06 July 2014

Maybe not Richard Tauber, but I can do you a decent P. J. Proby.

Over at his blog Bobwords my friend Bob writes about the joys of joining a choir. There is a shortage of men signing up, he says, and tenors are hard to come by.

Years ago I decided to join the choir at Toowoomba Philharmonic (or it might’ve been the Choral Society). I turned up on the night they were starting to rehearse an oratorio of Handel. It was Solomon or Samson or Saul, one of those cats with the initial “S”.

At the door the book monitor said, “What are you?” This was open to interpretation, but all I could think of was Bob Hudson's Newcastle SongThis nine foot tall Hell's Angel came out of the Parthenon milk bar, looked at Norm and said Arr, what are ya?

When I looked baffled, he said, “Tenor, baritone, bass…?”

I’d always fancied myself as a tenor in the mould of Richard Tauber: I could sing along with his records, no worries. I could also do a fair impression of P.J. Proby, who is probably a baritone, but I didn't mention that. On this occasion it seemed more fitting to go for Richard Tauber.

Affecting confidence so I wouldn’t look silly, I said, “Oh, right! I’m a tenor.”

He gave me a little hardcover book, the score, and pointed me to four or five blokes sitting together: the tenors.

When we started singing, I had never heard such highly pitched adult male voices, except in recordings of countertenors or Alvin & The Chipmunks, and they weren't using falsetto. I was able to follow the score, and join in up to a point, but beyond that point I had no hope. It hurt me physically, in my head, to get anywhere close to those notes. This was nothing like Richard Tauber’s range, at least as I knew it from his hit recordings.

Someone I told about this recently suggested that, back in the day, this part might have been intended for countertenors. Forgive me, I'm not really up for researching The Voice in Baroque Choral Music in depth, so I can't expand on that. In the following days, though, when telling people about my experience, I did slip ungraciously into using the word “eunuchs”. Pejoratively. Sorry. It was my disappointment talking.

I couldn't see myself going back and confessing that I didn’t know what I was after all.

Before the next rehearsal, I took the score and skulked down our street to the house of another choir member. I was glad to find that he was out, so I was able to ask his wife pass it on so he could take the score back to the book monitor, and that was that.

The Wikipedia article on the Tenor seems to be well put together, and it doesn't carry any warnings about Wiki-non-compliance, so I'll risk using it as my source. It agrees with Bob: one nearly ubiquitous facet of choral singing is the shortage of tenor voices, and some men are asked to sing tenor even if they lack the full range.

It also reveals that my embarrassment was based partly on a lack of research. Seven varieties of the tenor voice are listed and described (Tauber is there under Lyric tenor).

I'm reassured by this: in some styles of music, tenor parts may be taken by light baritones singing in falsetto. I reckon P.J. Proby and I could both handle that.

09 November 2013

Only in Oz (16): Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda

Another in my series of posts about tracks that were more popular in Australia than in their countries of origin.

16. Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda
(Duke Baxter) Produced & arranged by Tony Harris
USA 1969 

VMC single (USA) #740.
VMC single (Canada) #740.
Festival single (Australia) #FK-3201

Australian charts: #17 Melbourne (Ryan), #13 Melbourne (Guest), #27 Brisbane, #14 Perth, #35 Go-set magazine

Duke Baxter has been something of a mystery man, but (in collaboration with  Erik Bluhm at West Coast Fog) I've established that he is James Blake, a Canadian also known as Dudley F. Baxter.

BMI's Repertoire Search will lead you to a list of 69 Duke Baxter compositions. An identical list is also found under Dudley F. Baxter, Dudley Ford Baxter, and James Blake.

More recently, James has posted  to YouTube some of his Duke Baxter songs that were recorded for an unreleased album. Using the YouTube alias Jim Shaman, he writes:
Maybe some people want to know what happened to Duke Baxter. Did he just vanish or did he keep writing songs? I am that guy after a few incarnations or iterations.

In the US, Everybody Knows Matilda [YouTube] made it to #52 on Billboard, and it was on the Cash Box chart for seven weeks, peaking at #69. In Canada it spent three weeks on the RPM100 chart, peaking at #58.

Matilda appears on some US radio station charts at ARSA. This really tells us only that it was on the playlists of at least twelve North America stations; and that out of that random sample KJRB Spokane WA (#18) and KFRC San Francisco CA (#19) rated it most highly.

