Monday, March 18, 2019

A brief history of Californian Rock




During the 50s, Nashville was the centre for Country and Western Music but some young musicians in Bakersfield California, took exception to the over produced pop sounding country music coming from Nashville (Jim Reeves etc. ) and started to play more gutsy country music with straight forward lyrics, sharp staccato guitar riffs and pedal steel guitar solos. Influenced by Bob Wills, their music was a melting pot which drew from all forms of traditional American music including country, jazz, blues, and folk.


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The pioneers of this new country music were dubbed “Outlaw”, and included Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.


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About the same time, Californian surfer, Dick Dale was experimenting with reverberation using custom made Fender amplifiers. He wanted to electronically reproduce the sound he heard in his ears when surfing. Californian surf music was initially instrumental with surf groups like The Chantays (Pipeline), and The Surfaris (Wipe Out), but when the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean introduced close harmonies the style of music became instantly identified as Surf Sound.


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Californian Surf Sound had fleeting success because the British Invasion overtook the American charts in 1964. This did not stop LA from becoming the rock and roll recording centre of the US in the sixties and seventies with all the big record companies on Santa Monica Blvd and Sunset Strip. Californian musicians reflected the new trends and a Beatlesque approach mixing both folk and rock. The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield came to the fore playing lighter music whereas heavier rock was championed by The Doors, and Love.


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By the end of the decade, Frank Zappa (Mothers of Invention) and Captain Beefheart were at the forefront of experimental rock.


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As musicians moved and bands metamorphosed, The Eagles, Poco and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young emerged and singer song-writers like Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell flourished in LA.


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Meantime in the neighbouring city of San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury had become the Mecca for hippies. The Mamas and Papas and Scott McKenzie had set the scene but when the Lovin Spoonful with their version of jug music came to play they influenced a new movement of psychedelic music.


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Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead (formerly The Warlocks) used complex harmonies and improvised jazz style.


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Sly and the Family Stone, almost single handed, introduced Funk music and Carlos Santana started to blend rock, jazz, funk and Latin music to give a new Afro-latin rock.


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The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Doobie Brothers meantime came up with new revivals of rock and blues.


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By the 80s metal music had gripped Sunset Strip and bands like Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe were at their peak.


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The end of Californian rock followed in the 90s when once again, the popularity of British pop and Grunge music took hold.




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Worth a listen:
Merle Haggard
Sing a sad song (1963)

Buck Owens and the Buckeroos
Act Naturally (1963)

Dick Dale
Lets go trippin (1961)

The Surfaris
Wipe Out (1962)

Beach Boys
Surfin USA (1963)

The Byrds
Tambourine Man (1965)

The Doors
Riders in the storm (1971)

Joni Mitchell
Yellow Taxi (1970)

Mamas and Papas
Californian Dreamin (1968)

Sly and the Family Stone
Dance to the music (1968)

Santana
Black Magic Women (1970)

The Band
The weight (1968)

The Eagles
Take it easy (1972)

Poco
Pickin' Up the Pieces (1969)

Crosby, Stills, Nash
Marrakesh Express (1969)

Jackson Browne
Doctor my eyes (1972)

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
Peaches en regalia (1969)

Captain Beefheart and his magic band
Moonchild (1966)

Creedence Clearwater Revival
Proud Mary (1969)

Doobie Brothers
Listen to the music (1972)

Quiet Riot
Its not so funny (1977)

Mötley Crüe
Dr Feel good (1989)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Patsy Cline (1932 - 1963)





Born in 1932 and christened Virginia Patterson Hensley (the family called her Ginny), she came from Winchester, Virginia and she signed her first contract as a country singer in 1953 aged 21 years. She took her stage name (Cline) from her first husband and "Patsy" was a suggestion from her friend Bill Peer, who helped her in the beginning of her career. To begin with Patsy sang rockabilly and would throw in the odd yodel and growl when she sang but it became obvious to all that her voice was best suited to pop/country crossover. Country’s gain was of course dancing’s loss and when Patsy was young she very interested in a career as a dancer with Shirley Temple as her hero. She contracted rheumatic fever which left her with a booming voice which thankfully she put to very good use. Patsy's career spanned eight years and she was with two record labels and recorded 100 tracks. She recorded with Four Star Records from 1955-1960 and then with Decca Records from 1960-1963. ‘Walking after midnight’ was her first big hit and by 1960 she became a mainstay on the country music showcase Grand Ole Opry.


