History of Rock'n'Roll in Western Australia

Please send in comments, stories and extra info to perthrocks@optusnet.com.au


AuthorsUpload date and comments
Snake Pit Days: A Fragment of Perth's Rock'n'Roll HistoryAndy Andros, Diane Lewis and Dr Cecilia Netolicky24/06/2009

Cherished Times: Reflections on Perth's Rock'n'roll Past

Ron Millar and Dr Cecilia Netolicky30/06/2009
Peter Andersen: An Original and Enduring Perth Rock'n'rollerExtracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes)01/07/2009
Bill Blaine: still rockin' at 67Bill Blaine and Dr Cecilia Netolicky11/07/2009
Les Meade: crooner, entertainer, showmanLes Meade and Dr Cecilia Netolicky14/07/2009
Les Dixon: reputed to have formed Perth's first Rock'n'roll bandExtracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes)24/07/2009
Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-StarsExtracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes)29/07/2009
Memories of an Era: Perth in the Late 50s and Early 60sRon Spargo, Carol Spargo, Don Baker and Dr Cecilia Netolicky5/08/2009

Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars: making it in Perth's early Rock'n'Roll scene

Clive Higgins and Dr Cecilia Netolicky09/08/2009
Colin Nichol: Perth's Father of Rock'n'RollColin Nichol and Dr Cecilia Netolicky11/08/2009

How Something got into the Water and WA's Rock'n'Roll Past

Colin Nichol24/08/2009
Kelly Green: our Rock'n'Roll CinderellaDr Cecilia Netolicky (data, pics ad infor from Kelly Green)1/09/2009
Peter Andersen: Rockin' Perth for more than 40 yearsPeter Andersen and Dr Cecilia Netolicky5/11/09
Martin Clarke and Clarion RecordsColin Nichol17/11/09
The Yeomen - 1965 - 1967Terry Harris23/3/10
Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll Fashion Today Part I: The Legacy of the Past

Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll Fashion Today Part 2: Response of a generation - Mid 1950s to mid 1960s

Dr Cecilia Netolicky 24 June and July 10 2010. I particularly appreciate reading things written from the perspective of someone who was 'there at the time' as you said when we met. Candice De Ville.www.candicedeville.com.au
Jive, Twist and Stomp: WA Rock & Roll Bands of the 50s and 60s   Review of John Mills & Murray Gracie book by C & J Netolicky  12 November 2010
A Major Force in Perth's Roots Rock'n'Roll Scene - Les DixonLes Dixon and Dr Cecilia Netolicky11 March 2012

Snake Pit Days: A Fragment of Perth's Rock'n'Roll History

 Andy Andros, Diane Lewis and Dr Cecilia Netolicky Uploaded 24/6/09

It seems timely to begin documenting Perth's rock'n'roll history, while participants are alive, and their memories remain reasonably intact. There's so little available on the internet, and like it or not, that is now the primary source of information for many. This is only a partial story. It's not an attempt at an holistic, unbiased historical account of the era. Rather, it provides an idiosyncratic thread in the rich tapestry of 50s and 60s life in Perth's rock'n'roll scene. This is the story as told to me by Andy Andros and Diane Lewis in June 2009.

Perth's rock'n'roll history was forged on Scarborough's foreshore, on the pavement, across from the old Scarborough Hotel, on a concrete-terraced pit that became know as "The Snake Pit" in about 1957.

Teenagers had began dancing on the pavement outside a milkbar called, "Ye Olde 'Kool-Korner' Kafe", near "Dynamite's Shack". Big Don, an American submariner, a big guy built like a bouncer, came up with the idea of setting up a hamburger joint with milkshakes and a jukebox on the concrete terrace. He had the whole corner opposite the Scarborough Hotel. This area became known as The Snake Pit.

Kids travelled from all over Perth - Victoria Park, Fremantle and Midland - to be entertained by the rock'n'rollers, or to rock to the jukebox. "There was no need to put money in the jukebox. It played straight through. No one had to put money in, so there were no fights". As Andy says "You had to live it". Dancing often went on till midnight. Kids danced, got hot, swam, cooled off, and danced again. Everyone stopped to watch the really cool dancers. You'd hear "Let's go have a look. So-and-so's going to dance now. He's a really good dancer" and everyone would traipse off.

The Snake Pit was well "policed" by the dancers. They saw it as "a happy, fun place, so they kept it under control". They saw it as special, a place for teenagers, something of their own, so they kept the peace. Andy Andros was known as "the Pit Boss" in those days. He helped diffuse conflict and organized a lot of dance partners. Because of his duties, his hamburgers and milkshakes were free, and he had his own parking spot.

The core blokes at the Snake Pit wore black jeans and black t-shirts with desert boots and black or white socks. The girls wore mainly jeans, or skirts and petticoats. They either danced bare feet, or in desert boots with iridescent pink, orange or lime green laces. When "you looked down on the Pit you'd see a seething mass of mainly black with bits of bright colour wriggling, or seething, around. This is what led to the name The Snake Pit. So the Snake Pit was born".

Occasionally there were live bands such as The Red Rockets, Bill Blaine and The Dynamics, The Saints or The Roulettes. Some of those guys are still performing today: Tony Tyler (The Zodiacs) and Peter Andersen.

Diane Lewis and Andy Andros today

One day a promoter, Joe Lynch, brought down a team of boxers and set up a ring in the Pit and challenged the rock'n'rollers to fight. The boxers only won one fight, the rock'n'rollers won five or six. That started former bantam weight titleholder Andy Andros' boxing career.

Reinforced by the newspapers of the time, the establishment, and many parents, had a negative attitude to the bodgies, widgies and Scarborough Beach scene. In a newspaper article of the period it is described as "the 'notorious' Snake Pit at Scarborough where  Rock'n'Roll music blared and dancers - including "progressive dressers' - strutted their stuff". The choice of wording definitely incites disdain, "notorious", "blared", "strutted" and "progressive" (which was supposed to connote a negative feeling in this context).

An article, in the 1957 Daily Times (31 January), claims "the best jivers in town aren't necessarily bodgies and widgies. Lots of young people who have never worn stovepipe pants or sloppy joes in their lives can show the milkbar exhibitionists points when it comes to jive. For these young people have been taught to jive by professional dancers engaged by the Education Department". The article concludes stating, "society has a way of dealing with people who cause trouble ... sooner or later it locks them away in institutions, reformatories or gaols, where they can cause least trouble. So it's doubly fortunate that bodgie behaviour and a bodgies future really have little appeal for West Australian youth". The same article quotes "our job is to help them ... to develop character and personality, and eventually to achieve a well balanced, tolerant and constructive social outlook as grown up members of society". In a cartoon of the day it is asked (Daily News Fri, Jan 18, 1957), "you still think a spank and a haircut would fix 'em?". One has to ask whether the newspaper exhibited a "well-balanced, tolerant and constructive outlook" toward the Snake Pit subculture, I think not.

I chose to end this piece with a poem by Andy Andros. It reinforces my own strong feeling of the era. I was branded a rebel by my school and seen as rebellious by my parents. I was made to feel like one of the "bad kids". When I look back on my years as a teenager in Sydney I have to laugh. I didn't drink alcohol, didn't smoke and was still a virgin. Yet as a result of the way I dressed, and my scorn for some outdated, trivial school traditions, I was labelled "bad". That labelling affected my development as a person and my self-image. I hope we are now more discerning, and look deeper, prior to passing judgement on the young.

Dancing @ The Snake Pit

Snake Pit was THE place to be
Andy Andros

Way back in the Fifties,
A long, long time ago.
We all gathered at the
Snake Pit just to rock'n'roll.

People used to gather there,
To watch us do our thing.
Jive was very popular
But rock'n'roll was in.

Rock around the clock and blue suede shoes,
Were blazing out the beat,
It made you want to clap your hands,
And really stamp your feet.

So rock'n'roll was here to stay,
They all enjoyed the beat.
The young, the old, the middle-aged,
Were packed onto the street.

Scarborough beach was the place to go
When it got very hot.
But when the jukebox started to play,
We all had lost the plot.

No LSD, no ecstasy,
No heroin or coke,
Just good, clean, happy kids,
Who didn't even smoke.

To all you Snake Pit Rockers,
Who still enjoy the dance.
Remember how fit and healthy we were,
In our skin-tight pants.

So Scarborough Snake Pit though you're gone,
Your memory lives on.
The happy times, the fun we had,
Weren't so very wrong.


Photographs: #1 & #2 - unsourced, from the collection of Andy Andros, #3 - The Stirling Times (19 Sept 2000)

 We'd love to hear more stories of the era. That way we may slowly piece together a bit more of WA's rock'n'roll history. Send in your story, come and tell me your story and I'll write it up under dual authorship, or recommend musicians and participants who's knowledge can contribute to a richer picture of the Snake Pit days and the bodgies and widgies of the 50s and 60s era in WA.

The Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll CD - available from http://www.collectorrecords.nl/?page=shop&action=details&id=173
32 tracks played by the bands of this era - Peter Andersen and the Tornados, The Times, The Hi-Five, Bill Blaine & The Dynamics, The Roulettes, The Rhytmaires, The Red Rockets, Les Dixon Group, The Hawaiian Troupadores, Clem Croft, Leo & Pete, The Logan Sisters, Pam Bradley & Adrian Usher

Cherished Times: Reflections on Perth's Rock'n'roll Past

 Ron Millar and Dr Cecilia Netolicky        Uploaded 30/6/09

These are the cherished memories of Ron Millar's early Rock'n'roll days in Perth. Ron describes himself as a "bodgie" (he says you can tell by the hairstyle), a "pure Rock'n'roller". When you hear him speak of The Snake Pit, Canterbury Court and Embassy Ballroom days, he's wistful and invigorated, he's smiling, and his eyes sparkle. It's obvious these memories are special for him, they are, for him, cherished times.

Ron's had five strokes: 1996, 2007, 2007, 2008 and 2008, so remembering, for him, is hard work. He's retained few belongings. But, it's apparent, the era was very special to him, as he's chosen to keep a lot of memorabilia from the early days of Rock'n'roll in Perth. He still has the jacket, shirt and pants he used to dance  in, and he's still got a folder of newspaper clippings and posters from the era.

Ron today

Ron had a distinct advantage over many other young blokes in those days. He had a car, and not just any car. He had a Ford Customline 1956. Cars were a big thing then - people would go and admire the cars out on the street. So, having a car definitely helped with getting a girlfriend. 

Some of the girls were considered "really hot". It helped to have a good car, and be able to dance, to get a "hot chick". There was competition among the girls with what they wore, "they were always trying to outdo each other". There was also competition to attract the "special guys". 

Some of the dancers were married, about half and half. Ron met his wife at The Snake Pit. She was a dancer. "So dancing was a big part of it". She liked Ron because he "could Rock'n'roll", and because he had an awesome car. 

Ron describes the atmosphere at The Snake Pit as "electric". On a good weekend there'd be 200 to 300 people, about half of those dancers, the other half spectators. Of those, about half were Jivers and the others were Rock'n'rollers. Ron describes himself as "pure Rock'n'roller". He says there was no conflict between the different dancers, fights in those days were generally over "chicks".

Ron says people went down to the Snake Pit whatever the weather, "Didn't matter if it rained". Sometimes they danced in the milkbar if it was wet. Sometimes they ate at Peters by the Sea (still there today - a Scarborough icon). 

Ron used to also hang out at Canterbury Court. He had more freedom than most, because he had a car. Canterbury Court was good when it rained, as it was an indoor venue. There were chairs and tables at the Canterbury, and a huge wooden dance floor. They played Rock'n'roll, Jazz and there was some Ballroom. On a good night there would be 300 to 400 people. 

There was also The Embassy Ballroom. That was 50% Rock'n'roll and 50% Ballroom. You had to dress up more if you went to Embassy Ballroom or Canterbury Court. At The Snake Pit you could wear jeans and a t-shirt, at the other venues you wore stovepipe pants, a black shirt, tie and creepers. Ron often wore bright pink socks with a pink and black tie. 

Ron was a key figure in the organization of The Snake Pit reunions and the Rock'n'roll Walk of Fame in Scarborough and remains a "fixture" at the Mustang Bar (Perth's Rocknroll HQ). Through the subsequent decades, Rock'n'roll has remained a central part of his life.

Ron's original dance gear

Les Dixon, Pat Grey & Ron Millar

Unsourced photo from collection of Ron Millar

Some Snake Pit facts extracted from Ron's memorabilia:

(including Stirling Times Jan 17 1995 and unsourced articles)

The man who "set up" the Snake Pit dance floor was Don Errichette. He wanted to give youngsters something constructive to do in their spare time. Don was a US Navy submarine chief petty officer stationed in Perth during WW II. He married a local girl, Rosina Rifici, and bought the small kiosk on the corner of Manning Street and The Esplanade. He named it "La Spiaggia (The beachfront)". (The new Cafe Spiaggia is built on The Snake Pit site). 

Mrs Errichetti imported records from South America to play on the record player of the cafe with speakers facing the outside dining area. As demand grew, the Erichettes had the sand dune behind the shop excavated, a

 wooden floor installed and a jukebox. Don Errichette said the late Robert Holmes a Court was in-charge of building the Snake Pit for Bells Brothers. 

Tony Martin and other members of the Scarborough Police and Citizens Boys' Club supervised dance competitions at The Snake Pit. Winners in those days were determined by audience applause. 

The Snake Pit was never an official name. It was the name the area was known by because of the dancers "snakey actions".

Ron Millar, Susan Forsaith, Les Dixon & Tony Martin

Stirling Times 17 Jan 1995 p3


Peter Andersen: An Original and Enduring Perth Rock'n'roller

Extracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes)

Up-loaded 1/7/09

Peter Andersen and the Tornadoes vied with Bill Blaine and the Dynamics as Perth's top rock and roll band in the early sixties. While Bill's group dominated Teen Beat and the Coca Cola Hi Fi Club Hops, Peter and the Tornadoes stole the show at the Embassy on more than one occasion and had the hotel scene totally in their control by 1962.

Born in Midland in 1945, Peter first developed a liking for country music and big band jazz, before he discovered the up beat sounds of Bill Haley and Little Richard. He soon became enamoured with Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, in addition to Australian talent like Johnny O'Keefe and Col Joye. In 1957, after seeing Tex Croft performing at the Midland Oval, he was inspired to learn guitar, becoming proficient enough to perform Bye Bye Baby on TV Show Stairway to the Stars towards the latter part of 1959.

Peter played in a number of bands during his teens. These early groups provided Peter with valuable experience, and by the time he joined the Tornadoes in 1960, he was almost a seasoned veteran. The Tornadoes were originally formed some time between August and October 1960. The initial line-up included Al Clarke on lead, but he was soon replaced by George 'Chick' Johnson. The remainder of the group was Peter on vocal and guitar, Ken Webster on bass, piano pounding Jerry Lee fanatic Ken Mitchell and the enigmatic Sam Gani on drums. Ken Mitchell jokingly recalled that Peter would use kitchen tongs as a microphone during their early practice sessions so he could develop the right stage presence.

Their first demo recordings were made in 1961. Before cutting this session, the group made their first appearance at the Embassy on April 22, 1961. Ken Mitchell recollects that this was an unpaid gig and it wasn't until their next show at the Embassy on June 3 that they were paid for their efforts. Soon they were playing at private functions, progressing to regular gigs at Wrightson's Dance Hall on King Street, after lessons had finished for the day. Their successful appearance at the Embassy spurred Colin Nichol to allow the Tornadoes to play there on a monthly basis, a decision that helped the Tornadoes increase their following. Their popularity grew to the point that a police officer was posted at Peter's dressing room door to prevent hordes of adoring female fans breaking in and tearing his clothes to shreds!

A young Peter Andersen

Bill Blaine & the Dynamics

By this stage, the Tornadoes had streamlined their repertoire to include much requested hits of the day, as Johnny B. Goode, Ain't That A Shame, Clap Your Hands, Whole Lotta Shakin' and Endless Sleep among others, with Hippy Hippy Shake becoming their theme song, using the tune to close their shows. They had also taken up residencies at the Raffles Hotel, Knutsford Arms, Morris Hotel and would often appear at the many Y.A.L. hops.

It was probably around this time that the Tornadoes made their first recordings. Hiring the Boy Scout Hall on Scarborough Beach Road in Osborne Park, the group cut five numbers including a creditable version of Jerry Lee's High School Confidential and a rendition of their signature tune, Chan Romero's Hippy Hippy Shake. These recordings were certainly primitive. The enthusiasm was there, though, and it wasn't hard to figure from these recordings why the Tornadoes were such a popular attraction.

Featured on the session was 'Chick' Johnson (guitar), Ken Webster (bass), Sam Gani (drums) with the frenetic Ken Mitchell pounding the ivories. A second demo session was held early the following year, shortly before the Tornadoes disbanded. Held at radio station 6PR in Perth, the Tornadoes line-up remained the same, with the intriguing inclusion of Ken Webster's father, George, on steel guitar and the skull shattering background vocals of the Logan Sisters (Rayme, Julie and Bobby). This session would prove to be the Tornadoes only professional recording date, but it was also important for the fact the they recorded a tune penned by Ken Webster, Alone With The Blues. This song clearly indicated that the Tornadoes had progressed from a three chord rock and roll band to a group of well practiced musicians with a more mature outlook on the material they were including in their rep. Ken's talent as a songwriter certainly shone on Alone With The Blues.

