Saturday, 18 June 2016
Please Help Me I'm Falling/Girl Girl Girl/The End/You Still Love Him
John Rowles was born on 26th March 1947 in Whakatane and raised in Kawerau in the Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand. His parents were Eddie and Phyllis Rowles. Eddie played on the wing and three-quarter for the Maori All Black's in 1938, and was also a talented singer. John had five sisters, Georgina, Carol, Gabrielle, Cheryl and Tania, and two brothers, Edward and Wally. Edward unfortunately died when John was two, and out of respect for him, John adopted his name as his middle name throughout his career. Wally had a small singing career himself, originally going under the name Frankie Price, before changing to Frankie Rowles.
John's musical background is quite extensive with his first performance being at the age of 10, when he entered a local talent quest and sang "All Shook Up", taking out first prize. Whilst still at school he organised a group called the Shadows, named after the original group, and John played lead guitar. His father managed the group and they played at local dances at weekends. He was encouraged by his father and he even bought him his first electric guitar.
In 1962, when he was 15, John left school and got a job in a forestry camp. However, music was of prime importance in John's life and when he was sixteen he moved to Auckland where he acquired a job as a guitar player in a club. When the vocalist there became ill, John took over the vocal duties as well. While in Auckland he had a short spell with Sonny Day and the Sundowners, and it was while with them that he met Eddie Low.
By 1966, still in Australia, John had decided to go solo and secured the services of New Zealand promoter Graham Dent as his manager. Graham had previously been responsible for the successful career of Johnny Devlin and had also managed Max Merritt and the Meteors for a while. Graham gave John a new image, changed his hair style, new mod clothes and impressed upon him the importance of putting effort and action into his music and performances. Dent organised to have John appear on Australian television's "New Faces Of 1966". At this stage Dent had him performing under the name "The Secret", and he was so popular that there were huge numbers of offers for work. Dent kept him away from the promoters and press until after he had made an appearance on "Bandstand". He then launched John to the Australian music world as JA-AR and promoters were scrambling to sign him up.
John's first single as a soloist was released in 1966 on both the Sunshine and Kommotion labels in Australia as JA-AR and was called "The End (Of The Rainbow)"/"You Still Love Him". This was followed early in 1967 with "Please Help Me I'm Falling"/"Girl Girl Girl" just on the Sunshine label. Owing to his television exposure, both singles did quite well. I have found that these two singles are amongst the hardest to find these days.
The follow-up single, not from the album, later in 1968 was almost as popular as the first. "Hush Not A Word To Mary"/"The Night We Called It A Day" reached 12 on the British charts, 11 in Australia and number 9 in New Zealand. At the end of the year John returned to New Zealand and received a huge reception. He performed at sell-out concerts and had suddenly become New Zealand's largest international star. In 1968 John was awarded the NEBOA "Entertainer Of The Year". He returned to England and early in 1969, his second album "That Lovin' Feeling" was released.
There were no singles released from this album, but very close behind it in 1969 came another album, which was originally released as "The Exciting John Rowles" and used the same cover as his first two albums, with wording differences, as well as a new cover, but the entire album was re-released in late 1969 as "Cheryl Moana Marie". The only difference between the two albums, other than the covers, is the song "My Girl Maria" on the first, is replaced by "Cheryl Moana Marie" on the second.
John went on sell-out tours that included places like Italy, Germany and Spain. Also in 1969 John was invited to represent New Zealand in the Rio De Janeiro Song Festival. He wrote a song especially for the event and it was called "Cheryl Moana Marie", named after one of his sisters. There were 42 countries represented at the festival and John's song was voted in at number 5.
When released as a single, "Cheryl Moana Marie"/"I Was A Boy" again reached the number one position on the New Zealand charts, number 20 in Australia and was his first charted record in the USA, where it reached number 64. What was unusual was that it never charted in England. "Cheryl Moana Marie" has sold millions of copies over the years and is John's best selling single of all time. Another album was released called "John Rowles Sings Time For Love", but this was soon repackaged as "John Rowles Sings Cheryl Moana Marie" as the song began to sell all over the world.
