Frank Traynor’s became my favourite hangout in 1965. I was caught up in the exciting and new (to me) beat of bohemianism, the ambience of candles in wine bottles on barrels in what looked like a rustic cellar with many rooms….
My friends and I (disillusioned with the Mod scene – see ‘How Danny Spooner Saved My Life’) were being enlightened by Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Kerouac and Yevtushenko. We lived, breathed and even agonized over Bob Dylan and saluted Woodie Guthrie. At Traynor’s I sat in awe of such greats as Brian Mooney, Declan Affley, Glen Thomasetti, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Margret Roadknight, Ken White and Graeme Squance, Marg Smith (later Howells), Danny Spooner and Gordon McIntyre, Peter Dickie, Dave Brannigan, Fiona Lawrence (later White), Shayna Karlin, Colin Dryden, Colin Campbell and the list goes on. At midnight, when Frank and his jazz band took over from the folkies, I was in awe of them as well. Everything about Frank seemed a bit wild - his loud laugh, piercing eyes, his copious hair and his brilliant improvisations. My friends and I were a tad terrified at first until I heard his wit, he was a great leveler. (We miss you Frank!)
Being incredibly young, naïve, and influenced by Joan Baez, I taught myself a few guitar chords and mistakenly tried to sing like her. Minnie Mouse on acid.
At a drunken party one night, I jammed with John Boothroyd and suddenly a low bluesy voice burst out. ‘I dunno where that came from!’ and John said it wasn’t him. The room filled with other blues enthusiasts including the guys from Gutbucket Jug band and I felt good. It still took me years to recognize that the uninhibited voice was my confident singing range. Not much of a lush…
Marni Sheehan and I performed as a harmony duo at Traynor's from about 1968 and at various folk and Uni gigs. I remember having such incredible stage fright I had to keep running to the loo before we went on until she threatened to announce it one night at Traynor’s. That cured me. I met her in ’65 when I was late for a gig at the Ivanhoe Coffee Lounge and found Marni and Sue Lesser had filled in. I listened - they blew me away so I hired them to sing at Fourth Wall in Prahran. Here I digress because Traynor’s had a lot to answer for – it was there I met all sorts of strange bearded characters wearing army disposals gear and matted hair and one of them was a glib tongued wheeler/dealer type who suggested to my girl friend and I that we could all run a little blues place ourselves! Caught up in the ambience of Traynor’s we thought it a very exciting proposition. So Fourth Wall was born and became a shortlived folk and blues dive of questionable ethics that, in a whirlwind, I found myself co-running with two other innocents, Jo, Ernie and the man of ‘ill rebuke’ as Popeye would say.
As the only one earning a wage with my day job, I supplied the meagre pay for the artists performing there - Kenny White and Graeme Squance, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Margret Roadknight, the early Gutbucket Jug Band and even Dutch Tilders. Hell! New to the scene, I’d never heard of Dutch until he turned up at the door and asked humbly if he could perform. ‘Sure!’ I said encouragingly, ‘We’ll give you a try out and if you’re any good we’ll pay you.’ (!!) Next thing he’s lugged his axe and amps in, blows the place apart with Soul enough to seduce the Hessian from the walls and Chris Hector from Go Set corners him in our kitchen for an interview. I felt like a right motherless child but loved his blues. John Romeril, later to become a celebrated playwright, also performed there. Whatever money was collected from the door (was there any?) seemed to disappear into cheap claret in glass flagons (remember them?) also herbal cigarettes and other strange things – something attributed to the man of ‘ill rebuke’.
When Marni joined Gutbucket as a guitarist/singer/mandolin player in 1969, I joined not long after when a washboard was thrust into my lap (not quite the way Frank described it in his article!) We performed at Traynor’s that night and Frank gave us a great write up in Go Set Magazine. I actually played with lipstick tops on my fingers until I could locate thimbles and when we played support to the Red Onion Jazz Band at a gig in Kew, I remember the masculine percussionist Alan Brown borrowing my lipstick tops and washboard for a number! Ah, that image but a great muso! We continued with gigs at Traynor’s regularly and played at Port Phillip Folk Festival receiving a tumultuous reception. Colin Steven’s graphic rendition of My Daddy Rocks Me always brought a standing ovation from the crowds wherever we went and Tony Dunn’s jug solos were breathtaking – literally! He almost hyperventilated a couple of times. (Port Phillip later became the National Folk Festival.)
