Thursday, 22 September 2016
Missing You/All Over You/With You By My Side/The Kind
English-born singer Tony Worsley migrated to Australia with his parents at the age of 13. He started his singing career on the Brisbane dance circuit during 1963 when he was 18. A year later (around May 1964), he teamed up with popular Melbourne rock'n'roll band The Blue Jays who had been together since 1959.
The original Blue Jays line-up comprised Frankie Brent (vocals, rhythm guitar), Chris Lawson (lead guitar), Doug Stirling (piano) and Bob Johnson (drums). The band's first single, `Maori's Farewell'/`Everybody Loves Saturday Night', came out on the Crest label in October 1961. The Blue Jays issued the album Arthur Murray's Twist Party on Crest in 1962. By that stage, the line-up comprised Brent, Johnson, Laurie Allen (vocals, guitar, piano; ex-Malcolm Arthur and the Knights), Johnny Cosgrove (vocals, lead guitar), Alan Easterbrook (vocals, sax) and Ray Houston (bass). Laurie Allen and the Blue Jays issued the single `Wolfman'/`Kept a Broken Heart in Broken Hill' in January 1962. In 1963, the line-up became Allen, Johnson, Easterbrook, Mal Clarke (rhythm guitar), Dennis Tucker (bass) and Doug Flower (lead guitar). Allen left in 1963 and eventually joined up with Bobby Bright as Bobby and Laurie. By early 1964, the line-up was Johnson, Clarke, Ray Eames (lead guitar), Paul Shannon (sax) and Royce Nicholls (bass).
After promoter Ivan Dayman matched Worsley with the already established Blue Jays, the union proceeded to score a series of hit singles. The band's first release on Dayman's Sunshine label, however, was the instrumental `Jaywalker'/`Pathfinder' (sans Worsley and credited to The Fabulous Blue Jays, October 1964). A month later, Tony Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays issued the single `I Sure Know a Lot About Love'/`Me You Gotta Teach' on Sunshine. The single peaked at #25 in Brisbane, which provided the band with a stepping stone on to the local scene. The Fabulous Blue Jays issued their second single without Worsley, `Motivate'/`We're Friends', in January 1965. That same month, Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays supported UK visitors The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Honeycombs and Tony Sheveton on The Big Show package tour. Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays' second single, `Just a Little Bit'/`If I', reached #23 in Sydney during March. The Fabulous Blue Jays' third single, `Zoom Gonk'/`Hey! Jack', also came out in March.
Sunshine issued the band's self-titled debut album, with one side dedicated to Worsley's songs and the flip to The Fabulous Blue Jays (sans Worsley). Of the album's 16 tracks, ten had already been issued as A and B-sides of singles. Eames left the band around that time to be replaced by Jimmy Cerezo (ex-Pleazers). The Fabulous Blue Jays backed Worsley on his third single, Chuck Berry's `Talkin' About You'/`I Dream of You' (June 1965), although their name was dropped from the label credit. The Fabulous Blue Jays issued their final single, `Beat Out Dat Rhythm'/`I'll Make You Cry', at the same time. Dayman began pushing Worsley as a solo artist, so his next three singles on Sunshine appeared credited to Tony Worsley.
They were `Velvet Waters'/`Rock-a-Billy' (September 1965), `Missing You'/`Lonely City' (January 1966) and `Something's Got a Hold on Me'/`Something' (March). Although the bulk of Worsley's material was rocky and uptempo, the ballad `Velvet Waters' provided him with the biggest hit of his career. It reached #5 in Sydney and #14 in Melbourne during October. A second ballad, `Missing You', failed to replicate that success (#28 in Sydney). Sunshine issued Worsley's second album, Velvet Waters and Other Great Songs, in late 1965. `Something's Got a Hold on Me' returned Worsley to more upbeat material, but it too failed to chart. Not long after the single's release, Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays parted company. The last Worsley record to feature The Fabulous Blue Jays on a couple of tracks was the album My Time of Day (November 1966).
Worsley formed a new, short-lived version of The Fabulous Blue Jays with Phil Manning (lead guitar), Brian Patterson (rhythm guitar), Brian Saunders (bass) and Jimmy Thompson (drums). By 1967, Manning had joined The Laurie Allen Revue, before going on to work with celebrated blues band Chain. Worsley's last three singles for Sunshine, `Raining in My Heart'/`Knocking on Wood' (May 1966), `No Worries'/`Humpty Dumpty' (January 1967) and `Reaching Out'/`Do You Mind?' (October 1967), sank without a trace, and Worsley disappeared from view. He joined a Brisbane band, Hands Down, in 1969, but virtually retired from the music industry soon after. In the early 1990s, Worsley issued three singles on the local Enrec label, `Heartache for You', `High on Love' and `Hey Hey Little Girl'.
During their time with Sunshine, Worsley and the Blue Jays issued eight EPs: `Pathfinder' and `Jaywalk' (The Fabulous Blue Jays), `I Sure Know a Lot About Love' (Tony Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays), `Motivate' (The Fabulous Blue Jays), `If I' (Tony Worsley and the Fabulous Blue Jays), `Velvet Waters' (Tony Worsley), `Missing You' (Tony Worsley), `Something's Got a Hold on Me' (Tony Worsley) and `Raining in My Heart' (Tony Worsley). Of The Fabulous Blue Jays members, Bob Johnson and Paul Shannon formed Grandma's Tonic with erstwhile Blue Jays member Ray Houston (bass) plus Dennis Whitehead (guitar). Grandma's Tonic backed solo singer Peter Doyle for a time, and also issued two singles on the Astor label, The Troggs' `Hi Hi Hazel'/`Johnny the Hammer' (October 1966) and the punkish `Lost Girl'/`I Know' (April 1967).
Royce Nicholls formed a folk-blues duo with English-born, Brisbane-bred singer Toni McCann. The Fabulous Blue Jays had already backed the teenage McCann on her astonishing debut single for Sunshine `No'/`My Baby' (July 1965). McCann issued a second single, `Saturday Date'/`If You Don't Come Back', which came out on the Everybody's label in December 1965. Both singles are among the wildest garage/R&B releases of the era (indeed, in the words of the late Dean Mittelhauser, `Australia had never heard a girl singer quite like Toni McCann before!'). There is some conjecture as to whether it was The Fabulous Blue Jays, or Steve & the Board that backed McCann on `Saturday Date'. Either way, it was McCann's riotous vocal delivery (in that boisterous Wanda Jackson vein), and the rough-hewn sound quality on offer, that precluded any notion of chart success for the singles.
McCann recorded a third solo single, `Buy Some Love'/`Look on', which was due out on CBS in December 1966, but never seems to have appeared. Toni and Royce issued two singles on CBS, `On The Road'/`Happiness is Just a State of Mind' (May 1967) and `The Streets are Not Deserted Now' /`Even I Can Hear the Grass Grow' (February 1968), before disappearing from view. Mal Clarke went on to work with Ray Brown and Moonstone, the Ray Burton Band, Chariot and Bullamakanka.