So let's say that Matilda probably did better on pop stations in Melbourne and Perth than in Spokane and SF, and better than on Billboard and Cash Box. Not quite Only in Oz, but going by online comments about the song it's fondly remembered by Australians, a bit of a lost oldie down here. I hate to repeat rumour and hearsay, but one YouTube poster suggests that many American listeners believe the record is Australian (it isn't): perhaps they associate "Matilda" with Australia and, who knows, the name might have struck a chord with listeners down here.

There was an Everybody Knows Matilda album that yielded three singles including the title track.

Duke Baxter appears at West Coast Fog as a paragraph in a long and detailed story about Tony Harris, the producer & arranger of Everybody Knows Matilda. I urge you to read the whole story, which is embellished with numerous label shots and printed ephemera. Harris was active as producer, writer, arranger and performer from 1963 till 1969. His name appears as a credit on Princess, Triumph, Dee Gee and VMC labels. West Coast Fog also goes into some film music written by Harris, partly in association with his father, producer Jack H. Harris.

After the VMC album and singles, there is a further Duke Baxter single on Mercury from 1970, Absolute Zero/Wings Of Love, then in 1977 an album on AVG , My Ship Is Coming In.

West Coast Fog also discusses Baxter's work on singles by The Rob Roys (1966) and Revelation (1968 and n.d.).

The Rob Roys' single on Accent #AC 1312 was Do You Girl? / Yes I Do. This label shot of the A-side at YouTube credits Baxter with writing, arranging and A&R.

There were two late-60s singles by Revelation with the participation of Duke Baxter (and, in one case, of Mike Post!):
1. Revelation - Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch)/Wait And See (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch) Single on Music Factory #412, Prod. Mike Post, Arr. Mike Post, Kerry Hatch
2. Revelation, featuring Duke Baxter and Kerry Hatch - Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (Duke Baxter)/Dorplegank (Duke Baxter) Single on Combine #45-12 Arr. Duke Baxter

It seems likely (as West Coast Fog suggests) that Kerry Hatch, Baxter's collaborator on the Music factory single, is the future Oingo Boingo bassist.

There are a few Duke Baxter clips at YouTube, most of them for Matilda (no live action, though). The clip here (and embedded below) has a shot of the Matilda album sleeve. Searching eBay can throw up a range of Baxter's singles and albums; even if you don't buy it's a good source of label or sleeve shots. 45cat.com has some Duke Baxter label shots and other data; it also lists the Rob Roy single, and both Revelation singles, with a label shot of Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (embedded here).

Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Tom Guest's Melbourne chart book [Tom's email].

Duke Baxter discography


Everybody Knows Matilda (1969) VMC Records #VS 138
Side 1
Everybody Knows Matilda
I Ain't No Schoolboy
Crosstown Woman
Mississippi Gentry
Pretty Heavy
Side 2:
Static Interference
Superstition Bend
53rd Card In The Deck
No Tell Motel
Don't Hurt Us
John Q. Citizen

My Ship Is Coming In (1977) AVI Records #AVL6024
Side 1:
California Rose
Sweet Sincerity*
Don't Forget How To Dream
My Ship Is Coming In
Dandy Sandy
Baby Let Me Walk Next To You
Side 2:
Dizzy Lizzy
One More Heart Beat Down The Line
Alice May*
Some Day Soon
Thank You

Everybody Knows Matilda / I Ain’t No School Boy (1969) VMC #740
Superstition Bend / Crosstown Woman VMC (1969) VMC #749
John Q. Citizen / Don’t Hurt Us VMC (1969) #V750
Absolute Zero / Wings Of Love (1970) MERCURY #73107

3. SINGLE BY THE ROB ROYS (Duke Baxter writing, arranging, A&R)
Do You Girl? / Yes I Do* (1966) Accent #AC 1213

4. SINGLES BY REVELATION (Duke Baxter writing, co-writing, arranging or performing)
Cotton Candy Weekend*  / Wait And See* (1968) Music Factory #412,
Kiss Your Mind Goodbye / Dorplegank (n.d.) Combine #45-12

All compositions by Duke Baxter except *
Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Wait And See (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Sweet Sincerity, Alice May, and Yes I Do are not listed in Duke Baxter's repertoire at BMI but could well be his.

07 April 2013

Only in Oz (15) Al Wilson - Do What You Gotta Do

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.