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Patsy's big break came when she won an Arthur Godfrey Talent program in 1957. When the record was released it was an immediate success. Much of the popular attraction of Patsy music was due to her producer Owen Bradley. He had moved traditional country music to a more radio-friendly format by adopting pop production and songwriting techniques. Steels guitars and fiddles complemented piano, backup vocals, and strings blended smoothly with strong vocals. Patsy found a place for her booming singing style. They continued to work together, even after Patsy changed recording labels. During the Decca years she was much freer and able to choose the songs she recorded. Her first choice was "I Fall to Pieces," with backup vocals by The Jordanaires, no less. Needless to say it reached number one in the country charts and number 12 pop charts. This was the first of several country-pop crossovers she was to enjoy over the next couple of years.


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Whilst enjoying her fame in 1961, Patsy Cline and her brother were involved in a near fatal car accident. As a result she was permanently scarred on the forehead and wore wigs to cover her scar for public performances. While recovering in hospital, the singer heard a version of her hit record sang in tribute by a new country singer, called Loretta Lynn. Immediately Patsy dispatched her husband to fetch Loretta to her hospital bed, and this was the beginning of a very beautiful friendship. One of Patsy's biggest hits, "Crazy", was recorded just after she was in the car accident, and they spent about 4 hours in the studio with that song, which was a lot in those days, but Patsy couldn't hit the high notes due to the pain from a broken rib. So the musicians went ahead and did it without Patsy, and she went home to rest, and when she came back two weeks later, she did the song in one take.


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Long gone were her cowgirl outfits and now her stage outfits were more conventional as her appeal widened. Coping with challenges in her private life, her second marriage was dissolved and her weight blossomed. The singer's lifestyle changed and she was reputed to have had a torrid love affair with Faron Young. Despite a punishing schedule of professional engagements and in severe weather Patsy could not resist helping out with a benefit concert in Kansas City held for the family of a local disc jockey Cactus Jack who had died. The story is all too familiar, against meteorological advice a small plane took off in very poor weather. The plane came down in Camden, Tennessee and the actual cause of the crash remains unknown but the result is all too evident, Patsy and her travelling companions did not survive. Patsy died on March 5, 1963, along with three other country singers Hawkshaw Hawkins, Randy Hughes, and Cowboy Copas. Patsy Cline's manager Randy Hughes was the pilot and he too perished. The tragedy did not end there and country singer, Jack Anglin died in an automobile accident while driving to her funeral.


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In her too short life, Patsy achieved many honors that most entertainers only dream of. She was a member of the hallowed Grand Ole Opry and had many hits on both the country and pop charts. Ten years after her death, Patsy Cline was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973, the greatest honour bestowed upon a country singer. She was the first woman to receive this honour. Sweet Dreams (1985) was bio-pic starring Jessica Lange as Cline and her character, played by Beverley de Angelo, also features in Coalminer’s Daughter (movie about Loretta Lynn).


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There are many books on her life and collections of her music which still sell well. “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” was a musical which originated in Canada in the 1990s and originally starred Louise Vallance as Cline. One of the most critically acclaimed tributes to Patsy Cline was Ted Swindley's stage musical production, "Always... Patsy Cline" starring Mandy Barnett and Tere Myers, which ran for several years and the show’s success in Nashville prompted a traveling show which received even more rave reviews. There is no evidence to support either show has been presented in Australia. There was a song Patsy was to record had she got back to Nashville but after her death, no artist not even her best friend Loretta Lynn wanted to record it. The song went unrecorded for over thirty years, until a young country singer was offered the chance to sing the song. To honour Patsy Cline her producer asked the artist to try to sing the song in Patsy Cline's style. Blue became LeAnn Rimes first #1 single.