Although his singles and albums continued to be released in Britain, John only ever charted there with his first two singles. He never again graced their charts and found that his future was now in the USA. He started singing in the hotels all over the USA and appearing on television. He was likened to Elvis Presley and had no problem getting offers in any Las Vegas hotel. He also spent a lot of time performing in Hawaii and over the years, he based himself there, and was presented with Hawaii's highest entertainment award.
In 1974 John was back in New Zealand and performed a most memorable concert which I had the pleasure of seeing. This concert was preserved on the album "Live Back Home".In 1976 came another compilation called "Rowled Gold", and it wasn't until 1978 that any real new material appeared. Another sister provided the inspiration for John to write a new single. Called "Tania", it was another massive hit around the world, reaching number one in New Zealand, and number 39 in Australia in 1978. An album of new material was released to take advantage of the success of the single and it was called "This Is My Life".
1980 was a good year for John. He sang at a Royal Command Performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke Of Edinburgh in Auckland, and was also awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to the music industry and also as an ambassador, the promotion of New Zealand overseas. An album called "Rhythm Of The City" was also released that year. The album "Another Chapter" was released in 1982 and it contained an excellent version of "Island In The Sun", which had reached number 4 on the New Zealand charts in November 1981. At the same time there was another compilation released called "Gold". 1984 saw the release of "The Very Best Of John Rowles" and an album called "In The Portrait Of My Mind".
In 1991 he released the album "From A Distance", which was recorded in Sydney and produced by Mike Harvey. It is an inspirational album and has been a big seller in Australia. The next album was "Soul and Affection" and this came out in 1992. "Giver and Taker Of Love" is another fine album released in 1998. The millennium year saw the release of a collection consisting of 6 volumes, known as "Voice Of A Legend - The Millennium Collection". The set contains over 100 songs.
Mr Blue/You Broke My Heart/How Important Can It Be/The Hand Of God/Everlovin'/When You Wish Upon A Star
The Crescents were a vocal harmony group which formed in Sydney, Australia in late 1958 under the name The 4 Tops (not associated with American quartet, the Four Tops). The Crescents were best known for their Top 10 hit "Mr. Blue" and for their tours with Lee Gordon's "Big Shows" supporting Johnnie Ray, Fabian, and Ricky Nelson.
Dennis O'Keefe, Kel Palace, Mike Downes, and Col Loughnan formed The 4 Tops, however a few months later O'Keefe left, and the remaining trio changed their name to The Crescents. Johnny O'Keefe became their manager, and promoted his young vocalists with live performances, appearances on his television program, "Six O'Clock Rock", in print media, and by signing them to Leedon Records. O'Keefe used his connection with Gordon to secure inclusion in the Big Shows. This move paid dividends when the audiences showed strong appreciation, in particular teenage girls.
The Crescents released seven singles, and two EPs, with "Mr. Blue" reaching the Top 10 in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, their only hit record. In 1962, Downes left the group, followed later the same year by Loughnan, who joined the Delltones. Shortly thereafter, the group disbanded.
Down By The Riverside/Why Do Fools Fall In Love/Sorry ( I Ran All The Way Home)/ Dreaming
Mike Downes, Col Loughnan, and Dennis O'Keefe attended Marist Brothers College, Randwick, where Downes and Loughnan sang in the school choir. They were joined by Kel Palace, who lived near O'Keefe, to form a vocal quartet, The 4 Tops. It should be noted that American vocal quartet, the Four Tops, were unknown in Australia at the time, and gained international recognition in 1964 with "Baby I Need Your Loving". The 4 Tops were regular performers, in late 1958, at the Leichhardt Police Boys Club dances, run by Johnny O'Keefe (no relation to Dennis O'Keefe).
