Did The Joint Rock!
Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Show No. 37
13th to 16th October 2006.
This was the first Hemsby at its new location, The Seacroft Holiday Site, and from witnessing the milling good hearted throng as soon as one entered on to the camp, it was evident that Hemsby was back after a couple of disappointing recent turn outs (when viewed from the attendance perspective as opposed to quality of music). Equally as important was that indefinable buzz that was in the air. I was informed that this site was full, as were virtually all the neighboring camps. People were clearly appreciating the new venue with its well laid out facilities; indeed apparently the order for drinks supplies was the largest for fifteen years in the county of Norfolk (and they still managed to run out of Holstein Pils!). The customary record stalls, clothes dealers and all the normal peripheries associated with these weekenders also abounded. But this successful impact would have been diminished if the music was not up to the high level that we come to expect from Hemsby. As will be evident from the following highlights, musically this was one of the best yet, especially the Saturday night.
Friday, 13th October 2006 (Texas comes to England).
Opening act in the main hall was The Deltas, a rockabilly outfit from North West London and who have been active since the eighties. Lead singer Bongo is still pretty wild. They were followed by Texas legend Rudy ‘Tutti’ Grazell who had the top notch Sugar Creek Trio (augmented by Clive Osbourne on saxophone) as his backing band. From the outset, it was evident that Grayzell was in a ‘take no prisoners mood’ as he launched straight into ‘Tutti Frutti’ followed by the likes of ‘Hearts Of Stone and ‘Why Why Why’. He was full of action as he proceeded on with ‘I’m Sitting By Myself’ ‘One Mile’ and ‘You Got The Rutti Tutti’. This was followed by ‘Judy’ (a song he recorded for Sun) and, for myself the highlight of the act, ‘FBI Story’. This was searing rock ‘n’ roll with great sax work from the aforementioned Mr. Osbourne. Rudy was injecting a valuable and appreciated element of humour into his act. He spotted Roy Head in the audience and told a story as to how Roy had borrowed $50.00 from him (this increased to $90.00 as the act progressed) and had never been repaid. To put the record straight, Roy subsequently told me that the true story was he (Roy) had lent $50.00 to Hank Williams Junior and this was still outstanding. Rudy had picked up on the story but had no involvement. To conclude his fourth Hemsby appearance, we were treated to ‘Don’t Mess With My Ducktail’, ‘Let’s Get Wild’ and a further stab at ‘I’m Sitting By Myself. An enjoyable set, from a great human being.
Following on was another Texan, Gene Summers, who has to be one of the most pleasant guys to talk to. Backed up by the Hemsby House Band, who were going to make a sterling input into the whole of the week’s proceedings, he started out with ‘Gotta Lotta That’, the crowd favourite ‘Fancy Dan’, ‘Alabama Shake’ before paying a fitting tribute to the late Sonny Fisher with ‘Rockin’ Daddy’. Gene does to tend towards the cabaret side of rock ‘n’ roll but make no mistake, he is a true originator as he demonstrated with ‘Straight Skirt’, ‘Twixteen’ and the beat ballad ‘I’ll Never Bo Lonely (which was the flip of ‘Twixteen’). Despite his recent heart scares, he looked in great shape and was very active on the stage, especially on ‘Red Hot’, ‘Be Bop City’ ‘Wine Wine Wine’ and the classic ‘Nervous’. I was sufficiently impressed with this performance that, upon returning home, the first thing that I did was to dig out his superb CD on Rollercoaster Records to demonstrate to Mrs. Wilkinson just what she had missed. For the encore, Gene performed ‘School Of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ before reprising ‘Alabama Shake.
With advancing years, the spirit may still be willing but the body is weak, and so I elected to retire to the comfort of my bed and thus missed The Polecats. By the accounts I heard the next day, this was probably a mistake as their unique blend of punkabilly and different songs was a big crowd pleaser.
Saturday, 14th October 2006 (on of the best night’s music for years)..
