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Hatchetmen (the)

When the Stargazers disbanded, Ricky Lee Brawn briefly joined the Chevalier Brothers (with Ray Gelato and Anders Janes). He was then invited to join the Tempo Toppers. The Tempo Toppers consisted of Dot on guitar, Tony Hilton on double bass, both from The Lone Stars who appeared on the James Dean of the Dole Queue compilation album. Tony also played with the Rimshots, not the Rockabilly/Hillbilly Bop band that features John Lewis. Ben (Morris?) was on vocals.

They rehearsed (at least once) with Lee Thompson (Madness sax player). Brawn left after a few months, and the band changed its name to the Hatchetmen. It then featured a bloke called Roy on drums, John Wallace (ex-Stargazers) on baritone and tenor saxophone and William Gibbs on tenor.
The sextet eventually recorded a mini-lp for Big Beat Records in 1985. Vic Keary produced it. His producers credits included Big Jay McNeely and Little Willie Littlefield’s Happy Pay Day (featuring John Wallace and Tony Hilton).

Strangely, the band’s high potential and the musicians’ quality didn’t show up in the final product. The repertoire is borrowed from Chuck Higgins, Amos Milburn, Peggy Lee, Louis Jordan and Good Lewis. But the songs lack vigour and energy and don’t swing much, which is a shame for this kind of music. In addition, the singer tends to do too much, and his interpretation is not very natural.
Vick Keary’s production doesn’t help, either. This brand of music begs for a warm sound, but the sound here is very modern, close to Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive, where a juicy brand of Rhythm‘n’Blues would be needed.
Nevertheless, it contains excellent and exciting moments, particularly some beautiful saxophone parts. Keary is also a saxophonist; you can hear it in how he puts the instrument forward. Dot is, as usual perfect, but her guitar is too buried in the mix to appreciate it fully.
After the band disbanded John Wallace kept on playing with numerous bands and eventually rejoined the Stargazers. Dot and Tony joined forces with James Hunter to form Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-Jays in January 1986. Gibbs wrote a successful saxophone method for Mel Bay and now lives in Dubaï.
We’d be more than happy to hear from you, if you have more infos about Ben and Roy.

the Hatchetmen

Choppin’ Around
Big Beat Records NED 11 [1985]
Real Gone Hound Dog – Johnson’s Rag – Right Now – Why Don’t You Do Right – Pelican Jump – Deacon Jones

Big Mama Thorton

Big Mama Thorton – Just Like A Dog

El Toro ET15.138
Just Like a Dog (Barking Up the Wrong Tree) – My Man Called Me / Stop A-Hoppin’ On Me – I Smell a Rat

Big Mama Thorton

Big Mama Thornton, and her incredible voice, need no introduction (so I hope). This EP gathers four tracks. On side A, you’ll find the rocking Just Like A Dog (this lady has something with the dogs) and the mellower My Man. The flip opens with the Rumba-tinged Rhythm’n’Blues of Stop A-Hoppin’ On Me and ends with the jungle beat of I Smell A Rat. All songs were recorded with Johnny Otis Orchestra except for Stop-A-Hoppin, which features Burt Kendricks & His Orchestra.

Tiny Topsy

Tiny Topsy – Aw! Shucks Baby

El Toro ET-15.140 –
Aw! Shucks Baby -You Shocked Me / Come On, Come On, Come On (With The Charms) – Miss You So

Tiny Topsy - Aw! Shucks Baby

By no means tiny, Tiny Topsy (real name Otha Lee Moore ) had strong lung power and a voice that could peel off the wallpaper. This Ep gathers her first single from 1957 and two A-sides from her second and fourth singles. Aw Shucks is powerful and features a Ray Felder tenor saxophone solo. You Shocked Me is less exciting and a bit too repetitive.
Things get better with Come On, Come On, Come On, which features the Charms on backing vocals. Miss You So has a solid drive on a slow boogie beat led by the guitar.

Johnny Heartsman

Johnny Heartsman – Hot House Party

Koko Mojo Records – KM-EP 111
Johnny Hartsman Band – One More Time – Eugene Blacknell – Jump Back / Johnnys Houseparty 1 – Johnnys Houseparty 2

Johnny Heartsman - Hot House Party

Heartsman’s first instrumental is good, albeit a tad repetitive. Fans of the Stray Cats would probably be interested in hearing this one. The b-side is occupied by Johnny’s Houseparty parts 1 & 2. This tune sounds like an answer to Honky Tonk with sax, organ and screams provided by The Gaylarks, who happened to be there. Eugene Blacknell and his Savonics complete the set with a groovy number featuring hot sax and dirty guitar. The perfect soundtrack for a crime B-movie.

The Jaguars

The Jaguars – Rock With the Jaguars

Koko Mojo Records – KM-EP-113
The Jaguars – Rock It Davy Rock It – The Jaguars – The City Zoo (Baby Baby Baby) / The Jaguars with Patty Ross – The Big Bear – Chavez and Chaney – Picadilly Rose

The Jaguars - Rock With the Jaguars

The Jaguars were a vocal group consisting of Herman Chaney (lead), Valeric Poliuto (tenor), Manuel Chavez (baritone) and Charles Middleton (bass). Before being the Jaguars, they went under the name of The Shadows and after that, The Miracles. One of their particularity was to be one of the first interracial bands featuring Hispanic, Afro-American and white (from Italian origins) members.
They performed doo-wop with a strong Rhythm’n’blues feel. Both Rock It, Davy, Rock It and The City Zoo are solid and enjoyable tunes. The band also provided backing vocals for Patty Ross (daughter of big-band trumpeter Bob Ross) on The Big Bear. Finally, in 1959, Chavez and Chaney recorded under the name of Frankie & Johnny for Sabrina and by 1960, under the name Chavez & Chaney (though later reissued as Frankie & Johnny by Liberty). Piccadilly Rose is from that session and is a solid twangy rocker.

Fred “Virgil“ Turgis

Ella Johnson

Ella Johnson – Bring It Home!

El Toro ET15141
What a Day! – No More Love / They Don’t Want me to Rock No More – Bring It Home to Me

Ella Johnson - Bring It Home!

The great Ella Johnson, who recorded with her brother Buddy falls right on that blurry line between Rhythm’n’Blues and Jazz with a dose of Rock’n’Roll. The singer possesses a beautiful voice, very clean yet expressive. The tight arrangements remind those of the Big Band era, and there’s plenty of room for soloists to express themselves (superb rocking sax part on They Don’t Want Me to Rock No More). You’ll love this EP if you dig Dinah Washington and Ella Mae Morse.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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