LUMINARIES OF AUSTRALIAN JAZZ
Compiled by Bill Haesler OAM
Luminary. noun: A person who inspires or influences others, esp. one prominent in a particular sphere; a famous person; a celebrity.
THE BACKROOM BOYS
Behind the history of Australian Jazz, its musicians, singers, artists, recordings and performances there exists a large and relatively unknown contingent of record collectors, discographers, historians, archivists, writers, authors, record producers, publishers and broadcasters who work tirelessly to preserve the music.
- William (Bill) Armstrong
William [Bill] Armstrong:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 24 June 1929) recording engineer/record producer.
Jazz enthusiast and audio engineer Bill Armstrong studied electrical engineering at Caulfield Technical College, mixed with the Frank Johnson, Len Barnard and Graeme Bell bands and in 1948 started recording Melbourne jazz bands on disc and wire and at the 4th Australian Jazz Convention in 1949. He produced live-to-air radio programs of jazz and variety shows for ABC radio 3LO and 3AR, recorded radio commercials (and later) TV advertisement soundtracks for 3UZ during 1950-1956, W&G Records (1956 to 1960), 3DB in 1960-1961 and Telefil Sound Recording and Film Studios in St. Kilda from 1961 to 1965, including Swaggie sessions. Bill then established Armstrong Recording Studios (later to become Armstrong Audio Video) recording most of the hit records of the day for EMI, CBS, RCA, Mushroom and Fable and became the largest audio complex in Australia. He provided technical support for multicultural radio 2EA and 3EA and in 1980 helped establish EON, Australia’s first commercial FM radio station. As a record producer of singles, EPs and LPs Bill initiated the Paramount, Magnasound and Danceland labels in 1953 and Jazz&Jazz in 1977. The Bill Armstrong Collection CD series commenced releasing and reissuing mainly jazz CDs in 1980. Bill currently collaborates with Nevill Sherburn (qv.) reissuing Australian jazz material on Bill Armstrong Collection and Swaggie CDs and has received multiple music industry awards from ARIA, APRA, ASRA, AES and the NFSA.
- Alan Burton
(b. Sydney NSW 25 September 1924 — d. 15 November 1996) jazz activist/record collector.
Alan became interested in jazz in the early 1940s, attended the First Australian Jazz Convention in Melbourne in December 1946 and subsequently served on Sydney Jazz Convention committees in 1950, 1954 and 1958. He was an active member of the Sydney jazz community, an energetic committee member of the Sydney Jazz Club from 1955 to 1958 and editor of its Quarterly Rag from April 1956 to March 1959. On retirement to Canberra Alan and his wife Joan became part of the Canberra jazz scene then moved to Tuross Head NSW.
- Ronald (Ron) Mervyn Gray
Ronald [Ron] Mervyn Gray:
(b. Sydney NSW 1925 — d. Sydney NSW 19 October 1986) record collector/jazz activist.
Ron was a hardworking committee member of the Sydney Jazz Club from 1958 to 1963, a member of the Jazz Convention Sydney committee in 1962 and the quiet but tireless secretary of the Sydney Jazz Club from 1968 to 1980 until ill health forced him to step down. His informative newsletters were legendary. Ron also ran the Club’s jazz mail order agency for overseas jazz magazine subscriptions and records.
- William (Bill) John Haesler
William [Bill] John Haesler: OAM
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 20 April 1931) record collector/writer/researcher/discographer/washboard/bandleader/broadcaster/record producer.
