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1948: Born Wagga Wagga NSW.
1952: Family moved to Melbourne (Moonee Ponds, then Essendon). The first time I heard Rock’n’Roll was on a crystal set. Artists such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry.
1956: Started asking my mother for a guitar, only to receive a lowly banjo mandolin for Christmas!
1957: Through the year I saved pocket money and bought my first guitar at Allens Music. It was a plywood box with strings, and cost 9 guineas.
1958: Heard Flamenco guitar on the radio and was intoxicated by this wild, exotic music.
1959: 18 months of classical guitar lessons with Merle Omen in Prahran, behind the old market. She was a wonderful woman, and the first person to introduce me to Spiritualism, turning my Saturday lessons into tales of visions and stories of the inexplicable. Not to mention enough chords to see me through my first songs – Sinner Man, House Of The Rising Sun etc.
1960: Discovered Sing Out magazine with articles on Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, The Almanac Singers, and the flood of singer-songwriters to follow in the sixties. Sing Out, and vinyl, were my main source of learning for the next few years. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem for example, led me to an awareness of my musical heritage, Scottish, Irish and English folk music. Over the next couple of years I learnt a repertoire of over 200 folk, blues and country songs. The history learnt through folk music led me to read like an addict, a passion that fired my interest in words, expression and writing.
1962: At Caulfield High School, I met with Micheal Gay and began a friendship that continues to this day. Micheal was my first musical partner-in-crime, and the second person in my life who made me aware of politics, debate and the joy of finding another passionate human.
1963:Mick and I bought Yamaha 6 string guitars and had them converted to 12 strings by the Victorian Banjo Club. During this year I started writing poetry, enamoured with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Be-Bop, thanks to my older brother Graham. Began frequenting The Fat Black Pussy Cat , a jazz club , located at 90 Toorak Road, South Yarra,and my first meeting with Adrian Rawlins, poet, performer, organiser, raconteur, stirrer, hipster .. and live jazz, Brian Brown Quartet, Barry McKimm, Ted Vining, Alan Lee, and many others.
In a Caulfield High School talent quest, Micheal and I won 30 bob each, and this first taste of playing in public changed my life.
Oh yeah, getting expelled from school some months later also changed my life.
As did leaving home at 14 and hitching around Australia!!!
1965: After returning to Melbourne, I worked in an advertising agency for 9 months and then had an offer to work at Discurio Records. At Discurio, I worked with Peter and Ruth Mann, John Cargher, Peter Posarnig, (and met with Broderick Smith, David Pepperell, Gerry Humphrys and Dutch Tilders).
In the following years I worked at Thomas’s Music (again working with John Cargher, Peter Posarnig and Brian Crossley), Archie & Jughead’s (with David Pepperell and Keith Glass), The Record Collector (with Greg Young). These were great places to hear and soak in a diverse range of music.
I also started hanging out at folk clubs, occasionally filling in between other players with a couple of songs and paid with coffees. Some influences at this time were Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk,Townes Van Zandt, Phil Ochs, John Prine and Richie Havens.
In mid ’65, I met my second musical partner-in-crime, Chris Fogaty. We played folk clubs in Melbourne and Geelong. Quoting Chris: “The main thing was the fucking unreal improvising, solid and flying close to the sun, it was agile, it was hip and it was emotional”. It was 12 string guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, finger cymbals and kalimba, all of which went into the gumbo of folk blues we played.
This was at the tail-end of the post-war Melbourne Push, a movement of artists, sculptors, musicians,writers, poets, and actors who frequented certain inner-city pubs. Also Yarra-side soap-box preachers and orators, and the artist’s scene that existed in Monsalvat and the surrounding countryside.
There were venues such as The Downbeat Club, Traynors Folk Club, The Green Man, Little Riata,lunchtime jazz concerts, Red Onions Jazz Band, folk singers like Trevor Lucas, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Brian Mooney, David Lumsden, Margaret Roadknight, Danny Spooner, Graham Squance, Kenny White, Tim Cowburn and Stevie Dunstan. This was the engine room of the folk revival in Australia.
1969: Met Bob Bright (Bobby and Laurie) while managing The Record Collector, Hawthorn.
1970: My first tour. Bob introduced Paul Pyle and myself to Frank Esler Smith (Musical Director-Marcia Hines Band and ex-Doug Parkinson), who along with drummer Ross Sutton backed Del Shannon around Australia.
After this tour, Bob then introduced Paul and myself to Bernie O’Brien and Harold Frith.
The newly formed Saltbush began rehearsals.
1971: Saltbush line-up: Bernie O’Brien (ex-Bobby & Laurie’s Rondells, ex- Merv Benton’s Tamlas), vocals, lead guitar, dobro and fiddle. Harold Frith (ex-Thunderbirds), vocals and drums. Paul Pyle (ex-Johnny O’Keefe Band ,ex-Hot Dog with Gary Young), vocals and double bass. Ross Nicholson, vocals and guitar.
