When it's Springtime in Hemsby, it's rockin' hot
Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Show No. 46
Seacroft Holiday Centre
12th to 15th May 2011.
After the recent unusual outburst of warm dry weather that we had here in the UK, it was a pleasure to drive the car northwards to the Seacroft Holiday Centre that is host to the Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Weekender, a temperature raising event in its own right. . Mrs. Wilkinson again appeared to be beside herself as I left home - no doubt anticipating nearly four days of her own peace (I would no go as far as to say quiet). The whole rockin' scene was once again in place from the start with attendance levels at their highest ever since the event transferred to the Seacroft Holiday Centre. Yes, it has been said before but it is worth repeating this was THE place to be for rock 'n' roll music. Hemsby continues to be the festival covering all shades of rock 'n' roll and promoter Willie Jeffery maintains that winning streak.
All four main sections at the centre were again thriving. Going from west to east, the first is reception and the Harlequin 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 I continued with my investments for the grand children's on-going musical education 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. Finally, just across the way is The Starlight Ballroom which is where the main musical acts took the stage, the heart beat of Hemsby.
An expanded bill on Thursday night saw the first waves of live music for early arrivals. These were provided by The Leopard Trio, a rockabilly trio based in nearby Norwich, Borderlines, The Misdeals playing their brand of music described in the programme as rockabilly blues with their own twist plus Jesse James & The Outlaws a band who have been playing rockabilly at venues all over Europe since 1993.
Friday, 13th May 2011 (let's rock 'n' roll.)
In the Harlequin room, Hemsby 46 took off with performances from Slick 49, an outfit specializing in vintage style rockabilly and who list Charlie Feathers and Hank Williams amongst their influences. They were followed by Hemsby favourites Bill Fadden & The Rhythm Busters who were formed five years ago when The Rimshots broke up. These guys are most capable and entertaining musicians and were to make another couple of appearances this weekend but more about these when appropriate. They rocked like there was no tomorrow.
The evening's events kicked off in the Starlight Ballroom with an exhilarating performance from The Mean Devils who are regarded as one of the top rockin' bands from Portugal. Based on this show, this is a more than justified reputation and there were bags of stimulating and visually exciting musical emanating from the stage. There were considerable selections of original material such as 'Out Of Space Bar 'mixed in with great growly treatments of such classics as 'Mean Little Mama' . These guys are the real deal.
Next up came first time appearances in Europe from American visitors John D Levan and Clyde Stacy. John was the guitarist for Clyde in 1955 and 1957 and has played behind a veritable who's who of top musicians such as Sonny West, Ferlin Husky and J J Cale. He is a three times CMA winner and today leads his own band The Thunderbolts. In essence, he was the warm up for Clyde but is clearly a more than capable performer in his own right and numbers such as 'I've Been Everywhere', 'Bo Diddley' and 'Nashville Boogie Woogie Rebel' demonstrated this Ð but it was marred by the sound balance being wrong. The guitar playing from the guitarist in the backing group The Sureshots' drowned out just about everybody else, including Levan. However, when he could be heard, John clearly was the consummate musician. Unfortunately matters did not improve when Clyde Stacy took the stage as he and the backing band generally were not that well coordinated. It came across as lacking rehearsal and cohesion. There was a selection of numbers from the Clyde Stacy songbook such as 'Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor' and 'Hoy Hoy' along with his versions of 'I'll Try', 'Matchbox' and 'Don't Worry'. At times, it was not clear what was going on up there on stage, a situation not helped by some of The Sureshots swigging beer during the performance. There were moments of fragmentary brilliance but unfortunately not enough of them.
However, the reverse can be said of the next act which was British rock 'n' roll originator Roy Young fronting a band lead by another veteran, the great saxophonist Howie Casey.
