THE BAND FROM
LEON: Now that the R’Jays had pulled the Manly Pacific out of the shit, Nick Devery was under pressure from Johnny Wade and Millers’ to get a cheaper band to last through the summer season. The surfing craze would keep the pub going through Christmas, no matter who they got - or so they thought. Meanwhile, Sandy Davis obtained a rather lucrative contract for the band to go to the Snowy Mountains Hotel in Cooma for a couple of months. With promises to Nick Devery to return again next year, we said our goodbyes with a farewell show on December 7, 1963, and headed off to Cooma. The crowd at The Can weren’t too happy with this arrangement and nearly tore the place apart on our last night. We seemed to have built quite a large following of loyal fans. A very happy Johnny Wade and a very worried Nick Devery surveyed the broken chairs and glasses as we packed up our gear and readied ourselves for the trip to Cooma.
“Good Luck, boys! Ring me the first week in January and don’t forget to learn The Miner’s Dream Of Home,” said Nick Devery, looking genuinely sorry that we were leaving. We were all feeling a bit sad ourselves at this stage, surrounded by groups of well-wishers and girlfriends declaring everlasting love. “Don’t worry boys. A change is as good as a holiday,” I consoled as we tried to pack all of our gear into Michael’s trailer.
This was going to be a pretty cramped trip in Michael’s father’s dirty old FJ Holden but it was the best transport we could manage without taking two useless sports cars or Jon’s replacement for the badly wounded and totally written-off Customline, a 1929 Dodge Convertible, complete with leaking roof and no chance of making it to Cooma (or any further than Manly for that matter). Who cared about prestige anyway?
“Christ, with the money I’m payin’ you blokes, I thought you’d arrive in a bloody Mercedes Benz!” This was the welcome from the manager of the Snowy Mountains Hotel, Lionel Friar, as he gave a disparaging look at our daggy looking FJ Holden, flanked by a trailer full of instruments. So this was Cooma. It was a sleepy old country town that had been invaded by European migrants working on the Snowy River Scheme. It was hardly a rock’n’roll venue. Engineers from all over the world were lured here by the Australian government and paid extremely good wages. Consequently, about three or four night clubs had sprung up to help the lonely “New Australians” spend their money. As well as the Snowy Mountain Hotel, there were two other main nightspots, the Lido Night Club and The Savoy, both with Italian Bands. We were the token Australian band and the audiences were very appreciative and generous with their money.
It was lucky that the band was experienced enough to play just about everything. Unfortunately, our European repertoire was fairly limited and our German repertoire was restricted to only one song, Elvis Presley’s Wooden Heart, with a few suspect “German” words- “Putsch it in, putsch it in, Dum schtick it oop ya arsche!” Even this was good enough to earn us a ten-pound note for an occasional homesick Kraut. If we had known a few more, we would have cleaned up! The Poles were so pleased with our playing; they plied us with piles of Polish vodka called Wisnowka. It was a drink that tasted like a mixture of cherries and petrol and you were expected to skoal it in two seconds flat. This was usually followed by delighted applause from the Poles who would then order another round! As usual, our floorshows were very successful and we were fortunate to have a female vocalist, Yvonne Ross, to provide some sex appeal for the first few weeks. This also proved fortunate for our resident “sex maniac” (and co-author), “Clever” Jon, who immediately commandeered her Ford Falcon as well as her body.
Our accommodation was a four-bedroom house at the back of the hotel, which, after our first week, was immediately stocked with girlfriends. It was all very pleasant with horse-riding, trout fishing, swimming and sightseeing during the day, followed by a few outrageous parties at night - if we could still stand up!
After a great Christmas party at the house where Michael got dressed up as Santa Claus and doled out all the presents, a band meeting was held to decide our future at Cooma. Much to Sandy’s disgust I was elected band leader by default and it was decided to fly me to Sydney January 2, so I could line up some gigs and try to get a recording contract with Festival. Jon, Michael and Sandy waved me off at Cooma Airport, no doubt hoping that I would justify the cost of the plane fare and not have too good a time.
The plane looked a bit dicey. As I looked out the window, I noticed great billows of black smoke coming from the engines. The hostess told me cheerfully that I was extremely privileged to be on the very last commercial flight of a DC4. I hoped it was not my last flight as well as the plane coughed and sputtered up into a beautiful summer blue sky. I needn’t have worried. This was going to be one of those magic days where nothing can go wrong.
