That Hemsby Magic Continues.
Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Show No. 42
Seacroft Holiday Centre
14th to 17th May 2009.
Art Adams 1
Sleepy LaBeef & Roddy Jackson
Art Adams 2
Seven months after the last Hemsby, here I was again making the first of my twice a year pilgrimages to the East Anglia region of England for Hemsby 42. Arriving at the Seacroft Holiday Centre, Hemsby after bidding a fond farewell to Mrs. Wilkinson (try as she may, she could not conceal that look of pleasure on her face once again and the thought of her bi-annual bunch of flowers upon my return), clearly this was the place to be for our kind of music and for that read rock 'n' roll. The whole rockin' scene was evident and it 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. Clearly, Hemsby had retained its rightful title as the place to be for all shades of rock 'n' roll.
It is worth recapping here the facilities at the camp. These are segregated into four main compartments. 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 (again I invested for the children's future inheritance) and a nearby 50's Vintage and Retro Market. 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 of Hemsby.
Whilst the live music had commenced on Thursday night for early arrivals, Hemsby starts in earnest with the meet 'n' greet session 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.
Thursday, 14th May 2009 (the rockin' warm up)
As usual, Hemsby commences with a disc jockey playing rockin' discs and who is then followed by a live act, then another jock and a live act etc followed by the concluding record session for each night. This happened in the Trafalgar ballroom with
performances by UK bands The Moonshiners and Big Black Cadillac plus two sets of recorded music played by Skinny Jim plus one by Jimmy Guntrip. The ideal curtain raiser.
Friday, 15th May 2009 (that rockin' beat starts in earnest)
Opening act in the main ballroom for this festival was Laura B & The Moonlighters making their welcome return after twelve months. This seven piece combo are fronted by a sensuous attractive young lady who from the outset again demonstrated her magnificent powerful voice, great stage presence and reinforced the impression of a rockin' R&B torch singer in the LaVern Baker and Ruth Brown mould. As the combined instrumentation of two saxes, one trumpet, string bass, drums and piano (note the continued absence of a guitar) pounded out a pulsating beat, Laura B. launched into 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love', 'Act Right' and without letting up continued with 'Down By The River', 'Jim Dandy' and 'Teardrops From My Eyes'. Boy, this lady can sing and, at the same time, strut her stuff. This was a stage show that was up there with the best. I was getting quite animated as the act plowed this hard edged R&B furrow with Etta James's 'Tough Lover' before Laura B. rested her tonsils to let the piano player take over with a pounding 'Jump Boogie', a rousing boogie woogie treatment similar to 'In The Mood' that bought the house down. Laura B. recommenced wiggling it about with 'Pretty Good Lover', 'Down The Road A Piece' and then into 'Jump And Shout' followed by 'The Walking Blues'. She then served up the gospel tinged 'Act Right' before going completely secular with 'Beer Barrel Boogie' and 'Jump Jump Jump'. Reverting to the gospel theme, we were treated 'Revival Day' before closing out with the Big Maybelle treatment of 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'. The last mentioned was nailed to perfection by both the singer and the band. For the encore, we had a great rendition of Jackie Wilson's 'Baby Work Out'. An excellent act to see but they do need to introduce more new numbers into the play list.
