Friday, 15 May 2015
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.