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STAX NEWS
page 22


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ASTORS' HAROLD JOHNSON
(May 7, 2003)

Curtis Johnson from the Stax group The Astors of "Candy" fame just informed me by his brother Harold Johnson, also a member of the Astors, has died. When we met last week at Stax, he told me how he was concerned by his brother's health. My sincere condolences to him and his family.

Harold “Quake” Johnson began his entertainment career in 1966 when he joined the Stax Records’ group, The Astors, recording on Stax Records, the songs  “Daddy Didn’t Tell Me” B/W “More Power To You”, and toured with the group until 1968.  In 1968 he help form the group “Brothers Unlimited” recording the album “Who’s For The Young” (Capitol Records).  For over 3 years the group packed local clubs and toured the Gulf Coast, and other areas of the country.  Later he spent several years touring with The Soul Children as Road Manager and Sound Technician.  In the 70’s he became a member of the Board of Directors of Funk Factory Productions, Promotions, Inc. out of Dayton, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York, and recorded with the group C.Q.C.S on the Funk Factory Records label.  In the early 90’s he formed Jazz Unlimited Productions that deejay Jazz on Sunday evenings at the Executive Inn, and April House, and at Tailgate Parties (Southern Heritage Classic).  For the past 6 years he organized and produced the Building Engineers Christmas Party each year for Memphis City Schools, and Shelby County Head Start Building Engineers.  Two years ago he developed Services Unlimited Consultant Group and last year opened an office, warehouse, and Training Center on Brooks Road which he continued to manage after becoming Ill.

Arrangements:
Wake: Sunday May 11, 2003
Time:  2 – 4 PM Place: M J Edwards & Sons Funeral Home, 1165 Airways Blvd, Memphis, TN
Funeral: Monday May 12,  11:00 AM Place: M J Edwards & Sons Funeral Home, 1165 Airways Blvd, Memphis, TN

 

THE MEMPHIS REPORT
(May 7, 2003)
 

TUESDAY, APRIL 29

After an unforgetable week in Memphis, here is the first report about the Stax Museum and the opening events, thanks to Salv Macasil. I will write later about the Stax Museum which I visited several times. More details and more photos soon...

It’s 4:30 am in Memphis, but my body is still working on British Summer Time and it’s  telling me it’s 10:30 am and won’t let me sleep. Or maybe it’s excitement at the fact that I’m in Memphis for what is going to be remembered by those of us here as the greatest musical experience of our lives that’s keeping me awake. Anyway, I decided that rather than lie there, not sleeping, I’d fire up my laptop, get some appropriate music playing, and write about last night.

So ‘Friction’ by the Soul Children is coming quietly from the speakers, and Blackfoot is asking his woman ‘What’s Happening Baby?”’

My flight to Memphis got me in at 4:15 pm local time on Tuesday 29th. I collected my hire car and went straight to Rendezvous Ribs in downtown Memphis to meet Cherrie Holden who had my tickets for the various events. A group of fans had collected there, along with Wayne Jackson, for dinner, but I had to check into my hotel and have a shower so I couldn’t stay. I then got lost on the way to the hotel, but got there eventually, checked in, showered, phoned home to let my wife know I’d arrived, unpacked, sorted out cameras, and headed back downtown to the Gibson Guitar Lounge to see Linda Lyndell, Mable John, Little Milton and Big Star. I missed my turning on to the freeway, but after looking at my map realised that the road I was on went downtown anyway, so I decided to take the slower, urban route. That was a mistake, because by the time I’d got to the Gibson Lounge and circled the area for a while deciding where to park, I’d missed Linda Lyndell and Mable John was
half way through her set.

Linda Lyndell
Linda Lyndell at the Gibson Lounge
(Photo Patrick Montier)


Mable John, what I saw of her, was excellent, as was her band, and the sound system in the club was possibly the clearest I’ve ever heard. Mable’s voice wasn’t overshadowed by the band, every word she sang came through loud and clear, and the individual instruments could be picked out if you could get past Mable’s wonderful, soulful voice. She finished the set with a very sexy version of ‘Your Good Thing (Is About To End)’ which included a rap where she detailed how she had gone out to buy a new negligee “... one of the see through ones” to seduce her man.