They were followed by one of my favourite live acts playing out there today, namely the great Roddy Jackson who was backed up by the Hemsby House Band. This made the umpteenth time that I have seen Roddy play and, as he quickly once again revealed, the unbridled talent and professionalism was so evident. Opening up with the crowd pleaser 'Hiccups', it was then into one side of his third Specialty single 'Any Old Town' before cranking up the wildness again for 'Juke Box Baby'. For this he alternated between pounding the key boards into submission, blowing a loud 'n' great honking sax and singing the lyrics in that dynamic rasping singing voice that he uniquely possesses. At a slower pace, we then had 'Until The End Of Time', a song that originated from his days with the Merced Blue Notes. This was quickly followed by the rockin' 'Found A New Girl' that was scheduled to be his fourth Specialty single but which was not released until it saw the light of day on the Ace label CD collecting together all of his released and unreleased sides. By now, the stage was full of great rockin' mayhem and Roddy kept stoking the fires of rock 'n' roll brilliance as he belted out 'Love At First Sight' a song that he wrote at the age of 14. Then it was time for I've Got My Sights On Someone New' and the wildness of 'Moose On the Loose' before slowing down considerably for the beat ballad 'Gloria' (not the Cadillacs song but a song that he wrote when his girlfriend aged 17 dumped him when she found out that he was only 15). He was driving the Houseband hard and clearly inspiring them to great heights. It was at this stage that he sang his version of 'Lucille' as his tribute to Little Richard and nailed it to perfection. The Jerry Lee Lewis influence was evident on 'Johnny's Last Ride' before he reverted to another beat ballad in 'Consider'. The varying changes of pace were making this a 'tour de force' set'. But as his performance drew to a close, Roddy knew what the audience wanted and cranked it up again for 'She Said Yeah', a song that he co-composed with the late Sonny Bono. For encores, we were treated, and that is an understatement, to 'Teenage Love' and an extended jam session with the Hemsby House Band on 'Don't You Do Me This Way'. Sadly it was then all over but the crowd were stomping their feet, cheering like there was no tomorrow. Truly, this had been a sublime performance.
Top notch rockin' continued when that beautiful lady, Eva Eastwood complete with her own Swedish band took the stage. Currently this lady is sitting at position two on the Swedish charts but, on this night and for Hemsby, she carefully tailored her set for a rockin' audience. She also possesses stage magic and her backing musicians are some of the best around. Opening up with 'He's Gonna Be My Boy', she followed with 'Cool Cat' and '60291', the last mentioned being a great chunky number. Throughout her performance, she kept mainly to her own songs, with just the odd cover included, and they are great songs. This Swedish songstress has talent oozing from her and this was further amplified with songs such as 'My Mistake', 'Buddy', the great 'Wendy's Wedding' and her own 'Love My Baby'. Driving the audience reaction to new heights and mercilessly strumming her guitar, she succeeded in breaking five of the six strings. But this did little to dim the great rockin' sounds coming from the stage and we got 'My My My' (a big hit back in her own country) and 'Open Up, Let Me In'. The drummer in he band was Boppin' Steve and he now switched to piano whilst the lead guitarist sat on the drum stool and the guitarist from the Wildfire Willie band took over the picking (he had started out with Eva). All this only served to elevate the excitement and we got her interpretation of 'Ain't Got No Home', her first song 'Someone To Love' and the modern day classic ''Go Young Man'. Called back for two encores, she took the place apart with 'Everybody Calls Me Daddy' (with twin lead guitar players producing an awesome sound) and finally 'You Should Have Asked Me'. What a show. What a great night for rock 'n' roll.
The final act for the night was the club favourite Jack Rabbit Slim' but for myself, and here I may well be in a minority, they do not cut it with their thrashabilly style.
Saturday, 16th May 2009 (rockin' my life away).
The classic car cruise this Hemsby was back again and well over 80 vehicles made the run from Hemsby to Great Yarmouth sea front. Up at the camp, but there was plenty going on. Apart from jive lessons from Kav Kavanagh (remaining the rockabilly answer to 'Strictly Ballroom'), all the stalls were open and going great guns. There was also live music from Warren Scott & The Memphis Playboys, who went down so well that I foresee a main stage appearance by them at a future Hemsby, The Tunebusters and another band who a lot of people are talking about, namely The Excellos. Between these acts, various DJs played some top notch recorded rockin' music.
