Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band
The photo that frames the page was taken at the ghost town of Linda of the road between Queenstown and Derwent Bridge in remote southwest Tasmania during one of our iconic Erratic bike rides, this one taken around 2015. Jim Nichols and Jo Beams moved to Queenstown after they left the band taking the Mulga Bill bus fitted with 8 bunks and a fully equipped kitchen with them. Does anyone know what happened to it next, and where our former Trans Otway bus finally ended up?
These brief notes were first assembled by Barry Golding and several other former members of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band in April 2016 based on documentary evidence and recollections. A 2022 update has been added towards the bottom of this page to summarise what most former Band members have done in the five decades since.
We are sharing this information as a resource for anyone who might be interested, originally prompted in 2016 by an interview-based ‘Concert’ organized by Rob Willis, National Library of Australia folklorist at the 50th National Folk Festival held in Canberra 24-28 March, 2016. The notes in the Festival Program (p.9) read:
CONCERT 2: “If we didn’t change we would all be rattling bones”
During the 1970s Australian fork revival, three of the most significant and trend setting bands were Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, Cobbers and SteamShuttle. Appearing at various pop and cultural festival ps gave them exposure to wider audiences and set the direction of many contemporary and later groups. Hear founding members John Armstrong [Cobbers] , Barry Golding [MBBB] and Graham Seal [SteamShuttle] with NLA folklorist Rob Willis in music and conversation on their roles in the evolution of Australian folk music and what they are doing now.
Barry Golding penned these April 2016 notes after discussion with several former band members: Chris Bettle, Elizabeth Eager and Clive Willman (to August 2022 Barry was still living in Kingston 3364, Victoria; Chris was living in Canberra, and Elizabeth and Clive were living in Castlemaine). We intend to progressively add other material, if there is interest and time. All of the band’s documentary records and original sound recordings are pre-internet and pre-digital, so this will take some time and effort.
Brief History of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band was perhaps the earliest, large, full time, Australian ‘folk revival’ band. It began in 1970 as an offshoot of The University of Melbourne Folk Club and played first as a nine-person group in Swan Hill, Victoria in August 1970. Most members of the initial band were at that time students at the university.
Over the full course of the band’s operation between 1970 and 1978, a total 20 members were at some stage part of the band. Only three original members: Tony Britz, Liz Eager and Barry Golding were there at the start and also at the end.
The hand drawn spreadsheet below (made in 1986 by Barry Golding as part of a ‘Mulga Bill reunion’ in Daylesford, Victoria in 1986) summarises who was in Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band between the first random gig (as a nine piece band in Swan Hill in 1970) to there end of the full time seven person band in mid 1975. It also includes those involved in the three radio programs recorded in the ABC Melbourne studios by the previous band members in 1976 (joined by Brian Gamble on drums).
Three core members of the original band, Tony Britz, Barry Golding and Liz Eager teamed up with the Ballarat-based Jacaranda Jumbuks to briefly become the ‘Mulga Bill Jacaranda Jumbuk Combo’ in 1978, and from 1980 Everyman and his dog which played for many weekend dances and other functions across the region around and beyond Ballarat for almost two decades. Other former members of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band teamed up to play with others in different combinations, but that’s a story for another day.
Spreadsheet of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band members, 1970-1975.
For the first two years the band played part time, mostly in and around Melbourne, gradually increasing the frequency, with 19 gigs in 1971 and 92 gigs in 1972.
The Polaris Inn in Nicholson Street, Carlton and functions at the Emu Bottom Homestead in Sunbury were amongst the regular gigs, but the band played at a wide range of other events in and around Melbourne including festivals, weddings, dances and concerts.
By late 1972 several members were finishing their studies and four members: Tony Britz, Liz Eager, Barry Golding and Peter McDonald decided to commit to the band and commence playing and touring full time. Liz Vincent who had been playing violin and Ian Sullivan who had been playing double bass, in what had by then been reduced to a six person band, decided they could not fully commit. This necessitated recruiting a new fiddle player, Chris Bettle and a new bass player, Marsh Robinson. Jo Beams also joined around this time as the band’s full time female vocalist and Jim Nichols joined as the band’s full time ‘roadie’. When Jo and Jim plus Peter McDonald left the band in late 1973 Clive Willman became the sound manager. Other members recruited to the band in 1974-5 included Peter Howell (double bass), Geoff O’Connell (electric bass and vocals), John Langmead and Lionel O’Keefe (guitar and vocals).
The year after the band formally disbanded in July 1975 the ABC Music Department approached the band in 1976 to record sufficient studio-based material for three 45 minute radio programs. This was a final opportunity for the six members of the final band line up to record much previously unrecorded concert performance material as well as to develop some new material. In doing so they were joined by Marsh Robinson (this time on guitar) and Brian Gamble (on drums). These programs, narrated by Chris Bettle, Liz Eager and Barry Golding were digitally remastered many years later by Barry’s son, Karri Golding and distributed mainly to former band members as three set CD.
All 33 items from the three programs (minus the narrative) are available for download.
The band’s most active touring within Australia occurred in the three years between mid-1972 and mid-1975. Before 1973 most of the band’s work involved one off gigs at a wide range of events including weddings, balls, festivals and gigs at hotels. The former Polaris Inn Hotel in Nicholson Street was a regular Friday night gig and the band did a lot of work for events at Emu Bottom in Sunbury. The band also appeared on HSV Channel 7 Penthouse Club as well at GTV 9’s Graham Kennedy Show. This was interspersed with other television spots, which in the pre-internet era were critically important to get wider national exposure including playing at The “Bellbird Ball” as part of the ABC series Bellbird.
Once the band went full time with eight members it was no longer able to make a living without extensive travel and touring, and they bought and fitted out a former bus with 8 bunks and a kitchen to live and tour in. Much of the core work in 1973 involved intensive concert tours for State Arts Councils across the whole of Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland. In 1973 the Band took the bus to NSW and spent a memorable week camping on the festival grounds at Nimbin during the 1973 Aquarius Festival. The half hour Australian TV documentary series Big Country featured the band during its 1973 Queensland tour (during which its LP record was also recorded). Being broadcast nationally, Big Country brought the band exceptionally valuable publicity.
The only overseas trip the band undertook was to play and represent Australia at the World Cup Soccer Final opening concert in Frankfurt, (West) Germany in June 1974.
In 1974 the band completed two repeat Arts Council tours of NSW and Queensland, the latter lasting eight weeks and covering much of the huge state. We were flown in to Cape York Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Weipa and Thursday Island, on a DC3. The band also completed extensive self organised tours of other Australian states including the Northern Territory (with their bus in 1973), in Western Australia (February 1974). South Australia (March 1975) and NSW (June-July 1995).
When back at base in Melbourne between tours the work was very intensive: mostly one off well paying gigs but also including regular bush dances we self organised at the Horticultural Hall near Melbourne’s Trades Hall.
By the time the band members collectively decided to cease in July 1975 the band had played in hundreds of towns and venues in the four eastern Australian states and was very well known nationally. The only state where touring was limited was Western Australia.
A map showing where the Mulga Bill’s Bicycle played across Australia between 1972 and 1978, below, gives some indication of the venues played, many of which were revisited. Credit for the original map to Clive Willman.
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band venues, 1972-78
The band produced two records. The first was an LP Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band: In Concert Recording (Basket, BBBS 002, 1974) recorded mostly live on tour in Queensland in 1973. Tracks from the LP are available free for download by clicking the link on the bottom of this page. The second record, released in 1974 was an EP Rum and Raspberry: Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band with four tracks (Clarion Studio, Melbourne recording, Stereo SF297B). Both records were paid for by the Band and were sold by us mainly at concerts across Australia between 1973 and 1975.
There are many reviews from Australian newspapers for Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band’s hundreds of concerts searchable amongst digitised newspapers on Trove (trove.nla.gov.au). Here is just one sample.
The Canberra Times: Monday 1 July 1974 p.8 by Garry Raffaele
Concert had an enjoyable bush air
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, Queanbeyan School Hall, Saturday night. It had all the feeling of one of your “bushie” dances, this concert given by the Mulga Bill Bicycle Band. Kids slept on coats thrown across seats while more adventurous couples accepted the band’s invitation to get up and dance. Mulga Bill’s value is that the group sustains a tradition of music, of Australian bush music which was in danger of lapsing. The music is essentially simple — the beat rarely ranges from a strict two-to the-bar or a thumping three four_— and the lyrics trace the issues of concern to the bullocky and the drover-and the shearer. It is above all, participation music, even if that means just a handclap. Yet, in that simplicity, the group is deceptive. Much work has obviously gone into the balancing of the voices and instruments that make up Mulga Bill. In spite of the balance the two which stood out were the fiddle of Chris Bettle and the flute of Elizabeth Eager. The strangeness of finding a flute in a traditional Australian band was mellowed by the control and touch Miss Eager brought to the lacy background work which was her main concern. The problem, from a musical point of view, is that the simplicity occasionally reflects as simplisticity. The recitation of ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’ was nothing more than an overplayed piece of hammish amateurism. Yet what can a critic say? The audience loved it all, from the exaggerated facial expressions to the sixth-form recitation. What Mulga Bill is all about (the band, that is) is communication. The bush melodies arc neatly patched together so as not to demand too much for a maximum response. It is joyful music and cannot be condemned for that. On the contrary, there is much to be said for a group which sets out, within a restricted framework, to do two things: to make people happy and to keep alive music which was fast becoming overgrown through disuse. This was not one of those concerts to approach cold bloodedly. The many who filled the back of the hall dancing kept the approach warm. Australian bush music comes, brashly but honestly, from its Irish, Scottish and English ancestry. It added not much of its own except a broad metre. Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band showed itself the master of this idiom (they did the Australian version of ‘Black Velvet Band’), but exercised that mastery with a real sense of enjoyment. It is enough, I think, when your audience is totally captivated. Anything more ambitious this music is just not designed to do.
LP tracks free to download
Live in Concert LP recorded in 1973 available for download here.
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, full time line up 1972-1976
‘Golden Anniversary’, Celebrated by Zoom, 3 August 2022
Barry Golding firstname.lastname@example.org added 24 August 2022
Incredibly, it is 50 years since Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band went on the road in 1972. I figured it was time to reflect on our time in the Band and particularly to reflect on and share what’s happened in our lives across five decades.
I contacted and invited all 15 people who were part of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, from the time it went into full time touring mode between 1972 and 1976, to join an informal 2022 ‘fifty-year’ Zoom conversation on the evening of 3 August 2022. In anticipation, I asked everyone to contribute a ‘few paragraphs’ for sharing that might help fill in some of the gaps in everyone’s lives, work and interests over the five decades since.
What follows is a lightly edited and slightly expanded version of what was generously contributed by most of those contacted in advance of our Zoom catch up during July 2022.
Chris Bettle’s sons, Joe and Reuben Bettle, who (along with their youngest brother Tom, who died several decades ago) were well known to the Band as young children and joined us on tour with Chris and also in Melbourne on several very memorable visits. Chris, Joe and Reuben live in Canberra in 2022. Rueben generously helped set up the Canberra end of the 3 August 2022 Zoom with Chris and joined us with Joe from Chris’s flat in Canberra.
Those who actually joined the Zoom conversation were Barry Golding, Chris Bettle (as well as Chris’s sons, Joe and Reuben), Clive Willman, Elizabeth Eager, Elizabeth Vincent, Geoffrey O’Connell, Jim Nichols, John Langmead, Peter Howell and Peter McDonald. Those not able to join for a range of reasons were Tony Britz and Ian Sullivan, Marsh Robinson, Mati Jo Beams and Anne Patterson. However Tony, Ian and Anne gladly and generously provided words included in this account. Lionel O’Keefe died in 2014.
You’ll find my fairly comprehensive, illustrated account of the history of the Band penned around a decade ago at https://barrygoanna.com/mulga-bills-bicycle-band/ . It includes a table summarising who was in the Band’s line up from 1970 and when, a map of all the places the Band played across Australia as well as the following one paragraph summary of who did what with the band between 1972 and 1976.
By late 1972 several members were finishing their studies and four members: Tony Britz, Liz Eager, Barry Golding and Peter McDonald decided to commit to the band and commence playing and touring full time. Liz Vincent who had been playing violin and Ian Sullivan who had been playing double bass, in what had by then been reduced to a six person band, decided they could not fully commit. This necessitated recruiting a new fiddle player, Chris Bettle and a new bass player, Marsh Robinson. Jo Beams also joined around this time as the band’s full time female vocalist and Jim Nichols joined as the band’s full time ‘roadie’. When Jo and Jim plus Peter McDonald left the band in late 1973, Clive Willman became the sound manager. Other members recruited to the band in 1974-5 included Peter Howell (double bass), Geoff O’Connell (electric bass and vocals), John Langmead and Lionel O’Keefe (guitar and vocals).
Ian Sullivan (1970-1972 & NSW 1974)
Ian, living in the Kyneton area in 2022, played double bass in the early Band until early 1972, later joined one of the Band’s NSW country tours (filling in between Marsh and Geoff) and contributed greatly to many of the Band’s early tunes and musical arrangements. Ian recently wrote as below:
I may be a Boomer but am not a Zoomer so please make me an apology for August 3rd. I hope there may be some stored record for this to view live or afterwards. What follows may be of some interest.
I have very fond memories of the Band’s early days in the share houses of Parkville and Fitzroy, and the excursions out to Sunbury for functions at Emu Bottom Homestead and of course the Friday nights at the Polaris Inn Hotel in North Carlton. Here the audiences were enthusiastic: party pies were served at 10 pm. and we earned $7 for the performance.
I decided not to proceed with the touring Band beyond 1972. Next came several years of studying music, teaching science and music and performing around the Melbourne freelance music scene. This was a very diverse time and I now see it helped me establish my very varied interests. Seeking something more stable and long term, I was fortunate to join the technical staff of what is now Victoria University in Footscray and became Laboratory Manager in the Chemistry and Biology Department. Again, a role which suited me with its diversity of technical, administrative and school liaison tasks. I was able to keep up some music performance, but when Pat and I moved from inner Melbourne to Gisborne this largely dried up.
The job was enjoyable but suffered from the higher education ‘disease’ of the 1990’s with the arrival of those who delight in restructuring departments and planning grand relocations to different campuses. It was time for a move, so we began more active planning for a tree change farther away from Melbourne out to a 40-acre block near Kyneton. While still working we decided to “save the world” by planting 5,000 native trees. They would, we were assured, absorb carbon and with various grants could augment our superannuation. It was satisfying to achieve the planting and watch them grow, but there were great learnings. Native trees don’t seem to grow cleanly and straight, they can be prone to disease, and wattles especially can die early and fall over easily. I sometimes think they are now emitting more carbon than they absorb.
The Horticulture was more successful and for ten years we sold high quality vegetables and fruit around the Macedon Ranges Farmers Market scene trading as ‘Duck Puddle Farm’. It was very satisfying to take part in the “Local Food Revolution” as the signs declared and have many repeat customers. So, we learned it could be done. It was very hard work, and we certainly didn’t become rich! We have toyed with a complete downsizing, but at present are looking at agisting other people’s animals to keep the grass down and enjoying both the sense of space yet having the convenience of the nearby towns of Kyneton and Woodend.
I could end there, having written the few paragraphs Barry mentioned in his original email. However, he also asked us to include anything else which has been occupying us over the years. The following could be a bit indulgent, but here it is.
I began performing music by playing tea chest in a bush band. The repertoire was the standard fare of the “jolly, jolly jumbuck” school – cattle, sheep, wool, convicts and bushrangers. This all seemed quite natural as at school I was taught that in 1813, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains and eventually reached a spot where they could see boundless plains before them. It was terra nullius with no one there! A perfect place for lots of cattle and sheep. And so the settlers came with their livestock and naturally various forms of European music followed. It was not until I heard, perhaps on the NSW tour, Chris Bettle’s ‘Cloncurry’ composition, largely for solo violin and based on his impressions of the conflicts between Aborigines and settlers in the 1880’s. It was, I recall, based on the clashes with the Kalkadunga Nation in which as many as 900 Kalkatunga warriors died.
Some might expect a statement about how this was a lightning bolt of instant enlightenment about Aboriginal dispossession, but this was not the case. I was rather naive about what all this stood for and only dimly aware of its implications. Later on I did wonder how such performances might have been received by concert organisers and audiences on outback tours and only got occasional feedback that the reception may not have been enthusiastic.
I have been reading about European colonial adventures for some years now, mainly in Africa and not in Australia. Only very recently did I find Barry’s article ,“My experiences of Aboriginal Australia through music and song”. He admitted that his writings can be confronting and says he now views the repertoire of the Band at that time as often “cringeworthy, felt “increasingly fraudulent” and thought the outback communities wanted the “Aboriginal past and present” to be “out of sight”. He suggested the band as then being in something of a cultural “cul de sac” and at worst perhaps spreading a “cultural lie”.
I continue to ponder this issue a lot and will probably waiver a lot over time. At present I would say I’m greatly in sympathy, but have some reservations about Barry’s strong terms. I’m more inclined to say that the Band’s repertoire was “incomplete”. (Yes, I know this could be a cop out). It was, of course, representative of similar bands of the time performing a similar repertoire.
I have two recommendations to conclude. Firstly is Barry’s blog at www.barrygoanna.com
for much very interesting reading. Secondly is Jan Wozitzky’s website at www.janwozitzky.com.au. Jan was a founding member of the Bushwacker’s Band which began soon after Mulga Bill. Jan has developed a broad ranging concert program for diverse audiences which incorporates colonial songs with elements of the Gallipoli legend and includes Aboriginal perspectives. It appears to be, in modern terms, an inclusive repertoire. Thank you for reading if you’ve got this far.
