully was to stay for the whole weekend, he opened up his set with solo performances of ‘Everyday I Have the Blues’, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ ‘I Can’t Help It (taken at a real dirge pace) and an unknown (to this reviewer) boogie woogie instrumental. Members of Mike Sanchez’s band and Big Boy Bloater on lead guitar now started to join Little Willie on the stage and the set started to build up nicely with ‘Happy Pay Day’ and a tasty treatment of Ivory Joe Hunter’s ‘Since I Met You Baby. After ‘K C Loving’ (aka ‘Kansas City’) that rocked along, Mike Sanchez joined the set and took over the piano duties whilst Littlefield danced across the stage. Not bad for a 75 year young man. He evidenced an engaging personality and closed out with a pounding treatment of ‘Chicken Shack Boogie’. Lead piano duties on this were shared by Sanchez and Littlefield.
After a short break, Mike Sanchez returned to the stage and along with his group of musicians and singers treated us to a spell binding set. This full line-up is a complete revue in itself and the excitement built in layers. There were varying of styles of music ranging from the R&B ‘Down The Road A Piece’ to a top notch rockin’ ‘Saphire’ Sanchez has a brilliant band of musicians but special mention must be made of his lead guitarist Oliver Darling who at 21 years of age leaves most pickers standing. What a talent, and it is difficult to imagine his status in around ten years time. Also part of the Sanchez lineup is the stunningly beautiful Imelda May who possesses haunting vocal chords blended with fine stage presence. She lead the way strutting her stuff on ditties such as ‘Voodoo Vodoo’, ‘That Mellow Saxophone’, ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ and ‘Come Back Baby’. This set was really turning out to be a joy to both watch and listen to – the epitome of top rockin’ entertainment. Sanchez blasted out on ‘Be My Guest’, ‘Red Hot Mama’ and ‘Let The Good Times Roll’. Just as everybody thought that it could not get any better, we were served up with a superlative version of ‘Tallahassee Lassie’, truly rock ‘n’ roll perfection. The audience was yelling for more but that was it, a magnificent close out to a good night of music.
Saturday, 25th November 2006 ( a night of musical excellence)
Live music started at lunchtime, with the Brick Lane Boogie Boys in the small downstairs bar. These lunchtime sessions have grown, through the years, to become one of the highlights of the weekend and this set was no exception. The guys rocked through their set, featuring a whole range of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll and left the crowd baying for more. A hard act to follow.
Saturday night at the Rhythm Riot has become renowned for its full-on vintage glamour, and this year was certainly no exception. The vintage clothing, make-up and hairstyles on display were mind-boggling and that was just the guys. As for the numerous femme fatale, they made me feel distinctly young again - ladies I salute you.
For openers in the main hall, we were served up with the musical delights of the French band Little Lou & The Moonshiners. The singer is a very attractive young lady with a powerful voice and the remaining male members laid down a solid beat as Lou competently performed a tasty set of number such as Ruth Brown’s ‘I Wanna Do More’, Little Ester Phillips ‘Looking For A Man’ and LaVern Baker’s ‘Tiny Tim’. Clearly the band’s own fan club had journeyed over from France with them as there were multitudinous placards being waved about and part way through the set, a presentation was made to Lou. This actually all added to the fun and the group kept rockin’ with ‘Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean’, ‘You’re A No Good Lover’, ‘No. 9 Train’ and ‘Dirty Dishes’. Some of the closing numbers were a fine ‘Step It Up And Go’, ‘Strange Things Happen Every Day and ‘Mama, Well Bless My Soul’. Upon finishing with ‘Do The Rockin’ Bop’, members of the audience launched shoals of red roses on to the stage. They were followed by The Craig Shaw Combo. In contrast to the preceding act, this band produced a heavy guitar lead sound on songs such as ‘Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-Oh-Dee’, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’, ‘Long Time Gone’, ‘A Good Time Girl’ and ‘Boogie Disease’. The outfit came across as a good pub band.
