Well..... Frank Traynor's and the folk scene. It all seems so long ago. And that's because it was. When Teana and Marnie organised a Gutbucket and folkie reunion in 1990 something, Rick Amor said to me' You realise that when we started playing these songs they were thirty years old.... Well now they're sixty!' A sobering thought that I still have'nt recovered from. And they're a lot older now.
Back in my art student days, in the sixties, I'd travel down to Frankston to see my fellow art student mate, Rick Amor. We sit around, often talking all night and getting pissed on cheap flagon wine and smoking Drum. The smell of a freshly opened packet of Drum still brings back memories of that carerfree time. Rick Ludbrook would often join us and we'd get out the instruments and play folk and blues tunes. Rick Ludbrook sometimes sent to America for blues records from the Arhoolie label as they were rare here then. Pretty soon we were bashing out passable Jug, Jook and washboard tunes, Leadbelly of course and Jim Kweskin, whose band was having an influence on like minded souls around the globe.I played harmonica and a family heirloom, a battered mandolin of indeterminate age. Years later Bruce McNichol told me he could restore it for me and that's the last I saw of it. I can assure him that my resentment is only slightly smoldering today. The two Rick's and I would sometimes go to hear live music at coffee lounges that were springing up around Melbourne at that time. There were some very good performers around although the music they played was not always to my taste. An exception of course was Ken White and Graham Squance. They played blues and played it very well. We decided it would be more fun to play in public than just listen so one night we thought we play a set at Mike Deanies place in Prahan.... The Attic.
I can still remember the gut wrenching nerves I suffered, waiting for the two Ricks to drive up from Frankston to pick me up..... and my stomach churning in the car as we drove to Prahan. Nowdays of course I'm such a ham that I'd play Bantu nose flute if there was someone around to clap. Anyway, it went over well enough and soon we were playing there on a regular basis. My nerves settled down and I began to look forward to the nights we'd be performing. Others joined us in an order I can no longer remember.... Tony Dunn on jug, Ron Davis on guitar, Brent Davey on banjo, Bruce McNichol on various noise making instruments and the two beautiful girls Teana (soon to be Amor) on washboard and Marni Sheehan on guitar and mandolin. As the Gutbucket Jug Band we played most of the coffee lounges of the day, Uni gigs and sets between the bands at Jazz dances that were plentiful back then.
But Traynor's..... that was the real deal, the quintessence of what a folk and jazz joint was all about. It held the highest status in the pecking order of all the folk venues. To play Traynor's meant that you were to be taken seriously. Op shop chairs, some wine barrels, a bit of hessian hanging around, some candles jammed into chianti bottles.... it was so..... COOL. And Traynor's had something that none of the other folk joints had, a fusty pungency of weird tasting coffee, dust, candle-wax and armpit. Of course the initiates got a little something extra in their coffee. The audience would sit stony silent in the gloom, listening to songs about whalers, rovers, jolly tars, colonial boys, distressed maidens and the like and would sometimes get to join in with a Hey Nonny No. Sometimes, a performers sensitive Irish ballad would be augmented by Frank and his wife having a row out the back. A slightly bawdy reference in a song... ie..."roll me over dear and blow the candle out", would have the audience tittering. Folk audiences often used to titter back then. I remember a night when a singer that shall remain nameless... I think it was Danny Spooner..... got up mid way through a song and continued singing all the way to the toilet. It was 'heave away, haul away' interspersed with a lusty splashing in the bowl. The audience dutifully tittered. I guess that passed for bohemianism back then. Sometimes Rick Amor and myself would get jack of all this sailing and foll de lol stuff and quietly snigger to be silenced by a barked "SHUT UP'!!! And shut up we did... quick smart. The hulking presence of Don Carlos (Careless?) on the door had us all shit scared. I remember some rowdies tried to enter one night and Don snarling ' I know I'm not very big but you can't come in' as he bounced them off into the night with his paunch. Some nights when another art school mate, the great clarinetist Barry Wratten was going to sit in, I'd stay for the jazz..... some wonderful nights!
Frank was a grumpy bastard. But when you got to know him he was slightly less grumpy. The brilliant clarinetist, Tim shaw with whom it is my great pleasure to play with in the present line-up of the Gutbucket Jug Band told me recently that encouraged by Ade Monsborough, he fronted up one night at Traynor's with his schoolboy jazz band. ' Please Mr Traynor.... Mr Monsborough said you might let us have a blow'. 'WHAT??? FUCKING ADE!!! NOT AGAIN!!! FUCKING ADE!!!!! FUCKING FUCK' But Frank really did have a soft heart and let them play and encouraged them. I remember an afternoon.... What was I doing there in the afternoon? And you should have seen that place in the daylight.... where was the magic? Anyway. Frank couldn't play one note at a time on the harmonica and wanted me to show him how to do it. Try as he might , he couldn't compress his muscular trombonists lips enough to blow a single note... only chords. But we had a pleasant little jam.
Frank had a unique concept when he started Traynor's. It was a Melbourne institution that is remembered by those who used to frequent it as a special place and a special time in our youth. He and 'Traynor's' are sadly missed.
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