Mable John
Mable John at the Gibson Lounge
(Photo Patrick Montier)


I met up with some of the other Brits in the break before Little Milton came on, and heard that I’d missed some great events. They had been to Reverend Al Green’s church on the Sunday, where the Reverend treated the congregation to ‘Let’s Stay Together’ then invited an old friend up to the front to sing with him. Up stepped Laura Lee for a gospel duet.

Some of the Brits had met Laura Lee earlier, so when she arrived at the Gibson Lounge on Tuesday they were like old friends and it seemed perfectly natural to have pictures taken with her. I was also told about the trip that day to Willie Mitchell’s studio. Willie himself was there and led the tour, which ended up in his office where he played a rough mix of the brand new Al Green CD for the assembled fans. I so badly regretted waiting until Tuesday to fly out...

Just before he was due to start his set Little Milton strolled past and more pictures were taken. Mack Rice bustled past and promised to come right back for photos. There was a distinct sense that all this wasn’t really happening.

Little Milton took the stage after a brief warm up from the band, and he launched into a decent, mid-tempo blues-y track from his latest CD. He was also in great voice, and again the sound and the mix were perfect. Then he announced he was going to do another track from the new CD, and proceeded to sing a version of ‘Just One Moment’ which brought a lump to my throat, and those familiar chills to my spine and my arms. This was when I realised that it was real. I was in Memphis, watching Little Milton as he sang a track from my favourite album. How could the night possibly get any better? Milton got his guitar out after that and played ‘Walking The Back Streets And Crying’ which brought a huge cheer from the audience, and a couple of other blues numbers, but I was still feeling the chills from ‘Just One Moment.’  an
excellent set overall, even if you’re not a huge blues fan, and Milton has a great voice which hasn’t really been ravaged by time.

Little Milton
Little Milton a the Gibson Lounge
(Photo Patrick Montier)


So how could the night get any better? Well ... as I was lurking with the Brit Laura Lee entourage, waiting for more photo opportunities, the ultimate opportunity came along. We were invited back to the artists lounge. That doesn’t adequately describe the experience, so ... WE WERE INVITED BACK TO THE ARTISTS LOUNGE!!!!!! So a group of half a dozen star-struck UK soul-boys (and a soul-girl), cameras and autograph books at the ready, were ferried through to meet the artists and their friends.

Not only were Linda Lyndell, Mable John, Little Milton, Sir Mack Rice and Laura Lee in the lounge, but also hanging out were Al Bell, Steve Cropper and Bettye Crutcher. (I think that’s everyone - I was in shock) I suspect,and I really hope I’m wrong, that the flash on my camera wasn’t working. I’ve got to wait until I can get the film developed to tell if my group shots of multiple soul legends, and close ups of Al Bell and Steve Cropper in conversation, came out. In my excitement at being allowed back stage I left my digital camera in the bar, and I didn’t want to risk not being allowed back in if I went to get it.

I eventually went back to the main bar and caught a little of Big Star’s set, but after the photo session they couldn’t hope to be appreciated fully by me. Most of the audience loved them though, and the band seemed genuinely pleased to be playing in Memphis.

By this time I had been up for 24 hours so I went back to the car, still not really believing what had just happened, and headed for the hotel. Reality came crashing back in when I couldn’t find a way to head north on the road I wanted and ended up going the long way around Memphis back to my hotel. My nightmare journey also included a traffic jam after a nasty car crash and several more wrong turns, before I finally got back at about midnight, gritty eyed and irritable, to fall into bed.

Three hours later my body was waking up, thinking it was 9 am. I might try to have a nap later, because tonight is the big one. Isaac Hayes, Booker and the MGs, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Rance Allen, Jean Knight, the Mar-Keys, Mavis Staples, Ann Peebles, Jimmy Vaughn, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and others (... and others? How long is this gig going to last?) with the “celebrity party” at Isaac Hayes’ club afterwards.

Well, the hotel is now serving breakfast, and I haven’t eaten since I was at Atlanta airport yesterday, so I’m going for my complimentary ‘continental breakfast’ which will probably be followed by a trip to the nearest International House of Pancakes for a proper breakfast...

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30

I didn’t wake up until 9:45 this morning so I seem to have fooled my body into accepting it’s new schedule. It means I missed the ‘continental breakfast’, but since this consists of some soggy Danish pastries, some blueberry muffins and some burnt coffee that’s no great loss. Off to IHOP again once I’ve written this up.