In a matter of months, Dennis O'Keefe left the group to sign up for the Air Force, and the remaining trio changed their name to The Crescents. Johnny O'Keefe (widely known as J.O.K.) generously gave help, and advice to the young vocalists, as he had done for so many other young artists. He became their manager. Loughnan recalled that "he was very big on grooming, looking good and moving well. He taught us a lot. [He was] a great guy, ... [but he] would accept nothing less than professionalism from those he worked with." O'Keefe invited The Crescents to the "sheer terror" of performing live on television for the first time on his program "Six O'Clock Rock" on 7 March 1959. The group's first foray was a success, and lead to more television appearances.
The Crescents practised and worked on their arrangements at Palace's parents' house, with Loughnan on the piano. The group was influenced by The Diamonds, Danny & the Juniors, The Ames Brothers, and The Mills Brothers among others. Several more appearances on "Six O'Clock Rock", and more live performances created a fan base which promoter Lee Gordon couldn't ignore, signing The Crescents to his Leedon recording label.
A feature of the Australian entertainment scene of this era was the "Big Shows" promoted by Gordon over many years. Each Big Show was a touring party with a North American headline act or acts, and local supporting artists. The Crescents were drafted into a Big Show in August 1959 featuring American singer Johnnie Ray who was often referred to as "Mr. Emotions". Supporting Ray were The Horrie Dargie Quintet, Johnny Rebb and The Rebels, O'Keefe, Shirley Simmons, The Crescents, and the Lee Sisters on a six day tour of Australian state capitals. Melbourne newspaper, The Age concluded that "O'Keefe almost stole the show", and "of the other supporting artists, The Crescents vocal group were the most popular" in a review of a concert at "The Stadium" (now known as Festival Hall).
The tour was so lucrative for the young singers that they gave notice to quit their jobs. This was a pivotal decision for Loughnan because he never worked outside the music industry again.
The Crescents were invited to support Fabian in October 1959 at the Sydney Stadium Big Shows along with O'Keefe, Col Joye, Lonnie Lee, and Johnny Devlin among others. The stadium featured a revolving stage, which turned full circle in about three or four minutes. According to Johnstone, Fabian's biggest asset wasn't his singing ability, but his handsome appearance. Also, The Crescents were reported to be popular with the teenage girls, and all of the Australian support acts attracted positive responses from the audience.
Leedon released "Everlovin'"/"You Broke My Heart" in October 1959, the trio's first single. The B-side, "You Broke My Heart", was co-written by Loughnan and O'Keefe, and the record received radio airplay without making the charts. This exposure on radio reinforced The Crescents presence on television, in newspapers and magazines, and through live performances. In an interview with TV Week, Palace stated "we have been on 'Six O'Clock Rock' about six or seven times, TCN-9's 'Bandstand' once and ATN-7's 'Teen Time' twice".
The group recorded a cover of the Fleetwoods' hit, "Mr. Blue", written by Dewayne Blackwell, and backed with "How Important Can It Be". Released in December 1959, it became a Top 10 hit, peaking at No. 2 in Brisbane, No. 4 in Melbourne, and No. 8 in Sydney by January 1960, but it was their only chart success. With a hit record, The Crescents became the main competition for the Delltones, but it was quite amiable. The lead singer of the Delltones, Noel Widerberg, said "it was friendly rivalry. We'd get together and jam and sing together at parties".
"When You Wish upon a Star" backed with "The Hand of God" became the group's third single when it was released in April 1960. However, it didn't replicate the success of Mr. Blue, failing to reach the charts.
Leedon released Rock Time, an EP covering other artists' songs: "Sorry (I ran all the way Home)", "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", previously a hit for Frankie Lymon, "Down by the Riverside" (anonymous), and "Dreaming", written by Loughnan and Palace. Following a poll of Sydney viewers of Six O'Clock Rock rating the most popular artists of 1960, The Crescents placed a respectable fifth behind the top solo singers of the day. During 1960, many musicians and singers attended parties at Tom Hart's home, including O'Keefe, Lee, the Delltones, The Crescents, Judy Cannon, Rob EG, and many others.Activities included partying, and standing around the piano singing. This piano also was employed by The Crescents for practising their songs.