The opening main hall act was a guy whom I had wanted to see since the mid-sixties, namely Roy Head. Indeed, this was only his second ever UK visit (the first being sometime back in the sixties). Steeping on to the stage, it was straight into the classic ‘Treat Her Right’, a little ditty that had sold over a million records back in 1965 after it had been rescued from its first incarnation when known as ‘Calling All Cows’. Looking resplendent in a white jacket, Roy was the real epithet of a rock ‘n’ roll singer. His microphone technique was near unbelievable, his voice was good, powerful and raucous when required and his stage presence was awesome. From this, it was straight into ‘Teenage Letter’ and ‘One More Time’. The last mentioned was the first time that Roy had performed this song live since recording it in Texas in the late fifties. I was watching gob smacked with his brilliant stage craft as he sang ‘Just A Little Bit’ followed by a Bo Diddley medley comprising ‘Bo Diddley/Hey Bo Diddley/Who Do You Love’ before pausing and then launching into a full length version of ‘Bring It To Jerome’. The backing by the Hemsby House Band was great but would have been superlative if they had been augmented by another saxophone and trumpet to add extra punch. The set proceeded with ‘Apple Of My Eye’ in which lead guitarist Antonio Conti nailed the biting guitar solo brilliantly, then ‘Get Back’, a further raid on the Bo Diddley songbook with ‘Before You Accuse Me’ and a fine tribute to fellow Texan Ray Sharpe with a top notch rockin’ treatment of ‘Linda Lu’. For an encore, Roy rocked away on ‘Live It Up’ and briefly fell to the stage floor to demonstrate his famous Alligator Crawl. Apparently this had come about one night when Roy fell off the stage and starting to imitate an alligator on his back to rescue the situation. He left the stage with audience shouts of ‘more’ but sadly this was not to be.
Next up was the beautiful lady from Sweden, Eva Eastwood with her band The Major Keys. Eva is the stuff that causes one to retreat to darken rooms. She has a great voice, makes excellent contact with the audience and, in The Major Keys, has one of the finest bands in Europe. Perfect examples of her craft were the rockin’ songs ‘Hot Chicks A Cool Cats’, the hard drumming rocker ‘Buddy, I Got You’ the exhilarating ‘I Do, I Love You’ and ‘Don’t Make That Mistake’. All of these songs were composed by Eva, apparently she has written in excess of 900 songs. In a rockin’ Wanda Jackson style, we were treated to ‘Let Me In’ before cooling the tempo down with the excellent country ballad ‘A Reminder Of You’. It was then full tilt into the wild ‘Go Young Man’, ‘The Phone Number’ and ‘You Should Have Asked Me’. Eva has recently written the mid tempo rocker ‘Seventh Heaven On Fifth Floor’ for Linda Gail Lewis but her version will take some beating. Then came the perfect stroller, ‘Wendi’s Wedding’. This performance was shaping up as one of the highlights of this Hemsby as she went into ‘What Do You Know About Love and ‘Everybody’s Gone And Done It’. On the last mentioned, the lead guitarist played with shades of the great Dick Dale. Eva closed out her set with two covers (the only ones of the entire act) in ‘As Long As I’m Movin’ and ‘Ain’t Got A Thing’. This performance had been the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll dreams and did I mention how bloody marvelous the Major Keys are? The chants for more lasted several minutes.
Stepping on to the stage just after midnight was Travis LeDoyt who is fast gaining a reputation for giving as close a show to that Elvis Presley was giving out in the fifties. Physically he has a close resemblance to Presley and he has obviously watched, absorbed and practiced every Elvis movement. This was all oh so evident in this performance. He soon had the ladies of in the audience screaming with delight and I watched the whole show with a smile on my face. He was oh so entertaining as he bumped and grinded his way through the fifties and early sixties Presley songbook. Examples of this are ‘All Shook Up’, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, ‘Love Me’, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Hound Dog’. I lost count of how many times he shagged the microphone stand.. He had his own three piece backing band with him who should have played with as much fire and gusto that Travis was putting into his performance but were sadly somewhat muted. I was wondering where the sounds of piano and backing vocal group were coming from until I spotted the lap top computer on the stage and realised that part of the backing was by pre-recorded tracks. That said, LeDoyt was probably the best reincarnation of the young Presley that we are ever likely to see. People were standing eighteen deep in the audience watching and cheering him. There were no original numbers in the set, but we were treated to fine versions of ‘Wear My Ring’, ‘Trouble’, ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’. On the last mentioned, the famous film dance sequence was faithfully recreated. After going for a walkabout through the audience singing ‘Love Me Tender’, Travis closed his set with ‘Such A Night’. This reviewer can endorse that sentiment.
