We gotta get out of this place, If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place,
Girl there’s a better place for me and you
On the 1st of February 1968 our government sponsored show climbed
aboard a BOAC 707 and travelled first class to
I had known Jimmy Taylor since we were kids. We both
started a band back in 1958 called Ray Hoff & the Off Beats. Jim also
temporarily played in the Rajahs early in 1967 at Bill Waterhouse’s
So, here I was a year later - back again
with Jimmy Taylor and on my way to
“Wait till I show you all the great bars
The next day in
The whole trip was turning out to be a bit of a fiasco. Jimmy contracted what he called the “Rangoon Craps” and we spent the next few days in a luxury old style hotel called the Eastern & Oriental. With our $27 per diem, we were plied with nasi goreng and anything else we needed while we posed around the pool - all compliments of the Australian Government (AFO).
Jimmy’s Rangoon Craps eventually subsided and with nothing to do, we
decided to show Mick around the town of
Our next taxi driver offered us the same spiel – “You want nice girl? – You like my sister? – She very clean.” We kept shaking our heads. “You like see exhibition?” he persisted.
Mick’s curiosity finally got the better of him. “Just what is a bloody exhibition anyway?” I shrugged my shoulders and told Mick that it was probably just another scam. Mick wasn’t convinced, so we gave the taxi driver the magic words he wanted to hear - “OK!” The driver was overjoyed and he drove up the end of a narrow street to a place called the Ah Chew Hotel.
Much animated conversation followed our arrival and we were then greeted with huge smiles from the Mama San and led to a back room. It was a sparsely furnished room with a few chairs and a table. The centrepiece was a large double bed with sparkling white sheets. Drinks were served, and Jim remarked in his usual cynical manner, “God, I hope they haven’t got a dog or something.”
Suddenly a pleasant woman in her late 30s appeared and greeted us with more smiles. When she struck up a pose next to the bed, our rather embarrassed audience of three burst into nervous applause. While Jim scoffed at the proceedings, the woman took her clothes off in a fairly hurried fashion and proceeded to show us a variety of amazing tricks that she performed with her versatile vagina. Not only did she eat a banana and devour a bottle of water, but she also followed these astounding feats by smoking a cigarette.
“They’re never going to believe this back home,” Mick kept repeating over and over as each new trick was performed.
The biggest round of applause and laughter came when she managed to fire a few ping-pong balls at our table. As if that wasn’t enough, Mick was then invited to join in the grand finale. Mick was terrified when she laid him on his back and carefully placed a towel over his head. When she squatted over him and laid an egg on his face, Mick was so startled he jumped up and the egg smashed on to the floor.
We declined her invitation to join her on the bed and we finished our drinks. “It’s probably got teeth as well,” said Jim as we made for the front door. But not before the Mama San stopped Mick and politely told him that there would be an extra charge of one dollar for the broken egg.
The war was still raging in Saigon, and a few days later somebody in
the Military finally made an executive decision that it was safer to ferry our
concert party across to Butterworth Air Base and fly us on to
Our wide-eyed troupe arrived in Vung Tau in the
middle of swirls of red dust and we were quickly whisked away to play our first
show at a place called
That night we slept through the sounds of bombs and aircraft and our escort officer, Major Jack Kennedy, had us up bright and early the next morning. “Come on youse coves,” said Jack. “Coves” was one of his favourite words, which I can only assume originated from an old Aussie sailor’s term for people from Sydney Cove. Jimmy thought that Jack looked like ‘Chips Rafferty’s red-faced uncle’.
We were all bundled into the back of a Caribou for the flight north
to Phan Rang. This was especially exciting for me as I got to fly the plane for
about an hour. The scenery up the coast was wonderful and I was allowed to occasionally
swerve the plane around so we could get a closer view. It was just like driving
a sluggish truck.
The rest of the troupe was glad to see me out of the cockpit and a Kombi was waiting to take us “coves” to the bar at the RAAF Officers’ Mess. On board the Caribou were a couple of hobi-cats, which we got to try out the next day on the warm waters of the beach. The local Vietnamese girls were really impressed.
