Rockabilly , Psychobilly and everything in between.

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August 2014

Howlin’ Hound Dogs (the)

in Albums/Contemporary artists/GH/Reviews
Howlin' Hound DOgs - cat by the tail
Howlin’ Hound DOgs – cat by the tail

The Howlin’ Hound Dogs – Cat by the Tail

Self Released
Cat By The Tail – Behave Be Quiet Or Begone – Take & Give – Stranger Than Fiction – Thinking’s Man Woman – Bottle To The Baby – Broken Heart – Gonna Be Better Times – Hungry For Your Lovin – My Baby Walks All Over Me – Gonna Love My Baby – Servant Of Love – Give My Love To Rose – Slip Slip Slippin In
“Cat by the tail” was the second album from this Montreal based band. The first one is now out of print, hope it’ll be re-released some day. What you’ll find here is classic rockabilly, or authentic if you prefer, that wouldn’t be out of place in the Sun catalog (despite the cover art and its Elvis / RCA graphism). One original (the excellent Cat By The Tail) and 13 covers, but played with so much personnality they make this songs their own. Even well known songs like “Slip Slip Slippin’ In” or “Give My Love To Rose” sound fresh.The reason is the musicianship of course, but mainly Noël Thibault’s voice. He has those kind of rockabilly voice I enjoy, where you can still hear the country roots in it (listen to “Behave Be Quiet Or Begone” with its falsetto). Slim Rhodes’ “Take & Give” is given a rockin’ treatment with the steel part being replaced by a Burlisonian guitar  à la “You’re Undecided”. “Broken Heart” is the occasion to salute the work of the rhythm section. The drums and the bass work perfectly together. Sometimes in rockabilly bands, especially when they have a drummer, the bassist tends to over-slap which is not necessary. This is not the case of The Howlin’ Hound Dogs. I could go on, telling you how “My Baby Walks All Over Me” is moving or how “Give My Love To Rose” almost makes you forget the Man In Black, but the best thing for you is to grab a copy now.

White Lightning

in Profiles
White Lightnin' promo photo - One of a batch of publicity photos taken by photographer and actor Martin Oldfield, somewhere in a warehouse in Ancoats sometime in 1981 - All rights reserved
White Lightnin’ promo photo – One of a batch of publicity photos taken by photographer and actor Martin Oldfield, somewhere in a warehouse in Ancoats sometime in 1981 – All rights reserved

A British rockabilly quartet formed by Stuart Warburton (vocals, rhythm guitar, tenor saxophone, harmonica), Paul Murphy (lead guitar/steel guitar), Phil Morris (double bass) aznd Gary Leach (drums) in the early 80’s. They had two tracks (House Of The Rising Sun and You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That) scheduled for release by Hot Rock Records but were dropped at last minute though some test pressings exist.
They changed their name for the Rhythmaires when Big Dave Machin joined the band in late 1982 then split before reforming in late 1983/early 84 with a more jump/jive sound.
Paul Murphy later joined the Crawdads.
The album The Rhythmaires – Tenth Anniversary Album (Raucous RAUCD006) features 10 demo tracks by White Lightnin’.

Red Hot’n’Blue

in Stories

The Red Hot’n’Blue story – part 1

The first half of the eighties was an exciting time for rock’n’roll in Great Britain. Rockin’ music saw a new life in the charts, young bands like The Meteors, The Ricochets and the Deltas were experiencing new sounds, taking good old rockabilly in a whole new direction. The Polecats and Restless were there too, making releases that would later be described as Neo-rockabilly.
Then in the wake of the Stargazers a bunch of new bands prefered a more traditionnal sound (paving the way to the « authentic rockabilly » movement of the late 80’s). Among this bands some of the best were the Riverside Trio (rockabilly-hillbilly-blues), the Krewmen (blues with Carl Sonny Leyland), the Blue Rhythm Boys (rockabilly – rockin’ blues) and the one we’re going to talk about in this article:  Red Hot’n’Blue.

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis
Thanks a million to Kevin Ellis, Ashley Kingman and Mouse for their help.