15. Al Wilson - Do What You Gotta Do
(Jim Webb)
USA 1968 

Soul City single (USA) #761.
Liberty single (Australia) #LYK-2111

Liberty single  (UK) #LBF 15044
Australian charts: #12 Melbourne (Ryan), #23 Melbourne (Guest).

Do What You Gotta Do has been recorded by many, but Al Wilson's version was the one I heard on Melbourne radio in 1968, and it remains the definitive version for me.

I probably heard it on 3XY which had recently switched to a pop format. If 3XY was pushing it, that might explain why it doesn't rate so highly on the chart collated by Tom Guest, whose data is purposely weighted in favour of the highest rating Melbourne station at that time, 3UZ.

Among Al Wilson's songs, Do What You Gotta Do hasn't always been easy to find. His four Billboard Top 40 hits appear often on compilations, especially The Snake (1968, #27 USA) and Show And Tell (1973, #1 USA) , the songs he is perhaps best remembered for.

Once again, a song that sounds to me as if it should have been a big worldwide hit, but even in Australia, Melbourne was apparently the only city where it made an impact. A beautiful Jim Webb composition, produced by Johnny Rivers, it has everything: smooth, wistful soul vocals by Wilson - strong but gentle, sad but collected - and a flawless arrangement, with strings and horns by Marty Paich.

It was first recorded by Johnny Rivers himself, on his album Rewind (1967), and other musicians clearly appreciated the composition. Larry's Rebels had a #6 hit version in New Zealand in 1968, and at my page about the song I also list 1968 versions by Nina SimoneBobby VeeClarence CarterPaul Anka, and Ronnie Milsap, as well as later versions by B.J. Thomas (1970), Roberta Flack (1970), Tom Jones (1971) and Linda Ronstadt (1993). A version by The Four Tops charted #11 in the UK in 1969.

Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Melbourne chart book, and Tom Guest's Thirty Years of Hits 1960-1990: Melbourne Top 40 Research

18 February 2011

New site about Toowoomba's Chapter III and Peter Wright

Toowoomba researcher and broadcaster Jeff Black has written the definitive account of Chapter III and Peter Wright, notable 60s artists who came from Toowoomba.

Their stories are long and fascinating, partly because they take us beyond Toowoomba, a regional city in Queensland, Australia. (I have lived there on and off since 1975.)

Peter Wright's 1967 single House of Bamboo, his own composition recorded for Festival in Sydney, is a cult classic, a 60s artefact that has persisted beyond the short burst of recognition upon its original release. Peter's career intersects with that of Chapter III, not least because his brother Kerry was a key member.

Chapter III's history takes an unexpected turn when we read that they worked in New Zealand, including a stint as regulars on TV's Clickety Click 66. At this stage they were still known as The Defenders, but they recorded in New Zealand as Hubb Kapp and The Wheels. (See Bruce Sergeants' page on the Wheels from a New Zealand perspective.)

Australians and New Zealanders are accustomed to stories about New Zealand artists decamping to Australia, in many cases to become big stars: think Dinah Lee, Max Merritt, The La De Das, Split Enz... But here was an Aussie act that reversed that trend. Intriguing, huh?

Read the full stories at Jeff's site.

20 September 2010

5KA Adelaide: 1968 airchecks

Below are five audio clips from 5KA in 1968. They give you a good idea of how Australian commercial Top 40 radio sounded at the time.

5KA was an AM station in Adelaide (population then around 800,000), the capital city of South Australia. It eventually went to FM as KAFM, now Triple M Adelaide.

The mp3s were available for a while at the now defunct 5KA Reunion site (2001), along with dozens of other 5KA sound files from the 1950s to the 1990s.1

An archived version of 5KA Reunion can be seen at Pandora, the Australian web archive. If you go here you will be redirected to the exact page. Fortunately, the audio files are still accessible: it's a treasure trove!

It's a shame that we have no thriving aircheck2 sites in Australia. For the US there are many such sites, notably ReelRadio's Top 40 Depository where you can listen to hundreds of historic audio clips from all over the country (paid sub required). For the UK, for example, the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame has numerous airchecks from the pirate stations (including the voices of a surprising number of Australian deejays).

My tattered copy of the Australian Radio Almanac (c.1968), lists only Stuart Jay under 5KA. (The 5DN entry has details of eight announcers: maybe they paid up.) Mike Fewster, heard below on Breakfast at 5KA, is listed under 5KA's country affiliate 5RM in Renmark.