Within another month or two, the Tornadoes were no longer. Peter and Ken Mitchell would soon find another opportunity forming the Midnighters. The Midnighters took on a busy roster of hotel performances, private parties and weddings, eventually becoming a regular feature at the Coca Cola Hi Fi Club Hop's and on Club 17, displacing Bill Blaine as the top act. In fact, the Midnighters were THE rock and roll band for Channel 7. They were used by Channel 7 to support many of the eastern states acts touring Perth and, after seeing Barry Stanton's performance at the Fiesta Theatre in Scarborough, the group established their own regular dance at a suburban hall, attracting good crowds.

Probably during mid or late 1962, Alan Ingham, a guitarist who had recently arrived from Sydney, joined the Midnighters as second lead and they scored a residency at the newly opened Peppermint Lounge. They were also invited to perform on Channel 7's The Elvis Presley Story and reasserted their affirmation as Perth's top rock and roll band when they won a battle of the bands competition later that year. The last months of 1963 saw the Midnighters supporting Johnny O'Keefe on one of his Perth tours and it was O'Keefe who planted the seed of moving to Sydney and greater fame. After some consideration, the Midnighters opted to head overseas and try their luck in London.

The Midnighters put on a few impromptu shows aboard ship, before they stopped in Genoa, Italy, where they decided to stay a few weeks. An article appearing in the UK paper, The Bucks Advertiser, mentioned how the group experienced " ... a mix-up about work permits". This proved to be only one of their problems. The Midnighters were offered the chance to appear on a few shows in Genoa.

Peter Andersen & the Midnighters

When the group finally arrived in London, all five of them were almost completely broke. Their luck would soon change. While en-route to Italy, they met Dave Sinclair, a Buckingham native who had spent five years in Australia. When the Midnighters eventually arrived in London, Dave offered to let them stay with him the first weekend they were in the city and even managed to book them a gig at the B.A.H. via promoter Eddie Friday. Peter told The Bucks Advertiser reporter, Tony White that they all had to borrow instruments from local group, the Cavaliers, continuing, "We left all our uniforms and equipment at Victoria Station. We didn't know we would be allowed to play here". To recoup their dwindling finances, the group found work as labourers until they were able to firmly establish themselves in the bustling environs of London and earn legitimate gigs. However, luck was not on their side, at least not to begin with. Money was still short and some members of the band were beginning to long for home. Lance was the first to leave, departing late in 1964. His timing could not have been worse, though. Early the following year, after unsuccessfully auditioning for a contract with Decca, they met Cyril Stapleton, who organised for the Midnighters to cut a session at Decca's studios in London. With Lance back in Australia, Cyril filled in on bass for the five numbers recorded. Even though Merseybeat sounds were beginning to emerge in their live sets, the recordings they made at the Decca studios were pure rock and roll. Down The Line was a solid reworking of the Roy Orbison tune, while Long Tall Sally was slightly more mainstream, albeit just as infectious. Versions of Lonesome Town and Sentimental Me were also cut.

Now, even with acetates to promote their wares, the Midnighters were still short of a recording contract. They remained together for another eight months, by which time Tommy and Jim had left London to return home. Peter and Ken persevered, gaining a regular spot at the Britannia, but even that was short lived. 

Peter kept up appearances in London for a time, eventually making the return trip home during November 1967. No doubt Peter was a little disappointed with his lack of success in London and he contemplated retiring from music completely. Music was in his blood and he remained a busy and very much in demand singer for another thirty years. Since 1967 he has worked with the Johns Brothers, formed a handful of different bands (Sons of Eden, Profile and Proclamation) and was a long time member of the Troupadors. In 1998 he finally decided to call it a day. Not surprisingly, retirement hasn't inhibited Peter's love of music by any degree. He is still regularly coaxed back on stage even now, making guest appearances with the Troupadors, along with many of his other old friends.

Bill Blaine: still Rockin' at 67

 Bill Blaine and Dr Cecilia Netolicky

Uploaded 11/7/09

Those of you who grew up in the 1950s and 60s in Perth will remember Bill Blaine and the Dynamics, a band that rocked Perth's teenage hang-outs and featured on early Western Australian television. As stated by David Arys and Shane Hughes1 "Peter Andersen and the Tornadoes vied with Bill Blaine and the Dynamics as Perth's top rock and roll band in the early sixties ..... Bill's group dominated Teen Beat and the Coca Cola Hi Fi Club Hops".

Bill came from a musical family. His father sang opera. Bill's parents bought him his first guitar in 1957 after Bill saw Rock Around the Clock for the thirteenth time. Bill became an ardent Bill Haley fan, learning to play his songs directly from   records. All the young musicians   learnt new material by listening to records, then figuring out how to play them. "Half time they sang the wrong words". They all wanted to be playing the latest material, that's what you had to be playing to interest the 50s and 60s teenage audience.

Bill's father gave him significant support with his musical goals, driving him round town to the various talent quests. In those days pensioner groups got together and ran talent quests at big houses. If you won a talent quest, you won two guineas (about $4.50), and with luck you'd be seen by someone in the industry. It was good cheap entertainment for the pensioners, and provided opportunity for local musicians.

The Wentworth Hotel talent quest was a popular event. There was no seating, but the place was jam-packed. Bill and his Dad entered the quest. His Dad sang Danny Boy, he sang Your Cheating Heart and Have I told you Lately that I Love You. Bill won. They went again the next week. His Dad won, and he came second, but a guy with a band, The Revuelettes, asked Bill to join his group. They were an eclectic group. It was an awkward mix, one guy singing opera, and Bill singing Rock round the Clock, backed by the drummer, but it was a start.

 In those days bands were paid a couple of guineas each person per gig. The average wage was about $16 per week. Everyone worked regular jobs and music was a sideline.

 Another place many people started off was The Windmill, a coffee shop run by Coral Gunning. She was in the entertainment industry. Bill played solo there occasionally. Musos were paid one pound ($2) for an hour slot. There was not a huge choice of venues for young artists at the time.

 When performing with Rolf Harris at Jazz Jazzeroo at the Perth zoo in 1960, Rolf offered to set up an audition for Bill for Teenbeat, a Channel 7 television program (Rolf was doing Relax with Rolf for Channel 7). For the audition, Bill put together a rock'n'roll band called Bill Blaine and the Dynamics. The band performed as the backing band for the program from October 1960 to March 1961.

Bill Blaine @ The Swan Yacht Club

Bill Blaine & the Dynamics

Teenbeat was a Western Australian show aimed at 14 and 17 year olds. There was no live audience. The bands played no local material, all covers, the audience wanted songs they knew and the latest material from the USA and Britain. There were generally some dancers, four or five couples. The studio was very small and the show of course was only black and white. It was later replaced by Club 17 with Johnny Young and The Strangers as house band.

The band was offered the opportunity to play at the Coca Cola Hi Fi Club Hops at the Embassy Ballroom (on William Street next to Capital Theatre). The Club started in 1959 and folded in 1963. In the early years between 1,000 and 2,000 teenagers attended these Saturday afternoon dances. The band became known as The Coca Cola House Band. This provided them with local standing, and, as a result, they were offered opportunity to play as the support act for many visiting big names, such as, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Lonnie Lee, Johnny O'Keefe, Lucky Starr, Peter Allen, and many more.

The Coca Cola Hi Fi Club was an international franchise. The Perth  Coca Cola Hi Fi Club, at The Embassy Ballroom, had a huge wooden dance floor and no seating. It cost three shillings and six pence to get in (about 70 cents). You had to be a member. Members had cards which they got from the 6KY radio show.  The local Hi Fi radio show ran from 5 to 6pm five nights a week on 6KY. Every state club ran on the same format. Johnny O'Keefe and the RJs were the House Band in NSW; Col Joye and the Joye Boys in Victoria and The Penny Rockets in South Australia. Those bands did guest appearances on the Perth show.

Colin Nichol was a radio announcer on 6KY. He was also President of the local Coca Cola Hi Fi Club 2. He would get copies of all the new international releases to play on the show. Bill Blaine would go through the records and put aside what he wanted to learn. The band would practice every Tuesday night and learn the new material for the Saturday afternoon gig.

 Colin Nichol was a perfectionist. He insisted musicians wear a suit, white shirt and tie. He moulded them: no smoking on stage; breaks no longer than 10 minutes; and unless you were an established singer you couldn't get on stage. On one occasion he had a challenge quest: Peter Andersen (came 3rd), Johnny Young (came 2nd), Victor Ripley (came 1st). The next week Peter and Johnny had bands up-and-going.

Bill believes the advent of Canterbury Court Ballroom (about 1962/63) brought about the demise of The Hi Fi Club. Canterbury Court featured Ray Hoff and the Off Beats, a Sydney group. When The Embassy Ballroom dances started, in 1960, The Hi Fi Club had an attendance of about 1,000. By 1963 the dances started to wane in popularity and when the Canterbury Court ran gigs at the same time as The Hi Fi Club, the audience was split in two. Each gig attracting about 150 teenagers. With those attendances, the dances were no longer viable, and the Club folded.

From 1961 -1966, Bill Blaine and The Dynamics also played before the movie and during intermission every Sunday night at the Wirrina Drive-in in Morley, "a hotspot for teenagers" 3 . It was jam-packed. Most people remember the band from these gigs, and The Hi Fi Club, and not so much Channel 7's Teenbeat, as not many people had television in those days.

One Sunday night Colin Nichol and Bill went to a film at the Drive-in. There was almost no one at the movie and an empty restaurant with a stage up one end and a guy playing piano accordion and singing opera in the intermission. Bill describes himself as a "smart ass in those days". He was 20 years old with a pretty good music career; they were the "top Rock'n'Roll Band in WA". At interval Bill bought a drink and asked the guy if he wanted to fill this place. He said, "yes". Bill said, "then hire us!". The bloke rang Bill and said, "you mean what you said?". Bill said, "in a week or two weeks we'll have the place packed". They were paid a guinea each and played an hour before the show and the half hour interval. Colin advertised the gig on radio. In two weeks they had to hire police at the door to control traffic on Walter Road. The place was "chockers and rockin'". That went from 1961 to 1966.

The Band broke up in 1963, but used a variety of other musicians for the Sunday night gig. The Drive-in put their pay up to $3 (one pound ten shillings) a night.

Bill can't remember there being live bands at The Snake Pit, only records. He remembers it rather as "a little patio with no place to put a band".

Bill believes the big thing that made that time was the advent of television with the influence of international shows. He thinks The Beatles heralded the end of the true Rock'n'Roll era.

For Bill's biography see - Bill Blaine's website:

Interview with Bill Blaine 10/07/09
Bill Blaine-Biography ( http://www.billblaine.id.au/index_files/Page354.htm )

Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll
(Collector Records CLCD 4484)
Photographs sourced from artists collection and texts above. Photo "Bill Blaine and the Dynamics" includes his first guitar with pick-up (1961). He was 20 years old. Photo taken by Daily News.

1 Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (Collector Records CLCD 4484)
2 The Club had 15,000 teenage members in those days.
3 Bill Blaine's Biography, http://www.billblaine.id.au/index_files/Page354.htm

Les Meade: crooner, entertainer, showman

 Les Meade and Dr Cecilia Netolicky

Uploaded 14/7/09

Les Meade's curriculum vitae would impress anyone familiar with the early rock'n'roll scene in Australia. He appeared on many of the nation's top television shows of the day: Brian Henderson's National Bandstand, Johnny O'Keefe's Six O'Clock Rock, The Happy Go Lucky Show, Teentime, The Brian Davies Show and The Mike Walsh Midday Show. He also had a recording contract with Festival Recording Company and was dubbed "Australia's Dean Martin". Rocky Thomas (A&R Manager, RCA Records Australia), described him as "a blend of Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Jim Reeves". [1]

In 1956 Les entered and won three talent quests in succession at the Charles, Raffles and Willagee Park Hotels. These successes kick-started his music career, convincing him to give up his apprenticeship in electrical fitting. Les says, "in the late 50s, at The Charles Hotel talent quest, on a Saturday night, you'd run into everyone trying to break into show business". The quest took place in The Rainbow Room. It was twice the size it is today. There was a cash prize, and it was "good money". The Charles was the most popular hotel then. It was central, and that worked for it. First there'd be the House Band, The Silver Platters, and a bit of dancing, followed by the talent quest. You had to win your heat, then your semi final, and then the finals. So, you had to have a few good numbers to get to the finals. It wasn't all Rock'n'Roll in those days: there was Pop and Ballads as well. Les liked to sing Ballads. He describes himself as "a crooner". He won the Charles Hotel talent quest singing Perry Como's hit "Moon talk".

The Raffles also had talent quests in the 50s. It was another place to make your mark in the music industry. It was a "pretty good club, not exclusive, but well-run, with new decor" It didn't attract the riffraff.

The Willagee Park Hotel also had talent quests. They all ran on the same format, but the Willagee was more for families. It was not a big venue, and only ran in summer, as the talent quest was held in the beer garden.

Following these talent quest successes Les began to pick up professional gigs around Perth, but rather than places like The Snake Pit, Les was sought after for events at Cottesloe Civic Centre; Embassy and Canterbury Court Ballrooms; Government House; and Romano's and La Tenda Night Clubs. He also featured frequently in Perth's first live television variety shows In Perth Tonight and Spotlight. Les discussed appearing on Spotlight on Channel 7 in December 1959, "you were paid four pound ten shillings. You performed one song. You had one run-through in the afternoon, and then did it".

The turning point for Les came when he won the talent quest at the Capitol Theatre run by 6KY, Coca Cola and Festival Recording Company. Festival ran the quest to find a rock star from Perth, however, they decided to award a contract to Les Meade, a crooner. This was in 1959, and Les' contract required him to relocate to Sydney.

 Les said there was no chance to "make it" in the music industry if you stayed in Perth. You had to go "over East", or overseas. However going "over East" was a shock. You went very quickly from being a "big fish in a small pond, to being a very small fish in a very big pond".

Les had thought he'd do a couple of years in Sydney, "then go out and conquer the world". His first show in Sydney was with Ricky May and a juggling act, then Les closed the show. Ricky May was great! Les felt intimidated following him, but Ricky was also impressed with Les. There were so many good acts on the circuit - "acts as good as Tom Jones, Sinatra and Presley, and yet they were still working the scene". Les began to feel it was not what you could do, but who you knew. For instance, trying to get your record played on radio was impossible, "it seemed to all be about connections and payola".

Les recorded his first song with Festival as contracted. However, that didn't involve getting it radio play-time. He did get to meet John Laws, Bob Rogers, and Ken Sparkes, the top DJs of the day. You had to have their support to get your record in the Top 40 Prediction List, and then onto the Top 40. Cutting a record was great for the ego, but where to from there?

Making it in Sydney didn't guarantee you'd make it overseas. Some of the people who made the transition had family in the entertainment industry, others, like Col Joye and Johnny O'Keefe never had success overseas and repeated the pattern of WA musos heading East - the big-fish-small-pond-syndrome. Olivia Newton John, Lana Cantrell and The BGs are stand-outs who made a success of moving overseas.

Les made appearances on most of the top music and daytime variety shows of the time. Being on TV brought instant recognition in the 50s and 60s. Even though only about 25% of people had TV in those days, everyone watched TV. They'd go to town and watch in the windows of Boans Department store, in Murray Street. They'd stand in the street outside the shop window to watch their shows. TVs were on in shop windows all the time. It became part of window dressing. It was a way to bring people in to look at your other goods.

 Les always performed as a solo artist. He's self taught, he doesn't read or write music. He listened to songs, and memorised the lyrics. He wrote them down, and used a tape recorder. He'd stop the tape and write each line as he went along. He liked keeping up-to-date with new material. He felt it was part of being in the business, giving people what they were listening to, and what they wanted.

Listening to Les talk you become aware that he's not just a singer, you'd have to call him an entertainer, or showman. To him it's about the performance, giving the audience a whole experience, making them part of the show, and most importantly, reading the audience, and adapting the show to that particular audience. He says he sings "to people, not at them". He walks into the audience, sits on women's laps, makes the audience feel valued, flirts with the women in the audience ... whilst assuring the guys they're "safe". You can see, listening to Les, that he believes people leaving a show shouldn't just feel they heard good music, to him there's so much more, there's the whole theatrical experience, the engagement and interaction, of performers and audience.

 Les penned a number of songs: "I Know Why", "Fickle Minded Heart", and "Give, Give, Give", but he never performs his original material. At 70, he remains a hard-working musician and promoter. He's currently staging The Tristar Show, Reflections, Total Eclipse and The Les Meade Solo Show. These shows provide opportunity for local performers, and Perth Rock'n'Roll legends, to continue entertaining, whilst keeping Rock'n'Roll music alive and in the public eye.

[1] This is not a biography. If you want to read Les' biography go to his website www.lesmeade.com. This article documents Les' memories of working as a musician in the 50's in Perth and later over East.


