Thursday, 29 July 2010

Kat & The K9's

Went to one of my favourite clubs (Mytchett) a few weeks ago and saw Kat & The K9's - first time I'd seen them in ages, but they do seem to have gelled and it looked like they've benefited from some stability in the line-up.

I first met Kat at the now defunct Richmond Ex-Serviceman's Club weekly rock n roll club (run by the much missed Barry). At that time Kat used to occasionally get up and do a karaoke session of one or two songs towards the end of the night, so it was no surprise when she got herself some proper backing.

Kat and the boys did an excellent set, with Kat featuring a good range of songs, the pick of them (for me) being her version of the Eva Eastwood track '60291'. Talking to Kat later she tells me it will be on her next CD, but lucky ol' me, she had a demo copy with her.

Enjoy. Buy their new CD when it comes out and get along to see them when they play a club near you.

Oh, and Kat - don't forget to reprise the Bonnie Lou track 'No Heart At All' and while you're at it, see how you get on with her big one, 'Friction Heat'!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Where have all the people gone........?

Numbers at rockabilly gigs really are dwindling and it's difficult to see how some clubs will survive.

Three of my local(ish) clubs have had attendances of between 30 - 50 in the past 4 weeks or so; these are gigs with bands, not just a DJ, and with bands charging anything from £350 to turn up, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out the maths. At £7 a head the club will probably make a loss at anything less than 60 punters and the guys running these clubs are just your average folks - there's no Roman Abramovic type benefactors out there propping them up!

Is there an answer? Well, from a selfish point of view, I like that there are four or five clubs within a reasonable distance of me that generally have gigs which don't clash with the others. But on the other hand, there's no way I'm going to go to all of them and I find that I'm quite picky nowadays when it comes to seeing a live band, so I pick and choose, I read the gig guides, see who's playing where and when, then make a decision of which ones are on the "must see" list and which ones I can live without.

So are there too many clubs out there? Well, yes and no!

After a while the established clubs will have a very personal "feel" about them and irrespective of what band they have playing, the atmosphere will be pretty much the same. I don't like "jivey" clubs, full of people who have learnt all the latest dance moves in a 1-2-3 sequence, but who don't have any real feel for the music they are dancing too. They usually end up doing the same moves, at the same pace, whether they are dancing to Honey Don't or Bop-A-Lena!

I'm not knocking the clubs that attract them; at the end of the day, the people running the club have to recognise what people want, or at least, what those people who show up every month want. Ain't my cup of tea, or pint of Fosters for that matter, but hey ho! Each to their own.

I prefer clubs to have an atmosphere. A bit rowdy. Clubs where people don't just sit around looking like they are in a dentist's surgery waiting to be called in.

Some clubs I'll go to even if the band isn't great, just because of the atmosphere, but it has to be said, there are quite a lot of below average bands out there, while there's also a bit too much sticking to the same circuit as well, which inevitably mean that you see the same bands playing over and over - or you just don't bother. I think what tends to happen is that you see that one of these bands are playing, but it's no big deal if you miss them this week, because they'll be at another club in the next week or so. If on the other hand the band was one I'd never seen before, I'd be much more inclined to go.

I realise that's a risky statement and I might be in the minority; I know some people will only go to see established bands on their personal favourites list and I can't say I blame them. There's a recession on and a night out is going to cost at least £25 by the time you've factored in the admission, drink and petrol.

So it all seems like a vicious circle. Can't expect the bands to play for nowt and I wouldn't begrudge the average band member £75 for a day's work (even if it's in two 45 minute sets). Even if the clubs dropped admission by a couple of £, would that make much difference? I doubt it. Most clubs charge £7 entry, which means if they were to drop it to (say) £5, they would need to get at least another 25 people through the door to make the same money - bit risky, huh?

Whatever happens, I'd be really sorry to see any of my local clubs close. Yes, even the ones I don't get along to as often as I could. I don't see it, though and it's has hard as it's ever been to get a club started and become established. That, to me, is the key - getting the club well grounded in everyone's mind, so they will always check the "what's on" guides to see who is playing and on those occasions they aren't that fussed about the band, will go along anyway. These established clubs are better able to take a few hits on low attendances as long as they get at least an equal number of bumper nights. Fledgling clubs can't sustain those losses, plus it's more difficult for them because they are less likely to have been able to book the bands who always bring a following (because those bands will have booking 12 months in advance).