The 5KA Reunion site also had a page packed with jingles, including some from the 1960s created in the US by the PAMS organisation. Listeners to other stations around the world might recognise them, with the callsign of their local station substituted. I have posted one example from 5KA.

5KA 1968 - Mike Fewster [Breakfast].mp3
5KA 1968 - Jim Slade [Drive].mp3
5KA 1968 - Ian Sells [Night].mp3
5KA 1968 - Stuart Jay [Late Night].mp3
5KA 1968 - Lawrie Bruce [Midnight-Dawn].mp3

5KA jingle 1960s.mp3


1. At this YouTube page, Jim Slade recalls that the 1968 set of 5KA airchecks was prepared as a showcase for prospective advertisers. This explains the announcer who introduces each clip, but apart from that they do seem to be genuine recordings of on-air programs.

2. Aircheck: a recording of a radio broadcast (as opposed to a recording made for a broadcast). It can be, for example, a showcase for a professional broadcaster, or an unofficial recording made by a listener. Many CDs of artists of the past are taken from airchecks of live broadcasts. See, for example, the Wikipedia entry.

17 September 2010

"The Music Goes Round my Head"

Melbourne researcher, writer and musician David Johnston has just just published his book The Music Goes Round My Head, a history and commentary about Australian pop music 1964-1969.

Those dates pretty much coincide with my teenage years, so I guess I'm part of the core target audience, those who will easily spot the Easybeats reference in the title. David is also a friend of my site, PopArchives.com.au, and he has given me some nice leads from time to time.

(It was David who finally solved the mystery of The Bowery Boys' original song Just A Poor Boy, long misattributed to Graham Gouldman. I speculated about its writer credits for years; David just went ahead and contacted Kevin Godley, who checked with Gouldman. No more mystery: the story is here.)

Accustomed to having my research - even my words - circulated online without credit, I am full of admiration for David's scholarly approach. His work is properly footnoted, he sources his quotes, and he has cited me and my site in several places, something I find refreshing in this era of cut-and-paste.

So, having declared my slight connection with the author, I can go ahead and recommend this work, which covers just about every artist, famous or obscure, that you'll want to look up in the comprehensive index. (Blimey, even Horsham's Sonamatics get a guernsey!)

It's not all dry facts, as David has managed to get eyewitness accounts from many participants themselves. Quoting Garry Spry, David calls these first-hand sources "the horse's mouth", by contrast with the "the horse's arse". (I am mentioned amongst the latter, but I am in some distinguished company!)

David's commentary is also enriched by his own knowledge of music, a pay-off from his years as a musician. As a non-musician, I often struggle to find the right words to conjure up a song, but he doesn't seem to have this problem. We have both written about The Black Diamonds' See The Way
, for example, but David's insights go beyond those of a mere fan like myself.

David has published The Music Goes Round My Head independently, in a limited edition of 1000, with half the proceeds going to Support Act, the charitable foundation for Australian musicians.

I hope, though, that it will eventually attract mainstream distribution, as it will become an indispensable source for this era in Australian pop music. If that happens, no redesign will be needed, as this is a professionally presented work, generously illustrated on every page.

In the meantime, you can order through RoundMyHead.com, 394 pages, $40:00 + handling. Highly recommended, obviously.

Listen to Red Symons and David Johnston chatting about "The Music Goes Round My Head" on 774 ABC Melbourne this week: link.

15 June 2010

Barbara Lynn - It's Better To Have It

This live performance of Barbara Lynn's 1964 single It's Better To Have It is from only a couple of years later, in February 1966, but it shows.

Barbara Lynn's vocal styling and the instrumental groove are pretty much as they were in '64, but the live version has added a soulful brass section in place of the poppier backing vocals of the single. The fresh influence of the Stax-Volt sound, by this time familiar on records by the likes of Otis Redding, is evident in this fine performance.

I don't know whether Barbara Lynn recorded the song again in this style, but she should have, because it fits the song like a glove, and a stylish glove at that.

Enjoy this clip while you can: last time around it was removed from YouTube, where it was coupled with a very cool version of Ray Charles's What'd I Say from the same TV soul show, THE!!!! BEAT, hosted by Nashville disc jockey Bill "Hoss" Allen (aka "Hossman"). See my earlier post.

Further reading:
THE!!!! BEAT appearances listed at The Video Beat! (Vols. 1 & 2: links to further volumes).
THE!!!! BEAT at Wikipedia.
Bill "Hoss" Allen at Wikipedia.
Mick Patrick's definitive account of Barbara Lynn at Cha Cha Charming.
Red Kelly's post on Barbara Lynn at The B Side.