Bill came to jazz via radio in 1944, discovered the Graeme Bell band in 1946 and bought his first jazz record in 1947. He attended the 3rd Australian Jazz Convention in 1948, joined the Southern Jazz Society and followed the Frank Johnson and Len Barnard bands. He became interested in jazz discography, contributed to local and overseas publications, was the last editor of Australian Jazz Quarterly (1954-57), assistant editor of the discography magazine Matrix from 1954 to 1957, was co-founder-president of the Melbourne Jazz Club from 1958 to 1961. As a prolific LP and CD note writer from 1958 Bill has contributed to Swaggie, EMI, ABC Records, Castle Communications, Stomp Off, GHB, W&G, Festival, Jazznote, Heritage, Jazz Club, Picture, Jazz + Jazz, B&W Music and LPs an CDs produced by Australian bands. After moving the family to Sydney in June 1966 Bill joined the Robbers Dogs jazz band (1969-present), led and recorded with his washboard band from 1970 to 1985 and worked and recorded with other groups. He was president of the Sydney Jazz Club in 1968 and 1978 and edited its Quarterly Rag in 1976-77, presented regular jazz programmes on 2MBS FM from 1982 to 2005, was founder chairman of the NSW Jazz Archive from 1996 to 2000, is a director of the Professional Musicians’ Club (NSW) and has produced and assisted with the production of innumerable Australian jazz recordings. Bill has held executive positions on committees of the annual Australian Jazz Convention from 1952 and one of its long-time Trustees from 1961-1966, 1979-1988 and from 1997 up to the present.
- William (Bill) Verran Holyoak
William [Bill] Verran Holyoak:
(b. Broken Hill NSW 22 April 1903 — d. Adelaide SA 9 April 1967) record collector/ broadcaster/concert promoter/record producer.
Bill, the older brother of reedman Alf Holyoak, was classically trained reed player and a founder member of the Adelaide Jazz Lovers’ Society in 1941. From 1946 to 1960 he presented the jazz and swing programme The Real Swing on radio 5AD. During the 1950s he promoted regular Town Hall and Tivoli Theatre jazz concerts, contributed articles to the Sunday Mail and Radio Call and established the Memphis record label (1947-1950) specifically to record and release records by the Southern Jazz Group.
- Joseph (Joe) James
Joseph [Joe] James:
(No personal details available.)
Sadly, Joe never made it into the Australian jazz history books apart from several 1940s Jazz Convention photographs. He was one of the young Melbourne jazz enthusiasts who helped run the First Australian Jazz Convention in December 1946 and the treasurer for the four initial Conventions held in Melbourne. My memory recall is that Joe died tragically about 1950 when he fell out of a car door while turning a corner.
- Martin John (John) Kennedy OAM
Martin John [John] Kennedy OAM
(b. Thebarton SA 28 May 1928.) Record collector/drums/discographer/jazz activist.
John’s parents were Adelaide dance band musicians. His family moved to Seddon, Melbourne via Colac in 1934 and he became interested in dance band records when he was ten, then jazz at age fourteen and listened to swing bands on radio and at the Palais Royal at the Exhibition Building in 1944. He joined the Melbourne Rhythm Club in 1945, was its publicity officer and when it folded in late 1948 joined the Southern Jazz Society and its jazz circle. John took drum lessons from George Watson at this time and played with a group led by Morrie Gordon that included reedman Keith ‘Honk’ Atkins. John was assistant treasurer for the 7th Jazz Convention in Melbourne in December 1952, started the discography magazine Matrix in July 1954, published 16 issues then passed it over to Canadian discographer George Hume. John, an ardent jazz record collector, curtailed his jazz activities in 1963 to concentrate on his wholesale optical business and returned to the fold in 1987. Tom Wanliss, Eric Brown and John formed the Australian Jazz Interviews Project in 1993. In August 1996 he organised the meeting of Melbourne collectors and musicians that formed the Victorian Jazz Archive. He was its founding Curator/secretary then collection manager until 2003, was general manager in 2004-2005 and retired as an executive in November 2005. Under his stewardship the VJA received numerous honours including both the National Bank of Australia Community Award for Conservation and a Museum Australia Award for Conservation in 2000. John received the 2002 Museums Australia (Victoria) Industry Recognition Award for individual volunteer achievement in the museum sector, an OAM in 2004 for preservation of Australian jazz music through the Victorian Jazz Archive and the 2007 Australian Sound Recording Association award for achievement and leadership in the Australian Jazz Archiving Community. As curator of the VJA John mounted thirteen exhibitions and initiated the release of unissued Australian jazz recordings on its first eleven VJazz CDs. John finally retired from active duties at the Victorian Jazz Archive (now the Australian Jazz Museum) in August 2007 but remains involved in its research projects.
