This is album retro-review number 185 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.
Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Time for another Aussie album, and I have dug deep into the crate to find one of the early Aussie Rockers!
The artist is Dig Richards and this is a vinyl album is titled – Jive After Five [ The Festival Files Vol. 2].
Released on the Festival label in 1988 it has the identifying code of L 19002.
It is a twenty two track album.
Dig Richards is a name in Australian rock music history that is, sadly, largely forgotten except for those who may have seen him live or his hardcore fans and music historians.
He never set the rock and roll world on fire and there are reasons for that which I will discuss. However he played a very important, if not at times pivotal, role of this form of music development in Australia.
Fortunately while we have bits and pieces of knowledge and recollections in our collective minds, his bio has been largely documented by by Glenn Mitchell in one of the better bios on Richards in, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, 2012.
So using my own recollections and along with the liner notes and material provided by Glenn Mitchell, we can put together a reasonable story about him before looking at his music.
Born Digby George Richards in 1940 at Dunedoo, New South Wales, he was the oldest child in the family headed by Gordon Forrest Richards who was policeman with some talent on the guitar. His mother was Mona.
There is some evidence to suggest that the young Dig was exposed to early American R&R at home, certainly he listened and watched as his brother Doug learned melody lines on their father’s guitar and started writing his own songs.
Dig attended Narooma Central and Moruya High schools and was already attracting the attention of many young women due to his very good looks and, he was said to be quite charming – which in itself was not the usual demeanour of rock ‘n’ roll stars of the day.
After completing the Leaving certificate in 1957 he headed for Sydney and found work at Waltons-Sears department store, he was seventeen.
By now the year was 1958 and R&R was alive and letting the world know.
Now while it had a gathering storm of fans in the USA a lack of home-grown talent and a lack of interest by Australian radio meant Australian teens were starved for this music.
Yet despite these barriers it didn’t stop one Aussie forever stamping his mark in the Australian rock music scene, and really, giving birth to live R&R performances.
That young man was Johnny O’Keefe!
O’Keefe was literally killing them in the isles. Then along came Col Joye, who while not as wild as the “wild one” – J.O’K, still garnered a strong Aussie following.
Their acts and their music said young Australian men with R&R stars in their eyes, “you can all do the same.”
“Dig abandoned his retail traineeship for music, after becoming the vocalist for the band ‘The R-Jays’, which sought a recording contract. Ken Taylor of Festival Records auditioned the band in 1959 and, largely on the strength of (brother) Doug’s song I Wanna Love You, signed them.
They became the third local artists, following Johnny O’Keefe and Col Joye, to gain a contract with Festival Records.” [Glenn Mitchell]
Amazingly the track climbed into the top 10 in Sydney and after 17 weeks it hit number 8. Not bad for a first up track.
By now Dig had appeared on a show lived TV show called Accent on Youth, which later would later mutate into Bandstand.
This exposure revealed to the Australian public, particularly the young teen record buying public, that they had a home grown handsome young man with a good stage personality, who could rival Col Joye for looks, and while not quite rivalling J. O’K stage wise, was still making an impact.
A year later the track I’m Through charted in the top 40 and as Australia leapt into the 1960’s, they did so with a bona-fide teen idol in Dig Richards.
By now his popularity saw him appearing on the touring Ricky Nelson Tour which was put together by the legendary Lee Gordon.
Yet despite his fan base and recording success, there were questions being asked, like, “How did he get to the top?”, “Does he have some mysterious magic?”
These questions were being asked because unlike O’Keefe and another up and comer Johnny Devlin, Dig Richards was seen to not really possess the drive and hard edge of these stars, in fact he was often referred to as having a mild if not negative personality, when compared to these two.
As the liner notes declare, “The truth was that he arrived by sheer talent“!
Things were going fine for Richards until that fateful day (sounds like a line out of a song!), when he was involved in a serious car accident in October of 1959.
Recovery was slow and it certainly put a damper on his career, but it didn’t stop it.
A couple of years went by and he and the R-Jays parted company with good feelings and Richards threw himself into writing songs.
In an attempt to broaden his appeal he took guitar lessons and played around with his image.
His return to the “scene” single was a departure from R&R and was more a county/folky track, with a track called Raincoat In The River.
