Geno Washington, legendary R ‘n’ B singer chats with Kevin Cooper about his experience with Robin Hood and Maid Marion, his love for Nottingham, good friend Jimmy James and his forthcoming appearance with Russ Winstanley at the We Got Soul Pop Up Party at The Riverbank Nottingham.
Geno Washington is an American R&B singer who was stationed in England with the United States Air Force during the early 1960s. Whilst stationed in East Anglia, he became known as a frequent stand-in at gigs around London and when guitarist Pete Gage saw him perform at a nightclub in 1965, he asked him to join his new group. That was the start of Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band.
They managed to build up a strong following with the crowds and due to their touring and energetic performances they became popular on the mod scene. The band broke up in the autumn of 1969 and Geno Washington continued as a solo artist before returning to the United States, where he disappeared from the music industry for a while.
Following the release of Dexys Midnight Runners hit single, Geno, Washington was soon back in the UK touring extensively and continues to tour with not only the Ram Jam Band but also with the YoYo Band.
Despite Geno’s hectic schedule, Kevin Cooper was delighted to have the opportunity for a chat. This is what he had to say.
Hi Geno how are you?
(Hysterical laughter) hey Kevin, everything is cool. Thanks for thinking of me.
Not a problem Geno. It’s always a pleasure speaking to you. So since the last time that we caught up with one another, how have you been?
Well Kevin I have to tell you that I have been like a fat rat in a cheese factory (hysterical laughter). Everything is going crazy with the Ram Jam Band since I opened up another can of beans. What is good is that I have been playing some really big blues festivals over in Europe with the YoYo Band (hysterical laughter). We play the Blues and some R ’n’ B and that is working fantastically well for us at the moment.
And just how is life treating you?
Well Kevin everything is really cool you know and I really do still love what I am doing. I simply go with the flow (laughter). When I started in the business many years ago now I was always thinking that I would like to be in the business when I got older and hopefully people would still want to come and see me perform. And I have to say that is happening, so I am over the moon Kevin.
A little bird tells me that there may be a new Geno Washington album out very soon?
Shit Kevin, that’s right. I’m going to have to shoot that little bird (laughter). We have been doing some recording which we will be mixing this month. We are hoping to be able to put out a product that we are proud of very soon. Every day is going really good and I am so happy right now.
So how did the We Got Soul gig at The Riverbank here in Nottingham come about?
Well Kevin I will tell you, and this is the honest truth, I don’t know (hysterical laughter). But I’m really glad it’s happening and I am really excited to be a part of it and hanging out with Russ Winstanley again. We are going to be rockin’ the house (laughter).
How will it feel to be back in Nottingham?
I haven’t been back to Nottingham for quite a while now so it will be really good to get back up there. I have some really good memories of time spent in Nottingham Kevin. Back in the 60’s Nottingham was a jumping city man. They had some really great nightclubs there. I can remember coming up there and playing The Dungeon Club. Every time that we played there the rock group Ten Years After would always want to play with us (laughter). I also have great memories of performing at The Boat Club by the side of the River Trent.
When we got too big to play The Dungeon Club and The Boat Club, we started playing The Mecca. The Mecca would put on Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band and The Equals on the same bill (laughter). The entire place would be jumping all night Kevin (laughter). They are great memories. I am really looking forward to being back there.
I will let you into a secret. If you stand outside The Riverbank and look over the River Trent you will see The Boat Club.
Really Kevin, that’s fantastic. I will be able to point it out to the boys in the band. Are the local Nottingham people showing an interest in the event Kevin?
Well it has really surprised me. I thought that the locals would see that Geno Washington was playing and that it wouldn’t sell-out but surprisingly, its selling really well (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) well there you go Kevin, you got me (laughter). I bet all of the Nottingham people know just how crazy Geno can get (laughter).
What can we expect from the show?
Oh man we are going to be rockin’ the house. I suppose that some older fans will show up together with some younger ones who will never have seen this type of show before because let me tell you Kevin, this isn’t cabaret (laughter). This is going to be soul on the bone (hysterical laughter). Are you going to be there on the night Kevin?