Various list members met up at Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale last night for dinner before heading off the The Orpheum for The Big Show. There were huge crowds outside, and they turned out to be the people who had booked tickets and wanted to collect them on the night. So I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Cherrie Holden for collecting my ticket for me and saving me from ticket queue hell.

I was in row K, 10 from the front, mid left of the stage. Due to the problems out front with the ticket queues the show started late, but eventually the band including Steve Cropper, Michael Toles, Lester Snell, Marvell Thomas and Bobby Manuel, took the stage. There is far too much to say about last night, and I’d be here all day if I attempted to go into too much detail, but the evening kicked off with the Mar-Keys, Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, taking the stage for a couple of numbers that included a stomping ‘Last Night’ and an emotional and moving spoken tribute from Wayne Jackson.

Wayne Jackson & Andrew Love
The Mar-Keys/Memphis Horns at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Eddie Floyd was up next, and he ripped through ‘Knock On Wood’ then announced that Wilson Pickett, who was due to be there, had been ill and couldn’t make it. Eddie then introduced a song he and Steve Cropper had written for Pickett: ‘634 5789’

Eddie Floyd
Eddie Floyd at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



After that my memory is hazy, but each act was introduced by a celebrity, including Richard Roundtree, a local DJ, Chuck D from Public Enemy, and various Stax personalities including David Porter, Al Bell and Isaac Hayes. At one point early in the proceedings a short film, made for the Museum, was shown as well.

I can’t remember the exact running order, but:
Jean Knight did a great sounding and suitably sassy ‘Mr Big Stuff’.
William Bell did an excellent ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ and left the
stage to cries for more.
Ann Peebles looked sexy in a short dress, but sounded a little hoarse
and had trouble hitting some of the notes on ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’.
Booker T. and The MGs did a couple of numbers. I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember what they started with, although I’m tempted to say ‘Green Onions’, but their second number was a foot-stomping version of ‘Time Is Tight’ that started off with Duck playing light, delicate notes before Booker joined in playing the melody  gently and slowly. It was a revelation to hear ‘Time Is Tight’ played this way, and I’d never appreciated what a beautiful melody the tune has. Steve took over from
Duck with some gorgeous guitar work, picking over the melody along with Booker before the drums came in and upped the tempo. The tune built on to a thundering climax and the band left the stage to a standing ovation.

Isaac Hayes came on and conducted the band through ‘Theme From Shaft’ then sang a very nice ‘I Stand Accused’.
Jimmy Vaughn, a white Texas blues man, came on, and while he’s a very snappy dresser and a good guitarist he’s not a brilliant singer. He introduced Little Milton who joined him for a guitar duel, but I wanted Milton to sing ‘Just One Moment’ again.

Jean Knight  William Bell  Ann Peebles 
Jean Knight, William Bell, Ann Peebles at the Orpheum (Photo Patrick Montier)

Booker T. & The MG's  Isaac Hayes
Booker T. & The MG's and Isaac Hayes at the Orpheum (Photo Patrick Montier)



Somewhere around here the absolute, undoubted highlight of the night took the stage. A grand piano was pushed on, and Rance Allen was announced. I had been looking forward to seeing him, and the Brits I’d spoken to earlier had been happily anticipating his appearance as well, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for just how magnificent he was. He was simply astounding. I called my wife this morning to let her know I was OK, and I started telling her about Rance Allen and I was in
tears, trying to describe how incredible he was. I’m filling up now, just thinking about him. Superlatives do not exist to describe the experience of hearing THAT VOICE live. I was nearly converted from my atheistic ways as he sang ‘That Will Be Good Enough For Me’. If you don’t know the song, Rance lists the places he’s never been: he’s never been to Paris in the spring or the fall, never been to India to see the Taj Mahal, never been to Switzerland to see the Winter Games played, never been to New Orleans on Carnival or Mardi Gras day, never been to London on foggy day, never been to hear a gondolier play; but if he can only make it to heaven that will be good enough. He sat at the piano first and the band picked up the rhythm while Rance went through the first part of the song. There were some thrilling whoops and swoops as
he played around with the words, and it was obvious we were in the presence of a vocal giant. Then he stood up from the piano to continue ...

I’m sorry, I’m crying again. The enormity of being here,in Memphis, where my favourite music was created has just overwhelmed me while I try to explain Rance Allen to the people who weren’t there .... this was why I had flown nearly 4500 miles and paid hundreds of pounds to be here. This is a historic week, and I am so grateful and happy to be here. Sorry, I’ll try to continue.

