Saturday, 23 May 2015

Rajahs - Tribute To The Beatles

 I'm Telling You Now/Want To Hold Your Hand/Saw Her Standing There/Lucille/Roll Over Beethoven/Can You Keep A Secret

Their first gig was at a dance at Castlecrag in August '58, featuring a line-up of Dig Richards (vocals), Barry Lewis (drums), Kenny Konyard (rhythm guitar), Peter Morris (sax), Jon Hayton (lead guitar) and Roger Paulfreman (tea chest bass). The line-up changed frequently, mostly because the band was unable to hang onto sax players for long. They were difficult years for young bands, with US equipment hard to get, so when Peter Baker replaced Paulfreman on bass, he had to make his own - which he called the 'Off-fender'.
Despite the problems, the band proved a hit, and were signed to Festival soon after. Their first single 'I Wanna Love You', which also proved to be their most successful, peaked at #8 on the charts in Sydney. It was enough to establish them, and no doubt with the help of Richards' good looks and natural charm, both Richards and the band landed a two-year stint with their own TV show 'Teen Time' on Channel 7. They were also the first band to play live on Brian Henderson's 'Bandstand' and became regulars on Johnny O'Keefe's 'Six O'Clock Rock'.
Increasing success led to increasing pressures on the band and shortly after one too many a prank, it was decided that drummer Barry Lewis had to be replaced. Leon Isackson, ex- Ray Hoff and the Offbeats, was persuaded to sign up, and stayed until the end. At about the same time, in late '59, Dig Richards was injured in a car accident on Sydney Harbour Bridge and put out of action for a couple of months. The band soldiered on, bringing in Lonnie Lee as a temporary replacement for Richards, and working through a succession of sax players, including Brian Smith, Bob Bertles and Rob Patton.

The R'Jays also landed the job as Festival Records' 'house band', supporting a wide range of acts over the following years, including Noeleen Batley, Jimmy Little, the Delltones, and Johnny O'Keefe. Conditions were primitive by today's standards and drums notoriously difficult to record - Isackson routinely had to play outside the studio to avoid overpowering the rest of the band.
Despite all this, their own records achieved only modest success, and it was their reputation as a live band that kept them in work, with perhaps the highlight of their career coming in 1961, when they played to an audience of 15,000 at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. It was also a time of change in the industry generally, with successive music styles making life difficult for the original rock'n'roll acts. Late in 1961 the EFS agency informed them they had booked good gigs in Adelaide and Canberra - however Adelaide wanted Dig by himself and Canberra wanted the R'Jays alone. They accepted and it was the beginning of the end for the partnership. Dig Richards went on to a successful solo career while the band continued on its hard-working path. The music scene was changing around them, and although they adapted and survived, they never achieved the same prominence.

1964 saw more changes, with Nosmo King joining on guitar and the band undergoing a final change of name, to the Rajahs, which was suggested by Johnny O'Keefe who used them as his backing band (complete with turbans). Their last hurrah came in the form of being promoted as 'Australia's Beatles' having released a six track EP of Beatles covers which was then promoted heavily by the Sunday Mirror. Their last notable actions were to tour Vietnam, becoming the first band to make the trip. Together with Lucky Starr, they were hired by the US Navy to entertain US troops in 1965. While there they managed to perform a number of free concerts for Australian troops. They returned in 1966 with Sheryl Blake. Having survived a number of changes in the music world, they found on their return that the world was changing yet again, and the band called it a day

Leemen - Introducing The Leemen

What'd I Say/Make Love To Me/Goofus/Mason-Dixon Line

 The Leemen are Lonnie Lee's backing band and have been there with him since the beginng and are still there today.

The Leemen had a hit in 1960 with Johnny Guitar it charted in most of Australia's capital cities #5 Sydney, #34 Melbourne, #18 Brisbane, #9 Adelaide and #16 Perth. They released a second single in 1961 "High Noon/Gumbo" plus two EP's "The Leeman With Voices" and "Introducing The Leemen" both released in 1961.

