VALE DOUG PARKINSON
Parkinson had enjoyed an outstanding 5 decade long and remarkably varied career in the Australian Music Fraternity, Stage, Musical Theatre, Acting and Advertising. He was regarded as one of Australia’s finest veteran Soulful vocalists, and one of the truly versatile talents amongst the Australian Musical Industry. His critics ran out of superlatives to describe him.
It is with a heavy heart that Australia has woke to the news of his sudden passing last night. Doug had agreed to be re-interviewed by myself for “CCRAP”, my new podcast venture to be published in the Toorak Times Online.
I now would like to repost my last interview with Doug in the hope it helps us all gain some clarity and perspective on this legendary recording artist with a powerful and soulful voice and the impact his passing has left on the Australian Entertainment Industry.
With a sound that is instantly recognisable and unmistakable, yet with a versatility that enables him to be equally at home in almost every popular genre including soul, R&B, pop, psychedelic and heavy rock, jazz, swing and musicals, Parkinson will radiate in the Entertainment Industry for many years to come.
Doug Parkinson formed his first band with the children of legendary test cricketer Sid Barnes, back in the mid 60’s called “Strings and Things”. The band had minor success, so a year later in 1967, Parkinson decided to leave and team up with some of Sydney’s best musical minds to form a band called “The Questions” led by Rory Thomas and began exploring psychedelic rock. Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music originating in the mid 1960’s characterised by musical experimentation and drug related lyrics.
Their first recordings established the band as one of the more innovative and interesting acts in the rapidly evolving music industry.
In 1968, the group got a big break when asked to be one of the two support acts to join The Who / Small Faces / Paul Jones “Big Show” Australia/New Zealand Tour. The other support act was Billy Thorpe.
The “Big Show” tour by The Who, The Small Faces and ex Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones should have been a dream ticket, but it turned out to be a disaster in many respects. Almost from the moment they stepped off the plane, the groups ran into conflicts with the establishment and media who saw them as a dangerous and corrupting influence.
In 1969, the group came second to winners “The Groop” in the finals of the prestigious “Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds” HBS was an annual national rock/pop band competition held in Australia from 1966 to 1972. The boys had to relocate to Melbourne performing at Festival Hall and this is where the story really begins.
Twelve months later, the band changed manpower and in the process, became a four piece band and took the name “Doug Parkinson In Focus”. With some of Sydney’s top musicians Billy Green (guitar), Mark Kennedy (drums) Duncan McGuire (bass), this allowed Doug as vocalist to showcase his powerful and yet very distinctive soulful voice. The band would later prove to be a benchmark in Australian rock folklore.
The band rose to prominence after recording a Beatles classic, “Dear Prudence” topping the charts. Parkinson re-interpreted the song and made it totally and unmistakably his own. He followed it up with another spectacular chart topper “Without You”.
They then recorded a third song “Baby Blue Eyes”. It was an instant success, but the single died soon after as a casualty of the notorious “Record Ban” which denied Australian artists airplay.
1970 and Parkinson relocates to London with a new band “Fanny Adams”. They record an album, however a year later, Parkinson returns to Australia to form a new band “In Focus”. They toured around doing the club/pub and festival thing, but couldn’t record during this time due to contractual restraints.
With now prospects of recording and two years behind him, Parkinson makes a huge decision to go solo.
1973 and Parkinson takes on his first major stage role in the production of “The Who’s Tommy”. This was a rock musical by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff based on The Who’s 1969 double album “Rock Opera Tommy”. The orchestral version was performed twice in Australia in March and April, to thousands at open air venues (Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl) and Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse). It featured local stars Daryl Braithwaite (as Tommy), Doug Parkinson, Billy Thorpe, Wendy Saddington, Jim Keays, Broderick Smith, Colleen Hewett, Linda George, Ross Wilson, Bobby Bright and Ian Meldrum.
Parkinson also found the time to record an album titled “No Regrets” with Polydor.
1975/76 and Parkinson was a very sort after musician, as stage/music and theatre performances beckoned. He appeared in two shows, “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Ned Kelly. He also had another top 10 hit with “Everlasting Love”.
1978 and Parkinson teams up with old friend Duncan McGuire to form the “Southern Star Band”. The group included Tommy Emmanuel (guitar) Mark Kennedy (drums) and Frank Esler-Smith (keyboards). Elsler-Smith later went on to record arrangements for the band “Air Supply”.
Together the band recorded an album titled “I’ll be around”. It guaranteed two top ten hits, with “The Hungry Years” and “I’ll be around”.
1979 Parkinson has his first crack as an actor in the television series “Young Doctors’ and is also hired as support act to what was to be legendary singer Bob Marley and the Wailers last tour.
