The Down Under Label 1966
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SPIN RECORDS; All titles recorded at St. Clair Recording Studio, Hurstville.
For more information please see Bill Casey's 'Spin Dried' as a complete and annotated discography of Australia's SPIN record label 1966-1974.
The following item is from Music Maker, a Sydney music trade paper, August 1966, p. 28:
“Festival to manufacture and distribute new all Australian label.
First records released on the Down Under label, created especially to promote top Australian talent, were distributed by Festival Records to radio, television, press and retail outlets last month.
Frederick C. Marks, executive director of Festival Records, stated: “We are proud to announce another strong all Australian label to be pressed and distributed nationally by Festival, for L.K.B. Productions Pty. Ltd. This new company is dedicated to introducing further top talent from all states to Australian and overseas markets via their new record label, aptly named Down Under.
The first release on Down Under will feature a group of five young men, namely Kevin Bible and the Book, performing Rockin’ Pneumonia c/w I Found A New Love UK 1400 and a brilliant new girl singer Wee Liz performing Tiny Little Pebble c/w Lonesome 409 UK 1403.
Regular releases are planned on the new label and already L.K.B. Productions have several hot hits in the can due for early release.”
Down Under issued 13 singles from July to October in 1966. All were recorded at the St. Clair Recording Studio, 56 Queens Road, Hurstville. At first, production for Down Under was attributed to Nat Kipner. After September 1966, when Spin Records released the The Bee Gees’ ‘Spicks and Specks’ 45, the Down Under singles showed – like The Bee Gees’ 45 – a shared production credit of Kipner and Ossie Byrne. Mr. Ossie Byrne owned the studio, set up in a renovated butcher’s storeroom, and its services were available to anyone prepared to pay 5 pounds ($10) per hour. Kipner’s Spin Records had booked out St. Clair almost continuously since it opened in early 1966. However there were other artists apart from Spin’s who recorded there, and among the others were the Down Under roster. Down Under was Ossie’s own imprint label – the singles were pressed and distributed by Festival Records for Ossie Byrne. Nat Kipner was obviously also associated with the label, but other participants have, so far, not been identified.
All of the Down Under singles have printed on the label, “Manufactured and distributed by Festival Records Pty Ltd for L.K.B. Productions Pty. Ltd.” L.K.B. Productions was never registered as a company, nor is it listed in NSW as ever trading under that name.
Research has, so far, found no way to verify what the initials LKB stand for. K and B are almost certainly Kipner and Byrne, though Kipner can’t recall, and Byrne died in 1983. The L is not the late Wollongong singer Derek Lee, at that time managed by Ossie Byrne. Derek said, “I’d already left for England by then.” It is not Australian rocker Lonnie Lee, no relation to Derek, and a former songwriting partner of Nat Kipner’s. Lonnie suggested, “It could be Laurie Smith, Kipner’s office manager for the Spin Agency.” Laurie says no, he was never involved. It could be Max Lovett, who had helped Ossie manage Wollongong band, The Del-Fi’s. Lovett died in the late 1990s. It could be someone else, entirely unknown but who’d been willing to support the venture.
Several songs carry the songwriting credit “Kipner-Byrne.” Kipner can’t recall Ossie actually helping with the writing, although Byrne family sources suggest he wrote and recorded his own tunes to test new equipment in his studio. It is possible the writing credit was shared to off-set studio costs.
Down Under’s last 45 was issued in October 1966. By that date it appears that Ossie Byrne had decided to go with The Bee Gees to England. Nat Kipner had declined the invitation as he had too many commitments in Sydney. Ossie accompanied the Gibb family on the SS Fairsky to London. They left in early January 1967.
A creditors meeting was subsequently called to discuss the St. Clair studio’s finances. Warren Morton from Disc Record Studios attended the meeting. Warren, who for a time in 1966 had shared the studio facilities with Ossie, ran his disc cutting business in nearby Arncliffe and Carlton. Warren recalled that among the debts was a bill from a clothing store in Coogee. The Bee Gees had run up a bill at the shop for over $1000 – a fair sum of money in those days. The Bee Gees had used their co-manager, the St. Clair studio owner Ossie Byrne, as guarantor. Perhaps not surprisingly, the group’s other co-manager, their dad, wily Hugh Gibb, was not a guarantor. Warren pointed out that Ossie settled all the debts from England, including the bill for the Coogee clothing store.
Warren operated the studio for a few months after Ossie left. He recorded religious programs for Sydney radio stations. Within six months the studio was sold. Col Joye remembers salvaging some of the soundproofing for his own little home studio.
THE SECOND THOUGHTS
Run Back Home (Jeeves-Mitchell)/The World Keeps Going Round (Ray Davis (sic) – it’s actually Ray Davies of The Kinks) UK-1397
Graham Conlan - guitar, vocals Bruce McIntyre - drums
Rick Pointon - guitar, vocals Richard Rudel - guitar, vocals
A Newcastle group formed in 1965 as The Others. The Newcastle group then found out about some other Others, in particular an Adelaide combo dating from1962 who were already issuing records under that banner. In 1966 the Newcastle Others changed their minds, then their name – hence The Second Thoughts. The Second Thoughts rarely played south of Sydney, a loss to fans of British beat / R'n'B groups like The Beatles, The Pretty Things, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks whose material The Second Thoughts covered with dedication and spirit.