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Worth a listen:
I Love You, Honey (1956)
Walking after midnight (1957)
I Fall to Pieces (1961)
Crazy
Just a closer walk with thee Patsy Cline

LeAnn Rimes
Blue

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band ("The Bonzos")




The Bonzos were formed in 1962 when Vivian Stanshall (1943 -1995) and Rodney Slater became friends. Rodney Slater (saxophone) had been playing trad jazz in a college band and their preference was for the more orthodox sound of The Alberts and The Temperance Seven. The band line-up was complete with Viv Stanshall (tuba, but later lead vocals along with other wind instruments), Chris Jennings (trombone), Tom Parkinson (sousaphone), Roger Wilkes (trumpet) and Trevor Brown (banjo). Being Art students Dada was the in-thing and reference to it would have to be in the band’s name Bonzo the dog was a popular British cartoon character created by artist George Studdy in the 1920s and so the group were called the Bonzo Dog Dada Band.



Later Dada became Do Doh and the group entertained with a combination of elements from music hall, trad jazz, psychedelic rock, and avant-garde art. Like a proverbial concertia the bands numbers grew and fell in quick succession. Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell and Neil Innes (piano and songwriter) joined their ranks as the original drummer, Tom Hedges was replaced by Martin Ash (aka Sam Spoons). The Bonzos got their first pub gig and were spotted by artist and inventor Roger Ruskin Spear. Spear joined the group as resident performance artist and gadget maker. More lineup changes came when Roger Wilkes and John Parry (trombone) were replaced by Bob Kerr and "Big" Sid Nichols. "Legs" Larry Smith joined in 1963, as a tuba player and tap-dancer (he later played drums). The Bonzos were a popular novelty around the UK pub and college circuits until eventually they signed with Parlophone Records in 1966. Their first single "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies" / "I'm Going To Bring A Watermelon To My Girl Tonight" was considered too risqué for radio.


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Their follow up single "Alley Oop"/"Button Up Your Overcoat" also met with much radio indifference.


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Keen to break away from the stereotype of The Temperance Seven and The New Vaudeville Band and establish themselves in fun rock. The Bonzo took the bold step and changed record labels. Their first release with Liberty Records was an excellent album called Gorilla.


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The album contained a mixture of satirical songs like "Jazz, Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold" which was a savage parody of "trad" jazz in the UK, plus surreal ditties. The majority of the tracks were written by Neil and Viv.


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They surpassed themselves with a gem of a title track entitled "The Intro and the Outro" in which every member of the band was introduced and played a solo. As the song progresses imaginary members of the band are added to hilarious effect.


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"I'm the Urban Spaceman" was somewhat of a surprise hit single in 1968 for the Bonzos. The track was produced by Apollo C. Vermouth (aka Paul McCartney and Gus Dudgeon) and its commercial appeal was obvious and brought the group to the attention of the general public. The Bonzos were a favourite of fellow musicians like Stevie Winwood (Spencer Davis Group and Traffic), Keith Moon, Captain Beefheart and Paul McCartney. The group also appeared in Magical Mystery Tour performing "Death Cab for Cutie."


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Their on-stage bazaar antics had not just appeal to the student fraternity but also a younger television audience and the group were asked to become a resident feature on a children's television programme called Do Not Adjust Your Set.


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The Show also featured Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin who would go on to become Monty Python's Flying Circus. David Jason (Open All Hours, Fools and Horses, and Frost) was also in the cast. Unlike the Temperance Seven and their clones the Bonzos’ songs parodied parochial suburban British attitudes and were very much in keeping with the satirical times of the 60s when “That was the Week” Attitude prevailed. Their international appeal was however limited but they did tour the US with The Who and appeared at the Fillmore East with The Kinks. They were not without influence on US culture however and Neil Innes was particularly successful with Eric Idle and George Harrison in the spoof, The Rutles.


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The group broke up in 1970 but did come back to make an album a year later. Subsequently there have been several reunions with surviving members and many notable comedians and musicians joining their ranks.


