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 A brief history on the KKOA by Matt Keys & Lori Lee

The Convertibles

From left: Jim O'Brien (g), Tim Collett (b), Andy Burnaway (g), Gary Carter (d)

Back in the Eighties, The Convertibles really had the pedal to the metal.

Apart from extensive local gigging and interstate touring The Convertibles also performed regularly at World Expo including River Stage and had numerous appearances on local TV channels Nine and Seven. Articles were appearing in Street press also Juke magazine and the Australasian Post and their self titled EP was getting airplay on Triple J and 3RRR in Melbourne.

The rockabilly scene was bubbling in South East Qld boosted by the enthusiasm such groups as the original Rebel Rockers and Kustom Kroozers.

The Convertibles Jim, Tim, Gary and Andy are really looking forward to getting together at the reunion to catch up with old friends, fans and fellow musicians and celebrate their love of rockabilly.

The Shakin' Quavers

    From left: Jon Flynn, Rupert Jenner, Dean Kendal

The Shakin' Quavers were a young, energetic and busy rockabilly band, enjoying a keen following from 1987.  Starting life as ‘The Shed Men’, the Noosa high school friends, Rupert Jenner, Ben Conway and Dean Kendal, were playing clubs before they were of legal age.

Both the band's name and it's line-up changed when Jon Flynn replaced Ben in 1989, bringing the upright bass into the trio. The Shakin' Quavers were a regular sight around Brisbane and both the North and South Coasts and were regularly touring to meet demand from interstate. The Shakin' Quavers are looking forward to the Kustom Kroozers Reunion. "It will be the first time in 20 years that we've played together using the original line-up!"

The Slingshots

From left: Tyron Shaw (g), Pony Gleeson (g, v), Dan Nosovich (g), Geoff Townsley (d)

In the very early 90’s three friends, Pony, Phill & Tyron shared a common passion for music that stemmed from early European psychobilly.

Originally the four members, Pony (v,g), Phill Adams (g), Tyron Shaw (b) and Geoff Townsley (d) were known briefly as The Psyclones (Geoff replaced Andy Chan on drums). From 1990 to 1994 they performed psychobilly. Phill was finding success with his other project ‘Blister’ and eventually left the band, the decision was then made to change direction slightly. Their psychobilly obsession morphed into traditional and neo-rockabilly, swamp rock and dirty rhythm & blues, and that’s how The Slingshots were born.

After 5 or 6 lead guitarist changes over a period of six years or so the band recruited new kid on the block , Dan Nosovich, who made his debut in the Slingshots. Dan became their final, and possibly their most suited, guitarist until the band’s final shows at the end of 1999 when Tyron eventually moved interstate to Melbourne early 2000.

During this time The Slingshots had included three interstate tours, released a debut EP/CD-Rom that included a film clip (one of the few bands to do such a release). Other milestones included performing on the 1999 Warped Tour and supporting Southern Culture on The Skids.

The Slingshots performed a reunion show in 2002 at Wintersun with Doug Wilshire filling in on lead guitar, but the Kustom Kroozers Reunion will be the first reformation of the original/last line-up featuring Dan on lead and maybe a little surprise thrown in.

The Reno Brothers
Clockwise from top left: Geoff Townsley (d), Chris Adey (b), Rod Hines (v, g), Andy Dashwood (g).

The Reno Brothers took their band name from Elvis’ first movie; Love Me Tender, which was originally named the Reno Brothers. The band played a list of favourite songs from the fifties by popular and obscure artists.

A fun rockabilly group, members went on to play in many other bands after the band’s demise in the early nineties. Sadly, the bass player, Chris, died some years back and is terribly missed by the band and friends. To fill in on bass will be Jon Flynn, who was terrific friends with Chris and was the logical choice of fill-in for the reunion.

