cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
Album cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

 

"It is a remarkable affection which Australia has for the indefatigable Delltones." - (History of The Delltones) . . . . "The Delltones, featuring the bass of the ironically nicknamed 'Pee Wee' Wilson, were a fixture of the Australian rock'n'roll scene from their formation in 1959". - (poparchives.com.au)

This is album retro-review number 120 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

This review we return to an Australian album, and even though we have moved out of summer I thought it appropriate I dig out this well loved album, by a well loved Aussie group of the 1960’s

The album is by The Delltones and is The Best Of The Delltones. The vinyl album was released in 1963 on the Calendar label by Leedon (a subsidiary of Festival Records) with the code LL- 31283.

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
The album label -= [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It consists of six tracks per side and at the time was advertised as including their new hit “Out The Back” and all tracks are in original mono.

I do meet people who believe that compilation albums are not as good as original released albums, because somehow it’s “cherry-picking”. They believe that you don’t get the “flow” of the material that the original albums possess.

Well, I have some sympathy for that position in regard to albums that came many years later, when a bit more thought went into the choice of material (and even then it wasn’t always 100% great tracks)!

History shows that during the 1960’s, certainly there are a few exceptions particularly toward the end of the 60’s, that there were generally two to three excellent to very good tracks and the rest was “fill”.

So one advantage of well conceived compilations is that you do in fact get an album that presents the best or most popular material by a group.

Again I also agree that was not always the case and some compilations were rushed out to just grab the money.

This album is not quite in that category.

It certainly contains tracks that today many of us would struggle to recall, but it also has no less than eight tracks of hits, singles (A & B-sides) or memorable tracks.

Sadly their very first hit, then 1960 track “You’re the Limit” was not included.

So what tracks does this album include?

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
Rear Cover: Includes track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]
Track Listing:
Side A
1. Sitting In The Moonlight
2. Mary Ann
3. Hangin’ Five
4. Surf City
5. Come A Little Bit Closer
6. Joanie

Side B
1. Out The Back

2. That’s How Many Tears
3. Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands
4. Cotton Fields
5. Come Back Silly Girl
6. Passion Flower

 


The story of the
Delltones is equally as long as the list of members and it is not my intention of providing that full history.

Suffice to say that the group’s history is well told on their web site, but in part it says: “Australia knew that it loved the Delltones in 1958, when the four young lifesavers, Noel Widerberg, Brian Perkins, Warren Lucas and Ian ‘Peewee’ Wilson, appeared gawky, gangly and hopeful at the Bronte Surf Club.

Then they began to appear in Australian stadium ‘Big Shows’ with mentor Johnny O’Keefe, on pioneering radio show Rockville Junction and television shows Six O’Clock Rock and Bandstand, and finally on record.

The Delltones were part of a burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll environment which largely invented itself; part of a community which drew guitar patterns on Fantales boxes in darkened cinemas, ran sprawling suburban dances with pug nosed boxers as bouncers.

They blew international touring acts off stage with raw, blustery energy, and gleefully upset the social order of a young and conservative country.

Young, fresh and enthusiastic, with creamy harmonies punctuated by the booming bass tones of the almost cartoon like Ian ‘Peewee’ Wilson, the Beanpole of Bop, the Delltones were humorous, entertaining and irrepressible, able to light up a stage or a television screen.

And, at least in the very early days, it all seemed to just fall in their laps. “We were a vocal group with simple harmonies,” Peewee recalls. “We would walk around Sydney’s streets and at the right place suddenly launch into a doo wop song.

That was how we got our first gig; a restaurant manager heard us and booked us. Payment was a plate of spaghetti bolognaise and a beer each.”

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
The original lineup: left to right Warren Lucas, Noel Widerberg, Ian “Peewee” Wilson & Brian Perkins

 

As their fame grew so did the opportunities and Johnny O’Keefe invited The Delltones to appear as regulars on his pioneering ABC Television show Six O’Clock Rock, and the radio show Rockville Junction.

The band was also signed to appear on Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. This cross generational television show helped to make them a household name.

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
The Delltones with Johnny O’Keefe = [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Sadly in 1962, as the band was beginning to really “cash in” on the growing “Surf scene” and its associated music lead singer, Noel Widerberg died as the result of a motor car accident and as a result was replaced by Col Loughnan.

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
Col Loughnan

 

Over the years of 1958 to 1994 the group had no less than twenty one members. The last line-up only had one original member left – Peewee!