Les Dixon: reputed to have formed Perth's first Rock'n'Roll Band

Extracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes) Uploaded 24/07/09

In late 1956, 15 year old Les Dixon formed what was possibly Perth's first rock and roll band, the Saints. The line-up of the Saints comprised Les (vocal/rhythm guitar), Johnny Agnew (lead guitar), George Brunker (drums) and Ray Robbins (piano). The group performed regularly at such venues as the Snake Pit at Scarborough Beach, as well as Rick's Barn in the city and Canterbury Court. They also did the rounds of smaller halls in Midland, Subiaco, and Cottesloe as well as performing in country areas such as Bunbury and Kalgoorlie. Les even remembers playing the week long Perth Royal Show, on a ramshackle stage, tucked between a belly dancer and Rex the Wonder horse.

In late 1957 he entered and won Perth's Elvis Presley competition. The first prize was the 'privilege' of performing during the intermission of Loving You at Perth's Royal Theatre. George Brunker appeared with him and together they bravely faced the barrage of pennies thrown at them. In early 1958, Les traveled to Sydney to enter Amateur Hour. On the show he performed Long Tall Sally and, although popular with the audience, he finished second to a classical pianist. Compere Terry Deare described his effort as 'vocals with gymnastics'. While in Sydney, Les also sang with different bands at various town hall dances. He stayed in Sydney for around three months before parental pressure forced his return to Perth and studies.

With Les Dixon's return, the band continued as before, playing very much the same venues. In early 1959 the Saints split up. Ray Robbins, disillusioned with the band's lack of success, found a 'regular job' (although he would still be occasionally play with the Zodiac All Stars) and George Brunker moved back to the east coast. Prior to George Brunker leaving, he coerced Les into making an acetate recording. The session was held with future Clarion label owner Martin Clarke.  The recording took place at Martin Clarke's house in Mosman Park. Les did Giddy Up A Ding Dong, At The Hop, Saints Rock and Roll and Endless Sleep. The personnel on the session were Les (vocal/rhythm guitar), George Brunker (drums), occasional Saints saxophonist Jimmy Cook, as well as an unknown lead guitarist and a middle aged lady on piano. As far as Les can remember Martin Clarke organized the piano and lead guitar.

In early 1959, Les Dixon joined the band as additional vocalist. As Les recalls, one afternoon he and Saints band mate Johnny Agnew heard a new group were playing at the Bamboo nightclub in Bentley. The band, of course, was The Zodiacs. Impressed by the rocking sounds, Les and Johnny soon gravitated to Daisy's florist. With their arrival the band 'modestly' renamed themselves Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars featuring Les Dixon. The All-Stars consisted of Clive, Les (Vocals/rhythm guitar), Brian, Tommy, Johnny Agnew (lead guitar) and Jimmy Cook on saxophone.

Toward the end of 1959, The Zodiac All-Stars decided to cut an acetate recording. One of the main reasons, given by both Clive and Les, was to hand out to the girls during shows. Entering the Bale Sound Studio in Cremorne Arcade, Hay Street, Perth, The Zodiacs recorded four tracks. The Bale Studio was basically one small room, with a sound booth. There was one microphone to record the band, while another mike was fed into an empty office next door for echo. The tracks recorded were an original number by Les, Stingy Mingy Mama (written for a 'mean' girlfriend), as well as a flat out version of At the Hop with wild piano courtesy of Brian and two numbers, Hold Me Tight and Danny Boy with Clive on vocals. The personnel on the session were Clive (vocal/rhythm guitar), Les (vocal/rhythm guitar), Johnny Agnew (lead guitar), Brian Prior (piano), Tommy Menzel (drums) and Peter Fairbrother (saxophone). The band sent copies of the acetate to Festival records, but nothing eventuated.

The beginning of 1960 saw many changes to The Zodiac All-Stars. Les Dixon left the group for a more regular source of income. Recently married Les decided to play and sing for show bands like the Norman Wrightson Dance Band, before starting his own show band, The Aristo-Cats, in1961.

Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars

Extracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll (David Arys and Shane Hughes) Uploaded 29/07/09

Clive Higgins was born in 1937. With his family, Clive moved to Perth from Malaya in 1957. In mid 1958, while studying at Leederville TAFE, he was roped by some mates into trying out for a band being formed by Tommy Menzel and Brian Prior. Up until this time Clive had only 'thumped' his guitar around the house.

The newly formed Clive Higgins and The Zodiacs, with Clive on vocals and rhythm guitar, Brian on piano and Tommy on drums, started to slowly build up a repertoire, which at first consisted mainly of Elvis songs. The band practiced regularly in the back room of Tommy's mum's florist shop - Daisy's florist in Subiaco. Encouraged by the number of teenagers who showed up at the bands rehearsal, Daisy Menzel decided to organize The Zodiacs first regular dance at the R.S.L. Hall in Subiaco on Saturday afternoons. The dance started to attract larger crowds every Saturday and soon Daisy and The Zodiacs realized a larger venue would be needed. The band was still playing as a three piece, and was on the look out for a regular lead guitarist. The Zodiacs were also playing other venues in Perth, including the YAL Hall on Irwin Street.

In early 1959, Les Dixon joined the band as additional vocalist. As Les recalls, one afternoon he and Saints band mate Johnny Agnew heard a new group were playing at the Bamboo nightclub in Bentley. The band, of course, was The Zodiacs. Impressed by the rocking sounds, Les and Johnny soon gravitated to Daisy's florist. With their arrival the band 'modestly' renamed themselves Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars featuring Les Dixon. The All-Stars consisted of Clive, Les (Vocals/rhythm guitar), Brian, Tommy, Johnny Agnew (lead guitar) and Jimmy Cook on saxophone.

With Daisy Menzel acting as group manager, the band moved the dance to the Maylands town hall and received sponsorship from Coca Cola bottlers. By mid-1959 The Zodiac All-Stars were established as Perth's best rock and roll act and the Maylands dance was an important part of the bodgie and widgie scene. The band had also met up with popular 6KY DJ Colin Nichol and used him as a source of material. Also through Colin they made semi regular performances at the Coca Cola Hi FI Club Hops at the Embassy ballroom. The dance was run by Colin Nichol (who was also the club's president). The Hi Fi Club boasted around 25,000 members, 2,000 of which would attend the weekly dance.



The Band

Toward the end of 1959, The Zodiac All-Stars decided to cut an acetate recording. One of the main reasons, given by both Clive and Les, was to hand out to the girls during shows. Entering the Bale Sound Studio in Cremorne Arcade, Hay Street, Perth, The Zodiacs recorded four tracks. The Bale Studio was basically one small room, with a sound booth. There was one microphone to record the band, while another mike was fed into an empty office next door for echo. The tracks recorded were an original number by Les, Stingy Mingy Mama (written for a 'mean' girlfriend), as well as a flat out version of At the Hop with wild piano courtesy of Brian and two numbers, Hold Me Tight and Danny Boy with Clive on vocals. The personnel on the session were Clive (vocal/rhythm guitar), Les (vocal/rhythm guitar), Johnny Agnew (lead guitar), Brian Prior (piano), Tommy Menzel (drums) and Peter Fairbrother (saxophone). The band sent copies of the acetate to Festival records, but nothing eventuated.

The beginning of 1960 saw many changes to The Zodiac All-Stars. Les Dixon left the group for a more regular source of income. Recently married Les decided to play and sing for show bands like the Norman Wrightson Dance Band, before starting his own show band, The Aristo-Cats, in1961. John Agnew left shortly afterwards and Jimmy McRoberts joined as The Zodiacs new lead guitarist.

Channel 7 was launching a local teen based music show to compete with 6 o'clock Rock on the ABC and Clive Higgins had been approached by Channel 7 promotions man Bob McGuire to see if The Zodiacs would be interested. After the producers, Brian Williams and Coralee Condon caught The Zodiac All-Stars act they were signed as the show's house band. The show, originally titled Rock At 5:50 but renamed Teen Beat, started February 27th 1960. Sponsored by Coca Cola, the show aired Saturday afternoon at 5:50 and ran for a half hour. Teen Beat's original compere was David Farr. The format of the show was based on its ABC rival. There were two guest artists per episode, both performing two songs live to air. The house band would provide three or four numbers a show with vocal backing provided by The Rhythmaires. The guest artists would be chosen early in the week and would have to come to the Channel 7 studios by 10 o'clock Saturday morning to rehearse the numbers with the band.

The Rhythmaires

Memories of an Era: Perth in the Late 50s and Early 60s 

Ron Spargo, Carol Spargo, Don Baker and Dr Cecilia Netolicky      Uploaded 5/8/09

A lot of people went into town to The Embassy Ballroom in those days. You weren't allowed to jive on Friday, or Saturday, night. The policy was 50% modern, 50% old time dancing. In the 50s, "modern" meant quick step, foxtrot or the modern waltz. Staff who worked for The Ballroom "wanted to keep it nice, so jiving wasn't allowed". Staff policed the dancers. You'd be asked to, "quick-step only please".

The Ballroom was always packed. "It was standing room only". There were tables and chairs and "loges". These were alcoves with lounges. Dress code was jacket and slacks for blokes, on Saturday night they always wore a tie. Women really dressed up, generally with below-the-knee dresses and high-heeled-pointy-toe dancing shoes. The way you dressed in those days generally determined the kind of partner you attracted. Down at The Snake Pit most of them wore tight black jeans and desert boots, but as Carol remarked, "I wasn't allowed to wear desert boots, because my parents thought 'nice girls' didn't wear them".

The last few dances of the night were usually waltzes. The blokes saw this as "warming up to take the ladies home". The slow dances generally started, at least, at the second last dance. This gave you a few slow ones with the same girl. You generally tried to find out where the girls lived before you made plans for afterwards. If the girl lived too far, you didn't ask her home, as most didn't have cars.

The dances closed at 1am for a Ball, or midnight for a Dance. But, street lights were turned off at 1am, or 1.30am, and buses stopped running at 11.30pm or 11.45pm, so you may have to walk a long way home if you missed the last bus, and you may be walking on unlit streets. 

You could only get your license at 18, so the younger kids bused into dances. Also most of the girls didn't have cars. It was safe on public transport in those days, and safe to go home with blokes you'd just met. Most people had Ford Prefects, little Morrises, Anglias, Holdens or Vauxhalls, there were no big American cars.

Pubs closed at 9pm, so some of the older dancers only came to the dances at 9pm. No alcohol was allowed at The Embassy Ballroom or Canterbury Court. After the dances, kids often headed to "Burnie's", "Cookie's", "The Fox Hole" or "The Bright Spot".

Canterbury Court was really good fun on Wednesday nights. You'd meet all your friends there. Saturday night they often went to Subiaco Town Hall or The Embassy Ballroom. Canterbury Court was more "with it". You could jive there, and "more interesting fellows went there", according to Carol.

There were two groups of kids: the "Ivy Leaguers" and the "Bodgies and Widgies", or, you could say the Richie-Cunningham and Fonzarelli types. Perth's "Fonzarelli" was Andy Andros. He was the key figure down at The Snake Pit in Scarborough. He was like "the boss" of the Bodgies. The Ivy Leaguers "never wore desert boots with pink shoe laces", but they did wear jeans and desert boots. They'd take them into work and change before they went out at night. But when they went to The Embassy Ballroom, or Canterbury Court, they always dressed smartly and neatly.

While Ron's folks listened to Bing Crosby, they tolerated him listening to rock'n'roll because they believed it was a just passing fad. Carol was allowed to go down to the Snake Pit. She used to hang over the edge and watch the dancers. Her family lived in Mt Lawley in those days and it was a direct bus trip down to Scarborough Beach. The family used to go there on hot nights, as there was no air-conditioning. They'd take a picnic and stay down there in summer till 9pm when the temperature cooled down.

Fights were generally fist fights, and the smart kids kept out of them. Perth, in those days, was safe. You could travel on public transport and feel safe. You could go out with someone you only met that night, and not have to worry.


Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars: making it in Perth's early Rock'n'Roll scene

 Clive Higgins and Dr Cecilia Netolicky Uploaded: 9/8/09

Clive grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. He came to Western Australia as a young adult in 1957, just as Rock'n'Roll was taking off here. He'd travelled to Perth to study Accounting at TAFE, but got side-tracked by the phenomenon of Rock'n'Roll.

Clive had grown up with classical music, learning piano as a child, but the energy, rhythm and drive of early Rock'n'Roll music grabbed him. He describes Rock'n'Roll as "the music of my generation". "The musicians of the day, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, all put a different spin on Rock'n'Roll. They all had their distinctive styles, doing the same stuff, but in very different ways". Clive saw the music itself as quite simple, "almost like nursery rhymes", but "it was the way the early artists interpreted it, that made it special".

On arriving in Perth, Clive went to Musgroves in Barrack Street to buy a guitar and record player. A friend taught him some basic chords and he started "learning by ear". "The music was very basic in those days, and the lyrics were simple. If you could play three or four chords on a guitar, you could play a lot of Rock'n'Roll".

The musical instruments available for Rock'n'Roll in those days "were very primitive". Generally they were cheap imports from the USA, or England. Few were made locally, and the guitars were all semi-acoustic. There was also very little around in the way of amplifiers. Purvisonic Sound built an amp for their band. "It was large, it had to be, because it was all valves, not transistors. It weighed a tonne. It took four of us to lift it. It was about three metres long. It was good for the period, but not great quality by way of sound, and that amplifier was just for the guitars. We hired speakers and microphones for the vocals. The whole system was huge and you didn't have 'roadies' then. You had to cart and set-up your own gear".

In the beginning they were a three piece band: Clive Higgins (rhythm guitar/vocals), Tommy Menzel (drums) and Brian Prior (piano). They'd get together in Daisy's Florist Shop. Daisy was their Business Manager. She was also Tommy Menzel's mother. They'd get there at mid-day, listen to records and jam-it-up at back of florist shop until late at night.

In time, the band expanded to include: Clive, Brian, Tommy, Les Dixon (vocals/rhythm guitar), Johnny Agnew (lead guitar) and Jimmy Cook (saxophone). They called themselves The Zodiac All-Stars. (For more of the band's history see "Clive Higgins and The Zodiac All-Stars", extracted from Western Australian Snake Pit Rock'n'Roll by David Arys and Shane Hughes).

Many of the musicians of the day began their careers in the local talent quests. The Zodiacs All-Stars however were proactive, they started their own dances, hiring halls for their "Hops".

Colin Nichol, from radio 6PM, did a lot of plugging for their dances and compared their shows. There was no charge for plugging their Hops. Colin was the "hot-shot" of time. He was the local radio presenter supporting Rock'n'Roll. Daisy, Tommy's mother, sold tickets for 2/- (about 20c) at the door. During the breaks they'd play records from a record player hooked into their sound system.

They also did occasional gigs at The Coca Cola HiFi Club at The Embassy Ballroom. The HiFi Club ran all afternoon on a Saturday. It attracted young people from 15 to 20. Colin Nichol was the President of The HiFi Club. The Club had strong teenage support with 2,000 teenagers reportedly attending dances.

The Zodiac All-Stars dances were successful, largely because they were one of the only bands going at the time with regular gigs. The fans would be screaming and yelling. They'd come up to get their autograph. "It was good for the ego". There'd be "a wall of girls right against the stage screaming their lungs out, reaching out, and putting lipstick on our shoes (they wore white shoes in those days)". The band had a fan club. Fans would flock around them as they walked down Hay Street in those days.

The band got a break with Channel 7's Teen Beat in 1960. They became the House Band for the show for six months. Teen Beat was on round 5 or 6pm on Saturday. It was a half hour show. On the show they did all covers. There was a select group of jivers as "audience". There'd be about 12 couples. The show was all done live. They'd go in around 11am and practice with the artists performing in show, then do their own practice. They generally did their own make-up. Occasionally there was a make-up lady. The makeup "was Maxfactor's pancake makeup. At the end of the show your clothes were covered in it".

Unlike many of the Rock'n'Roll musicians of the period, for four years, Clive made his living solely from his music. Then he joined the public service and moved to Canberra. He continued performing until 1993. In 1998 Clive's contribution to Western Australian Rock'n'Roll was acknowledged when he was awarded the Rock'n'Roll Dance Industry Award (See image).

Clive as a young man

Clive's Dance Industry Award

Colin Nichol: Perth's Father of Rock'n'Roll

Colin Nichol and Dr Cecilia Netolicky Up-loaded 11/08/2009

1955 heralded a critical change in music, it was the beginning of a distinct era. In Perth that change came a little later, in 1957. In those days, "there was a lag, trends hit the USA and Britain, then reached Sydney and Melbourne, and still later, arrived in Perth". Colin Nichol's radio career began "on the cusp of the change". A new music was being forged. It was to become the music that defined a generation. It was wild, unruly, exciting, and rebellious. It deliberately broke with tradition, creating a rift between generations. It was the first music that defined an age-set, fracturing it from its predecessors. It became a sub-culture, incorporating more than the music. It included styles of speech, new terms, fashion, hairstyles, automobiles, and the dance trends of the group of young people who became known as "teenagers".

Some people say Colin Nichol introduced Rock'n'Roll to Perth. He began working at 6PM, in June 1957, at the age of 20. At the start, he played anything from late 19th century operettas, to the popular music of the day, such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Frankie Lane and Glen Miller, "a real mixture". In 1957 Colin played "the odd Rock'n'Roll record". "There weren't many around then". However, within a year, things changed.