“The World Keeps Going Round” was a Kinks song from their 1966 LP, The Kink Kontroversy.
Rick Pointon was later in Newcastle pop band, Benny and the Jets. In 1981, he and Alan Windon took a country turn, and revived Geoff Mack’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”.
RICK and THE BAD BOYS
Bad Boy (listed as written by Marty Wilde but actually written by Larry Williams)/Listen (R. Suey) UK-1398
Rick Suey – vocal, Peter Snerling - bass, Bob Gunn - rhythm guitar,
Kim Humphreys – lead guitar, Barry ‘Butch’ McClause – drums
Other musicians known to have played with the band were drummers, Peter Jaggle and Michael McCormack, and guitarist Paul Adams who replaced Bob Gunn. Rick was about 17, the others 19 or 20 when the recording was made.
The Beatles had recorded a version of “Bad Boy”, but the UK hit was by Marty Wilde. The original on the US Specialty label was by the song’s writer, Larry Williams. When it came to bad boys, Larry’s inspiration peered back at him from his shaving mirror.
Go-Set published a fan letter for the band 8th June 1966:
“A big go-go to Rick and The Bad Boys. The best and most exciting group in Sydney. Everybody is waiting for their new record – so hurry up please – Bad Boy Fans, Hornsby.
P.S. – They used to be called The Loose Ends.”
The Bad Boys prowled the Sydney suburban dance clubs for about 2 years, nearly always providing covers of recent hits, particularly those by The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things. The Down Under single is the Bad Boys’ only release.
The Bad Boys had been The Loose Ends who had played the upper North Shore venues of Sydney since April 1965. Confusingly, another Sydney band called The Loose Ends finished second to The Twilights in the 1966 National Battle of The Sounds. (Go-Set, 3/7/1968, p. 12) This band, originating from the Maroubra-Coogee area of Sydney, retitled itself The Other Ends and recorded 1 single for Melbourne’s Go!! label. Meanwhile, a Brisbane band also called The Loose Ends renamed itself The Movement and issued a 45 on HMV called “Looking Back.” Confusion compounded when, far away in Britain, another set of Loose Ends had already recorded for Decca. 1966 certainly had some Loose Ends to tidy up.
Nat and Ossie persuaded their Down Under group to change names, and their playing style. From gritty British R’n’B the former Loose Ends moved to melodic Merseybeat.
They recorded their single over three days. Bass player Peter Snerling recalls the drumming had to be dubbed last. Rather like The Rolling Stones and their guitarist Keith Richard, the Bad Boys followed the beat of Kim Humphreys’ guitar work. One day during the marathon recording session, The Bee Gees were in the studio’s front office. “Acting the goat” is how Snerling cryptically remembers them.
Unfortunately for Rick and co, Adelaide’s Twilights issued “Bad Boy.” Down Under delayed releasing the Sydney version, but the South Australians had stolen the limelight.
After Peter Jaggle replaced McClause on drums, Rick and the Bad Boys recorded again at St. Clair. A song called “I’ll Find Out” was prepared for release but never issued. Peter Snerling: “Vince Melouney gave us the song. I think it was by an English r’n’b band called The Downliner Sect.”
Kim Humphreys recalls that in their time The Bad Boys were attacked by bikies at a New Year’s Eve party in Bathurst, ushered out of Katoomba by irate parents, and earned the displeasure of a North Shore meeting of the Young Liberals - a worthy track record for any bunch of bad boys.
Vocalist Rick Suey was later the front man of another Sydney band, Hot Cottage. Hot Cottage existed from 1969 to 1973, and issued 2 singles, Mr Soul/Bluebird (Columbia DO – 9038 1970), and Made To Love You/Sour Lovin’, (HMV EA 9639 1971). Rick and The Easybeats’ lead singer, Little Stevie Wright, became very good mates when Stevie managed the band. As recently as 2002, Rick was working as a rehabilitation nurse in Sydney.
Bob Gunn played in well-regarded Sydney band, Melissa. Humphreys is still a professional musician in Sydney. Peter Snerling worked on the land in northern New South Wales, and recently retired. Drummer Peter Jaggle is believed to be still working in bands in the Nimbin area.
Rick and The Bad Boys re-united in 2002 for a 60s rock’n’roll revival night organised by Sydney fan, George Crotty.
Ain’t Got No Feelin' (Derek Lee)/That is Life Today (Wilkinson-Wilkinson)
Personnel: Derek Fitton – vocals, 17 Ron Morgan – bass, 19, Tony Wilkinson – lead guitar, 20, Tony’s brother, John Wilkinson – rhythm guitar, 18, David Miles – drums, 17.
All of this band were English migrants, but hadn’t known each other before living in Sydney. The band split almost as soon as they’d issued the single. Disputes about touring undid the group.
Prior to playing with this line-up, Derek Fitton had performed with The Syndicate at regular dances held at North Narrabeen Life Saving Club. The Syndicate was said to “really move along”. (Sunday Telegraph 26/9/1965, p.38) This Sydicate is not the same band that eventually became Jeff St. John and The Id. In fact, Derek’s Syndicate rang up Jeff’s Syndicate offering to sell them the name…Jeff and his group thought it cheaper to simply rename themselves The Wild Oats, then The Id.
Derek Fitton was discovered at a Channel 9 audition. Organised by Nat Kipner, these auditions also unearthed Marty Rhone. Derek operated for several months as a solo singer, which he hated. When Nat Kipner offered him the song “13 Women”, he declined and Marty Rhone and the Soul Agents recorded it instead. Derek then did some demos with Steve and The Board for the TV show Saturday Date. He finally found himself another band at Willoughby, a Sydney suburb. They rehearsed, took up a residency at the Blue Note disco in Brookvale, recorded the single, and almost immediately split up.
Derek appeared again as a solo – one gig was in Wollongong in November 1966 – then joined a band called Gino Affair. Well known Sydney singer Kerrie Biddell joined the Ginos in 1967 – it was her first band after concentrating on session work. The Ginos also featured Bob Daisley on bass. Bob had played with Dennis Williams and the Delawares. Among other musical adventures, Bob appeared in Mecca with Barrington Davis and Dennis Wilson and was a member of Khavas Jute. After he moved to London, Bob played with Chicken Shack, Mungo Jerry, Ozzy Osbourne and Gary Moore.
The late Derek Lee, the Wollongong singer managed by Ossie Byrne, had written “Ain’t got no feelin’” A demo tape of Derek Lee singing the song with a simple guitar backing had been given to Derek Fitton and the band. As far as can be ascertained, “Ain’t got no feelin’” is one of only two Derek Lee compositions released in Australia. Derek Lee himself recorded 2 singles for Leedon, and one of the A-sides was his own song, “Watch what you do with my baby”.
KEVIN BIBLE and THE BOOK
Rockin’ Pneumonia (Smith-Vincent)/I Found a New Love (Lonnie Lee-Nat Kipner) UK-1400
PERSONNEL: Kevin Bible - vocals, Dennis Wilson - guitar, Russell Barnsley - drums, Mike Cutrupi - guitar, John Jones - bass. All aged between 16 and 18.
The Book often featured as a session band at the St. Clair studio – they backed, among others, April Byron on her Down Under single.
“Rockin’ Pneumonia” is a spirited cover of Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns’ New Orleans classic. “I Found a New Love” had been a 1960 Australian hit for Lonnie Lee. Lee and Nat Kipner were the writers.
At the time of its release, the Sydney Sun wrote, “Kevin Bible and the Book are a group which fortunately shows more talent in its playing than in its picking of a name. Their first record, on Down Under, is a savage “Rockin’ Pneumonia” backed with a catchy version of “I Found A New Love.” (Sun 7/71966, p. 32)
The Book’s line-up was drawn from a local Sydney high-school band, The Riddles, with Kevin Bible replacing John Murray as vocalist. For whatever reason, Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne thought the band needed a singer other than Murray. With some misgivings the group went along with that assessment. Murray and The Riddles had recorded their entire repertoire at St. Clair, about 16 songs in all. These included “Louise”, “Beautiful Delilah” and “Gloria” by, respectively, The Yardbirds, Chuck Berry and Them. The backing tapes were eventually used for other singers on the TV show Saturday Date.
Drummer Russell Barnsley says, “Even though Kevin was a nice bloke and a fair enough singer, John Murray had been a mate of all of us. It was the wrong thing to do. I never saw him after he left the band, not once, and it’s something I really regret. I’ve hoped one day to catch up with him and tell him, but so far it hasn’t happened.”
Russell’s drumming is on The Bee Gees’ hit “Spicks and Specks / I Am The World” – it was his one and only Bee Gees session at the St. Clair Studio. The Bee Gees were impressed enough with his percussion work to ask him to go to England with them. He declined as he was finishing his butcher’s apprenticeship at the time.
From this band came Dennis D. Wilson, singer, songwriter and one of Australia’s finest rock guitarists. After playing in The Book, Dennis joined another St. Clair performer, Barrington Davis, in two bands: The Barrington Davis Powerpact and Mecca. Dennis then helped form Kahvas Jute. Their 1971 Wide Open LP is one of the classics of its era. Dennis played with Swanee in the 1980s as well as in a Sydney pub band called The Deltoids. Sydney’s Trafalgar Studios used Dennis as their main session guitar player.
Wilson’s singing voice is very akin to Cream’s Jack Bruce. While his guitar playing has moments of bluesy Clapton-like intensity, Wilson also delights in spacious jazz inflections. His playing is mostly punchy and commercial on his solo LP, Walking on thin ice. The LP was recorded in America in 1980 with Sydney based bass-man Jackie Orczaczky, and Aerosmith’s keyboard player, Mark Radice.
Tiny Little Pebble (Nat Kipner)/Lonesome 409(Nat Kipner) UK-1403
Personnel: Wee Liz – vocal. Others - unknown.
