Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Sorrows in Europe October 2016

The Sorrows in Europe October 2016 
By Pete Clemons

They say you can’t keep a good band down. And that is true for Coventry band The Sorrows who incredibly, and after more than 50 years, are still packing in the audiences.

As has happened in previous years, October 2016, saw The Sorrows once more invited across to Europe. This time, to perform at two sell out gigs.

The Sorrows line-up included local legend, Dave Gedney, on guitar alongside Mark Mortimer on 5 string bass guitar, Nigel Lomas on drums, Brian Wilkins on lead guitar and harmonica and, of course, vocalist and frontman Don Fardon.

German band Beat Revolver supported The Sorrows on each of the nights and the itinerary for the weekend went something like this:

Friday 7th - The guys flew from Birmingham to Dussledorf, Germany. At Dusseldorf airport they were picked up from airport. From there they were then given a tour of Dusseldorf old town that included a trip down the Rhine. Lunch at the Golden Einhorn followed. Then it was onward to the first gig of the weekend. This meant crossing the border and into in Belgium for the evening performance at a club called La Zone in Liege.

Saturday 8th – And yet another full day had been arranged. After lunch the band were treated to a sight-seeing tour of Liege. They were then driven, back across the German border to Cologne. After dinner The Sorrows then played their second gig of the weekend. This time the venue was the Sonic Ballroom, Cologne.

Sunday 9th – After a sightseeing tour of Cologne which included the cathedral the band were treated to their final touch of hospitality when they had a lunch at the Fruh Brewery, Cologne. Then it was back to Dusseldorf airport for their return onward flight back to Birmingham.

The Sorrows returned home with far less baggage than they went out with as they totally sold out of merchandise and souvenirs.

The following weekend the band was on stage once again, this time at The Albany Club, giving their time and full support to a charity event.

Sorrows at the Albany Club 2016

As 2017 kicks off The Sorrows are still receiving plenty of offers of work. Early in February they were back on stage at the Prince of Wales hotel in Southport alongside Merseybeat bands The Fourmost and The Undertakers for yet another sold out event.

The Sorrows set list today still includes classic tunes such as No No No, You Got What I Want, Teenage Letter, Find a Cave and of course Take a Heart. But the band will also find the time to let Don cut loose with songs he had success with as a solo performer such as I’m Alive.

And The Sorrows are not just a band turning out the songs for the sake of nostalgia. This current version of the band, are certainly fired up, and deadly serious about what they do. And that is to tear up the stage and create a great sound.

And the audiences, particularly it seems in Europe, are just lapping it up.

Honky Tonk Rose

Honky Tonk Rose 

by Pete Clemons

Honky Tonk Rose

Buried within the bleakness of a country album called ‘Deguello Motel’, is a more upbeat song called ‘Honky Tonk Rose’. The album is written and produced by American singer songwriter Roger Alan Wade who is from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Although I am guessing that Roger Alan Wade is relatively unheard of over here in the U.K. he does however have a pedigree of note. It sees that Roger has written songs for country legends such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Hank Williams Jr. amongst many others.

A verse from his song ‘Honky Tonk Rose’ goes like this……..

On the crazy side of town there is a bar room

Where the music's loud and beer and whiskey flows

There's a girl there breakin' hearts and waitin' tables

I love that girl, my honky tonk Rose

And maybe, it was, just that track, which may have been the catalyst for one of Coventry and Warwickshire’s newest, and most unlikely bands. Namely: Honky Tonk Rose. Who knows?

But regardless of whether or not the song inspired the band, I do think that it sets the scene for what HTR are all about. They are certainly upbeat and they are certainly uplifting.

I mentioned the word unlikely. Not in a derisory way at all but more with surprise. Folk who know the Coventry and Warwickshire music scene will be familiar and know the background to some or all of the names that make up HTR. And maybe they share my surprise.

However for those who don’t the band are Holly Hewitt - vocals, Dave Page - guitar, Horace Panter - bass, Rick Medlock - drums, Jim Widdop – steel guitar and Malc Evans guitar.

Having witnessed HTR in action several times during 2016 this 6 piece appears to specialise in delving into the American songbook in search of obscure, the not so obscure and long heard country rock based songs and bringing them to life once more.

