Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Paper presented by Sandra Nixon at National Folklore Conference - The Early Days of the Bush Music Club as illustrated by Singabout - the Journal of Australian Folksong, 1956 to 1967.




Summary


The Early Days of the Bush Music Club as illustrated by Singabout - the Journal of Australian Folksong, 1956 to 1967.

from the Editorial in Singabout 1(1) - aims of the Bush Music Club - to popularise Australian folk song and to encourage the composition of a new kind of song - one that is traditional in style but contemporary in theme.

Scanning these issues revealed a lot of fascinating information about the birth of bush music: print-runs of 1000 copies for the first & second issues, subscribers & contributors from many states & overseas, a member in Antarctica in 1958, contributions from Sydney's famous left wing artists, formation of interstate Bush Music Clubs, first publication of many old & new songs still sung today, even a couple of Dengate songs unpublished elsewhere.  (Ballad of the Schooner Eclipse, Lawson Centenary Song & Malaysia Song)

Sandra Nixon with contributions from early BMC members Frank Maher (joined 1955 or 56), Ann Maher (1960), Dale Dengate (1960), Chris Woodland (c1960)

Retired librarian, Secretary of the Bush Music Club, fascinated by history, folklore & ephemera. 
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The first meeting of the Bush Music Club was held on Thurs 24th October 1954. The founders were the members of The Bushwhackers,


Australia's first bush band & stars of the musical play, Reedy River which was about the after-effects of the 1891 shearers strike. The popularity of the show led to many requests to join the group, so starting a club was a logical way of spreading their songs & tunes & creating new bands.

12 month later the club issued it's first newsletter which mentioned the forthcoming magazine, Singabout

 
Newsletter 1(1), p.1 Oct 55

The Bushwhackers were Communists, as were many of the early members & friends of BMC. Check out Keith McKenry's biography of John Meredith, founder of the Bushwhackers to find more information about the communist influence on the early days.

from Dale -
Just a reminder that the people who joined the Communist Party of Australia did so as post-war anti-fascists supporting a Marxist philosophy of intellectual global unity & equality.


from the Editorial in Singabout 1(1) January 1956 -



Aims of the Bush Music Club - to popularise Australian folk song and to encourage the composition of a new kind of song - one that is traditional in style but contemporary in theme.



Volume 1, 1956, Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring
  

Volume 2, April, September & December 1957, May 1958


 

Volume 3, Summer, Autumn, Winter/Spring 1958 + n.d.



Volume 4, 1960, 1961, 1961, 1962



Volume 5, 1963, October 1964, July 1965, December 1965.


Volume 6, 1966 + 1967 (final issue)

As the members believed in collective action they didn't always include names of office bearers so it can be a tough job finding office bearers. We started an Office Bearers spreadsheet in 2014 & by scanning every issue of Singabout, & starting to scan the newsletters (1955 onwards) I've recently managed to fill a few gaps from the early days, including a complete committee elected in April 1962 - the first where women outnumbered men!


Newsletter, April 1962, p.1
Pam Loughlin, Marietta Stratton, Alan Scott, Barbara Strain (later Gibbons), Gay Scott, Jan Jones, Jamie Carlin, Ann Banks (later Maher), Frank Maher


comment from Dale -
... yes we weren't so efficiently organised in the 1960-70s and there was a reluctance to put ones name to any thing as it went against the ideal of collectivism ... It was seen as the individual showing off ...

Brian Loughin first President, 1956



Singabout 1(3), p.12-13

The Editorial in 1(2) said they would print 1000 copies again.Today we publish 250 copies of Mulga Wire which includes a Singabout insert & the current one features TROVE.



Singabout 1(2),  p.2

The back cover of Singabout 1(1) listed publications that were released by the Bushwhackers before they formed BMC plus those that were published in the 15 months before Singabout was released in January 1956.

