JON: Evidently we must have done a good job of The Bert Newton Show because we were upgraded to flying home to Sydney instead of the second-class Pioneer bus. The two major airlines that Australia had then were TAA and ANA and their top planes were Lockhead Electras and Vickers Viscounts, both turbo-prop aircraft. Melbourne was nearly two hours away from Sydney in these aircraft and the fare was eighteen pounds, four shillings, return. We were paid £20 each for these shows. Thank God we didn’t have to pay our own fares!
We didn’t have time to stay in Melbourne. We had to come home the same night because of an early rehearsal at Channel 7 for Teen Time. This particular Monday the other artist on the show besides Dig was Dale Wayne so we had to rehearse his songs. Rehearsals were always in Studio X, downstairs, and then we would do the show live to air in Studio B. Unfortunately, there were no video tapes kept of Teen Time.
The next two weeks was a typical and quite busy time for us. On the Wednesday night the R‘Jays had a regular dance at Cabramatta Civic Hall. This was always a good night, always packed and not too far from my home in Strathfield. I still hadn’t got a car yet! The other people on at the dance with us were Kitten Dwyer, a country & western girl singer trying to sing rock’n’roll and a band called Flame & the Firey Five.
One night at this dance an incident occurred which showed a side of Dig’s nature not yet seen by anyone. There was a guy, one of our semi-regulars, who every week seemed to have something smart to say either about Dig or the band: “How come youse get all the sheilas? What’s so great about you lot? You’re just a bunch of pooftas, especially that Dig Richards!” We used to let these comments slide because this guy looked a bit too tough; in fact, he was an ex-boxer from Canberra. But the “poofta” bit finally got us pretty mad, especially Dig Richards. At the end of the dance, Dig politely invited the pugilist outside, took him across the road to the park and, to the surprise of everyone, beat the shit out of him!
Dig became the idol of all the Cabramatta bikies who were watching this debacle. Nobody ever dared to suggest bashing up the band from then on!
There were the usual bunch of girls who used to follow us to every show in Sydney. Two I remember very well – Beverly Boberidge, our fan club president, and her girlfriend, Rhonda V. Moore. The ‘V’ was for virgin because no matter how we tried, Rhonda guarded her virginity! She later married Col Loughnan from The Crescents and lived happily ever after. Bev’s place at Leichhardt became one of our favourite after work ‘crash pads’.
I’ll mention the money we got. In those times, the singer always got more money than the band members but the money we made was pretty good when you consider that when I left Gowings I was making £5 a week! My father, who was the manager of a company, was only making £35 per week. For Teen Time we made 6 guineas (£6/6/-) each and for Cabramatta dances we made 6 pounds, 5 shillings (£6/5/-). Many times our earnings would depend on the success or failure of the dance. Still, I’d only done about five hours playing and I was ahead of Gowings already. Some weeks we could net well over £100, which was a lot more than your average clod in the late fifties. Mind you, in those days money meant nothing to us. We were in it for the glory, mate! I spent it like it was nothing. I’ve no idea where it went and I don’t care. Anyhow back to those busy two weeks in November 1959.
Thursday night: Newcastle Stadium! Now that’s enough to scare the crap out of you, isn’t it? Well it was for Peter. He was so nervous he’d gone green! I had to push him out on stage. Also on the show were The Toppers, Johnny Byrell, Danny Shaw (a very fine impressionist – “Mr. Cooper, d’ya know what we do to horse thieves in Californy?” a la Walter Brennan), The Allen Brothers, Peter Allen and Chris Bell with their ‘stage father’, Mr. Bell – “That’s lovely boys!”, Lonnie Lee, who at the time had one of the best voices and could always sing up a storm and Warren (Wokka) Williams, one of the nicest guys in the business.
There was also Johnny Devlin & the New Devils, who were not quite as good as the original Devils. They had some really good musos in that band; Ron Martin for instance, an excellent bass player and crazy person, who played with us on Noeleen Batley’s Barefoot Boy. Incidentally, I was in love with Noeleen, but she only had eyes for that degenerate Dave Bridge! Dave was the guitarist in the other band for the show Col Joye & the Joy Boys. For this huge venture we were paid £20 but it was one of our first really exciting experiences. Especially for Leon. Here are his impressions of that night.
LEON: This was my first live show with Dig since I joined the band and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When Dig was announced he came on stage still wearing his crutches. The roar from the crowd was deafening. It was quite an emotional experience as everybody stood up and cheered for about ten minutes. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I had expected a good reaction but nothing like this! Our apprehension about Dig’s first show since the Harbour Bridge accident was all for nothing. He absolutely slaughtered them! There were well-meaning hands reaching out to touch him and if they had got hold of him they would have pulled him off the stage in the heat of the moment. They had gone utterly berserk and we could do no wrong. We stole the show completely! Back at the Carlton Hotel after the show. Dig and Col played guitar and sang to a select audience of about twenty party girls while Jon and Dave Bridge sang a few dirty ditties. Dave’s rendition of The Bishop From Birmingham brought the house down!
