21 June 2005

Barry Ferber and The Bearded Beetle.

The Bearded Beetle, a record by The Beetle Bashers (they spelt it beetle), came out on Melbourne's W&G label in 1964, one of numerous Beatles tribute and novelty records that surfaced world-wide in the wake of Beatlemania. Most sank without trace, but two versions of We Love You Beatles charted in Melbourne, and for some reason ex-Cricket Sonny Curtis’s A Beatle I Want To Be sticks in my memory.

The Bearded Beetle was written and sung by Melbourne disc jockey Barry Ferber. The title came from the nickname he gave to his bearded panel operator.

At a time when 3UZ was the dominant Top 40 radio station in Melbourne, Barry Ferber ran a record show over at the more traditional 3DB. He called himself the Mellow Fellow: the hip American deejay talk sometimes heard on 3UZ was not his style at all.

Ferber was a witty bloke who had a way of sending things up, a bit in the tradition of Graham Kennedy, so it wasn’t surprising when he put out a record that took the mickey out of the current teenage craze. These days, his name is still associated with the Beatles through George Harrison, whose 1964 message to him is anthologised on CD.

The Bearded Beatle and its flipside, The Beetle Bashers Beat, were both written by Barry Ferber, and W&G even issued a further Beetle Bashers single in 1965, co-written by Ferber, Don’t Make Love In The Cornfields. Neither was a hit, but I don’t imagine rival stations would’ve given them much airplay. (Both records are catalogued at Screensound Australia's Second Wave discography.)

Along with Don Lunn at 3UZ, whose American-influenced patter offered a complete contrast, Ferber was my favourite local deejay. So I was overjoyed to find a complete 60 minute Barry Ferber program archived at Bluehaze Solutions' Multimedia Vault.

This is good value: an unedited January 1963 countdown of 1962’s Top 20, sponsored by Love’s department store. It’s great to hear Ferber again, but he’s playing it straight here, plugging the sponsor, reading the commentary, keeping it tight, no send-ups. (It may even be a pre-recorded show.)

Barry Ferber went on to management, first at 4GG at the Gold Coast in Queensland when it first went on air, and later at Radio Fiji. More recently, he's filed columns from Las Vegas for the Gold Coast Bulletin (see above).

But who was that bearded panel operator? [For the answer see the follow-up post More on the Bearded Beetle. The comments are full of further information, too.]

Picture: Barry Ferber, columnist (story in the Melbourne Observer, 20 October 2004).

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