Green Bay 2005

April 28, 2005 - Terence McArdle
           I really enjoyed Green Bay 2005 every bit as much as the first one. It may be a Rockin' 50s festival but the wide latitude in booking included the pre-war style boogie woogie stylings of Carl "Sonny" Leyland and the 60s soul balladry of Barbara Lynn as well as a healthy dose of hillbilly boogie and western swing. And that's just fine with me.
           For me there are always surprises at festivals. I heard that Teddy Riedel was a Jerry Lee imitator. Not so - I actually heard echoes of the killer, Moon Mullican, and Fats in his playing but he is clearly his own man and, unlike so many of the older performers, he didn't waste a lot of time between songs telling war stories. He just got down to business and did almost all original songs (except Pipeliner Blues). Someone should record him and soon.
           I wasn't familiar with either Sun performers Rayburn Anthony or Glen Honeycutt. Rayburn is a true old school country performer with echoes of Carl Smith and even a hint of Johnny Cash in his style. Marc Bristol observed that Anthony had that same on stage neighborly warmth as another Jackson, Tenn. performer, Carl Perkins. Though clearly his heart is in country, he rocked too. Glen Honeycutt, while hardly a wildman -- he sat down as he sang -- possesses a great baritione voice tailor made for the rock-a-ballads.
           I knew Spatanburg, S.C.'s Sparkletones for Black Slacks but didn't know much beyond that. I was delighted to hear a very tight band with all original members, two very different and very complimentary lead guitarists, and nice Everly style harmonies and great songs to boot.
           Ruby Ann and Her Boppin' Boozers from Portugal get my vote as the discovery of the festival. She's got a sexy, slightly flitatious stage presence, a tight band, and a healthy bit of young Wanda Jackson in her delivery. Marc Bristol surprised me with his clever original songs and great back-up from guitarist Chris Cavalos and pianist Carl "Sonny" Leyland. Another discovery was Bevis Griffin, a frantic r'n'b screamer from Texas. He delivered the goods with the Texas band (Tjarko on guitar, Lisa on drums, and Kevin Smith on bass). As they jumped the fence between bluesy rockin' r'n'b/proto-soul and garage rock with Tjarko's over heated (and somewhat Buchanan-esque) Telecaster to the fore, they probably scared away a few of the older country fans. But I stayed for a few tunes and would recommend him to those that like The Sonics, Barrence Whitfield, etc.
           They couldn't have picked better doo-wop groups as The Calvanes and The Cleftones both have their original lead singers and The Bobbettes and The Teenagers still have original members. As far as the singing goes, The Calvanes got my vote for their acapella tunes like Traveling Stranger while The Teenagers had the classic stage moves. But The Bobbettes were the most fun of all and real originators -- the precursor of all the 60s girl groups and probably the only group with a woman doing bass parts! I also caught a little of the Lonely Blue Boys briefly -- very good stuff; I wish I'd caught a full set.
           Wanda Jackson, in great growling voice, did a great set of all her hits with a mix of Lustre Kings and Flyright Boys. The parts of Roy Clark and Big Al Downing were handled fine by Graham Tichy and Carl Sonny Leyland. She kept her preaching to a minimum and entertained.
           Hardrock Gunter proved himself a sweet, genial gent; one of the real classic crowd pleasing hillbilly entertainers from bygone days. It was such a real highlight to hear this originator of hillbilly boogie. I can't believe that he is 80 years old. I only wish he had time to pick guitar for a tune or two.
           Sonny Burgess turned in one of his better sets with pianist Kern Kennedy from the Pacers and Bobby Crafford from the Kings IV and a rhythm guitarist from Mars Attacks who supplied the trumpet licks on Sonny's Sun hits. He thankfully stuck to his own tunes, and avoided the cover band material which sometimes dooms his shows, as he cavorted on stage like a 20 year, burning solos on an insanely echoed guitar, and hollering like a field hand on a Saturday night bender.
           I enjoyed Missouri's collector faves The Krazy Kats but they were almost too loud -- Jerry Lee style piano, reverb drenched power chord guitar, and driving drums without bass (though Deke Dickerson did some bari sax on mic and off stage).
           I was surprised to find soul siren Barbara Lynn at a 50s festival but I'm just SO glad she was; a great singer who could hold her own with Irma Thomas and Ann Peebles. She is one of the best rhythm guitarists I've ever seen, and carries on a bit of the Guitar Slim legacy in her solos. Plus she has an incredibly warm stage presence. I don't think I'll soon forget her guitar work-out on What'd I Say. I don't often do the autograph thing but when I heard her back-up guitarist Dave Gonzalez (Palladins) say that she came up from Texas to the gig on the Greyhound, I had to get in line.