BACK TO JON: Well that was our extended tour of Newcastle. Now it was back to Sydney for two nights’ dances at Brookvale Theatre. These old theatres were definitely not set up for bands. The stage was only deep enough for the drums and that’s all. You had to step precariously round the drums if you were silly enough to set up on the other side of the stage. It was also a very high stage which was bad for falling off but good for keeping away the “BAND VULTURES”, Peter’s affectionate name for groupies, band molls, fans etc., who hovered, talons bared, around the stage. Band vultures could do some damage if they got hold of you!
Some of the kids used to sneak over to Fiorelli’s Wine Bar or Brookie pub and get some “responsible” adult to buy some grog for them. So towards the end of the night, a few fights would erupt. Fortunately we had some good bouncers.
For a lot of these dances, during Leon’s first week, we had to use other singers instead of Dig as he was still recovering from the accident and only did the most important shows. For instance, at Brookvale we used Lonnie Lee one night and Ray Hoff the next. The Brookie dances were worth six quid (£6) each.
Sunday night:Phyllis Bates Ballroom in Pitt Street, City. This was one of our regular dances and this night we used Lonnie Lee instead of Dig. Six quid (£6). (Reminds me of a joke about a ‘sick squid’).
Monday night: Teen Time, Dale Wayne as support act again this week. Six guineas (£6/6/-).
Tuesday afternoon: Band practice at Northbridge Masonic Hall. Then at night, Marrickville Kings Theatre with Dig. I’ve gone blank on this gig. I have no recollection of it at all. But if it’s in Leon’s “Crazy Book”, we did it! Ten quid (£10)!
Wednesday night: Cabramatta Civic Hall, with Dig, Kitten Dwyer and Mark Rebel & the Vampires. Six pounds, five shillings (£6/5/-).
Thursday arvo: Practice at Northbridge again and then Chatswood Dispensary Hall at night. The R’Jays and Lee Rivers. Seven pounds, ten shillings (£7/10/-).
Friday night: Lithgow Showground Hall with Dig. Drawn a blank on this one too. Strange, Lithgow’s such a memorable town! Twenty one pounds (£21)!
Saturday night: Back to Brookie for another dance, this time with Ray Hoff filling in for Dig. Six quid (£6).
Sunday night: Phyllis Bates with Lonnie Lee filling in. Another sick squid (£6).
At this time Lonnie had a hit record in the charts called Ain’t It So? He also had a beautiful sister, Liz who was sort of going out with Warren Williams at the time. I desperately wanted to “sort of” go out with her too but I never succeeded because she was stolen away by our newly found drummer Leon – you grasscutter!
Monday: Well folks, that’s the end of two weeks with Dig & the R’Jays and the “Baby Drummer” as Leon was called. Back to Teen Time with only Dig on this week. Six guineas (£6/6/-).
So over this two week period I made a total of 133 pounds, 12 shillings (£133/12/-), which in 1959 was not bad bread and a whole lot better than “don’t give up your day job!” We’re off to Melbourne tomorrow and I’m going to meet a lovely girl called “Mouldy Marlene”!
The silver Top taxi weaved precariously through the mid-morning Melbourne traffic on our way from Essedon Airport to the Melbourne Town Hall for a lunchtime concert. We sat in the cab excitedly talking about the differences between Melbourne and Sydney, like the silly right-hand turns, the trams and the safety zones that go with them, and the really tarted-up looking girls.
“Tell us, is that Dick Richard really a poofta?” Now this is one of the standard cab driver questions along with “What’s Johnny O’Keefe really like?” and “There’s lots of pooftas in the entertainment business, isn’t there?” Maybe we’ll get around to answering these questions for you later on, guys! Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the road! Fortunately Dig was in the cab in front and we satisfied the inquisitive cad driver with “No, he’s as normal as you and I mate!”
“Well y’never can tell with these types can yers?” he said as we bumped across the tramlines.
There was a large queue of Melbourne’s finest waiting to get into the Town Hall. Some of them screamed, “There he is, there’s Dig!” and “That must be the R’Jays!” Some of them broke away from the queue and started to chase the cabs but we turned into the back of the Town Hall and lost them. I kind of wanted them to catch us but I knew that we could easily lose some clothing or anything else they could get their sweaty little hands on for a souvenir.
We found out there were two shows to do. Supporting us were two local bands the High Marks and the Hi-Fi’s (most confusing) and Frankie Davidson who was a pretty big star in Melbourne at the time. “Hi,” said Frankie, “You guys certainly caused a bit of a stir out the front!”