Final message then, support the clubs and the people running them who give up a lot of their own time to organise them, often with little thanks and with even less profit.

And if you're in the area, or if this has inspired you to get out and about, here's my list of favourite clubs. If you go and see me there, mine a pint of Fosters!

Memphis Belles - West Farnborough Social Club, 25 St Christophers Road, Farnborough, Hants

Crondall Rock n Roll Club - Crondall Village Hall, Croft Lane, Crondall, Nr. Farnham, Surrey.

Ace Cafe - Ace Corner, North Circular Road, Stonebridge, London

Guildford Hot Fifties Club - Fairlands Hall, Fairlands Avenue, Guildford, Surrey

The Rosecroft - St Mary Cray High Street & Chelsfield Road, Orpington, Kent BR5 4AR

And finally, if none of the above take your fancy, look at the Rock n Roll gig guide for inspiration -


Saturday, 10 July 2010

Harvey Fuqua of The Moonglows RIP

Saddened to hear that Harvey Fuqua passed away on 6th July 2010. As founder and lead vocal with The Moonglows from 1952 - 1958 (when he was replaced by Marvin Gaye) he enjoyed much success in the 50's with such huge hits as 'Ten Commandments of Love'and 'Sincerely'. Harvey appeared with The Moonglows in Rock Rock Rock and solo in Go Johnny Go. He remained as the Moonglows manager until 1960 when he moved in to production and later formed the Motown label with his wife.

Harvey re-formed The Moonglows in the early 70's and continued singing at revival type shows through to 2009 (or possibly later). I got to see him at the Viva Las Vegas weekender in 2009 and his voice was as strong as ever.

The Lover's Curse - Bracey Everett

It still surprises me that 35 years after starting to listen to rock n roll, every now and again I'll hear something for the first time which, in this case, was recorded over 50 years ago.

Actually, what I also like is that some of these great tracks are reprised by modern bands who have obviously done their homework to find them in the first place. In this case, it was at the recent Rockabilly Rave that I heard Rudy La Crouix sing this one - and wow, did he nail it!

Anyway, here's a link to the song by Bracey Everett which is on Youtube. Sleazabilly at it's best!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Imelda May at The Borderline - 29th June 2010

I had the good fortune to catch Imelda May's gig at London's Borderline club on Tuesday night to launch her latest single. She was fantastic. The Borderline is a fairly small "cellar" club which has hosted many big names whose photo's adorn the walls on the way in; I hope Imelda's will soon be up there amongst them - she certainly wouldn't be out of place.

Although the gig was to promote her new single and a precursor to the new album ("later this year"), the playlist contained many of the tracks from her previous CD to the obvious delight of the full house and the intimate atmosphere of the club really turned the evening in to something special, with Imelda talking to the audience between numbers, inviting audience participation on numbers such as Tainted Love and taking time out to say "hi" to old friends she spotted amongst the crowd.

First rate backing by her band as usual, with all band members getting the chance to show their stuff - I love to see a band allowed to express themselves and step out of the star's limelight. The man on the Gretsch (yes, Darrel played nearly the full set using his old 6120) was in fine form, as were the rest of the guys (Al Gare, Bass; Steve Rushton, drums; Dave Priseman, ttrumpet). Rising above all of them, though, Imelda's voice and vocal range is stunning, whether on hard edged R&B numbers, bluesy ballads or rockabilly and effortlessly switching between styles. The new single, Psycho, was naturally given an airing and sounded even better live than on the video I'd seen - it's released today and just in case anyone thinks she has turned her back on rockabilly, note the 'B' side - My Baby Left Me, which she also sang (along with an excellent version of 'The Train Kept A Rollin').

Here's hoping the new single gets the airtime it deserves and increases her popularity.

Black Bettie

I've always been a bit of a petrolhead, but have confined that in the past to old British motorbikes. I've owned 4 or 5 Triumphs (1956 Thunderbird, 1964 Tiger, 1970 Tiger and 2003 Bonneville) along witha couple of BSA's (A65's). I still have the Thunderbird, partly dismantled, in the garage, sitting next to three tea chests which allegedly hold a Royal Enfield Continental GT.

