Well it's Hemsby time again a place of almost pilgrimage for rock n roll fans. It never dissapoints.
As I write this the majority of the fans are still there, some enjoying the afternoon riverboat trip others recovering from the wildest Saturday night I've seen in a rockin club for some time.
Saturday afternoon got underway with a very compentant Groove Diggers from Scotland, a solid four piece with a true Sun / Memphis sound and feel about them, followed shortly after by Slick 49 a trio who again put on a worthy show, this time slightly more hillbilly in flavour. Decent sized crowds were present for both neither have a CD out yet but Groove Diggers have released a 45rpm which they highlighted and its a decent track.
However it was the evening line that I had again travelled to the far flung reaches of Norfolk England for.
First up was Rusti Steel and the Star Tones, what can I say this act is just great, rockabilly, hillybilly, western swing a touch of blues. They are very tight, Rusti's voice is terrific and they rattled through a 50 minute set of mostly covers with the odd original mixed in. Highlights were, Clyde McPhatters Lover's Question, Real Rock Drive, Lover Boy and closing with Carl Perkins Your True Love. Surely one of the best English acts on the circuit, see them if you can.
Then came the main act, a '50's ledgend and the man who recorded for me the seminal rockabilly track Johnny Powers. However before Johnny came to the stage we had an introduction to his guitarist who is not very well known of this side of the Atlantic, Chris Casello who also hails from Detroit along with Johnny. Man could he play, in fact I would say that he lifted the show onto another level.
Johnny took to the stage, still looking everybit the rocker he was in his teens, black leather pants, studded belt, white buck shoes! He opened with Rock Rock and you knew that you were in for a treat. I have not been lucky enough to see him before despite him having visited quite regularly. His voice has matured, deeper and powerful, all the obvious tracks were there, Mean Mistreater, Trouble, Honey Let's Go, Be Bop A Lula, Me and My Rythym Guitar a storming version of New Spark for an Flame. He included a tribute to Billy Lee Riley, Rockabilly Lee (at least I think that's what its called) and he spoke fondly of his memories and friendship with Carl Perkins before introducing the song he originally wrote for them to sing as a duet, I Was There When It Happened, in which they question where the word Rockabilly comes from! I guess thats a long debate! He closed of course, with for me the quintesential rockabilly (sorry Johnny, I should say Rock n Roll song) Long Blond Hair, Chris Casello had excelled throughout the set but tore this tune to shreads! Yes we screamed and stamped and a an encore of Have I told you Lately and a reprise of Long Blond Hair brought the show to an end. Superb, probably the best of the original 50's star I have seen, bring him back again soon.
Then a break in which I got Johnny to sign a CD, his delight at meeting the fans was obvious a true gentleman.
So how do you follow one of the true 50's legends, well, you get one of the two seminal '80's Neo bands back together that's how (the other band of that era is Restless,in my opinion, I'm sure you've all got your favorites). Yes the Blue Cats. It's hard to sum up just what this band are to us that were first introduced to them all those years ago, the Fight Back album is a classic and one all rockin fans should have, the follow up, released over a decade later, The Tunnel, is just as vital and tonight they announce they're back in the studio!
They opened with Fight Back, Casting My Spell and tore thorugh the numbers with the crowd getting larger and ever more excited Galluping Man, a tribute to Cliff Gallup, All I Can Do Is Cry, Captain Blood a new song from the upcoming album Dark Mine, Heavens Gate a storming Car 76 all kept the frantic pace going until they ripped into the opening bars of Love Me. A wrecking pit had opened on the dance floor (not something you want to try sober or at my age really, but the guys in there were having a ball!) Wild Night an anthem of the neo era brought the place to a sceaming frenzy, 'billies, rockers and physcos leaping around, punching the air and yelling for more. They got it with two encores including a reprise of Fight Back..
The band clearly enjoyed it, in fact 18 months ago they played Hemsby, the first time they'd worked together for more than 10 years, and as a direct result of that and the reception they got they have started working together again. I can't tell you how excited I am by the prospect of new album, they'll be back again I'm sure.
My brief time at Hemsby 43 was over, I was hot, covered in beer from the wrecking pit and hoarse, but hey this is rock n roll. Live It!