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Peter McKay

by Peter McKay last modified Oct 19, 2009 01:02 AM

Peter McKay


Hi. I'm Pete. I play keyboards and arrange, conduct, record and perform. I've had a long career as a fulltime musician, and want to show my appreciation for where and with whom it all started... with Frank, and with Traynors. I first came into contact with Frank at the age of 13, when close-to-weekly making my way to Memphis Jazz Club at St. George's Church Hall, Malvern, and Melbourne Jazz Club in Albert Park. Becoming acquainted with the band over the next couple of years, I approached Frank to help me with some difficulties I was having with Jazz Piano. Although having played for some years, I remember that Frank, in the first weeks of Traynor's, at Exhibition/Lt. Lon.. sorted me out. At the time, I was working for BHP as a junior clerk in the city, so Traynor's became a haunt.

From this point on, dates become a bit fuzzy, but at some stage in the late 60's I joined Frank's band for some years. This involved concerts, various city and country gigs, a long residence at the Royal Terminus Hotel in Brighton, etc. The band at that time comprised:

Trombone: Frank Traynor ("The Brain")

Reeds: Jim Lougnan, Fred Parkes, Alex Hutchinson or Dennis Ball.

Trumpet: Roger Bell, Rod Thompson or Dick Tattam.

Drums: Jim Beal

Sousaphone/Bass: Ron "Zeke" Williamson

Banjo: John Cavanagh

Piano: Peter McKay

After gigs with Frank on a Saturday night, and, indeed for many years afterwards, we headed for the late night Jazz ("Rent Party"?) at Traynor's. I used to rush in, because usually anyone coming to sit in or play arrived later than the starting time, so most nights we'd start with just Jim Beal and me doing piano/dums stuff, and most often Alex Hutchinson would soon join, and we'd play Goodman Trio-type stuff for a while until more frontline or bass players arrived. A bevy of Don Carless's Black Death kept proceedings well-lubricated. I learned heaps from the playing experience. I also learned heaps about how to play half-or-more-pissed, but that's another story. Suffice to say, for those who knew me in those days, I've been sober since 20/9/1973. Just as well.

All the band members would come in from time to time, and we had great blows with many guests. Notable of these in my memory were Kenny Ball, Don Bennetts, Acker Bilk... in fact many visiting musicians would drop in for a Jam. They were heady times. Times for which, in retrospect, I'm eternally grateful. The harmonic sensibility, improvisation structure, note placement and dynamics learned in this genre have been huge in my life. One could, of course, go on and on, as so many musical highlights and enjoyments come to mind. Other highlights might include one early concept of "crowd control", when for a period any trouble would very quickly be quenched by the active presence of the "Angels" motorcycle group, who decided for some reason they liked the place :)

After I left the band, and "deserted" to play in a Rock band, Saturday night at Traynor's was still a weekly high point. For those interested, I continued in music, doing all sorts of work after that, including a lot of session work in the 70's. In the mid-70's, mostly at the time due to my having an early involvement with Synthesizers, I swapped almost by accident to the field of Musical Theatre, and this has been my major area of work since. From those early days oif "The Wiz" through all the years of Cats, Les Miz, Phantom, Reg Livermore, etc. etc., both here and overseas to my current situation as Musical Director at a leading Musical Theatre school, the legacy both of Frank himself, and of the wonderful years in Exhibition Street, have remained with me, and will always be an important influence. I frequently "re-visit" the genre by playing with Riviera Jazz Band at various gigs and Jazz Festivals. Thanks Frank. I hope you're menacing the heavens, either blasting a trombone or driving that dark-green FJ Holden through the clouds.

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