Wednesday, 3 February 2016
The Swan/Skip To My Lou/Tornado/San Fernando Valley
Dave Bridge was one of Australia's original guitar heroes during the "First Wave" of Australian rock'n'roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was born in Sydney in 1937 and showed an exceptional aptitude for music from an early age, taking up the guitar at the age of nine. His remarkable talent led to his professional debut on radio at the age of twelve, and by the early Sxities he was acknowledged as Australia's top guitarist in the popular field.
Dave influenced many younger guitarists from the '60s to the present, including Peter Hood of The Atlantics; their live sets regularly included the song "Dark Eyes", a traditional tune in a rock arrangement, which Dave had introduced: Peter Hood: "'Dark Eyes' was one of the songs we played live. It was one we got the most requests for, particularly from other musicians. Dave Bridge was an influence because he was one of the few guys in the world who tried to be pure technical at the time. He was so technical that you had to be a real virtuoso-type to be able to play like him".
Dave rose to prominence as the lead guitarist in The Joy Boys, the backing band for pioneering Australian rock'n'roll star Col Joye. Dave was a founding member of the Joy Boys in 1957 and played with them until 1961, when he went solo and formed his own instrumental band. The Dave Bridge Quartet included 16-year-old rhythm guitarist Ray Burton, who went on to a very succesful and distinguished career with a string of legendary Australian bands including The Delltones, The Executives, The Questions, Friends and Ayers Rock, and among his many other achievements he co-wrote the international smash-hit "I Am Woman" with Helen Reddy. The Quartet signed to EMI's HMV label and their wide popularity on the concert circuit was boosted by appearances on TV pop shows like Bandstand and Six O'Cock Rock.
The Quartet released two successful singles. "Skip To My Lou" (1961) was one of the top 10 Australian hits of the year, and its B-side "Sunday Morning" was later recorded by The Shadows. Their second single "San Fernando Valley" came out in 1962, but the Qurtet split around the beginning of 1963. Ray Burton formed his own band, The Telstars, while Dave recorded two singles under his own name. Dave's original composition "Tornado" reached #28, and he fared even better with its follow-up, "The Swan", a rock'n'roll arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, which reached #22. Dave then formed The Dave Bridge Trio with bassist Terry Hearne and drummer Bruce Janson. The absence of a rhythm guitar gave their sound a distinctive edge, and they caught the crest of the surf-instrumental craze, enjoying considerable success in 1963. The run of hits continued with "Trail Blazer" (#32) and "Bondi Stomp" (#25) and they also released an EP, The Swan and an LP, Surfing Down Under.
However, by the time of the Trio's last HMV single "Surfie Guitar" / "Flyover" in 1964, the onslaught of the beat group phenomenon was rapidly rendering the surf sound passé, so the Trio split, with Dave opting to concentrate on session work. Terry Hearne switched to guitar and joined The Leemen; in 1965 he joined forces with former guitarist Michael Morris (ex Dennis Williams & The Delwares) to form The Allusions, the highly-regarded Sydney band who scored several national hits including "Gypsy Woman" and "The Dancer".
Dave released one last solo single in early 1966, this time on the CBS label, and then he returned to the session scene, working as a studio guitarist, producer and arranger; through the 1970s and 1980s he was a one of Australia's most sought-after session musicians. After almost a decade behind the scenes, Dave stepped forward and released a new solo LP in 1972 on CBS, featuring guitar arrangements of popular favourites. In 1980, CBS issued a retrospective compilation LP, Guitar Sounds of The Seventies, which has become a collector's item -- a copy advertised on eBay recently for US$68 (AU$75).
For many years Dave worked extensively on the club circuit and was the Musical Director at Sydney's Western Suburbs Leagues Club. In 1991 he collaborated with veteran vocalist Frankie Davidson on a album of comedic golfing songs, Don't Worry, Keep Swinging, which was released on cassette by Larrikin. In 1993 he was the recipient of an Australasian Country Music Foundation 'Hands of Fame' award for his contributions to the genre.