1973: Saltbush played as session band on all tracks on Kevin Shegog’s “Rodeo Man” released on W&G.
1975:Country music broadened its appeal in Australia when artists such as Saltbush, Suzanne Prentice, Jean Stafford, Anne Kirkpatrick and Lindsay Butler joined the established stars on the Tamworth Awards stage.
1976:Saltbush had two tracks (Brown Bottle Blues and Redneck Mother) on the compilation album ,“Live At The Station Hotel”, released by Lamington Records. The album was a snapshot of Melbourne Pub Rock from the ’70’s.
Saltbush released their first album, “At Twin Rivers”
1977: Saltbush won the Tamworth Golden Guitar Awards for New Talent of the Year with their song Sassafras Gap”. (Rainbird Records).
1978: Saltbush played as opening band for the Marty Robbins Tour of Australia, and toured with Slim Dusty.Slim loved them,[“They were a pretty rough and ready band but were also very good musicians and I’m a big fan, they definitely liked their drink!”]
The band released their second album self-titled “Saltbush”. Produced by Mark Moffatt, who played some great pedal steel and mandolin on the album.
Saltbush were mentioned in the Sep 2 1978 issue of Billboard magazine as Australia’s representative at the second annual Tulsa International Music Festival spotlighting artists from the Jim Halsey Corporation’s roster including Tammy Wynette, Don Williams, Rick Nelson, Roy Clark, Reba McEntire and The Oak Ridge Boys, (Who loaned us their spare P.A. “cos the hire job was dodgy”). Plus acts representing nine countries, including Saltbush.
1979:The band won another award at The Tamworth Golden Guitar Awards for Best Vocal Harmony with their song “Stranger”. (EMI).
Saltbush played a pub band in Tim Burstall’s film “The Last of the Knucklemen”
1980:The dynamics of the group were changing, and as part of a transition artists such as Noel Watson joined to revitalize the band, but even adding players of such calibre was not enough.
1981:Saltbush is disbanded as a group.
1982:I formed Thunderbox with Ed Bates, George Butrumilis, Paul Pyle, Harold Frith, Paul Neuindorf, and Mick Holden. Some original songs were recorded with John Coco.(Not released)
I met Glenn Crosse (aka Tex Nobody) and Craig Reeves.
1983:I formed Ross Nicholson’s Road Dogs with Craig Reeves, Dougie McDonald, Les Gough and Phil Para.
1985: Spot The Aussie was formed over a few jugs in the front bar of the Esplanade Hotel, when Donny and Joe were the owners. Glenn Crosse who ran the music there, was looking for a band to fill the Saturday arvo slot. It was Glenn who came up with the name “Spot The Aussie”.“Saturday Arvo at the Espy” became a residency for over twelve years.
The original line-up was Craig Reeves, Dougie McDonald, Les Gough, Simon Glozier and Ross Nicholson.
The second line-up added Phil Para, Mick O’Connor, Gavan Anderson and Steve Williams.
Part-timers included Ross Hannaford, Sam See, Chris Stockley, Dave “Chicken” Stewart, Martin Hope, Mike Brady, Steve Donald, Steve Hoy, Peter Caulton, Tex Nobody, Louis McManus, Richard O’Keefe, Andrew Clermont, Rodger Delfos, Brolga, AP Johnson & Brenda Joy, Peter Martin, Tony Fitzgibbon, Marcia Howard, Peter Lindon, Lou Sholtz, Garrett Costigan, Victor O’Neil, Andrew Forrer, Peter Laffy….and the list goes on.
1989:Spot The Aussie recorded “Live At The Esplanade”. A limited addition was available on cassette only.
1990:Spot The Aussie cut an EP of five originals at Metropolis Studios, South Melbourne, but not released.
1993:I quit Spot The Aussie, followed by “The Dark Years”…….
1998: At 50 years of age, I began seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed a couple of mental disorders.
The following decade was the biggest learning curve of my life, however I digress.
2002:Started to write songs again after a 10 year block.
2008:Started recording some new songs with Andy Burns, which was my first encounter with recording via computer.
2010:Left Psychotherapy after nearly 13 years.
2011:After 53 years of playing solo, duo, trio and in several bands (Saltbush, The Tex Nobody Show, Road Dogs, Thunderbox, and Spot The Aussie), and having written over eighty new and re-written songs during my semi-retirement, I was looking for a way to record a couple and test the waters.
Enter Joe Hiltz (Co-Producer and old mate), who had recently built a studio out back. We recorded two songs of mine with acoustic guitar and rough vocal. Two days later I walked into the studio to find Mark Kennedy putting drum tracks on my songs.
Within an hour “Quarter Past Late” was born.
2012: Tracks recorded on a shoestring, and a lot of help from my friends.
2014: “Quarter Past Late” released.2