In the begining

It all started in 1982 when Mouse Zihni’s ex-girlfriend phoned to tell him that her current boyfriend Dave Bourne who played drums was looking for a singer to start a band. She remembered they both used to go to East Croydon Railway Club where Mouse would sing with the local band and that he had a good voice. At the time his favorite singers were Gene Vincent, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury and later Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner.
A meeting was arranged for a rehearsal and Mouse met the rest of the soon-to-be band, Dave’s twin brother Andy on bass and Sam Crabtree on guitar, in a cellar near Emerson Street where Crabtree worked during the day. The rehearsal went well and a few weeks later he was asked to join the band full time.
They worked a lot, playing covers of the club hits. They gradually started to gig in the South London clubs but didn’t really go anywhere. According to Mouse “Sam didnt want to do new songs, he was happy to cover the songs he knew and that was that, so thats what we did, we were a cover band doing songs from the 50s. it was small time fun and got me some much needed money“.

One night Mouse met guitarist Ashley Kingman who was not totally a stranger to the still unnamed quartet: Sam Crabtree sold him his first guitar and Dave and Andy were in the same school though a bit older. “I met Mouse in the toilet of the Castle pub, they used to have a regular monday DJ there. I seen Mouse with Red Hot n Blue, dug the show and told him I played guitar and was looking to join a band.” recalls the guitar player. They already had a good guitar player but after some debating he was asked to join on rhythm”.
Having played with local combos like The Outer Limits (a psychobilly band) and Dr Muscle Brain Valves, a blues trio with drums, guitar and harp/vocals it wasn’t Kingman’s first band. For the story the drummer in both bands was Gary Bonniface, who later went on to form the Vibes.

The newly formed quintet still needed a name. That’s when Mouse came with Red Hot’n’Blue, a tribute to Dewey Phillips’ radio show, the first one to play Elvis Presley records on air.
But not long after that Crabtree left the band to join the Blue Rhythm Boys “They were doing well and he just wanted the fast train out rather than take the slow train with us” remembers Mouse. After his stint with Paul Ansell’s band Crabtree went on to form Cat Talk. Without lead guitarist the band couldn’t go on. They stopped gigging for about six months but didn’t stop working. They were hard at writing original material (including the future club hit “Sure Like The Look In Your Eyes” and Ashley spent this time to move from rhythm to lead. At this time the band rehearsed in the music shop where Ashley worked.

 

Red Hot’n’Blue - First publicity photo - Summer 1984 - Dave, Ashley, Andy & Mouse
Red Hot’n’Blue – first publicity photo – Summer 1984 – Dave, Ashley, Andy & Mouse

Introducing Ray Frensham and Northwood Records

When they felt ready they started gigging again and from this moment things moved quickly. Red Hot’n’Blue appeared at the weekender on the Isle of White and that lead to more shows in Europe and up and down the UK and gained the attention of Ray Frensham of Northwood record. He had the project of a compilation album and asked the band to record some songs for it. They agreed and, wanting to expend their sound, asked saxman Kevin Ellis to guest on the recording. Ellis was a well trained musicians being a member of Clive Osborne and the Clearnotes for two years.
So on November 3rd, 1984 Red Hot’n’Blue headed to University of East Anglia for their first recording session produced by Peter Davenport of Stargazers fame. Three songs were cut that day. “Get Back on that Train” written by Andy, “I wanna tell you that I love you baby” and “So Lonely On My Own” both from the pen of the team Kingman/Zihni. Two of them (“Get Back…” and “I Wanna tell you…” ) were released in June 1985 on the compilation album ”Big Noise From Northwood”. The other bands featured on that comp were the Sprites (French rockabilly band influenced by Gene Vincent), The Slingshots, Peter Davenport in full Bill Haley/Jodimars mode with the Roof Raisers and the Riverside Trio. The remaining third track “So Lonely On My Own” would later appear on the band’s debut album. Years later an early version of “It’s My Lucky Day” surfaced and have probably been recorded during the same session as it clearly shows Davenport’s influence.

Big Noise From Northwood” (Northwood NWLP 1002) received good reviews and Ray Frensham started to consider the possibility of recording a long player with Red Hot’n’Blue. With Kevin now a full time member (since December 1984) the young rockabilly band that played cover has mutated into a tight rockin’- rockabilly – jump blues outfit and was in high demand and appeared in all-dayers in UK and Europe, appearing on stage with the likes of The Jets, Red Hot, the Blue Rhythm Boys, the Keytones,the Riverside Trio, Rochee & the Sarnos and Johnny Powers whom they backed.