11 September 2009

The Town & Country Brothers: the definitive account

After my recent post about The Town & Country Brothers and Sandy, Sandy, their 1963 Only In Oz hit, I heard from Ted Daryll, a member of the group and the writer of Sandy, Sandy.

Ted sent me his definitive account of the group. Not only does it retell the full recording adventures of Ted with Chip Taylor and Greg Richards, but it opens a fascinating window into a music business that no longer exists in quite the same form.

Rather than summarising it, I am giving you the whole document, a PopArchives exclusive, with Ted's approval.

Read the full story by clicking here (pdf).

The Town & Country Brothers: Ted (left) - Chip (right). 1962 photo taken at Adelphi Recording, 1650 Broadway, NYC (Image: Ted Daryll)

17 July 2009

Only in Oz (14) The Town & Country Brothers - Sandy, Sandy

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.

14. The Town & Country Brothers - Sandy, Sandy
(Ted Daryll)
USA 1963
Tahoe single (USA) #
2534 ("Distributed by London Records, Inc.")
London single (Australia) #HL-2123
Later anthologised on GAB (Sony) CD Hard To Get Hits Vol. 3, 1994
Australian charts: #7 Sydney (Gavin Ryan) or #2 Sydney (The Book) #1 Brisbane #29 Adelaide #17 Perth

I have some answers for anyone who has wondered about the identity of US group The Town And Country Brothers. They had a hit with Sandy, Sandy in 1963, but only in Australia. [listen]

Update: See my follow-up post for the exclusive, full story of The Town & Country Brothers as told by Ted Daryll, composer of Sandy, Sandy.
Let's start with Chip Taylor. Before he wrote Wild Thing, or Angel of the Morning or I Can't Let Go, that is to say, before he worked at 1650 Broadway writing songs for a long list of legends including Dusty Springfield, Baby Washington, and Evie Sands, and before he released his own singles including the original of Cliff Richard's On My Word...
Before that, back in the late 1950s, Chip Taylor and two friends formed a rockabilly-folkie-style trio called Wes Voight and the Town And Country Brothers.
This was also before Taylor changed his name from Wes Voight (and, of course, before his brother Jon, keeping the Voight, became a famous movie actor).
None of Chip Taylor's early singles was a hit in the US, not as Chip Taylor or Wes Voight, or with the Town & Country Brothers. In Australia, though, Sandy, Sandy did well and is remembered as a classic oldie by Aussies who were around then.
Sandy, Sandy was written by Ted Daryll (b. Teddy Meister), another member of the Town & Country Brothers.
The third member of the group was Greg Richards (b. Greg Gwardyak). Ted Daryll and Greg Richards also wrote together, notably She Cried, first recorded by Ted Daryll himself but later a hit for Jay & The Americans (1962, #5 USA).
Sandy Sandy was on Volume 3 of Glenn A. Baker's Hard To Get Hits CD series in 1994. At that stage (1994), Glenn was unable to give any background on The Town & Country Brothers, concluding that they had "eluded all pop scholars".
To read more on Chip Taylor, see Tony Wilkinson's Wes Voight-Chip Taylor page at Black Cat Rockabilly, Taylor's current label Train Wreck Records, and the entries at All Music Guide and Wikipedia.
The most detailed source, though, is the Spectropop interview with Chip Taylor by Norman Druker and Mick Patrick which starts way back, covers the obscurities as well as the hits, and brings it up to Taylor's later work in country music.
I've joined the dots between Sandy, Sandy, its writer Ted Darryl and his Town & Country Brothers bandmate Chip Taylor, but none of the above sources mentions Sandy, Sandy.
Town & Country Brothers - Sandy, Sandy.mp3

Thanks to Doug for asking about this one, and to Kees for further background.

10 June 2009

Thane Russal

Thane Russal's British version of Security (1966), a garage-style pop arrangement of the Otis Redding song, seems to have been popular nowhere except in Australia, where it was quite a hit (#7 Sydney #24 Melbourne #4 Brisbane #8 Perth). In fact, a lot of Aussie Boomers might even know it better than the original.

I left it out of my Only in Oz series, though, because it had already been given the full treatment by Glenn A. Baker in Hard To Get Hits, a CD series from the 1990s with a similar premise to Only in Oz. In fact, it was Baker, in his liner notes to Hard To Get Hits Vol. 1, who finally identified Thane Russal as Doug Gibbons.