The Brisbane Rockabilly Scene 1984 to 1989

by Donna Simmonds

By 1984, Sydney and Melbourne had well established rock'n'roll and rockabilly scenes. Brisbane, on the other hand, was pretty quiet. Naturally there were rockabilly fans and even a few bands, such as The Rockadiles, The Treble Clefs and The Convertibles, but gigs were few and far between.

One significant gathering was “Rockabilly by the Pool” held at Musgrave Park in the Summer of ’84. It was where quite a few of Brisbane’s rockers first met. Cat Frankie and the Hot Lollies provided the live music.

For those of you who weren't around in the 80s, these were the days before eBay and Facebook – we were limited to old movies and mags to inspire our fashion and we did the hard yards trawling through musty op shops for vintage stuff. Mind you, more was to be found in op shops then! Thankfully there were also a couple of classic vintage shops in town, as well as Limbo down the coast.

So, there we were - a handful of guys'n'gals with hair held high by Silouette hairspray loping around the city, hanging out at Scoops ice-cream parlour and ‘White Chairs’ lounge bar in Elizabeth Street. Rockers used to gather at the top of the mall with other ‘subcultures’ such as ska skins, goths, punks and mods. We’d head up to the Tube Club and wait for the DJ, Johnny Griffin to play his rockabilly set.

Tired of just hanging about, we taught ourselves to dance and decided to organise our own gigs. Under the banner of the intangible 'Beboppers Inc', we organised a dance at The Buffalo Club and several at The Blind Hall in South Brisbane with a hired ‘50s jukebox and sometimes live music (thanks Cactus Fever!). We called it the ‘Jive Hive’.

Although there wasn’t much rockabilly happening, we did manage to see heaps of old blues guys who were touring Australia in the ‘80s. And we all took regular bus trips to Sydney and Melbourne for a dosing of live music and great markets.

But we wanted more! Although the Jive Hive was a hoot, 30 people through the door really wasn’t enough to sustain more gigs.

The Rebel Rockers was formed early in 1986 by three gals: Donna, Anna and Karen. We ran down the street after anyone with a quiff and convinced them to join! We organised social events and put together a mag with old school cut n paste and hand photocopying. Friends and members helped with artwork and wrote articles.

Hepcats at the Treasury Hotel made Friday nights exciting. The Convertibles played at the first Rebel Rockers dance - and 100 people turned up!

Then the Kustom Kroozers car club started up, and we raced to join it too! In Brisbane, the Rebel Rockers were approached often to provide dance demos – for TV, car shows, the opening of La Bamba, film clips for the Convertibles… On occasion, we also helped Geoff King out with the radio 4ZZZ Rock'n'Roll Show (that J'son continues to this day).

We had a blast with picnics (complete with soft drink in original bottles!), parties and dances held in halls. We always had live music for our dances and even secured Melbourne’s Dancehall Racketeers on one occasion – loved that support!

So between events by the Rebel Rockers and Kustom Kroozers, and the Convertibles starting to get regular gigs, things were looking up in Brisbane. But I headed overseas in 1989 and the Rebel Rockers club took a different path. Around that time, rockabilly in Brisbane really took off, but that story is for someone else to tell...

The Kustom Kroozers kicked off in the mid 1980's. It was a time when the radio stations were force-feeding us mindless ‘music’ like Milli Vanilli and clothing stores were trying to get us all into pink Lacoste shirts. It was all very uninspiring.

But on the flipside, the whole kustom kulture under-current was beginning to stir. As the punk scene started to fade, The Stray Cats opened the door to the rockabilly revival in the USA, along with Robert Gordon and The Blasters, while in the UK, The Specials and Madness were cranking up ska and teddy boy bands like Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers were laying down no-nonsense rock’n’roll.

In Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, there were scattered groups of rockabillies, mods, punks, rude boys and goths. There wasn’t anywhere central to hang out at, so we all gathered at a really cool shop in Surfers Paradise called Limbo, run by Darryl Miller, aka Baron Von Weirdo, and his delightful and very hep Mum, fondly known as Mrs M. Limbo was the only place where you could pick up a vintage shirt or dress, a drape jacket, old Levi's and a pair of blue suede creepers.