Colin in his HiFi Club jacket

 Colin worked at 6PM Perth from 1957 to 1960. During that time he developed a close relationship with the record companies. This facilitated the early acquisition of new releases. He discussed overseas trends with the record companies, and read Cashbox and Billboard magazines, to see what was happening abroad. Colin became the local 'man in the know', when it came to Rock'n'Roll. In those days, listeners would write to the radio station making requests, and those listeners started to request Rock'n'Roll.

In the late 1950s the recording studios were very basic. Radio commercials were on a record, or read live. "When you recorded, a commercial, or wanted something to be kept for semi-permanent use, you used a large device called an acetate cutting machine". At the time, all programs were compiled by the station librarian according to station policy, except for specialized programs, and programs by request, such as Housewives Choice, and teenage programs. These programs followed more relaxed formulae - chatting to listeners, reading their requests and playing old scratchy 78 records. In between on-air shifts, disc-jockeys were asked to write advertising copy. It was a 9 to 5 job, and the station could allocate any fill-in tasks, while they were not on-air. 

In 1959 the Coca Cola Bottlers Company in WA contacted Colin about a club for teenagers centred in New York City. Coca Cola approached a leading disc-jockey in an area, and facilitated the setting up of a club under that person. They head-hunted Colin for the Perth Club. Running The Coca Cola Bottlers HiFi Club involved presenting the Club's radio programs, and organizing occasional events. The disc-jockey was sent regular shipments of disks from New York, ahead of their Australian release date, thereby assuring their programs had the most up-to-date material. Coca Cola used its contacts, and influence, to get hold of the latest releases.

Coca Cola had a bottling company here in Perth. They shipped in the secret-formula-syrup from the factory in Atlanta, Georgia. The water and sugar were added here, prior to bottling. The secret of the syrup's formula has always been a closely guarded secret. This added to the mystique of Coca Cola. At the HiFi Club hops they "only sold Coke and Schweppes (the other brand the local Coke representative bottled). You could only get those drinks and there was no food".

Hansen-Rubenson McCann-Erickson of Madison Avenue, New York City, was the advertising company employed to promote Coca Cola. They developed some very astute strategies for promoting the product to this new market sector with cash to spend, "teenagers". In this era Coca Cola became the major sponsor of teenager-targeted events, such as, dances, radio shows and talent quests. Their product and logo were ever-present. Without their support many of these events wouldn't have got off the ground, however through this sponsorship they modified the modus operandi of a generation, influencing their drink of choice, and encouraging the consumption of high-sugar-content drinks. It was an insidious, and highly successful, campaign and succeeded in changing the dietary habits of following generations. 

Every week, or so, the HiFi Club disk-jockeys received a package through the post from Hansen-Rubenson McCann-Erickson containing LP disks with sound effects (such as a crazy clock, noises, and other sound effects), amusing jokes and jingles. These were all used to make the radio shows more interesting, and were unique to HiFi Club shows. "These add-ons made their radio programs fascinating to listen to"

In this package Hansen-Rubenson McCann-Erickson also distributed 12 inch vinyl disks to the various club Presidents (Colin was President of the Perth HiFi Club). These disks contained interviews with famous stars. The disks only had the answers to the questions. There was a blank segment on the disk for the local radio presenter to read the question. This gave the feel of the famous artist being interviewed live by the local radio personality. It provided a feel of celebrity and local content, and added interest, to the shows.

This was something other programs couldn't compete with, as Coca Cola had a massive network of contacts, and vast cash resources to sink into the project. As a result, the HiFi radio shows became the most popular local shows - they were exciting, featured interviews with the teenagers' favourite stars, and fore-grounded a local radio personality. Through these shows' advertisements, and promotions, Coca Cola's products were able to be marketed directly to teenagers. 

"The Hops were popular because there was nowhere for teenagers to go. [The drinking age was 21.] Pubs might have had a duo, trio or soloist, performer, but it was small scale. There were not enough venues for artists. There was nowhere for them to appear". Through the HiFi Club Colin ran regular talent quests. This provided opportunity for young musicians to get a start. Many local legends such as Johnny Young and Peter Andersen began their Rock'n'Roll career at these talent quests.

The HiFi Club radio shows ran: Sunday at 10.30 am, Wednesday 5.30 to 6pm, and Friday 5.30 to 6pm. The shows also included interviews with local bands and visiting artists. The HiFi Presidents also compered events with visiting artists at the local Ballrooms, and other venues. "In Perth, the HiFi Club Hops expanded from the Embassy Ballroom to regional areas. We took it to the audience. It was a huge exercise. We had a massive sound system built by Bob Purvis of Purvisonic Sound. We also used Purvisonic's broadcast van for airport interviews to welcome visiting stars. These visits were promoted on radio so fans could be there live at the interview. The interview was put to air later". In this way, Club members got to feel they were 'in the know'. They could keep up with the latest action just by listening in. They could be there, and feature in events, as radio and TV stations reported on the arrival, in Perth, of national and international stars. For instance, Cliff Richard and the Shadows came to Perth in the early 1960s. "They didn't even have a proper vehicle to transport him in, so I used a friend's father's Jag to pick him up".

Coca Cola strongly emphasised that events "had to be clean - no fights, no immoral goings on, clean living - that was the image of Coke. No smoking on stage and the performers had to dress properly". Andy Andros and his mates (from The Snake Pit) used to help keep order at the Hops.

Colin at The HiFi Club

The HiFi Club started in the USA about two years earlier than in Perth. Perth's club started "in 1960 and ran to February 1963" when Colin left Australia. It moved from Radio 6PM-AM with Colin when he shifted to Radio 6KY-NA in 1961. Perth's club was "the last HiFi Club standing". All the others had folded, but Coca Cola kept it going just for the Perth Club.

Interview with Colin Nichol

What was the price of a Coke in those days? About 6 pence. "The price of a coke in 1959 was 5 cents" (WikiAnswers http://wiki.answers.com/)

Why do you think the Club achieved such popularity? Would the same sort of thing succeed today?

It was an exciting radio program introducing the stars of the era. It drew on the creation of "the teenager" as an entity (teenagers, as a defined group, didn't exist before then). It provided opportunity to meet people. It was very social. It attracted huge crowds. I don't know how many romances I was responsible for indirectly. There was a hesitancy of some parents to let kids go. Some kids didn't tell their parents where they were going. Some parents thought it was okay if they went in groups.

How much input did Coca Cola have? Were the Clubs clones, or was there opportunity for Clubs to adapt to their members?

It was largely up to the President to develop the Club according to the situation. They varied. We sent back tapes to show what we were doing. We had own approach. I just did what I do. As something appeared to be a logical follow-on I'd do it. So it grew.

Did the local Club evolve into more than you originally expected?

Yes. The framework stayed the same. The structure was set up around the radio program, variations occurred through events run by the Club. The radio show was it, the Hops were tacked on. The role of President was not clear-cut. I got involved in talent searching, seeking venues, rehearsing and training singers and bands, and advising on singing and staging. Live dances and shows were tacked-on to the HiFi Club. We'd run our own functions.

What were the highlights of the era?

In 1957 Elvis got here. Then Rock Around the Clock and Blackboard Jungle. These were seminal to whole story of Rock'n'Roll.

How much a part of your life, at the time, was the HiFi Club?

It suffused my whole life. I had to be careful taking back streets, because I had to be careful about being followed. I had to move home a couple of times.

What was the high point of the era for you?

Going away with that accumulation of experience behind me. Standing on stage in a theatre full of people, over a 1,000 people, at the Capital Theatre. Going to DJ conventions to Hayman Island and Terrigal. Flying back on a charted aircraft from Sydney with no one on board except The Everly Brothers, Crash Craddock, Bobby Rydell, Buddy Holly's group The Crickets, their managers and me.

What do you see as the legacy of the early 50s/late 60s Rock'n'Roll era?

It was a transition period. It set us up sociologically for what followed. More than chronology, the development from "no jiving in the Ballroom", to the extremes of dance and behaviour we see today, began in that period and permeated to every home in WA. From the music point of view, it put a lot of performers on their feet, and gave them a start, and an artistic outlet they had not had before. The constrained atmosphere in which people lived in 50s was a shell, they had to crack it, and break out. It was a very confining atmosphere. There were lots of conventions that were unrealistic and governed our lives. These had to be swept away.

Colin Nichol's Dance Industry Award

How Something got into the Water and WA's Rock'n'Roll Past

Colin Nichol (23/04/08)    up-loaded 24/08/2009

 The recent ground-breaking and exciting doco-film "Something in the Water" directed by Aidan O'Bryan, working from the Mt Lawley WBMC studios, explores the current and recent popular Perth music scene, endeavours to explain why Perth has produced so much music talent - and has triggered this reaction.

Much popular culture memory these days seems to stretch back about ten or fifteen years: 'The good old days', to the younger generations. But there are still those who can recall when the Beatles started and a few has-beens around whose memory is insufficiently unimpaired to be able to recall what was going on even before the Swinging Sixties.

It was only recently I felt the need to check I was still extant when I discovered I had became the subject of an exhibition at Perth's HM Theatre Museum of Performing Arts and accept I was being put in my place, or at least in my era. In a museum indeed! Perhaps I should take the hint, accept my designation as a part of faded history and withdraw from protesting my common complaint that our pop music culture did not start with the pub and club scene of the Seventies, much less in subsequent decades, not even back in the Sixties, but in the Fifties.

Even the Beatles' beginnings can be traced back as far as 1957 to John Lennon's band The Quarry Men. On a local level, while Rolf Harris' first hit song Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport was released here in 1960, just making it as a Sixties hit, he first came up with it in 1957. His was our first great success, recorded at Channel Seven.

Both Rolf and WA-raised Johnny Young appear in 'Something in the Water' but none of their predecessors gets a mention, despite my urgings to the documentary's producers at the time. They had good reason - go back that far and it's hard to know where to begin; only so much could be covered or even discovered and majority public interest is in the colourful current scene and its immediate origins, not in the black and white past of the Fifties. Furthermore there is no film, Channel Seven archives of the time are landfill and there are few tangible souvenirs left, other than a few old rockers.

There were, after all, as many as 20 groups and artists on our Perth scene from about 1955, when the likes of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley burst onto the world scene. The list of international  names of that period is too long to quote in full, other than to note it included the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Cliff Richard, Brenda Lee, Billy Fury, Bobby Rydell, Eddie Cochran, The Big Bopper, Connie Francis, Tommy Steele, Neil Sedaka - names and songs many associate with the Sixties but which originated in the previous five or so years.

We weren't likely to see them here at the time except on film and our isolation was omnipresent, so we made our own music and often copied the originals, along with our own material. Early national stars of the Fifties included Col Joye, Johnny O'Keefe, Dig Richards, Frankie Davidson and Lonnie Lee along with a growing list of performers who achieved record success in the face of the power of overseas artists.

Meanwhile at age 18 Martin Clarke was recording local singers in his Mosman Park home from 1958 and the Perth group scene was already lively. This was the prelude to his forming Clarion Records in 1962 with studios in North Fremantle and then Hay Street Perth. It was Clarke and Clarion that later gave Johnny Young his first hit record in 1966, as well as success to many others. Bob Purvis of Purvisonic Sound provided the most advanced audio of world standard for our events from the late Fifties onwards. Many world-famous singers and groups later used his facilities at Perth appearances.

The advent of television, notably Channel Seven, opened new opportunities and the teenage programme Club 17-teen on Channel Seven was a Sixties sensation. Its less well-remembered predecessor in the Fifties, however, was Teen Beat, for which I provided early artists and running schedule. Those artists had first appeared and 'auditioned' on my Hi Fi Club 'hops' at the Embassy Ballroom in central Perth and shows at Canterbury Court Ballroom and the Pagoda Ballroom, as well as suburban and country venues. Coral Gunning's large Windmill Tea Rooms on Hay Street was a popular venue as well as the early hotel circuit. 

The careers of many bands and artists from our suburbs were boosted at these shows, amongst others Bill Blaine and the Dynamics; Les Meade; the Hi-Five; the Silver Platters; Joy Mulligan; Tex Croft; Clem Croft with the Recordites; the Revuelettes with Bill Harris, John Gianetti, Roland Akari and Bill Blaine; the Rhythmaires; the DeKroo Brothers; Clive Higgins and the Zodiac All-Stars; the Malayanaires and probably our first rock group, Les Dixon and the Saints. Just into the Sixties, along came Noelene Batley; Brian Davies; Paul Gadenne; Pam Bradley; Janice George and a flood of others.

As one who was there, I can't restrain the urge to gently remind the present generation that while so much of the nostalgic pop music of today was certainly generated in the phenomenal Sixties decade of more than forty years ago, it may come as a surprise to many as to how much was going on in the five or so years before. And Perth was no exception, despite its population being barely a quarter of what it is now. The scene was creative and fun, of good standard - and everywhere.

So that justly praised documentary, although exhilarating to myself and plainly to others, judging by its excited reception, tells only a part of the story and does not fully explain 'how something got in the water' in the first place, to create the environment that breeds so many talented and successful rock performers of the current era. It was the accumulation of the energy of the Fifties pioneers of Perth pop that set the scene, casting a potion into the well of musical inspiration.

Kelly Green: our Rock'n'Roll Cinderella

Dr Cecilia Netolicky

(All material from an interview with Kelly Green 31/08/2009. Pictures from Kelly Green's collection) 

What an incredible story, and it's not make-believe. It doesn't happen in real life, or just maybe, sometimes it does. Kelly Green (real name, Elaine Sherratt) was born in England in 1947 into a musical family. Her father played guitar in a band, her mother had a great Peggy-Lee style voice and occasionally sang with the band. Kelly's father played Gypsy and Country and Western music. In the house she'd hear Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Julie London, and Katheryn Grayson. One of the first songs she sung was "Only Make Believe", a Katheryn Grayson tune from the musical Showboat. Kelly has three sisters. Her older sisters were twins. They were also local performers. Kelly migrated to NSW, from England, with her mother and sisters in 1956. Her father had come out two years earlier.

Kelly's father created figures for Royal Doulton. As he was one of their last remaining artists, his figures have become collectors' pieces. The family moved to Perth around 1957, when he began working for Brisbane and Wunderlich

On moving to Perth, Kelly went Rosalie Primary School, followed by Hollywood High School. As was common in those days, she left school at 14 seeking employment. She secured work in a deli in Shenton Park. In those days "you handed your pay over to your parents, and they gave you a bit back as pocket money".

Kelly featured on the cover of Local Scene

Kelly used to go to Canterbury Court and Fiesta Theatre (in Scarborough) with her older sisters. Her sisters performed at both venues. Her mother would ask them to take her with them. The places were packed with bodgies and widgies, "they were all the go at the time". Kelly's sister went out with Andy Andros, "the Boss" at the Snake Pit and the reputed head of the bodgies. Her twin went out with Rocky. Talent scouts used to come to these venues.

On one occasion a talent scout asked the twins if anyone else in the family sang. The twins suggested Kelly. Kelly sang "Just the Way You Look Tonight". She wasn't nervous as she regularly saw her family performing. The talent scout suggested she get a tape made ("in those days it was all reel to reel") and a photograph, and send them into Bandstand. The scout suggested she may need to change her name to something more catching. He came up with Kelly Green. Her father's band backed her. They recorded the tape in their lounge room, and sent it to Brian Henderson's Bandstand in Sydney.

Nothing happened for 12 months. They forgot about it. Kelly did a few gigs with her sisters, and did some stuff with Pam Bradley, Peter Andersen, Paul Hermitage and The Times at Fiesta Theatre. Fiesta brought acts over from the East. Here Kelly met Barry Stanton. He was the first big star she met.

Kelly attended an audition at Channel 7. Max Bostock was in charge then (1960s). They liked her, but said "you probably need to get training because your English accent comes out in your singing", so she didn't get selected.

Not long after, a telegram came to the house. It had an air ticket in it. The telegram said she was booked on Bandstand, and the ticket was for Sydney. Her father was very supportive, even though she had just turned 15. Her mother was hesitant. Kelly talked to her boss at the deli, and he said, "go for it". Her father organized for her to stay with friends in Sydney. This was her first plane trip. She had come out from England by boat, and had come across from Sydney on the Australia, a cargo ship. She had to change planes in Adelaide and missed the connecting flight. There was a misunderstanding. She had to pick up her ongoing ticket in Adelaide. When she told them her name, they said there was no reservation in that name. By the time they worked out the ticket was booked under her pseudonym, "Kelly Green", the plane was taxiing out. So, she had to stay in Adelaide that night. She was terrified, and wouldn't leave her hotel room. It was a massive adventure for a 15 year old. It must have taken a lot of courage to make that journey, leaving her family and friends behind.

Dance poster for Pagoda Ballroom with Bill Blaine & the Dynamics, Pam Bradley, Clive Higgins & The Zodiacs (with Les Dixon), Les Meade, Kelly Green & Coupe de Ville,

Ian Turpie met her in Sydney and took her straight to the studio. There they recorded the backing tape, and picked the songs and keys for her first performance. They selected "Little Miss Lonely" and "Vacation" as her first numbers, then sent her off to her new home to learn the words. "You had a week to learn them. It was all mimed. They laid-down the backing first, then the vocals, then you'd go in and mime".