The project was brought together by Horace Panter who had the dream of playing the classic country songs he remembered as a youngster. And HTR simply came together to enable that dream to reach fruition.

2016 was a very productive year for the band. Their debut was at the Broomfield Tavern back in February and they continued to play some top venues and events throughout the year.

To quote one of the band members ‘Honky Tonk Rose is a dream of a project and I feel very lucky to be part of it’. ‘Every gig has been received with great enthusiasm’.

And it is absolutely right to say that this is a serious band. Each of those involved in this project are seasoned and experienced musicians who are equally enthusiastic.

All the elements for country rock are there including trucking, beer, the dispossessed and God. This all sounds very dull maybe but, dour in its execution of the music, it certainly is not. This band really does whip up an exciting atmosphere.

And with concerts performed well beyond Coventry’s boundaries, including prestigious venues such as the Jam House in Birmingham, Honk Tonk Rose is raising a few eyelids.

So there you have it. Honk Tonk Rose, creating their take on country music and delivering it passionately and with sincerity. So maybe, it shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise to me after all.

Honky Tonk Rose - give it up or let me go - broomfield tavern,coventry - 27/02/16


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


STYLUSBOY by Pete Clemons

Ploughing his own furrow for a good number of years on the local circuit, and beyond, has been Steve Stylusboy.

Gradually, and over time, Stylusboy has built up a devoted following. Once heard you do tend to stick by him.

Steve songs cover love, family even mishaps. They can be melancholic yet they do not contain a hint of malice or anger. They are heartfelt and real and the type that you can quite easily connect with.

Not only that but they have a positive feel. Escapism maybe, but they do leave you with a feeling of hope.

In terms of gigging Stylusboy has headlined his own shows, supported major artists, a regular at the Godiva festival and, if you provide the refreshments for the evening, will even play in your own front room.

Hearing acoustic music, played well and performed in an intimate venue with an appreciative audience really is a delight and Stylusboy is no exception to this.

Stylusboy began his career in music playing guitar and bass for a variety of bands. Eventually though he settled on the stripped down sound of just him and his guitar and began to create his own blend of folk music.

During 2009 he released his self-produced debut EP – Fingerprint, which was mostly recorded and mixed in his lounge and a local community centre.

His second EP, ‘Blue Whale Session’, was recorded at Birmingham’s Blue Whale studios and released during 2010.

There then appeared a 6 track EP, ‘The Whole Picture’, released by Lazy Acre Records during 2011.

Since then Stylusboy has now settled in at Wild Sound Recordings. And Wild Sound has released his debut album ‘Hospitality for Hope’ along with an EP titled ‘Lantern’.

In the time since its release ‘Hospitality for Hope’ has received great acclaim.

In December 2015 Stylusboy released the ‘Christmas Light’ EP, where he added his own take to traditional carols, and a live album ‘Tales from Home’,

Most releases are usually accompanied by unique handmade sleeves created and put together by Steve himself.

Now you would think that Steve was a lover of vinyl to settle on a name such as Stylusboy. Well he is but that is of no relevance here. 

It all came about when Steve was creating an email address a number of years ago. The inspiration for the name actually came when he was sat in front of an Epson Colour Stylus printer. And the moniker just seemed to fit well when he went out to perform.

Stylusboy recently described 2016 as ‘a great musical year’. He has been busy songwriting and developing his sound and how he wants to sound as an artist. New projects are planned for 2017 and I suspect gigs are inevitable. You could do worse with your time if you didn’t pay him a visit.


Website - http://www.stylusboy.co.uk/biog

Barnabus - A Charity Gig 2017

Barnabus Charity Gig by Pete Clemons

On the same evening that Black Sabbath were saying au revoir, by way of their hugely publicised gigs at the LG arena, another band from the region, were doing similar.

This, more low key affair, was taking place at the Nelson Club in Warwick. It featured rock group Barnabus who, strangely enough, I heard being compared to Sabbath by some lads who had been standing behind me at the packed out venue.

Apart from the odd reformation there has effectively been a hiatus of over 40 years for Barnabus. But on the rare occasion that this 3 piece do get together they retain the exact same line up whom once graced venues such as The Walsgrave and The Plough up on the London Road. And the time apart hardly shows.

