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Little Richard is still bigger than life

click to enlarge TUTTI AND FRUTTI :  Little Richard, one of the principle architects of rock’n’roll, headlines the Avila Beach Blues Festival on May 25 with Canned Heat and Elvin Bishop. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LITTLE RICHARD
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF LITTLE RICHARD
  • TUTTI AND FRUTTI : Little Richard, one of the principle architects of rock’n’roll, headlines the Avila Beach Blues Festival on May 25 with Canned Heat and Elvin Bishop.

“Tutti frutti, good booty. If it don’t fit, don’t force it. You can grease it, make it easy.” These, my friends, are some of the original lyrics to Little Richard’s first big hit, “Tutti Frutti,” before New Orleans writer Dorothy La Bostrie was brought in to clean up the song. Imagine how they might have gone over in 1955, sung by an effeminate black man with mascara-coated eyelashes and a bouffant pompadour. And you thought Michael Jackson was a freak!

The first time I saw Little Richard in person was about a decade ago at House of Blues in Hollywood, where I went to see Solomon Burke. Little Richard wasn’t performing—he was watching the show from the balcony—but they turned a spotlight on him and he got up and waved to the crowd. The building literally shook from the thunderous applause. Little Richard, now 75 years old, is still a rock’n’roll god. And he knows it.

Shortly after his 66th birthday, he announced from stage, “I’m still beautiful. I’m not conceited—I’m convinced!”

The man has had more lives than a cat. After his initial mid-’50s success—“Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Lucille,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Keep a Knockin’,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly”—he abruptly quit in 1957 after a tour of Australia. Why? This third of 12 children of Seventh Day Adventist parents, who had been kicked out of their house at 13 (in a 1982 televised interview he claimed because of his homosexuality), had an epiphany, believing his rock lifestyle was the road to ruin. He saw orange-glowing overheated plane engines on a trip home and promised to God to change his ways if he made it home safely. Days later while performing outdoors, he caught a glimpse of Sputnik in the sky, and days after that, a plane he was supposed to be on crashed. He then entered Oakwood College in Alabama and earned a B.A., then renewed his Seventh Day Adventist faith (rumor had it he was ordained a minister, but he denies this). His record company at the time tried to keep his conversion secret, even issuing a new song culled from half-finished recording sessions. In 1959 he recorded his first religious album, God is Real.

Finally in 1964, he made an attempt to return to rock, but America and the world had already discovered the Beatles (interestingly, Paul McCartney considered Little Richard his idol). After unsuccessful comeback attempts on Vee-Jay, Modern, Okeh, and Brunswick, Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman, for those interested), was signed to Frank Sinatra’s label Reprise, where he recorded three critically acclaimed and commercially successful R&B records. He was back in action.

His authorized 1984 biography, with juicy tidbits like the story of a threesome with a stripper and Buddy Holly, and Richard’s mid-’70s bout with drug addiction ushered in another segment of this indefatigable artist’s life when he appeared in the films Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and Last Action Hero. He’s also recorded some great children’s records. This guy’s awesome!

See Little Richard (5:15 to 6:30 p.m.) on Sunday, May 25, when he headlines the 15th Annual Avila Beach Blues Festival, which also includes Canned Heat (2 to 3 p.m.) and Elvin Bishop (3:30 to 4:45 p.m.). Gates open at noon. Parking on the 10th fairway costs $5 (free if you have four or more people in your car). No outside food or beverages are allowed except for sealed water bottles. No pets. No in-and-outs. Children 7 and younger get in free when accompanied by paid adult in the lawn seating area only. Low back chairs are okay, but no umbrellas. Buy tickets at all VALLITIX outlets, including Boo Boo Records in SLO, the Mustang Ticket Office on the Cal Poly campus, and the Mid-State Fairgrounds Box Office in Paso Robles; on-line at www.vallitix.com; or by phone at 1-888-825-5484.



Put some funk in your trunk
Vocalist-keyboardist Anthony Smith’s Trunk Fulla Funk—featuring members of the Karl Denson Trio, On the One, and Signal Path—hits Downtown Brew on Thursday, May 22, touring in support of their debut studio album Life As We Know It.

- JONESING FOR SMITH :  Anthony Smith’s awesome jazz-funk outfit Trunk Fulla Funk—featuring members of the Karl Denson Trio, On the One, and Signal Path—hits Downtown Brew on May 22. -  - PHOTO COURTESY OF TRUNK FULLA FUNK
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF TRUNK FULLA FUNK
  • JONESING FOR SMITH : Anthony Smith’s awesome jazz-funk outfit Trunk Fulla Funk—featuring members of the Karl Denson Trio, On the One, and Signal Path—hits Downtown Brew on May 22.
This stuff is the shiznati! Greasy (Hammond B-3 organ!), horn-filled jazz funk with smooth vocals—it’s music to get laid by, people.

