Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shorty Billups @ Village Hall Castor UK 16/2/08

Shorty Billups with The Dave Thomas Band
LIVE at Castor Village Hall,
Peterborough Road,
Castor, Peterborough PE5 7AX
Saturday 16th February 2008 - 8pm

Born in Boston, Mass; on Feb 1st 1941 and named Shorty by a ‘hell raising’ aunt with an odd sense of humour. His first instrument was the piano but when his brother, Eddie, took up the same instrument he switched to drums and the two of them played regularly in church together and later in various R&B bands. He started travelling and performing for American troops at the age of 15 with the USO. Three years later he joined up and served in the army for four years and upon returning home he completed another four years of college before beginning his musical career in earnest.

In the late 50’s he recorded his first record ‘Boss Chick’ a Little Richards style rocker for Fine Records, New York, with Shorty on piano and vocals together with an all star cast including King Curtis, Eric Gayle and Don Garner. This obviously did well enough for the two brothers to relocate to New York and put a group together. Work was plentiful and through to the late 70’s they recorded for a dozen different record labels who issued fifteen singles, many of which are well thought of by collectors. Some of these were issued under his brother’s name and until recently it was assumed that Shorty was Eddie. Why he switched back and forth between Shorty and Eddie is shrouded in mystery but perhaps he will enlighten us about this when he arrives in Castor.

Meanwhile, Shorty had become the drummer of choice for many visiting R&B artists with whom he regularly worked and toured including; Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Etta James, Bill Doggett, Freddie Scott, Wilson Pickett and King Curtis. Usually he would be featured as the opening act. In the 70’s Shorty recorded behind Oscar Tony Jnr, and then touring with him in a package together with Tommy Hunt and Ben E King throughout Europe including dates in the UK.

In the late 80’s, Shorty stopped playing and singing altogether. Then, after a three year break, he decided to go ‘back to his roots’ joining Arthur Carter and the Gospel Conveyors in Atlanta. Leaving them a few years later he worked with J T Hardly and the Mighty Genesis before starting to tour again on the Southern Chitlin’ Circuit. In 2001 he was back in Boston and released his ‘Alone with Shor’ty’ CD on the Solid Gold record label. This was a retrospective of his career that I picked up a couple of years ago. I played it to David Popple and we began to think of bringing him over for a Shakedown appearance. I then hunted down his latest CD ‘Shor’tys Got The Blues’, a fine set of blues and soul blues, that made us decide to contact Shor’ty. We found him keen to come over but initially we had a problem finding a band that could span the music of the late 50’s through to the present day.

Hearing Dave Thomas’ excellent work with Joe Jonas cleared up that problem and with both Shor’ty and Dave finding a mutually agreeable date we are assured of a great evening of soulful blues.

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