Elizabeth Vincent (1970-1972)
Elizabeth Vincent played violin in the Band before Chris Bettle joined in 1972. Elizabeth in 2022 was still teaching violin in Melbourne and living in Camberwell. She participated in many orchestras and musical groups over the four decades, and also maintains strong connections to several Melbourne schools and universities by virtue of her roles as a violinist, music teacher, lecturer and music coordinator, as Elizabeth reflected on in these contributed words.
Fifty Years on! That expression reflects half century of living life to the fullest. After Mulga Bill, music making continued in various guises. There was the folk music with friends as usual. Studying at Latrobe University led to another set of players, especially jam sessions with Bushwhackers and Bullockies characters and playing concerts with Peter Parkhill, the singer. Even though Mathematics was officially meant to be the primary focus of study, lessons resumed in classical violin. The calling of music making rang loudly, so studying at the newly established Victorian College of the Arts enabled a new dimension of development to ensue. There, after studying with eminent Nathan Gutman for years, private study was continued with Mary Nemet, Valerie Klimov and Leonard Dommett. I became orchestral Leader of a number of symphony and string orchestras, including Melbourne Youth Orchestra and Victorian College of the Arts Orchestra, Chamber Strings of Melbourne and the Amati String Orchestra. I also represented Australia in the Herbert von Karajan International Youth Orchestra in Berlin (1976).
Professional music commitments came rapidly with performances as professional violinist including with the Elizabethan Trust Orchestra (now State Orchestra of Victoria), ABC Showband, Melbourne Musicians, Victorian Concert Orchestra, and the Alan Lee Jazz Quartet. (Recordings include “Gallery Concerts” on Cherry Pie Label, “Something Special Series” on ABC Television. The huge touring commitments created a different lifestyle and a scenario of being away from home at critical moments created the desire to stay put in Melbourne. Following the death of my father, Edward Vincent, apart from other significant events, and being offered the violin teaching position at Melbourne Grammar as the then Head of Music, Harry Hutchins, intended to retire, a teaching career at this stage emerged. It was a fantastic opportunity to take on a full-time position in a well renowned school. At the time I did not realise what a huge turning point this was to be within my career and personal life. More solo violin study resumed as a professional player with Kek-tjiang Lim.
As part of the teaching role, I became an orchestral conductor particularly of string orchestras. Study in education areas soon followed especially in the Faculty of Education at Monash University with the mentorship of Anne McDougall. I became interested in the use of computers and education and mathematics education. More study continued. An opportunity to tour with the Melbourne Grammar orchestra to USA also provided the sideline opportunity to meet with pioneers in computer music education at MIT, especially Jeanne Bamberger and Jeremy Rochelle. Jeanne had worked with Seymour Papert in developing Music Logo. I came back to Melbourne armed with extraordinary bits of resources and set about doing further research in this area in the Australian context. This also changed my mind set to music education. It was through the study of computer music education that I became interested in the memorization of music and the approach that Dr Suzuki took in the Talent Education program for violinists.
I continued as a conductor and tutor for orchestral sections, especially string ensembles with Melbourne Youth Music Council of Victoria and adviser, coordinator for the string program for the Richmond Community Scheme in conjunction with Melba Conservatorium and Richmond Council and also functioned as adjudicator for local eisteddfods. I took on further Lecturing and supervision of postgraduate students in mathematics and computer education, as well as music, at various universities and established curriculum and programs for foundation students for the University of Melbourne. This combination of lecturing and raising family, Eugenia and Caterina, with husband Nicholas Pacitti was inconsistent with maintaining a well organised existence. At this stage I returned to primary and secondary teaching. Various appointments, especially at Christ Church Grammar, ICA, Southern Cross Grammar and MLC Academy and Day school renewed my interest in solo violin playing. Students were assessed in the AMEB, ABRSM examinations and Suzuki graduations with outstanding success. Involvement in the Suzuki Association increased with teaching at Suzuki Association of Victoria events and as member of the Violin Committee for the association. This has been a relentless passion to share the skills of music making with young students. The pleasure from their success has been fulfilling not only intellectually but also as being part of their extended families. At this present time, I am continuing to be employed with full time loading as a teacher working mostly at the venues of Christ Church Grammar (South Yarra), MLC Kew and in private practice located at Christ Church Hawthorn and living in Camberwell, Victoria. I still enjoy the company of beautiful animals and dog showing. Early on there were the salukis, later there were bearded collies and now we have Rosie the whippet and a cat Samantha.