Delltones - Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands

Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands/A Happy Pair/ Land Of Beauty/Why

The Delltones are a popular Australian rock 'n roll band, originally formed in 1958. They started out as a vocal harmony group with members: Brian Perkins, Noel Widerberg, Ian 'Peewee' Wilson, and Warren Lucas. In 1962, their single "Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands" was in the top five on the Australian charts. Lead vocalist Noel Widerberg died in a motor vehicle accident. His position was later filled by Col Loughnan.

The Delltones have been entertaining Australian audiences for over five decades; their most successful recording years were in the 1960s. Ian 'Peewee' Wilson is the only current member from the original line-up. In the mid-1980s, he transformed the group from a vocal quartet to a five-piece vocal band. This, along with other stylistic changes, led to the band's resurgence and the chart topping, rock ‘n roll revival album, Bop Til Ya Drop. The band remains one of the most consistent live entertainers in Australia. It has arguably the longest performing and recording history for a vocal harmony band, with an original member, in Australia.

Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands #10 Sydney #17 Melbourne #5 Brisbane #10 Adelaide #14 Perth

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tony Barber - 1967 - Looking For A Better Day

Looking For A Better Day/I Don't Want You Like That/Nobody/Is It Raining

 Guitarist, singer, songwriter and author Tony Barber is one of the unsing heroes of the Beat Boom in Australia. Rock historian Dean Mittelhauser considered him "one of our most underrated performers from the Sixties" and felt that Tony had "played a bigger part in the success of Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs that has been generally credited".

Tony was one of the many music-crazy young migrants who arrived in Australia in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he had played in a minor band called The Electrons before leaving the UK. Within weeks of his arrival in Australia in 1964 he met a cocky young singer called Billy Thorpe in Kings Cross and he was immediately drafted in as the fifth member of Billy's backing band, The Aztecs. Tony was already developing into a competent pop writer and he composed both sides of the Aztec's first single "Blue Day" / You don't love me", released on the Linda Lee label in April 1964.

Two days before The Aztecs' next recording session, Tony received a 'care package' from his brother in the UK that contained the Rolling Stones' first EP. Afer hearing The Stones' version of Lieber & Stoller's "Poison Ivy", Tthe Aztecs decided to record the song on their next single. It's now a matter of history that their version (widely regarded as being superior to The Stones') shot to #1, became one of the biggest Australian pop hits of the year, kept The Beatles out of the top spot in the Sydney charts in the very midst of their tour, and made Billy and The Aztecs into national stars. Tony featured on the next three Aztecs singles, "Mashed Potato" "Sick and Tired" and "Over The rainbow" -- all of which were major hits -- but in late 1965 Tony and the rest of The Aztecs quit en masse, mainly because of ongoing financial wrangles with manager John Harrigan.

After leaving The Aztecs, Tony and fellow Aztec Vince Maloney formed the shortlived Vince & Tony's Two, with John Shields on bass and Jimmy Thompson on drums. In late 1965 Tony was signed as a solo artist to the newly formed Everybody's label, which had been established by Clyde Packer's Consolidated Press. Tony's solo debut single (produced by Nat Kipner) was a thumping beat original called "Someday", which it was one of the first (and only) four singles issued on Everybody's. None of these singles -- including Tony's -- was unsuccessful on first release because of resistance from radio DJs who (not unreasonably) regarded the label as blatant cross-promotion for Packer's Everybody's magazine and refused to name it on air.

The label was hastily rebadged as Spin Records and Tony's single was re-issued in February 1966. This time it took off, becoming a major hit that peaked at #7 in Sydney and #11 in Melbourne. Tony released four more singles on Spin -- "Wait By The Water" (Apr. 1966), "Wondrous Place" (July '66), "Lookin' for a better day" (Jan. 1967) and "Bird's Eye View", which was written for a long-forgotten TV documentary. Tony was also granted the rare privilege of recording an entire LP, entitled Someday ... Now!, on which he was backed by labelmates Steve & The Board and The Bee Gees.