- Melville (Mel) Ernest Langdon
Melville [Mel] Ernest Langdon:
(b. Sydney NSW 22 October 1917 – d. Sydney NSW 6 May 1985) trombone, band manager.
Mel, a jazz enthusiast, joined the navy in August 1939, met Graeme Bell in about 1945 and resigned his RAN commission in 1947 to become road manager of the Graeme Bell band for its first European and UK tour in 1947-1948. He remained with the band for its subsequent ABC concert tours, the Rex Stewart Australian tour in August – December 1949 and the Bells’ second UK/European tour in 1950-1952 after which it disbanded. In March 1955 while working for the Adelaide Theatre Royal in South Australia he arranged for Graeme Bell to join the theatre stage band of Ice Frolics and its subsequent Queensland tour, for which Mel was appointed advance manager. When the tour ended in June 1955 Graeme, Mel and some of the artists formed The Royal Command Revue for a Queensland tour. At its conclusion in Brisbane in October Mel stayed on and worked as lounge manager at drummer Skip Humphries’ jazz pub, the Storybridge Hotel. Mel eventually returned to Sydney, joined its jazz scene for a while until final retirement to a nursing home.
- Norman (Norm) Gerard Linehan
Norman [Norm] Gerard Linehan
(b. Melbourne, Vic 16 October 1923 – d. Sydney NSW 2 August 1988) jazz aficionado/photographer/historian/archivist/writer.
Norm came to jazz while at Christian Brothers College, St Kilda where he also took up photography. Following war service in 1941-1946 he worked as a freelance photographer with a shop counter at Sydney’s Wynyard railway concourse, where he also sold Australian jazz records. He attended the 2nd Jazz Convention in 1947, was a jazz record producer and author of Norm Linehan’s Australian Jazz Picture Book (Child & Henry 1980) and several jazz monographs. Norm was also an archivist and prolific jazz writer who contributed to all Australian jazz magazines and periodicals. He worked on numerous Jazz Convention committees, was president of the Sydney Jazz Club from 1979 to 1981, a vice-president of the Jazz Action Society in 1982 and a passionate supporter of Australian jazz. A very private person, apart from his jazz and motor racing activities, Norm had worked in book retailing and was with a chemical company until serious illness forced his retirement.
- Raymond (Ray) David Marginson AM
Raymond [Ray] David Marginson AM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic 13 December 1923) record collector/jazz enthusiast.
Ray discovered jazz while still at school, continued his interest at Melbourne University in 1942 where he met like-minded friends through the University Rhythm Club and became a ‘jazz-purist’. He discovered the Graeme Bell band, met Bill Miller (qv.) became an avid record collector and helped arrange the famous Ampersand Max Kaminsky recording session when Artie Shaw was in Melbourne in 1943. Ray had a long association with the Bell band and friends at the Uptown Club in North Melbourne and the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946, the year he graduated from Melbourne University. In 1947 his active participation in jazz gave way to a long and distinguished Commonwealth Public Service career (1948-1966), executive positions with the University of Melbourne (1966-1988), the Melbourne Water Board (1982-1992) and the Museum of Victoria (1988-1994). During all of which he kept in touch socially with the music. While on an extensive Eisenhower Fellowship study tour in the USA in 1968 Ray also found time to meet and hear its jazz pioneers. On retirement he rejoined the Melbourne jazz scene, was the founder President of the Victorian Jazz Archive in 1996 until 2005 and is a member of several of its sub-committees.
