21st November, 2018
Hello Riff Raffers,
Rodney ‘Gravy’ Harris had a dream to be up on stage belting out ‘R & B’ songs with his own band and recording an album. For many years he had worked back stage with legendary Australian bands, ‘Daddy Cool’ and ‘Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons’ as their hard working ‘roadie’. He had scrutinized the stage craft and vocal work of both lead singers, Ross Wilson and Jo Camilleri respectively, hoping one day he could use this knowledge in strutting his own stuff. In 1988 he bit the bullet and decided it was time to make his dream a reality. Gravy asked some of his band mates if they would write some songs for him.
Steve Williams, melodic harmonica and saxophone player with the John Farnham Band said, “Gravy was a fantastic bloke well liked by all who had crossed his path. He had a big Scottish nose with flaming red hair.” Steve was intrigued that Gravy clothed himself in the aboriginal colours of black, yellow and red. Apparently his great grandmother was the source of his indigenousness. I asked former ‘Falcon’, Tony Faehse about his role in writing one of the songs for Gravy. “Gravy did roadie for the Falcons at one time and that’s where I met him. He asked me to write a couple of songs for his album, it must have been in 1988. Surprised everyone who had no idea he could sing, let alone very well! At the time I was doing one off production assistant work on the shooting of the movie, ‘Evil Angels’, very long hours, but lots of time on my hands and I write two songs “in my head” then. I was happy with the other one as well, “Am I Right”, which I played a slide solo on. I remember at the session Gravy saying, “play the best slide solo you’ve ever done”! I think I played a solo on the other one too.”
Steve Williams put harp on one of Tony’s tunes at the request of Ross Hannaford. “Gravy stopped being a ‘roadie’ and started singing. We just had a couple of gigs preparing to launch the album and tour when he died in a car accident just outside VFL Park, Waverley. It was such a sad funeral. I had never experienced a funeral of one of my contemporaries before. Hanna sang and one of the saddest moments was when it was mentioned that his loyal dog had runaway after the accident and was never found.”
An album was eventually recorded with the proceeds going to the Salvation Army’s homeless youth program, ‘Crossroads’. The album was produced by Ross Hannaford and Tony Faehse highlighted the work of Geoff Lloyd. “Of course a great tragedy that Gravy died before hearing the final mix. Credit must go to my old friend Geoff Lloyd (Lloydy) another long time Falcons roadie whose efforts really got the album finished and out.”
The track of particular enjoyment and focus of mine was ‘Tryin’ To Make It Back To You” written by Tony Faehse and with harmonica by Steve Williams. Hear here ‘Gravy’. Steve begins playing in third position (Double Cross Harp) and later switches to second position (Cross Harp). The Album, ‘If You Believe’ was released posthumously in 1991 on Avenue Records and features the who’s who of Australian music.