Camber Sands Holiday Centre, Rye, England
20th to 22nd November 2009.

Whilst it was not so cold this year, it sure was blustery and showery as we drove down through Kent to the Camber Sands Holiday Centre for the thirteenth Rhythm Riot! Weekender. Whilst those of a superstitious nature may have been concerned, the quality of the music was sublime. Yet again this weekender built on what had been delivered previously and simply has to be the leading worldwide celebration of forties and fifties - with a dash of early sixties - music. This is an international event as there were people in attendance from most continents of this world. The two dance floors were constantly solid with jivers and boy could they jive 'n' bop. As always, the music is the prime focus of this review but, again, mention of the whole scene is important. As one checked in, the Union Canal String Band served up an entertaining mixture of hillbilly music. The large specialist vintage clothing market (complete with changing rooms) seemed to have expanded in size yet again and the specialist record dealers had bountiful stocks, boy I had a field day. For those wishing to visit the historic town of nearby Rye, the courtesy shuttle bus was the now traditional fully restored 1956 Bedford coach. In addition, one could hop a lift on the Sunday afternoon by grabbing a spare seat in one of the vehicles taking part in the classic car cruise. There were the now customary queues at the beauty parlor, hairdresser and barber, a shoeshine stand and a pin up photographic studio. The Rhythm Riot Radio was back with Mark Lamarr providing two one hour exclusive shows broadcast direct to each apartment, as was the exclusive Rhythm Riot television channel showing vintage documentaries and movies from the forties and fifties. Finally, for now, there was constant supply of dance music until 5 am in the morning on each of the three days. The following review, as usual, concentrates mainly on the happenings in the upstairs main hall but also attempts to cover other of the happenings.


Friday, 20th November 2008 (the joint started to jump)

Opening act was the four piece Belgium band The Baboons who showed good stage confidence in what was essentially a rockabilly based set, with a good mixture of covers and originals. The lead singer had a nice harsh edge to his voice as he served up 'Lonesome Train', 'Birdoggin' along with the band's own 'All Set ForThe Weekend' and 'Bungalow'. For myself, the highlight of the act was their interpretation of 'Got My Mojo Working' performed 'Mystery Train' style. A good band and a fine start to the festival of music.

Next up was one of the R&B legends, Big Jay McNeely backed up by the Rhythm Riot Kings of Rhythm lead by Big Boy Bloater. Making his now customary entrance from the back of the hall and working his way through the audience honking away on the saxophone and singing 'I Can't Stop Loving You', the anticipation levels built. Indeed, he was into his second number, 'Big Fat Mama' by the time he reached the stage. Here was a guy in his eighties playing away like there is no tomorrow. This time around, Jay was singing and playing, as opposed to mainly honking away on his sax and this resulted in a great balanced set. Then came the demented 'Insect Ball', a superb R&B song, before we were treated to the classic 'There Is Something On Your Mind' and then onto 'Nervous Man Nervous' (the first instrumental of this performance) in which Jay really let rip. Whilst much of the performance was devoted to the content of McNeely's latest CD 'Party Time', this had developed into one of his most memorable shows since I had first seen him on stage at the Electric Ballroom in London way back when. After his version of Eugene Church's 'Pretty Girls Everywhere', there was another highlight with 'Get Up And Boogie' (a song in three parts) in which he was joined on stage by two piano players hammering away at the same time on the same on the same instrument. Then came one of the great sax lead instrumentals, 'Deacon's Hop' and the oh so tasty 'Young Girl Blues'. Come the time for the finale, the lights dimmed thus picking up on the white gloves and the fluorescent painted sax as Jay launched into '3D'. Magnificent stuff and the number climaxed with McNeely lying on his back on stage honking away. A truly wonderful performance.

By way of contrast, the ensuing act was the Swedish trio The Domestic Bumblebees who launched into a mixture of blues meeting rockabilly complete with slide guitar on 'Gonna Shake It, 'My Girl' and 'She's Supposed To Be Mine'. After correcting the initial sound balance problems, these three young guys were rocking away like crazy on 'Good Looking Mama' and Presley's 'I Need Your Love Tonight'. Up to now, the bass player had been plucking away on an upright instrument but now he switched to second lead guitar and the guys cut loose on Fat's Domino's 'I'm Ready'. I was instantly reminded of The Fendermen and this was awesome stuff. This instrument line-up continued with 'California Sun' during which each of the lead guitarists took it turns to throw themselves on to the stage floor, still playing,, whilst the drummer stood up and continued to thump the skins. Both visually and musically exciting. Then it was back to the more conventional line up with the string bass for a couple of numbers before Boppin' Steve joined them on piano for the concluding number which built in layers of enjoyment. Another first rate act.