- Francis John (Jack) Mitchell
Francis John [Jack] Mitchell:
(b. Dulwich Hill NSW, 29 May 1926) record collector and producer/writer/researcher/discographer.
Jack left high school in 1941 to become a theatre projectionist, bought records, started buying Tempo and Music Maker and, as a result, became interested in jazz. He joined the Sydney Swing Club in mid 1944, discovered and subscribed to Jazz Notes and Australian Jazz Quarterly and became interested in early jazz and discography. He discovered live jazz and the Port Jackson Jazz band in late 1946 and in April 1947 heard the Graeme Bell band during its visit to Sydney to record for Regal Zonophone. He studied dentistry at Sydney University in 1948, joined its film society (where he met more jazz enthusiasts) and attended the 3rd Jazz Convention. While compiling details of his Australian records he realised that there was no discography so started to compile his own. Australian Discography was published as an AJQ Handbook by Bill Miller in 1950 and Jack self-published a second edition in 1960. After graduation in 1952 he worked in Canberra and Wollongong, married, moved to Lithgow NSW and maintained his connection with the Sydney jazz scene, the Sydney Jazz Club and the Australian Jazz Convention. In 1960 Jack met Mike Sutcliffe and Peter Burgis and they formed an informal research group specialising in Australian jazz; its beginnings, history and recordings, all the while listening to local bands and collecting jazz records. Jack regularly contributed articles on Australian jazz to Quarterly Rag, JazzLine, Jazz, Walkabout and the English discography magazine Storyville. His third updated discography Australian Jazz On Record 1925-80 was published in 1988, followed by More Australian Jazz On Record in 1998 and Even More Australian Jazz On Record in 2002. He released the combined books on CDR in 2012. Jack also self-published Back Together Again – The Story of the Port Jackson Jazz Band in 1995 then Coggy (a bio-discography of Frank Coughlan) in 2011 and continues to update his definitive discography of Australian jazz.
- John William Rippin
John William Rippin:
(b. Guernsey, Channel Island 26 November 1923 – d. Melbourne 12 February 2003). record collector/writer.
John discovered jazz in the 1930s, became part of the Adelaide jazz scene and was a founder member of the Adelaide Jazz Lovers’ Society in 1941. He was editor of Blue Rhythm magazine, served in the army from 1944 until mid 1946, took over editorship of Jazz Notes in August that year and published it until October 1950. He moved to Melbourne in May 1951 and was president of the 6th Jazz Convention there in 1952. John’s business commitments as a financial consultant to the New Guinea and Northern Territory governments and as an accountant curtailed his jazz activities until retirement in 1992 and his election as founder vice-president (and later auditor) of the Victorian Jazz Archive.
- Nevill (Nev) Louis Sherburn
Nevill [Nev] Louis Sherburn:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 24 December 1930) piano/banjo/bandleader/record collector and producer.
Nevill took piano lessons as a child, discovered jazz in the mid 1940s and while studying at the Melbourne Institute of Technology led the Swing Wing of its Music Society. He had additional tuition from Graeme Bell in 1948-49, attended Jazz Conventions in Melbourne in 1948 and 1949, joined the Southern Jazz Society and the local jazz community. He purchased the Swaggie record label from the Graeme Bell band co-operative in September 1954 and began issuing limited edition EPs and 10” LPs of Australian jazz. In 1960, following negotiations with overseas record companies, he commenced releasing 12” LPs and a 7” LP Jazz Collector series of classic jazz reissues. Nevill formed his Rhythm Kings in 1950-57 that became the nucleus for the Jazz Convention Melbourne committee in December 1956. He retired from playing to concentrate on his day job, family, local jazz, Swaggie and recording sessions of Australian jazz. He also revived and edited the Jazz Notes magazine in July 1960 and published ten issues up to December 1962. From 1954 to 2014 Swaggie released the following records: 78s (8); 10” LPs (11); 7″ EPs (36); 7″ LPs Jazz Collector Series (125); LPs (219); 12″ LPs Vintage Jazz Archive series (52); 12″ LPs (7) Louis Armstrong; 12″ (8) Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress sessions and over 20 CDs. Nevill currently collaborates with Bill Armstrong (qv.) releasing Australian jazz material on Swaggie and The Bill Armstrong Collection CDs. Without Nevill Sherburn there would have been very little recorded Australian jazz during the 1960s-1980s.
