Here are some reasons to see "three days of music you've never heard of" when the Stomp starts this weekend.
For years, Bruce Springsteen raved up Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “Quarter to Three” like a rock ’n’ roll national anthem. Even when his Jersey Shore tall tales were taking a turn toward the Steinbeck, Springsteen used Bonds’ pop R&B hit from 1961 to remind people he was still a guy who just wanted to dance all night with his favorite girl. Bonds will play The Ponderosa Stomp Saturday night at The Orpheum, and it’s odd that he has waited until the 14th Stomp to perform because he seems like a natural. After all, his first hit was “New Orleans.”
The once-annual, now-biennial Ponderosa Stomp is a three-day deep dive into “the unsung heroes of rock ’n’ roll,” as it says in its marketing. It starts Thursday, October 5 at the Ace Hotel with the Ponderosa Stomp Conference—two days of oral histories and conversations between musicians and journalists that shine light on rock ’n’ roll’s past. It starts at 10 a.m. this year with George Porter Jr. and “Wacko” Wade Wright remembering Bourbon Street in the 1960s. The conference continues on Friday, closing with Bonds, and with Carla Thomas about her career and growing up with her father, Rufus Thomas.
The music festival takes place Friday and Saturday nights at the Orpheum, and this year, the Stomp bills itself as “Three days of the best music you’ve never heard of.” The slogan’s a bit of truth in advertising because with the exception of a few very obsessive people, it’s a safe bet that nobody but the organizers know everybody on the bill. Friday night’s show features headliner Roky Erickson playing songs by the band that put him on the map, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, but after “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” nothing by the Elevators entered the culture at large. Don Bryant wrote R&B classics for artists on Hi Records including Ann Peebles' "Can't Stand the Rain," but he was known throughout his career as a songwriter first. He, like Evie Sands, will get prime time slots at the Stomp, even though Sands had the bad luck of having her versions of songs eclipsed by others who recorded them after her. She first cut "Angel of the Morning," but the best known version came from Merrilee Rush.
Still, the strength of the Stomp concept has been to put these singers with sympathetic bands that work to recreate the sounds that made them popular in the first place. Sympathetic backing by Lil Buck Sinegal and the Top Cats helped make Stomp favorites of Barbara Lynn and Roy Head, and a big part of the fun of a Stomp is discovering someone better late than never. In 2003, Detroit R&B singer blew away a packed Rock ’n’ Bowl with a set that included “I Want Love and Affection (Not the House of Correction)," and it helped give his career a final act.
Here’s a preview of some of this year’s Stompers:
This year's Stomp also includes a rare infusion of (current by Stomp standards) garage bands: The Mummies, Swingin' Riff Raffs, and The Gories: