Umina Blue-Jack’s Back

23rd February, 2019

Hey there Riff Raffers,

New music out now at all good and bad record stores. Firstly an album from riff raffer, Jack Derwin. The lead single and title track ‘Umina Blue’ is a high quality tune that displays Jack’s signature laid back, soulful groove and his masterful skills as a songwriter and musician. There wouldn’t be a winters night by the open fire with a single malt in hand that Jack Derwin music wouldn’t complete the trifecta. Umina is a seaside town on the central coast of New South Wales and it’s aboriginal derivation means a place of rest or sleep. If you haven’t checked out Jack Derwin before, do so now. Here’s a video promotional link to the album ‘Umina’. Purchase at CD Baby .

Six piece country-folk outfit, ‘The Grasscutters’ debut release ‘First Cut’ is available on Bandcamp. Some tasty harp from John Wayne Melville. Check out their interpretation of Paul Kelly’s ‘Sydney From A 747’.

Good friends of HRR, Canberra duo, ‘The Barren Spinsters’ newest rocking single, ‘West Of Happiness’ reveals the lads are at the top of their game. Brendon and Matt are putting the final touches on their album as I write and Brendon assures me the tin sandwich will feature. Out on Bandcamp and there’s an interesting video as well.

A few more worthy of a listen is ‘The Black Sorrows’ twenty first album ‘Citizen John’. The single ‘Wednesday’s Child’ is a cracker. Brisbane’s ‘Dave Orr Band’ has their debut album, ‘As Soon As I Know’. Brian Cadd explores his Americana connection with the LP ‘Silver City’. Glenn Shorrock has a new take on ‘It’s A Long Way There’ from his forthcoming release and Kim Churchill has a newbie. Personally I hope he can find his way back to his original mojo. Nice enough tune though.

There’s a few new uploads I’ve put out as well. Mr. Eagle Rock, Ross Andrew Wilson’s nineties Rock outfit ‘Raw’ (with sticker) and the tune Mind F**k’ (language warning). On Soundcloud-Mike Rudd explains a harp technique he uses and as a follow up here’s Kim Churchill using it as well. Lastly there’s an update on a post here. An update on the ‘Up To Date’ harmonica thanks to Pat Missin once more. Here’s the link to the Dawg Blawg .


PS: Not many sleeps before NFSCD #3 is posted!

Forpies’ Blues Burger (No Mashed Potato)

8th November, 2018

Hello Riff Raffers,

Most people I know are not aware that Billy Thorpe blew the gob iron. There’s a few who think I’m crazy, but here is the evidence that Bill did indeed play the harmonica. Who would have thought that a clean cut ‘Mod’ with songs like, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ and ‘Mashed Potato’, would transform into a long haired hippie playing loud blues rock and the mouth harp. For a short period in the early seventies Billy delved into the realm of harmonica. The first single of the new Aztecs in 1970 featured their rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s, ‘Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl’ with Bill wailing away. The same year he provided some harp on a Jeff St John’s Copperwine album track, ‘I’ve Been Treated Wrong’. From there he let loose on two tunes off the four track, 1971 LSD induced album, ‘The Hoax Is Over’, ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Truth’. Then on the classic 1973 album, ‘More Arse Than Class’ we hear it again on the driving, ‘I Wanna Know’ and at the Sunbury Rock Festival out came the pocket harp on, ‘Jump Back’.

I wasn’t sure who may have helped Billy with a few chops on the ‘Mississippi Saxophone’ so I sent out a few emails to those in the know. Here’s what transpired. First cab off the rank was Matt Taylor as I knew Bill was a big rap for Matt’s harp and in keeping the blues alive in Melbourne. Their first encounter had been at a gig where Matt was playing with, ‘Horse’ a band that preceded both ‘Genesis’ & ‘Chain’. Lobby Loyde, Matt’s good friend from Brisbane and the band, ‘Purple Hearts’ had brought his school mate, Bill to meet up with him. Here’s how Matt responded to my query. Bill used to soak his harps in Whiskey. I jammed with his bands a few times and played his harps there was always a few holes unresponsive. He believed the spirit changed the tone and couldn’t believe I just took the harp out of it’s box and it sounded okay.” In a previous interview with Matt he emphasised that, Bill was an incredibly competitive person. We were always friends, but never bosom buddies. ‘Chain’ and the ‘Aztecs’ were always close, though.” Looks like Matt didn’t pass on any tips.

I’ll try ‘Spectrums’ Mike Rudd as I knew Billy liked to play the ‘I’ll Be Gone’ riff. The thought of Billy Thorpe asking me for advice about anything makes me chuckle. We weren’t that close for one thing. I’m sure he got expert advice on the harp (as he did with guitar from Lobby) but I don’t know who that might’ve been. He never asked me about the intricacies of IBG.
I think I may’ve told you this story. When we did the Tsunami Concert with him at the Myer Music Bowl some years ago (don’t remember exactly which year) he did phone me – it was Billy who got Bill (Putt) and me on the show. He wanted to do IBG and thought it would be neat for him to start playing the riff (he was dismissive of his own playing of the riff BTW) and then I would take over from the wings and Bill and I would saunter onto the stage and play the song with the band.
Which is how it worked out and it went very well, of course. However, we didn’t realise that our drummer Robbo was in the audience and he was utterly crestfallen for the next week that we hadn’t invited him to join us. You can’t please everybody.”
Mike followed back with that it may have been somebody from the Sydney scene where Bill resided.

Next on the list was ‘Dingo’, Brod Smith, he was playing boogie blues with ‘Carson’ way back then. Brod had no idea that Bill was an exponent. Here’s what he concluded, I found a track of Bill playing. Sounds like he was listening to Sonny Terry (there’s a double time rhythm in there that’s very reminiscent of him-the most complicated part in the track). I would have thought that Matt was the closest to him (Chain/Aztecs thing) in terms of showing him something, he lived in Sydney for a while around the time of his heavy rock beginnings (late sixties) so maybe it was Shane Duckham or someone like that.” Brod thought that it sounded like someone who may have been a bit ‘rootsy’, that’s why he had suggested Shane. I was aware Shane had played with Dutch Tilders in the early sixties and I’m sure they would have covered a Sonny & Brownie tune. This coupled with the fact that Bill plays a Sonny Terry lick on the Jeff St John song further enhances the probability of Shane providing some tuition. Hear Bill’s Sonny Terry lick here However contacting Shane was going to be difficult as he had passed away in the early eighties. I believe after a fight on a boat off the coast of Cairns.

Where to now? Why not an Aztec? I contacted the amazing bass player from the outfit, Paul ‘Sheepdog’ Wheeler for his insights. Shane Duckham was a name from back then. Billy didn’t learn by being taught Shep, he pretty much bootstrapped everything guitar included. He was many things our old mate but he was definitely a self taught musician, he had a wonderful ear and if he wanted to do something he would just sit in his bedroom and do it all day until he felt ready. That’s my take anyway.” Paul followed on further with, Lobby was a huge influence and of course mentor although he didn’t say anything he just did it, the volume competition between those two was horrendous, Lobs would got to Strauss so then Bill would go to Strauss so then Lobs would go to Strauss and so on and so on until we were drowning in Strauss.”

Well there you are Riff Raffers, nothing definitive, but an interesting peregrination. I have posted a little mishmash of Bill’s harp work here Forpies. Check out his train rhythm performance with the Aztecs on ‘Happening 72’, an ATV 0 television show hosted by Ross D Wylie


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.