Vicious Sloth Records described the single as “AUSSIE 60's Cutesy 60's girl vocal pop b/w more of the same”.
Both songs were written and produced by Nat Kipner.
Wee Liz is among the most obscure of all the Down Under artists. At the time of this record’s release there were several other diminutive Australian pop stars, such as Little Pattie, Little Stevie (Wright from The Easybeats) and Little Sammy (Gaha from The In People). Their ranks weren’t so crowded that there wasn’t room for a Wee Liz to squeeze in.
Wee Liz appeared as a support act for Paul Wayne at the Illawarra Youth Club Hall at Shellharbour 7 October 1965. The young Bee Gees had played the same venue with The Chevrons 2 years before. Wee Liz’s backing band for the night was local Wollongong group “The Fyrebyrds”. In January 1966, Wee Liz appeared in the Illawarra region on a package tour with Tony Worsley and the Blue Jays. Over the following year, Wee Liz amassed a loyal following at teenage dances in the Illawarra region, and appeared with other local bands such as “Four Sale” and “The Sons of Adam”.
The Sydney Sun’s pop writer, David Frith, wrote, “Wee Liz is a Sydney girl who sings in a rather child-like voice. Her first release “Tiny little pebble” on the equally new Down Under label shows promise but not enough bounce. More experience and better material may help in future.” (Sun 7/7/1966, p. 32.)
Music Maker’s article in August 1966 about the Down Under label describes her as “a brilliant new girl singer”.
Mike Mitchell, now living in Canberra but in 1967 a Wollongong resident and member of the band “Four Sale”, recalls -
“…we were playing at the Police Citizens Boys Club building at North Wollongong [18 February 1967 at a Lions Club Dance] at the time. Wee Liz wasn't our singer but my memory is that her mother pestered us to let her do a few numbers with us and we (of course) being polite young lads said why not. The (then) Sydney DJ John Maloney was also there that night. Maybe he was there as a compere, maybe he was somehow tied up with Wee Liz and her career at that time - unfortunately I can't recall.”
Her real name was Elizabeth (Betty) Reed, and it is believed that she had come to Australia with her parents from Scotland in 1965. She lived at Barrack Heights in the Wollongong area. She was 13 years old at the time she recorded the single. Nat Kipner had seen her perform on the TV show Saturday Date, and had signed her to a two year recording contract on the strength of that performance.
The South Coast Times described her as a tomboy, and said her hobby was horse riding.
This Down Under single is her only known release. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
I Don't Want You (M. Clarke)/ You Can't Have It All (M. Clarke) UK-1418.
Personnel – Mal Clarke – vocal and guitar. Backing group – Python Lee Jackson
Vicious Sloth Records described this release as “another obscure Nat Kipner associated pop record. A-side is fairly lightweight b/w faster, nastier workout on "You Can't…".
Down Under’s original press release sheet for this single states: “ Mal is a good looking local boy who as well as having excellent vocal powers also plays guitar, piano and organ. He has appeared on “Sing Sing Sing”, “Go”, “Action”, “Saturday Date”, and the “Tonight Show”. Mal has chosen two of his own compositions for his first waxing, “I Don’t Want You”, which is in ¾ waltz tempo, while the flip “You Can’t Have It All” is an up tempo swinger. Not one for old time waltz fans – but one for the teens.”
This single was the ex-member of Tony Worsley’s Blue Jays only solo release. He wrote both songs. In the Blue Jays, he and Royce Nicholas had provided Tony Worsley with several creditable tunes.
“I worked on lots of sessions at the studio. I lived in the area, and I was available since I wasn’t in a band at the time. Did a few of the Bee Gees sessions, though I can’t recall which. The songs didn’t have names, and the vocals were the last to be recorded. Maybe “Spicks and Specks”, though I can’t be sure.”
In late 1966 an advertisement in the St. George Leader asked, “So you want to be a pop star? Be polished by a professional – See Mal Clarke (ex-Blue Jays). Phone anytime for an appointment. Lessons given at Mavins Music Store, 1a West St., Hurstville. Expert tutors in pop, folk, and jazz.”
Within a few years, the Mal Clarke Music School could be found at the same address.
In 1967 the 19 year-old guitarist worked with Johnny Devlin on the Sydney club circuit. Mal ‘Beakie’ Clarke was next in Moonstone with Hurstville’s own, the late singer Ray Brown. Mal then played in the Ray Burton Band, Chariot and eventually joined the highly successful Australian country band Bullamakanka. Since 2000, Mal has worked in Alice Springs.
Hey (Maurice Gibb-Nat Kipner)/Young Man's Fancy (Maurice Gibb-Nat Kipner)
Produced by Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne at St. Clair Recording Studio
Bip Addison – vocal
Maurice Gibb -- vocal, piano, bass, harmonica, percussion, 12-string guitar
Barry Gibb -- vocal, guitar
Robin Gibb – vocal
Colin Petersen -- drums
Bip’s real name was Phillip - his baby brother couldn’t quite pronounce it. As early as 1962, Bip had performed as a solo singer on the Sydney dance circuit. He then formed his backing band, The Thunders; by late 1965, Bip had joined another Sydney band, The Fugitives. Come January 1966 and The Fugitives issued a single on Leedon, “All Your Lies/Baby Come Back”. Daily Mail reviewer Wal Wallis thought The Fugitives had “obviously quite a lot to learn about presentation and selection of material.” (DM 3/2/1966, p.36)
While still in The Fugitives, Bip had also performed as a solo artist. He’d been advertised as “Dip Addison (pop vocalist)” when he’d sung at the Thirroul Leagues Club in October 1965.