Roy sat down at the piano, opened up with 'Slow Down' and the twin saxes, drums, guitar and bass roared into rockin' life accompanied by Roy's Little Richard school of rockin' and his attempts to pound the piano into submission. Boy, this was top notch rock 'n' roll from a professional, who has been around the block a few times, accompanied by seasoned musicians who clearly knew what was required and set about providing it for the next hour. The musical excellence built up in layers as the raids on the Little Richard songbook with such as 'True Fine Mama' 'She's Got It', 'Keep A Knockin', 'Bama Lama Bama Loo' and a truly wonderful 'Miss Ann' were mixed in with selections of the ilk of 'I Go Ape', 'The Mess Around' and 'Blueberry Hill'. Along the way, we also got Roy's own 'My Big Fat Mama' performed as a pumping piano lead solo effort. This had been great, truly sublime rock 'n' roll.
lose out act for this evening was the unique Union Avenue, an Edinburgh based band who specialise in taking 'recent' hit tunes and readapting them to the Johnny Cash Sun Records chicka boom styling. This approach really works, especially as they have Andrew Cardno on lead vocals and Paul Patterson on lead guitar. Here we were listening to 'Teenage Kicks' (The Undertones), 'White Wedding' (Billy Idol), 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' (The Clash), 'Ace Of Spades' (Motorhead) and 'Sympathy For The Devil' (Rolling Stones) and really enjoying the interpretations. Similar applied to Cher's 'Bang Bang'. The last mentioned was great, really had me boppin' away in the early hours of the morning. Naturally the band was all dressed in black and the lead singer feel got under the skin of Johnny Cash as he sang 'Cocaine Blues' and 'Big River'. Truly, this set had again adopted a significantly different but most enjoyable approach - albeit perhaps now is the time to include some more new numbers. .
Saturday, 14th May 2011 (ain't no stoppin' this boppin'. ).
The classic car cruise, organised by Andy Molineux and Liz Holt, was back with us and it was just great to see all those fine old vintage type cars on the road. Along with jive lessons from Kav Kavanagh (still remaining the rock 'n' roll version of Bruce Forsyth), all the stalls at the camp were open and going great guns. The afternoon also included live music from The Tex Speed Combo, whose membership comprises previous personnel from the Crawdads and the Rhythmaires, playing basic rockabilly. There was also a set from the previously mentioned Sureshots. All this was interspersed with some top notch recorded rockin' music from the various DJs. Early evening saw the Hemsby Pin Up Queen Contest which certainly bought back fond memories.
The opening act that evening in the main hall was The Bricats from Germany. They are the backing band for Sunday night's headliners The Crystalairs but also function as a rockin' trio in their own right. That they are excellent musicians was soon established, albeit that a couple of numbers had definite jazzy overtones but when they rocked out on tunes such as 'My Guitar' and 'Long Blond Hair', there was no holding them. Theirs was an interesting and well balanced set with a selection of numbers ranging from 'Crazy About My Baby' through 'The Walk' to a blinding version of 'The Crawl' with some originals such as 'Take That Grit' interspersed along the way. A pleasing performance, to say the least.
Next artist to take centre stage was main headliner Narvel Felts making his long overdue return to a UK rock 'n' roll festival. From the outset, it was obvious that Narvel and the backing band, the previously mentioned Rhythm Busters augmented by former leader John Lewis on piano, were at one in their understanding of what was required and how to deliver same. After Narvel's customary opening 'Back Home In The USA' (albeit changed to the UK), it was straight into class rock 'n' roll with tunes such as 'Foolish Thoughts', 'Cry Baby', 'Go Go Go', 'My Prayer', 'Pink And Black Days' and 'Kiss-A Me Baby'. His voice was spot on, his stage technique simply awesome and the selection of numbers truly first rate. Couple this with the great musical backing from The Rhythm Busters and we were not far short of rock 'n' roll perfection. The set continued to plough its straight rock 'n' roll furrow with 'My Babe', ' Lonely Teardrops' (Narvel's second biggest selling record), 'Did You Tell Me' (the European favourite from his days at Sun Records, 'I'm Going Home' before closing out with 'Shake It Up'. Not for nothing is this guy affectionately known as Narvel The Marvel Ð he is the business.