For the main hall, the opening act was rockabilly originator Art Adams who for this performance, was backed up by The Tunebusters. A typical performance by Art is straight in your face, no frills rock 'n' roll with the guy giving 110% of himself. This occasion was no exception and we were treated to great rockin' as he opened up with 'Rocky Road Blues' followed by a good interpretation of 'Let It Rock' and then the classic 'Dancing Doll'. There were bags of movement on stage from Art, indeed the band at times appeared to have a problem keeping up with him. However, this was quickly overcome by the professionalism of all concerned as he launched (and I use that description advisedly) into 'Juke Joint Johnny', the melodic 'Canadian Lady' before treating us to a selection of tracks that he has recorded for his forthcoming new CD such as 'Rock 'n' Roll Ruby', 'Ubangi Stomp and 'Train Of Love'. He performed his 1960 song 'She Don't Live Here No More' and his own 'Indian Joe' which dates from 1959. At times, Art was lying on the stage but still rockin' and giving out the vocals. He served up 'Down In Tennessee', 'Memphis Dream', 'Miss Froggie' and 'Honky Tonk Man', boy this had developed into another great Art Adams show. He closed out with a first rate interpretation of 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby', which he advised had been originally by Al Dexter, and 'Rock Crazy Baby' (the rediscovery of which launched his career in Europe). Justifiably called back for encores, he reprised 'Dancing Doll' and 'Rock Crazy Baby before leaving the stage dripping with sweat (as were most of the audience, such had been the excitement level).
'The Man Mountain' Sleepy LaBeef from Springdale, Arkansas took the stage next backed up by the same musicians from his appearance at the Rockers Reunion in January of this year. At the last mentioned, he came across as a trifle lethargic but on this night, it was back to full blown rockin' Sleepy. He knows how to mix tempos and styles and examples of the music coming from the stage were 'My Girl Josephine', 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain', Corrine Corrina' and 'Tall Oak Tree'. I normally have a dislike for medlies of songs strung together but in the case of Mr. LaBeef, I can easily make an exception. In his case, we get virtually full length versions of the songs in question and the mixture is quite unique. For example, he merged 'Milk Cow Blues' into 'St. Louis Blues' and the outcome was first rate. The set continued with a mixture of country songs, 'Waltz Across Texas, 'Four Walls' etc, and a selection of rockers such as 'Tore Up', 'Detour' and 'Mystery Train' before came a great but welcome surprise. Roddy Jackson joined Sleepy on stage with his sax and this elevated the performance to even greater heights. This also added a bluesy tinge to the show as the pair served up superb interpretations of 'Stormy Monday', Bright Lights' Big City' and 'Send Me Some Lovin' This was an inspired coupling and after Sleepy got Roddy to take centre stage on 'Lucille' (matching his performance from the previous night), Sleepy then knocked us out with 'Amazing Grace. This somewhat different combination really worked. The pair of great musicians continued on unabated with songs such as 'I'll Fly Away', 'Jambalaya' and 'Hey Bo Diddley' before finally closing out with 'Night Train' (and did Roddy blow hard 'n' heavy on this one) and Boney Moronie'. A great great show.
A band who had been at the forefront of the rockabilly revival back in the eighties was The Riverside Trio and they have reformed but are now four strong. The programme described them as 'roots hillbilly bop' and that proved to be an apt appraisal The lead singer possesses a fine voice and plays a great acoustic guitar. Throughout the performance, he lead the band into the numbers such as 'Hurry Baby', 'Only 21', 'Let Tonight Be The Night; and 'Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-Dee'. They are an excellent band, great musicians and provided a good and varied selection of songs ranging from Hank Williams Snr. selections through to 'Little Red Rooster' and Muddy Waters 'I Can't Be Satisfied' with the important fact being that they were all performed well. The time simply slipped away as they served up 'Sitting On Top Of The World', 'Hey Bo Diddley (very different to the Sleepy LaBeef version) and 'You're Just Alright Baby' before closing out with ;Slip Slippin' In'. I hope that this band stays reformed as I certainly want to see them again.
Close out band for the night was The Playboys with their original line-up of Rob Glazebrook on vocals and lead guitar, Wayne Hopkins on bass and Ricky McCann on drums. Unfortunately, they were on too late for this sleepy head but all comments the next day were good, including several references to their workout on the song 'Little Lil'.
Sunday, 17th May 2009 (The Rockin' Draws To An End But Goes Out Big Style).