The Northwood Years

Red Hot’n’Blue , the classic line-up.
Red Hot’n’Blue , the classic line-up.

By 1985 Red Hot’n’Blue was getting more and more attention. More gigs were pouring in and with its popularity rising it was soon obvious that a full length album was the next step. “Ray frensham thought there was a buck to make out of us he signed us up for a album” jokes Ashley.
The summer of 1985 was spent gigging and rehearsing new material for the planned album and in August (19th -21th ) the band went to Alaska studios (just under Waterloo station) with Boz Boorer in the producer seat to record what would be “Wait’n’See”. Cut in three days it’s an extraordinary solid work for a debut album.

It features a majority of self penned songs – mostly by the pair Kingman-Zihni, but Andy co-wrote three songs and producer Boz Boorer contributed the title track – and only three covers (Yes I’m Gonna Love You, Dick Penner’s Move Baby Move and Myron Lee’s Aw C’mon Baby).
It covers a wide range of style : from boogie blues in a Slim Harpo style (Sure Like The Look In Your Eyes) to rockabilly (Clicketty Clack, Move Baby Move) a bit of jump blues (It’s My Lucky Day, Bad Girl), a jazzy ballad (So Lonely On My Own), a latin instrumental with a Django Reinhardt feel in the middle (Hey Gringo) and rockin’ blues in the best Chess Records tradition (Postman Blues with harp played by Little Paul (from the Blubberry Hellbellies) and the Diddley tinged Take A Walk Up The Apple Tree).

Wait'n'See - Northwood - 1986
Wait’n’See – Northwood – 1986

It was mostly recorded live with very few overdubs ( the guide vocals part were often kept).
Wait’n’See remains a good memory for all involved : “Most of it was cut live, then we took bits away and added different shit in its place. Amazing but kind of tedious and time consuming. Boz somehow pulled it into shape. I still think its a good record.” says Ashley. “It was good fun and I learnt a lot from it” remembers Kevin and Mouse adds “it was a happy affair and we did a cool job on it”. 15 songs in all were recorded, 13 ended on the album (the 14th track of the record, “So Lonely On My Own”, comes from the sessions made with Peter Davenport the previous November). The remaining two songs were “Without You” and a cover of Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia”. When you listen to it, it’s very close to “Wait’n’See” so it’s probably the reason why it didn’t end on the album. It finally got released on the compilation album “The Northwood Story” on NV Records in 1991.

Mixed in September and October by Boorer and Kingman, it was released in January 1986 and received rave reviews “When it came out it got a four out of five star rating in Record Mirror and other magazines of the day, even INXS only got a 3 star rating, how things changed!”. Red Hot’n’Blue toured to support the release and it sold very well though it seems that the band didn’t see a lot of money from that (same old story).

Red Hot’n’Blue in the streets of Bristol, 1986
Red Hot’n’Blue in the streets of Bristol, 1986

Even when they were headlining the all dayers, Red Hot’n’Blue kept busking a lot to earn some extra cash. One day while they were playing in the street of Camden, a man approached them, gave his card and told them to call him as he liked the band. The man was Trevor Horne from The Buggles who scored several hits as a producer with Grace Jones, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Art Of Noise… It was a big chance for the band to get a wider audience than the rock’n’roll circuit but it never happened. Mouse : “Ash told Ray Frensham and Ray was over the top and too pushy and Trevor backed off the situation. This was one of the stupid things that Ray did, and the first of many as far as I’m concerned, he could be a real wanker at times…” . For Kevin it was “very sad really because we were onto big things”.

From that moment, things started to decline “[We had] a good ride for about a year and then we kind of all started pulling against each other. We let Ray get wedges in between us and me and Mouse split from the twins.” recalls Ash. Ray didn’t want Dave and Andy in the band any longer and by April 1986 the twins were gone (“not a thing I enjoyed at all, I went along with it, but that was all” says Mouse). They were replaced by Stuart Simpson from the Slingshots on drums and Paul Diffen (Sugar Ray Ford and later Blue Cats) on double bass. Pat Reyford (Sugar Ray Ford too) also joined on alto sax. For Mouse “Ray was trying to run us and mould us into a jump jive sort of blues thing”.

