The Thunderbirds - Wild Weekend/Betty McQuade - Midnight Bus/Johnny Chester - Teeny/The Chessmen - Wild Little Willy/The Phantoms - I Want You/Merv Benton - Yield Not/Colin Cook - Heebie Jeebies/Terry Dean - It's You/Billy Adams - Slow Down Sandy/Peter Doyle - Plastic Dreams/The Cherokees - Minnie The Moocher/The Henchmen - Rockin' Robin/The Rondells - Talkin' 'Bout You/Johnny Broome - Dos And Donts/The Kravats - It Must Be Jelly/MPD Ltd. - Little Boy Sad/The Loved Ones - Everlovin' Man/18th Century Quartet - Rachel/Somebody's Image - Hush/The Town Criers - Everlasting Love
The album is called Australian Rock Heritage Volume 1. It covers a range of artists and was released in 1981 on the Astor label with the code ALPS 1063. It has ten tracks per side and covers the period 1961 through to 1968. This is the period that I believe was when the Australian music scene, recorded and live, was really born and this album provides the listener with a taste of the known and the relative unknown artists. .
Australian Rock Heritage Volume 1 has some might fine artists from the various genres and periods between 1961 and 1968. We can identify seven artists on
Side 1 - as being artists who either cut their teeth either in the 1950's or were strongly influenced by the 1950's American rock scene. While on side 2 we find some of the most popular groups of the 60's such as the the Rondells (who were great in their own right as well as for backing Bobby & Laurie) Cherokees, MPD Ltd, The Loved One's, Somebody's Image & The Town Criers, along with a group that gave rise to fantastic bands in the future - the 18th Century Quartet. To top it off there's a sprinkling of groups that rose and fell, leaving a varying degree of impact on the scene despite their short lived existence. What is interesting is that almost all the artists, as previously mentioned, on side 1 represent artists who either came up through the 1950's or their music was based very much on the 1950's rock style. There are two obvious exceptions, the first being Billy Adams who emerged from the Go Show in 1965. Mind you the track by Adams was the same track somewhat popularised by Eddie Quinteros (Eddie who? - yes, a one "hit" wonder himself), anyway although Eddie recorded it in 1960 it was 1950's music all the way. The other exception which stands out far more clearly is Peter Doyle, who admittedly started singing in 1958 at the age of 9, and who became a regular at Melbourne's Festival Hall at the ripe old age of 14! But Doyle, despite claims he was a "Rocker", really had more in his arsenal than straight rock. His two biggest hits in Melbourne were a Solomon Burke song - Stupidity, and Small Faces song - Watcha Gonna Do About It.
So, we move to track 1 on side 1 - The Thunderbirds and Wild Weekend. Let's not muck around, not only were the Thunderbirds immensely popular they were the champion instrumental band, certainly in Melbourne and I'd argue, at that time, in Australia. Forming in 1957, Drummer Harold Frith formed the first line-up of The Thunderbirds in September of that year but it was short lived. Early 1958, Frith and Bell re-formed The Thunderbirds with Murray Robertson (piano) and Peter Robinson (bass). Colin Cook (ex-Sapphires) then joined on sax. Graham Lyall (sax, flute; ex-Sapphires) joined towards the end of 1958. By that stage, The Thunderbirds had also had Murray Robertson on piano & incorporated three featured vocalists into the line-up, Billy Owen, Billy O'Rourke and Judy Cannon. Then in 1960 they disbanded once again.They reformed in 1961 to undertake some work for dance promoter Kevin McLellan. Firth and Robertson recruited top sax player Henry Bource, Charlie Gould on guitar and Gordon Onley on Bass. The track Wild Weekend was suggested by legendary DJ Stan Rofe, and was recorded on the W&G label, soaring into the Top 20. It is a great rocking' track to remind us of the power of the Thunderbirds.
Track 2 is Midnight Bus by Betty McQuade (1941-2011) she originally emigrated to Brisbane from Scotland, but worked in Melbourne from 1960 as vocalist forThe Thunderbirds, and later appeared on the Go!! TV show in the mid-60s. Did not chart in Brisbane and Perth until 1965 on the Go!! label, four years afterthe initial release on Astor. Also recharted in Melbourne in 1965, peaking at #39. In the informed opinion of Kees van der Hoeven, John D. Loudermilkaficionado and discographer, Betty McQuade recorded the definitive killer version... a rock & roll classic.
Johnny Chester with The Beatles in 1964 at Festival Hall, Brisbane.
Johnny Chester has track 3 "Teeny" was born 26 December 1941, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Chester learnt the drums and the guitar before deciding to be asinger, organizing his own dances, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in 1959. He soon formed a band, the Chessmen, to back him at these dances. He was noticedby a popular disc jockey who introduced him to the A&R manager of Melbourne’s W&G records. The label recorded him with the backing of the rock ‘n’ roll combo the Thunderbirds and a series of 10 hit singles followed, establishing him as a teen idol, in Melbourne. By 1964 he had achieved the aim of all the otherlocal acts by supporting the Beatles’ tour of that year. In 1965 he moved into radio and television work, and during the late 60s began recording countrysongs, in the style of Conway Twitty and Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock. His recording career extended into the 80s and he was voted top country male vocalist from1981-83.