So Rance Allen stood up and treated us to a display of vocal gymnastics that will ... NEVER ... EVER ... be bettered. (The term ‘gymnastics’ seems a little wrong here, and could imply someone with great technical skills but little in the way of real passion, but Rance Allen possesses immense technical skill and an overabundance of passion that nobody else comes near matching.) He hitched up his trousers so he could bend down while testifying (and this was testifying at it’s most electric and thrilling) and he clutched the air while writhing on stage. Then he stood bolt upright, opened his mouth and this ... incredible ... SOUND came out. I’ve never heardanything like it - it was part baritone roar, part screaming of a soul in torment, and I will never forget the experience of being there while he sang. The audience were going berserk, and I yelled myself hoarse, screaming for more, but he did the one song and left. If you weren’t there, mere words on a screen cannot do him justice. Nothing will match this.

Rance Allen
Rance Allen at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



So what else happened? Mavis Staples did a couple, but her voice has lost the suppleness of her youth and she sounded strained. Michael McDonald joined her for a duet, then another white blues man took the stage. Can’t remember his name, didn’t like his voice, wondered why my time was being wasted by this when Rance Allen could have been on stage singing ‘Ain’t No Need Of Crying’.

Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



The Bar-Kays did a funky version of Soul Finger and were joined on stage by Chuck D, and some mate of his who bounced around stage, shouting ‘Come On’ into his mic while Chuck did some garbled rap, none of which I could understand, although the words ‘Stax’ and ‘soul’ came out clearly from time to time.

The Bar-Kays
The Bar-Kays with Larry Dodson
(Photo Patrick Montier)



A special guest came on. He wasn’t mentioned in the publicity, but Percy Sledge took the stage for ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, which was enjoyable, but Percy also struggled a little.

Percy Sledge
Percy Sledge at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Carla Thomas provided the next Great Moment with a version of ‘Gee Whiz’. Her voice still has the girlish tones it had when she first recorded the song over 40 years ago, but there’s an obvious maturity in there that transforms the song from its teeny pop origins. She was wonderful and you could feel just how much she was loved by everyone there.

Carla Thomas
Carla Thomas (Bobby Manuel on guitar)
(Photo Patrick Montier)



A surprise guest was announced: Al Green. The crowd again went berserk as Al grinned his way across the stage, but he was following Rance Allen and it seemed to me to be testifying by the book. A falsetto shriek here, a scream there, but it seemed a little insincere. Al picked up a bunch of flowers and distributed them to lucky ladies in the audience, and I just felt unmoved by the whole performance.

Al Green
Al Green at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Solomon Burke was the last singer to come out, and he was in magnificent voice, and if Rance Allen hadn’t been there King Solomon would have probably been the vocal highlight of the night. I’ve never been a great fan of Solomon’s but all the recent, glowing reports from his live shows were justified. He was joined on stage by Sir Mack Rice for a version of ‘Mustang Sally’ which they both appeared to enjoy immensely.

Solomon Burke & Mack Rice
Solomon Burke and Mack Rice at the Orpheum
(Steve Cropper, Bobby Manuel an Jim Spake in the background)
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Mavis Staples then came back on for the finale and was joined by all the acts for a version of ... I can’t remember what they did! I seem to think it was ‘I’ll Take You There’ but I couldn’t swear to it. Anyway, the stage was packed with a Who’s Who of Stax soul legends as they belted their way through the song.

  Finale at the Orpheum
The finale at the Orpheum Theatre, Memphis, with the whole Stax family on stage. (Photo Patrick Montier)



On to Isaac Hayes’ club afterwards, where a young local band were on stage working through various soul classics and they were not at all bad. Not many of the stars had come back though, but Duck Dunn, Booker T, Joe Shamwell, Mable John and Isaac himself were seated around the club, and I got a photo of myself with Isaac Hayes.

Stax fans  Stax fans
Some members of the staxrecords mailing list at the Isaac Hayes Club (Salv Macasil on far right)
(Photo Patrick Montier)

Rob Bowman  Donald Dunn & Isaac Hayes  Booker T. Jones
A thirsty Rob Bowman, Duck Dunn and Isaac Hayes and Booker T. Jones at the Isaac Hayes Club afterparty
(Photo Patrick Montier)



For Stax list members, and especially Anne Fill, I met up with Mike and it turns out we live not too far apart, in neighbouring counties.