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Worth a listen
My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies (1966)
Alley Oop (1966)
I'm the Urban Spaceman (1968)
Mr Apollo (1968)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Dusty Springfield (1939 – 1999)





Dusty Springfield was born in 1939 and christened Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. She came from Scottish Irish decent and her brother Tom, and Tim Filed made up a folk trio called The Springfields. The singing group enjoyed tremendous international success with hits including 'Island of dreams' and "Silver threads and golden needles."


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At their height of success the trio took the unprecedented step of dissolving the group and in 1963, Dusty started her solo career with, I only want to be with you. Many years later the same song was covered by the Tourists, which brought the record buying public's attention to the talents of another pop diva, Annie Lennox.


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Dusty spent a lot of time in the States with the Springfields and was exposed to the emerging all girl groups as well as the sound of Motown. This had a major impact on the young singer causing her to experiment with other vocal styles. Dusty had modest success in the US with versions of All cried out and Live it up but it was her next song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David that confirmed her as, the voice. The tortuous ballad confounded her critics and became Dusty's third hit.


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Losing you, was written by her brother Tom and although Dusty was unsure it became her next hit. By now she was dubbed "Miss Beehive”, the Madge Simpson of pop, had hair piled above her head in bouffant style. One cannot help being reminded of all her devotees wearing their curlers on a Saturday morning, ready to rave it up at night. The heavy eye make-up gave Dusty a panda look, which set the trend for many of her fans. Her short-sightedness was supposed to be the cause of the thick eye make-up.


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The Dusty look suited the swinging sixties, and what more she was not just a pretty face she was also gifted with one of the most versatile singing voices of her time. Her next release Your hurtin kinda of love was not outrageously successful albeit the song was a particular favourite of the singer. By now she had earned the title Queen of the Mods and regularly appeared on Ready Steady Go.


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Dusty was an original sixties icon generating a real cult following. Whether this was due to her love of black soul music coupled with her ability to sing it or because she represented the older women next door, or a combination of both, remains an enigma. Dusty was really too old for miniskirts and knee high boots and it has been suggested by some, her popularity with young men especially, was her ability to express unspoken and desperate truths about sexuality that were not there for discussion by little boys. I still cannot look at her photographs without feeling a little adolescent guilt and warm longing for my own formative years. Because she left me ....... like the song, In the Middle of Nowhere.


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The song which proved to be her biggest selling hit in the US and was another penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. This duo had also written "Anyone who had a heart" which was a hit for Cilla Black in the UK and Dionne Warwick in the States. When Dusty first heard Bacharach and David's music she was so moved by their use of signatures in pop music she had to sit down. Dusty was of the opinion the song writers were more influential in popular music than even Lennon and McCartney. And she may have a point; certainly Elvis Costello would not disagree. Originally written for Dionne Warwick this was also covered by the Mersey Beats in the UK. Dusty's version, apart from being the favourite of the writers, certainly was the sexiest version with her velvet purring voice. The song gave her first major break as a solo artist in the states.


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She quickly followed this up with Goffin and King's Some of your loving. Dusty was asked to leave South Africa because she refused to appear in front of segregated audiences. Disappointed not to sing to South Africans her spirits were low when she returned to the UK. They soon picked up when she was asked to host a BBC television program. The Sound of Motown was a showcase of Motown music with the deliberate intention of introducing young people to the sound of the motor city.


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Dusty effortlessly dueted with many of the greats including: Tina Turner, Patti Labelle and Scott Walker. In 1966 Dusty had a number one in the UK with her brilliant and classy version of "You don't have to say you love me. " When Carol King heard Dusty's version of her song, the writer was so moved she reportedly burst into tears.