Peter McDonald (1970-1973)
Peter played guitar, was also an important vocalist in Mulga Bill, and played an important role with Tony Britz in the Band’s early formation, which revolved around members of the then Melbourne University Folk Club, ‘MUFOLK’. Here is Peter’s story, broadly compartmentalised into ‘Music’, ‘Work’ and ‘Family’.
MBBB: how special it was, how privileged we were and what a wonderful experience it was. A unique experience. Right place right time – maybe. However, the evolution of the band followed a series of events and opportunities that were present and we took them. We gave it a go, and indeed, it was well worth it. A very memorable experience. A ticket to some lifelong friendships.
In 1974, Ian Huxley of ‘Tipplers All’ from Castlemaine and I started The Maldon Folk Festival. We ran it for five years and then others took over. The festival continues and has expanded into a major annual event. In the same year, lured by the need to play, I formed a part-time band: ‘The General Store’ with John Leahy, Kevin O’Connor, Chris Wendt, Maureen Andrew and Geoff Boyd. Peter Howell stood in for Geoff on occasions.
In 1975 I was invited by The Victorian Arts Council together with Dave Isom (founding member of ‘The Bushwackers’) to perform with two actors in ‘The All Australian Pub Show’, a good fun rampage through 100 years of Aussie history. As part of this tour, Dave and I did a show for primary kids (under the name of ‘The Sundowners’), while the actors performed a show for the senior high school kids. Of an evening we performed ‘The Pub Show’. We toured Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and on and off for over three years throughout Victoria. It was a great experience.
Dave and I continued with kids shows in 1976 as ‘The Sundowners’ and also expanded the line-up to enable us to do evening gigs. We were joined by Brendan Power, Geraldine Power and Jack Fenelon. We played mostly in Melbourne with some touring in country Victoria. It was around this time that I was employed by the Education Department, teaching guitar part- time in an experimental program at Thornbury Technical School.
Another group emerged during this latter period, ‘The Jeff Kennett Blues Band’ with John Leahy and Peter Moloney. Very much a ‘music for pleasure’ group with tight harmonies and good fun. The name emerged through doing fundraisers for Kevin O’Connor’s branch of the ALP! For the next 30 years, music was for pleasure rather than being an all-consuming activity.
In 2019-20 I volunteered to teach ukulele with Bayside U3A. I was one step ahead of the group, many of whom had never played an instrument before. It was a rewarding experience that introduced me to the potential of this versatile and portable little instrument.
I have attended many of the Top Half Folk Music Festivals in Alice Springs and Darwin since the 1980’s, and of recent times have been hosting the ‘Poets Breakfast’ segment. Last year (2021), following the festival in Darwin, a group of fellow musicians: Scott Balfour, Bob Barford and Jeff Corfield and partners set sail for a tour of The Kimberley. We played for our supper as ‘The Sundowners’ at numerous caravan parks and casually around campfires – memorable times with good friends. I’m currently an active member of the Longbeach Ukelele Club (‘Lukes’) based in Mentone, Melbourne.
By 1978, I succumbed to the need to get a ‘proper job’ and put ‘paid’ music to rest, becoming a youth worker with the Community Youth Support Scheme (a then Commonwealth Government initiative) at West Heidelberg. This was followed by a Behavioural Science degree at LaTrobe Uni in 1981-2 (getting serious now!!) then working as a counsellor with The Alcohol and Drug Foundation, where, together with a group of co-workers from the various states, we pioneered the development of the concept of Employee Assistance Programs in Australia. It was exciting times. In 1986 I took on a role as a rehabilitation counsellor at Ford Motor Company, moving in 1988 to work with a management consultancy company doing training work in frontline management, teambuilding and workplace safety. This experience was a turning point in my life towards satisfying my mother’s desire that I get a ‘proper job’. More importantly, I loved the work so much that I decided to start my own business in that arena which I ran for the following thirty years. I travelled extensively as I would say, “from Christchurch to Djakarta”, running training programs with many and various businesses. A key segment of the work was in running leadership and frontline management programs with The Australian Institute of Management for a period of over 15 years.
Pam and I were married in 1982. We live in suburban Hampton, Melbourne. We are both no longer in the paid work environment (says he avoiding to use the dreaded ‘R word’), and we wonder how the hell we survived work and family life and all that it entails. We’ve never been busier and enjoying it. My 2022 interests are about playing and listening to a variety of music, travelling, reading, enjoying the company of good friends, ‘fixing things up’ and with an air of optimism and inspired by the spirit of George Burns, continuing to buy green bananas!