Kustom Kroozers came out of all these small tribes coming together at Limbo. It was a gathering of people living a lifestyle outside the mainstream who were into old cars, vintage clothes and cool music. It was a pretty broad church of misfits who made up Kustom Kroozers. There were never any committees or boring formalities. We simply weren't that type of outfit.

Regardless of which tribe we stemmed from, we all loved rockabilly music. Local bands back then brought the sounds of live rockabilly to those who would listen, and hopefully, dance. Most well known was The Convertibles, who honed their catchy sound and developed a faithful following with their incessant gigging and strong performances. Other bands playing in and out of South East Queensland included The Treble Clefs, The Rockadiles, The Reno Brothers, The Psyclones, The Café Racers, The Wildcards, The Shedmen, The Shakin’ Quavers, The V8 Vagabonds, The Patio Daddios and The Slingshots.

Most of the Kustom Kroozers were into buying and driving cars from the early 50's to the early 60's. They were cheap back then and made a great alternative to being stuck driving around in a sad little Laser.

Matt Keys & Andrea ready for the James Dean run

Von Weirdo was the main driving force behind the Kustom Kroozers. From his ‘Sugar Shack’ vintage store in Fingal NSW, he would organise gatherings such as The James Dean Rebel Run and the Elvis Memorial Weekend, as well as presenting the then two-day Wintersun with the Gold Coast Street Rodders. The Kustom Kroozers newsletter was a hand illustrated cut’n’paste job that oozed character and offered news and enticing events for like-minded car lovers.

  Von Weirdo today

Those that were around at the time have always stayed true to their credo too. Turning up to events such as GreazeFest today, you can still see a heap of the original crew from back then. They never sold out on their principles or their choice to live this kustom lifestyle.

   Kustom Kroozers Newsletter

Looking back at it all, regardless of which tribe people call their own, Kustom Kulture works today because as a group we all fit in together. It's a gathering of true individuals who all live outside the square while having a passion for cars, music and a personal style well outside of the mainstream. Essentially, that was what the Kustom Kroozers were all about.

    Lori Lee circa 1989 - Kustom Kroozer #77

The Wildcards
The Wildcards at Wintersun 1989 From left: Sean O'Driscoll (g), Jon Flynn (b), Marty Burke (d,v), Kev Weidmann (v), Phil Adams (g)

The Wildcards started out life as The Zorchmen in 1988 playing psychobilly. When Zorchmen drummer Tim O'Driscoll left the band, Tim Collett of The Convertibles introduced the band to drummer Marty Burke and the Wildcards were born.

Bass player Jon Flynn left the band and was replaced by Ben Ely, who was school mates with band members Phil and Kev. Johny Doooner also joined the band on harmonica. Notably, The Wildcards was Ben Ely's first band and he eventually went on to form Regurgitator.

The venues they frequented were The Orient Hotel, The Story Bridge Hotel and regular Sunday afternoons at St Pauls Tavern, often playing with The Shakin' Quavers. The band discontinued at the end of 1990.

Rockabilly in Brisbane in the 1990s

by Jon Flynn

The nineties marked a turning point of history for anyone who appreciates the atomic age as we do. It was the decade where people who were actually there in the 1950s, building the hot rods, making the music, living their prime years in that decade we love, started to turn into old people and die. It was a time when the common sight of a little old lady driving an immaculate old Holden started becoming rare. It was a time when all things fifties started to disappear from junk shops and reappear in antique stores. It was a time when the word vintage began to take over from the word junk. Rock'n'Roll George became an icon. It was the first time that if you met someone into the 50s, they were probably born in the 60s or 70s. It was the time when Generation X met the 'nineteen-fifties' for the first time.