Our itinerary had been changed to keep us out of
“Just say piss, come on you,” I replied phonetically. Everyone scoffed and laughed. “No … He’s having you on,” smirked Jim. “No, Pist means more and come on you means thank you,” I explained. Rick addressed the maid in a rather embarrassed tone, “Pist, come on you!” he said. Gales of laughter suddenly turned to awe and amazement when the maid returned with a new pot of tea (nook cha) and bowed politely to Rick. “What a disgusting language,” said one of the girls.
After a few hair-raising flights in some gunship helicopters we were
finally loaded into another Caribou and taken to
Along with the sweating Professor Lemar and his growing collection
of hats, we arrived in
“Well, let’s see how good your Vietnamese really is,” said the portly Professor Lemar. “Tell him where to go.”
Everyone looked at me expectantly. Not to be deterred, I rattled off
the names of a few
Most of the hotel occupants at the Meyerkord were still suffering from shell shock from the week before when the Viet Cong invaded the city. Even though the Tet Offensive was defeated it had left a new atmosphere of uneasiness in the city. The possibility of future attack had now become a reality. There was a strict night curfew and one of the American officers from Special Services took a couple of us to the roof of the hotel.
Flares and bomb blasts
were flashing on the
“What’s a red alert?” said Rick, looking nervously at the horizon. “Well, that’s when you get under your mattress, put your head between your knees an’ kiss your ass goodbye!” he replied. Rick and Mick Jurd looked at his face to see if he was joking… he wasn’t!
While we were on the roof Jim was busy removing some of the wooden slats from Professor Lemar’s bed. The joke later backfired when the plump professor stood on the bed to adjust the air-conditioner. The loud crash and scream that followed prompted a few of our nervous bodyguards to go for their guns. It wasn’t as serious as they imagined… the bed collapsed and Lemar broke his leg.
Our arrival at
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, Wastin’ time.
FEBRUARY 16, 1968: On my return to the Coogee Bay Hotel, I found that the Soulmates had
changed dramatically. Col Loughnan had been sacked (It’s permanent, you know!)
and the new band was now only a four piece. We now had JON HAYTON (guitar &
vocals), MICHAEL LAWLER (bass, vocals, mouth organ & even trumpet if you
didn’t watch him) and our newest member, the Wolfman - WILLIAM F. HUCKER
Judy in Disguise, Midnight Confessions, Young Girl, Lady Willpower, Light My Fire, Going Up the Country, Elenore, Hey Joe, Dock of The Bay, Bang Shang-a-Lang, A Little Help From My Friends, Knock on Wood, 6345789, My Girl, I Feel Good, Show Me, Midnight Hour, Something You Got, Soothe Me, Hold On I’m Comin’, Higher and Higher, Sweet Soul Music, Creeque Alley, Stone Free, etc.
We also had some comedy relief from Michael pretending to be Herb Alpert, playing the trumpet and singing This Guy’s in Love and Little Band of Gold – (There you were standing there in your dirty underwear…). These two songs were always accompanied by a few extraneous blurts, due to the difficulty of playing the bass with one hand and the trumpet with the other. Of course, most of the Rajahs’ Beatle songs were still in there, including a few new ones like Hey Jude, Ob-La-Di and Billy Hucker’s version of Bungalow Bill.
Saturday afternoon shows returned with a talent
quest and the crowd started to build up throughout the year. The
As we approached the winter months, we had an unexpected visit from George Netes, who pleaded with us to play another season down at Smiggins. Apparently all the bands that followed us failed miserably and he must have forgiven Jon for his indiscretion. Fat chance, George! We were having too much fun at the ‘Bay’.
Most of the acts remained the same at the Coogee Bay Hotel throughout 1968 with a few new ones from time to time. Some were more memorable than others but we tried to make them all sound as good as possible.
The popular ones always appeared more than once*. In order of appearance from February 1968 they were:
Lyndon Brown JnR., Parker T. Davis, *The Ambassadors, Dave Henry, *Eden Kane, *The Power Bros., Colin Cook, *Noel Mackay, *The Delltones, *PAUL WAYNE, TONi WILLIAMS, *ROLAND STORM, *LONNIE LEE, SANDY EDMONDS, *THE SANDMEN, RICK MARTIN, RIM DE PAUL, *WARREN WILLIAMS, FREDDIE TIRA, SANDY DAVIS, LES ANDREW, CLAYTON DAVIS, PAUL DEVER, *FRANKIE DAVIDSON, JOHN & TONY, THE NAPIER BROS., TERRY KING, *the SAME DAY TWINS, the HENRY BROS, and tHE PREMIERS.