Tony Britz (1970-1975)
Tony played banjo and was an important vocalist in Mulga Bill. In 2022, Tony lives in Ulverstone in north western Tasmania but with a bush property nearby at Loongana that Alison and Tony regularly visit.
Musically, I haven’t done much since Mulga Bill in the way of “heavy lifting” except for some community fund raising, playing with a local bush band (1980s) and writing some satirical ditties in the work setting. I lived at St Arnaud in the mid 70’s. Whilst visiting my brother in Vermont USA, I was informed that I had been successful in my application for the two-year Social Work post graduate course at Latrobe Uni . After graduation I worked at Janefield, an institution for people with intellectual disabilities at Bundoora. ‘Emigrating’ to Tasmania in 1980 from Melbourne was a challenging leap :environmentally, socially, politically and culturally.
At “the end of the road” in a remote valley location in NW Tasmania not far north of Cradle Mountain as the eagle flies, we eventually found ourselves custodians of a bush property of 300 acres. An ‘untamed’ river on one boundary, the landscape dotted with limestone caves and tall white gums. The “Good Life“ was upon us. Interest in the local native plants and animals led to connections with local field naturalists and birding groups. We would go on to have a permanent nature covenant placed on the majority of the property for the protection of the unique and endangered wildlife and their habitats. This is an ongoing commitment.
So, by moving to Tasmania post Lake Pedder, at that time, we were placed fairly and squarely in the midst of the ensuing environmental campaigns, the Franklin, local environmental battles, forest ‘wars’, Wesley Vale Pulp Mill, Tamar Pulp Mill (Gunns) and the emergence of the Greens as political party. So much for a quiet country life! Challenging times politically.
Meanwhile, I found employment (1980-2010) as a Social Worker in hospitals, rehabilitation and community health. This involved working in regional centres such as Burnie and Devonport, so we re-located for convenience down to Ulverstone on the coast, whilst maintaining the bush property. There have been several road trip holidays and “temporary re-locations” to the Mainland for periods of 12 months or more re-connecting with relatives and employment, at Bendigo Hospital, Frankston Hospital, and as a mobile disability worker in Northern NSW (Brunswick Heads) etc. On my return to Tasmania my work included Child Protection and Youth Justice.
Since retiring, I have gone grey, and only ride the bike occasionally. However, I keep active with vegie gardening, nature walks, environmental weeding and bird watching, partaking in Wader Bird counts for Birdlife Tasmania, contributing to local natural values data. Local environmental challenges seem to be ongoing for the property: a proposed new high-voltage transmission lines originating from a new proposed Wind Farm on Robbins Island (environmentally unsustainable even in the climate change emergency) threatening biodiversity and carving up our valley. Bordering industrial forestry clearfelling of native forests for plantations is also a constant environmental threat … (Don’t get me started!)
I would have to say that being in Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band was a unique experience and was one of the most formative times of my life. On reading Barry’s detailed timeline of locations and events for the band, I said to myself: “Did we really do all that and travel to all those places?” So: “We’ve cracked our jokes and had our fun, and done our share of toiling, and we hope the folk that carry on, will keep the billing boiling.” (Anon?)
Barry Golding (1970-1975)
Barry played lagerphone, was a vocalist and sometimes played the guitar in Mulga Bill. Around five years after the Band split up, Barry and Jan married in 1981 and have lived in the now fully renovated former Shire Hall in the tiny Victorian hamlet of Kingston since 1980.
I’ve got a multifaceted website www.barrygoanna.com that you can explore if you are interested. My academic and professional post-Band interests moved on from my previous field in geology, grazing through wildlife research into tree hollow dependent wildlife (and a Master of Environmental Science) to secondary teaching in Ballarat, Daylesford and Humpty Doo (in the NT) after doing a Dip Ed and an Arts Degree in Philosophy and Feminism. My PhD at University of Melbourne (researching TAFE and higher education) led to almost three decades of work as a researcher and academic in Ballarat. I finished paid work seven years ago at the University in Ballarat as a Professor of Adult Education, but continue as a research active Honorary Professor and Patron of the Australian Men’s Shed Association.
My research had increasingly gravitated over the decades from formal education to informal learning in community settings, mainly focussed on older men. I’ve researched internationally and published widely, including books titled ‘Men learning through life’ (UK, 2013), ‘The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men’ (US, 2015) and ‘Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement’ (US, 2021).