Smith got a degree in piano performance from San Diego State University, after which he pimped himself out to every gig he could get, playing everything from Latin jazz to neo-soul to surf rock/reggae. In addition to keyboards, he also developed a reputation as a talented composer, arranger, and outstanding jazz vibraphonist.

Pop and rock influences, combined
with the inspiration provided by his straight-ahead jazz heroes such as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, inform Smith’s current sound: “Trumpet is my favorite horn, and that’s why I incorporated it in the Trunk Fulla Funk sound,” a band he describes as “an infectiously grooving sextet featuring stellar musicians from across the country—a hybrid of classic funk/rock/soul influences, with all the rock and jam-oriented improvisation you might expect.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 advance or $12 at the door. Local act Mo’ Diggs will open.



Blues pub spectacular
O’Reilly’s “Every Friday Night Blues by the Beach Concert Series” marches on with the legendary Texas blues of Bugs Henderson & The Shuffle Kings on Friday, May 23.

click to enlarge TEXAS LEGEND! :  O’Reilly’s “Every Friday Night Blues by the Beach Concert Series” marches on with legendary Texas blues of Bugs Henderson & The Shuffle Kings on May 23. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BUGS HENDERSON
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF BUGS HENDERSON
  • TEXAS LEGEND! : O’Reilly’s “Every Friday Night Blues by the Beach Concert Series” marches on with legendary Texas blues of Bugs Henderson & The Shuffle Kings on May 23.
“What we are trying to do here is not have just another bar band playing in just another bar, but a top-quality world-class blues show in an intimate setting in front of a fairly small crowd. Our max capacity is 175,” said pub owner Jeff Wynn. “I saw Bugs several years ago in Dallas, Texas, and it was one of the most phenomenal shows I have ever seen. I told myself then that if I ever get to open the club I hope to have some day, I gotta get this guy to come and play there. Now it is going to happen.”

Buddy “Bugs” Henderson was born in Palm Springs in 1943, but grew up in Tyler, Texas. By the early-’60s, he was working in a record store by day and sneaking out of the house against his father’s wishes by night to catch live gigs in the local joints. At 16 he formed his first band, the Sensors, and later the band Mouse and the Traps, which charted its first single—“Public Execution”—in 1966.

Aside from some rough patches in the drug-fueled ’70s, Bugs considers his life pretty sweet: “I tell people all the time that I know you’re supposed to stop and smell the roses as you go though life, but in my case I stopped and moved into the garden.”

Tickets are $15 (available at the venue or brownpapertickets.com), and there’s also a limited number of VIP tickets (two for $120) that include dinner for two, a bottle of wine, two reserved seats on the dance floor, and an autographed Bugs CD.



Light that kora on fire!
If you’re called the Jimi Hendrix of anything, that’s a good thing, so when Prince DiabatÈ is called “The Jimi Hendrix of the kora,” a stringed African instrument, you know he owns that thing!

click to enlarge AFRICAN PRINCE:  Prince DiabatÈ, a kora player and singer from Guinea, West Africa, plays two SLO Folks shows: May 23 at Coalesce Bookstore and May 24 at Castoro Cellars. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCE DIABAT…
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINCE DIABAT…
  • AFRICAN PRINCE: Prince DiabatÈ, a kora player and singer from Guinea, West Africa, plays two SLO Folks shows: May 23 at Coalesce Bookstore and May 24 at Castoro Cellars.
DiabatÈ, a kora player and singer from Guinea, West Africa, plays two SLO Folks shows: Friday, May 23, at 7 p.m. in Coalesce Bookstore (772-2880); and Saturday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Castoro Cellars (238-0725). Tickets are $20. He’ll be accompanied by an acoustic duo—Ken Rosser on guitar and Linda Albertano on bolon (traditional contra-bass) and gongoman (traditional thumb piano)—creating his signature brand of rootsy Mande fusion music.

While the sound is decidedly African, listen closely and you’ll pick up hints of reggae, hip-hop, blues, and funk. He’s of the Malinke people, but he recently adapted some music of the Wassolou people to his repertoire, playing the kamelen n’goni, a six-string hunter’s harp.

Check out these two concerts of rhythmic, traditional, and contemporary fusion music from the Mandingue countries of West Africa.