1969: norm miller, danny shaw, the maori premiers, vern conden, roy giles, and the duelles.
With all the acts
coming through, I started writing arrangements professionally and joined MAGA
(Music Arrangers Guild). Warren Williams became one of my first writing
customers with a song by Donnie Brooks called Mission
The DELLTONES line up
at the time was PEE WEE WILSON (the Bird), BRIAN PERKINS (the Duck) and two
newcomers - WAYNE CORNELL, who replaced lead singerr Col Loughnan and BILL
KIRWIN, who replaced Warren Lucas.
The first week the Delltones arrived at the Bay, someone decided to bring in a big pile of hash, which was kept under a floorboard in the upstairs band room. After sampling the dreaded dope, a strange conversation followed. Bill looked at Jon’s eyes and declared, “They’re a centimetre bigger!” “What’s a saint omega bigger?” someone asked. More confusion followed when the Duck said, “Who’s going to Bega?” “What do you mean?” said the Bird.
“I thought Bill said ‘They’re sending me to Bega,’” the Duck replied.
We were now in total confusion about somebody going to Bega when Michael reminded us that we should start the late floorshow. It then took the 3 Stooges (Jon, Michael and Billy) about 20 minutes to arrange the mikes and stands for the Dellies. After much bumping into each other, the show finally went on and it turned out to be one of the best shows for the week. It also prompted Jon to say, “If this stuff ever gets into the hands of the general public there’ll be total chaos.”
At the end of the night Mrs. Munro was not amused and Pee Wee got into trouble for making disparaging jokes about the oysters that were served for the late supper. Some sort of food had to be served so that the hotel could stay open from 10pm till 12. Bagging the oysters at the Bay was a definite no-no.
Nearly every Friday
night the wives and girlfriends would come to see us play at the
Billy and I befriended a couple of girls who always came on Tuesday nights and bought us drinks. After a while the girls became more and more friendly until one of them said “Well, we might see you again this week on Friday night.” The Wolfman immediately choked. “No, no you can’t come down on Friday night!” The girls were taken aback by this sudden outburst. “Why not?” they both chorused in unison. Bill stuttered and stammered. “Um… because you can’t! You can only come Tuesdays… er… well, we’ve got to go back on now.” We made a hasty retreat back to the stage. “Methinks thou doth protest a little too much,” I said sarcastically. “Yeah, I really blew it,” Bill agreed. “The wives and girlfriends are bound to come down this Friday night because the Dellies are on.”
Friday night came and found us in our usual spot sitting with the wives and girlfriends. Suddenly, Bill gave me a nudge and sunk down into his chair. “There they are!” he whispered. Sure enough, the Tuesday night girls were glaring at us while making their way to their regular table. After about 15 minutes Bill was still slumped in his chair with his hand over his face when a waiter approached and handed him a beer coaster. “A message from a table over there,” said the waiter. I leaned over to read the note. It read “So much for Tuesday nights, or any other night for that matter – you bastards!”
Trish leaned over to Bill. “What does it say, Willie?” Bill immediately shoved the coaster in his mouth and ate it. “It’s nothing, it’s a request,” he mumbled through the cardboard. “Wow, I didn’t think anyone could actually eat a beer coaster,” said Jon as we all made a quick exit to the band room. It was almost time to put the Delltones on for the late show. The Delltones’ opening number that week was a song called “Bottle of Wine.” By the end of the week we were all getting bored with the same show, the Dellies included. Tonight we decided that when the Dellies came on Jon, Michael, Billy and I would sing the song in the darkness of the stage and the Dellies would mime the song in the spotlight out the front.
“Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine. When you gonna let me get sober.” The Dellies went through with their pantomime of the song with their mikes turned off and received the usual enthusiastic reception. It was all a bit of a fizzer because nobody noticed the difference. The audience just thought it was them singing. We decided to do the same thing in reverse the following night and it was a disaster. Pee Wee tried to play the bass and Brian played really bad drums while the band went out the front and pretended to be the Delltones singing “Bottle of Wine.” Everyone was laughing so much it was difficult to get to the end of the song. Brian looked like a wounded duck on the drums and we couldn’t stop him from continually playing on the on-beat.
