Finally, after many years of investigating, I can reveal the harp player on Richard Clapton’s I’m Travelling Down The Castlereagh. Drum roll, please? It is………wait for it……the one……and the only…….Broderick Smith. A popular segment on my old radio program was ‘Oddities & Obscurities’ (it later morphed into ‘Harmonica Riff Hits & Bits’) and this song had been set to air as it fitted the bill perfectly. It was a little quirky and at the time (also in writing this article) it was the only Richard Clapton tune I knew that incorporated the ‘Aussie Blues Burger’. Only problem was the air conveyor needed to be located (I like to ensure the huffer and puffer is acknowledged). I had contacted Richard Clapton, who had no recall of the individual in question and he gave me the impression he’d rather forget he had anything do with this tune. Even the late great Chis Blanchflower was queried if it could possibly be he and his response came back in the negative.
Recently, in trying to identify the harpist on Neil Diamond’s Brooklyn Roads, I tried my luck with the song’s producer and arranger as there appeared no way to approach Neil himself. No luck here, but (if any of you Riff Raffers know please comment below) this gave me the notion to try the producer on Richard’s tune. Same result as before, however in the process I came across an article that stated the backing band was the Dingoes. Initially I didn’t think it had the ambiance of Broderick Smith (vocalist/harmonica player with the Dingoes), probably because of the high harp key. But on listening again with this knowledge, it is definitely Brod with Kerryn Tolhurst playing lap steel, dobro and mandolin. Woohoo! I’ve got a feeling (a feeling deep inside oh yeah) that I had conversed with Brod way back when and he told me it wasn’t him (I might be wrong – never let it be said). Brod did make the cut for an ‘Oddities & Obscurities’ with his tasty harmonica on Cat Stevens tune Sweet Jamaica from the ‘Izitso’ album.
Banjo Paterson – A Bushman’s Song
Banjo (Andrew Barton) Paterson, noted Australian bush poet, penned this fantastic (every second line rhyming) poem in 1892 titled A Bushman’s Song first printed in The Bulletin. A tale about a Station Hand, a man of many talents, who is struggling to find union work and he devises a scheme to gain some money by means of a horse race.
This poem was also referred to as Old Jig Jog, but is best known as Travelling Down The Castlereagh.
The Crooked R horse brand was the brand of pastoralist and horse breeder Richard Rouse a good friend of Banjo.
Richard ‘Ralph’ Clapton
Richard Clapton became one of the author’s favourites back in the seventies, as I was a regular member of his congregation at my local house of worship the Bridge Hotel. Richard headed down our way quite often and always played to packed houses. If my memory serves me correctly, he played JJ Cale’s After Midnight at one of these gigs and wow was that a knockout! He didn’t play many covers. In 1974 with Richard’s record company Festival pressuring him to write and release a hit single, he came up with some music behind the lyrics of Banjo’s Travelling Down The Castlereagh. This wouldn’t be Richard’s first choice as he had penned a tune based on some attractive girls a street away from his residence that was titled Girls On The Avenue. Within half an hour he had fleshed out this song and pitched it to the record executives at Festival. They scoffed, asking what is the chorus? Several times they knocked it back, but they did place it on the ‘B’ side to their choice I’m Travelling Down The Castlereagh. Interestingly, the punters identified the song with ladies of the night and not with the writer’s intention of just admiring pretty girls down the street.
Richard ran with the concept. He even had himself photographed alongside three working girls on the ‘Girls On The Avenue’ album cover. Radio stations 3XY in Melbourne and Double J and 2GB in Sydney, put the B side on high rotation and turned Girls on The Avenue into a hit. It reached number two on the 3XY charts on the 4th April 1975, being held out of the top spot by the reggae Black Superman (a tribute to Muhammad Ali) by Johnny Wakelin. Richard has said that he made way more money from his song due to its addition to an Australian compilation album ‘Ripper’ (infamous for its front cover) than for sales of the single.
Deep Water (I’m caught up in its flow)
Sitting out on the Palm Beach Road I’m so drunk and the car won’t go.
My crazy eyes keep looking out to sea. The Sunday drivers are cruising ’round Wish they’d all go back to town. What do they expect to find? Sure as hell ain’t peace of mind
As mentioned earlier Girls On The Avenue had made Richard Clapton his biggest windfall due to the song being on the playlist of a compilation hits album. His single Deep Water released in 1977 would be even more productive when placed on the ‘World’s Best Ever Beer Songs 2’ compilation, selling over half a million copies. Well I never!
And I’m Travelling Down The Castlereagh was not the only Richard Clapton tune that featured harmonica. I’ve since unearthed Burning Ships from his debut album ‘Prussian Blue’ that has Dylanesque sounding harp. Okay I hear you calling, “Who’s the harpist?” No not Bob. This one was easy as it was an album track with Richard Clapton being credited. Well there ya go. Perhaps the harmonica was a legacy of his busking days through Europe.
That’s Alright That’s Alright. One of these days the suns gonna shine. Everything’s going to work out fine.
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Other well known works of Banjo Paterson.
- Clancy of the Overflow (1889)
- The Man from Snowy River (1890)
- In Defence if the Bush (1892)
- The Man from Ironbark (1892)
- Saltbush Bill (1894)
- Waltzing Matilda (1895)
- Hay and Hell and Booligal (1896)
- Mulga Bill’s Bicycle (1896)
Other Richard Clapton tunes well worth a listen (Author’s selection).
- Blue Bay Blues (1975)
- Ode To A Slow Boat (1975)
- Capricorn Dancer (1976)
- Goodbye Tiger (1977)
- Wintertime In Amsterdam (1977)
- Ace Of Hearts (1979)
- Passing Trains (1979)
- Dark Spaces (1980)
- Best Years Of Our Lives (1982)