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Unlike her contemporaries Dusty was determined not to restrict herself to standard pop songs alone and used her albums to showcase her ability to handle soul, r&b, blues as well as Broadway show tunes and gospel folk. In the earlier years before Motown and Phil Spectre had impacted on the UK it was difficult to shake musicians to explore sounds, especially in a recording studio. She was determined to achieve her objectives and this gave her a reputation for being difficult in the studio. Dusty was a natural soul singer and like Marvin Gaye the calling came effortlessly. Few white singers had been so consistent in their active efforts to bring wider appreciation to this art form, than Dusty Springfield. When she sang soul she never tried to complete with traditional blues singers from the States instead she sang from the heart and her style encompassed a wide range of material. She did best on strong material and much of the technical production was down to her producers. She had a very impressive array of people in her production team, most of which had worked in the States with artists like the Drifters, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Her muso's were also good and sometimes long suffering because she demanded perfection. The next song which is one of her finest was reputedly recorded in the ladies toilet at Philips studio.


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Be dogged by personal problems including drug addiction the lady tried to find herself and resettled in the US. Her Atlantic album Dusty in Memphis (1969) was produced Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, and is unmistakably her best recorded material.


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A brief return to the UK in 1978 let people know she was still around but it would take till the 80's before she came back with a vengeance. Teaming up with the Petshop Boys they released the single which was dedicated to techno-pop. Dusty's voice was perfect and once again she was, Queen of the May. Dusty's comeback with the Pet Shop Boys--"What Have I Done To Deserve This"--in 1987, gave the Diva her first top 10 hit in more than 20 years. It confirmed her increasingly obvious status as a gay icon, and showed Springfield that her sexuality had been accepted by her public.


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While recording her final album in 1994 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and after treatment and temporary remission she continued to work until 1999, when she passed away aged of 59. Ten days later she was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame.





(Video Courtesy: dustyspringfieldVEVOby Youtube Channel)


Worth a listen:
I only want to be with you (1963)
Stay Awhile (1964)
I just don't know what to do with myself(1964).
Losing you (1964)
In the middle of nowhere(1965)
Anyone who had a heart(1965)
Wishing and hoping(1965)
Some of your loving(1965)
Little by little (1966)
You don't have to say you love me (1966)
Going back (1966)
All I see is you (1966)
I'll try anything (1967)
I close my eyes and count to ten (1968)
Son of a preacher man (1968)

Pet Shop Boys
What have I done to deserve this (1987)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Kenny Ball (1930 - 2013) and the Jazzmen




Before the onset of beat groups the sharpest sound around in the UK was trad jazz. This was a highbred of traditional jazz but as post-war Britain entered a period of massive social change and upheaval the new music became the sound of a generation determined to enjoy itself. Key names emerged like Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, and Kenny Ball. All were consummate musicians who had mastered their individual instruments. Acker played clarinet, Chris was a trombone player, and Kenny Ball was a trumpet player extraordinaire. Whilst Kenny did not enjoy the pop success of the others, he was considered to be the most successful traditional jazz trumpet player in Britain. Born in 1930 in Ilford, Essex, Kenny started playing trumpet aged 15 and gained experience playing as a side man in the bands of Charlie Galbraith, Eric Delaney, and Sid Phillips. He met John Bennett his long time trombone player when they both were part of Terry Lightfoot’s band in 1956. Two years later Kenny had his own band and appeared at Albert Hall, London, at the Festival of Jazz. Tours and television followed before he signed a recording contract. More Dixieland than New Orleans Jazz, Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen could swing and Kenny could sing, so the band soon gathered an army of fans. Many were students turned onto jazz through the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). These were the Moderns and later in the sixties become the Mods. Kenny was always a snappy dresser and wore Italian suits on stage cutting a dapper figure and role model for the early Mods. Kenny’s success was in the main because he was prepared to move away from the traditional repertoire and seek out tuneful songs from all sources. The sound was distinctive and soon Kenny and the boys made hit records that had mass appeal. The band had their first hit record, (I Love You) Samantha, in 1961.


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In the same year the Russians had beaten the USA in the space race and put Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin into space, Kenny released Midnight in Moscow and it became a huge hit in the UK.