Barnabus, originally formed in Leamington Spa, were and still are John Storer on lead guitar, Keith Hancock bass guitar and Tony Cox on drums. They initially came together in 1970 when John and Keith who both had, then, recently split from covers group The Jay Bee Kay Pees aka The JBKP’s, and joined forces with Tony who himself had just left The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band.

The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band who last performed during the late 1960’s, were themselves a popular act back then, and regularly seen at venues such as the Drumbeat Club at the Globe Hotel in Warwick. They were also on the bill for the 1969 weekend music marathon staged at the Umbrella Club in Queen Victoria Road, Coventry alongside bands such as The Chris Jones Aggression, Wandering John, Dando Shaft and many others.

This latest event itself did have a serious side as it was put together as a charity gig in order to raise money and awareness for Leukemia Care.

First up, and opening the proceedings on the night, were drummer Tony Cox’s current group The Hoochmongers Blues Band who have been touring the Coventry and Warwickshire pub scene for a number of years now.

Barnabus followed with their brand of guitar led heavy rock that was quite prevalent at the time they first formed. From initially being a rock and blues covers band Barnabus began to write some very good original material. This was done with the help of a young lyricist and poet named Les Bates whose work was once described as being articulate, and, a lot better than some of the ‘name’ bands around at the time.

During 1971 Barnabus recorded an album at Monty Bird’s studios, in Snitterfield near Stratford upon Avon (aka Bird Sound Studios). And a great deal of the music performed by Barnabus at the Nelson Club featured on their album.

Then, in 1972, the band had a major breakthrough. Barnabus went on to win the Midlands heat of the Melody Maker Rock & Folk contest. The judges at the competition, incidentally, included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. This success led to the band furthering their growing reputation resulting in them breaking away from the gigging circuit around Coventry and Warwickshire. Support slots for bands such as Man, Trapeze, Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band followed.

But, despite being so close to making it into the big league, it was all short lived and Barnabus split up a year or so later during 1973.

Back to the charity night and, as the wise one who accompanied me to the gig quickly pointed out, it was like stepping back to the 1970s. And he was right. Even the Nelson Club’s concert room had kept its charm and character from those days.

Last up on the night were The Jaykays Sixties Band, featuring John Storer and Keith Hancock who lightened the atmosphere and had the audience on their feet dancing and singing along for the remainder of the evening.

The gig itself was a sell-out and the club was packed. This resulted in the Leukemia Care charity itself being better off by over £1000 so a huge well done must go to the organisers. The whole event was memorable to say the least.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Otis Redding by Pete Clemons

Otis Redding by Pete Clemons

Another article by Pete that was originally earmarked for the Coventry Telegraph.

Growing up during my formative years the ‘Live in Europe’ LP by Otis Redding was a
huge fave of mine. But of course, at that tender age, it was just a bit of plastic with some songs on that you just took for granted. I just enjoyed it for what it was to me at that time. An exciting L.P. of an exuberant singer, surrounded by lots of horns, and who also threw in more familiar Rolling Stones and Beatles songs into the mix. But of course, it was a lot more than that.

It was only when I got older, and more interested in the background to such albums, that I discovered more about Otis Redding the person. I still remember hearing the news that Otis had been killed but it did not resonate that much to me at the time. However as time went on I slowly began to learn where he had gotten to in his career up to the point of his death. And now I feel compelled to remember the guy who gave so much, and continues to give, immense pleasure 50 years after his untimely loss.

Born in the American south Otis, from all accounts, was a big man. Not just physically but he was very confident and very single minded. He was also an incredibly likeable man and a good people person. According to his promoter Alan Walden he could have been a boxer. Problem was though it took an awful lot to provoke Otis. But when the he was cornered he could, and would, come out fighting.

Otis’s wife Zelma, whom he married during August 1961, described Otis as having a
strong religious background. He sang in the church as a youngster. And Otis was once quoted as saying ‘in order to sing the blues you have to have it in your heart in the first place’.

Otis Redding enjoyed listening to singers like Little Richard and Sam Cooke and these people clearly influenced his own style of singing. His first hit record came in 1962 with a self-penned song titled ‘These Arms of Mine’. The song became a ‘live’ favourite which with the mainly black R ‘n’ B audiences he was performing to. Through acquaintances the song was brought to the attention of Stax Records who took him into the studio to record and release it on their sister label Volt. Stax and Volt would become known as the Memphis Sound.