Bip suffered the indignity of having twenty screaming girls drag him off-stage when he performed “Young Man’s Fancy” on the TV show Saturday Date. “I don’t mind,” was Bip’s comment on the bruising, “ but it’s a bit awkward trying to look supple on stage when your back is ramrod stiff.” (Sunday Telegraph, 18/12/1966, p. 78) He was forced to wear a back-brace for several weeks.
In the late 60s Bip released another single: Hey Girl / Hard To Handle (Festival FK-4126).
He died unexpectedly in July 1999. He had been working as a DJ in Sydney. His widow is well known Sydney actress Joanna Lockwood.
Messing Round (Barry Gibb)/A Girl Needs to Love (Nat Kipner/Maurice Gibb)UK-1455
Produced by Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne
Sandy Summers -- vocal
Maurice Gibb -- vocal, piano, bass
Barry & Robin Gibb -- vocal, guitar
Colin Petersen -- drums
Carol Rodgers in the Sunday Telegraph (28/8/66 p.89) describes 17 year-old Sandy as “a cute honey-blonde…perhaps trying to follow in Little Pattie’s footsteps for there is the same shoulder-length hair and fringe, and little-girl look.” Sandy’s favourite sport was listed as ice-skating. She reportedly had plenty of show-business experience being in Comedy Capers and Teenage Cabaret for 2 years. “Sandy has played countless clubs in Sydney and has done the vocal backings for Peter Doyle and the Playboys recordings.”
It is thought “Sandy Summers” is a stage name. Sandy appeared at the Wollongong Leagues Club in early January 1967. No other details of her career have been discovered.
This single is her only known issued recording. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
Talk to Me (Nat Kipner – Maurice Gibb) /I Miss You (Nat Kipner - Ossie Byrne) UK-1456
Anne Shelton – vocal
Barry Gibb – guitar, vocal
Maurice Gibb – bass guitar, vocal
Robin Gibb – vocal
Colin Petersen – drums
Steve Kipner – backing vocals, others unknown
Produced by Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne
Released 1 September 1966
‘The big side of Anne’s first record is called “Talk To Me” and is written by the Kipner-Gibb combination which seemingly overnight is churning out some very worthwhile material.’
(Carol Rodgers, Sunday Telegraph, 4/9/1966, p. 89)
“I Miss You” is credited to Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne, although Nat in 2002 had forgotten the song and the circumstances in which it was written.
This is not the English pop singer Anne Shelton who had a No. 1 hit in the UK with “Lay down your arms” in 1956 – and although it is this Sydney singer’s legal name, it wasn’t her birth name. Anne won the Millers’ Brewery Search for a Star contest in 1966, but was still too young to perform on licensed premises. The organisers suggested she change her surname so that old school mates wouldn’t say, “She’s only 17! I went to school with her!”
Anne began her singing career on Sydney television. She had performed on Desmond Tester’s Caper Cabaret, on Opportunity Knocks and on Saturday Date prior to her leaving Kingsgrove High School.
Her hobby was dressmaking, and she “used to work on costumes for television studios”. Anne turned up for her interview with pop columnist Carol Rodgers “looking very Carnaby in a self-made butchers stripe mini skirt.”
In an article titled “Daredevil Anne storms on” the young singer said, “I had heard of Nat Kipner and thought he would be the person to see so I just walked into his office and asked to see him.” In the same article, Anne confessed to having a weakness for buying shoes. (Sunday Telegraph, 15/1/67, p. 86)
In the Bee Gees biography Tales of the Brothers Gibb, Barrington Davis referred to her as a fine singer… but said that “she left the pop world to work in the lucrative club scene, and Ossie Byrne was not sure if that was the best career move for her. She is no longer in the musicians union and no-one appears to know her.”
At the time this recording was made, Anne lived at Kingsgrove with her parents, her older brother and sister and a cat called Elvis. ‘My dad drove me to the session’, Anne remembered, ‘The Bee Gees played me the songs, we worked out my key, they did the backings and I sang. My dad paid for the session and for the record to be issued – I haven’t even got a copy of it now.’
In November 1971 Anne was performing in Brisbane. In an interview with the Brisbane Telegraph, she revealed that her bookings during the year were mostly in the State capitals. She had appeared on all types of shows from pub appearances to TV. Since she was away from Sydney for months at a time she was unable to follow the fortunes of her favourite rugby League team – St. George, the mighty Dragons who’d had a monopoly on the premiership during the late 1950s and 1960s. However all was not lost – her next booking was a residency at the prestigious St. George Leagues Club.