           There was so much fine guitar all week! Lester Peabody was everywhere! He and The Barnshakers did a terrific job of backing up Honeycutt, Riedel, and Lew Williams and he also turned up on steel guitar with Marti Brom's Texas band and with his jump band Dr. Snout and His Hogs of Rhythm. I'm really struck by his versatility. Jimmy Sutton and The Four Charms (often augmented by Sonny Leyland) backed up The Cleftones, The Bobbettes, and Joe Houston. This is an impressive band; a very authentic mix of jump r'n'b with Joel Patterson's Memphis and Chicago guitar given a nice push by the slap bass from Sutton. I picked up their new CD Jinx Remover which covers a lot of ground stylistically - everything from Cats and The Fiddles type jive to overdriven Sun era Memphis blues.
           Joe Sixpack of the Ragtime Wranglers also impressed me (and much more than at the last Green Bay) with his guitar work. He got the lion's share of duties with the hard core hillbilly performers like Hardrock Gunter and Charlie Louvin. His "straight 8s" rendition of Jimmy Bryant's Low Man on The Totem Pole really caught my ear so I wound up buying the new Wranglers CD, too. Its loaded with good instros. All this good guitar -- Dave Billar (some great jazz in the Lounge BTW), Jeremy Wakefield, Tom Morrell, Sean Mencher, Deke Dickerson, J.J., Eddie Angel, Tommy Allsup, Eddie Clearwater, Tjarko, Jim Sundquist (!!!), the list goes on... heaven for guitar freaks.
           And Dick Wayne's set was nostalgic for me. I almost thought I was back at Bethesda's Psychedelly 25 years ago when I caught The Flyers years ago on a bill with Tex Rubinowitz. One of the best of the early 80s rockabillys, his original songs are the type of thing I think Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran would have done had they lived into the early punk era. Its great to see that he is back and hasn't lost any of his chops or energy over the years.
           Lew Williams gets better every time I see him; telegraphing those songs that only he could sing with his hand gestures and facial expressions. He had the crowd joining in on Cat Talk and Bop Bop A Do Bop. I hope he records some new (or unrecorded old) tunes soon. The Barnshakers are the right band for the job.
           With his driving Texas guitar, Ray Sharpe brought back fond memories of Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland. I love the almost yodeling thing Ray does when he sings. My friends in Texas are right -- this man needs a new record!
           And there was a real musical chemistry between Janis Martin and the Flyright Boys. They nailed her music and she was in terrific voice and made more than one raunchy aside that had the audience rolling with laughter. She even pulled out the Telecaster for some Perkins style guitar on As Long As I'm Moving I always liked Wanda Jackson on record better than Janis. But live, it is a real toss-up.
           This was the second or third time I've seen Marti Brom and this time she killed me with a largely (except for Lester Peabody) Texan band; probably her regulars as they played very tight. Another highlight was hearing Carl "Sonny" Leyland laying down boogie woogie with just bass and drums in the night club.
           Young Jessie was in great blues shouting voice and dressed to the nines in a classy pin stripe. He wailed through all the hits like Hit Git and Split, Mary Lou, and even Lonesome Desert! Unfortunately, it was late at night on Saturday, the last night, and he didn't have the crowd that he deserved. This guy is one of the last living blues shouters from that era. (The living originators are really just him, Nappy Brown, and maybe Jimmy Nelson, H-Bomb Fergoson, or Charlie Waterford at this point.) So where was everybody? I also thought that The Four Charms would have a been a better choice to back him up than the Sean Mencher Combo. Sean is one of the best Travis style guitarists in the country (as always I enjoyed hearing High Noon) but I thought he sounded much more at home behind Dick Wayne of Buzz & The Flyers.
           Really, the only disappointments for me were the two big names, Jerry Lee Lewis and Link Wray. While I hardly expect JLL to jump on the piano anymore, I could wish the killer would dip into his own back catalog a little more and leave Bobby McGhee and the Chuck Berry tunes off the set list.
           I hope through some miracle they can do another festival like this. The first one was free and at $40 this was almost free; particularly when you consider the amount of talent. I guess these things are some sort of a loss leader for the casino and hotel but I still don't know how they can do it. I just hope they do it again!
           I'd love to hear about the Ponderosa when everyone gets back. Its a blasted pity I can't afford the time off or money to do it all.
Terence McArdle

Back to the "Take Note" Main Page


Promotional Products, Discount Labels, Post-it Notes, Rubber Stamps, etc.