I am coming down to photograph you again.
That’s cool Kevin, really cool. You just make sure that you say hello.
The local police have told me that I have to get a good picture of you Geno for their wanted poster (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) a shot of the black suspects (laughter) with old Geno looking suspicious (laughter).
What keeps you going Geno as it is quite obvious that you are enjoying it as much now as you did fifty years ago.
Definitely man, it seems to be my life’s work. I love making people laugh and putting them in a happy mood Kevin. It gives me a thrill to hear people laughing and seeing them enjoying themselves you know.
And I have to say that the music sounds as fresh today as it did back in the day.
Well there you go Kevin. If you get a good band it sounds just as fresh and just as good doesn’t it. If you really want to do some partying then there is nothing better than some soul music to party too. Everybody can get a piece; it is so adaptable. All of the songs don’t sound the same because there are so many styles of soul music that it is bound to touch you somewhere. It is just great music to be with your friends and party.
Now Geno, without being rude do you have a favourite experience of Nottingham that you can tell us about?
No (hysterical laughter). Without being rude I can’t say (laughter). Back in the day whenever we were in Nottingham I was a party animal. Let’s not pretend that this is the Last Supper Kevin (laughter). I can remember once that they were performing Robin Hood and his Merry Men in the forest up there in Nottingham for the tourists. For £10 you could go into the forest and meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men together with Maid Marion. So I paid my £10 and headed off into the forest and as I got there Robin Hood walked out and he looked just like Frank Bruno (laughter). As soon as I saw him I just knew that I was in trouble (laughter).
I asked if I could meet Maid Marion and the violins started playing as Maid Marion came out to meet me. Well Kevin I don’t know much about Maid Marion but this lady looked just like Margaret Thatcher (hysterical laughter). I left before the show was over without being too rude (laughter).
(Laugher) you are a very naughty man Geno.
Well I have to tell you Kevin, perhaps it may have something to do with the wine (hysterical laughter).
You have recently played The Blues Festival at Butlins. How was that?
That’s right Kevin we played the Blues Festival with my YoYo Band. It was great man, it was packed out. There were people going crazy because of how we present the Blues. We present it in a totally different way to everyone else. The kids were going crazy for it. Me and the band were totally over the moon. It was a fantastic affair.
I see that you have recently managed to do a few dates alongside your old sparring partner Jimmy James. How is he?
(Hysterical laughter) yes Jimmy is a good old buddy of mine. We have just come off a tour and we are both thinking about doing another one sometime soon. It’s really good to know that a lot of the old fans still remember us from the 60’s when we used to do battle on the road. We used to see just who could rock the house the most (laughter). When your reputation follows you around Kevin, the old fans bring along their young kids, their cousins and everyone else who they know. It works real well; and Jimmy and me get along like a house on fire. We have real love for each other and after all of these years we are still really good friends (laughter).
Is there anything left for Geno Washington to achieve?
I really would love to play a few more of the really big Blues Festivals over in Europe with the YoYo Band. It would also be good to do another tour of America. I was a Blues singer Kevin, and that is how I got the job with the Ram Jam Band but then I switched to being a soul singer. Now that I am older I would love to go back to the Blues and do a tour of the States. I think that now at my age that would be pretty cool Kevin.
I can’t speak to you without asking you how your brother-in-law Peter (Noone) is.
Well I have to tell you that he is doing fantastic man. He is busy making that money Kevin; do you know what I mean (laughter). He is playing gigs all over America and they love him over there. He is happy over there, very happy, he is healthy and is really good. I last saw him four weeks ago when he flew over for a party here in the UK. It was good to see him. His daughter Natalie Noone has just had a number one single in the Country & Western music charts over there in the Sates. So everything is going good; everything is good and everybody is happy.
That’s good news Geno and thanks for taking the time to speak to me. It is always a pleasure chatting with you.
Thanks for having me man. Thank you for the joy and I will see you in Nottingham Kevin. Bye for now.