It was now 2:00 am in the morning, at which time I was usually locked up in the land of dreams, but here I was standing in front of the stage watching the vocal pyrotechnics and manic showmanship that is Barrence Whitfield.

Straight into 'Bloody Mary' and 'Big Mamou' followed by 'Caveman', this was no holds barred rock 'n' roll performed by a master of his art. The Rhythm Riot Kings Of Rhythm were excelling themselves as Whitfield drove them harder and harder and the set exhibited some of the wildest rock 'n' roll for years, especially with 'Georgia Slop' and Big T Tyler's 'King Kong'. Barrence was launching himself all over the stage like an Exocet missile and the quality of this performance was second to none. I recall that he performed 'Wild Cherry', 'I'm In The Madhouse' and 'Rockin' The Mule In Kansas' as he ploughed his top notch furrow. By the climax to this show, Barrence literally had no more to give; it had been breath taking music of the highest caliber and visually the tops.


Saturday, 21st November 2009 (the joint was shakin' to its foundations, complete with lashings of bump 'n' grind)

Live music started at lunchtime with the Dutch band The Ragtime Ramblers performing their customary quality hillbilly and rockin' country set. These lunchtime sessions appear to constantly increase in popularity, no wonder when there is music of this excellence provided.

As is the custom, Saturday night at the Rhythm Riot was once again the time for the ladies and gentlemen to strut their stuff, dressed in vintage glamour, especially admirable considering the appalling weather conditions outside. The outfits and hair styles in evidence in the main hall were a continuing palpitating joy to this ol' man.

For openers on the evening session, Jessie & The Orbits made their Rhythm Riot debut. This three piece combo of good musicians is fronted by a sensuous and attractive young lady who has a good voice and excelled on the legendary LaVern Baker song 'Voodoo Voodoo'. With a bit more stage experience under their collective belt, this group has the potential to be a headline act.

After a short break the next act up was, probably the foremost, UK vocal group The Roomates who for this appearance had reduced down to four front vocalists from the five strong line-up that existed when I caught their act last month.

Again a performance filled with bags of great harmonies and choreographed movements. This was a more doo wop orientated outing and the selection of material was first rate, again drawing from various 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 being nailed to perfection) and Dion with 'I Wonder Why'. The Roomates also varied the tempos nicely and tastefully with ditties such as 'Can't Live On Memories', 'I'm Not Your Baby Anymore' and an excellent 'There's A Moon Out Tonight'. There was even an inclusion of the Beach Boys tune 'Miss America'. This outfit carry their own backing musicians and the bass player stepped up front to perform fine versions of 'Ruby Baby' and Jack Scott's 'Flakey John'. The last mentioned had the strollers in the audience going into overdrive. This excellent white vocal group performance closed out with 'Rose Marie' and the (literally) show stopping 'Wah Wah Baby'.

Then it was the turn of the true veteran Clarence 'Frogman' Henry to take the stage backed up by the hard working house band. His voice is totally in tact as is his stage presence but he does perform a preponderance of those confounded medlies.

This is all the more strange when one considers the wealth and depth of Clarence's musical catalogue. He opened up with 'My Girl Josephine' segueing into 'Johnny B Good', back to 'Josephine' before closing out with 'Blueberry Hill'. He then proceeded with good versions of his own songs 'Just My Baby And Me', 'But I Do' and 'You Always Hurt The One You Love'. To say that he is a seasoned performer is an understatement and, from his show this night, he demonstrated that he has lost none of his magic. But it dropped back into medley time with 'Cajun Honey linking into 'Jambalaya', 'Hey La Bas' and a reprise of 'Jambalaya'. The situation was quickly rescued by a first rate reading of 'Your Future'. However, the close-out numbers were all medlies again but did include some great songs such as 'Ain't Got No Home', a snatch of his own answer version 'I Found A Home' and 'My Baby Is Gone'. There had been moments of brilliance in this show and overall it went down well with the audience.

Then came an act from Melbourne, Australia, Benny & The Flybyniters who can best be described as producing a fine brand of R&B meeting rockabilly. Benny is clearly the front man but the rest of the band are excellent musicians, especially the sax man.