Soon after the twins were gone, Red Hot’n’Blue entered in studio with the new line-up and a session piano player called Sir James (it seems that neither Ray Frensham nor Mouse remember his name). Boz Boorer was also present and added a second guitar on some recordings. The songs made were a reworking of “Sure Like the Look In Your Eyes”, “I Wanna Tell You That I Love You”, “Without You” and “Sad In My Heart”. The latter being a cover of The Man Upstairs that had it released on single on Sideline Records in 1985. The sound was definitely fuller but didn’t really fit Red Hot’n’Blue. Somewhere they had lost what made their specificity, their rocking edge, and Boz’s production this time was more “radio friendly”. This said the version of “Sure Like the Look In Your Eyes” recorded this day still stands well today. It was envisaged as a “cross over” single, backed with “Caldonia”, but it never materialized. This sides were reissued years later on Crazy Love record.

The new direction taken by the band didn’t really please them “It wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to do rock n roll and blues not big band stuff, I liked it but didn’t really want to be in a big jump band” recalls the singer. It was also very hard, and costly, to take such a large band on the road and the twins weren’t too happy with the band using the name Red Hot’n’Blue. At the same time Mouse started to become a popular DJ on the London scene and slowly the excitement of the beginning started to fade away. For Ashley “it wasnt the same after the twins were gone.”. The relation with Ray Frensham weren’t that good too. There was money problems and it wasn’t long before the band and the label parted ways. The line-up changed again with Terry Clancy (Cat Talk / Scat Cat) joining on bass and John Day on second guitar but in the own word of Mouse “the band just ran out of steam and it came to a very quick final shortly after the weekender up in Southport at the end of 86.”.

To be continued

 

Slingshots (the)

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews/S
Slingshots - Feels so right
Slingshots – Feels so right

The Slingshots – Feels So Right!

Raucous Records RAUCD 040
Say When ~ Steamhammer Jones ~ Blue Eyed Country Gal ~ Ride That 95 ~ All The Time ~ The Pain Has Gone ~ Feels So Right ~ Slim’s Rag ~ Landlord Blues ~ Party On The Moon ~ Dole Cheque Thursday ~ You Can Do No Wrong ~ Drunken Blues ~ That Gal Of Mine ~ Jezebel

The Slingshots formed in the mid 80’s and were associated to the Northwood label home of Red Hot’n’Blue, Riverside Trio and the Blue Rhythm Boys and other great acts. They released two songs on Big Noise from Northwood then more or less vanished though a couple more songs later resurfaced on the Northwood Story (NV Records) in 1991. Finally, nearly twenty years later, in 1999, with a new bass player they found a new peak of creativity and they released their debut album for Raucous.
This drummerless trio plays rockabilly for the majority of songs including many originals with influences from Pat Cupp, Sun records, Carl Perkins whom they cover two songs and Meteor records.But they doesn’t limit themselves to Rockabilly and you’ll also find hillbilly bop and blues too (most notably the excellent The Pain Has Gone) with some songs featuring a fourth member on harmonica.
Though it’s not credited on the booklet I believe it’s been recorded on vintage equipment at Riverside studio by Chris Cummings of the Riverside Trio as they had songs from this album on the Riverside Rockabilly sampler.
Highly recommended!.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Frantix (the)

in Albums/Contemporary artists/EF/Reviews
Antix with the Frantix
Antix with the Frantix

The Frantix – Antix With the Frantix

Rollin Records RRCD-008
Mama,Mama,Mama – Duck Run – Big Time Mama – Alligator Meat – No Lovin’ No River Blues – Mean Evil Woman – Rock Around The Town – Rock And Roll Fever – What’s Inside A Girl – Filth – She’s My Baby – Rocket Ride Bop – Stone Killer – Hep Cat – Toe Rag Stomp – Trouble With A Capital T – Never Been So Lonely

