Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

1902--OCS for Feb 2019  Elvis Day and the Day the Music Died

Bobby Boy’s Old Curiosity Shop for February 2019

One of the many musical events I’ve learned about from Evie Sands is Art Fein’s Elvis Birthday Bash.  

This gathering is held every year, as one might guess around January 8.  Locations have varied over the years; the first one I went to was the House of Blues in West Hollywood in 2003.  Evie sang “Too Much” and a special guest was Ben Weisman, who wrote 57 songs for Elvis and was a collaborator, friend and mentor to Evie for many years.  

The 2004 edition was at the Hollywood Avalon on Vine Sreet.  This is a handy location because I parked at the Gold Line terminal, went to Union Station and transferred to the Red Line.  As I recall, a Metro day pass was about $5, and when I got off the train at Vine Street. I passed parking lots that were asking $15!  This was the show that included the late Candye Kane, whose song, "You Need a Great Big Woman,"  included such lines as “You gotta love your body!  Love everybody else’s body if you have a chance…” and “Work what you got, whether it’s a little or a lot.”  I wonder how many in the audience were a bit surprised when she sang Peace in the Valley."  In keeping with her "Women in Prison" CD,  Evie chose "Jailhouse Rock" and followed it with "Too Much."  Also on the stage was Marcy Levy, who used to be one of Eric Clapton’s backing singers and co-wrote some of  his songs.  Some years later I would see her with her blues band at, of all places, a church carnival in Alhambra.

For 2005, the show moved to the Henry Fonda Theatre, even closer to the Hollywood and Vine Metro station.  This show featured not just Evie Sands, but former teen idol Tommy Sands (as far as I know, no relation) and former Coasters singer, Young Jessie, whom I remember as a solo performer on Zeke Manners short-lived music and dance show singing "Here Comes Henry."  His song was "Hot Dog," not to be confused with "Hound Dog," but both songs were written by Lieber & Stoller.  

Records are sketchy about 2007, 2008 and 2009.  2010 had a conflict of interest: Evie was appearing at Taix Restaurant, just a few blocks from the Echo in Echo Park.  I chose Evie, who sang among other numbers, "Sweet Ricky," a blues song that lets her give the guitar a workout, but has never been recorded.  On the way home from Taix, I spotted Count Smokula, a long time favorite at Elvis tribute shows, heading for his car to ride back to Smokesylvania.

Attendance at following shows was off and on, when we came to the 2017 show, I did a write-up for the February 2017 OCS with photos of Emmy Lee and the Rockabelles.  I didn’t get to the 2018 edition, at Joe’s in Burbank, but did scout the area and get photos of the Edison substation which is surrounded by Burbank (it’s a switching station for the subtransmission system, with no local customers).  

When 2019 arrived, and the EBB was in the same location, I knew where it was.  Last June, I went to a show with Skip Heller and the Carnival of Soul, at Petie’s Place in Tarzana.  Skip spotted me in the audience, and introduced me as a “connoisseur of female vocalists” then introduced me to the new singer in the band, Birdie Jones.  I saw them again on a couple more occasions, including one in a basement room in Santa Monica.  So when they were announced as part of the Elvis Birthday Bash, along with Heather Lomax, Anny Celsi and many others, I went to Joe’s and was glad I came.  

 
Count Smokula is a long time favorite at EBB, coming all the way from Smokesylvania to
entertain the fans.  With his accordion, one might think that Smokesylvania is near Louisiana.


Long time Los Angeles music impresario and author of the L. A. Musical History Tour book, Art Fein
introduces Skip Heller and the Carnival of Soul band.  Art has been staging these Elvis tribute shows
for over 20 years now, and his work is greatly appreciated by music fans in the Southland.


The Carnival’s brass section is top-notch, and Ms Birdie Jones is the perfect “cowboy’s sweetheart.”


Laura Smith is dressed for the occasion-  no doubt who her fave is!


Many of the songs had the dance floor wall-to-wall with folks rockin’ to the beat.


Heather Lomax just blew me away, singing two of my favorite Elvis R&B covers, Lawdy Miss Clawdy
and his first commercial release, That’s All Right Mama.  Worth the price of admission right there! 
Even better, someone recorded the songs on video, including one sweep of the area where I show up briefly.  


Alice Wallace, whom I first met at one of Terry Okey’s Second Sunday shows at
Adams Pack Station, has been touring the country and has a new CD out. 


Here’s Ms K. P. Hawthorne, whom I have previously seen as a member of Calico the Band, who
played at an Alice Wallace CD release party.  For some of the Calico songs, she plays a Dobro,
with that old-timey resonator sound.


Carla Olson, another EBB regular, rocked the house with an old Jimmy Reed hit,
“Baby What You Want Me to Do.”


Ms. Anny Celsi, whom I first met at an Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band show, and
whose Au Revoir My Darling video set in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time, is
always a treat, sang "Marie’s the Name of His Latest Flame," while the band kept
up a Bo Diddley beat.

And this is just a small sample of the many artists who came to pay tribute to the King.  Elvis may be gone from this earthly realm, but he lives in the hearts of fans around the world.

In a few days, the music world will observe the 60th anniversary of “The Day the Music Died,” the plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P Richardson, and the pilot.  I have been in Clear Lake to see the now defunct Iowa Trolley Park during a visit to the Iowa Traction Co., the last all-electric freight only railroad in the US in 1990 as part of the Fight Fiercely Tour.  Since we were under a bit of time constraint, I didn’t try to locate the crash site, but I’ve seen guides to the location in a farmer’s field.  There are simple memorial markers, but no souvenir shops or other commercialization. The Surf Ballroom, where the last performance was held is still in business and they have special events scheduled.  The 2nd and 3rd are a weekend, which will be good for those marking the date.


Poster from that fateful day.


Recent photo.


Ties in with my old day job as a comm. tech (but I didn’t do pay phones, or what the
phone company calls “Coin telephones”)


Surf Ballroom recent photo.

Here’s a Yelp review from last year.  It looks like the ballroom has survived anddone well, apparently it goes back to the Big Band era.  With so many legendary performance venues nothing but fading memories (the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa CA comes to mind) this is welcome information.  

Reviewed September 22, 2018

Music Mecca

Enjoyed taking a self-guided tour of this historical ballroom. Pictures, many autographed by the hundreds of musicians who have performed here, are displayed on several walls. The decor harks back to the era of Buddy Holly who tragically lost his life shortly after performing here when the plane in which he was riding crashed nearby. Every year that anniversary is commemorated with an annual dance party.

A must-see for anyone who enjoys music history and dancing.

Show less

Date of experience: September 2018

The Ballroom has a website, something that wasn’t even science fiction 60 years ago:

www.surfballroom.com



That’s it for this month— our next section of this travelogue will visit Kansas, mention Kentucky, get jazzed up about Louisiana (or at least New Orleans), go about as far as you can get from the Old Curiosity shop in Maine, and see how much further we wander.

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