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The tune was recorded by the band and produced by a young producer called Tony Hatch. The recording shot up both the UK and US charts. In the years before the Beatles, Kenny Ball was a regular on BBC’s 'Saturday Club’; a radio program hosted by Brain Matthews and aimed at the teenage 'with it' population. It was like the 6.5 Special (UK) and the Six O’clock Show (Australia), only on the radio. There was even a film called Its Trad Dad (1962) starring Helen Shapiro and Craig Douglas. Helen was the Kylie Monogue of her day and Craig Douglas, well, a Sunday School version of Robbie Williams. Kenny and the Jazzmen played themselves on screen with a host of other Trad Jazz bands. The story was simple enough and about a couple of kids keen to get a Trad Jazz concert in their local town against a tirade of opposition from adult ‘squares’ (their parents). Same story format appeared with each new music craze but interesting to note how important the Trad Jazz was to the emerging UK scene to merit a film.


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The next two hit singles came in 1962, and were taken from two major movies. The March of the Siamese children was from the Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I (1956); and Green Leaves of Summer was the theme tune to the movie The Alamo (1960). Kenny chose his commercial material very well and by the mid sixties he and the band were considered kings of “Middle of the Road music.”


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They became the resident band on the Morecombe and Wise Show which only furthered their appeal. Two vocal highlights of the mid to late sixties was versions of Hello Dolly (1964) and the Beatles’ “When I’m 64”, (1967).


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His finally tally of hits was fourteen which ironically eclipsed his childhood hero of Louis Armstrong. Even after their chart days came to an end, Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen continued to be popular through radio, television and live appearances. Apart from one short period, during which Kenny temporarily lost his 'lip' and found difficulty playing his trumpet, the band continued to thrive. In 1985 the band toured the Soviet Union to thunderous applause. In 2000, Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen toured Australia and New Zealand. The boys kept up a punishing booking schedule with an average 150 live gigs per year until Kenny’s health deteriorated in 2002. He rested and returned to recording and regularly appeared in sell out 'package' shows which featured Acker and his Paramount Jazz Band, Chris Barber, Humphrey Littleton, Terry Lightfoot or George Melly with their Bands. In 2013 Kenny Ball died aged 82 after a short illness.


(Video Courtesy: Gordon Hudson by Youtube Channel)




Worth a listen:
Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen
I love you Samantha (1961)
Midnight in Moscow (1961)
March of the Siamese Children (1962)
When I’m 64 (1967)
I wanna be like you (1968)

Helen Shapiro
Walking back to happiness (1961)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Clyde Valley Stompers (Ian Menzies 1932 - 2001)




The Clyde Valley Stompers were formed in 1952 in Glasgow, Scotland. The amateur trad jazz group quickly found a following at the Astra Ballroom in Glasgow and when band leader Jim McHarg (bass) emigrated to Canada two years later he was replaced by trombone player, Ian Menzies (1932 - 2001). Soon after the band became a full-time professional group. During the 50s, the moldy figs like Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttleton, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball became popular and the Clyde Valley Stompers extended their popularity beyond Scotland and released several records on the Beltona label.


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Essentially they were a live act and the recordings never quite caught their energy subsequently their records did not sell especially well beyond their loyal following. The band members included, successively, Charlie Gall and Malcolm Higgins (trumpet), Jimmy Doherty, Forrie Cairns and Peter Kerr (clarinet). The rhythm section included pianists John Doherty, John Cairns and Ronnie Duff, banjo players Norrie Brown and Jim Douglas, bass players Louis Reddie, Andrew Bennie and Bill Bain, and drummers Bobby Shannon, Robbie Winter, Sandy Malcolm and Billy Law; and vocalists Mary McGowan, Jeannie Lamb and Fionna "Fiona" Duncan.


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Dubbed ''the most travelled jazz band in Europe,'' they appeared in village halls and big venues alike and even topped the bill at Liverpool’s Cavern. As their popularity grew internationally the band moved to London, and signed for Pye Records.


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There they were managed by Lonnie Donegan and toured with him as well as other top names including Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark and blues legend Big Bill Broonzy.


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Sometimes the band were billed at the Clyde Valley Stompers and others as Ian Menzies and the Clyde Valley Stompers.