Thane Russal's Security even inspired a 1976 dip o' the lid by Australian band Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, their first single. This gave me an excuse to write about everything I've ever been able to find out about Russal/Gibbons and his Security, over here at the website.

I can't recall seeing a photo of Russal/Gibbons until I saw this New Musical Express ad from March 1966.

Thane Russal & Three - Security.mp3

Images: New Musical Express, 4 March 1966, p.5

25 May 2009

Lee Haig

Lee Haig was an announcer at 3SH Swan Hill around 1963. He later worked on-air at 3UL Warragul where I heard him one evening: his voice had matured, and he sounded great. After that I lost track of him.

Lee (Leyden) was our next-door neighbour's younger brother, so we often saw him at the time he started at 3SH. I was about twelve or thirteen, and he was probably about seventeen or eighteen, a cheerful, friendly, energetic kind of bloke.

My friends and I sometimes called him "Uncle Lee" because if he was on in the afternoons he would do the kids' show, so he would have to sign on as Uncle Lee. We were half-smart, cheeky young lads, and he must have found us pretty annoying.

Even so...

I was a radio nut: I used to stay up late picking up remote stations (they started to come in around sunset), and I would mark their locations on a map of Australia.

One Saturday I had a big length of aerial wire that I was trying to string up in the yard outside my window, but I couldn't get much height. Lee saw I was getting nowhere, so he grabbed the end of it and climbed up a tall pine tree, right to its skinny top so that he was swaying dangerously from side to side, and he tied my aerial up there. After that, I pulled in those after-sunset stations better than ever.

Two kinds of people: those who won't rest until they've solved the Whatever Happened To...? puzzle, and those who prefer to move on and stay pretty much in the present. I'm with the first group, who can't resist Googling old friends' names, or searching for them at FriendsReunited or Facebook.

Last week I was thinking about radio in the sixties, and about my aerial up the pine tree in the side garden. I wondered what had happened to Lee Haig, and I found him at the Herald-Sun's Tributes website. He died in Melbourne last October.

I was thinking: I'll write about him here, and anyone who ever Googles "lee haig" + 3sh or 3ul will easily find this page.

09 May 2009

Bob Carmichael at 3NE Wangaratta

Earlier, I mentioned the opening of 3NE Wangaratta in 1954. Bob Carmichael, who was on air at 3NE from its earliest days, has a page of reminiscences at his website. [Now offline: here's a link to the archived version.]

And yes, there is a photo of Bob at a broadcast from a country ball: see also the radio memoirs of Frank Avis and John Pearce for anecdotes about this country radio staple.

28 April 2009

"Frank Avis's Memoirs of 42 Years in Radio"

A highlight of John Pearce's radio memoirs (see earlier post) is his remote broadcast from a country dance for 3SH Swan Hill, probably some time in the late 1940s.

I've just found another entertaining account of a country dance broadcast, this time from Frank Avis in The Ball Broadcast, recalling his time at 2LF Young in the mid-1950s. Avis, best known as a radio newsman, is publishing his memoirs as a blog at FrankAvis.com.

Frank Avis started in radio at 2MG Mudgee, and his latest post (15 February) takes his career up to 2DAY-FM Sydney in the 80s and 90s. Along the way, he's worked at 2LF Young, 3BO Bendigo, 7HO Hobart, 3UZ, 3XY, 3AK and 3DB Melbourne, 6PR Perth, 3MP Mornington Peninsula, and 2GB and 2MMM-FM Sydney.

Frank arrived at 3BO not long after the young John Laws left, and he tells a couple of good yarns about Laws's time at the station.

Great stories from a radio insider: highly recommended.

2QN Deniliquin

In the last post I mentioned 2QN Deniliquin, where John Pearce started in radio in the 1940s before moving on to 3SH Swan Hill.

When we lived in Swan Hill in the 60s, 2QN was one of the stations I could pick up clearly if I was roaming the dial looking for pop music. Another was 2WG Wagga Wagga. Like most country stations at the time, they had their moments of good Top 40 programming, presented by disc jockeys who could sound just as good as their big city counterparts. One of the 2QN announcers had an American accent, something unusual on Aussie country radio.

This Melbourne Argus story from 23 February 1945 (via the NLA's Australian Newspapers archive) shows how a financially weak 2QN nearly lost its licence to Wangaratta, a town in north-eastern Victoria. Click here for larger image.

