Archive for the ‘Johnny Otis’ Category

The Reading Festival 11th – 13th August 1972

The Reading Festival 1972
readingprog I first went to the Reading Festival in 1972 (is it really over 41 years ago 🙂 ?), and continued to go every year until 1980. I missed 1981 as it clashed with a local “Rock on the Tyne” Festival, and have never returned, although I did think of doing so on several occasions. I’m aiming to reflect on one year each week for the next few weeks, starting today with my first Reading experience.
I’d already been to the Lincoln Festival in May 1972 so I felt, as a 15 year old, I was already a hardened festival goer. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go to Reading, so decided to go along myself. My parents weren’t keen on my idea of hitching so I agreed to go by train. The festival took place over the weekend of August 11th to 13th, 1972 starting on Friday afternoon. For some reason I decided to get the train down to London early on the Thursday night, arriving around midnight. Having nowhere to spend the night I took a tube to Piccadilly Circus and found an all-night cinema. It was showing Elvis films all night; I paid my money and sat close to the front. The cinema was quite empty, the audience was a few couples, some Elvis fans and several people alone like me, and just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I don’t recall which films were shown, I think there were six, and I’m pretty sure one was “Kid Galahad” (which, by the way, is a good movie), and I think another may have been “Fun in Acapulco” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (not so good). I emerged, very tired, from the cinema in the early hours of the morning, and went across London to get the train to Reading. I didn’t have a ticket for the festival, so when I arrived I joined the queue and bought a weekend ticket. In those days it was all about seeing the bands, so I stayed in the queue to get a good spot in front of the stage. All I had taken was a sleeping bag; no tent; no change of clothes (I told you that I thought myself a hardened festival goer).
reaidnglistThe Friday line-up was: Good Habit, Nazareth, Cottonwood, Steamhammer, Jackson Heights, Genesis, Mungo Jerry, Curved Air. The music started at 4pm and there were two stages set alongside each other to make for quick changeovers. I positioned myself close to the front somewhere between the two stages so I had a good view of both. There was a press enclosure right down front, and an area where the Hells Angels would encamp, so you couldn’t get that close to the stage. I got talking to a guy next to me; he was also alone, still at school and a similar age. We stuck together throughout the weekend, keeping each others place in the crowd, and sleeping there on a night in our sleeping bags. This seems crazy now, but hey I was young and just so excited about seeing the bands. You could sleep in the main enclosure in those days; you had to leave in the early morning so that they could clear up and get ready for the next day. Some clearing happened during the night; this didn’t make for a good night sleep as there was a danger that someone stood on you (this happened to me several times). The organisers stopped letting people sleep in the main enclosure a few years later; a punter was run over by a vehicle that was driving around collecting litter….The bands I recall on Friday were: Good Habit (saw them a few times, they used to were monks habits on stage), Nazareth (this was before “Broken Down Angel”; they played a great version of “Morning Dew”); Genesis (Simply amazing. I was a big fan at the time and have written separately about their set which included The Knife, Twilight Alehouse, Watcher Of The Skies, The Musical box, and The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. Classic); Mungo Jerry (got the crowd rocking), and Curved Air (also amazing; It happened today, Backstreet Luv, Sonja Kristina).
readingtix The Saturday line-up was: Jonathan Kelly, Solid Gold Cadillac, Man, Linda Lewis, Focus, Edgar Broughton, Jericho, If, Johnny Otis Show, Electric Light Orchestra, The Faces. I watched all of the bands, and also took some time to have a look around the stalls in the arena. I didn’t see any need to venture into town (that would come in later years) and spent the entire weekend within the confines of the festival. The weather was quite warm, sunny with a little drizzle now and then but nothing major, and certainly nothing compared to the rain I experienced at the Lincoln festival earlier in the year. Highlights I can dimly recall now are: Jonathan Kelly (Ballad of Cursed Anna simply wonderful), Solid Gold Cadillac (very jazzy), Man (very long guitar solos; Spunk Rock; great!), Linda Lewis (she looked so tiny on that stage and admitted to being scared), Focus (went down well with the crowd and were one of the successes of the weekend), Edgar Broughton (amazing, I was already a fan. Edgar very unspoken as always. Out Demons Out!!), If (jazzy, great guitarist), Johnny Otis Show (just blogged on them), Electric Light Orchestra (this was a very early performance and one of their first since Roy Wood’s departure. Wasn’t sure what to expect; they were good), The Faces (Rod and the guys on great form, lots of footballs kicked into the crowd, Twisting the Night Away and I’m Losing You were big live favourites of mine at the time).
readingposterThe Sunday line-up was: Sutherland Brothers, Gillian McPherson, String Driven Thing, Matching Mole, Stackridge, Vinegar Joe, Status Quo, Stray, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Ten Years After, Quintessence. John Peel and Jerry Floyd were comperes for the weekend. Jerry was the regular DJ at the Marquee Club, who organised the festival at the time. I spend much of the weekend chatting about music to the guy that I met on the first day and we struck up quite a friendship. I made a few friend at festivals in those days and would see some people every year but I never ran into this guy again. Wonder where he is now. Highlights of the day were: Matching Mole (featuring Robert Wyatt), Stackridge (“Slark” was a favourite of mine at the time), Vinegar Joe (Elkie just stunning), Status Quo (this was one of the shows that helped them break back. Peel was a big champion of theirs at the time; I think he introduced them as the “Finest rock’n’roll band in the world”, or something like that. They were playing amazing boogie at the time, with Francis giving it some cheeky banter. Someones Learning was a favourite), Stray (excellent, Del in mirror suit), Roy Wood’s Wizzard (pretty good, very retro rock’n’roll. Ballpark Incident had just been released), and Ten Years After (Alvin’s guitar playing was stunning, I’d just seen “Woodstock” and was a big fan). I left as Quintessence’s took to the stage as did many others (TYA were official headliners) to catch the last train to London. The tubes had stopped so I walked across London. I’d missed the midnight train so I spent the night in Kings Cross station.
Monday morning: I was stiff, tired, and scruffy. I got the first train home and went straight to bed 🙂
Wow! that took longer than I thought it would! The scans come from the newspaper style programme which was produced by the Reading Evening Post. The poster (it looks like a cartoon of Leo Lyons from TYA to me?) is from the middle of the programme. Oh and I forgot to mention the “Wally!” chants, which seemed to go on all night.