(Video Courtesy: Ian Menzies & The Clyde Valley Stompers - Topic by Youtube Channel)


In 1962 they had a UK Top 30 success with ‘Peter And The Wolf.’


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“Stompermania” predated the Mersey Sound but had all the same intensity. The Clyde Valley Stompers were the first trad jazz band to appear on the Royal Variety Performance, when it was held in Glasgow Empire. Their popularity in the UK was enhanced with guest appearances on television's Morecambe & Wise, Russ Conway, and Thank Your Lucky Stars shows. In 1963 the band appeared in a British musical called It's All Happening (The Dream Maker) and starring Tommy Steele..


(Video Courtesy: Jim Douglas by Youtube Channel)


As the fad for Trad Jazz passed the group disbanded in 1963. Over the decades the band has occasionally re-formed to perform as The Clyde Valley Stompers Reunion Band which included Jim McHarg.


(Video Courtesy: ptm51 by Youtube Channel)


Worth a listen
Lonnie Donegan Presents Ian Menzies and Clyde Valley Stompers
The Swingin' Seamus (EP) (1959)
Roses of Picardy/Beale Street Blues/
Gettysburg March/Swingin’ Seamus

Ian Menzies and Clyde Valley Stompers
Big Man (1961)
Play the gypsy (1961)
The fish man (1966)

Potted History of Moldy Figs : It's Trad Jazz




Traditional jazz encompasses the music of New Orleans and includes Ragtime, Dixieland, Stride Piano, Boogie Woogie and Swing. The original musical genre developed between 1899 to 1945 but there was a revival of New Orleans Jazz and Dixieland in the late '40s outside the US. The Trad Jazz Boom took place in post war UK and parts of Europe. In part the revival was the love of the music but also many traditionalists (moldy figs) were uncomfortable with Bebop Jazz. Whilst virtuoso musicians, led by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were searching new sounds through improvisation there was a ground swell to rediscover the roots of original jazz music.


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To the critics bebop jazz had become too technical and demanded virtuoso players and the full attention of the listener. The moldy figs like George Webb (piano) were determined to play dance music again and in 1941 he formed George Webb’s Dixielanders. The group all worked in an armaments factory in Kent, UK and were all traditional jazz enthusiasts who had taught themselves to play by listening to rare 78 recordings.


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As more people heard revision jazz their music caught on. They had pressed vinyl before trumpeter Humphrey ‘Humph‘ Lyttelton joined them but he had worked with Sidney Bechet (soprano saxophone) in the studio in 1949, and recorded many sessions for Parlophone Records so 'Humph' took over the band and The Humphrey Lyttelton Band landed a top twenty hit in the UK with Bad Penny Blues (produced by Joe Meek).


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Humph had taught himself to play trumpet whilst at Eton. He came from an upper class background and loved the jazz of Louis Armstrong and Nat Gonella, He formed his first band at school in 1936 with Ludovic Kennedy (TV journalist married to Norma Shearer) on drums. The Humphrey Lyttelton Band was Humphrey Lyttelton (trumpet, leader); Johnny Parker (piano); Jim Bray (bass); Stan Greig (drums). Unfortunately the trombone and clarinet players did not turn up for the recording. As a piece of trivia the piano work by Johnny Parker inspired Paul McCartney who used something similar in Lady Madonna.


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Humphrey Lyttelton rode the popularity of Trad Jazz before slipping into main stream jazz where he remained musically. The Humphrey Lyttelton band became a nursery for several prominent jazz musicians, including saxophonists, Tony Coe (Count Basie, & Johnny Dankworth) and Alan Barnes (Brian Ferry Band). Prior to Humphries death in 2008, The Humphrey Lyttelton band continued to have a busy schedule, performing frequently to sell-out shows across the UK. Performances have in the past included guest singers, such as Helen Shapiro and Elkie Brooks, or collaboration with other bands.