The first tune was 'She Hit Me Like An Atom Bomb' and they quickly followed with 'Tell Me Pretty Baby' and 'Hey Now', all three songs being from their latest CD. They were really rockin' with 'Boogie Woogie All Night' and a pulsating 'Tall Skinny Mama'. Benny has a great vocal range to match his undoubted stage presence and this was demonstrated on Ray Sharpe's 'My Baby's Gone' which he (Benny) picked up from working a while in Austin, Texas. Not too sure where he obtained 'Her Love Rubbed Off' from but the treatment was superlative, it rocked away like there was no tomorrow. Also well worth singling out is the instrumental 'Hammerhead' and the song 'Big Black Train' which was served up complete with Slim Harpo overtones. Saving the best for last' 'Juicy Fruit' came complete with a lovely interchange between Benny on guitar and rockin' riffs from the saxman. A band I want to see again.

Next was a Rhythm Riot favourite, namely Ray Collins Hot-Club from Germany. This was the big band version of the outfit and comprised three saxes, trumpeter, bass, piano, guitar with Collins leading the outfit, often playing a xylophone (or was it a vibraphone - either way it was bloody good).

From the outset, this was a high octane show that was both visually and musically exciting and stimulating. The band are well co-coordinated and the level of showmanship was of the ultimate order. It did my heart good to see such a great show and knowing that it came from European musicians. The songs included 'Knock Out' and 'Do You Wanna Jump Children'. Big Jay McNeely joined the band on stage, I thought for just a guest number appearance but he stayed. The musical combination of 'Flatland Boogie' was just pure brilliance. McNeely and the sax men in the band ended up having a musical dual that was first rate. A festival highlight act. Closing musical act for the night was Sweden's answer to Jerry Lee Lewis, Boppin' Steve. An excellent close out to what had been a great night for music.

But before we leave Saturday night, mention must be made of the happenings downstairs in the Queen Vic Pub. Renamed (as per last year) The Lady Luck Room, it featured various DJs playing obscure and different music, Jules & The Gamblers plus burlesque shows featuring Chrys Columbine, Missy Malone and the inimitable Miss Dolly Blow Up. Yet again, and to provide a balanced review, I attempted to pop in and watch the routines. However, the place was so jam packed, I could not even get in the door.


Sunday, 22nd November 2009 (the joint was still standing - just).

The morning commenced with The Indoor Boot Sale which again was heaving, to say the least, with punters and stall holders buying and selling as multitudinous vintage items changed hands. As background, DJ Simon Tugwell played a great selection of music, some of which rocked like crazy. After that, it was time for another Lunchtime Session in the Queen Vic Pub that retained the clever title of 'Blues From The East Sussex Delta' and featured the talent of British stalwart Jim Carlisle. The weather that day had been atrocious and failed to clear up for the previously mentioned Classic Cars Cruise that left the site to cruise through the streets of nearby Rye.

Come the evening, the Queen Vic Pub took on yet another guise and was temporarily turned, as in previous years, into a swing club. DJs Woody and Tim's Jumpin' Jive spun the discs whilst the Japanese band The Travellers returning after a ten year gap played a live music set that the programme described as the epitome of cool, amen to that.

The first act in the upstairs main hall was one of the hottest acts on the circuit currently, namely The Revolutionaires whose seemingly boundless energy was a lead talking point that night. Then it was time for the appearance that I had been salivating about, The Blue Rhythm Boys.

This was the original line-up fronted by Paul Ansell with Jim Carlisle on lead guitar and augmented for this occasion by Ashley Kingman on acoustic lead guitar. From the start, this was music of the top order backed up by the superb musicianship of the players plus the voice and stage presence of Ansell. As to be expected, the songs featured were tunes associated with the band and so we were treated to 'You're The One I'm Looking For', 'Hot Dog' (Young Jessie song) and 'Dixie Fried'. The mixture of tunes ranged from the rockabilly tinges of 'My Happiness' through to the R&B slanting of 'Wang Dang Doodle' and the band's interpretation of the Screaming Jay Hawkins song 'Person To Person'. A very different selection to what one usually hears or sees ands all the better for it. The cohesive factor of this band is Ansell and his stage presence was just about perfect, giving the odd swivel of the hips or the thrusting of the head when it was called for and in the right measures. Other highlights of this superlative show were 'I'll Go Crazy', 'Come On Back' and Rollin' And Tumblin'. Hopefully, this line-up will reform on the occasional basis, they are just so good.