Get irie!
Directly after the beer festival in Avila (watch out for drunkards on your way in), the Second Annual Avila Reggae Festival kicks off in the same location on Saturday, May 24, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the show starting promptly at 6:30.

click to enlarge BEACH REGGAE!:  The Second Annual Avila Reggae Festival takes place on May 24 with headliner Stephen Marley as well as Iration and Capleton opening. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN MARLEY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHEN MARLEY
  • BEACH REGGAE!: The Second Annual Avila Reggae Festival takes place on May 24 with headliner Stephen Marley as well as Iration and Capleton opening.
Early vibes by Gully Bank Sound will float through the air as you find a seat and grab a drink. Iration will perform from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m.; Capleton follows from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.; and headliner Stephen Marley plays from 8:45 to 10 p.m.

I’m not sure if being the son of Bob Marley is a hindrance or a help. That’s a huge freaking shadow to try to make your way out from, but Stephen proved this year that he’s his own artist. He album Mind Control took home the Grammy for Best Reggae Album at the 50th annual ceremony, beating some of the genre’s most legendary artists: Burning Spear, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly and Robbie and the Taxi Gang, and Toots and the Maytals were all nominated in the category. This was a real contest!

Get tickets at all VALLITIX outlets. Read the end of the section on the Avila Blues Festival for helpful hints about attending this concert, too.



More music...

click to enlarge SWEET FOLK GODDESS :  Award-winning singer-songwriter Tamra Engle plays the Steynberg Gallery on May 23 to support her new CD, The Blonde Flame Session, which was on the nominating ballot for the 50th annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album. - PHOTO BY JULIE DEAN
  • PHOTO BY JULIE DEAN
  • SWEET FOLK GODDESS : Award-winning singer-songwriter Tamra Engle plays the Steynberg Gallery on May 23 to support her new CD, The Blonde Flame Session, which was on the nominating ballot for the 50th annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Award-winning singer-songwriter Tamra Engle plays the Steynberg Gallery on Friday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. ($10) to support her new CD, The Blonde Flame Session, which was on the nominating ballot for the 50th annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Think Fleetwood Mac and the folk edge of early Neil Young.

Extraordinary acoustic flamenco guitarist Robby Longley returns to the area with a Friday, May 23, 8 p.m. concert at Painted Sky Studios in Cambria. This musical border-busting player weaves a distinctive style into beautifully orchestrated neo-classical/flamenco fusions of world music. Tickets are $15, available at Boo Boo’s, Cambria Business Center, or by calling 927-8330.

The Cal Poly Early Music Ensemble will give its Spring Concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 24, in Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Titled “From Serra to Sancho: Exploring the Music of the California Missions,” the concert by the 11-voice ensemble will feature music from the California Missions, with emphasis on works composed by Juan Bautista Sancho, who lived and composed at Mission San Antonio. Tickets are $12 for the public and $8 for seniors and students. Call 756-2787.

On Saturday, May 24, The Johnny Starlings play an all-ages show at Monteleone’s Rock in Paso Robles. Your night will be filled with three-part harmony and boyish charms. Joining them behind the drums is animator-musician-Zen-master Jacob Cementina in a rare appearance. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.

click to enlarge PASO ROCKS :  On May 24, The Johnny Starlings play an all-ages show at Monteleone’s Rock in Paso Robles. - PHOTO BY AMANDA
  • PHOTO BY AMANDA
  • PASO ROCKS : On May 24, The Johnny Starlings play an all-ages show at Monteleone’s Rock in Paso Robles.
Calling all hard rockers! Here’s the all-ages show you’ve been waiting for: On Sunday, May 25, Hoovers Live presents Axia, SoulPrint, and Desillusion (from Seattle). The latter currently has a grip on the industrial metal scene in the Seattle area. Opening the show will be newcomers to the scene, Maliah, hailing from Paso Robles High School. Check it from 5 to 10 p.m. for only $5.

New York-based folk-rock band The Voyces are the featured performers for the Songwriters Showcase on Tuesday, May 27, at The Clubhouse at This Old House. Led by singer-songwriter Brian Wurschum and vocalist Jude Kastle, The Voyces got their first taste of international exposure when one of their songs, “Relate to Me,” was included in Jack Johnson’s Thicker Than Water film and soundtrack. The band’s music has also appeared in National Lampoon’s Adam & Eve and the TV show Monarch Cove. Paso Robles’ Tanya Tyner will also perform, among other local singer-songwriters. The show is free, all ages, and runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 

Downtown Brew has your weekly indie rock fix lined up for Tuesday, May 27, when PK, Floater, and Monster Eats the Pilot play an 8 p.m., 16-and-older concert. Tickets are $5 advance at the venue or Boo Boo’s, or $7 at the door. PK plays what have been called “dystopian guitar solos;” Floater is a power trio that mixes rock, psychedelia, reggae, pop, and even jazz together; and Monster Eats the Pilot is a young Central Coast trio led by French-born singer-songwriter Richard Shackleford.