Wangaratta didn't get its own commercial station until 3NE opened in 1954.

27 April 2009

John Pearce at 3SH Swan Hill

[The Argus, 1932]

For the Love of Mike, the memoirs of Australian radio announcer John Pearce, were published online a few years ago. His radio career starts just after the War, when he chanced upon a job at 2QN Deniliquin after he was de-mobbed from the RAAF. He went on to 3SH Swan Hill, 7HO Hobart, and to 2GB Sydney, where he was one of the pioneers of Australian talk-back radio.

Pearce's site is no longer online, but fortunately we can still access the whole work at the Internet Archive [title page, table of contents].

Being a radio fanatic from way back, I find this insider's view of radio irresistible, especially the chapter on 3SH, our local station during my teenage years. Pearce seems to have been at 3SH around the late 40s to early 1950s.

Pearce calls 3SH a "fun station", a "happy station", and this comes through in his reminiscences. There are plenty of endearing characters and entertaining stories: the outside broadcast at a local dance (how quaint!), hillbilly amateurs on the Christmas Appeal radiothon, grappling with a local politician to make sure he stayed near the mike, locking the duty announcer in the outside dunny while a three-minute song was playing...

The station manager at 3SH was Harry Lithgow, still there when we moved to Swan Hill in 1961. I believe Chief Engineer Bernie Walsh was still around then too.

Since For the Love of Mike has disappeared from an active website, and does not seem to have been published as a book, I'm posting the chapter on 3SH, which gives a great insight into the workings of a country commercial station in the pre-rock'n'roll era.

Victorians to the North:

Chapter 7 of John Pearce - For the Love of Mike

In the days when broadcasting meant radio, and not television and/or radio, the Victorian Broadcasting Network consisted of a head office in Melbourne and three country radio stations.

The main one was in Hamilton, the second best was in Sale and what was left went to Swan Hill, way north on the River Murray, the dividing line between Australia and Victoria. I got a job as an announcer at the latter. I can't remember how I got it, not even how I learned about it. Read it in the paper, maybe. However, it was mine; and I arrived after the adventure of the drive in my vintage Hupmobile...

Continued here...

23 April 2009

Boofhead book, 1945

I found this ad for a Boofhead anthology in the Melbourne Argus, Saturday, 18 August 1945. The other bloke just has to look at Boofhead and his hat flies off.

This whole edition of the Argus is online at NLA's Australian Newspapers website. This was a big news week: the Japanese had surrendered a few days earlier, and the main headline is AUSTRALIANS FOR JAPAN: INCLUSION IN FORCES OF OCCUPATION.

(It says something about my preoccupations that I would bypass the end of the War in the Pacific to focus on a tiny ad for Boofhead. Oh, and if you want to go straight to the comics pages they're here and here.)

Australian Newspapers is one of a number of digitalised historical newspaper sites, some of which I've listed at this section of my links page.

For more on the Boofhead phenomenon, see my earlier post about this unique Australian comic strip.

15 March 2009

Only in Oz (13) Buzz Cason - Adam And Eve

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.
13. Buzz Cason - Adam And Eve
(James E. "Buzz" Cason)
USA 1968
Elf single (USA) #90015
Stateside single (Australia) #OSS-8456
Australian charts: #4 Melbourne #3 Brisbane #1 Adelaide

For onc
e, no doubts about this being a pure example of the Only in Oz phenomenon: no local USA chart appearances at (the inelegantly named) ARSA, no sneaking into the outer reaches of the Billboard Top 100. Nothing in the UK, nor in Europe. In the USA, this song didn't raise even a tiny blip on the radar, but in parts of Australia we loved it.

Adam And Eve
is a Bonnie & Clyde story of a couple from a Mississippi farm, their Garden of Eden, who drive into town to stick up a bank. [Listen] It goes badly wrong (the bank teller made a wrong move), and they end up doing time. The chorus goes:

We can never go back to the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve have sinned.
We can't go back again. Oh no no. [Lyrics]

There are echoes of Ode To Billy Joe, both in the music and the setting. As Andrew Bergey puts it, Bobby Gentry meets Harry Nilsson in a party hosted by Leo Sayer.

Buzz Cason has done a bit of everything in the music business: singer, songwriter, producer, publisher, label owner...

One of his notable writer credits is for Arthur Alexander's Soldier Of Love (1961), written with Tony Moon, later performed by The Beatles and by Pearl Jam.

