Highland Archives

RHYTHM AT THE REDWOOD

By Stephen Cashmore

Although it’s origins lie 50 years in the distant past, Rhythm’n’Blues is not an historical music form. It seems to have been around forever, unchanging, eternally relevant. Why? Simply because Rhytmn’n’Blues is synonymous with having a good time. To get the most out of it, this music should be heard played live, by a band who knows it outside in and has a genuine love for it. Moreover, it goes down best in small venues, smokey, late-night places where drink is served and everyone has a nice liquid glow on their cheeks. Likewise R’n’B’s unruly offspring, rock,n,roll, which is really a musical articulation of our most basic social instincts. Had you been at Thurso’s Redwood Function Suite last Saturday night, then you’d understand just what I’m talking about.

Local R’n’B band ‘After Hours’ were on the menu, and a right tasty treat it turned out to be. Two guitars, bass, piano, sax, drums and trumpet – the classic R’n’B line up. Now and then a certain Howlin’ Gael got up to the mike and tried to blow the guts out of a harmonica, which responded by wailing away in great style. The boy could sing a bit, too, his version of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ having a good leaven of the original’s mystic quality. But mostly it was jumpin’ rhythm numbers from the great days of the 1950’s and 60’s that ‘After Hours’ blasted out to a packed audience, and never a vacant spot on the dance floor.

‘Blueberry Hill’, ‘Let’s Work Together’, ‘Sea Cruise’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, if you know these, you’ll get the picture; and if you don’t – well, there’s no hope for you. The crack was pretty good, too. One overheard conversation centred around the identity of the sax player on the original recording of ‘Blue Monday’. Fats Domino was the singer, no debating that. But who was the sax man? Someone suggested (in jest, hopefully), that it was James Last. Another unresolved dilemma was who first recorded ‘Little Red Rooster’. Was it Sam Cooke, Howling Wolf, Max Bygraves? So if you know, please let Charlie and me in on the secret.

‘After Hours’ lead a dual life, sometimes playing jazz over on the East Side. At the Redwood they revealed something of their jazz nature, with a lazy-paced version of ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street.’ Also present were the vocal group ‘Remedy’, perhaps better known as a barber’s shop quartet. On Saturday, however, they turned street corner style Doo-Wop harmonists. Their accapella renditions of ‘Barbara Ann’ and ‘At the Hop’ were only two of the good things on their prescription.

Finally, a few more than obscure sounds got a rare airing. Played by a rather sad individual who admitted to having squandered a small fortune during 30 years collecting rock’n’roll records, they rounded off a perfect evening of good time music. Oh, and almost 200 was raised for the Caithness Mental Health Support Group, who organised the event as part of their drive to raise funds for their new ‘Stepping Stones’ centre, soon to be built in Thurso.

 

Highland Archives Index

 

Steven Cashmore 1999


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