Although he was signed to Spin as a recording artist, Tony also worked with another independent label during this period, the Melbourne-based Phono Vox. He produced several singles by Phon Vox artists, including Denise Drysdale and The Bentbeaks, and he also wrote the A-side of Denise's single "Sunshine Shadow". In late 1967, after his Spin contract had ended, Tony released one single under his own name on Phono Vox, but this proved to be his swansong as a recording artist. During 1967 Tony married his girlfriend Sue Peck, a staffer with Go-Set magazine, and soon after he left the pop scene to concentrate on business ventures and raising a family. In the 1980s he reunited with his old friend Billy Thorpe in the successful 'Sunshine Friends' soft toy enterprise.

In 2002, after more than thirty years away from the limelight, Tony reunited with Billy and the original Aztecs for the historic Long Way To The Top concert tours. His experiences inspired him to write a memoir of the tour and his early days as a pop musician, entitled Long Way Til You Drop. Regrettably, there was opposition to the book from some of those involved in the LWTTT tour, fuelled by pre-publication media hype that suggested it would be a tell-all exposé. In the event, Tony's book proved to be an entertaining, witty and affectionate account of an important chapter in Australian rock history.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Red Onion Jazz Band - At The 1963 Jazz Convention

Since My Best Girl Turned Me Down/Barnacle Bill/Perdido Street Blues/Tight Like That

The Red Onion Jazz Band was formed around 1960, as the Gin Bottle Jazz Band by Allan Browne, who was taking lessons from Melbourne University Jazz Band's drummer, Norm Hodges, and Brett Iggulden who was taking trumpet lessons from Ade Monsbourgh, then one of Australia's leading jazzmen. The original lineup, drawn largely from the Beaumaris, Sandringham and Brighton suburbs of Melbourne, consisted of Allan Browne, drums; Brett Iggulden, trumpet; Kim Lynch, tea-chest bass; Bill Howard trombone; Felix Blatt, banjo, and John Pike, piano, while Brett’s sister Sally (a.k.a. ‘Sweet Sal’, who later married Browne and became a clothes designer) was an occasional addition on washboard. John Funsten, another pupil of Ade Monsbourgh, was added on clarinet. They played New Orleans inspired traditional jazz and infused it with their own vitality, their flair for presentation and promotion and zany sense of humour.

Jazz standards were the material for their first job at St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church hall dance in Beaumaris, and by about April 1961, they were given a brief spot at the Melbourne Jazz Club; their first introduction into the Melbourne jazz scene and in June Corrine Kirby included them on her ABC T.V. programme Let's Make a Date for which, at the insistence of Channel 2 executives a name change from their original Gin Bottle Jazz Band to the more respectable Red Onion Jazz Band was made, the title chosen in honour of an early Louis Armstrong recording group. They opened then at the 'Oxford' Jazz Club, where they continued for six months, with Fred Charles on clarinet.

In November, 1961, Geoff Thomas took over from Felix Blatt as banjoist and the band started the Red Onion Jazz Club in Brighton. They also played at the Downbeat Jazz Concert in 1962 before Fred Charles and Geoff Thomas left the band in October and were replaced by Gerry Humphries (born Brian Anton Humphrys, 1941, in Battersea, England) and Rainer Breit. After securing gigs at the Ormond R.S.L. Hall and Beaumaris Yacht Club, they joined the 17th Jazz Convention in Sydney in December 1962, where their long hair, formal wear, violins and mad vocals caused a stir. Returning to Melbourne they played Friday nights at the 'Newport' Jazz Club at the Edithvale Life saving Club and on Saturday nights at their own venue ‘The Onion Patch' in Oakleigh. In early 1963, the group released their first 7” EP, An Impromptu Recital by the Amazing and Entertaining Red Onion Jazz Band on the tiny EAST (Elwood Audio Services Transcriptions) recording label, and it received conspicuous airplay on radio station 3XYs Jazz As You Like It program. John Pike left in March and for 11 months the band played without a pianist, but had a busy year of concerts that included Moomba, Myer Music Bowl, a 3-day tour of Tasmania including radio, T.V. and dance engagements in Hobart, as well as the 18th Australian Jazz Convention. The Red Onion Jazz Band at the 1963 Jazz Convention EP (their second recording) contains two vocal tracks; the bawdy sea-shanty "Barnacle Bill", and a version of Tommy Dorsey's "It’s Tight Like That". Gerry Humphrys left the band for four months in June, 1963, and Jerry Salt, Derek Miller or Eddie Robbins replaced his clarinet, while Brett Iggulden took up alto sax for special numbers. Venues then included the 'Driftwood' Club and the 'Downbeat' Jazz Club where in February 17 year-old pianist Ian Clyne first sat in and thereafter became a regular member.