I left the club at about 2:30 am, with the realisation that over the course of the previous 50 or so hours I had managed to sleep for maybe 4.5 hours in total. Of course I got a little lost on the way back, missing my turn off and adding 10 miles to my journey, but that’s to be expected. There’s a thunder storm raging somewhere to the south of me, and I’m trying to decide how to fill my time until the evening when we go to see Wattstax. Maybe go to the Museum, maybe go record shopping to  Shangri-La, maybe go downtown and hit Tower Records for DVDs. I’ve got to get something to eat first though. There’s another live show after the film tonight, then the official Museum opening tomorrow morning at 8:30 am, then in the evening a live show with the Mad Lads, the Bo-Keys and the group I am most looking forward to seeing, The Masqueraders, so I probably won’t be about to give another report until Saturday.

In the mean time, everyone needs to get some Rance Allen music, and immerse themselves in the voice of THE finest singer I have ever seen.

THURSDAY, MAY 1

Just a quick note - I've just got in after Wattstax, which is a brilliant film which everyone should see when it gets re-released later this year, and which everyone should buy on video or DVD.

After the film there were more live performances, firstly from local kids who were benefitting from the Stax Musical Academy, then Floyd Taylor in a tribute to his dad Johnnie, then the Temprees, and then I was expecting the Dramatics. Four mics were set up which seemed one too few, then the announcer started talking about a group who had joined Stax in the late 60's, and who had a hit with 'I'll Be The Other Woman'. With two new members, Archie Love and Ann Hines, it was J. Blackfoot and Norman West - it was the Soul Children!

Larry Shaw  The Stax Academy  Floyd Taylor
Larry Shaw, WattStax executive producer, The Stax Academy and Floyd Taylor at the Orpheum, Memphis
(Photo Patrick Montier)

The Temprees  The Soul Children
The Temprees and The Soul Children at the Orpheum Theatre, Memphis (Photo Patrick Montier)



Some of you are aware that the Soul Children's 'Friction' is my all time favourite album, so you can guess how excited I was (understatement of the year) when they walked out. Most of the set was covers of classic Stax material, but they finished with 'The Sweeter He Is'. How could it get better. Well, getting invited backstage by Joe
Pusateri and Tim Whitsett, that's how. I took my digital camera this time and I've got the pictures downloaded on my laptop to prove that I didn't imagine it. I met J. Blackfoot and Norm West of the Soul Children. I'm still smiling about it now.

Orpheum backstage
Backstage at the Orpheum
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Tomorrow morning is the official opening of the Museum, so we'll all be down on East McLemore, bright and early to see the mayor splice the
tape.

FRIDAY, MAY 2

There was a baseball game on last night in the downtown area, so there were lots of extra cars on the roads, plus the Beale Streeet Music Fest was on, which added to the numbers, so I got delayed. I got stung $20 to park my car and had to run to the Center for Southern Folklore, and arrived, breathless and sweating to find the Masqueraders already on stage.

I found the Brits off to one side of this strange little cafe/bar/shop place, which was situated in a shopping centre, and was told that the 'Raders were only on their second song. I got my camera out and took a few photos, moving around to get  some shots from different angles, then settled in to hear my favourite male vocal group running through some cover versions, and some of their own material. I remember KK posting a photo of the 'Raders at the Luther Ingram benefit from a few years ago, which had the classic comment "Three-part harmonies to f*****g die for" and oh, how right you were Kevin.

It was a very low-key little gig, and the group were in casual clothes, wearing stetsons, with just a keyboard for accompaniment, but what a glorious thing it was! Once again I can't remember the full set but there was a simply beautiful version of the Impressions 'I'm So Proud' , a lovely 'Daddy's Home', and absolutely wonderful versions of their own 'I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else' and '(Call Me) The Travellin' Man'. They switched leads, harmonised perfectly, and in their quiet way were even better than the Soul Children the night before. While the Soul Children were incredible, they only did the one ballad, and I'm a sucker for a slow song. None of the 'Raders set went above a gentle mid-tempo and their harmonising IS to f*****g to die for.

They finished the set and we had a photo op at the side of the stage, then they packed up their keyboard, put it away and literally joined the small audience in the bar. More photos, chats and autographs followed as they wandered about, relaxing and eating from the buffet set up at the back of the place. The Brits kept looking at each other in disbelief.