The Crescents released "One More Kiss" backed with "Picture of Love" in November 1960 on Lee Gordon Records, followed by "The Stars Will Remember" backed with "Love Love Love" in January 1961, which had been a hit for The Clovers. They chose a religious theme for their sixth single, "The Way of the Cross" backed with "The Story of the Cross" (June 1961). The B-side was narrated by Chris Christensen, with backing vocals from The Crescents. Leedon released the groups second EP, "The Crescents Hit it for Six" which was a compilation of previously released songs. The cover showed the group wearing baseball uniforms, and with baseball bats slung over their shoulders, despite the term "Hit it for Six" being derived from the game of cricket.
A short time later, another friend from the Delltones, Warren Lucas advocated that Loughnan should be offered the opportunity to become the Delltones lead vocalist. Loughnan later recalled that the change occurred without any animosity. After a short time, the remaining members of the Crescents, Palace and Roberts, decided to disband the group.
Monday, 13 June 2016
Velvet Waters/Rock A Billy/Missing You/All Over You
Tony was born Anthony Asheen Worsley in England in 1944 and emigrated with his family from his hometown of Hastings to the sunnier climes of Brisbane when he was 15. Tony had already set his sights on a show biz career. As a lad he won several amateur talent quests in England including one judged by Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steele, which carried first prize of a Decca recording contract. Needless to say, his parents' decision to leave for Australia right at this point didn't go down too well with the ambitious young singer -- "I didn't get on with my parents too much on the ship for the first few weeks!" -- but he was determined to fulfill that dream in his adopted country. By day he worked as an apprentice rigger in the Brisbane dockyards, but at night he patrolled the dance halls, waiting for his chance to get up on stage.
There were more lineup changes during 1964 as the Beat Boom hotted up and the band's frantic touring schedule took its toll, but by the end of the year the Blue Jays had settled into the first 'classic' lineup, each of whom earned their own nickname: Ray 'Screamy' Eames (lead guitar), Mal 'Beaky' Clarke (rhythm guitar), Paul 'Bingo' Shannon (sax and keyboards), and Royce 'Baby' Nicholls (bass), completed by the return of founding Blue Jays drummer Bobby 'Spider' Johnson. In mid-1964 Dayman took over the Saturday night lease on Melbourne's largest indoor venue, Festival Hall, renaming it "Mersey City". On 2 May 1964 he opened with Tony and the Fabulous Blue Jays. Over 4500 teenagers attended: "That was 500 more than saw the Beatles" according to Tony. Dayman also used them to open several other Queensland venues as his Sunshine empire exapnded to Bundaberg, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Inala and Surfers Paradise.
In late 1964, Dayman formed the Sunshine record label (distributed by Festival) with partners Nat Kipner and Apt Aulton. The first single, released in October, was an original instrumental by The Blue Jays called "Jay Walker". The next (November) was the debut single by Tony Worsley & The Fabulous Blue Jays, and it was a killer combination: the A-side was a scorching version of "Sure Know A Lot About Love", backed by a terrific acoustic-driven original, "Me You Gotta Teach", composed by what soon developed into the bands resident writing partnership of Beaky Clarke and Baby Nicholls.
(Bio Continued in post below)
Raining In My Heart/Knocking On Wood/Ready Steady Let's Go/Tell Me Why
Unfortunately, around this time Pat Aulton and guitarist Ray Eames had a major disagreement in the studio, and Eames was unceremoniously ousted from the group and replaced by Jimmy Cerezo, from The Pleazers. Jimmy fitted in well and also brought his own writing skills to the group, contributing the ska-flavoured "I Dream Of You" to the flip-side to their next single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Talkin' 'Bout You" (April '65). Over the course of 1965 Tony and the Blue Jays reputedly sold over 70,000 records, climaxing in their biggest and best-remembered hit, a dreamy cover of the Australian pop ballad, "Velvet Waters".
The song had first been recorded in the early Sixties as an instrumental by Perth band The Megatrons; this was followed by Bruce Gillespie's vocal version which featured lyrics penned by renowned Australian songwriter Dorothy Dodd, although neither of these versions had any success at the time. Near the end of a recording session in mid-1965, producer Nat Kipner asked the band if they had any other tracks they could record; Cerezo, who had learned the song from Gillepsie, suggested "Velvet Waters"; after a quick run-through, they cut the track in a matter of minutes.