Kelly's first appearance on Channel 9's Bandstand was about 1962. They rotated people between Bandstand and Sing, Sing, Sing, Johnny O'Keefe's show on Channel 7. (Bandstand started about 1961, Sing, Sing, Sing started shortly after.) "You did mini tours with different bands in between appearances". Kelly toured with Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, The Bee Gees, Digger Revel, Lonnie Lee, Laurel Lee and others. "The boys used to get up to all sorts of things. But they took the women 'under their wing' and protected and nurtured them on tour".

Kelly's record "Little Girl Lost"

The songs they performed were generally on the hit parade. It was very American oriented. The female performers were allocated songs made popular by female singers. For instance, Caroline Young used to do "Let's have a Party" as she had a Wanda Jackson type voice, Kelly was generally picked for Dusty Springfield, Patsy Cline or Connie Francis songs. "The shows were themed, and they picked songs they thought suited your voice. Girls were expected to wear pretty dresses and look sexy".

Barry Stanton saw Kelly perform on Bandstand. He remembered they had met at Fiesta Theatre in Perth. He rang Kelly at the studio and asked, "do you remember me". He offered to pick her up for coffee. They eventually married and had two children. Being pregnant ended her career in Sydney. You didn't perform heavily pregnant in those days. Kelly returned to Perth in 1965 with her young son, pregnant with her second child, and with her marriage over.

Columbia Broadcasting Systems (CBS), including the Australian Record Company (ARC), was one of the two largest broadcasters in radio and television in the United States in the 20th Century. CBS recognised Kelly's ability and asked her to record with them. She was the first female to be signed to CBS. Most of her numbers were written by Sven Liebaek and his wife Lolita Rivero. Lolita wrote the lyrics. One of her songs, "Tell me that you Love me too?", was written by her husband, Barry Stanton, another was a translation of a Spanish song "Love me with all your Heart". Kelly cut three singles: "I'll never be the Same" and "Little Girl Lost"; "Love me with all your Heart" and "So What?"; and "Do You?" and "Tell me that you Love me too". On television, artists generally performed covers, but Kelly got to perform three of her own numbers: "I'll Never be the Same", "So What" and "Do You". "I'll Never be the Same" made it into the "Predicted Top 40" list.

Top 40 poster featuring Kelly Green. Her song "I'll Never be the Same" was 19 on the Predicted Top 40.

When you cut a record the recording companies made arrangements for you to meet the DJs. "But, there were so many young bands. You needed drive and confidence to market yourself, or a good manager. It wasn't enough to be a good performer. You had to be able to sell yourself to the DJs, to coax them into giving you air-time. Some of the more confident guys, like Billy Thorpe and Johnny Devlin, were better at this". 

Cutting a record in the early 1960s was quite simple. You went into the studio. "You did it all together with the whole band. There were not many takes, two or three at the most. Most of people who did recordings were professional musicians, so it worked out".

There were dozens of women who were regulars on Bandstand. "You were paid for a performance. You got a cheque in the mail". Kelly just worked at her music career, she didn't have another job. "You didn't make much money, just enough to get by". There wasn't the pill at that time, and if you got pregnant, that was the end of your career".

Kelly continued with her career in Perth running a theatre restaurant and performing. When Kelly came back to Perth no one seemed to mind her English accent anymore, because she'd "made it" in Sydney. In those days you had to "make it" over East, or overseas, to get any recognition.

Kelly was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Council of Western Australia's Hall of Fame, as was Bill Blaine, Clive Higgins, Colin Nichol, Rick Selby and Pam Bradley. Kelly is a clear example of what is possible with a little initiative, drive and considerable courage. Not many 15 year olds would have the gumption to undertake the journey she made. Some might see it as glamorous, but it was hard work. To maintain your self esteem in the music industry with a fickle public, swaying with each new trend, takes staying power, and commitment. Kelly has continued to work in the industry. Talking to her, it's apparent it was not always the easy path. At times, she battled financially, struggling with the dual role of single parent, and professional. However, as is apparent when conversing with her, adversity only made her stronger. She is an awe-inspiring woman.

Kelly's recording contract with CBS

 Interview with Kelly Green

What do you see as Rock'n'Roll's legacy? What has it contributed to the way things are now? I think because of the age we are now in, people are reverting to the music and dancing of that era. Shows like Dancing with Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have revived an interest in dancing. If you're into dancing, modern music isn't suitable ... maybe that's what's turning people back to the music of the 50s and 60s.

What special moments do you cherish from those days? Growing up in a musical family gave me my career, and the chance to do what I did. I was supported. I had a natural talent I got from my family. The early Rock'n'Roll musicians had no qualifications, we felt it, and the music was happy. I got the opportunity to go to Sydney. Nowadays you couldn't get in the door. I grew up in that era when people had to go over East, or overseas, to become a star. When you came back you were Perth's young girl making good, before that they didn't want to know who you were. I've been lucky, I've been able to stay in the same business all my life - performing in all different areas. There'll come a time when it'll disappear. For many of the young people at that time, they got big too quickly. They were very popular, but there was not much money associated with fame. Then no one wanted you. Coming down a peg was hard. Some didn't adapt well.

Australia's Early Rock'n'Roll Legends

Peter Andersen: Rockin' Perth for more than 40 Years

Peter Andersen and Dr Cecilia Netolicky

Up-loaded 5th November 2009

Peter Andersen first heard guitar music at the Midland oval, which in those days had a concrete velodrome (push-bike race-track), which he used to frequent as his father was involved in the local  cycling club. On occasion, there would be concerts at the oval. On one particular night, Tex Croft, a Country musician, was appearing. Tex let Peter run his fingers across the strings of his guitar. "It was the most magical sound I'd heard. From there I begged my father for a guitar, which he finally bought, and I was off to Billy Barnes School of Music". Peter was only about 10 at this time. 

At age 11, Peter went with his parents to visit relations, on his father's side, in Brisbane. His uncle had a house just below the Cloudland Ballroom. One night Bill Hayley and the Comets were playing there. "The feel of that music had me hooked for life". 

Peter began performing at 13. However, his first "serious gigs" were at 16 with The Rocketeers at a dance studio in Kings St. The band only lasted about three weeks, that's when Peter met Ken Mitchell. 

A young Peter Andersen

At 14, in 1959, Peter got a solo spot on Stairway to the Stars, on Channel 7. The Musical Director of Channel 7 virtually said, "don't give up your day job". Peter met that Director some years later in Adelaide, about 1975, where he reminded him what he'd said. 

Peter worked in the automotive and rag trades briefly after leaving school, but all he wanted to do was play music. He's made his living as a musician his whole life, despite that initial discouragement. 

Peter and Ken Mitchell formed a band called The Tornadoes. This band lasted only 12 months, but they played at The Embassy Ballroom. This was a huge achievement for local musicians, as The Embassy was regarded as a top venue for Rock'n'roll. Ken negotiated the gig through Colin Nichol. "Colin hadn't heard the band. He hired them off Ken's word. Ken was a good talker". 

The Tornadoes made a self-funded recording about 1962. They recorded "Alone with the Blues" a song written by Ken Webster, the band's bass player. Colin played the record on radio 6KY, but it was never formally released.  Unfortunately the band broke up a week after recording was complete, over women issues, so the record never went anywhere.

Peter plays guitar, saxophone, bass and drums, but he remains primarily a vocalist. He explained how he landed up playing such a wide variety of instruments: 

In The Midnighters, Ken Mitchell was pianist, but when The Shadows hit the scene, he moved onto drums. On occasion, the band would still feature Ken on piano, then I would play drums (self taught). 

Bass playing came about when I joined The Troupadors, and we were without a keyboard player. Therefore the bass player, Graham Flintoff, played keyboards, and I went onto bass. 

The sax playing also started in The Troupadores. We were booked to open The Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore for 6 months (1971). However the agent had stated we had brass in the band. As I didn't like trumpet, I bought a cheap sax, and had three weeks to learn it. When we hit Singapore I could play two songs fluently, but there was more practice to come. 

Playing with The Midnighters

All the structured musical tuition Peter had, was those first few guitar lessons at Billy Barnes School of Music

Peter joined The Troupadores in 1969 (they had been around since 1963). The Troupadores have continued to play professionally, now taking on mainly corporate gigs. Peter left The Troupadores because his "body couldn't handle the riggers of the road. They were always on the road. They played everywhere in Australia". 

Interview with Peter Andersen 5th November 2009

Dr Cecilia Netolicky 

What was it like playing at The Embassy Ballroom?

Playing at The Embassy Ballroom was like the shows on TV and in the movies. There were screaming girls down the front. At one stage, I lost the sleeve off my shirt. The rest of the crowd was jiving and having an all round good time. 

What were your other career highlights from those days?

Some features, other than The Embassy, were appearing on shows brought to Perth staring American and Eastern states pop idols like Johnny O'Keefe, Dig Richards, Bobby Darin, The Everly Brothers, Col Joye and The Chessmen. At this time we were performing as The Midnighters.

What do you think you did differently, that got you recognised?

I believe showmanship gave me the edge over a lot of just singers, and I think humility and dedication to your audience is essential. 

How was it going from being a big deal in Perth to trying to break-in in England?

It was frustrating going from being a "big fish in a little pond", to a virtual unknown. I knew it would be hard. In London we worked as The Midnighters. We played gigs with some well-known local bands, such as, The Animals, while we were trying to get a recording out. 

Why did you decide to go to England?

We made the decision to go to England, rather than going over East, after talking to Johnny O'Keefe. He quoted "If you make it in Australia, you've still got to make it in England. But if you make it in England, the rest follows". It was good advice, but the doing was harder than the saying. 

Do you regret going to England to give it a go?

No. The experience gained by being where the whole world music scene was being generated from at the time was an experience you couldn't get anywhere else. 

Do you have any regrets about getting involved in the music scene? Is there anything you would do differently with hindsight?

No regrets at all. In this business there's a huge gap between making a lot of money, and just making a living. But, what it all comes down to is you've made a living doing something you love, and making a lot of people happy. 

What were the significant changes you believe Rock'n'Roll contributed to music history?

I think the start of the cross-rhythms between Country, Blues, up-tempo stuff and Big Band music gave Rock'n'Roll its unique feel. 

Why do you think Rock'n'Roll music was portrayed as evil in the early days?

I think it was a marketing strategy. It was cool to make it sinful. The "bad boy" image gave it an edge and made it seem different from what came before. The theory was, if the parents don't like it, the kids will love it. In Australia musicians and kids just believed what was said, Australia was just a clone of the USA in those days.

 On reflection, who do you see as the significant History-makers of Rock'n'Roll?

Bill Hayley, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Big Joe Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.

Who do you see as the local Rock'n'Roll History-makers?

The lack of recording facilities made it hard here, but I'd say the pioneers were Les Dixon, Bill Blaine, Clive Higgins, Colin Nichol (who loved Rock'n'Roll and did everything he could to push it), Kelly Green, Clem Croft and, me of course.



WA's iconic entrepreneur remembered and written by Colin Nichol Up-loaded 17/11/09

N the early 1960's Clarion was Western Australia's first and only significant record label, but it made a big impression on the national scene, with a number of singles further being licensed overseas in the US and UK.

Owned and run by founder, record producer and WA music industry luminary Martin Clarke, Clarion was later distributed by Festival Records (now Festival / Mushroom / Warner), and had enough hits to keep going until the late 70's. Clarke was instrumental in not only the success of countless local artists, including Johnny Young and The Valentines, featuring Bon Scott, but also the development of the local music industry.

Bon Scott was seen by Clarke on the stage of Canterbury Court Ballroom and he promptly recorded him in his studios in early 1967. "He had a good voice - very good", Martin confirmed to me. Those were the first studio records by Scott, along with the Valentines and then the Spektors.

In recognition of Clarke's contribution he was inducted into the WA Music (WAM) Hall of Fame on 18 February 2005 which recognised his success in the fields of recording, promotion, talent-spotting and organisation.

Of the early days, Clarke once said: "Good, bad or indifferent, it was nice to be able to be the first that really made successful recordings in Western Australia. People had been making all sorts of records in Perth, which never saw the light of day. The Clarion label brought it into the national and even international scope".

Clarke said when Clarion was operating, especially during the 60s and 70s, it was a time when things "really happened" and there was always work around for people with talent. "You couldn't stop it. It was just happening. That to me was the age. But as far as product is concerned, I think there are good things still to come."

In its heyday of almost three-decades long history, Clarion issued as many as five releases a week. Right up to mid-2006, Clarke was licensing re-releases of his early hits and compilations through UK labels and by then UK-based, was talking of bringing a major artist to tour Australia.

In London, where he moved in 1978, he worked with Valentine Music finding, promoting and recording talent while organising tours and public relations for such performers as Dave Brubeck. He continued, as he had always done, occasionally commuting to the USA as part of his music activities.

Passionate about music by the age of 12, Clarke worked at Radio 6PR at 15 and built the Clarion studio at 272 Hay Street Perth by the time he was 21. As a colleague and family friend, I recall the teenage Martin recording earlier in the living room at the family home on Glyde Street, Mosman Park, with drums isolated to the bathroom for sound separation. He was strong-willed and determined to put Perth on the national music map, despite critics saying Perth was too small.

He described his purpose-built recording studio: "The studio was what we call a room within a room, the ceiling was high, it was 26 feet." However, it wasn't until 1966 that the Clarion label was really up and running. Clarke says that it was simply impossible to set up a label straight way so he was available for any type of recording.

"I wanted to get into recording, not only music, but everything"; so he did just that, recording choirs, bands and, of course, his own beloved dramatic programs, one of which was called 'Deadline Plus Five', "All the action had to be finished within five minutes." What makes Clarke's accomplishment more incredible is that during the 60s most recordings, which were played on the less than 150 existent commercial radio stations Australia-wide, were coming out of Melbourne and Sydney.

His studio was not only the best, it was the only one here of consequence, world standard and ahead of its time for Australia. The Clarion Records label he created put many Western Australian artists on the map and launched careers that might otherwise have been stifled by the isolation of Perth.

I found the music talent through running my live dance shows around the city, metropolitan and country areas and Martin had the ability and facilities to record them. He had the gumption to get up there and do it, and he did something that nobody else could do, when he created his own label in 1962.

His passion for recording radio dramas as well as music of all genres extended to his interest in theatre, working for the National Playhouse Theatre where he took part in a number of productions including Pygmalion, Cyrano de Bergerac and Aunty Mame.

He always cited Johnny Young as his favourite recording artist and the key to his success. For his part, Johnny never hesitates to give Clarke full credit for launching his national career.

Clarke's dedication to professional production saw him install world standard recording and disc cutting equipment ahead of elsewhere in Australia. His state-of-the-art specially imported Neumann lacquer-cutting lathe enabled him to have total control over his product and this remains a 'first' for Australia.

Apart from occasional recordings with the symphony orchestra, it was mostly players from pubs who recorded on Clarke's label. He attributes being at the right place at the right time. "It just happened that all the talent was in Western Australia at the time because the hits that we made weren't just hits in WA, but hits in every part of Australia."

Clarion had a subsidiary imprint Action, but few singles are known to have been released on that label. The first single issued on Clarion in 1962 was Jag Drag b/w Little White Star by Peter Piccini and His Orchestra, both composed by him. The A-side was an instrumental; the B-side was a song with monologue, about the then-recent space flight of John Glenn, which made reference to Glenn having seen the lights of Perth from orbit.

Maestro Piccini, a renowned accordionist and composer-arranger, later became musical director for the Nine Network. He arranged, conducted and played on many Clarion recordings. The early releases from the label, distributed by Clarke himself, were largely by local TV personalities, but when he began recording local rock bands such as The Times, Russ Kennedy & The Little Wheels, Roy Hoff & The Off Beats, and especially Johnny & The Strangers, soon to become Johnny Young & Kompany, sales began to rise.

1966 saw the manufacture and distribution of Clarion recordings taken on by Festival Records from 16 May, on a national basis. This triggered the reissue of some of the records that had already been successful in Western Australia like The Skye Boat Song by Glen Ingram, songs by Robby Snowden, Johnny Young and others. Over the next few years sales were strong and the label earned three gold record awards.

Clarke's success not only extended to the Australian market, but the international one as well, making trips to the US at least twice a year, for months at a time, promoting Perth-based artists. He worked hard for his artists, listing of whom covers the music scene of the period: Chris and John, Swingshift, Colin Cook, Maggie Hammond, the Proclamation, The Clan, Gemini, The Birds (a knock-off of the originals), Lloyd Lawson, The Hi-Five, The Offbeats, The Court Jesters, Chalice, Joy Mulligan, Sue Jennings, Bill Shepherd.

The label's first major success was Johnny Young's double-sided hit Cara-Lynn/Step Back (May 1966) and Johnny featured prominently on the Clarion catalogue until mid-1969. Festival Records eventually took over the Young contract when buying the Clarion catalogue.

The Valentines signed with the label in May 1967, as well as Glenn Ingram, Toni Lamond, Perth's 'pop prince' Robbie Snowden, and songwriter Bill Millar. It was Millar, in collaboration with Clarke, who recorded one of Clarion's most remarkable singles, the outrageous psychedelic confection Even Stevens Hypnotic Suggestion, which they released under the pseudonym 'The Vegetable Garden'.

He enabled the likes of Hi Five, The Times, Swingshift, Wayne Pride, Les Meade, the Quarefellas, and many others to reach the greatest potential audience, even overseas. His list of artists is very long and includes as well: Fatty Lumpkin, Tex and Clem Croft, Watts and Martin, Bill Shepherd and Orchestra, Terry Walker, Toni Lamond, the Troupadours, Tony Tyler, Maggie Hammond, Russ Kennedy and the Little Wheels.