Michael Lawler took a short holiday to New Zealand with Sheryl Blake in September, and when he returned we were setting up to rehearse the act for the week - The SANDMEN. The Sandmen were three pretty straight guys – Dave, Julian and Gary. They were a vocal trio very much in the vein of the Kingston Trio and their act featured a few folk songs with banjos and guitars. When Michael came into the room with his bass Jon shouted in a loud voice, “OPEN THE DOOR FOR MISTER MUCKLE!”
Michael received the nickname of Mr. Muckle after a scene from an old W.C. Fields film. The scene is set in a general store and Fields says in his theatrical voice, “Open the door for Mr. Muckle, the blind man!” Mr. Muckle then crashes through the glass door with his white stick. Fields says, “Whoops! Too late!” and Mr. Muckle replies, “I see you got that door closed again.” Michael had a copy of this film and no matter how many times we saw it we always broke up laughing.
As the Sandmen watched Michael (Mr. Muckle) struggling in with his bass, his leg suddenly gave away and he fell to the ground with an almighty crash. This was Mr. Muckle’s famous “trick knee” which he had perfected during all our tours with the Rajahs and Johnny O’Keefe. It was usually reserved for special occasions like mayoral receptions, meeting dignitaries and boarding planes, etc. The timing, of course, had to be precise to achieve the maximum effect and Michael had become an expert.
On this occasion when Mr. Muckle crashed to the floor, the Sandmen were horrified and they immediately ran to his assistance. I would usually follow and massage Michael’s leg and explain that he suffered from a trick knee, which was liable to give way at any time. This was usually followed by sighs of sympathy and astonishment from the onlookers. The most difficult part of this trick was for Jon and me to keep a straight face and look concerned.
Flushed with the success of his entrance, Michael then decided to introduce the Sandmen to his second trick, which we called “getting one behind you.” This one was usually reserved for lulls in conversation. Michael chose the moment perfectly. As one of the Sandmen plugged in his banjo, Michael let out an almighty scream as if he had been poked in the backside by a cattle prod.
“What happened?” asked one of the Sandmen. “I don’t know. There must be an electrical short somewhere,” replied Michael. This piss-weak explanation seemed to satisfy everyone and we continued on with the rehearsal.
During the Sandmen’s floorshow there was a romantic spot when Julian sang the Pat Boone ballad, April Love, in his rich baritone voice. While he was singing on his own out the front the other two Sandmen would take this opportunity to plug in their guitars and banjos for the next song. It was during this quiet dramatic moment that Michael chose a “getting one behind you” and he let out with a painful scream: “AAAHHHG!” The Sandmen were completely unnerved by this regular occurrence each night and one of them approached Michael after the show. “I think I know what it is,” he said to Michael. “It’s the banjo! Every time I plug it in it must be causing an electrical shock through your electric bass.” From then on, every time Dave plugged in his banjo he would warn Michael, which of course only made it easier for Michael to time his outburst.
At the end of the week the Sandmen apologised to Michael for all the stress they had caused him with their supposed faulty banjo-lead. The apology was so sincere that Mr. Muckle didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was just one of the tricks that he did when he was bored.
At the end of the year Michael Lawler (Mr. Muckle) left the band to
join another band with his girlfriend, Sheryl Blake and some of the previous
players at the
Aesop’s Fables had moved in to one of the Rajahs’ old gigs at the
Manly Pacific Hotel. It never paid as much as when we were there with the
Rajahs in 1964 but it was closer to home for Michael. He could never get Sheryl
Blake into the band at the
DAVE TAYLOR was an old mate of Billy Hucker’s from the Jet Set band
at the Bexley North Hotel and he joined the band in December 1968. I think we
came out second best with the swap. Although Dave was a great guy, he couldn’t
play as well as Michael and even he admitted it. “Oh well, it’s only
temporary,” we thought, as Dave cheerfully played a few clangers. Jon Hayton’s
cynicism soon reared its ugly head when he started referring to Dave as “three
out of five.” I’m not sure if it was three out of five notes he played were
right - or vice versa. I only know that Dave always beat us at chess in the