Cason is better known, though, for having co-written (with Mac Gayden) the much-recorded hit Everlasting Love. It charted nationally in the US in versions by Robert Knight (1967, the original), Carl Carlton (1974) and Rex Smith & Rachel Sweet (1981).

I know of at least eight versions of Everlasting Love that have charted in various parts of Australia, including local hit versions by The Town Criers (1968) and Doug Parkinson (1974).

Buzz Cason was also the originator of these songs that were hits in Australian versions:
  • Saturday Morning Cartoon Show - Hayride (Buzz Cason - Mac Gayden, 1968) on Elf #90021, label co-owned by Cason; Australian version: The Flying Circus (1969) #3 Sydney #1 Brisbane #13 Perth [PopArchives page]

  • Saturday Morning Cartoon Show - La La (Buzz Cason - Mac Gayden, 1969) Elf #90028; Australian version: The Flying Circus (1969) #5 Sydney #4 Melbourne #1 Brisbane #1 Adelaide #9 Perth [PopArchives page]

  • The Four Fuller Brothers - Groupie (Buzz Cason, prod. Cason-Gayden, 1969) Decca #32450; Australian version: The New Dream (1969) #2 Melbourne #19 Adelaide [PopArchives page]

  • Gary Lewis & The Playboys - Sugar Coated Candy Love (Buzz Cason - Mac Gayden, 1969) Liberty album track; Australian version: The New Dream (1969, as Candy Love) #44 Melbourne #22 Adelaide #36 Perth [PopArchives page]
Buzz Cason started out with Nashville rock'n'roll band The Casuals who recorded for Dot in the late 50s and became Brenda Lee's touring band. Cason's one charting single as a solo singer, Look For A Star (1960, #16 USA), used the name Garry Miles (confusingly, this was a cover of a British record by Garry Mills that also charted in the US).

Cason went into producing with Liberty Records in LA, working with Snuff Garrett. He produced (They Call Her) La Bamba (1964) by the post-Holly Crickets, arranged by Leon Russell, and when the single charted in the UK, Cason fronted The Crickets on a 1964 British tour.

With Nashville singer-songwriter Bobby Russell and Monument executive Fred Foster, Buzz Cason formed Rising Sons, the label and publishing company that released Robert Knight's Everlasting Love.
In 1967 Buzz Cason and Bobby Russell started the independent Elf label and the publishing and production company Russell-Cason Music: they published Russell's compositions Honey (the Bobby Goldsboro hit) and Little Green Apples (O.C. Smith, Roger Miller).

Bobby Russell's
1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero (1968, #36 USA) was on Elf, for example, as were the two records by Saturday Morning Cartoon Show covered in Australia by The Flying Circus.

Buzz Cason is still working in Nashville, and he recently published his autobiography. For an update on his career since the 60s, see his website at BuzzCason.com or his MySpace page.

Buzz Cason - Adam And Eve.mp3

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Thanks to Paul Rivette for asking about this song. I'd forgotten it!
Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books.

References, further reading: 1. Bio page at BuzzCason.com 2. Buzz Cason bio at Rockabilly Hall of Fame. 3. The Us Four on Rising Sons label at Garage Hangover. 4. Soldier Of Love song review at AMG. 5. Recent interview with Buzz Cason at Music Business Radio. 6. Adam And Eve lyrics at HotLyrics.net. 7. Adam and Eve: brief review at Andrew Bergey's Bursts of Flavor page. 8. Elf label discography at Global Dog. 9. Rising Sons label discography at Global Dog.

27 February 2009

Drift magazine cover, 1967

This is from the cover of Drift, a short-lived Sydney magazine from the late 60s.

Phil Jones And The Unknown Blues had a minor but well-remembered local hit with their arrangement of If I Had A Ticket (1967).

The song's sources go way back to traditional gospel, with a recording at least as long ago as 1927, and jazz-r&b versions by Chris Barber outfits in the early 60s. There's more about the song's history and the band at the website.

Thanks to Terry Stacey for sending this.

Lynne from the Musical Notes blog says that the producers of Drift, who had met at the Uni of NSW, included 'Merv Rabies' (Tony Robinson), Ross Smythe-Kirk and Bill 'Florence Lawrence' Tranchitella [Link] The Musical Notes page on Phil Jones and the Unknown Blues is informed by local knowledge: highly recommended [Link]