Monday, 13 June 2016

Tony Worsley - 1965 - Velvet Waters

Velvet Waters/Rock A Billy/Missing You/All Over You

Tony was born Anthony Asheen Worsley in England in 1944 and emigrated with his family from his hometown of Hastings to the sunnier climes of Brisbane when he was 15. Tony had already set his sights on a show biz career. As a lad he won several amateur talent quests in England including one judged by Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steele, which carried first prize of a Decca recording contract. Needless to say, his parents' decision to leave for Australia right at this point didn't go down too well with the ambitious young singer -- "I didn't get on with my parents too much on the ship for the first few weeks!" -- but he was determined to fulfill that dream in his adopted country. By day he worked as an apprentice rigger in the Brisbane dockyards, but at night he patrolled the dance halls, waiting for his chance to get up on stage. 

Tony quickly developed into a consummate performer, gigging around Brisbane's dance circuit with a variety of pick-up bands. His outrageously long collar-length hair, wild stage presence and repertoire of Merseybeat tunes (copped from imported records sent by his friends in England) which earned him his early nickname "Brisbane's Beatle". As early as 1961, Tony had come to the attention of Ivan Dayman, a pop entrepreneur, and a budding 'svengali' figure in the mould of Lee Gordon. Dayman -- who would soon also steer Normie Rowe and Mike Furber to national success -- was on the lookout for a suitable backing band for his young discovery and he believed he had found it when he made a new addition to the Sunshine roster, the popular Melbourne dance band The Blue Jays. Dayman's offer of AU£35 per week to sing with The Blue Jays was simply too good for the young singer to refuse. It was a huge salary for the times -- ten times what Tony was being paid as a sailmaker -- and as late as 1966, even the members of The Small Faces, then one of Britain's top bands, were being paid just UK£20 per week each! The teaming of Tony with this tight, professional outfit in early 1964 proved to be an inspired choice. 

 Dayman teamed The Blue Jays with Tony Worsley at the start of 1964, and with their name enhanced by the suitably glamorous prefix Fabulous the group immediately set about creating a dynamic stage show, centred on Tony's gritty tenor voice, good looks and dynamic showmanship. Tony's 'take-no-prisoners' attitude was backed up by one of the tightest and most competent bands in the country and the Blue Jays trademark 'fat' sound blended sax and guitar in a potent lead instrumental assault, giving them a powerful attack comparable to earlier rock'n'roll groups like Johnny O'Keefe's Dee Jays. From his recently acquired Brisbane HQ at the legendary Cloudland Ballroom (a landmark Queensland venue, sadly demolished in the 1980s) Dayman promoted the group in package extravaganzas up and down the coast, including appearances at his popular "Bowl" venues, and they soon earned a reputation for upstaging the main acts.

There were more lineup changes during 1964 as the Beat Boom hotted up and the band's frantic touring schedule took its toll, but by the end of the year the Blue Jays had settled into the first 'classic' lineup, each of whom earned their own nickname: Ray 'Screamy' Eames (lead guitar), Mal 'Beaky' Clarke (rhythm guitar), Paul 'Bingo' Shannon (sax and keyboards), and Royce 'Baby' Nicholls (bass), completed by the return of founding Blue Jays drummer Bobby 'Spider' Johnson. In mid-1964 Dayman took over the Saturday night lease on Melbourne's largest indoor venue, Festival Hall, renaming it "Mersey City". On 2 May 1964 he opened with Tony and the Fabulous Blue Jays. Over 4500 teenagers attended: "That was 500 more than saw the Beatles" according to Tony. Dayman also used them to open several other Queensland venues as his Sunshine empire exapnded to Bundaberg, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Inala and Surfers Paradise. 

In late 1964, Dayman formed the Sunshine record label (distributed by Festival) with partners Nat Kipner and Apt Aulton. The first single, released in October, was an original instrumental by The Blue Jays called "Jay Walker". The next (November) was the debut single by Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays, and it was a killer combination: the A-side was a scorching version of "Sure Know A Lot About Love", backed by a terrific acoustic-driven original, "Me You Gotta Teach", composed by what soon developed into the bands resident writing partnership of Beaky Clarke and Baby Nicholls. 

 1965 was without doubt the peak of their meteoric career. February saw the release of the second Tony Worsley & The Blue Jays single and perhaps their best recording, a raucous, syncopated cover of Rosco Gordon's "Just A Little Bit", which broke through onto the national airwaves in early '65 and became a significant hit, charting particularly well in Melbourne and Brisbane. Tony and the Blue Jays had picked up on the song from a version by English band The Undertakers, but coincidentally it was also recorded at that time by The Animals (under the title "Don't Want Much"). The Animals' version was recorded during the sessions for their second LP Animal Tracks but it didn't make the funal cut and remained unreleased until The Complete Animals 2CD set was issued in 1990. It has to be said that The Animals' version sounds distinctly anaemic compared to the red-hot Worsley/Blue Jays version. Lobby Loyde's Purple Hearts covered it later a year or so later, but even their version pales by comarison.  (Bio Continued in post below)

No comments:

Post a Comment