My first stop back in Sydney on January 2, 1964, was the Palace Theatre, where Dig was playing the part of Squire Skinflint in a children’s pantomime called “Mother Goose” with The Delltones, Jay Justin, Robb Egg, Bryan Davies and Jackie Weaver. It was a school holiday show produced by Digby’s manager, Bill Watson. This was the man I had come to see. Bill was taking a show on the road next month, featuring all his main artists. After all the kids had stopped screaming for Mother Goose, aptly played by Pee Wee Wilson, and booing the devil, played splendidly by Jay Justin, Bill and I made the deal then and there. It was for a five-week tour of Southern Australia, starting on February 19. During lunch with Dig and his fiancée, Suzie, I rang Hal Saunders and clinched a recording deal with Festival. We would have to change the name of the band now that we were separate from Dig. Things were going great!
My next stop was the Manly Pacific to arrange our return to The Can. I was welcomed like a returning hero. Every time Nick Devery tried to get a word in he was interrupted by an enthusiastic fan asking, “When are you guys coming back?” After about the tenth interruption, Nick got really bugged and called me into his office. The negotiations were definitely on my side. I told him we wanted more money and he would have to wait until we returned from the Bill Watson tour at the end of March. Another deal done! It seemed like I could get away with anything. I even had the hide to ask him for a free room for the night. “Don’t worry Nick we’ve even learnt The Miner’s Dream of Home,” I lied as he bought me another drink and agreed to everything.
“Leon! Leon!” The voice came from the Mayor of Manly’s daughter, Maz, who was accompanied by her spunky girlfriend Val. I followed them into The Can to watch our replacement band, The Renegades, who I had lined up to fill in for us while we were in Cooma. After a few more drinks, I ended up in the intimate surroundings of the Shell Bar with Val! This was going to be the end of a perfect day for me. My first day as the band manager had been a howling success and I was now surrounded by a beautiful warm summer’s night with the smell of the salt air drifting into the Shell Bar. “Why don’t we go for a midnight swim?” asked Val. “But I haven’t got any cozzies”
“That’s alright. We won’t need any near my place at Narrabeen beach.”
“But Nick Devery’s booked me a room in the pub.”
“You don’t want to stay here, stay at my place.” She was right of course! And I thought I’d had a good day already! The rest of the night was even better than the love scene from From Here To Eternity. Oh well, back to Cooma tomorrow with my report to the band, minus a little bit of skin. I bet they’ll be impressed, I thought, but of course I’ll leave the last bit out of the band report, which ended with… “so we’re now booked until almost the end of the year!” I sat back and waited for the accolades and a few “Good onya Leon’s”. But they never came.
After a couple of unenthusiastic nods, Jon piped up and said, “Couldn’t you get any more money out of Bill Watson? We’ll have to back the whole bloody show and there’s a couple of prima donnas in there as well!” It was then that I realised that being the bandleader wasn’t going to be the heroic gig that I thought it was supposed to be. In addition to this I was supposed too keep the peace. This was proving more difficult each day.
Sandy seemed to be drinking a lot more since his girlfriend had come to stay in the house and he was starting to fight with Jon and Michael. Sandy had a slightly different concept of the band than the rest of us. To him it was a vehicle to make him a star and a lead singer. He also wanted to replace Michael and get Nosmo King back in the band, on bass, because he thought Michael was a bit slow learning new songs, not that Sandy was any quicker himself! Things came to a head the following week, after a party at the Lido Night Club to welcome the new Maori band that had just hit town to replace Mario’s Italian band. The next morning, on January 9, 1964 Sandy was still drinking and had a terrible fight with his girlfriend, followed by another fight with Jon. He delivered his drunken ultimatum, “Either Michael goes or I go!” The next day Sandy was gone!
A frantic phone call was made to Nosmo King in Sydney. He was playing the bass with Catfish & The Deejays. “ Of course I’ll join the band,” came the reply from Nosmo. “What happened? Did you sack Michael?” “No, we sacked Sandy!” (Long pause). “You mean, you want me to play the guitar?” “YES!” “Right, I’ll be there on Sunday”
Waiting a couple of days for Nosmo gave us the chance to do a lot of rehearsing and reassigning the songs that Sandy used to sing. It was a shame to lose Sandy, really. After all, no one else in the band could get out the front and “sell” a song like Sandy could. While we were rehearsing, we also found time to rig up Nosmo’s room with some elaborate tricks.
Michael had just bought a brand new Akai two-track tape recorder, which we had used with great success the week before. We put it under Michael’s bed, with some ghostly recordings of weird voices calling out his name. As Michael dozed off, we turned on the tape. It frightened the shit out of Michael, so we decided to play the same trick on Nosmo. As well as the tape recorder under Nosmo’s bed we rigged up a complicated network of fishing lines that controlled a number of tricks by pulling a few appropriate strings from another room. One string would tip a Chianti bottle full of water on his head while another would mysteriously move a picture on the wall. The coup de grace was a string, which sent a huge wardrobe crashing to the floor a few inches from his head. We could hardly wait for Nosmo to arrive and spend his first night.