The new decade promised a resurgence of interest for Brisbane rockabilly in particular. The late 80s saw the opening of 'big-buck' fifties venues such as Metropolis in the new Myer centre. Places like Johnny Rockets began to pop up. Even Hungry Jacks introduced themed decor. All this however did little to promote what we appreciate, and possibly just strengthened that cheesy imagery that comes to the minds of the mainstream when they hear the words 'rock'n'roll'. The club Rebel Rockers, which did so much to promote the real deal in Brisbane, changed president and committee. It's direction changed also. Within a few years, a plethora of rock'n'roll clubs formed, sometimes showing a questionable interpretation of what rock'n'roll was all about.

Musically, bands such as the The Reno Brothers, The Shakin' Quavers and of course, The Convertibles entered the 90s with the momentum that the 50s revival of the 80s had given them. The Convertibles (Tim Collett, Jim O'Brien, Andy Burnaway, Gary Carter) continued playing shows and gained an acceptance with mainstream and corporate audiences, thanks not only to their considerable musical talent, but also to the timely release of their 4-track vinyl EP and the numerous television appearances to promote it. The Reno Brothers (Andy Dashwood, Geoff Townsley, Rod Hines, Chris Adey), though not actually related were a quad of good friends keen to present the 'real deal': to authentically reproduce the image, sound and energy of the bands that went 40 years before them. They enjoyed a keen following at the time though with the departure of Andy to pursue a horse breaking career out west and the sad passing of Chris, it looked like The Reno Brothers would never play a show again.

The Shakin Quavers (Rupert Jenner, Jon Flynn, Dean Kendal) music began emanating from a shed in Verrierdale between Noosa and Eumundi in 1986. They released a self-titled EP in 1990. When the EP came to the attention of Mushroom Records, it resulted in a 'missed it by that much' opportunity to tour the world supporting the likes of Guns'n'Roses and The Stray Cats. Although disappointing at the time, it did illustrate the power of the trios music and probably had something to do with the fact that all three band members never gave up playing. Gigging regularly were The Cafe Racers (Phil Adams, Billy Pommer jr, Terry Stephens) and The Psychlones (Pony Gleeson, Tyron Shaw, Geoff Townsley, Phil Adams). The Psychlones notable for being Queensland's first pyschobilly band, with the possible exception of The Zorchmen in the late 80s.

By the mid nineties The Shakin' Quavers had disbanded, losing Rupert to the lure of the South. The Psychlones morphed into The Slingshots, blending pyschobilly with rockabilly and in the process becoming a local fav. During their final phase they introduced a young Dangerous Dan Nosovich to Brisbane roots music lovers. The Convertibles, as popular as they had been, also began playing fewer shows. With the demise of some of our favourites came the birth of bands like The V8 Vagabonds (Geoff Townsley, Josh Bambridge, Jon Flynn, Dean Kendal), Lonesome Junior (Doug Wilshire, Bill Mulcahey, Jon Flynn), and finally in 1999, The Chrome Daddies (Doug Wilshire, Jon Flynn, Geoff Townsley, Dave Fitz-Herbert) filled the void. The Chrome Daddies being one of the last Brisbane bands to hold the honour of having a long term residency at the legendary 'Bomb Shelter' prior to The Story Bridge Hotel's multi-million dollar renovation.

The Nineties as a whole were a decade when rockabilly bands could be heard playing anywhere from the same dives in town as any indy punk act to the lush surrounds of Snug Harbour at Dockside or Someplace Else at The Sheraton Hotel. Our town, though much smaller in population, was clearly defined by youth sub-cultures. So much so, it prompted publications such as The Sunday Mail to bring it to the attention of it's readers with stories like 'Tribes of our City' Everybody knew, it was the rockabilly clan who were coolest.

To me, the Nineties proved one thing beyond doubt; the style, music and feeling of the atomic age will always attract its disciples, despite whatever fickle trends come and go.