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I attended my first Rockabilly Rave at Pontins Holiday Center, Camber Sands, East Sussex last weekend. I had to be persuaded to go as, while I love first rate rockabilly from the American greats like Carl Perkins, Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess, Warren Smith, Johnny Burnette Trio, etc. I’m not so keen on neo-rockabilly and obscure 1950s rockabilly from equally obscure artists.
I decided to go because I wanted to see the great Sleepy La Beef and Jack Scott once again. In fact I enjoyed much more than these two, though they were superb.
Sleepy La Beef went well over his allotted 45 minutes playing for an hour 20 or 25 minutes. Not for nothing is he called ‘the human jukebox’ as he treated us to a mixture of rock’n'roll, rockabilly and Country music, some complete songs, some medleys. And he was singing a different set to when I last saw him just a couple of years ago. He may have been a bit hoarse, that rich baritone voice seemed a bit subdued and some noticed him cough a few times, but it was still a great set. His guitar playing is as good as ever, and I was close enough to see the dice stuck to his guitar, a novel embellishment.
Jack Scott was, if possible, even better the next nite. He did about the same time on stage as Sleepy, and again we got a good mixture of his rock’n'roll/rockabilly and pop hits, together with some Country. He even did a fantastic fast yodel on ‘Mountain Dew’ (I have the Grandpa Jones version of this, no yodeling on that.)
Lynette Morgan and the Blackwater Valley Boys were great as usual, doing a rockabilly set. They also do a great Country set, featuring Patsy Cline and Hank Williams numbers, but not on this occasion.
If these hillbillies hailed from England the Hillbilly Boogiemen who played on Sunday nite came from the distinctly hill-less below sea-level plains of the Netherlands. They did some excellent Country and hillbilly, including some great fiddle playing, and also banjo playing on some Bluegrass numbers.
Following them we were treated to a Janice Martin tribute from Lynette Morgan, Maibell, Jessie, Rockin’ Bonnie, Miss Mary Ann and Little Esther. The gals all looked stunning and sounded great too. My only criticism being we only got about 40 minutes, instead of the promised full hour as in the program. Janice herself, of course, sadly died a few years ago, but before that played many rock’n'roll weekenders.
Closing the weekend were The Sureshots from England, with Charlie Thompson guesting on lead vocals for three numbers. They were great too.
The atmosphere was very friendly, with many young rockabillies, a few Teds (most of us abandoning our drape jackets/suits in favor of more appropriate attire for a rockabilly do, but there were a handful of Teddy boys in their gear), and others who were just themselves. A couple who looked like aging hippies were thoroughly enjoying the music, and a gentleman called Robin/Robyn came on the dance floor in full drag on the Saturday nite. This reminded me of the party atmosphere on the last nites of the Rhythm Riot! held at the same venue every November, when many guys dress up, some in drag. One homophobic notice in the Gents loo on the Saturday which I removed, and glad to say it never reappeared. Robin/Robyn had many friends among the rockabilly crowd, and I admire his pluck.
Surprisingly there was a good selection of records/CDs over the weekend, not all obscure rockabilly – even Bill Haley, Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry were featured.
Apart from the music, the four of us sharing a chalet visited nearby Hastings and St Leonards on the Saturday. The other three explored the Old Town, while I visited an old friend, Brian, in his care home, and another friend, Steve, in his new compact home in front of the cliffs at the Bo-Peep end of St Leonards, a few yards from the beach.
Sunday the four of us went by bus to New Romney where we caught the Romney Hythe Dymchurch small-guage steam railway to Dungeness, then to Hythe, and back to New Romney. A very enjoyable day out. We have to thank Martyn, who lives locally in St Leonards, for this, and for taking Alan and Gordon on a tour of Hastings Old Town on the Saturday.
The RHD Railway also had a very interesting museum at New Romney, which we visited. A fantastic large-scale model railway with many different trains on tracks running around half the museum, plus photos and models showing the history of the railway. Some of us could have spent more time here, quite appropriate for fathers’ day. Everyone knows fathers buy model railways as much for themselves as for their sons!
I had my doubts about going to my first Rockabilly Rave, especially as I’m at the Teddy-boy oriented Wildest Cats In Town Weekender at Pontin’s in Pakefield, Lowestoft in just two weeks’ time. But with a line-up like we had last weekend I would be tempted to do the Rockabilly Rave again. A lot of new faces, some very young, some much older, but also quite a few familiar ones.
And a relief not to be sweating in my drape jacket, and suffering from aching feet in my winkle-pickers. Just my regular shoes, and some suitable rock’n'roll/rockabilly jackets for a change.