SUNDAY JANUARY 12, 1964. As we finished our last set for the afternoon as a three-piece band, enter one Nosmo King with a silly grin on his face and carrying a new, “dog-dick” pink Fender Stratocaster guitar and a Gretsch amplifier. We settled Noz into his room at the house and spend the last part of the night at the Lido Night Club with the new Maori band called the Maori Esquires, with whom we had become very friendly. They were an excellent band with a fantastic “pukiha” (white man) called Peter Martin on lead guitar. Maori bands usually consisted of about ten guitars. Jon always reckoned the lead guitarist was the one who could strum the fastest! Not this Maori band. With Kerry Strummers on vocals and Harry Rivers on drums, they sounded great.
Nosmo wanted to rage on all night, so we all started to yawn and make noises like we wanted to go home to bed. We had better things in store for Nosmo back at the house. We eventually got Nosmo into his new bed and waited until we could hear a few odd snores. Then the dirty tricks department sprung into action.
We started the tape. “Nosmo… N-o-s-mo-o-o.” After about ten minutes, Nosmo ran out into the hall with a white face. “Were you guys calling me?” We all shook our heads, pretending to be woken up by his outburst. “Your not going to believe this but every time I look at that picture on the wall, it moves!” “Go back to bed Noz, you’ve had too much to drink.” Now it was time for the big one! Just as Nosmo slipped into dreamland, he was woken by the Chianti bottle in time to see the wardrobe crash to the ground and set off two pre-arranged streamers. This time Nosmo wasn’t waiting around for an explanation. Amidst screams of laughter from the rest of the house, he picked up his pillow and headed from the lounge room. “If you think I’m going to sleep in that bloody room, you’re crazy!”
It was going to be great fun having Nosmo in the band. He had the perfect temperament. As well as being a pretty outrageous guy in his own right, he could always be relied upon for good comedy relief. He even looked funny. It was going to be a lot of hard work whipping the band into shape but we were all very determined to make it work. Another three weeks in Cooma would give us the time we needed. With such a wealth of new material to learn, Nosmo and Michael had to use music stands. These were rather unkindly referred to by Jon as “monkey-see-monkey-do” stands.
Our female singer, Yvonne Ross, went back to Sydney, so Lionel Friar, in his dubious wisdom booked “The Amazing Ali-Kazam” for the floorshow on Sunday, January 19. As the patrons tucked into their dinner, The Amazing Ali-Kazam, complete with turban and female assistant, went into his act. The first part consisted of a fire dance followed by the eating of about twenty razor blades, which he reproduced again through his stomach. The patrons started to shift in their seats as he topped this little number off by eating a middy beer glass. As he went into his finale of hammering a couple of four-inch nails up his nose, some of the more faint-hearted patrons started dry retching. It was while he was showing the front row of the audience his snot-covered nails to prove that they were real, that a red-faced Lionel Friar ran onto the stage screaming “That’s enough, that’s enough! You’re fired!”
After ‘The Amazing Ali-Kazam’, it was easy to convince Lionel Friar that it would be better to get another female singer from Sydney. So we went ahead and booked Del Juliana. At least Del knew a few good rock songs and didn’t stick nails up her nose. When Del and her girlfriend Anne arrived, we put them straight into Nosmo’s booby-trapped room. Del made it through the night all right but her freaked-out girlfriend caught the plane back home the next day.
Jon had bought a Chrysler Royal for a £1,000, so we took Del for a hair-raising ride up the top of Mount Kosciusko. Jon wanted to see if his new car would do a hundred miles per hour. Why we were riding in a car with Jon at the wheel is a mystery. I was still suffering occasional headaches from the last time I rode with him and Michael was still picking pieces of windscreen glass out of his head! We were supposed to be suing Jon for negligent driving-but that is yet to come up in our story. Meanwhile Jon had driven us all to the top of Mount Kosciusko. Nosmo reckoned he was going to be the first person to pee off the highest peak in Australia. Del was horrified! She wanted to be the first!
We wanted to have a party for our last week in Cooma, so we invited all the guys from the Maori band at the Lido. It was also their lead singer Kerry’s 21st birthday. What a night! By this time we had the whole house booby-trapped! The Maoris had never been to a party in Australia before and they all thought it was normal. The R’Jays had some life-size photographs (with bow ties), which were left over from The Can, so we did a dance behind them. Everybody thought this was quite funny until Nosmo appeared with an empty frame, where Sandy’s photo used to be, wearing nothing but a bow tie! And with his balls hanging over the bottom of the picture frame! The Maori band’s girlfriends were somewhat embarrassed but after a “Dance of the Flames” and an “Eric Baume”, everybody settled in and had a wonderful time. “If this is what they do in Cooma, I can’t wait to get to Sydney,” said drummer, Harry Rivers.