As a Jug Band we performed at Jazz and Folk Festivals and played the circuit of Uni, clubs, pubs and café gigs at the same time as Captain Matchbox. Mic and Jim Conway formed their first band, the Jellybean Jug Band, inspired by seeing the early Gutbucket band (before my time) perform at Kew Civic Centre. I was in the audience that night as well (I even have it on tape/now CD) and also remember seeing Jeannie Lewis there for the first time, singing with a Gospel Group. She blew me away! I was inspired.
When Marni got pregnant in ’69, then me in ‘70, the giggle went around, ‘Who’s gettin’ the Gutbucket girls up the duff?’ I retired when the washboard couldn’t fit on my lap anymore ('71) and would you believe it, my thimbles banged straight through the worn rippled tin on my last gig. Bleedin’ exhibitionist? Needless to say, the baby I was carrying became a comedian (Lliam Amor) and has a great sense of timing.
I was asked to rejoin Gutbucket in September, 1995 to play at Victoria's upcoming 50th Jazz Convention. It was such a buzz I stayed with them till 2000. If anyone has any photos from this period I'd love a copy please.
‘Some are born with washboards and others have washboards thrust upon them.’
By the unforgettable whatsisname.
It seems Washboard (or scratch board) players come a close second to banjo and accordion players in the muso’s pecking order :
Like when I contacted Ross Hannaford re a gig for the Theatre Royal. In conversation I mentioned I played in a band. ‘What instrument do you play?’
I told him and Ross discreetly choked in the background.
Always the gentleman, that darlin’ Hanna.
And having a chat with Martyn Wyndham Read a few years ago (reminding him of some of his antics at Fourth Wall) he retaliated by telling me the first band he ever played with was a scratch band and they were considerate of the washboard player because her house was the only one big enough to hold practices in!
Well in defence of washboard players I just have this to say! …….um……
v Played at T. F. Much Ballroom in the Jug Band Orchestra, organized by Mic Conway with Jug Bands from all over Oz on stage. Peter Lilly, the After Dinner Moose, conducted it. The crowd was thunderous!!
v Standing ovation for washboard solo at Geelong Jazz Festival (they were obviously tired of sitting.)
v Marni and I initiated and successfully pulled off ‘The 25 Year Breakout’ concert which turned into a Frank Traynor’s reunion held at the Art House Hotel, Melbourne in March, 1994. We probably made over 400 phonecalls in the lead up to it. People hardly drew breath. Got that on tape/CD/video too.
v Mic Conway’s invitation to play a washboard solo with National Junk Band at Maldon Festival. Thanks Mic – it made my year 2003!
v Made a debut CD, The Swamp Album, with band The Flying Tongue Kiss, in 2006. (CD available - contact email@example.com ) Some originals on there as well. www.myspace.com/flyingtonguekiss
v I’m still performing and writing songs in 2012 with the same band; other members include Barry Martin, John Fenelon, Rex Watts and Marni Sheehan. (Stacy Kilpatrick is a former member.) www.myspace.com/flyingtonguekiss
- Early Days - Good Times Photos — by Teana Amor — last modified Jan 29, 2009 03:35 AM
- Gutbucket Jug Band, arguably the first jug band in Australia (started in 1964) and one of the acknowledged inspirations for Mic and Jim Conway's Captain Matchbox.
- How Danny Spooner Saved My Life — by Teana Amor — last modified Jun 18, 2008 08:18 AM
- The 25 Year Breakout poster RS.jpg — by Teana Amor — last modified Mar 13, 2009 10:29 PM
- FTK Swamp Album - cover _0002RS.jpg — by Teana Amor — last modified Mar 13, 2009 10:32 PM
- FTK Swamp Album - sleeve_0003RS.jpg — by Teana Amor — last modified Mar 13, 2009 10:35 PM
- Flying Tongue Kiss with Marni — by Teana Amor — last modified May 12, 2009 10:57 PM
- L to R: Barry Martin, Teana, Marni, Rex Watts, John Fenelon. Dogs: Gunna and Ruby