In February 1978 the label was wound up. In 1989, still active in music, Clarke felt he had gone as far he could. His mother, the last of his family in Perth, had passed on in 1985 and he decided it was time to move on. "The world was changing, it always does, and music just keeps moving on."

Having already seen the world thanks to his success with Clarion, Clarke finally made the decision to move to England, where he still had family connections and branch out in the music business abroad. "There's nothing wrong with Australia, I love Australia."

After, according to him, some difficulties over the expiry of his agreement with Festival Records, Martin regained the rights to his catalogue and licensed the Clarion/Action catalogue to the British reissue label Cherry Red which, with other archive recordings, compiled the CD Clarion Call, an overview of the Clarion singles of the Sixties and mixes well-known hits with more obscure material, including the ultra-rare demo version of Johnny Young's breakthrough hit Step Back.

His last release was of previously unheard archive recordings of Scott and the Spektors from an early Perth TV show, preceding the Valentines and the-later AC/DC. In his earliest days, rock legend Bon Scott was "quiet and polite; well behaved", Clarke observed to me. Little sign then, in 1966-68, of the wild behaviour that later became his trademark.

Martin died suddenly of a heart attack in Surrey England, four months short of 66, on 28 March. 2006. He had been active and well known in the London music scene since leaving WA and was still deeply involved in the industry that was his life. Finding new talent was his driving force.

"The standard of recorded sound he achieved is still held in high regard", WAMI (the West Australian Music Industry Association Inc) Executive Director Paul Bodlovich stated in part. "It's hard to overstate the impact that Martin had on the local music industry. His induction to the WA Music Hall of Fame drew considerable attention and reminded us all of the importance of acknowledging the past in looking to build a better future."

Tributes to Martin Clarke came from, amongst others, artists, print media and radio stations, two of which devoted programmes to him. His impressive lifetime output, originally on vinyl then cassette, is now on CD and as the technology changes and moves on, so his legacy is carried on. And his memory continues to be valued by those who knew him.

Acknowledgements: WAMI, Cherry Red Records, Miles Ago


1960 - 1963 (See "Colin Nichol: Perth's Father of Rock'n'Roll" for pictures)

 Colin Nichol Up-loaded 24 January 2010

IN the mid-fifties and early Sixties, with the discovery of the phenomenon of the teenager, organisations and parents were looking for a way to keep the teens 'off the streets' and out of trouble. The Coca-Cola Company came up with a way to help both groups. They started a radio and dance club that would be supported and promoted by the Company, at that time probably the only international organisation uniquely able to achieve such a vast operation.

The Hi-Fi Club began in America in 1958. By June 1959, Coca-Cola bottlers sponsored it in 47 states of America and its membership was estimated at almost two million teenagers. It was an ambitious but simple idea. Young people and teenagers love music and to dance, Coke would provide both for them. They would turn to schools or any responsible group looking for a way to promote positive youth activities.

They would supply the framework for a successful Club and the organisation would do the rest. The most popular Club events were dances. Membership was open to every teenager who wanted to join, with no initiation fees or dues required. Each member was given a membership card, and only members could attend events. Contests would be held at each local event and prizes given, many of which are collectable items today.

The Club was co-ordinated by an advertising agency in New York City for the Coca-Cola Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia. While blatantly commercial, its by-product was the creation of a social phenomenon, hugely successful in a part of the world like Western Australia where there was little else catering for the emerging teenage generation.

As its local president, radio presenter and compere, I ran dance shows that attracted huge crowds and where local singers and groups finally had the ultimate live performance venue. Nine years later, after moving to Britain and visiting New York City, I was told by the advertising executives behind the Club that we had been one of the most successful and the promotion had been extended as a consequence. Our membership had risen well above the 10,000 mark.

In Australia, the Club worked through radio stations and the top 'teen DJ' in each area. I was chosen as State President of the Coca-Cola Bottlers Hi Fi Club and started July 1960. I had previously been running dance shows in association with Coca-Cola. It also operated in other Australian States. This major international advertising campaign brought new insights to Western Australian radio listeners.

It should be remembered that Western Australia at the time was conservative and isolated; the rest of the world seemed far away. We only had inklings of what was happening in the rest of the world from films and from glimpses of American Bandstand on television as well as of the Australian version from Sydney and we fed off those when the opportunity came to emulate them.

The Club radio shows featured exclusive star interviews, competitions, novelty effects and American imported records not heard before in the State. It was, for many, a window to the wider world. Most important were the parcels of American 'donuts' - the seven-inch, 45 rpm singles discs with the large hole in the centre, the first we'd seen like that.

These were selected from the latest releases in the States and were really hot property. With these, I had first play of forthcoming hits, often before they were even available to the Australian record companies. Additionally, I imported new release records direct from England. This was a defining element which helped bring forward the release date of discs in Australia to line up with overseas.

The Hi-Fi Club dances were held at the Embassy Ballroom in Perth and up to about 1500 young people would attend these on a Saturday afternoon. The local Coca-Cola Bottler appointed their executive John Hancey to facilitate the organisation of these and represent the company. He also kept an eye on behaviour.

My role expanded to organise and run other dances around the metropolitan area and in some country towns including Narrogin, Bunbury, Katanning and Albany. These were the first of their kind and a key part of the music and dance revolution that was going on.

In 1961 the Coca-Cola organisation transferred the Hi Fi Club and me to Radio 6KY as they felt that it was a more progressive station and one that rated better in listener surveys. My sessions at the Radio 6PM network where the Club started had been 5.30-6.00 pm Wednesdays and Fridays and 9.30-10.00 am Sundays. Imagination at radio stations was lacking for the most part, but the direct opposite was the case at 6KY. I suspected there were additional reasons: the managers of 6KY and Coca-Cola Bottlers (Perth) Pty Ltd were close friends.

They were developing a plan to tender for the next commercial television license for the metropolitan area and combining their resources would help facilitate this, as well as provide a pool of potential talent. This move resulted in a stunning pay rise for me of five Pounds a week. While with 6KY, I presented other programmes as well as long Hi-Fi Club sessions. 6KY and the Hi Fi Club achieved top listener ratings in WA.

There was no instruction of any significance given to me in the operating of the Club, other than protect the reputations of the companies involved and ensure decent behaviour prevailed. It was all left to me and my instincts. It was my responsibility to present the programmes on air as I saw fit and use the material provided to make the shows unique. The fact was, there had been no precedent to this type of promotion here and no one knew what to do. Before long, I had a separate office of my own and secretary to cope with the volume of response.

The radio station was cautiously giving me my head in the operating of this promotion; I didn't fully realise the implications of that at that at the time. By the time I got to Radio 6KY, under the watchful eyes of senior executive Norm Manners and general manager Bob Mercer, my work with the Club and other programmes I presented were influential to the station overall, apart from the fact that I was also programme director and overseeing most music played.

Coca-Cola would supply the DJ with plenty of material, and the DJ was to learn about the product and its history, which was not done in my case; I already had a good relationship with the local bottler. In America the DJ's name or image would appear on advertising and point-of-sale materials. Mine was printed on the letterhead of the welcoming letter to new members.

There was the eagerly anticipated monthly disc jockey package that included an LP record or transcription with the theme song or commercial for Coca-Cola, a series of special tracks containing interviews and programming from other Hi-Fi Clubs. There were open-ended interviews where the DJ could pretend to be 'live' with the artist, a segment called Around the World Hit Parade and a Popular Records set that included commercial recordings of artists who appeared on the programme.

The DJ package also had scripts and commercials, which in total included over two hours of music and programming ideas. Contests held by the Hi-Fi Clubs made the Club fun and while individual clubs were able to come up with their own ideas, Coke had plenty of suggestions for games and contests.

The transcription given to the DJ contained extracts to be used for contests, including accelerated dance melodies, scrambled records and famous solos. Members could then play 'name that tune', 'guess the sound effect' or other games to win prizes. Other suggested contests were 'pick the top tune of the week', the 'mystery tune' or - my personal favourite - 'name the backward record'. In America in 1960, Coca-Cola added a nationwide talent contest to the Hi-Fi Club promotion and we had them here.

There were plenty of collectible items with The Hi-Fi Club logo, specifically made for the Club. These included: Dance Sox - red socks with The Hi-Fi Club knitted in white on each side; A tie of braided leather with a gold-finished metal emblem slide tie-clip; record holder - a red and white plastic holder for 90, 45-RPM records; a transistor radio - with a leather case sporting the club logo; Club badge and other original items.

Not all of these came to Perth due to the impracticability of shipping from the USA and unsuitability for our audience, but we had a good range for effective gifts and prizes. Most commonly, we gave away bottles and packs of Coke in the now-classic glass bottles, records and movie tickets. We also filled cinemas from time to time for members-only showings of pop music films, such as the latest Elvis Presley.

Bob Purvis with his Purvisonic Sound provided the most advanced audio of world standard for our events from the late Fifties onwards. When bands and singers took a break, the latest dance music discs were played by Bob to keep the non-stop action going. Many world-famous singers and groups later used his facilities at Perth appearances. We were using radio or wireless microphones on stage before they were in common use and the equipment Bob provided was always world best and never let us down.

The advent of TVW-7 our first television station in 1959 opened new opportunities and their teenage programme Club 7-teen was a Sixties sensation. Its less well-remembered predecessor in the Fifties, however, was Teen Beat with its brief predecessor Rock at Five Fifty, for both of which I provided early artists and running schedule from my desk at Radio 6PM.

I was the one who had the knowledge of performers and contacts at this time. I would covertly type out the programme's schedule at my desk at Radio 6PM and the regular house band, the Zodiac All Stars at that time with lead singer Clive Higgins, would take it to the TV station. The artists I selected had first appeared and 'auditioned' on the Hi Fi Club 'hops' and earlier dance shows I ran which preceded the Club.

These were at the Embassy Ballroom in central Perth and later also at the Pagoda Ballroom at Como, wonderful dance halls lost except for memories and a few photographs. As well, we 'toured' to local halls around the metropolitan area and country towns. Scarborough had a couple of venues we used and the big concerts came to the now long-since demolished, huge Capital theatre.

Additionally rock and roll and pop at the time colonised such venues as Coral Gunning's large Windmill Tea Rooms on Hay Street West Perth, Canterbury Court Ballroom - and bands were featured, usually Bill Blaine and the Dynamics, at the Wirrina Drive-in on Sunday nights, another regular event. There was also the, at the time infamous, Snake Pit on the beach. Then other dance clubs followed and huge pub halls, bringing in the era of hard rock and the period most music fans today remember.

The Club and Coca-Cola were involved in introducing many rock and roll shows and individual artists to WA, often in association with the Lee Gordon Organisation and Channel Seven. I compered many of these at the Capitol Theatre as well as Embassy Ballroom and they included Col Joye and the Joy Boys, Dig Richards, Crash Craddock, Judy Cannon, The Crickets, Bobby Rydell, Johnny O'Keefe, Frankie Davidson, Pat Boone, Brenda Lee, Duane Eddy, Cliff Richard and others supported by local acts.

The Coca-Cola Company created commercial jingles, which became classic hits on radio and television in the 1960s and which were played on the Club radio shows. The McGuire Sisters sang Really Refreshed; Miss Oklahoma 1958 Anita Bryant, a popular singer in the 1960s, became the latest Coca-Cola Girl on American radio and television from 1964-1967. Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Roy Orbison, Petula Clark, the Supremes, the Moody Blues, Jay and the Americans, and other popular singers all contributed their renditions of Things Go Better with Coke.

It all came to a quite sudden end when, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go to England with the pop group The Times on the MV Australia, leaving on 3 March, 1963. We set sail for new opportunities in an old country. The Hi-Fi Club soon faded away and was replaced by Coca-Cola sponsoring other music events as they arose, from time to time.

The Coca-Cola Bottlers Hi-Fi Club rode the incoming wave of the age of the teenager and of the new music, opening up a new world for young Western Australians as well as for me. The association allowed me to use my imagination in radio shows but especially for expanding the live dance events, which would not have been likely without that backing.

Importantly, the impetus of the Club and its connections swept over the lack of progressiveness prevalent at the time. It may have been a commercial venture but in many parts of the world, particularly in remote and sleepy Western Australia, it rocked out a wake-up call that has reverberated since.

Acknowledgements: Online sources, Bill Blaine, John Dubber

The Yeomen 1965-1967

Terry Harris            up-loaded 23 March 2010

 Ross Ludlam, Fred Maynard, Rudy Zuidwind, Ron Sanders and Terry Harris got together in the Autumn of 1965, all teenagers except for Ross who was really old and had just turned 20. Ron knew Terry from John Curtin High School * and also Fred from UWA where he and Fred were both first year students. So a friend of a friend of a friend resulted in the five practicing a couple of times a week. After a month or so they knew eight numbers: Abeline, Shaking all Over, Gloria, Kansas City, Hello Josephine, Do You Wanna Dance and a couple of others.

Arguably the biggest teenage dance at that time was the Broadway Stomp on a Saturday night. A converted picture theatre with all the seats taken out - most suburban theatres had closed down by then with the advent of television in Perth. Two bands played together regularly at the Broadway each Saturday, Johnny and The Strangers and Peter and The Drifters. Rudy Zuidwind was taking Bass guitar lessons from John Pecorra who was a member of Peter and The Drifters. Rudy asked if his band (as yet unnamed) could do a spot at the Broadway on a Saturday night. John indicated that it should be OK and that his band's gear could be used. So on the 17th of July 1965 the five novices having adopted the Band name The Rejects, fronted up to the Broadway Stomp to do their spot.

Roger Lucas and John Savage were the promoters of the Broadway Stomp and the Swanbourne Stomp which ran Friday nights in the summer. They knew nothing of this bunch of hopefuls wanting a tryout. Roger agreed somewhat reluctantly with the warning that they would have to come off stage straight away if they weren't any good. So using borrowed gear The Rejects did their full eight numbers and the crowd called out for more, this seemed to impress Roger - the problem was they didn't know any more. He was happy enough to invite the Band back for the following week on a paying basis and to include the Band's name in the newspaper advertising. However, advertising that he had "Rejects" at his dance didn't set well with him and their employment was conditional upon a change of name. Accordingly The Yeomen were founded with a British sounding name chosen because of the huge British influence on popular music back then. ... And the crowd cried out for more ... it turns out that the crowd at the front was comprised mainly of Rudy's sister and a group of her friends. Well, whatever it takes. see below re : John Curtin High School.

 The Yeomen secured a residency at the Broadway from July 1965 which lasted almost two years. They became the regular band there with the other two groups playing alternate weeks and further afield at other venues on the off weeks. The Yeomen were also regulars at The Swanbourne Stomp over the summer months and mid-week at Canterbury Court Perth. The teenage dance scene was virtually the full extent of their performing, due in part to the fact that the legal drinking age was 21. Night Clubs and Hotels and other licences premises were off limits. The following month, in August 1965 Ron Sanders decided that he would have to give the band away in favour of his University studies. A replacement drummer was found in Adrian (Ace) Follington, just 16 at the time. This line-up remained unchanged until the band members went their separate ways in 1967 about the same time as the Broadway Stomp ceased. The Yeomen had been the first band for all the members.

Swanbourne Stomp - 1966

 Television and Radio

In the 1960's WA bands received excellent support from local TV and radio. Club Seventeen was a TVW Channel 7 production giving exposure to Perth based bands and other performers. Johnny Young was the compeer of that show for a while in the mid 60's. Unbeknownst by the Band at the time, a number of their supporters had taken up a petition for them to appear on Club Seventeen which saw them make their television debut on that show on Saturday 29th of January 1966. (The same show also marked the TV debut of local band The Spektors with John Collins and Bonnie Scott alternating on lead vocals & drums) Whilst the vision was live to air, all sound was pre-recorded with the performers miming at the time of the telecast. Any act without already having a recording as such, needed to put down the sound at Channel 7 studios on the morning of the show. Accordingly The Yeomen recorded the following numbers on the morning of January 29th: Tony Barber's "Someday", The Kinks "Till The End of The Day" and The Easybeats "Women".

Lunch at the Channel 7 canteen followed with a rehearsal early in the afternoon. The Yeomen opened the show at 5pm with "Someday" wearing their purple, grey & white check shirts, unkindly described by some as 'like tablecloths'. They were to close the show with their other two songs and had plenty of time for a costume change into their suits & ties while the rest of the show progressed. After miming to The Kinks number Terry had drawn the 'short straw' to be on the panel of the show's Juke Box Jury segment. Upon taking his seat and glancing down he noticed with dismay that his FLY was gaping open wide! It seems that his costume change had been a little too hurried. Amid distracting thoughts of embarrassment Juke Box Jury passed, the fly was surreptitiously zipped up and The Yeomen closed the show with a version of "Women" which had only been released by The Easybeats earlier that month. A number of appearances on Club Seventeen followed. A lesson learned from the Band's first appearance was just how difficult it was to mime to something recorded earlier that same day. For subsequent television performances the Band had pre-recorded tracks and had the opportunity to practice the mime technique. Radio station 6KY in particular was very supportive of local bands. In addition to sponsoring Stomps and Teenage Dances which gave performance opportunities to local Bands, the station made their facilities available free of charge for local acts to record. It was at 6KY that The Yeomen recorded tracks used for their television appearances after January 1966. 6KY also supported the locals by playing these recordings on air, giving the Bands a higher profile and exposure they would not normally have had.