The Sunday commenced with the regular boot fair with some bargains to be had, I certainly invested for my children's future. 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, we all 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 us off for a rockin' time. Recorded music was provided by DJ Wildcat Pete whilst live entertainment was supplied by The Small Town Giants. Art Adams and Roddy Jackson were on board with Art getting up to the microphone and singing a few rockin' ditties (thankfully not sea shanties).
Back at the camp site, the evening's events in the main ballroom commence with a performance by Paul Patterson and His Band. I have to admit that I was still noshing and drinkin' wine spo-dee-o-dee whilst they were on the stage but the reports that I received were that I missed a great show. Paul's guitar prowess from his membership of High Voltage and Union Avenue is well known and, by all accounts, this performance reinforced and enhanced his justified reputation.
Next up was Sheffield based rockabilly band The Slingshots who knew how to rock. Another reformed group from the eighties, their set contained a good mixture of original songs such as 'Drinkin' Solo' and 'The Pain Has Gone' and covers. These guys were the business carefully mixing fast, medium speed and slow numbers and thus never becoming boring. Highlights of their set were an excellent 'All I Have To Do Is Cry' taken at the tempo of Presley's 'I'll Never Let You Go Little Darlin' and an original treatment of the standard 'Jezebel'. They also successfully adapted Gene Vincent's ''I'm Going Home (to see my baby)' by incorporating references to the city of Sheffield. Their set closed out with a fine 'Rockin' On The Moon'.
Sweden's The High Jacks were the ensuing act on stage. Fronted by Nina, a lady singer, who possessed a good powerful voice, the band was co-lead by a singing pumping piano man who had clearly learnt his craft from the Jerry Lee Lewis school of rock 'n' roll but, at the some time, maintained his own originality. This group is Wanda Jackson's first choice for a backing band when she tours Scandinavia and, based on the performance that unfurled before our eyes; it is easy to understand why. These two fine musicians were backed up by their own guitar (he from Wildfire Willie's outfit) and bass players and drummer and they set out on a musical rock 'n' roll journey that left the audience yelling for more. Their showmanship as demonstrated by the lady singer resting her leg on top of the piano whilst he went into a wild but controlled solo. The excitement built and built during their set whilst they went from 'Rockin' Mama' (aka Eddie Bond's 'Rockin' Daddy'), 'Come On Little Mama' and a slow pounding bluesy 'Leave Me Alone', the last mentioned being a highlight. There original songs scattered throughout the show such as 'Thunderbird Rock 'n' Roll (JLL would have been proud of this one) and 'Volvo 55' (well the band are from Sweden). Varying the pace and mix, I have never seen 'Love For Sale' performed better and as for Don Cole's 'Snake Eyed Mama', well ecstatic best describes my reaction. It was bloody brilliant. They closed out with the rockin' piano man leading the ensemble on a rousing 'High School Confidential'. Simply put, this had been some of the best piano lead rock 'n' roll that I have witnessed in recent times. A must see again group.
To close out this weekender, we had Jack & The Rippers who had played on the first Hemsby some 22 years ago. In essence, this was the original Hemsby House Band line-up albeit with a different guitarist and singer. Opening up with 'Problem Child', taken a ridiculous fast pace, this was followed by the likes of 'Big River', 'That Ain't Nothing But Fine' and Kip Tyler's 'She's My Witch'. This was an acceptable show but, unfortunately, it did not ignite the fires in myself that the previous acts had succeeded in doing. Still, no real complaints as I retired for the night a fluffy bunny.
That was it and a return to the reality of maintaining employment in these troubled times. However, there is next October to look forward to with the likes of Johnny Powers, Marvin Rainwater, The Bluecats ('Tunnel' line-up), Nick Willet, Bill Fadden and The Roomates included in the acts scheduled to appear at the next Hemsby.
A concluding note for visitors from the European mainland is that currently under construction in Great Yarmouth harbour are new facilities, which include a ferry terminal and this is intended to provide a direct link with Amsterdam, Holland.
© Tony Wilkinson