Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Show No. 43
Seacroft Holiday Centre
9th to 12th October 2009.
As the summer faded from our thoughts and the autumnal weather started to set in, here I was again making the second of my twice a year pilgrimages to the East Anglia region of England for Hemsby and some hot rockin' music. Arriving at the Seacroft Holiday Centre, Hemsby after bidding a fond farewell to Mrs. Wilkinson (try as she may, that look of pleasure on her face was there again - and she got her second bi-annual bunch of flowers upon my return), it was again evident that this was THE place to be for rock 'n' roll music. The whole rockin' scene was in place from the start and stayed that way throughout the whole weekend. Amongst the large gathering present were many old friends, plus the opportunity was taken to make several new acquaintances. Yet again, Hemsby had retained its rightful title as the place to be for all shades of rock 'n' roll - I doff my hat to promoter Willie Jeffery.
All four main compartments at the camp were again established and thriving. Going from west to east, the first is reception and the Trafalgar Ballroom which had shows, a good bar and disc jockies playing through each night until after dawn had broken. This was also the area that contains Record Stalls (where my investments for the children's future inheritance were maintained) and two nearby 50's Vintage and Retro Markets. From here it was on to the Mayflower Restaurant, where food and refreshments were available until the early hours of each morning, and an even larger adjacent 50's Vintage and Retro Market. Next along is the Blue Lagoon bar that was well stocked and stayed open until midnight each night. Again, this proved to be ideal location to relax and have a chat to many friends, both old and new, especially between the shows. Finally, just across the way is the Nelson Ballroom which is where the main musical acts took the stage, the heart beat of Hemsby.
This time around, the live music had commenced on Wednesday night with a rock 'n' roll wedding and with Charlie Gracie performing at the reception. From reports, he was in his usual top form. Thursday night saw further live music for early arrival. Indeed this time around, the attendance was a record level - no doubt occasioned by a one off appearance from Sweden's Go-Getters. As per normal, Hemsby commenced in earnest with the customary meet 'n' greet session early on the Friday evening. This is the ideal location to tune up for the rockin' music, have a chat with the visiting American and European artists and generally absorb that famous Hemsby buzz.
Friday, 9th October 2009 (that rockin' beat starts in earnest)
In the Trafalgar Ballroom, Hemsby 43 was launched with Birmingham based act The Muskrats who have been on the scene since 1993 and proved popular, especially with their club favourite 'King Bees'. Then came one of the Hemsby highlights, an appearance by the trio Lord Rochester who hail from Annan, Scotland but from the style and tone of their act, they could have come from Mississippi. This was a solid and entertaining set in the Bo Diddley style, both from the visual and musical perspectives - even down to starting with a square shaped guitar and tartan jackets. Consisting of a lead guitarist and singer, a lady bass player and a drummer who bore an uncanny resemblance to a young Jerry Allison, they socked it to us with a mixture of originals and covers, all with that magical Bo Diddley beat. Numbers such as 'Down Home Special' and I Can Tell' were mixed in with 'Death Row' and 'Delirious', the last mentioned being a real show stopper as the hypnotic beat was pounded out (the drummer playing his minimal drum kit with a pair of maracas) alongside a stinging guitar lead and spot on vocals. A couple of times during the set, the drummer man was thumping away heavily enough to dislodge his snare drum from its mounts. That these situations were quickly recovered without detriment to the performance is testament to the quality of professionalism on show. Other first rate tunes included in the set were 'Hey Bo Diddley' (natch), a superb 'Cadillac' and a first rate up tempo 'Riding on A Train'. Certainly, a must see again act.
Over in the main Nelson Ballroom, the opening act was the Welsh outfit Bill Fadden & The Rhythm Busters. From the outset, here was a high energy rockabilly based outpouring performed in a top notch authentic and highly entertaining style. Bill certainly knows how to use the stage as we were treated to 'What Am I Gonna Do', 'Half Hearted Love' and an excellent version of Ronnie Self's 'Flame Of Love'. Dropping into the more obscure catalogue, we also had energetic and visually exciting treatments of Freddie Hart's 'Snatch It And Grab It' plus Ray Smith's 'You Made A Hit' and a heavily Sun Records influenced treatment of 'Chains Of Love'. The set climaxed with a wonderful workout on Tommy Blake's 'Lordy Hoody', the excitement levels reaching new peaks. Over-running by now, the audience was insistent that Fadden came back and he served up 'Heart Breaking Mama' and 'The Train Kept A Rollin'. Oh yeah, this had been great rockabilly music.