Matters certainly changed with the next group on stage, the eight piece Big Jamboree from Spain. Supported by a big brass section and plenty of set piece routines, this was authentic jump jive with a powerful punch. Opening up with ‘Flying Home’, the set proceeded on with the likes of ‘Blood Shot Eyes’, ‘Write Me One Sweet Letter’, ‘I Need You’ and ‘Just Like A Woman’. For ‘Kokomo’ the male lead singer was joined by yet another attractive young lady. (This was all serving to make my hormones go rampant). With plenty of visuals, this was the definition of a high energy set.
The musical style changed dramatically for the next act, rockabilly originator Hayden Thompson. From the outset, it was straight into sharp, vicious rockin’ music that was bloody marvelous. Clearly the backing band lead by Big Boy Bloater had learned Hayden’s music well as ‘Love My Baby’, ‘Fairlane Rock’ and ‘ Blues Blues Blues’ have not been bettered on stage. Oozing confidence, in great voice and being quite animated, the rockin’ avalanche proceeded with ‘Gone Gone Gone’, ‘Susie Q’ and ‘Reelin’ And Rockin’. The last mentioned was served up complete with a fiddle player and this accorded the styling included on Hayden’s last album ‘Rockabilly Rhythm’. (Scheduled for early next year is a CD of new country music recordings by Hayden). By now, Mr. Thompson had the crowd eating out of his hand but he resisted the temptation to drop back on to medlies. He was clearly enjoying himself as he performed a powerful interpretation of ‘Ring Of Fire’ before returning to his Sun catalogue with ‘Mama Mama Mama’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘Rockabilly Gal’, the last mentioned had full audience back up vocals. The fiddle player returned to the stage for an interesting work out on ‘Boppin’ The Blues ‘ but departed prior to a full bloodied version of ‘Cheese And Crackers’. The set closed out with ‘That’s All Right Mama’ and ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, it had been a magical performance by Hayden.
More musical greatness was to follow with the next act, namely the great Lloyd Price, who was making his first UK appearance since 1992. At 73 years young but looking, singing and performing as a mere youngster, the blistering set took off straight away with ‘Stagger Lee’. The Rhythm Riot Kings Of Rhythm had been augmented to a ten piece band on stage, including a great brass section. Clearly all had taken the time and trouble to learn the numbers to be performed and this was evident in the musical output. Both Lloyd and his musical director Al Johnson confirmed to myself the next day that they had been impressed with the quality of the musicianship. All the number performed by Lloyd were from his days with Specialty and ABC Paramount Records, indeed he confessed that he had not performed some of the titles in over forty years. This was not apparent as we were treated to ‘Mailman Blues’, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, ‘I’m Gonna Get Married’, ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘Just Because’, it was all seamless excellence served up with total professionalism. The set continued on with ‘Little Boy Blue’, ‘Where Were You On Our Wedding Day’ and, a personal favourite, ‘Have You Ever Had The Blues’. It was oh so good to witness these numbers being served up as they had been intended by a true professional. Next came Lloyd ’s last ABC Paramount single, ‘Come On Home’ before the act concluded with his biggest seller, ‘Personality’. The audience demand was such that he had to return, encoring with a reprise of ‘Come On Home’. This had been a performance and half. Lloyd is still musically active in the USA and often performs in the company of Gene Chandler, Ben E. King and Jerry Butler.
Last band upstairs was Ray Collins’ Hot-Club. These guys have a reputation as being one of Europe’s hottest properties and are a period-perfect 8-piece outfit from Germany. Immaculately groomed, both visually and musically, they ripped through a marvelous set of jumping rhythm & blues, much of it self –penned, and had the joint rockin through ‘til 3.30am – unfortunately far too late for this aging rocker.
Whilst all this was going on in the main auditorium, the dance floor in the downstairs bar was busy with jivers doing their stuff to music played by some of Europe’s hottest DJs. In addition, The Lady Luck Room featured DJs, burlesque dancers and live music with a seedy Las Vegas lounge feel and, as last year, proved to be an attraction – but Mrs. Wilkinson quickly steered me in the opposite direction.
Sunday, 27th November 2006 (the rockin’ concludes).