Singabout 1(1) p20


By then BMC had a number of groups - Sydney People's Choir, the South Coast group led by Lola Troy, later known as Lola Wright, who created the second bush band in Australia, Melbourne's Billabong Band, which started 3 years before Melbourne Bush Music Club was formed, & is still going strong, & the Newcastle group which wanted 5 dozen more Singabouts.



Singabout 1(1) p18


Naturally there were controversies, Singabout was a left wing publication, not the place for protest songs!



Singabout1(3)-p14 If we examine the contents of issue no.2 we find there is a strong left-wing political slant ... I am not against the left wing having it's say. The point is, is "Singabout' the appropriate place? My feelings are that the trade union journals are the place for the songs mentioned above.


from Dale - & who would know them or sing them if they were in individual Trade Union journals?


The other big controversy was harmony vs. unison which led to the breakup of the
Bushwhackers in 1957.


Singabout 1(2), p.18

The harmony singers left to form the Rambleers, BMC sang in unison & were still doing so in 1960 when Dale joined.



Concert Party formed after the Bushwhackers disbanded & will be 60 next year.

Singabout 3(1), p.20

It was BMC's performance group & membership was by invitation only. John Dengate had to wait till the guitarist was unable to continue before he got the gig!


In 1958 a BMC member, Eric Burnett went to Antarctica


Singabout, 2(4) p.2 

................

The artists



The
artists who did most of the illustrations in Singabout were Gil Small, Clem Millward, Ron Shaw & John Dengate

blog - Extracts from Singabout - The artists, 1956-1967
http://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/extracts-from-singabout-artists-1956.html

...........................

Gil Small was credited as the first illustrator of Singabout 1(1), and the only information I have about him came from Jamie Carlin. He apparently was not a full time artist, unlike most of the others.

Keith McKenry had more info about the creation of Singabout 1(1) on p.158 ... illustrations by Des Tanner, the Daily Telegraph's cartoonist, & pages laid out by Brian Loughlin using the Telegraph's typesetting facilities
There were only 2 illustrations in the first tissue & both were Bushwhackers broadsides, not free standing drawings. Who did the cover drawings? More information is needed

.
...........................

Rod Shaw & Clem Millward were famous artists, & are represented in many collections.  Clem is still painting and as far as we know, the only surviving artist from the early days.

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Examples of each artist represented in Singabout - named & unknown

Gil Small  Singabout 2(1) p.15



..........................Clem Millward - illustrations from Songs from Lawson
 
Ad for Lawson book,
Singabout 2(2) p.5  & 2 pages from the book
-
 



Texas Jack


Clem's was awarded BMC's 3rd Life Membership for these illustrations.

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Gil Small




Singabout 2(4), p.10

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Benier - a famous cartoonist



Singabout 3(2), p.4

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unknown artist

 
Singabout, 3(4), p.11


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Unk White, famous illustrator


Singabout 4(1), cover



...........................


unknown artist


SIngabout 4(1), p. 5



...........................

Rod Shaw



Singabout, 4(4) p.13 
 
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Rod or Clem



SIngabout 5(3)-1965 p.3

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Rod Shaw & Clem Millward illustrated these 2 issues



Singabout
5(3), 1965  - signed RMS 




Singabout 5(4) p.13 by either Rod or Clem


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RMS, (Rod Shaw)


Singabout 3(4) p.16 


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John Dengate

Singabout 6(1) p.14


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Blog article - Extracts from Singabout - The artists, 1956-1967

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Interstate contributors

A worker poet somewhere in Australia could stick a stamp on his (her?) latest poem & send it to a worker-musician in Melbourne, who would write a tune for it. The same worker-musician, John Arcott won BMC's first Find-a-tune competition



Singabout 1(1) p17


Worker poets



wharfies - Sydneysider Dick the Singing Wharfie



 








































 










Singabout1(2) p.6

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seamen - Merv Lilley



Singabout 1(1) p7

Blog - Merv Lilley
http://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/extracts-from-singabout-early.html

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Joe Daly from Hungerford, station worker




Singabout 4(3)-p.7 - (Joe continued writing songs, later with Slim Dusty)


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Families

11 year old Stephen Spain composed the music for father Ron's Station House Boy - hopes to be a musician or boilermaker, or perhaps both.