Next came one of the true originators, Marvin Rainwater, who was backed up by the (now) famous Hemsby House Band lead by Wayne Hopkins and including Antonio Coni on brilliant lead guitar and Clive Osbourne on sax. Again, this was a no frills, straight in your face rock 'n' roll set as Marvin opened up with 'Love Me Baby' quickly followed by his No. 1 UK hit 'Whole Lotta Woman' and 'I Dig You Baby. Pausing for breath, Marvin advised us that the lead guitarist in his band The Rockin' Tomahawks back in the fifties had been none other than Roy 'Please Mr. Mayor' Clark who went onto become a country music superstar and showman of the highest order. Rainwater certainly knew what the crowd wanted to hear as he served up 'Mr. Blues', 'Baby Please Don't Go' and his own paean to that infamous ale from Newcastle with 'Newkie Brown'. He and the band were cooking rockin' hot with 'Rovin' Gambler', 'Wild Man' and a great 'Boo Hoo'. One of his newer numbers is 'Rockabilly Music Coming Down' and this demonstrated that this guy, who is now in his eighties, has no lessening in his love for rockin' music. Next came 'Rock Me' which was oh so familiar and this became apparent as he repeated the number, with amended lyrics' as 'Dance Me Daddy'. Seemingly back in the sensitive fifties, the lyrics had been deemed to be too suggestive and therefore had to be 'cleaned up'. This exciting and enjoyable set came to a conclusion with 'Rockin' Down The Walls' and the classic 'Hot And Cold'. File under Marvin The Magnificent.
Friday's close out act was Chicago's own Nick Willett backed up by Bill Fadden & The Rhythm Busters. Nick has recently been touring in the USA in the musical 'Million Dollar Quartet' and the stage experience so learnt has certainly rubbed off as this was the best that I have seen Nick thus far. Here was a guy brimming with confidence as opened his set with Charlie Rich's 'Midnight Blues'. His voice is great and his stage movements of the highest caliber and this was evident on 'Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie', a lovely treatment of Presley's 'How Do You Think I Feel' before racking up the tempo on 'Gotta Lotta That'. Next came a surprise as we had a fine version of Dean Martin's 'Ain't Gonna Try Anymore' and a first rate interpretation of 'Believe What You Say. Willett was using the stage to his full advantage and the crowd loved the visual excitement. He usually features a gospel spot in his show and tonight was no exception as he gave us emotion drenched treatments of 'I Believe In The Man In The Sky' and 'Swing Down Sweet Chariot' before proceeding with the Presley beat ballad 'I Was The One' and a fine 'Milk Cow Blues'. BY now, Nick had the audience eating out of his hand and he launched into a fine series of rockers such as 'Ain't That Loving You Baby' (fast version), 'I Want You With Me' and the underperformed 'I Need Your Love Tonight'. Scheduled for a 45 minute show, the crowd would not let him go and he had to come back for several encores. A fine close out performance for a great night of rockin'.
Saturday, 10th October 2009 (rockin' in style).
Sadly, the classic car cruise did not take place this Hemsby but I have been assured that it will be back next May. But at the camp, there was plenty going on. Apart from jive lessons from Kav Kavanagh (remaining the rock 'n' roll version of television's 'Strictly Ballroom'), all the stalls were open and going great guns. There was also live music from The Groove Diggers and Slick 49, interspersed with some top notch recorded rockin' music from the various DJs. In the Blue Lagoon Bar, there was a cocktail party and over in the main hall, the opening act was Rusty Steel & The Startones. I last saw this band back in July at the Americana Festival and thought how good they were then. That impression was firmly cemented with this show as the four piece group dished up an eclectic set. Heavily rockabilly influenced, the music was just great as the tight and cohesive band served up a selection of ditties such as 'Sag, Drag And Fall', 'A Lover's Question' and 'All I Could Do Is Cry'. The quality of the musicianship was just great ands this was evidenced on sparking versions of 'Big Sandy', 'Catty Town', 'Ballroom Baby' and their own 'Rachel'. This band cleverly mixed a selection of well known songs like 'Real Gone Daddy' and 'Your True Love' with the more unknown but still fine songs such as 'When I Found You and 'That's The Way I Feel'. With the audience calling out for more, Rusty and the guys closed out with 'Goodbye, Goodbye'.