 The Gigs

Most gigs involved at least two bands. This was the case at the stomps which also had occasional interstate visiting acts. Competition between the groups was friendly enough with all being cover bands. It is hard to recall an original band from that time, although there may have been some. There always seemed to be some added kudos by being the first local group to play a version of the latest releases by the popular international and Australian acts. Radio stations would play the new material some weeks before the record or sheet music became available here. To get the right chords and correct words was an involved process at that time. It needs to be remembered that these were the days before video recorders, ipods or even cassettes. Some were lucky enough to have reel to reel tape recorders which involved placing the microphone in front of the radio and waiting for recent releases to be played. By whatever method, it was always good to be the first with the latest, staking claim as it were to 'that song' being yours. From the stage budding guitarists could be seen in the front of the crowd 'vulturing' the cords of the latest songs.

As mentioned, competition between Bands was healthy. The Yeomen experienced just one unsporting act at the hands of another Band. (Not counting theft of small items of gear) The occasion was when they were one of the support acts for The Easybeats at the Pagoda Ballroom, April 1966. They were partway through their set when the power failed ... well the plug had been pulled. Suspicion fell on those standing next to it, smirking.

The Yeomen featured in another event involving The Easybeats. They had been asked to play for the crowd waiting at Perth Airport where The Easybeats were scheduled to touch down en-route to England - July 10th 1966 - The Easybeats leave Australia for England. The trip goes ahead in spite of the death of Harry Vanda's wife the previous week. Later in the day, a planned performance during a brief stopover at Perth airport has to be cancelled when 4000 fans break down barrier fences and invade the tarmac. A bomb threat then forces the band to evacuate the plane before they finally re-embark and leave for London. Although The Easybeats' Airport performance was cancelled, local support band The Yeomen entertained the crowd, undaunted by the prospect of 4000 fans breaking down the fence. Photos of the event on right

 * RE: John Curtin High School - Remember the end of term concerts at High School ? Back in 1964 a group of students at John Curtin High School Fremantle formed a group (no name) which in part gave rise in 1965 to The Spektors, The Yeomen and The Winztons. Wyn Milsom - Lead Guitar & Bruce Abbott - Bass Guitar (Spektors); Ron Sanders - Drums & Terry Harris - Vocals (Yeomen); and Ted Junko (Ward/Holloway) - Rhythm Guitar (Winztons). Later on Wyn, Bruce and Ted teamed up again as members of The Valentines.


Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll Fashion Today

Part 1 - The Legacy of the Past

 By Dr Cecilia Netolicky      Up-loaded 24 June 2010

1. Introduction

Josef and I re-entered the Roots Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly scene in the 21st century because we always enjoyed dancing, it's a great way to keep fit, and we loved the music - it was the music of our generation. Initially we were confused by the amalgamation of '20s to '80s fashion worn by participants in the scene and viewed as authentic to the genre. One young Rockabilly enthusiast commented, "Your mob doesn't know how to dress proper Rockabilly", my ignorant response was, "I lived it, I don't have to Google it to know what to wear".

Josef and I run Perth Rocks, a website for '50s and '60s style Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly, free to all, as a community service. Running the website led us to try to make sense of what's happening in the scene. Initially we feared that the scene had become a caricature of its former self, with the most unattractive aspects fossilised and shifted into the foreground. However, over time we've become convinced that Roots Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly are as vital and healthy as they've ever been - the styles are evolving, not stagnating. Adherents are importing fashion, dance and music elements from the '20s, '30s and '40s and even the '70s and '80s, whilst also innovating within the genre. For instance, today in the scene you have Swing, Punk and Goth fashion melded seamlessly with '50s and '60s gear, resulting in a new, and ever evolving, style.

At the conception of Perth Rocks we were committed to representing all aspects of the scene - from Trad to Neo. From our current perspective, this was appropriate, as the genre hasn't fossilised, it's evolving and dynamic, resulting in new music, dance steps and styles, and fashion. This series of articles focuses on the fashion - its roots, and its current manifestations.

2. An Historical Perspective

2.1 A Starting Point

Let's begin at the dawn of the 20th century, with women enslaved by the ideology and technology of the era. Women's tools of trade were the wooden spoon, wash-board, ice-chest, broom, needle and thread, and wood stove. This meant basic tasks took considerable time and physical effort. To be good at one's craft meant to have crisp linen; fine stitching; sparkling cutlery; wholesome food on the table; and a large, well-behaved brood. 

Cakes were made from real ingredients. Wood had to be chopped, and the stove had to be prepared well in advance of cooking. Pans had to be greased, and the ingredients mixed by hand. Clothes were washed with a bar of soap and a corrugated washboard. Doing the week's laundry was a long, exhausting task. All this had to be achieved while looking after pre-school-age kids, and probably pregnant, yet again[1].

2.2 The War Years

"The War" years heralded a number of significant changes for women. Many women had to take up men's work, as the men were off fighting in "The War". This often resulted in new interests and insights. Also women were less likely to remain permanently pregnant, as their partners were away fighting, and there was minimal air travel, so the men were absent for long periods.

The girls from Brown Betty's Bakery @ Wintersun 2010 brownbettysbakery.com.au

The War generated significant developments in technology, initially only for the war effort, but gradually this technology was incorporated into tools for the home - with the invention and gradual improvement of the washing machine, mix master, electric and gas stove, refrigerator, sewing machine, and vacuum cleaner. 

These new tools liberated women's time, resulting in a distinct change of focus in women's work in the post war years - there was a shift to being a better housewife and hostess. This, along with the mechanisation of the printing industry making books and magazines cheaper and more generally available, heralded a flood of books and magazines[2] on better house-keeping, cake decorating, table presentation and home decorating. Women had extra time, and that time was utilised to be better, and more creative, at the tasks they'd done before. But time out of the home during the war years doing 'men's work', had both shown what women were capable of, and had whet their appetite for something more.

Also significant was the rationing of goods in early WW II. This impacted on fashion, particularly in the USA: jackets couldn't exceed 25 inches in length; pants were limited to no more than 19 inches at the hemline; belts could be no more than two inches wide; heels couldn't exceed an inch in height; hemlines rose to the knee and the circular Swing skirt gave way to a shorter narrow pencil skirt; decorative features such as buttons and ruffles were limited; and women's jackets, skirts and pants took on dour military look[3].

Early in WWII it was considered patriotic to wear a cropped bob or page-boy, known as the "Victory Cut". This was seen as a way of demonstrating support for the war effort, and camaraderie with the women in the services and factories, who had to keep their hair short and were directly assisting in the war effort. Women with long hair generally kept it out of the way in a decorative snood, a crocheted or lace hairnet.

The new electric sewing machines, paper dress patterns, and the need for more practical clothes for women doing men's work, also contributed to changes in fashion.

The mid to late '40s saw a rebellion against the austerity of rationing. Women moved toward a more glamorous Hollywood-star-look. Hairstyles were high in the front with pronounced curls, fringes and rolls. In the mid to late '40s shoes once again began to take on a more romantic look with t-bars and platforms with high heels, dresses became softer, and richer fabrics were sourced[4].

In the late '40s hairstyles became more elaborate as women searched for ways to express themselves and look more feminine. Hair was rolled into complex shapes and fixed in place with bobby-pins, whilst make-up took on a more dramatic look with heavy foundation, darkened eyebrows and ruby red lipstick[5].

Mother and daughter @ Wintersun 2010. Mother wearing a snood.

The move from the corset, to a structured bra, also brought about changes. In the '50s the conical bra gave women the Hollywood 'sweater girl' look of movie stars like Lana Turner and Jane Russell. Women's clothing took on a more comfortable fit, and look, with sweaters, cardigans, twin-sets and mix and match coordinates facilitating the illusion of a diverse wardrobe.

 1.3 The Post War Years

At the end of WW II there was a massive increase in pregnancy rates with men back from the war - resulting in the label "Baby Boomers" for children born just post WW II. Women's work changed as new tools became available. Women had more spare time, and during the war years some women had developed an appetite for being something more than home-maker, incubator and baby-tamer.

 1.4 The Final Element - mid '50s and '60s

Evolving birth control devices, and 'the Pill'[6], heralded the demise of women's slavery to procreation, and were an essential element in the liberation of women. Women were no longer chained by biological necessity to perpetual pregnancy. They were free to take active control of their reproductive lives, and this meant they could play a more significant role in the male workplace. For many women this meant doing everything they had previously done as wives, and taking on full-time employment in addition, so it wasn't always all that liberating, but with additional tools to minimize the work at home, this was, at least, now possible.

 1.5 Burlesque - an after-thought

Burlesque has a long and colourful history - too long to be covered here, even briefly. However it can't be denied that Burlesque, as an art-form, and aspects of fashion developed in the Burlesque genre, have made their way into today's Rockabilly women's fashion, and into today's Rockabilly festivals.

Burlesque started as a form of comic theatre, challenging the status quo. It made fun of opera, 'respectable' theatre, and the social and cultural mores of the day. It pushed the envelope on what was acceptable in women's dress, always walking a fine line between what was considered legal and illegal.

Burlesque is enduring. It straddled huge shifts in morality, fashion and politics. Generally it's claimed that the era of Burlesque spanned the 1840s to 1960s. Many claim the demise of Burlesque as a genre came with the proliferation, and social acceptability, of porn, and soft porn, from the 1960s on. They purport that the 'tease and titillate' philosophy of Burlesque lost its social relevance in the '60s, as men could source more direct materials for sexual arousal. However, Burlesque has a vital place in the modern Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll scene today, so I see it as a still vital, and active, art-from.

In each era Burlesque was a form of rebellion. It was employed by actors and dancers to challenge the traditional values of the day. As a result it made a comfortable fit with the Rockabilly revival of the '80s as it epitomized the rebellious, edgy attitude of the new music that melded Roots Rock'n'Roll, Rockabilly, Punk and Goth into a new set of musical genre - Neo-Rockabilly, Psycho-billy, and Horror-billy.

Most major Rockabilly festivals today incorporate Burlesque performances. The under-garments, hair-styles and decorative items employed by Burlesque performers have also been incorporated into modern Rockabilly fashion - you see the corsets now worn as outer, rather than under garments; the seamed stockings; lacy garter belts; elaborate fans; very high-heeled often patent leather shoes; fishnet stockings; flowers in coiled, curled hair; with make-up employing the face as a canvas, foregrounding bold and brazen eyes and mouths; lace gloves; and parasols.

So, it's apparent that today's Roots Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly fashion draw from a broad historical period that doesn't mesh comfortably with the musical era. Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll fashion is evolving. It's adapting to new demands, interests and generations. The young participants have found new meaning in the music, fashion and dance, whilst incorporating disparate elements from other eras, and genres. Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll fashion, like the music, is not fossilised, it's evolving, it's a living art-form, and it's taking on fresh meaning for new generations. It's maintained its 'non-mainstream' and rebellious roots - but how it manifests with each new generation of musicians, followers and dancers differs as they add new elements and understandings.

Vivian Marlowe performing @ The Cat's Meow - a Rockabilly & Burlesque Extravaganza, Fremantle W Australia 2010

[1] Note, this era pre-dated sophisticated birth-control devices, so the size of a woman's brood was generally seen as a direct reflection of her fertility, and hence her ability to provide progeny to continue her partner's genetic line. This meant that fertile, desirable wives were generally continuously pregnant and breast-feeding.

[2]Website with some examples of women's 1950s magazines: http://www.20th-century-collectables.com/womensmags1950s.htm  

[6] http://www-scf.usc.edu/~nicoleg/history.htm The Birth of The Pill, "in 1957 The Pill was released as a treatment for gynaecological disorders. Finally, in 1960, it became FDA approved and by 1963, 1.2 million women were using it". 

Rockabilly and Roots Rock'n'Roll Fashion Today

Part 2 - Response of a generation - Mid 1950s to mid 1960s

By Dr Cecilia Netolicky             Up-loaded 10 July 2010 

Fashion, as with all the Arts, is built on a past. Each new trend is a reaction to, or borrows from, what came before. Roots Rock'n'Roll, and Rockabilly, fashion is no exception. Fashion trends may last a season, a few years, or an era. However, it remains in the interest of the industry to make regular significant shifts, so the fashionistas of the day feel compelled to purchase new-trend-items. So, for instance, the 1960s saw the mini, the maxi and everything in between: items often becoming outdated in a single season.

In War, and harsh economic times, fashions tend to be sensible, stable and drab. Whilst in lush economic times, designers utilize the full extent of their creativity to persuade customers to buy items that are frivolous, not versatile, and are conspicuously out of place if you try to get out an extra season's wear (such as the micro-mini, maxi dress, and 1960s paisley, or Op Art, clothing).

The early post-War years saw a strong reaction against the practical, suitable clothes of the War years (WWI 1914 -1918; WWII 1939 - 1945). The youth of the era were looking for something brighter and radical to reflect their more up-beat view of life. Something their way too sensible parents, who had lived through The Great Depression (1929 to early 1940s) and War years, found abhorrent and wasteful.

This new generation of young people were looking for meaning in their lives, and an identity that separated them from their too sensible parents. They saw this articulated through a series of new movies, targeted at their generation, suggesting fresh ways of thinking, wild music and different life-choices. "The Wild One" (1953, Marlon Brando), "Blackboard Jungle" (1955), and "Rebel without a Cause"(1955, James Dean) each advocated freedom from responsibility, a break with conformity, and an alternative lifestyle.

Prior to the 1950s teens dressed in the same style as their parents. The term 'teenager' didn't exist prior to the 1950s. The term came into being to describe the growing number of young people who were living a significantly different lifestyle to pre-teen boys and girls, or their adult parents. These young people had money in their pockets, and little to spend it on, as they generally still lived at home; were unmarried; childless; and were working, or in apprenticeships, from a young age. This opened up a whole new market for retailers, resulting in advertisements for radios, records, fashionable clothing, make-up, hair and nail products, food and drinks aimed at 'teenagers', a new market sector.

Vintage Youtube clip: 1950s Coke Commercial aimed at teenagers

This was the second generation of youth, in the 20th century, not weighed down by war, or economic depression. Down South, in the USA, many of this new generation saw 'blacks' rockin' to great 'race music'. They could pick up 'race music stations' on their new radios. The 'blacks' were 'hangin' loose', 'rockin' it up' and 'havin' fun'. Their parents were prim, proper and responsible, with etiquette guided by a plethora of new 'rule books' and documentary films dictating appropriate dress, manners and behaviour. The contrast between the 'black' dance venues and clubs, and 'white' ballrooms, clubs and dance halls, was significant, and many young people in the South started to look for inspiration to 'black' culture.

Some of this new generation of 'teenagers' began to suspect there may be more to life than work, marriage and a mortgage. The lifestyle of their steady, hard working parents focussed on bill paying, saving and being responsible citizens held little attraction for them in the immediate future. They had money to spend, and few responsibilities. They were inspired by movies like "Rebel without a Cause", "Blackboard Jungle" and "The Wild One" to look for something more out of life. They were aware what awaited them once they were married, and had children, and they wanted to grab a few years of fun and freedom before that kicked in.

The original Rock'n'Roll, and, Rockabilly era spans the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s. Many say the era ended with advent of The Beatles - when music and fashion took a sharp turn.

Initially the Rocker-look differed in the USA and Britain, but with the release of movies like "The Wild One"; "Blackboard Jungle", "Rebel without a Cause" and the Elvis movies ("Love me Tender" 1956; "Loving You" 1957; "Jailhouse Rock" 1957), styles between the two countries became more homogeneous.

Vintage Youtube Advertisement "How to be Well Groomed" 1949

1. Britain mid 1950s

In Britain, men's fashion returned to the pre-War era looking for inspiration. The Teddy Boys donned outfits inspired by the dandies of the Edwardian era (1901 - 1910) - brocade waist-coats; knee-length jackets often with velvet collars; drain-pipe trousers; bright coloured socks; and brogues or wingtips[1], brothel creepers[2] or winklepickers[3].

'Teddy' derived from the shortened form of Edward/Edwardian. It drew from the tradition of the Edwardian dandy, and symbolised a return to the days of dressing like a peacock, for show, rather than for practical purposes (work-wear, day-wear or Sunday best). With the onset of the Rock'n'Roll era, Teddy Boy fashion, in the UK and some of the colonies, became associated with Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly music.

Early in the era Teddy Girls either wore Teddy Boy style pants suits or pencil skirts[4] and two plaits or braids. They later adopted the circular skirts and ponytails of the American Rockers.

2. USA mid 1950s

US teens into Rock'n'Roll dressed differently from mainstream teenagers. 'Cats' (the males) wore tight-fitting blue jeans[5], a tight white t-shirt and black leather jacket. Rocker, or Greaser, boys wore their hair longer than the mainstream teens and swept it up and centre into a quiff[6] and back and centre into a duck-tail[7], keeping it in place with pomades such as Vaseline, wax or Brylcreem.