Track 4 "Little Willie" it is often said that behind every great man is a great woman - well behind every great singer there is a great band, and theChessmen sure were great. Johnny Chester in fact put the Chessmen together in 1961 as his backing group and they fast became regulars at Preston Town Hall.
They emerged as one of the most proficient Australian rock outfits of all time. Like all good bands, the lineup had its changes but when this track, WildLittle Willie was recorded in 1964, the lineup included Les Stacpool, Albert Stacpool, Frank McMahon and Mike Lynch. The track was originally recorded by Ronnie Hawking in 1959. With Les Stacpool on guitar, the group influenced many other local groups and Stacpool went on to become a genuine Australian guitarhero, and went on to be in such groups as Levi Smith Clefs, Rockwell T James and the Rhythm Aces, Doug Parkinson In Focus, Genesis and the list goes on.
The Phantoms have track 5 on the album "I Want You" the began their career in early 1960. The band consisted of Dave Lincoln (Lead Guitar) Gene Taylor(Rhythm Guitar) Pete Wason (Bass Guitar) and Alan "Ollie" Fenton (Drums). Under the management off Bruce Stewart (who saw the playing at The Malvern TownHall approached them after the show and asked if he could manage them) the band began to increase their popularity around the Melbourne scene. They backedall the major solo artists on the various weekly shows at The Malvern Town Hall, Preston Town Hall, Springvale Town Hall, The Mechanics Town Hall Frankston,Cogurg Town Hall and other one off events like the Royal Melbourne Show, Moomba and the 3DB Lunchtime Concert at the Melbourne Town Hall. These Concerts Gave The Phantoms the chance to really excell and improve their skills and back the superstars of the day like Johnny O'Keefe, Johnny Chester and many others.
Track 6 "Yield Not To Temptation" by Merv Benton, whose "Church" style rock track was a fantastic cover of Bobby Bland's original version. I guess its not unfair to say Merv was more popular with the mums and dads than the teen audiences though. The Merv Benton story is a fascinating chapter of the Beat Boom in Australia. From his base on the Melbourne dance circuit, Merv gained national attention and quickly became one of the most popular male singers in the country. In early 1964 he signed with Melbourne's W&G Records and became one of their most prolific artists, releasing seventeen singles, six EPs, and three LPs between 1964 and 1967, and scoring an impressive run of fifteen Top 40 singles in his hometown (several of which also charted in other cities). But in 1967, at the height of his popularity, Merv was struck down by throat problems that ended his singing career.
Track 8 was Terry Dean's debut single from July 1965 - reached #24 - and the start of a long career both on his own and in groups The Premiers The Mixtures and Blunstone being Three. Terry enjoyed an extremely successful solo career recording a number of hit records, performing regularly in Melbourne and interstate and appearing nationally on TV shows including The Go Show, and Happening 70.
Billy Adams "Slow Down Sandy" brings us to track 9 Billy whose real name was William Tregonning started his pop career as lead singer of Melbourne rock'n'roll band The Checkmates from 1961-63. He became popular on the local dance and disco scene in the mid-60s, and this led to regular appearances on The Go!! Show and a recording contract with the Go!! label. Billy was perhaps not the greatest singer, but he was a competent and personable performer. His trademark was his outlandish bouffant hairdo which, according to Noel McGrath, he was eventually obliged to trim back after hundreds of letters of complaint from Go!! Show viewers. Billy's only hit was a cover of Eddy Quinteros' 1960 hit "Slow Down Sandy". His four subsequent Singles failed to chart and he eventually left the music scene and took a job in promotions with a major Melbourne department store.
Track 10 Peter Doyle "Plastic Dreams And Toy Balloons" Peter John Doyle (28 July 1949 – 13 October 2001) was an Australian pop singer who had success with a number of Top 40 hits in Australia in the 1960s, then success internationally as a member of the New Seekers in the early 1970s, before resuming a solo career in 1973. He started his career at the age of 9 appearing on a children's television talent show called Swallow's Juniors and appeared as a regular on that show for the next five years. He was performing in Sunday afternoon pop shows at Melbourne's Festival Hall at the age of 14 and at 16 he was signed to a record contract with Ivan Dayman's Sunshine label (whose roster included top singers such as Normie Rowe and Tony Worsley). This led to regular appearances on Melbourne's teen TV show, "The GO Show".