"We were going leave the studios in Sydney, at Festival at Pyrmont and we'd just recorded an album ... oh, about twenty songs, and we thought, 'Oh, we're gonna go home now'. And Jimmy Cerezo, the guitarist said 'What about this?' And we did it in about ten minutes and of course the rest is history. You could spend, like, days on a song -- now they tend to spend years -- but in those days we spent days on a song and it went nowhere, and you'd do something in ten minutes and it just catches the public ear, y'know? It just took off; we were really thrilled about that! I remember getting back from a tour and hearing that it was number one somewhere, and I couldn't believe it. Our stage act was full of really wild tracks, both covers and originals, and I could never understand why our ballad records went so well."
During 1965, the group won prestigious support slots with The Seekers, Johnny O'Keefe and Johnny Farham, as well as supporting the 1965 Australian tour by Britain's Dave Clark Five. Probably the most notorious show from this period was the now-legendary 4BC Sound Spectacular concert in Brisbane in December 1965. The first half of the show, featuring MPD Ltd, went smoothly enough, but when Tony and The Blue Jays hit the stage things had started to get out of hand, and by the time headliners The Easybeats came on a full-scale riot had broken out, with kids breaking down barriers, repeatedly storming the stage and smashing chairs and equipment.
Police stopped the Easys after only 17 minutes and halted the show. In the melee that followed, the Easybeats only barely escaped the frantic fans, who stopped their 'getaway' car and stomped all over it, puncturing the roof and bonnet with their heels and doing hundreds of pounds' worth of damage. Tony himself nominates the January '65 tour with The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Honeycombs and Tony Sheveton as the highlight of the band's career -- even though he copped some flak from the irascible Manfred Mann, who was apparently rather jealous of the frenzied fan reaction Tony & the Blue Jays were generating, both on and off stage.
(Bio continued in post below)
Something's Got A Hold Of Me/Something/My Friend/With You By My Side
The group continued performing into 1966 with their popularity unabated, and for their first single of the year they got back to business in a big way with a barnstorming cover of Etta James' "Something's Got A Hold On Me". (80s indie icons The Reels' also covered this song in tribute to Tony & The Blue Jays' effort.) Regrettably, this was to be the last single billed to Tony and The Blue Jays. Just as he did with Mike Furber and The Bowery Boys, Ivan Dayman was intent on promoting the singer at the expense of the group. He pushed the Blue Jays further and further into the background and it wasn't long before the 'original' Blue Jays split, although this was also partly due to family pressures on some of the members:
"Bobby Johnson and Ray Eames left ... they were married and when Beatlemania spread to Australia, of course we'd be gettin' publicity with girls in your rooms and all that -- their wives called 'em home so they left the band."
The significant factor in the split was Tony's spiralling drug and alcohol intake and his increasing unreliability. Fellow performer (and future Uptight host) Ross D. Wylie recalled the hazards of touring with Tony at this time:
"Anything he could swill, swallow or smoke. Poke for that matter. Out of control was Woozle. I’m designated Bus Driver due for the five hours drive to the next up-country gig. 9am start we’re delayed. Worsley’s’ wrecked the toilet again, the tour manager’s’ arguing with the publican about if only gold plating will replace it. Worsley he’s got a hot slab and his usual back row seat. We’re driving. Woozle starts up wanting to use his nozzle. Pit stop Tony must be shy, starts thrashing his way out of sight up through this banana plantation. Next thing, this brumbie horse charges out pursued by Tony. 'Must be a mare' says Marcie (Jones & The Cookies). Antics like that, catch up with you. That’s unreliability."
Over the next few months, Tony's brief solo career continued as Sunshine released a string of solo singles -- a lovely version of Buddy Holly's "Raining In My Heart" (May '66), followed by "No Worries" / "Humpy Dumpy" (Jan. '67); his final single, released in October 1967 and with backing by The Escorts, featured Lionel Bart's "Do You Mind" backed by the soulful Penn-Oldham number "Reaching Out".
