Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Out to Lunch Arts Festival: Oh Geno... all hail the true

That man took the stage, his towel was swingin' high/ Oh Geno/ This man was my bombers, my Dexy's, my high/Oh-oh-oh Geno-o/The crowd they all hailed you, and chanted your name/But they never knew like we knew/Me and you were the same’.

One of Kevin Rowland’s greatest moments was when he wrote that tribute to Geno Washington back in 1980. Fifteen years earlier, Washington and his Ram Jam Band had scored chart triumphs with albums Hand Clappin, Foot Stompin, Funky Butt Live and Hipster Flipsters Finger Poppin’ Daddies. And they’d inspired the teenage Rowland to take up a career in music. Washington was a US airman stationed in decidedly unexotic East Anglia when he first began to perform in London nightclubs. Before long he was frontman for the Ram Jam Band (named after a coaching inn in Stretton) and the UK fell in love with soul.

As a stage performer, Washington’s energy wowed the crowds, and with legends like Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Pink Floyd in support, Geno had to keep moving. Until one day, he’d had enough, and turned his back on the scene and headed home to America to study meditation instead.

But it’s hard to escape the beat, and in 1980 Dexy’s hit the number one slot with their musical tribute to Geno. They performed it again on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on New Year’s Eve. We remembered what we were missing — as did Washington — and the singer has returned to the UK.

And that winding path leads all the way to the Black Box tonight, where the ‘Godfather of Soul’ will once again perform a blistering set of rock’n’roll and gritty blues. The Ram Jam Band may be history, but some of its former members have reconvened as Washington’s Yo Yo Band.

In case this all seems too good to be true, let me repeat for you.

GENO WASHINGTON is performing in BELFAST. So groove your way down to what will be one of the greatest gigs of the year.

Geno Washington & Yo Yo Blues!, Black Box, 8pm. For details, visit www.cqaf.com

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