“Well”, Anne recently said, “I really wasn’t much of a fan, but my dad and my brother followed the team, and since I was working at the club, it seemed like the political thing to say!”
Anne became a well-regarded singer on the Sydney club circuit and was still singing professionally well into the mid-1970s. Her manager was Wally Nash. Wally recalled, “Anne worked all around Australia. She was a really good entertainer, excellent.”
Like two other Down Under females, Sandy Summers and Wee Liz, this is the only single issued under Anne’s name. Since 1980, Anne and her partner have worked on Hayman Island, in Papua New Guinea and the Torres Straits. In 2005, Anne was performing in a duo with a jazz pianist.
Turn the Lamp Down (Nat Kipner – Paul Shannon)/Don't You Go I Need Your Love (Nat Kipner – Maurice Gibb) UK-1462
Produced by Ossie Byrne and Maurice Gibb at St. Clair Studio, Hurstville
Ron Watford -- vocal, guitar
Howard "Perry" Wright -- guitar, vocal
Peter Wright -- bass Dave Bell – drums.
Possibly Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb – vocal
Released 1 September 1966
Originally from Sydney, The Mystics were the resident band at a Cooma hotel when they won the 1966 Canberra Battle of the Sounds competition. Their prize was a recording session. They cut 4 songs at the St Clair studio, 2 of which were issued as their only single.
Ron Watford, the group’s lead singer and guitarist, recalls Ossie patiently setting the group in a circle in the centre of the studio, and not proceeding until he was satisfied they could all see and hear each other. The more primitive aspects of the studio – the echo chamber that was actually a bricked in toilet, the soundproofing which comprised of old carpet and egg cartons – only added to the atmosphere.
When they’d first arrived, Ossie had played them a mastertape of “Spicks and Specks”. The Mystics were most impressed. “We sat there and thought, Wow! It was great”.
Maurice Gibb helped supervise the production of the session. At one point he correctly pointed out from the control booth that a guitar string was out of tune. The Mystics were impressed with his keen ear and his good-humoured demeanour.
When the record was released Everybody’s pop writer Maggie Makeig interviewed The Mystics in the Everybody’s office in Park St., Sydney, and the group appeared on an ABC TV show with actress Jackie Weaver. Sales of the 45 weren’t enough for it to be a hit, although in Cooma, for one whole week, it outsold The Beatles’ latest single.
Of the touring and making music with The Mystics, Ron recalls, “It was wonderful…we had the time of our life.”
Ron Watford is still playing professionally, these days usually at corporate functions. His musical career has taken him around the world. He doesn’t see much of the other Mystics but says, “We’ve always been great mates. I always look forward to seeing them.”
The group’s other guitarist, Perry Wright, died about 5 years ago.
Dear Lady (Nat Kipner-Ossie Byrne)/Complicated Riddle (Kipner-Byrne) UK-1503
“Three months ago he went to Ossie Byrne’s recording studio in Hurstville to get an audition tape made for television. Ossie and Nat both liked the result, and asked Barry if he’d like to record for the Down Under label.”
Carol Rodgers, Sunday Telegraph, 9/10/1966, p. 96.
Barrington Davis arrived in Australia with his parents from Blackpool, England in 1957. At his first recording session in Hurstville he was 16 and had left school the year before to sing professionally. He was a regular attraction at Sydney gigs like Surf City. A friend of Barrington’s had already recorded at St. Clair and had recommended it as the place for an audition tape. He’d met The Bee Gees round the traps and said, “ I wanted to sing on TV and seeing The Bee Gees on television inspired me”.
Barrington remembers St. Clair as a “tiny little studio with an even tinier little room, maybe 3ft by 3ft, that served as the studio’s reception area…there was a glassed-in control booth…when I was there the piano was on the right hand side, the drums were set up and the amps were ready to go.”
He described Ossie Byrne as very quiet, kind-hearted and patient, and Nat as very energetic. Both men, then in their early forties, seemed old to a 16 year-old.
In Barrington’s opinion, St. Clair was better than the Festival Studios – “Festival was more clinical, St. Clair had real oomph, it was a “scene” not a workplace. There was a lovely atmosphere, tea and coffee and biscuits in the studio…”
Barrington’s dad made friends with Hughie Gibb, the Bee Gees’ father. Both men came from near Manchester. Barrington’s father often recalled being in the St. Clair studio while Maurice Gibb was plonking away on a piano riff that wound up as the basis of “Spicks and Specks.” Barrington’s view was that being a British migrant singer in 1966 Australia had considerable advantages – “the English accent was authentic and you knew first-hand about the British beat sound.” In the years when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were undisputed pop kings, most Australian acts were in some way trying to duplicate at least a part of the English sound.
Barrington’s music career in Australia includes fronting the bands Barrington Davis Powerpact and Mecca in the late 1960s. Both groups included guitarist Dennis Wilson who’d also recorded at St. Clair as a member of Kevin Bible and The Book. Barrington went to the UK in the early 1970s and recorded an LP there. He returned to Australia and performed in musicals and cabaret until he was 33. He then worked in marketing. In 2003, Barrington was completing a Masters in Psychology (Performance) at Sydney University.