Late in 1966 Tony put together a "New" Blue Jays, which included such future OzRock luminaries as Vince Maloney (ex-Aztec and future Bee Gee), John A. Bird (Country Radio) and Phil Manning (Chain). In December, they played at a huge Dayman-promoted event, 'The Johnny Young Show', at Brisbane Festival Hall, sharing the bill with virtually the entire Sunshine roster -- Johnny Young, Ronnie Burns, Peter Doyle, Mike Furber, Ross D. Wylie, Thursday's Children, Graham Chpaman, Greg Anderson, The Escorts, Marcie & The Cookies, The Pleazers, and Julien Jones & The Breed. Tony managed to steal the show with his version of James Brown's famous fainting routine. in which he pretended to collapse and have to be led off-stage, only to only to be doused with water, revive and return for encore after encore.
Unfortunately, The Johnny Young Show show effectively became the wake for the the ailing Sunshine empire -- by the end of 1966 the company was in serious financial trouble, its resources severely strained by Normie Rowe's attempt to break into the English pop scene, and its reputation compromised by Dayman's allegedly dubious financial practices. In early 1967 Dayman was forced to close his shortlived Kommotion label and soon after Sunshine was taken over by its major creditor, Festival Records.
Tony himself was exhausted and close to burn-out point -- he was using speed heavily (which he spoke about quite openly, even then) his weight had dropped by almost half, and he had gained a reputation for unreliability.
Not long after, Tony dropped out of performing for a couple of years. He resurfaced in 1969 when he joined Brisbane's Hands Down, a band which aimed for a Small Faces sound, and rivalled teen-pop outfit, The (Brisbane) Avengers for popularity. After Tony left in 1969, the group changed its name to Burke & Wills. Tony completed a short solo tour in Germany which was well-received by punters, but failed to make any significant inroads in Europe. He also visited the US in the early Seventies but was somewhat dispirited by having to tackle it alone and quickly returned to home turf.
Tony has lost none of the magic or charisma he exhibited in his youth; he has performed regularly in club shows whenever he was not busy as "mine host" and number one entertainer at his own in Caloundra (Sunshine Coast) restaurant called -- of course -- "Velvet Waters", and decked out, appropriately, with rock memorabilia. Tony continued to run the restaurant very successfully until late 2007, when it was purchased by another company. Tony was also one of the many luminaries who attended George Crotty's now-legendary Sixties Reunion Party in Sydney in 2001.
Saturday, 4 June 2016
Daddy Cool/For You Blue/You Talk Too Much/ Singin' The Blues
Drummond was one of the most prominent one-hit wonders of the 1970s in Australia. This fictitious studio band was created by Ron Tudor, owner of Melbourne-based indendent label Fable Records. The main musicians who recorded the first two Drummond singles were Graeham Goble, Russ Johnson and John Mower, the members of Alison Gros, the trio which was renamed Mississippi in 1972 (and which evolved into Little River Band in 1975).
Drummond's first single, released in June 1970, was "For You Blue" / "The Grasshopper". The A-side is a cover of the George Harrison track from the Let It Bealbum. This debut single evidently sank without trace, but their second single became one of the surprise hits of 1971. In a shameless cash-in on the massive success of Daddy Cool, Drummond recorded a novelty 'chipmunk' version of the Slay-Crewe standard "Daddy Cool" -- which DC themselves had recorded for their hugely successful debut album. Remarkably, the Drummond version of "Daddy Cool" became a massive national hit, rocketing up the charts and knocking Daddy Cool's "Eagle Rock" off the top spot. It was at #1 for eight weeks on the Go-Set national chart and spent a staggering total of 34 weeks on the Top 40 in the second half of 1971 and into early 1972, becoming one of the biggest selling Australian singles of the year. It is now rated #87 in the list of the 100 longest-charting #1 singles on the Australian Top 40.
Fable subsequently released three more singles under the Drummond pseudonym, but none of these were successful and it is understood that the Goble, Johnson and Mower were not involved in these recordings.