The trouble with motorbiking in England, is our poxy weather! I reckon I got out on the new Bonny no more than half a dozen times last year; being a biker by choice, not necessity meant I didn't take it out in the pouring rain or freezing cold - been there, done that, got the frostbite!

So earlier this year I decided it was time for a change - time to look for something with four wheels instead of two which I could enjoy most of the year round.....

"Awesome '32 Ford Coupe For Sale........."

I was really hoping to find something that had been finished and which I'd be able to hop in to and start enjoying straight away (did I mention that I'm an impatient s-o-b?), but such cars are few and far between and there was something about this one which looked really good. The previous owner had been working on it for 14 (yep, fourteen!) years but due to domestic reasons hadn't got to finish her off - the work he had done was pretty stunning and all that was left to do was finish off some of the engine/running gear, get the interior done and finally get her MOT'd.

Sadly, while loving all things mechanical, I am to engineering what Stevie Wonder is to interior design or, as Donald Sutherland said in the movie Kelly's Heroes: "I don't fix 'em, I just drive 'em". So with this in mind it was always going to be a project for my good friend Al to do. Al runs Al's Classics, a car restoration business and he has hundreds of resto' projects under his belt, along with a great reputation for custom work.

Engine is a fully re-built 302 Ford V8 with a C4 auto gearbox. 330BHP of grin-factor.

Even as we were loading the car on to Al's trailer, we both looked at the wheels and said "they'll have to go". They are nice wheels, but they just didn't fit with the traditional style I was looking for.

The paint job is immaculate - 11 coats of Porsche Carrera Black and just needs finishing off with some pinstriping; one along each side, some on the radiator cowl and then some on the boot lid around the handle. To finish things off, she'll be named 'Black Bettie' with the name on the boot, just above the right tail light.

Interior wise, another local company are taking the car next week and doing the full tuck 'n roll black/red on the seat/doors. Black/red carpeting and building a full length parcel shelf with hidden glove box which will take the CD player. Speakers will get mounted in the firewall behind the seat so everything remains hidden.

Meeting the pin-striper ("Benny the Brush") next week to go over the paint job I'm looking for. I like the old skool type pin-striping in the Kafka/Von Dutch style. Probably in just two colours - red and off white.

I'm still undecided on having a graphic painted on the boot. I really like this Dave Stevens Bettie Page image and was thinking of having that airbrushed on, with her leg draped between the words Black Bettie. Will keep pondering that one, see whether Benny thinks he can do it justice and if not, maybe take the lid off and run it down to a custom guy in Portsmouth who reckons he can do this space!

As things progress I'll post some updates. Other than buying the new wheels and whitewalls and painting the rims in the shade of red ('Carmine') I wanted, there's been little happening. Things should start moving next week........

"Well I led an evil life, so they say, but I'll out-run the devil on Judgement day.........!

OK, so this is my first (and maybe last!) blog'. Who knows where it'll go?

The Blog' will kinda concentrate on the things I enjoy the most, which if you haven't guessed already, is rockabilly and hot rods. Oh, and other 50's cars and British motorbikes, and better include early country music, too. Oh yeah, and not forgetting guitars and my hopeless attempts at learning to play. Did I mention 50's pin-up art? No? OK, that as well...... And finally, West Ham United, also known as The Hammers. Well, we've all got a cross to bear!


I've been in to the 50's rock n roll/rockabilly scene since the mid 1970's - 3 or 4 years before the so called "rockabilly revival". I got in to it all via my old man, who is still a big Jerry Lee Lewis fan and he (my dad, not Jerry Lee) used to take me out to a few pubs where music was played, even though I was only in my mid teens. Ya see? It really is down to the parenting!

On my 16th birthday, my dad said he'd take me to a local pub which he said had "Be Bop A Lula" on the jukebox. Can't honestly say that meant anything to me at the time, but once we got to the pub (The Crown and Sceptre, Feltham) and I played it.......Wow! I ended up flipping between Lula and the flipside, Say Mama (it was a repro 45) until the landlord came over and unplugged the jukebox!

So, that set the scene for a lifetime of Gene Vincent. A couple of months later I left school, got a job and with my first pay packet (£20.00) bought 'The Best of Gene Vincent Vol 1'. I was hooked.