By 1965 and on this side of ‘the pond’ U.K. youngsters also known as the Mods, and who would have been mainly white listeners, had by now picked up on the recorded output of Stax, Volt and their distribution label Atlantic Records. Otis and the Memphis Sound who back home, were still playing to mainly black audiences, were completely unaware that their music had been picked up in the United Kingdom.

Otis Redding’s first trip to Europe was during 1965. This also included a series of shows in the UK when he headlined a tour that included Alan Price on the bill. It was only then that Stax Records became fully aware of the fact that the U.K. was already embracing their sounds. Apart from the Mods, audience members during that tour also included Tom Jones, Rod Stewart and Brian Ferry who were all left inspired.

A further visit to the U.K. in September 1966 was marked by an Otis Redding ‘special’ when he took over a whole episode of the popular music T.V. programme ‘Ready Steady Go’. For this Otis was accompanied on stage by established British artists like Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe.

As the Memphis Sound became even more popular in the U.K. Stax Records promotions manager Al Bell, in trying to cover all angles, would send new single releases from all their artists direct to the growing pirate radio station scene.
As his celebrity grew Otis also ensured that his family and his parents were well provided for. Yet despite his new found trappings of his success, and according to those who really knew him, Otis remained a grounded person.

As the number of gigs grew so did the studio-work. Otis Redding was also now recording old classics. One such song ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ caused some controversy. This 1930s song had been covered previously by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. But Otis approached the song from a totally different angle as he performed it with a fast hot soul style as opposed to the slow smoother style that it had been sung in on previous versions.

Building on Europe and the U.K.’s keen interest in the Memphis Sound, and also sensing a commercial success, it was Al Bell who came up with the idea of sending Stax/Volt Records, house band and all, across ‘the pond’ by way of a concert tour.

A tour was arranged and Booker T and the MGs, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, The Mar-Keys, Arthur Conley and all the touring party arrived at Heathrow airport early in the morning on a drab March day in 1967. Unsure by their surroundings they were amazed to find that The Beatles very own limousines had turned up to escort them on the initial part of their journey.

This was the first time out of America for the MG’s studio band and they were blown away by the fact that their music was already being embraced over here. Although Otis Redding must have mentioned it, they were now seeing at first hand, just how popular they were in England.

At each of the dozen or so dates on the tour they were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd
who would chant out Otis’s name. And Otis Redding would, in turn, react to the wild adulation. His confidence soared even higher and, between them they created an electric atmosphere. This energy also fed into The MGs who also stepped up their game as their musical prowess soared.

But the European tour changed everyone who had been a part of it. In the words of guitarist Steve Cropper ‘everyone returned home thinking that they were superstars……in their heads’. They went to Europe as struggling musicians and returned home as heroes. Otis Redding returned to his 400 acre ranch.

Suspicion, money and paranoia then came into the equation. Shortly afterwards ‘the Stax team’ began to split up and Stax records started to implode to the point of almost disintegration. Atlantic Records, who had, up until then, had partnered up with and distributed Stax records, would eventually sever its contract. Al Bell took full control of the label and went after radio stations in the U.S. attempting to get more airplay in America.

Quite by surprise Otis Redding and the MG’s played prestigious Monterey Festival in June 1967. At short notice he headlined the Saturday night after The Beach Boys had dropped out late on. Otis told the MG’s to just play the gig the way they had done in England. They triumphed. Even musicians like Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead were in awe as Otis as he and the MGs reached a whole new audience.
A live record produced from the earlier tour of Europe was released in July 1967. It was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

But 1967 also saw Otis develop a vocal condition due to polyps. For weeks he couldn’t sing, and for a part of that time, he couldn’t even talk. But he could still write. And during this period Otis wrote upward of 30 new songs including ‘(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay’. His musical creativity poured out during this period. Toward the end of 1967, and after his had voice recovered, Otis set to work again and with the help of MG’s guitarist, Steve Cropper, recorded ‘Dock of the Bay’.