THE SOUL AGENTS
I Just Want to Make Love to You (Credited to W. Dickson but actually by Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon)/I'm Still Mad at You (Soul Agents) UK-1512
The group composed “I’m still mad at you” in the St. Clair studio. The drumming pattern is based on The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it black”. The swirling blend of influences – rockabilly to r’n’b, soul to psychedelic talking blues – is very much The Agents’ own.
Barry Kelly keyboards and vocal
Jerry Dean (aka Jerry Darmick) bass guitar
John Green lead guitar
Roger Felice (aka Roger Andrew) drums
“I just want to make love to you” mixes The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters: the half-tempo middle section is from Muddy’s original, while the double-tempo start and finish is firmly based on the version contained on The Stones’ classic first LP.
Pop obsessives might know that a British band called The Soul Agents had already recorded “I Just Want To Make Love To You” for Pye in 1964. The two bands are unrelated, and it’s unclear if the UK 45 was ever released in Australia.
Perhaps better known as Marty Rhone’s backing band, The Soul Agents had been active in their own right from about August 1965, playing at Suzie Wong’s Disco, or at the Gymea Rex Hotel. Lead guitarist John Green and drummer Roger Felice had been involved in bands together since 1961. One of these groups, The Valiants, had joined Jim Sharman’s boxing troupe on a tour of the Tasmanian Agricultural shows.
Many of The Soul Agents’ gigs were in Kings Cross; from 1965 onwards, Sydney became a favoured destination of American GI’s on R&R trips from the Vietnam War. The Cross saw a subsequent boom in nightclubs and dancehalls, strip clubs and illegal casinos. One of the new Kings Cross nightclubs was Long John’s, formerly the Folk Attic, operated by Sydney DJ John Laws. The Agents often played there, and enjoyed hearing the latest American soul and pop hits spun by resident club DJ, “Baby John” Burgess. A regular visitor to their gigs at Long John’s was a young Marty Rhone, himself just embarking on a pop career, and soon to sign a 7 year contract with Spin Records.
The Soul Agents already had another vocalist, George, who had a particularly dedicated female following. About March 1966 Nat Kipner suggested that the band replace George with Marty Rhone. The Agents were aghast. However, once they’d heard Marty sing, and backed him on a TV show, they began to waver. George was asked to leave, a process which was far less traumatic than the band had anticipated – George had been waiting for a lull in proceedings so he could get married. With Marty at the helm, The Agents proceeded to enhance their reputation as one of the finest Sydney bands of the mid-60s.
Apart from their performances and recording with Marty, The Soul Agents continued to play under their own banner, and were often called on for session work, either as a group or as individuals. Roger Felice drummed for The Bee Gees and others at the St. Clair studio, though without a studio log-book it’s now impossible to figure out precisely what tracks he appears on. Roger, like The Book’s Russell Barnsley, was asked to go to England with The Bee Gees.
“We were working one night at Madame’s, a club in the Cross, and Ossie and The Bee Gees arrived”, Roger recently recalled. “They asked me if I wanted to go to England with them…at the time I said, Yeah, why not? Next day, I get a phone call from Nat Kipner, and he’s chewing me out big time. He says, “You can’t go!” Then he says, “I’ll send Marty and The Soul Agents over there…you’re a great band - you’ll get your chance then”. Well, that was over thirty years ago...I’m still waiting!”
Towards the end of 1966, The Soul Agents were offered a residency of 6 nights per week at a Kings Cross nightclub. By this stage, guitarist John Green had been replaced by Marty Van Wynk from The Throb. Marty Rhone was on the verge of moving to Melbourne, so an amicable split resulted. Later the following year The Soul Agents reluctantly splintered too. Barry Kelly joined John Green in Jeff St. John and Copperwine. Roger Felice went to the UK in 1968 with Rotary Connection, played with Thunderclap Newman, formed Rockwell T. James and The Rhythm Aces with Ron Peel, and enhanced the line-up of Sydney hard-rockers, The Beagle Boys, a short-lived 70s band much admired by Bon Scott, AC/DC’s late great front-man.
The rock’n’roll world was a long way from Roger Felice’s initial choice of vocation. He’d attended De La Salle College and seriously thought of becoming a Catholic priest. It wasn’t to be, but Roger’s faith and innate commonsense steered him well clear of the dangers that ruined many promising pop careers. Roger’s infectious sense of humour no doubt helped, too. His enjoyment of life and optimism are summarised perfectly in his motto: “Mate, you’re not lost if you don’t care where you are!”
Roger has been married to Sue for over 30 years, has 3 boys and one dog. He works in PR and promotions. When he’s relaxing, he loves a BBQ and has been known to play The Who’s “My generation” so the stereo speakers vibrate.
Where did his passion for rock’n’roll come from? Firstly, Roger says he grew up with music in the home. His father was a musician, a clarinet player; jazz and the classics were his favourites, though - to begin with – Mr. Felice Sr. was definitely not in favour of rock’n’roll. Secondly, Roger was taught music at school. The De La Salle school band featured Roger on percussion. Later he took lessons from Col Joye and the Joy Boys’ drummer, John Bogie. Thirdly, his sister and all his friends were mad on music. “Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent…they all loved it! We went to all the Stadium shows, all the tours that Lee Gordon organised. Lee Gordon was a hero of mine…the Little Richard concert was my first big one. He was dynamite! Just fantastic!”