Current members
  • Ian ‘Peewee’ Wilson – vocals (1958–1973, 1978–present)
  • Merv Dick – vocals, drums (1985–present)
  • Woody Finlayson – vocals, guitar (1984–present)
  • Owen Booth – vocals, bass guitar (1995–present)

 

Former members
  • Brian Perkins – vocals (1958–1973, 1978–1981)
  • Warren Lucas – vocals (1958–1965)
  • Noel Widerberg – vocals (1958–1962; died 1962)
  • Col Loughnan – vocals (1962–1966)
  • Wayne Cornel – vocals (1965–1968)
  • Ray Burton – vocals (1965–1966)
  • Bill Kerwyn – vocals (1966–1968)
  • Bob Pierse – vocals (1968–1973, 1978–1981)
  • Sep Martin – vocals (1968–1973, 1978–1981)
  • Alan Freeman – bass, vocals (1981–1994)
  • Johnny Charters – keyboards, vocals (1981–1984)
  • Alex Plavsic – drums, percussion (1982–1984)
  • Vic Schrier – instruments, saxophone (1981–1984)
  • Ralph Wilcock – guitar, vocals (1981–1983)
  • Bob Cook – bass guitar, vocals (1981)
  • Robert Kitney – drums (1981–1981)
  • Danny Mayers – vocals (1982–1984, 1995–2011)
  • Nevin McLean – vocals (1985–1994)

 

So, let’s examine some of the tracks.

Track number 3 on side one is the one I associate with hearing the Delltones first – Hangin’ Five.

It was irresistible and while I may very well have heard other Delltones tracks prior to this on the radio, it is the one that remains in my memory as first capturing my interest in the group.

Although the Delltones had been singing for five years when this track was released in 1963, that year remains memorable for a number of great tracks. In addition to this one there was Come A Little Bit Closer and the B-side to this track when released as a single – Surf City.

Hangin’ Five sounded as if it might have been written on the West Coast of the USA, but in fact was credited to Ben Acton – a Sydney policeman.

In later years it was revealed that it had been co-written by a Sydney Judge, who at the time of writing it was a probationary constable, and his name was Fred Kirkham.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones

 


The term Hangin’ Five was surf lingo for literally hanging five toes off the front of what was then, the long Hawaiian style surf boards.

Well it’s early in the mornin’ and it’s time to make a start
And I put my poly surfboard on the rack upon my car
I head down to the surfside, where the waves are makin’ fine
I’m gonna catch a mountain but I won’t go down the mine

You gotta walk the plank, ride the hook
Gonna let them ride and keep it nice and tight
And now the time is growin’ near, you’re movin’ down the wall
As steady as she goes, you got your toes upon the nose
And now you’re hangin’ five, hangin’ five,
Hangin’ five toe-oes, upon the Malibu

And now you’ve hit the beach and your feelin’ mighty fine
You turn your board around for the second time
You make it out the back, the swells are comin’ fast
The first ones are too small, and so you take the last

You gotta walk the plank, ride the hook
Gonna let them ride and keep it nice and tight
And now the time is growin’, near you’re movin’ down the wall
As steady as she goes, you got your toes upon the nose
And now you’re hangin’ five, hangin’ five
Hangin’ five toe-oes, upon the Malibu

And when the day is over and all the surfers meet
You go down to the surf club to dance and stomp and beat
And when the night is through you hear the fellas say
Don’t forget tomorrow, you got another day

You gotta walk the plank, ride the hook
Gonna let them ride and keep it nice and tight
And now the time is growin’ near, you’re movin’ down the wall
As steady as she goes, you got your toes upon the nose
And now you’re hangin’ five, hangin’ five
Hangin’ five toe-oes, upon the Malibu, upon the Malibu

Hangin’ five, hangin’ five … [repeat and fade to end]
You know you gotta walk the plank Frank
Get your toes right up on that nose simple Joe
And don’t forget Frank, we better watch that bushy-bushy-bushy blonde hair
Get you’re finger out Frank

The track caught the imagination of the youth of the day at a time just prior to the music explosion that was to come from Britain.

We had embraced the culture of “sun and surf” and this track said it all, and had it all.

It had a fabulous dance tempo, it had the “surf slang”, which meant parents of the day couldn’t understand it, and it had Peewee Wilson.

The arrangement also featured a rather ‘cheap” sounding organ which seemed to be all the rage at the time.

Like most of the tracks by the Delltones that “grabbed” the listener, it featured the strong bass voice of Ian “Peewee” Wilson. The track raced to number 3 in Australia and became a cult classic in California!

Hangin’ Five



Track number five on side oneCome A Little Bit Closer.

This was also a big hit for the group. The track was recorded late in 1962 and when it was released early in 1963 it raced to number 3 in Sydney and number 2 in Melbourne, number 5 in Brisbane, number 6 in Adelaide and number 4 in Perth.

It was the first release with Col Loughnan and gave the group confidence in their new lead singer. Written by two of the best songwriters of the day, Leiber and Stoller, it was first recorded in 1954 by a little known duo – Willy & Ruth.

Not long after the Delltones released their version, Jay and The Americans also released it, but although it received more attention in the USA, the Delltones version is far superior.