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Another stalwart Moldy Fig was Ken Colyer (1928 – 1988) who taught himself to play trumpet and guitar. He was founding member of the Crane River Jazz Band which was a New Orleans-styled band. Musically he was a bit like Eric Clapton, restless to improve his art and soon left the band in 1951 to become a merchant marine with a mission, he was bound for New Orleans and the source of the music he loved. When he came back to Blighty in 1953, he was full of music and joined up with Monty Sunshine, Ron Bowden, Lonnie Donegan, Jim Bray and Chris Barber to form the Ken Colyer's Jazzmen.


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He played trumpet for jazz, and guitar for skiffle and when Chris Barber left the band in 1954 to start his own, Ken and Chris’s bands became rival acts. The Ken Colyer Band underwent many personnel changes and included at one time a clarinetist called Acker Bilk, who then went on to solo success.


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Other notable band members were Ian Wheeler (now clarinetist with Chris Barber), and Mac Duncan (trombone). Although Ken Colyer was a cult figure in Trad Jazz he failed to achieve much commercial success.


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Chris Barber’s Band played Dixieland Jazz, Ragtime, Swing, Blues and R&B and toured the States many times. Chris was also personally involved in bringing many US acts such as Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters back to the UK. Some of the Trad Jazz performers like Acker Bilk dressed accordingly in the garb of the New Orleans greats with bowler hat and colourful waistcoats but perhaps the best dressed tag should go to the Temperance Seven.


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They were formed whilst still at the Royal College of Art and the band had nine members (one over the eight). Their love of traditional 1920s jazz and music hall comedy meant they dressed in costume of the period and the singer used a megaphone. The Seven were led by a chain of flamboyant singers including Paul McDowell (worked as a straight man with Spike Milligan and Dave Allen), Alexander Hitchcock Galloway, and Allan Moody Mitchell. The Temperance Seven enjoyed chart success with ‘You’re driving me crazy’ and ‘Pasadena’ (1961); both records were produced by Sir George Martin.


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The most enduring of the Traddies was a trumpeter called Kenny Ball (1930 – 2013). Much of his success was his ability to choose the right material to record. Whilst he never abandoned Trad Jazz entirely he seemed to keep abreast of musical tastes better than his contemporaries. Kenny started when he was 15 and gained experience playing in the bands of Charlie Galbraith, Eric Delaney, and Sid Phillips. In 1958, he formed his own group and quickly became a leader in Britain's trad jazz movement. "I Love You Samantha" was his first hit, and after "Midnight in Moscow" and "So Do I," Kenny Ball was set.


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No review of Trad Jazz would be complete however without a mention of the two Georges. George Melly and George Chisholm.


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George Melly (1926 – 2007) had a childhood sweetheart in the form of Bessie Smith and he did his best to emulate her singing style as front man for John Chilton’s Feetwarmers. The group toured theatres, colleges and pubs all over Britain, and their Christmas performances at Ronnie Scott’s in London, became a legend. George Melly dressed on an off stage in the clothing of an American gangster.


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George Chisholm (1915 – 1997) is best remembered as the comic trombone player in the Black and White Minstrel Show, but was also a very serious jazz musician who recorded with Fats Waller and was a member of The Squadronaires, during the Second World War.


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Trad Jazz faded by the late 50s as Skiffle, then Rock ’n roll over took it as a popular style among younger audiences. Trad Jazz was kept alive and continues to bring joy and delight to millions of fans with many of the original moldy figs recording into their later years. Younger musicians, like Wynton Marsalis continue to play Trad Jazz.


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Worth a listen

Humphrey Littleton Band
Bad Penny Blues (1956)
Backroon Joys (with Lazy Ades Late Night Boys)

Helen Shapiro
Fever (1964)

Johnny Dankworth Seven (with Cleo Lane)
Honeysuckle Rose

Sydney Bechet
Marche Du Colonel Bogey

Acker Bilk
Strange on the shore (1962)

Temperance Seven
The Shake (1961)

Sid Phillips and his Band
Pete Kelly’s Blues

Crane River Jazz Band
Lily of the valley (Polka)

Chris Barber’s Jazz Band
Shout ’en Aunt Tilly

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee
Down by the river side