The mullet-tastic movie-turned-stage musical The Wedding Singer is coming to the Performing Arts Center for two nights: Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27 and 28, at 8 p.m. Bust out your leg warmers, flip up your collar, and get ready to watch the charming story of Robbie Hart, who lives in his grandmother’s basement in New Jersey and sings in a wedding band. When his fiancÈe leaves him at the altar, he begins to take his bitterness out on stage. And then he meets someone. Tickets range from $36 to $48. Call 756-2787.

click to enlarge STRAIGHT OUTTA NYC :  New York’s swirly, psychedelic indie rock sweethearts Nightmare of You bring their spunky pop sound to Downtown Brew on May 29 with The Graduate, Paper Rivals, and Edison Glass opening. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NIGHTMARE OF YOU
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF NIGHTMARE OF YOU
  • STRAIGHT OUTTA NYC : New York’s swirly, psychedelic indie rock sweethearts Nightmare of You bring their spunky pop sound to Downtown Brew on May 29 with The Graduate, Paper Rivals, and Edison Glass opening.
New York’s swirly, psychedelic indie rock sweethearts Nightmare of You bring their spunky pop sound to Downtown Brew on Thursday, May 29, for a 16-and-older, $10 advance show ($12 at the door). “These dudes proudly wear their Morrissey/Smiths obsession on their thrift store sleeves,” said Numbskull Productions head Eddy Burgos. “They’re the ideal soundtrack for sweeping banged hipsters.” The Graduate, Paper Rivals, and Edison Glass open.

San Diego vocalist Karin Carson will join the Mike Raynor Group at Level 4 in Paso Robles on Thursday, May 29, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. The Mike Raynor Group—Jacob Odell on guitar, Dylan Johnson on bass, and Mike Raynor on drums—will be joined by NYC veteran Karl Welz on saxophone and Ray Chang on trumpet. Expect jazz and Latin classics, suitable for dancing!





CD Reviews


Steve Earle—Copperhead Road (Deluxe Edition)
In general, I think of "deluxe" repackaging as a shameless moneymaking ploy to sell the same album twice—and in the most obvious way, this new Copperhead Road is no different because you’re buying the same album if you already own Earle’s seminal 1988 recording, his third and most iconic, which immediately preceded his dramatic fall from grace (he’s since bounced back nicely, thank you very much). I can’t imagine hardcore—or even casual—Earle fans not springing for this new edition with its 17-track bonus disc, a collection of crisply recorded live (and sometimes solo) performances. You’ll want to bask in the raucous energy of these live tracks from Raleigh, North Carolina in 1987 (11, all previously unreleased) and Canada in 1989. I saw Earle a few years ago, touring in support of his Grammy-winning 2004 release The Revolution Starts … Now, and he’s still an awesome presence. But listening to these 20-year-old concert recordings, it’s easy to drift back to that moment of first discovering Earle’s outlaw mystique. A musical ass kicker of the first order, a real post-Johnny Cash outlaw, his new deluxe package should remind—or better yet attract new—listeners.





Karen Dalton—Green Rocky Road
click to enlarge starkey_5-22_-_Karen_Dalton.jpg
The ’60s folk explosion was to many purists’ minds an abomination, a selling-out of old oral traditions, an exploitation of authentic American heritage reconceived as commercial pop music. Look no further than Karen Dalton to locate one of the historical casualties of ’60s folk revivalism. Dalton, whom Bob Dylan crowned his "favorite singer in the place" upon his arrival in New York City, recorded a couple charming but somewhat awkward studio albums in the late-’60s and early-’70s, fading into obscurity (she died in 1993 after a long struggle with addiction). Last year’s Cotton Eyed Joe, an early-’60s live performance discovered on some old reel-to-reel tapes, first reminded listeners of this forgotten (and sadly wasted) talent. This collection of songs, discovered on the same tapes, features Dalton playing alone on a two-track, accompanying herself on her distinctive banjo, and with her 12-string guitar strumming overdubbed. With a sound approximating the timbre and rawness of field recordings, these tracks can be a challenge to listen to, but hearing this exquisite interpreter of traditional and modern songs, especially on a haunting track like "If I Had a Ribbon Bow," can be chilling and unforgettable. If interested, check out this YouTube video and see if you agree: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oRJyffGdIY. It’s easy to see why she’s sometimes compared to Billie Holiday. This CD will be released June 10.

 



Glen Starkey causes chaos, panic, and pandemonium. Clearly his work is done here. Tell him to move on at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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