It was coming to the end of the month and we still hadn’t thought of a new name for the band. To make matters even more urgent, we were booked to do Johnny O’Keefe’s TV show on channel 7. J’OK left a message with Del for me to ring, the moment we got back to Sydney. The suggestions were coming thick and fast; The War Babies, The Band from Snowy River, The Blowflies, The New Direction. “The Nude Erection?? What sort of a name is that?” I queried, “Come on guys, we’ve got to come up with a decent name for the band.” We carried on searching for a name for days with a lot of silly suggestions coming forth. It was henceforth decreed to forget about a new name until we arrived back in Sydney.
FROM R’JAYS TO RAJAHS
MONDAY FEBRUARY 3, 1964. Festival Records. Harris Street, Pyrmont. Hal Saunders' office. 11.05am… I talked to one of the maidens who’d almost been devoured... oops! Wrong story! Dig and I looked down at the recording contract on Hal’s desk. Dig had come along with me to witness the contract and make sure we weren’t getting ‘dudded’. The band name on the contract was still blank.
“Maybe it should be something like the R’Jays?” I pondered out loud, “...the Red Jays... the Rah Jays...the Rajahs…”
“The RAJAHS! That’s not bad,” said Dig. Hal nodded thoughtfully, “The Rajahs! That’s perfect!” said Johnny O’Keefe enthusiastically." You can wear turbans on the TV show. JO’K started to drift off, “satin cushions...harem girls...I know! We’ll get an elephant!” JO’K had a thing about elephants. It sounded like a pretty silly name to me but as I looked around at Hal, Dig and JO’K, they all seemed to be nodding their heads in unison. Even Robert Iredale, popped his head through the door. “The Rajahs?” he said, trying to hold back a snigger, “Not you lot again!”
Dig drove me over to Bill Watson’s place to give him the latest news about the new name of the band. Bill was anxious to get the publicity out for the forthcoming tour. “Don’t worry Leon”, said Bill as we walked through the door. “I’ve thought of a great name for the band.” “It’s alright Bill,” I interrupted as we sat down, “ Dig and I have just come from signing a contract at Festival. The band is now called the Rajahs.”
“But I have already put out the publicity,” protested Bill, I’ve advertised you as the BRUMBIES!”
“Oh no” Suddenly “The Rajahs” didn’t seem like such a bad name after all! Bill handed us a beer and I sat down and read the poster for the show, “SEVEN HITS AND A MISS, Starring * LUCKY STARR * DIG RICHARDS * ROB E.G. * THE (FOUR) DELLTONES * LITTLE PATTIE and THE BRUMBIES.”
“ Leon, your not one of the Brumbies are you?” The huge booming voice came from Peewee Wilson, of the Delltones, who was affectionately known as The Bird - “The Bird is the word!” As I nodded in disgust, The Bird kept pointing at me and laughing hysterically, “The Brumbies!”
“I wouldn’t laugh too loudly Bird. You and your “Dill Dolls” are going to have to be backed by the Brumbies in a couple of weeks.” Bill was starting to look a bit peeved at The Bird and me cracking up every time we mentioned the Brumbies. “I thought it was a good Australian name,” said Bill indignantly. This statement was greeted by another round of guffaws. Bill must have had a thing about horses. The last band he had on tour was Warren Daly and the Steeds. Could it be that he wanted to turn us into a backing-band for his stable of stars. “Boy, wait till I tell the other guys,” I thought to myself. “Jon’s already a bit bugged about going on this tour as it is. He doesn’t even know that he’s a Rajah yet, let alone being demoted to a Brumby!”
Meantime there where a lot of things to get together before we galloped away on this famous Bill Watson tour; A visit to Andy Ellis to get measured up for some new coats, four days recording at festival records and then the TV show Sing, Sing, Sing with Johnny O’Keefe.
JO’K invited us over to his place at Castlecrag, for a bit of a rehearsal. He had a couple of great little kids, Johnny Jnr. and Vickie. They helped us set up the gear in the lounge room. JO’K wanted us to do some Beatles songs on the show and was very keen to have his own personal band that could do their own stuff as well as vocal backing for all of his songs. The songs on Sing, Sing, Sing were usually pre-recorded at Festival so, while we were doing our first Rajahs session, JO’K came down and we put down three Beatles songs for the show. As we listened to the playback, a guy from the Sunday Mirror exclaimed, “That’s amazing! You guys sound exactly like the Beatles! What about putting down a couple more songs and I’ll get the Sunday Mirror to release them as a Beatlemania E.P?”
