I posted this on the MLA listserve as well but thought worth cross-posting
This is a bit long but I think worth your time.
A month or so ago I posted a brief review and high recommendation for a
DVD set called “Country Family Reunion” that I felt every music library
should have. It was the first in a series of shows produced by former DJ and
Gabriel Communications owner Larry Black. There are others in the series that I
’ll also be reviewing – still working through them – but there’s a
somewhat different set that I just finished that is SO important to music
history that I wanted to share and recommend to every music library and sound
archive – as well as individuals who are early rock and roll fans. I have no
vested interest in this product except that I truly love it and – though
released in 2007 – I just discovered.
In 2007 Black – a rock DJ in the 1960s and later a DJ on WSM in Nashville –
decided to gather 37 singers who had rock and roll careers from the late
1950s to the early 1960s in a TV studio for a three day “reunion” and just
let them perform their hits and share stories of their lives. With the help
of Gene Hughes (lead singer for the Casinos), Black was able to gather a
wide range of singers (all who may not be household names today but all
scored Top Ten hits) and, put them in a studio and acted as “facilitator” (as
well as “huge fan”) for the event. He brought in a crack team of musicians
and three female back-up singers who were versatile enough to re-create
the original musical backings. Then he let the cameras roll. The result was
seven hours of pure enjoyment and musical history. These artists are all in
their 60s, 70s (and possibly 80s) and many traveled together on “package
show buses”. Very few, if any had seen each other in nearly 40 years. (And
watching them give each other’s performances standing ovations shows the
respect they have for each other.)
Some of these artists moved on to other careers and are rarely mentioned
in the press. (I knew some of them in the early 1960s when I was running “
record hops”, Names like Carl Dobkins Jr., Ketty Lester, Dave Sommerville (of
the Diamonds) and the amazing Gary Paxton (Skip and Flip, Hollywood
Argyles). But they all had major hits. Lester and Cornell Gunther (original lead
for the Coasters) are probably the oldest, with Denny Laine (original Moody
Blues, and the only non-North American here) and Jay Proctor (Jay and the
Techniques) being the youngest. Where else are you going to see Mary Wilson
(Supremes) singing Diana Ross’s lead vocals with Nedra Ross (Ronettes)
singing Mary’s back up part? Or hearing both Ketty Lester (describing how she
got her part on “Little House on the Prairie” while being an Epileptic) or
Jimmie Rodgers (whose voice went away – but came back- at the peak of his
career). I can’t list all 37 but here are a few more: Frankie Ford (still in
great voice at 70), Dodie Stevens, Dee Dee Sharp, Len Barry, both Maurice
Williams and Otis Williams (unrelated), The Browns, Tommy Roe, Jewel Aiken
and Ray Peterson. I can’t rave about this set enough.
The music performances are great but the stories told are even better.
There are stories of segregated concert halls and lodging accommodations and
stories about promoters and record companies. Music historians owe Black a
major debt for hosting this get together (while these artists are still
around) and preserving it for all. More importantly, he has made it available to
all to see and enjoy.
You can see the contents at Black’s Website: http://tinyurl.com/7e5wjwf
I know it should be available from distributors but if you want to contact
Black direct, shoot me an email (off list) and I’ll put you in touch.
I hope you didn’t find this posting too long, but felt it was important to
share. I’m working my way through Black’s Country and Bluegrass series and
those reviews will be forthcoming.