Review: TopCat Roundup – Hollywood Fats – Walter Horton

Posted on: Tuesday, Nov 25, 2008

Here’s a couple of ‘lost’ gems, courtesy of Richard Chalk of TopCat Records in Dallas, Texas:

Bocce Boogie

“Bocce Boogie – Live 1978”
(featuring Big Walter Horton, Guitar Johnny Nicholas, Ronnie Earl and Sugar Ray Norcia)
(TopCat Records – TCT7082)

Unbelievably this cracking vintage recording comes from a reception at The Bocce Club in Rhode Island back in 1978 – to celebrate the wedding of Joan and George Nicholas – recorded on a reel to reel tape recorder by Dick Koulbanis with one microphone!

And what a band was assembled for the evening – legendary harmonica player Big Walter Horton, “Guitar Johnny” Nicholas, Ronnie Earl (then known as “Youngblood”) with the great rhythm section of “Mudcat” Ward on bass and Ted Harvey on drums – as well as Anthony Giarossi (later Geraci) on piano and a couple of guest spots from Sugar Ray Norcia – phew what a line-up!

The 75-capacity club was filled with 150 guests and they were treated to a superb set of classic blues captured here in all its glory – kicking off with a Sugar Ray vocal on “Everyday I Have The Blues, before Big Walter Horton’s signature instrumental, with obligatory killer tone – “Walter’s Boogie”. He then takes a vocal on a sweet “Trouble In Mind” and a spirited romp through “My Babe”.

Johnny Nicholas’s “Cold Chills” is a nice mid-tempo shuffle with some great guitar work, before the pace is taken down for the lengthy “That’s Why I’m Cryin'”, featuring Sugar Ray Norcia again, this time on lovely chromatic harmonica; before things rock again on the self-explanatory “Bocce Boogie” – you can just imagine the packed dance floor and the beer flowing!

The rest of the set contains mainly blues standards – from Robert Nighthawk’s “Sweet Black Angel” to Big Joe Williams “Baby Please Don’t Go”, and even a touch of jazz on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. It’s frightening how good these musicians were thirty years ago and easy to see how they are still at the top of the blues tree.

The closing “Breakin’ With The Earl” is one of those jazzy shuffles that builds as it goes on and what Ronnie Earl became famous for, and is complete with band introductions before some of that trademark guitar work and nice piano from Anthony Giarossi – a lovely ending to a fine release that comes highly recommended.

Hollywod Fats

Hollywood Fats & The Paladins – Live 1985

(TopCat Records – TCT6082)

Here’s the late, great Hollywood Fats caught live at The Greenville Avenue Bar & Grill in Dallas, Texas on 19th December, 1985 – recorded on a two-week tour with South California blues and rockabilly band, The Paladins – recorded on amateur equipment the quality is not the best, but much improved, so the solution is to turn it up loud to hear this smoking set and particulary Fats incendiary guitar work.

Since his untimely death at only 32 in 1986 Hollywood Fats (Michael Mann) is still revered in blues circles and this release keeps his memory well and truly alive – well done to the good folk at TopCat Records for putting this out.

Before a boisterous Dallas crowd Fats and The Paladins – then consisting of Dave Gonzalez (vocals and guitar), Thomas Yearsley (stand-up bass) and Scott Campbell (drums) – tear into the opening “Hideaway”, before blasting through Jimmy Reed’s “She’s Fine” and the rollicking “I’ve Tried” – with quite superb guitar solo.

The band tear it up on “Whole Lotta Shaking'”, before the Fats instrumental “The Groove”, which certainly does that; they then drop into Excello territory on Jerry West’s “Rooster Blues” – with just a great feel to it!

The closing five cuts here are simply great covers – from Little Milton’s timeless “That Will Never Do” to Amos Milburn’s “Let’s Have A Party” and into a Sun classic on Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train” – all swing and rock like crazy with fantastic guitar all the way!

As the accompanying booklet says, this is “Old School Texas style House Rockin’ Rockabilly meets Swingin’ West Coast Jump Blues” – that just about sums it up – again, well done to Richard Chalk for getting this out for all to enjoy!


  • Comments Off on Review: TopCat Roundup – Hollywood Fats – Walter Horton

Comments are closed.