The third main visiting American act, i.e. Larry and Lorrie The Collins Kids, then came on stage accompanied by The Ragtime Wranglers. Unfortunately there were amplification problems in that Lorrie has a naturally softish tone to her voice but the sound level was set so high that she often came across as shouting. That said, the act and the songs were all there once again. After 'Hop Skip And Jump and 'Mercy', Larry took the lead for the blistering guitar instrumental of 'Hurricane', a song composed with the legendary Joe Maphis and named after the latter's wife Hazel.

Following on from 'Rock Boppin' Baby', there was a new number to the set in 'Razzle Dazzle'. Whilst the Collins Kids have never recorded the song, their performance of the song is up there on You Tube and the duo have received many requests to perform it live again. Larry took the lead vocal on 'Whistle Bait' but the this role reverted to Lorrie on 'Hoy Hoy', 'Heartbeat' and 'Wild Cat'. Also included in the set were a further two guitar instrumentals with 'Early American' and 'Rockin' Gypsy', the last mentioned featured a good interplay between Larry and Joe of the Wranglers. Perhaps this was not the finest Collins Kids performance but I still enjoyed it.

These festivals often give up an act who is relatively unknown but who give such a blistering show that they instantly gain entry into the classic performance list and the must see again schedule. Such is the case with the next act, Harmonica Sam, a young guy from Sweden.

Again I quote the description in the programme: His solid vocals, mellow harp playing and raw rockin' sound are just a perfect mix and we know he's all set to blow you away. So be there, see him, listen ... and weep. That accurately summarises the performance given by this guy, he was brilliant. Backed up by the Domestic Bumblebees and Boppin Steve on piano, this all Swedish line-up produced musical excellence from beginning to end. Sam took the stage with an air of confidence and from the opening bars of 'Dizzy Miss Lizzie', played as a harmonica lead instrumental, it was obvious that we were in for something special. He possesses a cool nonchalant confident style and his stage presence is awe inspiring. The voice is all there and the selection of material ranging from 'I'm Gonna Catch You' through 'Rocket 88' to 'It's All Your Fault' and 'Take My Love'. Britain's Charlie Thompson joined him on stage for a Bo Diddley style romp through 'Barefoot Rock' and this was succeeded by Sam and the guys knocking five bells musically out of 'The Joint's Really Jumping'. For 'Nervous Fellow', all of the musicians gathered around Sam in a half circle just hand clapping and singing the chorus. Believe me, this treatment really worked. The performance closed out with a demonic 'Honey Hush', this had been rock 'n' roll magic. Hopefully he and the guys will be back to these shores before not too long.

The concluding act for this Rhythm Riot was Paul Patterson who was fronting his own band as opposed to being part of High Voltage or Union Avenue. His guitar technique makes him one of the foremost pickers in the UK today and he is no mean slouch as a vocalist either. He also has a great set of musicians backing him up as they exhibited their collective talents on 'Shake On Style', 'Voom Voom' and 'Caravan'. The set contained mainly vocals taken at various tempos and, on occasion, with a welcome degree of novelty included such as 'Boo Hoo, that came complete with all the necessary voice changes. The age old song 'Banks Of Loch Lomond' came out as 'Surfin' Loch Lomond' complete with a great Dick Dale guitar style treatment, simply just wonderful. To a varied musical content, we were also treated to 'Man Of Constant Sorrow', 'Rambling Man' and a great version of Dale Hawkins 'Tornado'. The set and the weekender's live music happenings, closed out with 'Pistol In My Pocket' and 'Hard One', both excellent songs. This had been another good performance.

That was it, all in all, another great weekender with a consistently high standard of music. I am advised by the Promoters that the event was a sell out. I certainly enjoyed the whole scene and am booking my place for next year. Announced headliners for then include The Cleftones, Sonny Burgess, Eddy Clearwater, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys and The Ballroom Kings. (one can only hope that Harmonica Sam is bought back - did I say he was good?). Check out for details by telephoning (0)20 8566 5226 or logging on to the web site www.RhythmRiot.com for further information and booking details.

Tony Wilkinson - November 2009

4 North Street, Great Wakering, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS3 0EL
Tel: (0)1702 219 179 - Fax: (0)1702 218 850 - E-mail: waxowilko@aol.com


Page Created January 2010