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Geno Washington and the Yo-Yos

by on 3 December 2017

Live Music, Red in Tooth and Claw

Geno Washington and the Yo-Yos

Eel Pie Club, Twickenham, 30th November 2017

Review by Vince Francis

Oh, Geno!

… So went the chorus of the Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ 1980 tribute to Geno Washington. Let us step through the evening to get to the point where we are all cheering thus.

Geno Washington 30-11-17 by Jennifer Noble

Firstly, the club: the Eel Pie Club forms an annexe to the Cabbage Patch pub on London Road in Twickenham. It has been established for around 18 years or so and has welcomed a number of “name” acts alongside perhaps lesser known, but no less hard-working stalwarts of the circuit. If you haven’t been before, I’d highly recommend it. As with most clubs, non-members will pay a bit extra for admission, but the difference isn’t excessive. You go upstairs and enter into the main club bar where you will be welcomed and where tickets are purchased.

This room has an intimate feel, which is perfectly suited to its purpose. At the stage end, the floor level has been lowered to form a sort of mosh pit. The stage itself is at standard room height, I think, but the effect of this is that it feels elevated.

I arrived early, and managed to secure a seat at the stage end of the bar. A good move, as it turned out, as Mr. W had generated a fair amount of interest.

The house filled quickly with enthusiastic members, regulars and fans, who were overwhelmingly of a certain vintage.

Peter Hammerton opened proceedings and provided us with an eclectic half hour, encompassing Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Walking My Baby Back Home, Rock The Casbah, A Day In The Life, all delivered with skill and soul on acoustic guitar.

Peter is an energetic veteran of the 60s and 70s club scene and a member of The Others, a band originally formed at Hampton Grammar School. Between songs, he recounted various tales of the Flamingo and Marquee, etc, all of which were received with knowing nods and nostalgic sentiments. I overheard someone close by say that Peter is 72. If that’s true, then I salute his continued enthusiasm for performance.

And so to the headline act. I first became aware of Geno Washington via Radio London. That isn’t the current Radio London, of course, it’s the pirate radio station that broadcast from the M.V. Galaxy, a ship anchored off Clacton in Essex. Also known as “The Big L” and “Wonderful Radio London”, the station was active between 1964 and 1967, when it was closed down following the implementation of the Marine Telegraph Act.

This was a station that my siblings and I listened to first on the mahogany wireless in the kitchen, with its glowing panel showing the names of exotic sounding places, such as Hilversum and which needed a couple of minutes to warm up after being switched on. Within a couple of years, we were using transistor radios, of course. These were known as “trannies”, which is not, perhaps, a term that would be bandied about now. Radio London introduced me to the music of my youth; Wilson Pickett, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Jackie Wilson, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel … and Geno Washington.

As an aside, Paul Simon is the reason I took up guitar. That riff at the beginning of Homeward Bound, to be precise.

Radio London also introduced many DJs to the nation, the likes of Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Dave Cash and John Peel, to name but a few.  It seems a shame, therefore that the fate of the M. V. Galaxy was to be sunk deliberately in Kiel harbor, to form a reef, although it was later salvaged due to pollution concerns.

Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band occasionally cropped up on playlists and seemed to my young ears to fall into the same groove as Pickett, et al, but never seemed to be as prolific on vinyl. There were minor hits with Hi Hi Hazel, Water and Michael (the Lover), but nothing in the same league as Sittin’ On the Dock Of the Bay, or Respect. The general view seemed to be that they were a better live act. Having said that, they had two of the biggest selling albums of the sixties; Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky-Butt … Live! from 1966 and Hipsters, Flipsters, Finger-Poppin’ Daddies from 1967. Both were albums of live gigs, where their real strengths lay.

Geno Washington & The Yo Yos by Jennifer Noble 30-11-17

However, for the Eel Pie Club, Geno was to front the Yo Yo Band which, which is a power trio comprising: Pinocchio on drums, Steve Duce bass , Buffalo Bill on guitar.

Now, I would have to admit, I haven’t been keeping close tabs on Geno’s career and so, to my shame, hadn’t heard of the Yo Yo band. I’ve since discovered that they seem to form the kernel of the current incarnation of the Ram Jam Band and provide support for the smaller venue gigs. Having said that, I have great respect and regard for the trio format. Think Jimi Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, The Jam, Rush and so on.

The band opened with Hideaway from John Mayalland the Blues Breakers’ Beano album, demonstrating the power available. And what power it is ! Crisp, blues lead lines carved out on a classic Telecaster and mounted on a solid foundation of bass and kit, each adding their own curlicues.

The man himself then appeared and after a short introductory chat, launched into an energetic rendition of High-Heeled Sneakers.

Geno Washington bw 30-11-17 by Jennifer Noble

We were then led through a tasteful menu of R’n’B and soul covers, including Little Red Rooster – great slide guitar playing, although I think the navigation went awry at one point. Well recovered, though – Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love … … all interspersed with anecdote and audience interaction. He has a twinkle in the eye, a mischievous grin and an earthy wit, all of which enables him to establish a real connection with the audience, although I would say that this no gig to attend if you are sensitive to strong language. As a live performance, this is top-drawer stuff. Geno’s energy and powerful voice matches that of the band with ease. I particularly enjoyed his count-in to the band, which went something like:

Geno: “Y’all ready?”

Band (and Audience): “We are indeed”, (or similar !)

Geno: “Kick it!”

Geno is no spring chicken, but he exudes a delight in performing and an energy level to embarrass many half his age. So what if the occasional lyric line gets forgotten, or “mashed up” in some way?  This is live music, red in tooth and claw. There will be some casualties and we love it.

The club closes at 11pm so there are no repeated encores, which can be a good thing. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening in one of the great venues in the area. I chatted to a young couple on the bus who had been in the audience and had only heard of him through the festival circuit. They were equally impressed. And so, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we all wended our weary way home with our ears ringing and our faces grinning at having seen one of the greats.


Vince Francis
December 2017

Photography by Jennifer Noble


From → Gigs, Reviews

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