In 1964 he married Susan Clarke. Bynow he was hosting the Dig Richards Ampol Show and he released some more tracks, but non of it was jelling, and, when he unsuccessfully switched to CBS records, it really started falling apart.
We shouldn’t overlook that the music scene, not just in Australia but worldwide, was changing – and rapidly. With the rise and rise of the English music scene Dig, like many other rock/country artists ,found it hard to move with the times.
In 1970 he took off for England and what was supposed to be greener pastures. He returned as Digby, complete with beard and longer hair.
He recorded the album Harlequin which had several hits including A Little Piece of Peace and People Call Me Country.
He then changed from CBS Records, across to the Radio Corporation of America and RCA Records of Australia Pty Ltd.
In 1973 he recorded in Los Angeles with top session-musicians, who were attracted not only by the quality of his songs but also by his Australian accent. That resulting album, Digby Richards, also produced several moderate hits.
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 1982 and passed away on 17 February 1983 at St Leonards, Sydney at the all too young age of 43.
His loss was felt deeply by a few fans that remembered him, but most certainly by his peers in the Australian music fraternity.
The album liner notes sum up Dig Richards really nicely when it quotes Kevin Johnson, a contemporary and friend, who had the hit Rock and Roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life, said of Dig Richards, “He gave Rock ‘n’ Roll the best years of his life“!
Jive After Five – Track Listing:
A1. (Real Gone) Annie Laurie 1:49
A2. I Wanna Love You 1:52
A3. You Gotta Love Me 1:57
A4. My Little Lover 2:57
A5. Comin’ Down With Love 2:06
A6. I’m Through 2:21
A7. Dee Dee Darling 2:02
A8. Livin’ Lovin’ Wreck 2:00
A9. Come On and Dance With Me 1:17
A10. My Baby’s Not a Baby Anymore 1:49
A11. Lotta Lovin’ 1:36
B1. Raincoat in the River 1:55
B2. Bad Boy 2:00
B3. Alice (In Wonderland) 1:53
B4. Quarrels (Are a Sad, Sad Thing) 2:45
B5. What’cha Gonna Do? 1:13
B6. Sweet Sue, Just You 2:01
B7. Jive After Five 1:39
B8. Dear Lady Twist 2:06
B9. Love Struck 1:14
B10. The Love Express 2:04
B11. Comin’ Down 2:11
Let’s start with the album’s “calling card”, track 1 – Real Gone Annie.
If this is a track you have never heard there is good reason for it! I was written by Sydney-sider Ken Taylor, who was also an A & R man (Artist & Repertoire). He was flushed with success with turning the old standard Clementine into a hit for Col Joye with the track renamed (Rock ‘n’ Rollin’) Clementine.
Well he decided to go to the ‘well” one more time, and that was one more time too many! Next he dragged out an old Scottish folk song – Annie Laurie and reworked it into (Real Gone) Annie Laurie. (source: Behind the Rock and Beyond).
Dig and the band hated it, there is no other words for it.
They had no interest in recording what they heard as, a poor attempt to make R&R. They tried to refuse to record it but were given a clear ultimatum, record this or nothing!
Try as they may to make a poor track worse so it wouldn’t be released, Festival would not hear of it and insisted it be released and as a single.
There is good reason to find this track unpalatable. It seems as if even the opening guitar strums were played to represent a bagpipe!
From then on it gets simply cringeworthy but our hearts go out to the guys, who really wanted to rock. This is one genuine case of where blaming the material is not just OK, it is totally justified.
One final thing! The band is made to go faster and faster as the track goes on, obviously in a vain attempt to wake the audience up from the somnambulistic state.
I didn’t like the start, but this “tactic” to try and assist a terrible recording didn’t work either.
(Real Gone) Annie Laurie
However track 2 – I Wanna Love You is far, far better.
What in hell’s name possessed Festival to put Annie Laurie on as track 1 and not this track is one of those questions that not only should have been asked, but demanded a damn good answer!
The track was Dig’s first single and was released prior to Annie Laurie.
This track went to number 8 which, as I eluded to earlier, was a fantastic effort and even the B-side, I’m Through, made it to number 40.
Look the track is somewhat raw and is certainly a R&R ballad and not a kick-arse rocker. But it showcases that Dig had a good voice, hell, he even throws a few Buddy Holly inflections in.
