Break A Leg

12th October, 2018

Hi Riff Raffers,

It was the summer of ’63. The venue Flinders Street Extension outside the ‘Mission for Seaman’. A fifteen year old boy from Hampton was hitching to Torquay for some surfing. His lift to the city couldn’t take him any further and as he alights from the passenger side into the street he is impacted by a passing car. His injuries include a broken leg which would see him in hospital for six weeks. The boys name, Ross Andrew Wilson, Mr. Eagle Rock himself. Fortuitously this was the catalyst for Ross’ journey with the ‘Blues Burger’.

With his leg in traction Ross would listen to his ‘trannie’ (radio) by his hospital bed side. It was here that he heard Beatle John Lennon’s mouth harp on ‘Love Me Do’ and Brian Jones blowin’ on Rolling Stones tunes and this would inevitably lead to his attraction to the instrument that fits in your pocket.

img_0403Convalescing at home Ross asked his Dad if he could buy him a mouth organ instead of records. Mr. Wilson obliged and bought a Hohner Super Vamper from the Lewis Music Store in Russell Street for 2s 6d (25 cents). The store is still there today. Ross also had inspiration from a compilation record of ‘Excello’ artists which included Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester. He had a pretty good ear which enabled him to copy riffs. He finally returned to school in Term one of 1964 and in Ross’ words, By the time I got back to school I was actually blowin’ a few good notes”.

With the plaster removed it was time to apply his craft in a band and with the help from friend and neighbor Keith Glass (Com-Pact) this was achieved. Keith’s band, ‘The Rising Suns’ played at a local church and would allow Ross to sit on on a few numbers like ‘King Bee’ and play his harmonica, son. It would be here that a twelve year old guitar prodigy, Hanna (Ross Hannaford) became enamoured with this cool kid playing harmonica. Hanna had played with his band earlier in the night. He asked Ross to come to their next rehearsal and he dutifully obliged. By the end of the session Ross had replaced the lead singer. This band would eventually be the ‘Pink Finks’ who would then evolve into ‘Daddy Cool’ who would record Ross’, ‘Eagle Rock’.

img_0398Ross developed his harmonica style around his Dad’s jazz records. I’ll let him explain, Because I was brought up in a house where two things were happening. One was my Dad had lots of Jazz recordings and he would spend Saturday mornings working around the house listening to these records. So I heard plenty of improvisation. The improvisation idea was also there with guitar solos and saxophone solos on rock and pop songs. It was never a mystery to me to go and take a song and mess around. You don’t have to play it exactly.” Ross’ harmonica style progressed where he played a lot of chords rhythmically including split octaves, rather than single notes. He would play his own style, but borrow riffs from Lazy Lester and Howlin Wolf. On Howlin Wolf, Ross remarked, On nine out of ten solos he would play the same solo, but it always sounded fresh, it’s like a zen thing. It sounded simple, but very difficult to copy. So he had this thing of his own. That’s the key. Ross developed his chordal technique around Howlin Wolf’s.img_0405 Ross’ band Daddy Cool possessed three cracker originals all around this specific guitar ‘A’ chord riff where the little finger is extended to the fifth fret on the top E string, Eagle Rock, Come Back Again and Hi Honey Ho. However, the band originated primarily from their Doo Wop tunes that featured heavily in their sets. Songs like ‘Gee’ and ‘Cherry Pie’. On their ‘Lollipop’ extended play they covered Marvin and Johnny’s hit, ‘Flip’ with the harmonica right there in the foreground. The song was written by Cal Green, who was the original Johnny (Marvin didn’t think Marvin and Cal had much of a ring to it). There were a few other Johnny’s after Cal just to confuse the issue. On the Daddy Cool recording Ross steps in with the harp where Marvin Phillip’s tenor saxophone would have appeared on the original. Ross loved the tenor saxophone especially Lee Allan (Fats Domino) and Joe Houston (Big Joe Turner) he would mimic their lines on the harp. Ross stated, The tenor saxophone was my favourite instrument. I tried to play it, but it was too hard.

I have posted a live recording of Daddy Cool performing ‘Flip’ at the ‘Whiskey A Go Go’ in Los Angeles where they opened the bill for the Elvin Bishop Group back in August 1971.

A new Riff Hits & Bits is also up with Steve Cash once again playing the Tennessee Triller. Hear here

A CD arrived in the mail this week of some note from Altona recording label ‘Belmar Records’. The Pearly Shells, Melbourne’s best swing, jazz R & B band have a new album entitled, ‘Went Down Swingin”. Have to say track five, ‘Rubygil’s Bar And Grill’ written by Steve Purcell has a bit of a Daddy Cool flavour to it. Check it out here


PS: Check Out Ross talking about RAW.

Marooned At Launching Place.