Well, we couldn’t argue with that could we? We didn’t need any rehearsal for Beatles songs. We just put them straight down then and there and didn’t think twice about it. At the end of the session, however, there was one rather cutting remark from our recording engineer, Robert Iredale that worried me. “You know what this means don’t you?” said Robert in his usual sarcastic tone, “You guys are going to be the poor man’s Beatles!”
The next session was a backing track for Dig’s new single Come on and Dance with Me b/w Livin’ Lovin’ Wreck. A couple of days later, Jon and I were back at our old stomping ground at ATN channel 7, except this time it wasn’t the R’Jays it was the Rajahs with Michael and Nosmo. There weren’t any harem girls or elephants, but as promised, JO’K had the turbans. “We can’t wear these stupid bloody things,” I protested, “We all look like The Amazing Ali-Kazam.”
“It’s alright,” said JO’K, “Look, I’ll wear one too.”
We opened our spot in the show with I Want To Hold Your Hand and Roll Over Beethoven, then JO’K joined us for I Saw Her Standing There, wearing a turban and looking as silly as the rest of us. Our spot went over very well with the studio audience and we joined the rest of the cast at the end of the show, singing Yes Sir That’s My Baby in a medley of old songs to appease the “oldies” after all the sinful rock‘n’roll. It was quite a big cast for that particular show; it included George Karen, Rod and Barry Stanton, Colin Cook, The Dekroo Brothers, The Ponytails, Denise Keene, Margaret McKenna and Rod Dunbar. With only a few days to go before the tour, we went back into Festival to finish off the Rajahs’ first single. The first song was called You’ll Get Over It, which was written for us by Lonnie Lee, a few months earlier, before we went to Cooma.
Since we weren’t game enough to write a song ourselves, I had terrible trouble finding a song that I thought would suit us. Lonnie suggested that Jon and I go over and see a new friend of his, Barry Gibb, who seemed to be able to write about ten songs a day. Barry and his little twin brothers, Robin and Maurice, lived in a little old white house in Lakemba. Barry pulled out his guitar, which was unconventionally tuned to an ‘A’ chord, and the Bee Gees played about a hundred songs. After this I was totally confused.
“I know”, said Barry, “Pick a song off the Top Forty that you like and I’ll write one just like it.” “What about Glad All Over?” said Jon helpfully. “Right!” said Barry. About fifteen minutes later, he had a new song with Robin and Maurice singing instant harmonies.
I’m afraid all this has been a major digression on my part because we forgot about all these songs anyway and we probably passed up about twenty hits. I had tried to get the Bee Gees a spot at the Manly Pacific with the band but Robin and Maurice were too young to sing in a pub and a month later we went to Cooma. We eventually found a song by Tommy Quickly, one of the Brian Epstein stable of Liverpool stars. The song was called Kiss Me Now. So, we ended our song search. This would be the Rajahs’ new single on Leedon, swimming in Robert Iredale’s newly found reverb, which was the latest replacement for the echo chamber in the dunny. Now, with recording and television exposure, the die for the Rajahs had been cast.
Bill Watson’s “7 Hits and a Miss with The Brumbies” Tour prepared for it’s assault on the southern half of Australia. The seven “Hits” were Lucky Starr, Dig Richards, Rob E.G and the four Delltones. The “Miss”, was one Miss LITTLE PATTIE who had to be replaced at the last minute by LYN ALVAREZ, younger sister of Bandstand star, Robyn Alvarez. The Child Welfare Department decided that poor Little Pattie was too young to embark on such a perilous trip without a chaperone. This meant that there were now two bogus acts on the bill. Not only were there no Brumbies, there was no Little Pattie either.
On our first show at the Hobart Town Hall on Friday, February 21, Jon made the mistake of introducing us as the Rajahs and apologising for the absence of the Brumbies. This later prompted some of the audience to scream out “WE WANT THE BRUMBIES!” Jon turned to me with a disgusted look on his face and grumbled, “I’ll kill that bloody Watson.”