Vintage Youtube clip "The Cult of the Teddy Boy part 3 (from Bombsite to Street Style)

'Kittens' (the females) wore poodle[8] skirts and stiff full nylon petticoats or pencil skirts; fitted blouses and sweaters; bright eye-shadow and lipstick; and bouffant hairstyles or ponytails. Women's short hair was generally teased[9], curled and sprayed to gain height and hold its form. In the 1950s women wanted an hourglass figure with lifted, pointed breasts, a small firm waist and smooth shapely hips. To get this look women wore girdles and structured bras designed to lift and re-shape the bust, firm the stomach and smooth out love-handles. Pants also became a fashion item for women - either full length, 3/4 or 2/3 length.

3. The Early 1960s

To a large extent, what is considered Roots Rock'n'Roll, or Rockabilly, fashion today was developed in the 1950s. Most changes in the early 1960s affected mainstream fashion, with some elements of Rocker fashion entering the mainstream. Jeans became an acceptable item even for smart casual wear (rather than just 'work-clobber'), and the ladies-pantsuit became an acceptable alternative to the skirted-business-suit. Casual slacks and 2/3 and 3/4 pants, and smart casual slacks became generally acceptable for women in almost all situations.

The mid 1960s heralded the beginning of Mod fashion in the UK in particular; the style then filtered out through Pop music shows, movies, and teen and fashion magazines. Teens viewed Mod fashion and lifestyle as being the polar opposite of Rocker fashion and lifestyle. This brought with it the onset of conflict between the groups defining themselves as either Mods or Rockers. Many saw this as a class distinction with the Mods being more middle class scooter drivers, whilst the Rockers were working class with muscle cars and motor bikes. Others saw the distinction as being drawn on lines of ethnicity, with the Rockers being made up largely of Southern European and South and Central American teenagers, the Mods being of solid UK origin stock.

In the mid to late '60s Mod fashion took centre stage and Rocker fashion faded to fringe status.

Vintage Youtube clip "Let's Rip it Up" Bill Haley & The Comets & Rock'n'Roll dancers

[1] A low-heeled leather lace-up shoe.

[2] Brothel Creepers originated in WWII. They became the shoe 'uniform' of the Teddy Boys in the '50s. In the '80s Punk and Goth fashion brought many new edgy designs to the Creeper- including triple sole Creepers, now generally adopted by Rockabilly enthusiasts.

[3] Long pointed-toe boots.

[4] A narrow skirt, in that era generally knee length or just below knee length, often also called a hobble skirt as it severely restricted what you could do wearing such a skirt.

5] Jeans became an item one could wear out on a date or to a party.

[6] Here the front of the hair is saturated with product (then pomades such as Brylcreem, Vaseline or wax - now often gels and hairsprays).

[7] Here the side and back hair is drenched in product (see above footnote) and swept from both sides toward the centre back giving the look of a duck's rear end, duck-tail or DA.


[9] Often referred to as back-combed. The hair was backcombed into a knotted mass and then the top layer was smoothed over. This added body and height.

Dancing Do's & Don'ts 1950 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2oBQVRXn6k&feature=related (embedding disabled on this clip)

  Submitted to Perth Rocks - Uploaded 9 November 2010

 Jive, Twist and Stomp co-compiler, John Mills, discusses why he and Murray Gracie decided to take on the challenge of researching and writing a book about WA's rock and roll scene of the 50s and 60s

Why did we start this project? We did this for the musicians who we now consider to be of historical significance for their contribution to the roots of rock and roll in Western Australia. As a retired fellow of 70 years of age who is still performing as a musician I felt almost a duty to put something in writing about those years - before our memories start faltering or we slip off the planet.

I had 74 black and white photos from 1961 to 1969 of the various rock bands I was in, so they set the course. The photos could have simply ended up in the bin. We initially thought a small book, with perhaps 50/60 bands where all musos were listed individually along with what they played and some appropriate photos, was what we needed. But we then realised that some musos wanted to tell their story of those years, and that encouraged us to go a step further.

Not all believed we would do a good job. With time the musos themselves became the authors of their own entries within the book. Murray and I encouraged them to spread the word, to talk to others and the whole issue snowballed into a massive, exciting and tiring project. I enjoyed the company of nearly 40 musos in my small studio, some close to tears, telling their stories - some not to be printed.


Nearly 360 others simply used email, snail mail or telephoned. The computer has allowed us, sitting on our bums, to be able to communicate with musos in all parts of Australia, and with one living in Paris, France. What we didn't expect was over 300 rock bands, around 1000 musos and over 1000 photos.  Like whew!  Jive, Twist and Stomp has 314 pages.

Fremantle Press showed instant enthusiasm about what we had compiled and almost immediately said they would like to publish this historic book. It was very exciting and straight away this took the burden from our shoulders about how to finish the job properly.

It's taken over four years since we first started collecting information. For the last 30 months we've been collating it all, editing, and getting the names right - hopefully accurately. We cannot believe the man hours we put into this significant project.

We believe Jive, Twist and Stomp is unique in Australia - possibly in the world for a population of this size ...The book is a tribute to all musos and is for all to enjoy forever!

John Mills    LLLM     (Long Live Live Music)

Jive, Twist and Stomp: WA Rock & Roll Bands of the 50s and 60s

Reflections and Review 

By Dr Cecilia and Josef Netolicky (Perth Rocks website) Uploaded 12 November 2010

 The Need for this Text

When we started Perth Rocks, a website for WA's '50s and '60s style Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly music and dance, about three years ago, we were stunned at the lack of sound historical data available, either through the net, or in hard-copy. Books documenting Australia's Rock'n'Roll history considered themselves generous if they allocated us an occasional sentence, or paragraph. In times when air-travel was a luxury, WA may just as well have been across an ocean. Few crossed the continent from East to West to check-out our music scene, and rumours had it that you couldn't "make it" here - if you wanted to "make it" in the music scene, you had "to go over East, or overseas".  

Our Interest in the Scene

Neither of us had resided in WA in the '50s and '60s, so initially, we relied on the myths being perpetuated in the scene for our historical perspective. As time passed, we became concerned with the quality, and quantity, of data about the era, the conflicting stories, and the fact that many of the protagonists and participants were passing on, or suffering debilitating disease affecting their memories. So, we set out to get some of the real stories and facts down, while original sources were available. To be completely honest, collecting these stories was already difficult. Many participants from the era already had problems remembering dates, and sometimes separating fact from fiction. 

The stories needed to be recorded, and the histories documented. The more we talked to participants, the more intensely we believed in this necessity. Our "The History of Rock'n'Roll in Western Australia" and our "Rockabilly Revival" pages were an attempt to collect facts, memories and stories about the era, and the active genre, while protagonists and participants were alive, well, and able to share their stories.

Over time this proved to be a sound decision. Some of these people have passed on. Often relatives have no interest in their collections of memorabilia, and the associated stories, so these items are lost to the community. Also, in many cases, what was purported through the current WA Rock'n'Roll scene to be dogma, proved to be pure myth upon investigation - this was definitely the case when it came to investigating the almost mythical Snake Pit, and Rock'n'Roll fashion and dance styles of the era. 

The Book

In Jive, Twist and Stomp: WA Rock & Roll Bands of the 50s and 60s, John Mills and Murray Gracie have tackled a little documented part of WA's music history. The book is a dictionary-style text listing the bands of the era. It includes snippets of information on the popular venues (such as The Snake Pit, Canterbury Court, Windmill, The [original] Embassy Ballroom, and The Nedlands Stomp to name a few), the era, and other performers and participants, not in formal bands (for example Colin Nichol of the HIFI Club, and Kelly Green). 

As such, it is a first in regard to being hard-copy documentation of the stories of participants in WA's early Rock'n'Roll era. John and Murray became concerned with putting "something in writing about those years - before our memories start faltering or we slip off the planet". The era's protagonists and participants are now largely in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Some have "slipped off the planet" while the book was in the making, others have serious health issues and as a result may not be around in a few years to relate their stories, so it's great to have this document available for posterity. 

Murray and John state "the musos themselves became the authors of their own entries within the book". They describe themselves as co-compilers, rather than authors. The text documents the musicians' stories through their words and pictures. 

As we began documenting WA's Rock'n'Roll history for Perth Rocks, we became aware of the vast quantity of memorabilia retained by participants in the era. We too became concerned with the longevity of this material, so we began scanning items and creating a personal archive. Many of these documents will disappear with the passing of the people for whom they have meaning, other documents and artifacts are deteriorating as a result of exposure to the elements. We've published some of these artifacts on the web, on our history pages - but we have limited cyber-space, hence much remains only in our personal archive. 

This new book is profusely illustrated. It contains many scanned images of old tickets to venues and band photos that may have been lost through time. This makes it a valuable record of the past, and a meaningful document, for those who spent their youth in the WA '50s and '60s dance and music scene. Whilst the old photos and tickets are deteriorating, the text's scanned images are good quality, and will now remain available, as the book is printed on good quality paper and will be generally available. 

Whilst the text is not something you would sit down and read cover to cover, for those interested in the genre, and the era, it comprises an important contribution to keeping the music alive, preserving important documentation, and recording the truth as the protagonists and participants saw it, whilst providing documentation of the bands of the era in alphabetical order - so it's an easy-to-use research tool. 

The Future

It's great that we now have a hard-copy text documenting the bands of the era. We're also grateful to the WA State and National libraries for their efforts in archiving our website regularly, so maintaining its content for posterity. However, one central concern remains - the preservation of the artifacts. 

Many artifacts of the era have been cherished and preserved by participants. We've seen full Rock'n'Roll suits, shoes, instruments, tickets, photos, posters and awards that have been retained by participants, and performers. As we have no Rock'n'Roll "museum" in WA, many of these artifacts will fail to withstand the test of time, as those inheriting these items may not have any attachment to them, and many are being stored in poor conditions for long-term preservation. It would be great to see the WA State Museum, a university History or Music department, or a Roots Rock'n'Roll music or dance venue interested in taking on the task of preserving these artifacts.

The Book Launch

Jive, Twist and Stomp: WA Rock & Roll Bands of the 50s and 60s is due to be launched at a huge Rock'n'Roll party at Swan Yacht Club on Sunday 28 November. Come and hear the music of the era, played by the guys who made it happen (John "Mort" Abbott, Lloyd Abesekara, Peter Andersen, Bill Blaine, Leo Buurman, Reg Carson, Rod Christian, Jimmy Cook, Rod Cronin, John Cunningham, Warren Daly, Les Dixon, John Eddy, John Goldsmith, Murray Gracie, Kelly Green, John Hendrix, Clive Higgins, Russ Kennedy, Pieter LaBrooy, Cliff Lynton, Louella Martin, Geoff McAullay, John Mills, Ken Mitchell, Ross Mitchell, Peter Nell, Mike Nelson, Graham Nicol, Don Prior, Wayne Reading, Ray van Ross, Peter Schmechtig, Peter Slatter, Murray Thomas, Cliff Toll, Basil Vdelli, The Yeomen, Johnny Young). Popular musicians of the era will be entertaining the audience from 2pm to 6pm. Great chance to get your book signed by some of the musicians of the era, and the authors! Entry to the concert and launch is $20. Book now on (08) 9339 3520 or email: syc@iinet.net.au. The book is $35, a great hard-copy document for those grounded, or interested,in the era.


A Major Force in Perth's Roots Rock'n'Roll Scene - Les Dixon

Les Dixon and Dr Cecilia Netolicky      up-loaded 11 March 2012

This is the story as told by Les on 21 February 2012:

I started performing at a very young age at my grandmother's cafe, "The Bluebird Cafe", in Perth, on Barrack St, opposite the museum. After that I began learning guitar, about 1950. I began learning what was then called Hillbilly music, later this became known as Country.

When Rock'n'Roll first got started being played on local radio, I thought "This is what I want to do. Forget the Hillbilly music". The first time I heard of Elvis, I heard "That's all Right Mama", that changed my life. Then I just started singing around town, wherever I could. I was looked upon as a bit of a novelty. I used to wriggle my legs and that sort of stuff.

In 1956 I went on Australian Amateur Hour, a radio show, and sang "Long Tall Sally", but my act was visual, so I didn't win it. John Deere described my act as "vocals with gymnastics". That was in Sydney when I first saw Johnny O'Keefe. I met him at his radio show. While in Sydney I went to Sydney Stadium and saw Paul Anka with Johnny O'Keefe and The DeeJays opening the show. He killed the rest of the show. He was so dynamic.


Les Dixon


I returned to Perth and started a band called The Saints, possibly the first Rock'n'Roll band in Perth. Other bands were playing Skiffle (a British style Folk Hillbilly music, examples are Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line" and "Does your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour on the Bedpost over night"). We were pure Rock'n'Roll.

One of The Saints first real jobs was in 1957 playing at the Perth Royal Show, in side show alley. We were still regarded as a "bunch of freaks", or novelties. We were on with Rex the Wonder Horse and a belly-dancer. Audience response was great, they loved us. We were paid 100 pound a week. We didn't realize how hard we'd have to work for that 100 pound. We did many shows a day, morning till evening.

After that we started finding halls and running our own dances. We had Midland Town Hall, Maylands Town Hall and then we'd go out to The Snake-pit - the drummer and myself, and do a few numbers.


In 1957 I won Perth's Elvis competition at the Royal Theatre, in Hay Street, Perth. The movie was "Loving You" and the drummer and I would go on at interval and do some songs before the movie would start.

I was part of the bodgie and widgee scene. I used buy my clothes from Manhattans Menswear in Barrack St, Perth. We used to get around with pink shirts, cut-away collars, slim-Jim ties, stovepipe pants and long jackets - teddy boy style - some of us would even have the leopard skin around the collar. We wore brothel creepers. We'd be called "poofters" by the ordinary guys, and that'd lead to a lot of fights. They could call us poofters, but we got the girls. It was still pretty drab for men then. Men would wear gray suits and herring-bone, compared to them, we looked like peacocks.

We'd hang out at The Embassy Ballroom, Canterbury Court and Ric's Barn (behind old Grand Theatre in Murray St, Perth) down the lane-way. At Ric's Barn they held marathon dancing competition for Rock'n'Roll.

We used to carry knives, knuckle-dusters and bike chains. It was more for bravado and show. They rarely got used. We'd make the knuckle-dusters out of railway door handles.

In those days the Bikies were called the Leatheries. Bodgies and Leatheries hated each other. The Squares didn't like us either.

In 1959 I joined The Zodiac All Stars. Clive and I were the lead singers. Clive was the smooth one, I did the rough stuff - Little Richard, Chuck Berry - the real raw Rock'n'Roll. We started playing around Perth in different venues. We started a dance at the YAL Youth Club , and the Maylands Town Hall and Channel 7 people came to see us. That got us onto Channel 7 on Saturday nights, at 6 o clock, we started the first teenage show Teenbeat. We got paid about 10 shillings each. There was no set up as far as sound checks. It was pretty rough.

I got married when I was 19 or 20 and started a cabaret band. It was more steady work than Rock'n'Roll. We were called The Aristocrats (1960). I left them in 1966. Glen Ingrim took my place. After that I gave music a rest for a while.

I returned to music in the mid 80s in a Rockabilly band called Rocket 88 with Trevor Lee Hawkins. We got other musicians in. We'd rehearse at my place. We went to the old Norwood Hotel and asked if we could rehearse there. He said "you go for it". We started rehearsing there and people started appearing to watch us rehearse. They didn't mind seeing how we worked it out, and hearing a song a few times.

Then the owner asked if we'd like to play Friday nights. He paid us a retainer, and we took the door. Originally we thought we'd get older people - from our era - but it didn't work out that way. We had the Rockabilly, Punks, Skinheads and Goths. They'd never really heard Rockabilly played the way we played it. Then we started doing Saturday nights there, and packed the place out. What spoiled the whole thing was the Bikies started turning up, which led to fights. We were playing a couple of other places as well. At the Norwood the fighting destroyed the band - they said "you pull a big crowd, but the damage bill is too high". That killed that band off.

Then I met Ron Millar and we started doing Rock'n'Roll dances around Perth in the late 80s and early 90s. We started at the White Sands doing Snake-pit reunion nights, the Pagoda Ballroom and various other venues around Perth. We even had a Bodgies and Widgees Ball at Gloucester Park. At that gig we had Rick Selby's band, and a cat-walk with 50s clothes, and Holly Wood compared the night. The clothes were from Memory Lane. It was a big success.

One reunion at White Sands Channel 2 came out. There's footage in their archives. Also I had those plaques put down at the corner of The Esplanade at the site of the old Snake-pit.

I brought Johnny O'Keefe's son over, and had a huge Johnny O'Keefe show at the White Sands. That night Don, the guy who started the Snake-pit, and Tony Martin, he was the cop that ran the Snake-pit, were there. Tony was an old fashioned cop. He'd take trouble-makers off the dance floor and clip them behind the ear. He didn't stand for any nonsense, but we all remember him fondly.

After 1960 the Snake-pit changed, that was when the Mods and Rockers came in. It wasn't what it used to be anymore. It had a bad reputation, people thought it was bad, but we were just having fun. The fighting came later. Mothers would warn their daughters don't go the Snake-pit "or you'll be ruined". At the Snake-pit I'd play with the drummer on snare drum and me on acoustic guitar. We'd do three or four numbers, and that was it.

I met Colin Brewer about 1995 and we started promoting and bringing Rock'n'Roll acts to Perth.


Johnny Young, Colin Brewer & Les Dixon 2008



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