Yet again it was a great composition and certainly showcased the voice of their new lead singer and it has to be said the harmonies achieved by the Delltones were quite superb.

What the track reminds us is that although the Delltones made much of their ability to tap into the “surf music culture”, their roots went back to the doo-wop form of music.

Interestingly they would return to that genre over and over again – very successfully. 

In fact Wilson would use the title as his book title in years to come, when he wrote, ” Come A Little Bit Closer – Harmony, Disorder and The Delltones” (ISBN: 978-0-9873773-7-1)

Come A Little Bit Closer



Track one side two,
Out The Back.

It was just released in time to be included on this album.

Released in 1964 to meet the demand for another “surf music hit”, it had the right formula.

Strong harmonies, an uptempo beat, more surf lingo to confuse the parents – it should have been a hit! It wasn’t.

The problem was that by 1964 the direction Australian audiences and indeed, the radio was looking for was not the “Surf Music Scene” and not the type of doo-wop harmonies of the Delltones.

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones

 

The British (music) Invasion had commenced, and the Delltones were fast being relegated to the back of the pack.

Sensing the need for change they did rush out a version of Hey Girl Don’t Bother me, that did receive a little interest.

In the main it was a case of, “Hey Delltones, don’t bother us”!

In fact their next three singles failed to chart.

But now that many years have passed we can listen back to the track and try and relive the fascination we had for a short, but powerful period, when we were enamoured with this sound.

Now when I listen on one hand it sounds a little dated, but the production is good for the time and the formula was there, tight harmonies and Peewee Wilson providing the bass retort!

Out The Back

 

To finish off this retro-review, I move to track number 3 on side 2Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands.

The year was 1962 and Noel Widerberg was the groups lead singer.

At the start of their career they had signed with Leedon, but EMI jumped in with a one year deal in 1961.

Then that deal expired and Leedon dropped them, but Leedon had been taken over by Festival records who were super keen to get a new single out quickly, and they resigned the group and chose this track written by Bill Anderson.

The radio stations liked what they heard and picked it up across Australia immediately. however, two weeks after it was released Widerberg was killed in a car accident.

The Delltones were shattered by his death and immediately stopped touring and giving interviews and went into self imposed exclusion from the world.

After a period of two months of inactivity, friends and business associates of the group persuaded the band to seek out a replacement and continue with their careers.

They chose Loughnan, which was a bit of a surprise as his voice was significantly different to Widerberg’s.

Despite sounding different when they sang the track live, Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands proved to be the most successful to date, reaching number 3 on the national charts.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
The Deltones: Original lineup – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The track was well produced and very much had the sound that was coming out of the Brill Building (in New York) at the time and was in perfect synchronisation with the sound that was coming out of the USA in 1962.

It was written and recorded by Bill Anderson in 1962 in the US but this version is the superior version to the original.

That’s not top say that Anderson’s version was bad, but the overall sound achieved by the Delltones on this track sells it for me.

Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands

 

As indicated earlier, the Delltones started to fade in 1964, and struggled to keep pace with the demands for the new sound.

They knew what they were good at, in fact they were the best and although they did try and adapt, for a while it was a struggle.

They did enjoy considerable success on tours of Vietnam during that so called war, and the music they sang reminded the “Diggers” of what they had left behind.

While that could have led to sadness, the extreme professionalism of the group, the natural humour of Peewee Wilson and their magnificent harmonies made them lots of new fans.

On returning to Australia, both Warren Lucas and Col Loughnan left the group with Col joined the band Ayers Rock.

Yet right throughout the next five decades the group would continue despite line-up changes and court cases.

The Delltones have been survivors but more than that, they struck a sympathetic nerve in listeners, especially in the early 1960’s and forever cemented their place in both the Australian Music history, and in many Australian’s hearts.

In 2012 Peewee Wilson received, on behalf of the group, “The Life Achievement Award” from the Australian Club Entertainment Awards to go with their two Mo Awards.

cream of the crate: album review # 120 – the delltones: the best of the delltones
Peewee Wilson accepts the award in 2012

 

With twenty albums over a fifty two year recording period, everyone will have their favourite track(s).

The great thing about The Best of the Delltones is that while it didn’t even in 1964 contain all their best tracks it is a damn fine album.

It constantly reminds the listener of the high quality of Australian music in those early years of the 1960’s both in the vocal quality, the music and the production.

The album is still available and at the time of writing this review, tbut they are getting harder to locate.

Discogs – a great source of music, had four for sale at around Au$40 (inc freight). So whether you collect rare albums or Delltones albums, if you find this one – grab it!



VIDEOS:

The following clips were located on Youtube and feature the early Delltones.

 

Blue Moon

 

Love, Love, Love

 

You’re the Limit

 

Hangin’ Five