The “7 Hits and a Miss” Show consisted mainly of survivors of the early rock scene, trying to prove that they could appeal to a more mature audience. It was strange for us to see our former fearless leader, Dig Richards, opening the show with a comedy and cabaret act but this was the new direction that Digby wanted to pursue. At this time he was trying to live down his “pretty boy-teenage idol” image. Dig was followed by the Delltones who were still riding on the crest of a wave with their surfing hit from the summer of 1963, Hangin' Five, sung by their new lead singer from The Crescents, Col Loughnan. The rest of the original Delltones were still intact. They were Warren Lucas - tenor, Brian Perkins (“The Duck”) - baritone, and Ian “Pee Wee” Wilson (“The Bird”) - bass. Apart from a couple of schmaltzy cabaret contributions like Love Is A Many Splendored Thing and You’ll Never Walk Again, The Dellies always killed ‘em. The Bird was big and gawky and everybody loved him, including us. He had a natural rapport with the audience and could always be relied on to say something new and funny every night, whereas everybody else in the show seemed to have patter that was contrived and rehearsed.
Speaking of contrived and rehearsed, our next act was the “Liberace of the Steel Guitar”, the one and only Rob E.G. Most of Rob’s act was sickly sweet but the audience loved him, especially when he smiled. Rob’s guitar was mounted on a homemade chrome stand, which we christened “The Wheel Chair”. Lyn Alvarez was very nervous for the first couple of shows but she soon settled down and was able to keep up with the rest of the more experienced cast. She was a good sort too! Bill Watson’s protégé, “The Fortunate Planet”, closed the show. Lucky Starr had just returned from Las Vegas where he wowed them at the Flamingo Hotel. This was Lucky’s “Bobby Darin Renaissance” period, complete with new confidence and a Hugh Hefner pipe. Apart from I’ve been everywhere and Mack The Knife, lucky got to do all the big rock‘n’roll numbers at the end of the show, which never failed to have the audience bopping and dancing in the aisles. Over all, the “Hits And A Miss” Show certainly gave the crowds their money’s worth.
One other important member of the troupe was our driver and roadie, Tex Harris. Tex was an old friend of Bill Watson, who originally came from Texas in Queensland. He was a reformed alcoholic who drank gallons of soft drink and always laughed at our gags. Tex and the rajahs immediately became comrades-in-arms, as we were the workers in the troupe, not the stars!
On our next show in Launceston, some of the audience threw apples at us, which I thought was quite appropriate, seeing we were in the Apple Isle. The main street of Launceston was blocked off, so we could do the show from the balcony of the Metropole Hotel. The fun started as the rain began to come down during Rob Egg’s spot on the show. As Rob ripped into one of his instrumental hits Si Senor (I Theenk?), the apples started flying. We were glad to get back to our sanctuary at the Star hotel. No, it wasn’t Lucky’s hotel. In fact, Lucky was staying at the Cornwall hotel and Dig and the Dellies were staying at the Launceston Hotel. We seemed to be holed up all over the town.
On the way over to the Launceston Hotel for lunch the following day, Sunday, February 23, we were driving our complimentary rent-a-car, which had a huge sign emblazoned on the side “THE BRUMBIES DRIVE KAY’S CARS”, The Brumbies are more famous than the Rajahs”, grumbled Nosmo as we passed the local news agency. “Hey look at that stupid sign”, said Michael pointing to a news placard. “ONLY 10/- BEATLES FOR ALL.” I wonder what it means?”
“It could mean anything in Tasmania,” said Jon as we ignored it and drove on. Our ostentatious rent-a-car pulled up outside the Launceston Hotel where we were confronted by an overly excited Tex running towards us.
“You’re on the front page! You’re on the front page!” he kept screaming as he waived a newspaper above his head. It was true. We couldn’t believe it. There we were on the front page of the Sunday Mirror, a ridiculous photo of the four of us wearing plastic Beatle wigs. We turned to page two and there we were again taking up the whole page! “AND NOW OUR OWN AUSSIE BEATLES,” the headlines screamed, this time with a photo of us looking normal. In the middle of the paper were another two full-page advertisements for The Rajahs Tribute to The Beatles record. We expected them to maybe advertise the record but we didn’t imagine anything like this. How embarrassing!
“Were more famous than the Brumbies”, said Nosmo jubilantly while we beat Tex over the head with the newspaper.
After a celebration champagne lunch with Dig and the Dellies, I was invited to accompany the “stars” for a radio interview on 7EX with Dig’s local DJ friend, the yet-to-become-famous Rod Muir. Our status had almost changed overnight. Suddenly all sorts of people wanted to see us, talk to us, touch us, feel us, hit us! The following night, the packed audience at the Devonport Town Hall didn’t give a shit about the Brumbies. They were happy to have the NOW famous Rajahs, although as the Devonport crowd screamed we could still hear a faint “We want the Brumbies!” in the background. This was later identified to be Col Loughnan and The Bird, screaming out from the wings!
We said farewell to Tasmania after a show at the Burnie Star Theatre and a party back at the commercial Hotel. The party was for Pee Wee’s 24th birthday and a good time was had by all. No groupies, no band vultures, no sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, just an old fashioned sing-song around the piano with lots of laughing food, booze and a fair sprinkling of negro spirituals. The staff thought it was wonderful!