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The Johnny Otis Show featuring Shuggie Otis @ Reading Festival 12th August 1972

The Johnny Otis Show featuring The Three Tons of Joy and Shuggie Otis, Reading 12th August 1972
otisOne of my most enduring memories of the 1972 Reading Festival is seeing the Johnny Otis show. The late Johnny Otis (1921 – 2012) was one of the originators of rock’n’roll, and is often referred to as the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues”. Otis was a band leader, musician, singer, composer, radio and TV host, author and artist; he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1994. He started forming bands after World War II, blending swing with the blues. Otis opened the first nightclub in the world devoted solely to rhythm and blues, discovered many artists including Etta James, and Jackie Wilson, wrote and recorded “Willie and the Hand Jive,” and played drums on Big Mama Thornton’s original recording of “Hound Dog”. Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan are all on record as saying that they were influenced by Otis. In the UK he hit the UK charts with “Ma He’s Making Eyes At Me” featuring singer Marie Adams and The Three Tons of Joy, which reached number 2 in 1957.
otis1Johnny Otis is also the father of child prodigy guitarist Shuggie Otis, who joined the Otis Show at a young age. Shuggie was heavily influenced by blues-rock, funk and the music of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and Love. In 1969, at the age of 15 he featured on Al Kooper’s Super Sessions; he then released his first solo album “Here Comes Shuggie Otis”and played bass on “Peaches en Regalia” on Zappa’s Hot Rats. In 1971 he wrote “Strawberry Letter 23” which was later covered by the Brothers Johnson.
So these guys brought some pedigree to the Reading festival stage in 1972. They appeared on the early Saturday evening coming before ELO and The Faces. The Reading festival originates from the National Jazz Festival and in the early ’70s jazz artists still featured as part of the line-up. For example I remember seeing Chris Barber and George Melly play there in 1973. So Johnny Otis fitted well into that context.
otis2 To me, a young kid at the time, The Johnny Otis Show live seemed to come from another age and another world. This was the full US show, featuring Johnny on piano, a big band, Shuggie, and the return of Marie Adams and The Three Tons of Joy. There must have been 20 people on stage at one point. The show took the form of a R&B revue with guest performances by Shuggie, who played a lengthy and amazing guitar solo on “Shuggie’s Boogie”, and Marie Adams and The Three Tons of Joy who sang “Ma He’s Making Eyes At Me” and were simply sensational; the crowd just loved them. They also played “Willie and the Hand Jive”. It was a hot sunny day and The Johnny Otis show matched the mood of the day, and fitted in well with the rest of the heavy and prog-rock line-up, which featured Ten Years After, Curved Air, Status Quo, Genesis, Stray and Edgar Broughton. Johnny Otis must have been in his early 50s at the time, which seemed like he was an “old” guy; its interesting how my concept of “old” has changed as I have become “old” myself 🙂 . Shuggie was of course a young guy; around 18 years old at the time. Shuggie continues to play to this day, and retains a cult following; he returned to the UK a year or so ago and played at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, and the Jazz Cafe in London. His influence is felt through the music of Prince and Lenny Kravitz. These guys are legends, and the Johnny Otis show stays in my mind as something pretty special, the like of which I’ll probably never see again.
PS. I added some photos of a page from the 1972 Reading programme showing Johnny Otis and the Three Tons of Joy.