Final act for Saturday night was Sweden’s The Go-Getters who performed with their customary bags of thrash ‘n’ bash and winning over the crowd in the process.
Sunday, 7th May 2006 (a top rockin’ finale).
One of the fastest rising bands on the UK and European circuit is Jack Rabbit Slim whose members have come together from the ashes of Bob And The Bearcats plus Rockin’ Rocket 88. They performed at a pace that varied between fast and frantic, there simply was no let up. Indeed, the guy standing next to remarked, ‘oh please play a slow number’. That said, the guys are clearly talented as they performed such tunes as ‘Rock Me Baby, Rock Me’, ‘Slease A Billy’, ‘Sparkling Brown Eyes’ and ‘High Tone Woman’. The very tasty instrumental ‘Dragstrip’ was played in fine Link Wray style and ‘Sweet Thing’ was served up with a Bo Diddley beat. The slowest number of the nigh was Don and Dewey’s ‘Justine’. The set was a mixture of originals and covers. From the latter category, the band chose to perform ‘That’s The Man Who Counts’ as a tribute to the late Johnny Cash. This was rocked up in no uncertain manner. Other good numbers were ‘Lula Mae’, ‘The Gypsy Curse’ and ‘A Long Time Dead’. The last mentioned was in a style straight out of the Johnny Burnette Rock ‘n’ roll Trio styling. The band were very well received and obviously are going on to greater glory.
Next up was a guy who has been performing since 1954, namely Bobby Mansfield who had fronted one of the all time great doo wop groups, The Wrens. He bought over his own musical director, Hal Keshner, who had been a previous Hemsby visitor many years ago with the great Five Discs. Substitute Wrens for the night was the vocal section of the UK outfit The Metrotones whilst the Hemsby House Band handled the musical accompaniment. Bobby has a soft but marvelous smooth voice and could have been better served by a higher level of amplification. That said, he also had the somewhat annoying habit of drifting on and off the microphone. Opening up with ‘Eleven Roses’, and following this with ‘Red Dress’ and the great ‘I Won’t Come To Your Wedding’ this was settling down to an enjoyable performance, despite the aforementioned warts. These tunes were followed by the up-tempo ‘Hey Girl’ before we were treated to the hit song ‘C’Est La Vie’. It was then back to a rockin’ beat with ‘Love is Something That Is Made For Two’ before settling down again with the dreamy ballad ‘I’m Just That Kind Of Guy’. All too soon, we reached the finale and of course it had to be the classic ‘Come Back My Love’, a number that finally made the UK charts in the seventies in the hands of The Darts. That was it, an enjoyable act that could have been great.
Due to work commitments the next day, I decided to get a reasonably early night and so missed the final act, namely the Spanish rockabilly act The Nitemares. I called into the hotel for a night cap and was treated to Rudy Grayzell and Roy Head holding court, each trying to out-do each other in a good hearted way. The outcome was hilarious and put paid to my previous advised good intentions. A highlight was Roy demonstrating a full blown version of his alligator crawl across the bar floor. This was the stuff that memories are made of.
Well, that was another Hemsby concluded, certainly one of the best from an enjoyment perspective in quite a little while. But we have number 38 to look forward to between 20th and 23rd April 2007, again at the Seacroft Holiday Site. Headliners include Jack Earls, Ray Campi. Marti Brom, Rusty York, Mike Sanchez, Wayne Hancock, The Infernos, The Madmen, The Star Devils and the Barnshakers. A mouth watering line-up, that’s for sure. See’s you there….
© Tony Wilkinson,