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Trevor Lucas

by Garry Kinnane last modified Jul 03, 2009 05:42 AM
Contributors: Gary Kinnane

Trevor Lucas

Trevor Lucas
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Guitar, Harmonica

Because this entry is posthumous, Trevor's own view of Traynor's, the folk scene of the 60s and 70s, and related matters, cannot of course be represented. All I can do, in recalling his contribution, is to represent my memories and views of Trevor in those days. I do this, naturally, as a close friend and admirer of him and his music.

Trevor had been a carpenter before he started playing the guitar. I've recently learned that in later years he told people he was dyslexic, and was unable to read music. I didn't know this about him when we hung out together, and it just confirms to me how important the folkmusic
scene, with its emphasis on sharing and self-learning and its disdain for "qualifications" and the like, was in providing an alternative education for many naturally talented performers. And of course it testifies to Trevor's own intelligence and ability to overcome obstacles.

Trevor began appearing at coffee lounge gigs around 1961 or 1962, and he sang at the Emerald Hill concerts during 1963. He quickly became a significant figure on the Melbourne folk scene, and was in high demand around the folkie hang-outs.

At the beginning of 1964, soon after it opened, Trevor had a regular gig at Traynor’s on Thursday nights with Garry Kinnane, and on Fridays with somebody else, possibly Brian Mooney. He also sang at venues such as “The Jolly Roger” in South Yarra and the “Little Reata” in the city at its Sunday night shows.

He was always a compelling performer to watch, with his flaming red hair and beard, and his tall, lean, angular frame towering over most other performers. He had a deep, rich pleasant voice, which he adapted well to blues, work-songs, shanties and bush ballads, shifting his accent around from “black” American to “Outback Oz”, without ever sounding like anybody but himself. His guitar playing was better than just about every other singer’s in Melbourne – a knowledgeable left-hand for blues, and some good right-hand picking which he eventually did using metal finger-picks – probably the first in Melbourne to do so. He also had a fierce, driving flat-picking style when playing 12-string guitar, which he used on songs like “Walk Right In”, “Hullabaloo-belay” and “Black Girl” and “Corinna”,  after the manner of Leadbelly. He also played a harmonica in a harness, a la Bob Dylan.

Trevor was totally dedicated to his music, and was always looking to develop new material and to learn techniques and approaches from the more sophisticated folk music scenes abroad, particularly America via LP recordings, and England  via the English Television Folk program that ran in 1963, called.. (can't recall!)

He was a good musician to work with – generous with his knowledge and happy to work in with another’s style and interests, as he often did with me at Traynor’s. We became good friends; I was best man at his wedding in mid-1964, and he was at mine in Castlemaine a couple of months later. We drank together regularly at Tattersall’s Hotel and Jimmy Watson’s, where one Friday night he casually announced that he was heading off abroad at the end of the year – 1964 – and why didn’t I come ? So we did – he and his wife Cheryl, me and my wife Jo, on the Greek ship “Ellinis”, which sailed on New Year's Eve and berthed in Piraeus a month later in 1965. They stayed in Greece only a few weeks until Trevor’s keenness to get back to the music scene got the better of him, and he and Cheryl headed for London, while I stayed on in Greece.

When I eventually got to London, Trevor was already well connected with the London scene, especially the hub, which was “The Troubadour” coffee lounge and famous folk club in Old Brompton Road, where he was doing occasional performances. He had already gotten to know the brilliant guitarist John Renbourn and the cult-figure Bert Jansch, and was broadening his contacts throughout the city. I had developed other interests by then, and soon moved out of London. After that I saw him only occasionally, but managed to keep an eye on his progress.

His rise to significance in the London folk/rock scene, culminating in his role in the groups “Eclection” and “Fotheringay” and his marriage to Sandy Denny of “Fairport Convention” has been well covered on other websites, as indeed have his success as a music producer and his personal tragedies that ended with his sad death of a heart attack in February, 1989 in Sydney.

Traynor’s had been a key phase in his development, and had provided the opportunity for Australian audiences and musicians to enjoy his talents as they progressed during that time. Whatever his success abroad, I always think of him as an Aussie who got his all-important initial inspiration and confidence on his home ground, here in Melbourne.

A small anecdote: in the film “Don’t Look Back”, which covered Bob Dylan’s first visit to England in 1966, there is a scene in a crowded room of people attending to the master’s fame, who I think is amused at learning of an imitator of his called Donovan. As the camera roams around the room, you will see for a brief moment the face of a bearded Trevor Lucas, sitting against the wall looking stoned to the nines. It sums up for me Trevor’s determination to be at the centre of things when it came to the music scene of the day and the place.

Garry Kinnane




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