Another guy who knows how to deliver was Si Cranstoun along with his own five piece band. His current popularity was clearly evident and it so important for our music to have artists such as Si introducing new blood. From the start of his show, it was apparent that he was out to conquer by putting his all into the act on a mixture of his own songs like '50s' Pin Up', 'Lonesome Heart Bandit' through tributes to Jackie Wilson with 'To Be Loved' and 'Reet Petite' and similar to Nappy Brown with superlative treatment of 'Little By Little' and 'Don't Be Angry'. Crikey, I thought that the roof of the hall was about to take off, such was the audience reaction when Si launched into his breakthrough track 'Dynamo'. Indeed, he had to repeat the song before he was able to close out his act. But we jump ahead of ourselves as the guy's professionalism came shining through on 'Diddle I Do' and he demonstrated that he knows how to use the stage to best advantage. His own backing band too where of the highest order and complemented Cranstoun perfectly. Other exciting performances during the act included 'Commoner To King', 'Just A Little Love' and 'Right Girl'. This guy has to be bound for musical glory, the big breakthrough cannot be far away.
Close out act for this night was Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers Ð a UK and European rock 'n' roll institution. The main hall had filled up again for the third time that night and with a different selection of faces at the front of the audience. This band is almost reaching legendary status - love 'em or loath 'em, they are oh so popular and draw the crowds in. At 1:00 am in the morning, the main hall was full with a bunch of good people intent on enjoying themselves whilst listening and watching one of their favourite bands - and this enthusiasm did not wane for the next hour. Phew, what a night! Three top crowd pleasing acts, one after the other. Baby, that was rock 'n' roll.
Sunday, 15th May 2011 ( a fine rockin' close out ...)
The Sunday commenced with the regular boot fair and a few 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. The live music was provided by the hard working Rhythm Busters whilst at the camp, Kav Kavanagh continued with his afternoon jive dance lessons and there was a jam session organised by Big Daddy and a performance from femme rocker and blues shouter Jessie & the Orbits. The evening's events in the main ballroom commenced with a performance by The Wild Goners from France. They are a top European draw as an authentic rockabilly band and, based on this performance, it is easy to understand this justified reputation.
Then it was time for the main act of the night, The Crystalairs from Germany. They have a reputation as one of Europe's top vocal groups and have been performing since 1988 and in that time have released eight CD albums. Backed up perfectly by The Bricats, this four man group served up a varied selection of tunes complete with varying tempos. Thus we had Dion's 'I Wonder Why' segueing into 'You Can Never Stop Me Loving You' leading on to The Edsels 'Rama Lama Ding Dong' before slowing down a bit for Rick Nelson's Travelling Man'. There was one main lead voice but the other three members of the group also took turns at being the lead. The aforementioned selection was representative of this enjoyable performance, the harmonies were excellent and the guys knew how to use the stage. 'In The Ghetto' was rechristened 'In Chicago' by the guys, not sure why as basically the same song but again a good performance. The selection continued to be varied ranging from 'Rockin' Robin' through to the melodic strains of 'Stay', 'Fortune Cookie' and 'Can't Help Falling in Love'. A couple more Dion numbers were served up with the group's workouts on 'The Wanderer' and 'Runaround Sue' before closing out the performance, prior to encores, with an excellent version of 'Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight'. After 'Teenager In Love', The Crystalairs turned in a blindingly good acapella version of 'Teardrops' as the final song selection Ð an inspired choice and treatment. The close act for the festival was The Hicksville Bombers, lead by Dave Brown and who have been in existence since 1992 . Theirs is a style of rockabilly with a frantic expenditure of energy. Some of this worked but, sadly, not all of the time.
That was it and a further return to the reality of the outside world was scheduled. However, it had been good to have chilled out to the rockin' beat for three days. Looks like we shall be able to repeat this in October 2011 when the next Hemsby will include Jack Earls, Johnny Powers, Bobby Brooks Hamilton, Truly Lover Trio and Chris Casello along with numerous other rockin' acts. Make a note of 7th through to 10th October 2011 in your diaries and go to web site www.hemsbyrocknroll.co.uk for further details.
© Tony Wilkinson
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