I first experienced the joy of playing music when my dad bought me a harmonica for my 7th. birthday. I still play it! When I went to De La Salle College in Armidale in 1960 I joined the College Cadets Band playing bugle. We won the Regional Military band competition on many occasions and I learned to also play the guitar during my final year there in 1964. I think that is when I decided that I wanted to be a musical performer.
I left Armidale for Sydney in 1965 like most kids did and shortly afterwards answered an ad in the paper for a guitarist / singer. That day was a turning point in my life. I met and immediately formed a band with guitarist Mario Millo who was to become my lifelong friend. Mario and I played firstly as a duo then as a trio which we called “The Menu” after adding effervescent drummer Andy Dean.
We had quite a reputation around the western suburbs for two very busy years, not only because of our ability to sound like The Beatles but also because of the immense vocal and guitar-playing talent of my young band partner. I was 19 and Mario was only 12! When I got a transfer to Narrabari with the Justice Department in early 1969, it was a sad day for both of us. We have still kept playing with other bands and musicians but the bond we had together as we commenced our musical journey is like no other than I have experienced. We still keep in touch regularly and have continued to pursue our separate musical dreams. We have continued to involve ourselves in each other’s music to this day and Mario did the final mix and mastering of my “Let’s be Lovers” CD.
When I moved back to Sydney in 1969 – disillusioned with working 5 days a week – Mario’s career had really started to take off and his band was well established. I joined a band called “The Associates”, being the guitarist and fourth vocal harmony member. It was a wonderful time and based at Blacktown, we played at clubs and pubs regularly all across Sydney for about 4 years until a serious car accident in 1974 put a stop to my traveling band days. Several months later after recovering from broken ribs, punctured lungs and head injuries I hooked up with other musicians and we performed under the name of “The Pages”, playing for the next couple of years at the more sedate and middle of the road venues.
I moved back to Armidale in 1978 and was fortunate enough to meet Ray Wilson, lead vocalist and founder of well-established local club and pub band “Aquarius”. The Bands repertoire was popular 60’s music and so I immediately felt included – and we had a huge following for another five years playing at weddings and club venues. During that time I started to write more songs and become comfortable with my own singing style, as lead singer, and not just harmony singer. When the band broke up due to the leaving of Ray, no one was prepared to take up the management that he had maintained so well, so we simply went our way. That was also a sad day for me, but we have wonderful memories of those heady years and we are all still firm friends.
In 1988 I had grown a beard and was pursuing a solo career. Everyone said that my songs sounded better when there was more musical backing so I decided to search for some like-minded musicians to join me and to perform some of my songs. I was very fortunate to score an alliance with Keith Cornish, a well-known vocal / guitarist, Gary Daley, a drummer and recent arrival from Sydney, and Reg Braun, a proficient vocal/bass player who had just left a well-known Aussie country band called ”Bandy Bill and Co”. They all had beards! It was only natural that we called ourselves “The Beardy Brothers”. The Beardy Brothers had a phenomenal popularity with the public for 12 years. We were booked out years ahead for regular regional events and performed for many weddings, pubs and club nights all over Armidale and district. We had 12 consecutive years playing at the Armidale Ex Services Club and when we broke up in 2000 after recording our first and only CD “Been a long time”, that also ended my personal 20 year unbroken stint as a regular entertainer at the club.
Some months later after much hesitation, I joined drummer Jim Mitchell – Tony Mitchell’s brother from “Sherbert” – and the very talented Bourke brothers Dene and Gerry in a band we called “Profile”. We worked for several years in pubs and for weddings and with the pressures of my UNE Bachelor of Arts (Music) degree and Dip. Mus I needed to concentrate on studying music, not necessarily playing music!
After Uni, in 2003 I recorded my first solo album, “Lets be Lovers” and continued mainly solo from that time on. I have occasionally formed a band with musician mates and more recently, both my sons in law Michael Abbott and Josh Biddle, great musicians in their own right. In 2014 they both performed with me in various musical combinations but more importantly did outstanding vocal and instrumental work on my next solo CD “Afterthoughts” which was a six track CD that was done as a fund raiser for (see page 20) The Salvation Army. I had a wonderful close working relationship with the Salvos as a community worker between 2009 and 2014.
I have finished recording ten new tracks at Colin Bale’s beautiful Beechwood Studios for my latest music CD project, “Everybody”. I am so lucky – and excited – that Josh and Michael and bass wizard Mick Houlahan have once again recorded with me.