Then it was time for two Detroit based guys, namely Johnny Powers along with guitarist Chris Casello, who were jointly backed by The Infernos. Johnny was of course back there in the fifties and first recorded in 1955. Accordingly, he knows his way around the stage but the presence of Casello serves to inspire him to new heights. These two, together, dish up an unbeatable mixture of excitement and stage craft. Casello was the first to take the stage and had previously been a sideman to the likes of Jack Scott and the late great Billy Lee Riley. Accordingly, it was no surprise when he performed a fine instrumental on 'Hucklebuck' before wrapping his vocals around 'Rockin' Daddy'. Then Johnny Powers took the stage and the set proceeded to rock into orbit as he opened up with 'Rock Rock', 'Honey Let's Go To A Rock 'n' Roll Show' and a powerful 'Trouble'. The vocals were spot on as Johnny stood there with his legs spread wide and Casello picked away like a demented man behind him. Indeed, the vocal tones of Powers appear to have improved with age. This was rock 'n' roll of the highest order and the excitement levels built in layers as we had 'Mean Mistreater', 'Be Mine', 'With You Love, With Your Kiss' and 'Me And My Rhythm Guitar'. I do not recall Johnny performing 'You Win Again' previously but here we had a really top notch treatment. There was also included a selection of more recent recordings like 'New Spark For An Old Flame', 'I Was There When It Happened' (intended to be a joint recording with the late Carl Perkins) and 'Rock Me Rockabilly'. Along the way we also had 'Have I old You Lately That I Love You' but, of course, we also received, with rapturous applause, 'Mama Rock' and the classic 'Long Blond Hair' which both rocked like there was no tomorrow. This had been rock 'n' roll of the highest order.
Back in May 2008 for Hemsby 40, the original Tunnel line-up of The Blue Cats had played their first gig in around fifteen years. They stormed the stage then and so it was no wonder that the hall was packed as Clint Bradley, Carlo and Stef. Edwards and Paul Diffin stepped on the stage once again. These guys again played as if there had been no gaps whatsoever as they launched into 'Casting My Spell', 'All I Could Do Was Cry and 'Galluping Man (a tribute to Blue Caps guitarist Cliff Gallup). From the start, they carried the audience along with them and once again it seemed like the rockabilly revival of the eighties was with us. They are a group of professional musicians with their own identity and sound and featured many of their original songs such as 'Gotta Go' from 1982, the obvious choice of 'The Tunnel', a fine 'Tainted Love' and a clearly sincere tribute to the later Johnny Kidd with 'Restless'. The good news is that the band has been in the recording studio recently and has laid down a selection of recently written songs with the new CD about to hit the market place. When the group performed the song 'Wild Night' they bought out the 'dancers' who proceeded to do their own Rumble Rock in which 'dancers' sought to seemingly knock five bells out of each other in a mock fight scenario. Each to their own, I retreated for a drink at this part of the performance. When I returned, the Blue Cats were still rockin away, the audience was hollering for more and this was duly served up with the set really overrunning and finally closing our with 'The Train Kept A Rollin'. The calls for more went on for many minutes and, clearly, the band will be back soon - such is their undoubted popularity.
To my lasting regret, I did not catch the close out act for the night, Voola & The Jayhawks. In reality, this was disc jockey Rohan The Man and a bunch of musicians serving up their tribute to the late Screaming Jay Hawkins. From the buzz the next day, it was evident that I had missed something really special - indeed one long term Hemsby attendee described the show as being in the all time top twenty shows of Hemsby.
Sunday, 11th October 2009 (Fine Rockin' Conclusion).
The Sunday commenced with the regular boot fair with some bargains to be had. During the afternoon, it was time for the regular rockin' sold out boat cruise on the nearby Norfolk Broads, organised by Liz Holt and Andy Molyneaux. Straight after lunch, the attendees piled into two coaches and took off for a pleasant drive through the countryside to the Norfolk Broads where a boat was waiting to take participants off for a rockin' time. Recorded music was provided by DJ Wildcat Pete whilst live entertainment was supplied by Bill Fadden and the boys. Both Nick Willett and Johnny Powers were on board with Nick getting up to the microphone and singing a few rockin' sea shanties.
