Monday, 13 June 2016
Something's Got A Hold Of Me/Something/My Friend/With You By My Side
The group continued performing into 1966 with their popularity unabated, and for their first single of the year they got back to business in a big way with a barnstorming cover of Etta James' "Something's Got A Hold On Me". (80s indie icons The Reels' also covered this song in tribute to Tony & The Blue Jays' effort.) Regrettably, this was to be the last single billed to Tony and The Blue Jays. Just as he did with Mike Furber and The Bowery Boys, Ivan Dayman was intent on promoting the singer at the expense of the group. He pushed the Blue Jays further and further into the background and it wasn't long before the 'original' Blue Jays split, although this was also partly due to family pressures on some of the members:
"Bobby Johnson and Ray Eames left ... they were married and when Beatlemania spread to Australia, of course we'd be gettin' publicity with girls in your rooms and all that -- their wives called 'em home so they left the band."
The significant factor in the split was Tony's spiralling drug and alcohol intake and his increasing unreliability. Fellow performer (and future Uptight host) Ross D. Wylie recalled the hazards of touring with Tony at this time:
"Anything he could swill, swallow or smoke. Poke for that matter. Out of control was Woozle. I’m designated Bus Driver due for the five hours drive to the next up-country gig. 9am start we’re delayed. Worsley’s’ wrecked the toilet again, the tour manager’s’ arguing with the publican about if only gold plating will replace it. Worsley he’s got a hot slab and his usual back row seat. We’re driving. Woozle starts up wanting to use his nozzle. Pit stop Tony must be shy, starts thrashing his way out of sight up through this banana plantation. Next thing, this brumbie horse charges out pursued by Tony. 'Must be a mare' says Marcie (Jones & The Cookies). Antics like that, catch up with you. That’s unreliability."
Over the next few months, Tony's brief solo career continued as Sunshine released a string of solo singles -- a lovely version of Buddy Holly's "Raining In My Heart" (May '66), followed by "No Worries" / "Humpy Dumpy" (Jan. '67); his final single, released in October 1967 and with backing by The Escorts, featured Lionel Bart's "Do You Mind" backed by the soulful Penn-Oldham number "Reaching Out".
Late in 1966 Tony put together a "New" Blue Jays, which included such future OzRock luminaries as Vince Maloney (ex-Aztec and future Bee Gee), John A. Bird (Country Radio) and Phil Manning (Chain). In December, they played at a huge Dayman-promoted event, 'The Johnny Young Show', at Brisbane Festival Hall, sharing the bill with virtually the entire Sunshine roster -- Johnny Young, Ronnie Burns, Peter Doyle, Mike Furber, Ross D. Wylie, Thursday's Children, Graham Chpaman, Greg Anderson, The Escorts, Marcie & The Cookies, The Pleazers, and Julien Jones & The Breed. Tony managed to steal the show with his version of James Brown's famous fainting routine. in which he pretended to collapse and have to be led off-stage, only to only to be doused with water, revive and return for encore after encore.
Unfortunately, The Johnny Young Show show effectively became the wake for the the ailing Sunshine empire -- by the end of 1966 the company was in serious financial trouble, its resources severely strained by Normie Rowe's attempt to break into the English pop scene, and its reputation compromised by Dayman's allegedly dubious financial practices. In early 1967 Dayman was forced to close his shortlived Kommotion label and soon after Sunshine was taken over by its major creditor, Festival Records.
Tony himself was exhausted and close to burn-out point -- he was using speed heavily (which he spoke about quite openly, even then) his weight had dropped by almost half, and he had gained a reputation for unreliability.
Not long after, Tony dropped out of performing for a couple of years. He resurfaced in 1969 when he joined Brisbane's Hands Down, a band which aimed for a Small Faces sound, and rivalled teen-pop outfit, The (Brisbane) Avengers for popularity. After Tony left in 1969, the group changed its name to Burke & Wills. Tony completed a short solo tour in Germany which was well-received by punters, but failed to make any significant inroads in Europe. He also visited the US in the early Seventies but was somewhat dispirited by having to tackle it alone and quickly returned to home turf.
Tony has lost none of the magic or charisma he exhibited in his youth; he has performed regularly in club shows whenever he was not busy as "mine host" and number one entertainer at his own in Caloundra (Sunshine Coast) restaurant called -- of course -- "Velvet Waters", and decked out, appropriately, with rock memorabilia. Tony continued to run the restaurant very successfully until late 2007, when it was purchased by another company. Tony was also one of the many luminaries who attended George Crotty's now-legendary Sixties Reunion Party in Sydney in 2001.