In July, 1964, The Red Onions signed with W&G Records who put out a well-received EP entitled The Red Onions At Home and they transferred from the 'Onion Patch' to the popular 'Campus' Club. They appeared again on TV for GTV9 and ATV0, most importantly on Graham Kennedy’s influential In Melbourne Tonight. In November the band opened at ‘Opus' discotheque in South Yarra where it was estimated that more than 2,000 attended the first night. The entire band also featured at the 19th Jazz Convention in Newcastle.

Thanks to Sunshine for this one.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Johnny O'Keefe - 1964 - A Girl Needs To Love

A Girl Needs To Love & Be Loved/Moon River/Send Me The Pillow/Lollipops & Roses


Born in Sydney on 19 January 1935, Johnny O'Keefe became the undisputed King of Australian rock and roll. There was little or no rock music scene in Australia, and certainly no Australian rock recordings, prior to 1957, when Bill Haley toured the country. A local band, the Dee Jays with vocalist Johnny O'Keefe, was chosen as the supporting act. Johnny O'Keefe had been performing in talent shows, mainly doing impersonations of Johnny Ray singing songs such as Crying and The Little White Cloud that Cried (complete with prop glasses filled with water to make artificial tears). His performance supporting Bill Haley led to a contract with Festival Records.

At his first recording session on a Saturday afternoon in July 1957, Johnny recorded Bill Haley's Billy Goat and I'm Still Alive. (The recording had to be on a Saturday afternoon because Johnny was working in his father's furniture shop in the morning and during the week - and, of course, you couldn't work on a Sunday in the fifties.) Reluctant radio stations gave very little airplay to Johnny's first record but, by the time of his next recording, Wild One, early in 1958, there was sufficient demand from Johnny O'Keefe Fan Clubs throughout the country to make it a hit. Many of these Fan Clubs had arisen out of performances which Johnny gave at Police and Citizens Boys Clubs.

A series of hit records and performances on Lee Gordon's "Big Shows" supporting overseas artists (who often were greeted with chants of "We want Johnny") led to Johnny being given his own national TV show, Six O'Clock Rock, in 1959. The TV show ran until 1962 when Johnny left to tour America (with limited success).

Overwork led to Johnny being instructed by his doctors to take a rest, but he was soon back on television with another show Sing! Sing! Sing! and recording another string of hit records. The pattern of dynamic performance leading to overwork, depression and breakdown was repeated for the next ten years. This, together with a serious car smash which required several operations to reconstruct his face, culminated in Johnny's death from a heart attack in October 1978.

During his career, J O'K had five number one records and ten other top ten hits. The recording for which he is best remembered, Shout!, was recorded and released as a single twice (in 1959 and in 1964) but never achieved better than number 11. Relatives of him have also become celebrities, such as his nephew Andrew O'Keefe. His daughter has a cameo in the TV movie bio about his life, Shout! The Story of Johnny O'Keefe (1985).

Tyrn Around - 1986 - Colour Your Mind

Carroll By Candlelight/Francis/Colour Your Mind/Suicidal Flowers

Formed in 1985 in Melbourne, Australia, Tyrnaround were a great band who specialised in 60s psych pop/rock, influenced by Syd Barrett, The Seeds, The Beatles at their most lysergic, garage punk and classic psych. They released a handful of cassettes, EPs and one album before disbanding due to the death of their lead singer in 1999.