The morning commenced with The Indoor Boot Sale which proved to be frenzy of buying and selling as thousands of vintage items changed hands. It amazes myself that many stay up through the night and still manage to get there in time to secure pitches or to purchase some of the goodies on offer. As background, a DJ played vintage gospel music. After that, it was time for another Lunchtime Session in the small downstairs bar. Performing was the thoroughly entertaining Stinky Lou and The Goon Mat who tore the place apart with a good set of up-tempo rockin’ blues. This French band is quite unique and the line-up comprised harmonica, guitar and a bass made from an upturned washtub and a broom handle with one string.
After that, attention turned to the vast array of Classic Cars which were cruising the site before heading off in an official convoy through the streets of nearby Rye. One of the Police outriders had even brought a Harley Davidson, resplendent with whitewall tyres, to lead the parade.
Come the evening and the downstairs small bar was temporarily turned into a swing club. I guess that this was somewhat akin to the Hot Club of Paris. French DJ Turky spun the discs and live music came from fellow countrymen The Gadjo Zaz Trio. Their gypsy swing sound was well received by the multi-national audience.
The first two acts in the upstairs main hall were Jumpin’ Up from Italy and The Ugly Buggy Boys from Belgium. Unfortunately, due to an over-running engagement elsewhere, I was unable to witness these performances but upon enquiring, the reactions ranged from ’not bad’ through to ‘bloody marvelous’. However, I was there for Eddie Bo, who to his credit, attempted to do something different in his act. He tried to recreate a New Orleans Mardi Gras scene down in Camber Sands but unfortunately, this failed to come off. After opening with ‘You Are My Sunshine’ it was into an over-long medley of ‘Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll/Land Of 1000 Dances/Flip Flop And Fly/Lucille and ‘Slippin’ And Slidin’. Eddie of course had the original version of the last mentioned when it was known as ‘I’m Wise’. There was then a protracted period of throwing Mari Gras beads to the audience before he sang ‘Big Chief’. This, in turn, lead to a Mardi Gras walk-about by Eddie through the audience, often stopping and dancing.. Only trouble was that the few close to him could actually see what going on. Upon returning to the stage, the foregoing was followed by a somewhat pedestrian interpretation of ‘Georgia’ before achieving some lift off with ‘Hard Times’. that Eddie closed out his act with ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ and Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu’.
However the next act, the marvelous Ray Sharpe, swept all before him. Starting off with ‘Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go’, the no nonsense blues drenched rock ‘n’ roll continued unabated with ‘Got To Find My Baby’ and ‘Boon Dock’ before settling on a riveting performance of Chuck Berry’s ‘Wee Wee Hours’. Ray plays his own lead guitar and he is a picker par excellent. This was amply demonstrated on ‘Oh My Baby’s Gone’ and ‘Monkey’s Uncle’. The last two numbers were dedicated by Ray to his late friend Ronnie Dawson. The stage was yet again a picture of pure professionalism and Ray mixed up the musical styles by performing the out and out blues ‘Man, You Gotta Have A Good Woman’ before launching into his own rock ‘n’ roll classic ‘Linda Lu’. The audience was cheering for more and so he returned and played a clearly unrehearsed version of ‘Stagger Lee’ that was great, despite the rough edges, before closing out his performance with ‘Fine Healthy Thing’. This had been quality rock ‘n’ roll music with a blues tinge. The final act for the festival was Carlos & The Bandidos who, resplendent in sombreros and Mexican-styled suits, worked through a solid set of rock ‘n’ roll, with more than a hint of The Champs influence. They certainly bought back fond memories of the late Chuck Rio. All in all, fun and a great way to complete three days of live music.
That was it, all in all, a marvelous weekender and probably the best Rhythm Riot yet. I am advised by the Promoters that the attendance was the largest thus far. This is truly an international event judging from all the various dialects and accents heard. It is keeping our music truly alive and vibrant. .
But start salivating for 23rd to 26th November 2007 as the announced headliners, so far, are Janis Martin, Dennis Binder (ex Ike Turner Band), swamp rocker Roscoe Chenier and The Legends Of DooWop featuring Earl Speedo Carroll, Eugene Pitt, Harvey Fuqua and Herb Cox. Telephone (0)20 8566 5226, fax (0)20 8566 2525 or contact the web site www.RhythmRiot.com for further information and booking details.
© Tony Wilkinson