Sam, The Man
I’m listening to an old recording of Just Five singing ‘Well Don’t That Beat Them All’ and it’s just about perfect. It has the rough and tumble rhythm that young men with scruffy hair made around 1964. It is one of the rare artefacts that we have to remember the Maritime scene in Belfast. And most importantly, it’s proof that Sam Mahood had a voice that really was hard to beat.
Coming from a later generation, I never saw Sam live on stage. And while I always hoped that I’d meet him some day and I’d hear some of those great old stories, that’s not going to happen now. Sam passed away on December 23, another piece of our cultural history that’s not been celebrated like it should.
According to his peers, Sam was a classic soul belter, arguably better than some of our more famous sons. Terri Hooley likes to talk about the theatre of Sam shows. Mahood would use a lot of those James Brown moves, falling on the stage, feigning exhaustion, demanding that the audience cheer all the harder to revive him. With his wavy red hair, his buckle shoes and a woman’s furry jacket, he must have surprised Belfast, never mind his hometown of Ballymena.
There will be a musical celebration for Sam at the King’s Head, Belfast on Sunday, January 27. The likes of Ronnie Greer, Rab McCullough, Terri Hooley and Lee Hedley will feature, and some of the old Just Five heads will also be involved. It starts at 3pm.
I’m not sure how many Just Five tracks are commercially available, but ‘Don’t That Beat Them All’ and ‘I Will Have You’ are included on the excellent CD, ‘Belfast Beat, Maritime Blues’, compiled by Roger Armstrong, with sleevenotes by Owen McFadden. The CD booklet uses an old Just Five image from City Week / City Beat, the local publication which covered the local music scene so passionately. I’d love to know where the paper’s old photo archive has gone. It’s another part of our story that needs to be preserved, to be valued.
Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.