The Masqueraders
The Masqueraders
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Now they were finished and I could relax I looked around and noticed Carla Thomas - yes CARLA THOMAS! - sitting at a table just to my right, with Randy Stewart. Her brother Marvell was somewhere about too, but I never did get to see him.

Carla Thomas with friends
Carla Thomas with Cherrie Holden and friend Don Priest
(Photo Patrick Montier)



An acapella group took the stage next, but I didn't know them and for the life of me I can't remember their name. They also harmonised perfectly on the two songs they sang. The other Brits knew them though, and they had some publicity photos which they were signing.

Then a state representative took the stage and made a speech about the importance of music in Memphis, and started reading an official document which was the  State of Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution No. 305, which was "A resolution to recognise the visitors to the Stax Museum opening events as honorary Tennesseans."  He said he  would be reading out names and as they were read out the person should come forward and receive a gift.

He read out various paragraphs about the Tennessee music and the history of Stax, then mentioned Patrick and his Stax site, so Patrick came forward and was handed an envelope and a cap naming him an honorary Tennessean. Patrick's wife Marie-Anne was next, and then he named all the members of Patrick's Stax mailing list who had made the trip. Well, we certainly weren't expecting that! So now I am an honorary Tennessean, and I've got the baseball cap and official State certificate to prove it.

Philip H Trenary  Patrick Montier & Cherrie Holden
How to become a Tennessean! Philip H. Trenary, State of Tennessee (Carl Wise in the background
A new Tennessean with Cherrie Holden
(Photo Patrick Montier)



Back to the music and the Bo-Keys were next. Unbelievably this group consisted of Charles 'Skip' Pitts on guitar, Willie Hall on drums, Ronnie Williams on Hammond and Scott Bomar on bass. And here they were, setting up on this tiny stage in a shopping arcade. They were brilliant, of course, and ran through a short set of extremely funky instrumentals. Cherrie Holden came up to me while they were playing and asked if I wanted to meet Toni Green. I had seen this beautiful woman in the bar and thought she was Toni Green, but couldn't swear to it, but Cherrie assured me that it was her, so ... of course I wanted to meet Toni Green! I told her I had her last CD, 'Strong Enough' and really liked it,  and asked if she was recording at the moment. She said she had about 5 or 6 songs done and was working on more. I got Cherrie to take a photo of us together, which I don't think my wife will be happy about ...

The Bo-Keys
The Bo-Keys: Ronnie Williams, Scott Bomar, Willie Hall and Charles 'Skip' Pitts
(Photo Patrick Montier)



John Gary Williams of the Mad Lads walked past on his way to the dressing room while they were playing, and soon all the Lads appeared, looking sharp in their matching suits, and took the stage, with the Bo-Keys backing them.

They also sang some perfect harmonies, and their set included a swinging version of 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' and gorgeous versions of 'Whatever Hurts You' and 'Don't Have To Shop Around'. I could hear someone in the audience singing along, and I realised it was Carla Thomas. How cool is that? They got Toni Green up on stage for a short while, to huge applause and lots of camera flashes from the assembled Brits, and she sounded fantastic - far more gutsy than on the CD. I was hoping Carla would come up as well, but she stayed put.

The Mad Lads
The Mad Lads (Photo Patrick Montier)



The set ended and the group left the stage and mingled for a while before going to get changed out of their suits. Bear in mind that the Masqueraders were still hanging out, Toni Green was wandering around looking lovely, Carla Thomas and Randy Stewart were sitting a few feet away, Willie Hall, Ronnie Williams and Skip Pitts were likewise just hanging out and you'll understand that the general consensus among the assembled Brits was that this was the best night of the whole trip. It was just so relaxed, with photos being taken, everyone just enjoying themselves and lots of conversations that started "Can you believe this is happening?"

Many thanks to Carl 'Blue' Wise for setting this one up and being the perfect host. It was another fantastic night, made all the better by the relaxed atmosphere.

There's nothing planned for Saturday so I doubt that you'll see any more of my ramblings. I've done this as much for my benefit as for the list members who couldn't get here, as I wanted to keep a written account to go with all the photos. I've made some good friends while I was here, have enjoyed myself more than I ever thought could be possible, and am so, so grateful to have been part of this weeks historic events.

Salv Macasil


 

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