We listen back now and everything about it is sweet music, even the guitar playing is “sweet”. Yet we need to listen and remember that the the period was quite tumultuous with the R&T payola scandals in the USA, resulting in radio stations demanding a less confronting style of R&R.
This track delivered on their needs.
Oh, and the track was written by his brother, Doug.
I Wanna Love You
But Dig could rock it up and track 8 most certainly should have been released as a single.
Livin’ Lovin’ Wreck was written by Otis Blackwell and was first released by Jerry Lee Lewis and “His Pumping Piano” in 1961.
By 1964 somehow the track got to Dig, and he obviously really ‘dug” it. This is how I suspect Dig wanted to be heard.
He sounds loose, he sounds natural, he sounds good, yet, like many Aussie singers in the early sixties, often the choice of material chosen for them by recording companies and was the reason they never really reached their potential.
Those A&R men generally have a lot to answer for! But with this track he is cruisin’!
The problem was, by 1964 the Australian music public largely wanted the sounds from the likes of Liverpool (the Beatles et al) and Richmond (the Rolling Stones).
Australian audiences were simply no longer interested in this style of music, albeit being presented well.
Livin’ Lovin’ Wreck
The name of the album is actually taken from the track by the same name – Jive After Five (track 7 on side 2).
It was originally recorded by Carl Perkins. With this track Dig does a great job in his vocal delivery, and he shows that he really came alive with ‘rockers”.
Sadly the producer let him down, allowing some really sloppy guitar work to remain, totally wrecking the track and really, the whole recording should have been redone.
The last two tracks on the album make sure the album goes out with a bang.
Sadly the tracks are not laid out in any logical sequence (that I could fathom), so we find his early 1963 release The Love Express as track 10 on Side 2.
The Love Express, which Glenn A Baker noted had “a perky girl chorus and train sounds, had a “come-hither” sound in Dig’s voice. it really made it a train not to be missed, and there’s plenty of intimate appeal in it.
Certainly it is one of the stand-out tracks.
The Love Express
The final track is Comin’ Down.
This was the B-side to The Love Express, and leaves me confused as to how these A&R men released some terrible tracks by Dig, yet here he had two really good tracks on the one release.
The track really rolls along, and in some ways has more roll than rock in it, and that’s not a complaint.
What a shame it wasn’t released as an A-side!
Look, Dig Richards may not have been one of our greats when it comes to early rock, but he left an indelible mark.
Certainly his car accident robbed him of both energy and came just at a time when his career was blossoming.
I do believe he was certainly a victim of terrible decision in regard to choice of material, of which some is on this album, but fortunately some of the really worst of his material is not.
Tracks like Mary from the Dairy (December 1964) and Puff (The Tragic Wagon) in June of 1965, did nothing to improve his profile and I can only imagine what it did to his confidence.
But when we “dig” below the surface there is a real rocker trying to break out.
Even when we righteously find reasons external to Dig for not getting to the peak of his music mountain, we do come back to comments like, he didn’t really possess the drive and hard edge of other stars.
Yes he was talented, he was a really nice guy! But what is it they say about nice guys?
Where does that leave us in regard to this album?
There are in fact eleven albums released with Dig’s name attached, and some I have not heard so it’s impossible to judge where this compilation lays.
What is clear is that Festival have not overstated their claim on this album that it is part of classic Australian recordings.
Dig Richards – Jive After Five [The Festival File Vol 2] brings aroundand $30.00 in the marketplace like Ebay and Discogs.
However there are very few copies available, and I think at that price this is undervalued.
These Festival series are not easy to find, so there are two reasons for collectors to buy. 1. They are very hard to get. 2. This is a man who is not really remembered that well as time goes by, but, he is certainly very much a classic part of the development of Australian music.
It was somewhat pleasing to find quite a few live performances by Dig Richards on Youtube, and here are a few.
Mona Lisa – 1959
I’m Not The Marrying Kind – 1963 [There is some audio distortion]
Ecstasy – 1964
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.
#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier
#159. The Band – Stage Fright
#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One
#170. Chain – Two Of A Kind
#171. Bob Marley – Legend
#176. B.B. King – The Best Of
#180. Flowers – Icehouse
#181. Joe Tex – The Best Of