Back at the camp, there had been an afternoon jam session with Blue De Ville and a performance by The Sandiagos, a young teenage band from Nottingham who demonstrated that they have the ability to go far. In addition, there was the second round of Kav's Jive Lessons
The evening's events in the main ballroom commenced with a performance by Belgium's own Lawen Stark & The Slide Boppers. I have commented that Hemsby generally throws up an act who, whilst being previously unknown, possesses that star quality. We had already had Lord Rochester in that regard this Hemsby but Lawen and his band easily fitted into this category as well. Monsieur Stark is a great harsh edged vocalist, has stage presence in abundance and, with the Slide Boppers, a great set of musicians. Opening up with Magic Sam's '21 Days', it was then into the Sonny Burgess song 'Tomorrow Night' which Lawen nailed beautifully. The rockin' continued unabated with 'Rock Crazy Baby' and 'Please Don't Leave Me' (Johnny Burnette style). The Hank Williams song book was raided a couple of times with rock 'n' roll treatments applied to 'Your Cheating Heart' and 'Long Gone Lonesome Blues', both of which worked. The deep powerful voice of Stark really suited 'That's Where I Belong' and 'Hey Little Mama' whilst the original song 'I'm In The Wrong' was excellent. Throughout this set, Lawen built up the excitement levels and so when the set drew to a close with 'Demons In My Head' and 'Blue Swinging Mama', the hall were yelling for more. This was supplied in the form of 'Big Fat Baby', a fast, frantic but great workout. Another must see again act.
Sunday night was the evening for a vocal group and, for this Hemsby; we had the British based Roomates. They came on and gave out with great harmonies in the main and performed with bags of choreographed movements. I would describe them as a rock 'n' roll vocal group as opposed to a doo wop outfit although there were bags of that musical styling in evidence. They drew from plenty of sources for their material such as the Majestics and Belmonts with 'Searching For A New Love', Jay & The Americans for 'Dawning' and the Del Vikings with 'Whispering Bells' the last mentioned was nailed to perfection. The Roomates also varied the tempos nicely and tastefully with ditties such as 'Can't Live On Memories', 'Wah Wah Baby' and 'There's A Moon Out Tonight'. This was a fine fine white vocal group performance and with the excellent performance of 'Story Untold' (originally by the Time Tones and which was the forerunner of 'Bristol Stomp'), it was a logical next step to raid the Dion songbook with 'I Wonder Why' and 'Ruby Baby' before venturing into Jack Scott territory with 'Flakey John'. The last mentioned worked well but unfortunately on the next number, 'The Wanderer' there were visible signs of disagreement on stage between the five vocalists and this took the edge off the proceedings. However, the situation was quickly recovered with 'At The Hop' and 'Runaround Sue' before the set climaxed with the Dion and The Del Satins song 'Feeling No Pain'. Overall, a very good performance
The final act for this Hemsby was The Humdingers. These are a group of rockabillies who dress up as hayseed hillbillies and have one member who clowns around the whole time playing a wide variety of appliances as instruments but which only served as a distraction. I did not appreciate this band at all but willingly concede that they have a good following. 'Nuff said.
That was it and a further return to the reality of these troubled times. However, there is next May to look forward to with the likes of Don Woody finally making it over along with Jack Earls, Roc La Rue and Mary Jean Lewis along with The Sureshots, Truly Lover Trio and Carmen Ghia included in the acts scheduled to appear at the next Hemsby. Make a note of 14th through to 17th May 2010 in your diaries.© Tony Wilkinson - October 2009
FROM THE DESK OF TONY WILKINSON
4 North Street, Great Wakering, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS3 0EL
Tel: (0)1702 219 179 - Fax: (0)1702 218 850 - E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Fadden 1
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Chris Casello 1
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Johnny Powers 1
Johnny Powers 2
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Johnny Powers 4
Lawren Stark 1
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Lawren Stark 3
Lawren Stark 4
Lawren Stark 5
Lawren Stark 6
Lord Rochester 1
Lord Rochester 2
Lord Rochester 3
Marvin Rainwater 1
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Nick Willett 1
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Nick Willett 3
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Rusty Steel 1
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Rusty Steel 3
Rusty Steel 4
The Blue Cats 1
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The Blue Cats 3
The Blue Cats 4
The Humdingers 1
The Humdingers 2
The Humdingers 3
The Roomates 1
The Roomates 2
The Roomates 3
The Roomates 4
The Roomates 5