At the height of his career Otis was cruelly killed while flying to a gig in Wisconsin during December 1967. Released as a single during January 1968, ‘Dock of the Bay’ reached number 1 in the U.S. and number 3 in the UK selling over 4 million copies worldwide.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by Pete Clemons

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 

by Pete Clemons

(This article by Pete Clemons was originally written for the Coventry Telegraph but as the association seems to have finished,we publish it here along with Pete's many other articles.I should point out though that this article is about coventry music as is evident from the title.)

Toward the end of 1966 The Beatles desperately wanted to get away from the old image of just being a beat band. They had recently announced that they were finished with touring and, effectively, they were going to draw a line under past.
Locked in a recording studio for several months they recorded what would become known as ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ a record that was arguably the first even concept album. 

The theme of the album represented a touring brass band in the mind of the listener. The laughter you hear on certain tracks represents the sound of the virtual audience.

Recordings began at Abbey Road during November 1966. And unlike previous Beatles albums each of the band members could be seen entering Abbey Road studios with reams of A4 paper brimming full of notes and ideas.

The technology at hand during that time was pushed to the limit. Every conceivable sound that you could get out of a guitar, for example, was touched upon. 

It was as though the band were attempting to split the atom
Producer George Martin allowed and encouraged every musical whim to surface during the sessions. He allowed complete artistic freedom.

Even the final tracks destined for the album, recorded during April 1967, found room for innovation. The final run off groove for example played back on itself thereby, I guess, representing that the album was an infinite piece of music.
Despite the recording of the ‘Sgt Peppers’ title track not appearing till mid-way through the sessions, the idea to create an album about this fictitious band, apparently formed quite early on. The whole album was infused with sights and sounds of the times.

The album’s title came about; it seems, from inspiration gained from the bunch of elongated band names that were cropping, up during the mid-1960s, in the San Francisco area of the United States.

Sgt Pepper’s release had been preceded, in February 1967, by the single ‘Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever’ giving the listener clear warning for what was about to come.

After a couple of revised release dates the completed record saw day of light on 1st June 1967. The initial pressings were in two formats. A Mono version serial number PMC 7027 and a Stereo version serial number PCS 7027.

In stark contrast to today’s music scene, no singles were released from the album. That still didn’t stop the Sgt Pepper’s going straight to number one in the UK albums charts after it sold in excess of 250,000 copies during the first 7 days of release.

From a listener point of view the complete album didn’t really sink in during the first listen. Or at least it didn’t with me at least. In fact it took several listens to even begin to understand it. Like all concept albums they are designed to sink in gradually. Each listen peeling back another layer until at some point the full beauty of it is revealed.

Sgt Pepper’s didn’t escape the ears of the censors either. One song in particular came under extreme scrutiny of the various monitoring committees and other authorities, that existed back then, who would carefully categorise and, if they deemed necessary, censored material destined for the airwaves.

And that song was ‘A Day in the Life’. The lyric to the song was as if the band were singing ‘of life’ as being the polar opposite to ‘actual life’ back then. And one particular line on ‘A Day in the Life’- ‘I’d love to turn you on’ - found itself under intense scrutiny. The song was eventually banned by the BBC authorities who deemed it ‘a step to far’. That ban was eventually lifted during 1972.
A Day in the Life’ ends with an orchestra seemingly going mad as it plays itself out with a cacophony of sound that ends with the infinite groove.

The censors however did appear to miss or overlook other songs, on the album, that did have dubious references. But it certainly didn’t take long for listeners to point out that track 3 on side one ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, when abbreviated, could well be referring to the mood changing LSD or acid. However John Lennon soon scotched the rumours as he explained that the lyric came about when his son Julian had one day come home from school with a letter from classmate Lucy.

The continuous thread that binds the album together didn’t just apply to the twelve inch vinyl record. It also continued with the album sleeve itself. Designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth the gatefold sleeve of the L.P. opens out to reveal The Beatles in the robes that represented their alter egos. The front cover was a collage of famous and influential people from that time all posing behind the band. Early copies of the record also came with a host of freebies and cut-outs.

Sgt Peppers was also the springboard, and acted as a catalyst, to the production of some future fine music. It acted as an innovator. But it clearly didn’t sit well with some as the record was also lampooned. And I am thinking The Mothers of Invention and their album ‘Were Only in it For the Money’ album.