After a short flight to Melbourne, we found ourselves heading towards Adelaide in Tex’s bright orange truck with its equally bright orange trailer. We stopped for one of the best shows on the tour at the Warnambool Town Hall in Victoria. The now famous Rajahs almost stole the show!
Adelaide was beautifully decked out for the annual Festival of Flowers as Tex’s orange truck rolled into the Havana Motel in Glen Osmond on Thursday, February 27. This was where we were to spend the next four days, splashing around the pool and admiring Lyn Alvarez’s considerable cleavage. Actually, we had three shows to do at the St. Claire and Salisbury Youth Centres. There was a bit of a riot at the end of the last show when some Adelaide lovelies stormed the stage and knocked over a couple of expensive Channel 9 cameras that were televising the show. We crammed as many of these Adelaide lovelies as we could into the Tex’s truck and headed back to the Havana Motel. Unfortunately silly old Tex ran out of petrol on the way home and we lost most of our precious cargo. Another newspaper whipping for Tex!
Not to be deterred, we eventually arrived back at Michael’ room with only two Adelaide lovelies, who were eager to participate in a “Shallimanikee Meeting”. One of them complained that there weren’t enough of us and insisted that we invite the star of the show to join us. A quick phone call was made to a very obliging “Fortunate Planet”. While we were waiting for the star to join the Shallimanikee, sneaky Jon whisked one of the girls into his room while we were busy watching the other one taking her clothes off. This was considered a definite “off side-free kick” by the rest of the group and, after Lucky got the ball got rolling (so to speak); Jon was refused re-entry in to the Shallimanikee. Jon missed all the fun and he was furious. We court-martialled him the following night for “protecting”, which is the act of willfully keeping a willing participant for one’s own carnal desires!
After Adelaide, we played to packed houses in Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln. Bill Watson looked suitably impressed as 970 people poured into the Whyalla Civic Hall. While we were being mobbed for autographs after the show, somebody stole Nosmo’s beloved beret and Jon was attacked by a spunky Greek girl. Or was it the other way around?
Tex’s orange truck crossed the border on Friday, March 6 into Broken Hill, closely followed by Brian Perkins (The Duck) in his FB Holden carrying the Delltones. Warren Lucas was worried about going bald so Col was in the back seat, giving Warren’s scalp a personal massage. This was known as the “personal treatment” which consisted of Col and Warren mutually “masturbating” each other’s heads for the entire trip with Ashley & Martins’ and various other baldness cures. Warren’s baldness phobia wasn’t helped by the rest of the Delltones, who would secretly send him ads for toupees through the mail.
A copy of our Beatlemania record arrived at the Palace Hotel in Broken Hill and we sat down with the Dellies and had a listen. “Christ, what happened? It sounded better than that in the studio,” said Nosmo. Everybody agreed mournfully.
“It sounds great, if you ask me,” said The Duck enthusiastically, The Delltones were very worried about the direction that rock’n’roll was taking with the advent of the Beatles. Their follow up record to Hangin’ Five wasn’t selling at all. It was another surfing song called Out the Back written again by one of our Manly Pacific regulars, ex-walloper, Ben Acton.
“Our harmonies are too nice” Col Loughnan was heard to say. “We’ve got to sing nastier,” he continued as he dug his fingers into Warren’s scalp. The Duck sat quietly through this profound conversation and then summarized the whole situation by saying “I reckon surfing music’s had the dick, man!”
It was Sunday and the Rajahs hit the front page again. This time Tex received a thrashing with the Melbourne Truth. With all the publicity we were getting things seemed to be hotting up back home and this was not a good time to be on tour. Offers were coming in from all over the place. TV Week and Womens Weekly wanted to do a spread on us. Strange people were ringing up with all sorts of gigs and TV shows including Bandstand and Graham Kennedy’s high rating show In Melbourne Tonight. I managed to stall the IMT show for our return but there wasn’t much I could do about the rest. After all, we didn’t even have a manager. When you’re hot, you’re hot and we were going to be lukewarm by the time we got back to Sydney!
Three dreary crowds at three dreary Victorian towns, Swan Hill, Kerang and Ballarat, then a great show at Bendigo Town Hall where we finally convinced Warren to put some black boot polish on the back of his head to stop the glare of the spotlight from his bald patch. A barbeque was held in our honor at a local fan’s place on Saturday, March 14. It was on our way to the front door of the Bendigo barbie that we encountered two shadowy figures revealed by somebody’s headlights.