10th September, 2018

Hi Riff Raffers,

Going to take you back to the year 1970, to an age of herbal music festivals. The venue for this festival is just twenty minutes from the authors home in the ‘Dandenongs’. Launching Place, the town was named as freshly cut logs of timber were launched here on the Yarra River and sent upstream to Melbourne for milling. It is also infamous for having launched rather unsuccessfully the first music festival in Victoria, the second in Australia, just a few months after Ourimbah’s (New South Wales), ‘Pilgrimage Of Pop’. It did, however launch one of Australia’s greatest harmonica hits, ‘I’ll Be Gone’ by Spectrum.

Titled the ‘Miracle’ festival, a festival of ‘Peace, Love & Music’, perhaps should have been named ‘Needed A Miracle’, was scheduled at ‘Coonara’ farm, five miles north of Launching Place along the Don Road, on the Easter weekend of March 1970. There was strong opposition by Sir Arthur Rylah, head of the moral police of the Bolte liberal government, however organisers managed to find a way around regulations by having patrons only paying for camping fees.

Michael Browning, along with Peter Andrew and Roxie of the ‘Let It Be’ agency, who managed both ‘Daddy Cool’ and ‘Spectrum’ as well as live music venues like the TF Much Ballroom in Brunswick Street, were instrumental in implementing the Launching Place ‘Miracle’ festival.

Unlike the venue for the Sunbury festival (actually held in Diggers Rest), which rarely experienced rain (except ‘Mudbury’ of 1975) due to the rain shadow caused by the You Yangs, Launching Place had experienced rain on this date since time immemorial. On arrival patrons were directed by Bob Jones, head of security and car parking, to another farm’s paddock on the other side of the road at a cost of one dollar. A slippery journey of approximately fifteen minutes took you to a caravan where a charge of six dollars gained you entry. A few thousand people are said to have attended. Rain tumbled down (I’ve never seen it go up), with thunder and lightening (very very frightening) and a poorly protected stage, covering over the toilets were removed in an attempt to better protect the stage from the elements, which had little impact. MC, Gerry Humphrys wearing a python around his neck managed to get proceedings going. Chain, with Wendy Saddington played an extended set between heavy showers, as did The Adderley Smith Blues Band with guest Brod Smith playing harp along with Paul Lever. Their set included ‘Feel So Bad’, ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ and ironically ‘Rainy Monday Blues’. It rained most of Saturday and after a miserable wet night, rain set in again Sunday morning with the event cancelled at 10am. Mike Rudd of Spectrum was marooned, he never ventured from his leaky, ‘Mini Moke’ and the car park had turned into a ‘wreckers’ yard with all the cars entwined at the bottom of the paddock.

The promoters, however weren’t going to give up easily and immediately organised another one for later in the year on New Years Eve.

img_0219In August of 1970, Mike Rudd with Spectrum headed off to the Armstrong recording studios in Albert Road, South Melbourne on the pretext and the guarantee of AirPlay to promote the second attempt at Launching Place. With New Zealand music producer, Howard Gable, who EMI had recently sent over to Melbourne, they set down to record Launching Place Part I, an instrumental and Launching Place Part II a satirical look at music festivals in general. After what Mike calls a look of frustration from Howard, he asked Mike if he had something else. He did. The first song he wrote for Spectrum, a folk, pop tune quite different from their progressive rock style that the band was noted for, the iconic, ‘I’ll Be Gone’.

‘I’ll Be Gone’, or to some, ‘Someday I’ll Have Money’ (Mike wished he had been more specific, perhaps Sunday I’ll Have Money) was written in the key of ‘D’. It had started life with Mike playing the chord progression on guitar. When adding the essential ingredient of harmonica to the song, it ascended to a new level. The punters would ‘go off’ on hearing the harp ‘intro’ and it had the imprimatur of Daddy Cool’s, Ross Wilson, who was just back from having a stint with the band, Procession in the United Kingdom. At this time he was also sitting on a tune he had written that would become an Australian classic, ‘Eagle Rock’. Listening to a Spectrum rehearsal and on hearing ‘I’ll Be Gone’, Ross said tapping his nose, “That’s the one, that’s it”. Mike’s outstanding harmonica riff had been influenced by John Mayall’s harp on, ‘Parchman Farm’.

The tune was basically recorded in one hit, although the descending organ bass line was overdubbed later. It would spend seven weeks at number one on the national charts and twenty weeks in the Top 40. Thus, Launching Place launched one of the best songs of all time.




Launching Place Part II, the festival not the song, would suffer the same fate as the first.


For more information about this festival and in particular the Sunbury festivals I have posted an interview I recorded with author, Peter Evans and Mike Rudd here here’s a live acoustic duo rendition of I’ll Be Gone.


PS: There is some confusion/conjecture on which Launching Place festival the recording was used to promote. Memories are fading. Mike believes it was the first one, he is researching as I blawg.