Track 13 "Talkin' 'Bout You" by The Rondells they were one of the tightest and best rock outfits around. In fact to call them a "rock" band can really only be appropriate when we use the term "rock" in its broadest sense. Sure they backed one of Australia's most successful duo's - Bobby and Laurie, but this
group rightly deserves it's own place on this album. The lineup variously consisted of Wayne Duncan on bass, Gary Young on drums (a combination that would appear together again in the future), Dennis Collins (certainly the original drummer) and Denis Tucker (original bass), Roger Treble on lead guitar and Barry Sullivan on rhythm guitar, Barry Rogers and Bernie O'Brien (lead guitar), but the personnel changes happened in a such ad hoc fashion and it is hard to get an accurate list of who came and went in what order. Certainly having O'Brien with them gave the group a genuine guitar hero, as O'Brien played with both a passion and flare that left other groups (my own included at the time) in awe. Having recorded two singles and an EP they scored a hit, their only solo hit, with a good rendition of Chuck Berry's Talkin' Bout You which moved up to a respectable number 31 in Melbourne.
Track 16 MPD Ltd. - "Little Boy Sad" a massive hit and a couple of more minor follow-up tracks. Mike Brady Pete Watson and Danny Finlay released 1965 #5 Sydney #1 Melbourne #1 Brisbane #8 Adelaide #1 Perth a Single on Go!! label.Double-sided hit in Melbourne with the B-side, Wendy Don't Go. Melbourne beat trio driven by a heavy rhythm section, formed in 1965. The 'M', the 'P' and the 'D' were for Mike Brady, Pete Watson and Danny Finley. Mike and Pete had met in Shadows-style band The Phantoms, and Danny had been drummer with another instrumental band The SaxonsA short but sensational time in the spotlight ... a dynamic, gymnastic stage routine ... a spearhead act for the legendary Go!! label ... some incendiary singles ... such are the hallmarks by which we fondly remember the great beat trio that was MPD Ltd.
Track 18 18th Century Quartet - "Rachel" another short-lived but brilliant outfit. The track is Rachel, an original Hans Poulson song, and ironically it would be that originality that proved the groups downfall. There are two distinct versions of the 18th Century Quartet [often referred to as the 18CQ]. The first was very much a folky outfit put together by Poulson in 1964, which dissolved in 1965. The resulting second version had a more "hard" edge to it and consisting of: Hans Poulsen (vocals, guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, balalaika, banjo, bongos) early 1966 Keith Glass (guitar, vocals) John Pugh (violin, utoharp, guitar) Frank Lyons (bass) Dennis "Fred" Forster (drums) Bob Lloyd (drums) Randall Wilson (drums) Julius Colman (violin) early 1967. Somehow the hippy "unhip" Poulson just wasn't right, and he was convinced to become the groups songwriter and so played on the recordings but not in live gigs. They
did come second in the Victorian heat of the National Battle of The Sounds with the Poulson composition Rachel. The 18th CQ had 45 original songs and a belief that they should not play covers but despite the brilliance of the musicianship and the quality of some of the material, they simply were not pulling the gigs and far too many weekends were spent at home and not playing. Mind you, they did have one other "big" moment, they were the first electric group to play before an audience (of 100,000) at the Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne. After they folded Glass, Pugh & Lloyd went on to form the genesis of another short lived but brilliant Melbourne based group - Campact!
Track 20 The Town Criers - "Everlasting Love" Australia 1968 charted #16 Sydney #2 Melbourne #33 Adelaide The Town Criers were a Melbourne pop band, formed 1964, who had five charting hits in Melbourne from 1968 to 1970, notably Love Me Again (#12 1969). Popular Melbourne band The Town Criers formed around 1965. Their first single, a cover of The Kinks' "The World Keeps Going Round", was released on the Melbourne independent label Trend but didn't make any impression on the local charts. The B-side, a great 'garage-punk' number called "Big Deal".
The Criers gigged consistently around Melbourne over the next two years, and in late 1967 they were signed to the Astor label by A&R manager Ron Tudor. Their second single, released in February 1968 and nominally produced by Geoffrey Edelsten, was a strong version of "Everlasting Love", the much-covered hit originally recorded by American singer Robert Knight in 1967 and also released in 1968 in the UK by The Love Affair. The song was penned by pop songwriters Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden, who also wrote "Hayride" and "La La" (both hits for The Flying Circus) and "Groupie" (covered by The New Dream). It was an immediate success and became a big hit in Melbourne, reaching #2 and also charted in Sydney (#16) and Adelaide (#33) in April-May 1968, and this success proplelled it into the Go-Set Top 20 it peaked at #18. Their second Astor single, "Unexpectedly" / "It's Hurting Badly" was released in September, but failed to chart. Astor also compiled the two Town Criers singles for an EP, Everlasting Love, released during 1968.
Now a four-piece, The Town Criers signed with Festival and released three more singles over the next year, "Any Old Time" / "Rene" (March 1969), "Love Me Again" / "Hey Girl" (Oct. 1969) and "Living In A World Of Love" / "Roundabout" (May 1970), which just missed out on the Top 40. The next single "Love Me Again" (Oct. 1969) managed to get into the lower end of the Melbourne Top 40 (#35). In October 1970 the group moved to EMI's HMV label, for whom they recorded their last two singles. "Laughing Man" / "Living In A Dream World" was issued in May 1971 and "Love, Love, Love" / "Chorus Girl" came out in November, but neither release made any impression on the charts and the group had split up by the end of 1971.