The celebration of the unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll runs Friday and Saturday night at the Rock 'n' Bowl. Just because you haven't heard some of the artists doesn't mean they're not worth hearing.
The Ponderosa Stomp has been the World Series for record geeks since its inception, but this year's event goes farther down that rabbit hole than ever before with few artists who had much more than a cup of coffee in the public eye. Still, the lineup is promsing as our Spotify playlist below shows.
Friday night's highlights at the Rock 'n' Bowl include an hour and a half of swamp pop with Rod Bernard, Gene Terry and Tommy McClain; an R&B revue with New Orleans' Betty Harris, Willie Hightower, Motown's Brenda Holloway, and Mable John; and sets by P.F. Sloan ("The Eve of Destruction") and Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon ("Palisades Park," "Talahassie Lassie"). Saturday features the "West Side Soul Revue"--an hour of Latino rock and soul--and Irma Thomas backed by Lil Buck and the Top Cats. Stomp favorites Barbara Lynn and the inimitable Roy Head will return as well.
The Stomp has succeeded where other cavalcades of oldies haven't because the Stomp traditionally works with the artists to get them to play their classic singles and/or deep cuts beloved by collectors. That means fans are less likely to hear the artists' weak attempts at guessing what it is that people want. Because the Stomp pairs them with sympathetic bands that recreate the excitement and much of the sound of the original recordings, the singers are put in the best possible light.
As a result, many singers have been inspired to memorable performances at the Stomp, whether they're well known or not. In a recent Facebook conversation, regular attendees remembered favorite moments including guitar hero Link Wray's last show, learning about life on Mars from Question Mark of Question Mark and the Mysterians, watching Dave Bartholomew roll back the clock, getting a kiss from Sugar Pie DeSanto, and discovering who The Collins Kids were and why you should care.
The nightly schedules are online, and it's worth strategizing a bit. Each night will be nine hours of rockabilly, R&B, swamp pop and soul if the Stomp stays on schedule, so prioritizing is a good idea. On Friday night, I hope to make it from Betty Harris through Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, although I'd love to see Rod Bernard as well.
On Saturday, I hope to see from Texas Farfisa organ hero Augie Meyers through the Westside Soul Revue and Barbara Lynn, Irma Thomas, and the amazing Roy Head.