His father’s opposition to rock’n’roll ended with a dramatic “St Paul on the road to Damascus” conversion. Roger’s parents were French, and had migrated to Sydney after WW2. The Felice family all spoke French at home. When his father realised that the Creole keyboard king, the French-speaking Fats Domino from New Orleans, was about to play in Sydney, he thought he’d go along to check him out. Roger grins. “Mate… Fats…that was it!”
A Long Time Ago (Barry Gibb)/He's a Thief (Nat Kipner/Maurice Gibb) UK-1513
Produced by Nat Kipner and Ossie Byrne
Released October 1966
April Byron – Vocal. Backing by The Book (formerly The Riddles)
Russell Barnsley – drums
Dennis Wilson – guitar
Michael Cuprati – guitar
John Jones – bass
Maurice Gibb - vocal, piano
Barry & Robin Gibb - vocal
“…most impressive is the first recording for the Down Under label by April Byron who previously won the 3UZ gold medal as the best female performer with a Festival release. Her latest record has a new sound which should please the teenagers. Both the songs are Australian compositions, and of the two I like “A Long Time Ago” which comes from the pen of Barry Gibb.” Wal Wallis, Daily Mirror, 20/10/1966, p. 40
“…fantastic…called “A Long Time Ago”, it is a big ballad written undeniably by Barry Gibb. In my book it is the best record to come out of the still fairly new Down Under stable.”
Carol Rodgers, Sunday Telegraph, 16/10/1966, p. 105
Originally from Warburton, Victoria, April Byron (nee Potts) grew up in Adelaide. A singer, songwriter, pianist and piano accordion player, she began appearing on talent shows and teenage music TV programs in 1962. Both Johnny O’Keefe and Johnny Chester boosted her career, and in 1964 April became the first Melbourne-based artist to sign a contract with Festival Records. She regularly appeared at teenage dances with Melbourne groups The Blue Jays, The Tridents, The Chessmen, The Saxons and The Roulettes.
April’s first national TV appearance came in May 1964 on ATN-7’s Studio A show. A later date on Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing Sing Sing program in July brought an immediate response from fan Elly Vermeulen, of Newport NSW. She wrote to the TV Times, “Bouquets to April Byron for her wonderful first appearance.” The singer’s initial publicity also concentrated on her appearance. April was described as “a pert brunette”, “possessed of an intriguing beauty,” and looking “like a young Elizabeth Taylor.” In addition to her physical attributes, the young singer claimed a poetic connection. According to April, her grandmother had said she was a descendant of Lord Byron.
April’s first record, “Make the world go away” was very successful. Issued in May 1964 it reached Number 1 in several charts but was a flop in Sydney. The Sunday Telegraph (26/7/1964, p. 57) speculated most records by females would fail due to girl disc buyers “envying a pretty girl singer too much to buy her record even if they like it.” “What does a girl do?” asked April on her next Festival release in 1965. It flopped and Festival let her contract lapse.
In October 1965, April gave birth to her first daughter, Cinderella. The father, now described by Cinderella as a ‘MIA rich kid’, had nothing to do with the child’s upbringing. Due to the pregnancy, termed a ‘mystery illness’ in music columns of the day, April’s pop career faltered and never really regained momentum.
She was 18 when she recorded at St. Clair, her voice as assured and powerful as Brenda Lee’s. April had begun working in adult cabaret, RSL and Leagues Clubs when Down Under released her single. It wasn’t a hit.
In June 1968, April made what was termed “a comeback”. It was a comeback to recording pop songs, not a comeback to performing - as well as her continuing Australian engagements, April had made two tours of the East. Her CBS single, “See You Sam”/”You Go Ahead Baby” had been supervised by Don La Roche. It also wasn’t a hit.
April continued to work the club circuit, but didn’t record again. One of her ambitions had been to sing negro spirituals. While only a limited market in Australia, this style would have suited her powerful voice. Another ambition had been to record more of her self-written material – she had over forty tunes when she signed with Festival.
According to April’s MySpace site, she left Australia in 1978. She went to the USA at the request of her then manager, Clyde Packer. Packer, formerly the boss of Spin Records, and the heir-apparent who had relinquished the Packer ACP fortune, was starting again in America. He wanted April to screen test for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in MGM’s sequel to Gone With the Wind. The project went belly-up in1982 but April Byron stayed in the States. She, Cinderella and her other daughter, Candy, lived in Beverly Hills, CA.
Since then, April sang in Las Vegas and at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Cabana Bar in Miami. She worked as entertainment consultant for 4 years at the Bourbon St. Blues and Boogie Bar in Printers Alley, Nashville. She returned to Beverly Hills where she now runs Pottstock, her entertainment company. She currently manages the music and acting careers of her daughters and grand-daughters, Ashenputtel, Melanie and Emmalee Rainbow.
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© Bill Casey 2010