“Not nearly as much as we’re going to stir up out there, Frank,” said Dig, pointing towards the stage. We did stir them up a little as well! The lunchtime concerts were always grand occasions and they became the inspiration for the so-called “live” EP Dig Richards At The Melbourne Town Hall. Well I think the applause was “live” anyway! Melbourne Town Hall is a bit like Sydney Town Hall in that the acoustics are lousy but the atmosphere is great. You certainly don’t have to use much echo there, which was lucky because we didn’t have any! Echo was a luxury in sound that was strictly reserved for the recording studio. In fact, at that time, our equipment compared to that of Melbourne bands was sadly lacking. But what we lacked in equipment and band size (The Thunderbirds was about a ten-piece band) we made up for in popularity which did tend to make those Melbourne bands a little pissed-off!
Show over, we headed off to our hotel, the London, for well-earned drinks, relaxation, food and, hopefully, SEX! Some of the girls had found out (or maybe we told them?) what hotel we were staying at and they followed us back. Hotel policy definitely did not condone girls in the rooms and in those days they enforced the rule pretty heavily. Undaunted, we led some of the girls up the fire escape and in through a window to our rooms.
“You can’t do this!” said our Melbourne tour manager Chris Diprose. “You’ll get us thrown out.” Panic, panic! “Shut up,” I said, “There’s one for you too!”
“Well get them into the room quickly before someone comes down the hall.” More panic, panic!
It’s interesting to note at this point the method we adopted for culling out the less broad-minded of the female fans. This was accomplished by a series of “party tricks” each one guaranteed to get rid of a certain percentage of guests. These were as follows:
DANCE OF THE FLAMING ARSE HOLES which consists of sticking the local newspaper up your arse and lighting it, then dancing around the room. In some towns the local rag is a little small, which results in a burnt bottie! Deterrent value: 50% at least.
ERIC BAUME: For all of you that do not remember him, Eric Baume was a rather bad-tempered current affairs expert of the time on TV and radio who later was the Beast on Beauty And The Beast. He had thick horn-rimmed glasses and a very thick moustache. To perform the trick, all one has to do is place a pair of horn-rimmed glasses on top of one’s genitals. Preferably, one should have dark hair and be past the age of puberty! Deterrent value: 25%
W.O.W!: This one is performed by borrowing lipstick from one of the remaining guests and painting a large ‘W’ on each cheek of your arse. When you return to the room you may not be good-looking but when you bend over – “WOW!” Deterrent Value: 25%.
The inventor of the first two tricks had all of these attributes plus the horned-rimmed specs as well! He is none other than the famous (or infamous!) John Bogie of the Joy Boys who later made an instrumental record of The Dance Of The Flames. He is the inventor of many famous party tricks, some of which we weren’t even game enough to perform, such as DOCTOR BEAUJAIS’ ANATOMY TEST and the BUM LAMPSHADE. If ever there was a lull in proceedings, Peter Baker would exclaim in a loud Shakespearian voice “Oh for the joys of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE!” This was usually followed by a couple of nervous girls scurrying for the door while the more stout-hearted ones remained.
Sometimes the party tricks would all go wrong and ALL, the fans would be horrified and leave but “that’s show biz!”
Meanwhile, back at the London, one room as usual was designated The Party Room. It’s a good idea not to let it be your room because not only do you have all the mess in the morning, but you have to take your bird, if you get one, into someone else’s room (decadent party hint No.1). Well, in the party room there were about six girls remaining. Two of them were Jackie and Marlene. Jackie came from Collingwood. I went to her place on a later trip. Marlene was given the rather unkind nickname of “Mouldy Marlene”, by one of the guys in the band. Marlene was not “mouldy” as such but more slightly tarnished, a fallen angel.
There was also one Melbourne DJ known very appropriately as “Haines the Hound”. Unwanted Disc Jockeys were noted for turning up at after-show parties. Why not? Free piss, plenty of chicks and loads of name dropping on the radio the next day. And, who knows? Maybe if they’re feeling generous, they might even play your record!
The party careered on into the night with copious amounts of grog being consumed. After a while, I figured it was time to go to my room and lie down before I fell down. I was woken about 4am by a whimpering sound outside my door. It was Mouldy Marlene!
“I can’t get into any of the rooms and I can’t go home because I haven’t got any money,” she sobbed.
“Okay, I guess you better come in then, eh?” said I.
She got into bed with all her clothes on and started getting really aggro, saying, “Don’t touch me, don’t you dare touch me!” I looked meaningfully into her eyes in the half-light of the Melbourne dawn and said, “Marlene, this is my bed, in my room and if you want to stay here things better start getting a bit more pleasant!”
Well I guess that was all she needed because things started to hot up right away. From then on, every time the band came to Melbourne, Mouldy Marlene would be waiting for me at the airport. She even came to Sydney and stayed at my place for a week with another girlfriend who later married our piano player, Jay Boogie. Marlene and I enjoyed what you might call a good sexual relationship, probably my first.
As the taxi meandered its way to Essedon Airport, Peter uttered the immortal line, “You’ll all rot in Hell!” As I pondered whether or not I should have let Marlene go to sleep with all her clothes on or not, the thought came to me “THE ONE YOU MISS… IS THE ONE YOU’LL NEVER GET AGAIN!”