Sassy & The Fishmonger

 

Fishmonger
Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

In typical Liverpool fashion, our local fishmonger was known to one and all as Billy Fish. An affable bloke in his late twenties, he ran the shop alone, but whether he owned the place, or worked for someone else, I knew not, as there was no sign on the storefront. I was about fourteen when he took me on as a part-time helper.

Before school, I’d come in to help him dress the old-fashioned marble slabs with cracked ice and sprigs of parsley, and in the evenings I’d help him close up, swabbing and mopping up. Weekends, I’d spend longer hours for a little more money, although I seldom handled the merchandise.

Sarah_Vaughan_1955
Sarah Vaughan ~ Wikimedia Commons

Our chores were all done behind closed doors to the accompaniment of a portable Dansette record player, which he’d load with 45’s from his collection. His musical tastes were pretty sophisticated, particularly in the area of what he referred to as “the thrushes”, those classy chanteuses who were attaining post-war success on both sides of the Atlantic, and among them he held none in higher esteem than Sarah Vaughan, or “Sassy” as she was fondly nick-named.

It was the late ’50’s, and rock ‘n’ roll was already knockin’ on the door, but even as I was avid about the new music, my family’s musical background was such that I was already playing guitar in my Uncle Jack’s dance band , before my folks would let me anywhere near a beat group, and I was also working on piano and bass. Uncle Brian played violin and clarinet, and did some composition in the classical vein and my elder cousin John was a drummer. Therefore, I was no stranger to adult sophisticated music, and enjoyed a great deal of it. I loved Gershwin in particular.

Sarah Vaughan had recorded a song called “Broken Hearted Melody“, which had become popular on BBC in early 1959, so I knew her by name, but Billy was crazy about her recording of “Every Time We Say Goodbye“, a Cole Porter song (actually written in the “40’s) that had just come out in her version. He knew this record back to front, inside and out, and offered an amazingly detailed account of every nuance in the performance, which was remarkable in a fellow who played no instrument, and was basically a fan. I had no problem at all listening to the record on repeat as we did fishmongerly things and Billy pointed out musical highlights, including the exquisite melodic joke Porter makes on the line ” How strange the change from major to minor”, emphasized by Sassy’s gorgeous delivery.

My musical DNA had made me a lazy listener up to that point. I took it for granted that deciphering chord sequences and tempos, bass lines and the structural  building blocks, were just there….my gift. So, I could do a basic analysis of a composition really quickly, but I often missed the deeper nuances…..but, hey …I was fourteen! The fact that Billy could articulate such deeply sophisticated musical concepts in non-musical terms blew me away. This guy listened hard, and took nothing for granted….he worked for his musical  gratification. I picked up on that pretty quickly! By the time Ketty Lester’s epochal “Love Letters” arrived, with the Lincoln Mayorga piano part and production, I was so ready for it, thanks to Billy Fish!

As time went on, I followed what seems, in retrospect, to be a preordained path…50+ years in all aspects of the music world, but Billy Fish was an important part of my development. Ta! Billy….

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Meeting Street Out / Transcontinental Recording In

Junior Jukebox Volume 4
Cd Release Party for Junior Jukebox Volume 4 – Meeting Street

 

Long time, no blog. Haven’t been lazing around, however…..Papa Snow Vol 4 “Meeting Street”, was released last month via EEG, and is performing amazingly well!

I’ve now embarked on an interesting “hands across the water” project involving Irish songstress and composer Elizabeth Reed (who I produced some years ago), and the great tin whistle virtuoso Davy Spillane ( of Moving Hearts fame).

It’s quite literally an Atlantic crossing; assembling tracks here in Nashville studios using great players with Celtic music connections ( Pat McInerney, Ron DeLaVega and John Mock) to adorn Elizabeth’s vocals and compositions, performed initially to my keyboard accompaniments. Then, due to the wonders of modern technology, my stalwart engineer/mixer Joe Funderburk wafts them off in the ether to Dublin, where Davy weaves his magic before returning his contributions by the same method.

We’re well beyond the half way mark, and the results to date have been very satisfying, and not in the least “techie” sounding….it’s all beautifully recorded, and beautifully acoustic….well, I couldn’t resist sneaking a taste of Wurlitzer electric piano in here and there-so shoot me !

We should be done and dusted by mid-August, so we’ll keep everyone posted on future news !

Have YOU listened to the latest copy of Junior Jukebox? How about reviewing it on Amazon? If NOT, how about getting a copy for the kiddies in your life:)

Take Me To Junior Jukebox Volume 4 – Meeting Street on Amazon!

A splendid time is guaranteed for all

Make sure to Have a listen to the Merseybeat Playlist at the bottom of this post! Wish I could have been there.

Glossop Record Club

So you think you’ve heard it all before? There’s definitely a case to be made for Sgt Pepper being the most over-rated album ever. For years, it regularly topped ‘best album’ polls whether voted for by critics or fans. But at some point over the last 15 years, it started to fall from favour. Overfamiliarity means it is now often passed over, with Abbey Road having become the more highly regarded album from The Beatles output (I prefer A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver and the White Album myself, thanks for asking!). Pepper may still make the top ten in these polls, but it’s not the talking point it once was.

However, giving the album my full attention for the first time in many years the other night (and at high volume), I found myself hearing it with fresh ears and a new perspective. Part 1 of the Merseybeat mixtape (covering…

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March’s Record Club: Merseybeat with Steve Roberts

Listening to Rockin’ Horse – Yes It Is in its entirety! So happy to see this album getting the attention it deserves.

Glossop Record Club

merseybeat

Glossop Record Club returns in March for the first of three consecutive sessions helmed by guest curators.

On April 10th, rock & roll historian (and a familiar face at GRC sessions) Bill Jubb hosts an evening centred on the legendary impromptu ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ session at the studios of Sun Records in Memphis featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. And on May 8th, author of Last Shop Standing Graham Jones will be sharing his tales of the UK music industry and record shops.

But before all that, on Thursday 13th March, Glossop-based singer-songwriter Steve Roberts presents Merseybeat, an evening of music from Liverpool including a landmark album by The Beatles and a lost classic by Rockin’ Horse. There’ll be records by other Liverpool bands too from the 1960s to the present day (get looking through your records to see what…

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