Believe it or not, the Frantix exist since 1981 but this is their first long player (though they appeared on compilation albums). The band has gone under a few line-up changes. The first two third of “Antix with…” has been recorded in 2008 and 2009 with Jerry Brill (vocals), Graham Murphy (lead guitar), Boz Boorer (rhythm guitar and sax) Roger Van Niekirk (drums) and Neil Scott (doublebass), the remaining titles were recorded in 1994 and feature Malcom Chapman (lead guitar) and Craig Shaw (rhythm guitar). You can say you’re in good company with members of the Bobshack Stompers, Carlos and the Bandidos, The Excellos, The Polecats etc.
The opening number, “Mama, Mama, Mama”, is a classic rockabilly that reminds a lot of “That’s Allright“. Then everything goes wild with “Duck Run” a Batman like instrumental written by Boorer with a dirty sound and wild screams added for good measure. And from that moment you’re on for 45 minutes of some of the finest rock’n’roll recently recorded featuring Diddley beat (“She’s My Baby” with maracas and sax), strip clubs instrumental (“Filth” with sax) and of course a majority of wild and raucous rockabilly, including a cover of the Cramps’ What’s Inside A Girl“. Talking about The Cramps, “Rocket Ride Bop” is not that far from their sound and reminds me a bit of “Rock On The Moon“. Hey, what did you expect? This band is called the Frantix not the Sweetiz or something like that. Even on mellower tunes like Jimmy Sysum’s Big Time Mama you feel the urgency in Brillo’s voice. Just plain great!
Recorded live, for some parts at Toe Rag, this is what rock’n’roll should be: raw, wild, nervous and most of all thrilling.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

V/A Home Grown Rockabilly

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews/VARIOUS
Home Grown Rockabilly - Nervous
Home Grown Rockabilly – Nervous

Alligator / Nervous
Crazy love – The Meteors / London is my hillbilly home – Johnny Key And The Kool Kats /Rockin’ this joint tonite – The Rhythm Cats /Hi ho fiddle dee dee – Gentleman Jim Mealey /I’m on my way – The Rhythm Cats /Tears fallin’ down like rain – Johnny Key And The Kool Cats /Go away – The Meteors /Move over baby – The Rhythm Cats /Rockin’ all nite – The Polecats /Little confused – Gentleman Jim Mealey /My baby loves me – The Meteors /My baby’s gone – The Rhythm Cats /Second hand information – Gentleman Jim Mealey /Fallin’ for you – Johnny Key And The Kool Kats /I’d find you – Gentleman Jim Mealey /Keep my big wheels turnin’ – Johnny Key And The Kool Kats / Make you realise – Johnny Key And The Kool Kats /Rockin’ on down the line – Gina And The Rockin’ Rebels /Thinkin’ on you – Gina And The Rockin’ Rebels

This compilation first issued on Alligator records in 1980 captures the British rockabilly scene at a key moment of its evolution. It was produced by Terry Earl, Pete Pritchard and Niggsy Owens, respectively drummer, bassist and guitarist of Flying Saucers. They were also the “house band” of the label appearing under the moniker of the Kool Kats on some sides.
The Meteors tracks are three Fenech originals that he sings too. It’s first class Rockabilly with a touch of skiffle on “My Baby Loves Me (Yes She Does)“. We’re far from the sound that ‘d be latter found on “In Heaven”. Actually these three songs were recorded during the transition between Raw Deal (who featured Terry Earl and Pat Panioty who later went on to form the Deltas) and the Meteors. By the time this compilation was released their sound had changed.
Another band who had a lasting influence on the Rockabilly scene was the Polecats. They only recorded one song for this album as they wanted to keep their material for a major record deal.
Before joining the Polecats, Neil Rooney played with the Rhythm Cats along with Peter Davenport and Anders Janes who later formed the Stargazers another rockin’ band to get a deal with a major. The recorded four songs of rural hillbilly bop mixed with rockabilly and early Bill Haley. “Move Over baby” was later reworked by the Stargazers and is/was available on “Rock that Boogie” on Vinyl Japan.
Gentleman Jim (Mealey) played solid rockabilly in the Sun/Meteor style while Johnny Key leaned more toward the hillbilly side of things with mandolin, banjo, fiddle and dobro.
The cd and mp3 version contain the other singles released by the label. Gina and the Strollers released two hot rockabilly numbers. “i’d Find You” is a solid western swing with sax and fiddle by Gentleman Jim while Johnny Key produced “Make You Realise” in the style of Johnny Cash and “Hillbilly Music” covered by Kitty Daisy and Lewis nearly 30 years later on their debut album.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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