- Anthony (Tony) Francis Standish
Anthony [Tony] Francis Standish:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 7 December 1931) writer/photographer/record collector and producer/journalist/jazz record and book shop proprietor.
Tony became aware of jazz in his mid teens, was a near-neighbour and jazz friend of the Barnard brothers in the late 1940s, attended the 3rd Jazz Convention in Melbourne in 1948 and was a founder member of the Southern Jazz Society in 1949. He contributed controversial articles to Australian Jazz Quarterly and part of the Frank Johnson and Len Barnard jazz circle until making the obligatory pilgrimage to New Orleans in January 1955 via Canada, the US and Mexico. It took two years. He sailed to London, England in 1957 where he stayed for six years; the last five as assistant editor of the prestigious Jazz Journal, started Heritage Records and released limited edition blues and jazz LPs and EPs. Tony returned to Australia in 1963, worked with a book company, resumed his dedicated participation with the Melbourne jazz and blues scene and opened the Heritage Records shop in conjunction with Frank Traynor’s Folk Club in Melbourne’s CDB. He was an executive committee member of the 21st Jazz Convention held in Melbourne in 1966 and briefly that year organised the Heritage Jazz Club at the Continental Hotel in the city. When Traynors was demolished in 1975, he moved to a nearby location before running Standish & Company as a jazz/blue/folk/book mail order business from home until 2012. In his retirement Tony remains active in jazz, contributes to the Victorian Jazz Archive, is an active jazz writer and planning a book.
- Frederick (Fred) Christopher Starkey
Frederick [Fred] Christopher Starkey:
(b. Sydney 29 November 1915 — d. Sydney NSW 3 February 1972) washboard/record collector/ jazz activist/book and record shop proprietor.
Fred helped run Ashwoods, a second hand records and book shop in Sydney NSW and a great source for jazz items, and was a prominent member of the Sydney jazz scene from the 1950s. He was a committee member of Jazz Conventions in Sydney in 1950, 1954, 1958 and 1962, the founder president of the Sydney Jazz Club from 1953 to 1956, served on its committee again in 1972-73 and worked in several local jazz bands.
- Harry Stein
(b. Melbourne 1 February 1919 – d. Sydney 23 May 1994) drums/journalist/writer.
Harry, a lifelong political activist, came to music in his teens, played drums in a dance trio, discovered jazz via records, heard Bennie Featherstone in Art Chapman’s band and took lessons from him. He played in a trio with Cy Watts and Haydn Britton for several years until 1937 then worked his passage to England with the ship’s orchestra. He rejoined the trio on his return in 1939, joined the army in 1940 until mid 1946. He helped form the Eureka Hot Jazz Society in 1945 and was on the committee for the First Australian Jazz Convention in Melbourne in December 1946. Harry gained Australian jazz fame for organising the historic Graeme Bell band trip to Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1947. He accompanied the band on its tour through France to England then returned home. Notwithstanding his work as a journalist and later positions with the federal public service, Harry maintained contact with Australian jazz. On his retirement in 1984 he devoted his efforts in support of it and the Australian arts scene and in 1992 was the curator of the Doubly Gifted Jazz Art Happening exhibition at Waverley Library NSW, Sydney showcasing the dual talents of jazz musicians who are also artists.