In 1981, Parkinson went solo again to produce the album “Heartbeat to Heartbeat” which gained him another top 10 hit with his own rendition of The Walker Brothers “The Sun Aint Gonna Shine Anymore” with Broderick Smith.
Added to his vocal expertise is an imposing stage presence with a solid acting ability. This would have been a major contention in the selection process for the role of “Judas” in the early 80’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The production toured for 12 months receiving rave reviews.
Many call on Parkinson’s talents for the world of advertising too. He has recorded packages fro Coke, BHP, Toyota, Sanyo and a host of other corporate giants. He has also projected his voice to many radio stations for countless interviews and promotions.
Parkinson has shared the stage with many international artists to including The Who, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Pointer Sisters, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Randy Crawford to name a few.
1985 and Parkinson is signed for acting roles in the telemovies “The Body Beautiful”, “Butterfly Island” and “Watch the shadows dance”.
1986, saw Parkinson co-writing the score for the surfing film “Wind Warriors” as well as co-writing the theme song “Willing and Able” for the series of the same name. He also was signed on in a starring role in the Kinsella’s production of “Soulman” which toured nationally.
1988 / 89 and another collaboration with Kinsellas “The Motown Story”. He produced and starred in “Destination Moon” a tribute to the big band era. Parkinson was on fire, and the obvious choice to play Pap Finn, in the hit musical “Big River” along side Drew Forsythe, John Bell, Cameron Daddo, Michael Edward Stevens and Karen Knowles. It was a major box office success, running for almost eighteen months and Doug featured on the Australian cast recording.
In the nineties, Doug’s career was dominated by stage shows and related tours. In late 1990, Doug appeared as “The Barrister” in a Sydney stage production of “The hunting of the Snark”, which led to an invitation to present the show in Sydney, and it had its world premiere in October for a sold out two week season at the State Theatre with the Elizabethan Theatre Orchestra and an all star cast including Doug, Phillip Quast, Jackie Love, Daryl Sommers and Cameron Daddo.
For most of 1990/93 Doug played the role of “The Big Bopper” in the hit musical “Buddy” with his rendition of “Chantilly Lace” being a show stopper every night.
1994 and Doug capitalised on the success of “Buddy” producing, directing and starring In “The Original Stars of Buddy In Concert”. It was a huge success, and toured consistently through capital cities and major regional centres for the next three years. Later in the year, Doug put together a new ten-piece band and performed several sold out shows in Sydney.
In 1997, the label Raven released “Doug Parkinson In and Out of Focus”.
1998 saw Doug playing the role of Vince Fontaine in Grease: The Mega Musical. It had record breaking box office success with seventy shows being sold throughout Australia and New Zealand.
1999 and another musical. This time, Parkinson played in another 50’s themed musical, as Al Delvecchio in the musical “Happy Days”. Even though this musical didn’t have the same success as others Parkinson had appeared in, he did gain public appreciation at each performance with his own rendition of “Unchained Melody”.
2001 and if you are looking for a star to play the cowardly lion along side Bert Newton, Philip Gould and Nikki Webster in “The Wizzard of Oz”, your obvious choice would be Parkinson.
Later that year at the annual Mo Awards, Parkinson was named “Classic Rock Performer of the Year”, a title so deserving, yet so overdue.
Parkinson then went on a mini club tour with fellow friend and soul singer Max Merritt. This was the first time these two legends had shared the stage together.
Mid 2002, and Parkinson took out his second “Classic Rock Performer of the Year” title at the 27th Mo Awards ceremony.
In 2003, he was one of the head lining acts taking part in the “Long Way To The Top, regional tour.
In 2004, Doug rekindled his passion to record again, by recording a cd, he likes to refer to as, the songs as a boy, he lay awake listening to on his bedroom radio somewhere after midnight.
These days, Parkinson is about to join musical producer John Foreman as one of the performers in the upcoming “How Deep is your Love” tribute concert scheduled for 19/20 July 2013 at the Brisbane Riverstage. Over two grand evenings, Australia’s finest singers and musicians will gather to celebrate an extraordinary songbook of hits. Other artists include performances by Tina Arena, Anthony Callea, Katie Noonan, Darren Percival, and Rick Price to name a few.
Parkinson was made to captivate an audience. His enchanting and enticing performances have garnered critical acclaim in Australia and abroad.
As Parkinson’s website so graciously puts it, his career has included a great deal of success and some failures, lots of joy and many tears, plenty of passion and plenty of pain. Doug Parkinson has distinguished himself as a great survivor, an even greater performer, and a consummate professional, Doug Parkinson, we salute you.
An Amazing person, performs Amazing Grace. Bless his soul.
Parkinson, who called Collaroy home, had a number of upcoming shows in various states, his next being scheduled for this Thursday in Torrensville, South Australia.
He is survived by his wife, Suzie, and their sons, Daniel and John.