Camden Town in the mid-80s fancied itself as a mini Harlem, as a bunch of new bands playing old tunes sprung up around the clubs. Leading the way without a doubt was Howlin’ Wilf and his Vee Jays. With the stunning platinum blond, Dot on second guitar, and a proper stand-up bass slapping out a fat bottom end, the Vee-Jays could rock’n’roll and play rhythm and blues, all at the same time without dropping a beat. When they weren’t featuring in a hot and sweaty club they could be found busking, such was the enthusiasm for getting the word out - and making a bob or two along the way.
Eventually Wilf almost reverted to his real name and surfaced ten years later as James Hunter, still playing the sharpest music around in the sharpest suit. Ten years on again and James has made quite some headway in the USA, so this seems like an opportune moment to give the Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-Jays its 20th anniversary release. James’ songwriting, singing and all-round performance have come a long way in the intervening years, but there is always something in that first flush that thrills.
Why not also check out his Ace CD James Hunter – “Believe What I Say” (CDCHD 636) with one of his biggest fans, Mr Van Morrison, on vocals on two tracks. Also go get his new waxing on GO Records (GO 00011 through Rounder), “People Gonna Talk”. They always have - it’s just a little louder now.
By Roger Armstrong