“Don’t tell The Bird we’re out here,” said a voice through a strange cloud of pungent-smelling smoke. As we walked through the front door in search of sheilahs and snags, I heard some wheezing noises coming from the bedroom. I was surprised to find The Bird working-out with some weights and barbells. “I think somebody in the Delltones is smoking dope, Leon,” he boomed in a very sombre voice. “It can’t be any good for you,” he said as he continued to pump more iron.
The Delltones went off to Melbourne to pick up their 1963 Tunetable Award while we stayed behind to catch up on our washing before heading off to Albury for a radio interview at 2AY with Lew Stephens. The whole cast came together the next day for a show at the Albury Civic Centre and the Wangaratta Town Hall. “It’s WAngarrata not WOngarrata!” exclaimed one of the frustrated locals from Ned Kelly country. “They don’t call them KOngaroos now, do they?”
We were finally heading towards home. The tired old orange truck chugged its way through the Snowy Mountains on Thursday March 19, to our old stomping grounds at Cooma, where we were greeted by Lionel Friar’s son, Stephen, who was clutching a copy of our new Beatlemania EP. “I didn’t know you guys were famous,” he said as he asked us to autograph the record. “Neither did we,” said Jon while we set up the gear at the Monaro Theatre. Most of the locals were very happy to see us again, especially Peter Martin and the Maori Esquires. They set up a party at their place to pay us back for the last party, where we horrified all their girlfriends.
The show at the Albert Hall in Canberra the following night was booked out so Bill Watson decided to have a matinee show as well. The dreaded advance publicity was still hounding us “7 HITS AND A MISS with LITTLE PATTIE and the BRUMBIES”. It sounded like the non-existent Brumbies had formed a band with Little Pattie. “Just think, after tomorrow night the world will never hear about the Brumbies again,” I reflected.
“I wish they’d never heard about them in the first place!” said Nosmo as he punctuated his remark with a huge fart on cue! We quickly got out of the truck and checked in at the Zebra Motel. The Bird and The Duck scored a huge suite with a lounge room. This was immediately designated the “party room” for after the show.
And what a party it turned out to be! After lots of comings and goings with the local Canberra girls and various members of the troupe, (except for Rob of course), by the end of the night there was a full “Shallimanikee Meeting” under way in the party room. The Bird took over as Master-of-Ceremonies (in the absence of the Grand Master, John Bogie from the Joy Boys) and explained to our excited young recruit that the Shallimanikee Club was usually reserved for people in rock’n’roll show biz only but seeing as though she had such a great body and was interested in dancing, maybe we could make her an honorary dancer if she took the oath and passed the test. With Lyn by his side, the Bird did a masterful job of getting our beautiful new recruit to strip off all her clothes off and take the sacred show business oath. Anybody who laughed during this solemn occasion was banished to the bathroom. Everyone chanted reverently “Shallimanikee, yeah, yeah”
After taking the oath, our new recruit then took on the Brumbies one by one, followed by the Delltones and the “Fortunate Planet”. She was still yelling for more when our cunnilingus connoisseur, Digby finally arrived after taking one of the local lovelies home. We convinced him that the naked girl in the bedroom was in love with him alone and we had been waiting all night for him to arrive and start the action. “Don’t worry boys, for the honor of the Shallimanikee, I’ll take care of it!” was Digby’s gallant reply. About fifteen minutes passed and Dig reappeared with the triumphant announcement, “It’s okay boys, she’s ready now.” Dig couldn’t understand why we all fell to the floor laughing hysterically. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was actually the “last cab off the rank”.
Our last show at the Goulburn Lilac Time Hall on Saturday, March 21, was hilarious. As with most end-of-tour shows, the dirty tricks department came out in full force. While Dig was doing his opening spot, members of the Delltones kept appearing at the back of the stage dressed as waiters and whatever other guise they could find from the props department. We tied some fishing line to Rob’s guitar stand (“The Wheelchair”), so that every time he looked up to do one of his smiles, one of the Delltones would pull his “Wheelchair” a couple of inches toward the side of the stage. By the time Rob finished playing a few extra-unwanted slides on his steel guitar, he was practically playing in the wings! Rob’s father, Maurie Porter, was in the audience and he was not amused. Poor Rob couldn’t understand what was happening; the audience kept laughing in all the wrong places. Lyn and Lucky didn’t escape either. A lot of uninvited people kept joining in their acts and when Lucky went to put on his guitar, he found it was tied to a house-brick. The audience seemed to sense that we were having a good time and they loved it.
Jon may have originally thought that the “7 Hits and a Miss” tour was a bit of a backward step, especially as we were billed as “The Brumbies”. But the Rajahs certainly made the best of it and we were lucky enough to make a lot of great new friends!