The exhibition was expanded in 1993 to include the Bell Jazz Lecture, in recognition of Graeme Bell’s significant contribution to the music, and was an annual event until 2014. He was patron of the Kiama Jazz Club and in 1992 compiled the booklet Blowing at the Blowhole – Jazz Alive In Kiama. His autobiography A Glance Over An Old Left Shoulder was published in 1994.
- Michael (Mike) Desmond Sutcliffe
Michael [Mike] Desmond Sutcliffe:
(b. Wentworthville NSW 21 January 1939 – d. Sydney 19 May 2007) record collector/researcher/historian/discographer/writer.
When it comes to the Backroom Boys of Australian jazz, Mike was one of the big ones. He became interested in jazz listening to the family records and attempted to play clarinet until record collecting became a passionate interest. He discovered the post-war Sydney jazz scene and listened to the music at concerts, the Sydney Jazz Club and the annual Australian Jazz Convention where he met and befriended others with similar interests. Like them he haunted Sydney’s second-hand record shops, particularly Ashwoods, During this time Mike, Jack Mitchell and Peter Burgis formed an informal group researching Australian jazz, its beginnings, history and recordings; each to later distinguish himself in the field of Australian record research. Although little known locally Mike became an acknowledged international authority, contributing his findings to publications in Britain, Europe and the USA. He was a founding member of the NSW Jazz Archive in 1995 and a voluntary research consultant who regularly assisted with documentation and cataloguing for The National Film & Sound Archive, the Australian Jazz Archive and the NSW Mitchell Library. Over the years he made invaluable contributions and donations of recordings and printed material to these institutions and to the Victorian and NSW Jazz Archives. He was honoured with the Australasian Sound Recordings Association Award For Excellence “for outstanding contributions to the Australian record industry through discography and publications.” In April 1989 Mike founded, produced, edited and published the Australian Record and Music Review until his ill health forced its cessation at issue No. 72 in January 2007.
- Cedric Ian (C Ian) Turner
Cedric Ian [C Ian] Turner:
(b. Melbourne 20 February 1922 — d. Melbourne September 1983) record collector and producer/broadcaster.
Ian was a Melbourne jazz activist, record collector and member of the Graeme Bell band and friends inner jazz circle from the late 1930s. He was editor of the monthly Jazz Notes from January 1945 to June 1946 and attended the First Australian Jazz Convention. During the early to mid 1940s, anticipating a return to normal after the war, he organised numerous recording sessions featuring Ade Monsbourgh and friends, saving the acetates with labels prepared and announcements in Jazz Notes. The Victorian Jazz Archive eventually released aselections from these recordings, The Jelly Roll Label sessions 1943-1945 on VJazz CD 003. Ian retired from active participation in jazz during the late 1940s to concentrate on his architectural practice, but maintained contact with collecting and the Melbourne jazz scene.
- Ronald (Ron) Lewis Wills OAM
Ronald [Ron] Lewis Wills OAM:
(b. Sydney NSW 5 March 1913 – d. Sydney NSW 16 October 2002) jazz activist record collector/record reviewer/record producer/A&R producer/broadcaster.
Ron’s father, Orm Wills, was a professional dance band and classical orchestra musician and Ron was exposed to music and jazz from an early age. He became a radio presenter for 2UW in 1935 and Swing notes on the ABC in 1938, a founder member of the Sydney Music Club (1936-56) and a jazz record reviewer in the late 1930s for Music Maker (as Ceris the Disque) and Tempo, He joined EMI in April 1940, was with the Royal Australian Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946, returned to EMI then was with the J Stanley Johnson record store from 1948 until 1950. Ron started the Wilco jazz record label with his brother in 1949 and returned to EMI September 1950 as an A&R executive. He moved to RCA in 1964, retired from the music industry in 1978, wrote his memoirs (unpublished) but maintained his musical interests. As an A&R producer he was directly involved with recording Australian artists including Slim Dusty, Graeme Bell, Frank Ifield, June Bronhill, Don Burrows and Buddy Williams.