Singabout, 1(2) p.14

Daughter Beren also composed a tune for one of her father's songs

.
...........................


Jennifer Mann 16 yrs - wrote tunes for David Martin, Merv Lilley, Mary Gilmore & her father Jim Mann.



Singabout 1(3)


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David Martin AM http://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A28275 was probably the most famous of the early poets/songwriters.

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Interstate Bush Music Clubs


Queensland Federation of Bush Music groups




Singabout 3(1) p9

...........................
Melbourne's Billabong Band, 1956



Singabout 1(1) p18


Singabout 3(1) p.9


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A few examples of songs & sources

Sources


  

Singabout, 2(4) p14 

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Duke Tritton

 

Singabout 5(3) p.14

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New songs

parodies



Singabout 1(1) p10


...........................

Darling Harbour, Merv Lilley



Singabout 1(1) p15

Blog article on Merv Lilley & Dorothy Hewett
thttp://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/extracts-from-singabout-early.html


...........................


Ameralia



Singabout 1(3)-p18
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Sleeper cutting in Baradine Bar



Singabout 2(2) p15

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Collected songs

Hoopiron Jack Lee, John Meredith's first source of songs, 1952



Singabout  2(2) p6

...........................
Sally Sloane - an amazing repository of songs & tunes, still singing at BMC's Opera House concert in 1980.


Singabout 1(4) p3





Bob Bolton photo taken at Opera House concert, 1980


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Early members who have helped with information

Jamie Carlin who joined soon after the first meeting wrote an article in 1964 about the Club's first 10 years & his article is reproduced on our blog.



Singabout
5(2)-p.13 Concert Party 1964


blog - The First Few Years by Jamie Carlin.


Ann & Frank Maher
Frank worked with Alan Scott & joined BMC in 1956, around the same time as Duke Tritton. Frank was asked to join Concert Party in 1960. Ann came to Australia in the same year & was a member of Concert Party by 1964 & they were featured on the BMC LPs in the 60s. They returned to Concert Party in 2012 when we started celebrating our 60th anniversary. Frank plays bones & bush bass, Ann is still playing the Maher family lagerphone shown in the 1964 photo & they are with us this weekend.

The Maher collection of photos & ephemera gave us a lot of information about the early days. Frank & a very young Jean Lewis (aka The Kid as she was 18 to his 26!) were members of the Pete Seeger welcome committee


Chris Kempster, Frank Maher, Jan Jones meeting Pete Seeger at Sydney airport, August,1963.

None of the members in the photo were uni students. The collection includes a number of items relating to Pete Seeger's visit in 1963. Pete donated microfilms of Sing Out & another magazine which BMC later gave to Sydney University's Fisher Library & they are still in the collection.



 

Singabout 5(2), p.3





Folkies met in pubs & when the pub closed would head for BMC as it kept later hours & had a great supper. The photo shows Frank telling Declan Affley that he & Colleen Burke could come in for free as they were performers, but their mates would have to pay the entry fee.


Blog - Frank's reminiscences of the early days
http://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/early-bush-music-clubdays-by-frank.html

Blog - The Ann & Frank Maher collection
http://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/the-ann-frank-maher-collection.html



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Chris Woodland has been a member since the early 60s & even though he left Sydney in 1967 has remained involved in the club. He has contributed many photos & ephemera to our archives.


Singabout 
6(2) p.10


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Dale Dengate joined in 1960 & soon brought along her colleague & future husband John. She identified John's drawings, offered to sing one of the songs not published elsewhere, & gave a lot of help in creating this talk.


Blog -
Memories of early days at the Bush Music Club by R. Dale Dengate http://bushmusicclub.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/talks-from-bmcs-2012-national-folk_04.html



Singabout 6(1) back cover



Singabout 
2(3)-back cover


Dale singing the Malaysia Song




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