By Brian Wise.
Ponderosa Stomp – Day 2 – Friday October 2, 2015
One of the pleasures of the Stomp are the many Q&A sessions that take place with veteran artists who often have hilarious stories to tell. The second day continued the tradition and began with legendary Stax and Hi Rhythm section drummer Howard Grimes telling writer Preston Lauterbach about his life. Grimes recalled his first experience with drugs when he was given some ‘reefer’ to smoke just before a session and ‘the whole world opened up.’ Grimes playing on the session was so good that it prompted producer Willie Mitchell to tell guitarist Teenie Hodges to ‘give Howard two pulls’ prior to each session from then on. Grimes said it took him a while to work out what Mitchell was up to! One of the most notable jobs that Grimes got was playing with Paul Revere & The Raiders when their drummer took ill. As he pointed out, as an African American he stood out in the combination. Grimes held back a few stories because he said he was writing a book and they would appear there!
‘The thing that changed music forever was when drums and guitars collided,” said drummer JM Van Eaton in the Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On session with renowned author Robert Gordon. Van Eaton played with Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley and Johnny Cash at Sun Records as well as playing on ‘Flying Saucer Rock ’n’ Roll’ and he recalled how as a member of The Little Green Men he was forced to wear a green suit made of the sort of felt used for pool tables. ‘Novelty records were more popular back then,’ he laughed. He also recalled how the studio band recorded ‘Crazy Arms’ with Lewis in just one take and that on Johnny Cash’s ‘Straight A’s In Love’ you ‘could actually hear the drums.’
Perhaps the most entertaining and funniest session of all was the one titled Hey Baby Ke Pa So featuring the inimitable Augie Meyers, quizzed by Joe Nick Patoski, who recently made the documentary Sir Doug and The Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove about Meyers’ long-time friend Doug Sahm.
‘I’ve only cried in two movies,” said Meyers. “Bambi and that documentary.” He recalled how he met Doug at the age of 12 and they became firm friends as they explored the San Antonio music scene which Meyers described as ‘black, white and brown.’ They played in some of the clubs in the town that Meyers claimed were so tough that, ‘They’d check to see if you had a knife or a gun and if you didn’t they’d give you one.’
Meyers also remembered how his father told him he could only have a car if he passed high school and cut his hair and that when he protested that ‘Jesus had long hair,’ his father retorted, ‘Yes, but he walked everywhere!’ Great story.
Meyers recalls how they formed the Sir Douglas Quintet after getting a gig supporting the Dave Clark Five and that producer Huey Meaux insisted that they talk ‘English’ (much to the amusement of the two Mexican members of the group). According to Augie, when the band recorded ‘She’s About A Mover’ they had to change the title from its original of ‘She’s A Body Mover.’ Trini Lopez finally blew their cover, saying he couldn’t lie to his audience and introduced them on his TV show as fellow Texans.
Meyers also recalled how all of The Beatles were in the studio to see the band record Ready! Steady! Go! in London and wanted to know how Meyers got the organ sound on his Vox Continental. hHe also noted the similarity in the rhythm between ‘She’s About A Mover’ and The Beatles’ hit ‘She’s A Woman.’
As Patoski said at the end of an all too brief session, ‘We must do this again when we have a spare five hours to talk.’ Agreed.
The final session of what had been a very well attended conference was a discussion about San Antonio’s West Side Soul moderated by note music critic Ed Ward. It drew out some of the history of a music scene that was probably unknown to most attendees.
After an envigorating lot of panels and a browse through an amazing collection of music at the Record Fair, that included a stall run by former Melbourne music stalwart and current Mobile records owner Keith Glass, it was time for the music to begin at the famed Rock ’n’ Bowl.
To be fair, the Ponderosa Stomp can be a hit or miss affair. ‘Just remember that they are old,’ said someone when I was browsing the line-up. In some cases this could be a problem but with age comes experience and many of the older musicians still sounded superb.
The Swamp Pop Revue featured Rod Bernard, Gene Terry and Tommy McClain in front of a band that was basically Lil’ Band O’ Gold, led by CC Adcock and Steve Riley, but without drummer Warren Storm or Sax player Dickie Landry. Ironically, the band’s name, The Mama Mama Mamas, was taken from one of Storm’s early hits. Together they ran through a brace of swamp pop classics: ‘Cindy Lou,’ ‘This Should Go On Forever,’ ‘Band Of Gold,’ ‘Fool To Care,’ ‘Before I Grow Too Old,’ ‘I’ll Change My Style,’ (with Augie Meyers on keys) and a number of tributes: ’Nobody Else But You’ (a tribute to Lil’ Bob), ‘Sea Cruise’ ( a tribute to Frankie Ford’) and ‘Street People’ (dedicated to Bobby Charles). The set ended with the classic ‘Mathilde.’
Betty Harris sounded as good as ever but appeared to have a few problems with the sound and the backing band, the Bo Keys, as did Brenda Holloway. Willie Hightower did an extended should version of ‘If I Had A Hammer,’ that erased the Peter, Paul & Mary version from the memory banks.
Mabel John, however, at 85 years of age was astonishing. With ‘Able Mabel,’ ‘Your Good Thing Is About To End,’ ‘Bad Water,’ ‘Same Time Sam Place,’ ’What Kind Of Man Are You’ and others, Ms Mabel proved that she still had it.
Then Lenny Kaye, who had been attending the conference and apart from being a member of Patti Smith’s band is the noted compiler of Nuggets,, made an unexpected appearance playing ‘Crazy Like A Fox,’ which he recorded as Link Cromwell back in 1965 and The Seed’s ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ (which he has often done with Smith). It was a nice surprise.
PF Sloan, best known for his hit songs for others rather than his own albums, closed the evening for me with an extended version of ‘Eve Of Destruction’ and then his first hit ‘That’s Trash That’s Cool.’ I have to say I never thought I would ever hear the writer of ‘Eve of Destruction’ actually performing the song. One of the treats of The Stomp.’
I left with ‘That’s Trash, That’s Cool,’ ringing in my ears and that seems like a neat summation of what the Stomp is all about!