I no longer play music and a few years ago decided that riding the Band’s penny farthing bicycle (which I still own) was becoming too dangerous. For a decade into the 1980s I played with the Ballarat-based band, ‘Everyman and his Dog’ (including Liz) until we finally got the message: one of our last gigs was for ‘The Hearing Impaired Ball’ in Ballarat, and it paid just enough to pay for the hire of the PA. I’m now a passionate gardener, long distance bike rider and bush walker: my goal each week is to do 300km on the road bike. Local contact history with First Nations peoples is my main community research interest. The Great Dividing Trail connecting Daylesford with Castlemaine, Bendigo, Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh is my invention and one of my proudest ongoing legacies, now retrofitted also for mountain bikes.
Jan (who worked in community health) and I have three children and two grandchildren (Eli 2 & Ruby 4). Our eldest son, Dajarra is a Melbourne-based secondary school teacher, currently taking a year off to do the ‘Big Lap’. Our second son, Karri, has worked for two decades with bicycles, now doing a mid-life degree in environmental and outdoor education. Our youngest lawyer daughter, Tanja is currently climbing serious mountains in multiple sites around Australia living in her self-fitted out van.
Elizabeth Eager (1970-1975)
Elizabeth played flute and also mandolin in the band, and contributed the following brief account of life since.
After working in Creswick at the School of Forestry, I returned to Melbourne University to complete a science degree, then did post-graduate work in microbiology. I moved to Sydney to join a team at Sydney Water doing research into problems with drinking water. In 1995 I returned to Victoria, living first on a farm near Chiltern in the northeast, then moving to Castlemaine to begin married life with Clive.
Here there were many opportunities for music-making: playing classical repertoire with another flautist and a cellist, playing in the pit for musicals and singing in choirs. At the start of 2021 the flute was put down and hasn’t been missed since. I’m actively involved with Castlemaine Landcare Group and occasionally get involved with local planning matters.
Mati Jo Beams (1972-1973)
Mati Jo Beams, a vocalist in the Band was invited to participate in the 2022 Zoom event. Mati Jo responded warmly and positively via phone to Barry but apologised that she was unable join us for the Zoom session. Nevertheless, Jo fondly recalled her times and experiences in Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band. Jo has lived in the Byron Bay area for several decades, contributing as a singer to concerts and also to community choirs. Jo had two children (Amy and Matt) with Jim Nichols whilst they were living in Tasmania during the late 1970s and 1980s, initially in Queenstown (where the big Mulga Bill bus ended up) and later south of Hobart.
Chris Bettle (1972-1975)
Given that this 50-year ‘catch up’ in 2022 was organised by Barry as something of a surprise for Chris, the words that follow about Chris (as well as Chris’s sons Rueben & Joe) were penned by Barry.
Chris answered an advertisement for a fiddle player in Mulga Bill, replacing Elizabeth Vincent in 1972 as the band went full time. Chris, originally from Newcastle on Tyne in England, came to Armidale with then wife Maureen believe it or not, to do a higher degree in ruminant agronomy at UNE. They had three children: Joe, Rueben and Tom. Chis worked for a while at the Carlton and United brewery and also as a brake mechanic at Paton’s Brakes in Carlton.
Since Mulga Bill, Chris has lived in Canberra for many decades, where his sons, Reuben (now 47) and Joe (now 49) and also former wife, Maureen, also live. Chris somehow picked up a pretty amazing government job close to the centre of power in Australia. His role included responsibility for maintaining the architectural and design integrity of the new Parliament House after it was built. When this job finished, Chris moved to his own second storey apartment in Campbell, south east of the Australian War Memorial, now delightfully decorated on almost every surface by photos and memorabilia. A hand injury led Chris to give up the violin, but for many years he joyfully played the pipe organ in church settings.
Chris is still a very active participant in AA which he credits for his survival. Over the decades he has taken an active interest in the Walter Burley Griffin’s design and town planning legacy, particularly as it applies to Canberra. Given his location in Canberra, Chris retains an active interest in a wide range of music, the arts, museums and libraries. Not owning a car, he has explored most of Canberra by foot or via public transport, but in recent times has been faced with heart and mobility issues.
Chris’s son Rueben and his wife Jane are in 2022 based in Canberra. Rueben has spent much of his working life involved in IT and has also had a long and active interest in rowing. He currently works for a company called ‘LAB3’ as ‘Director of Federal Government, Australia’, with the following online job description:
Reuben champions LAB3 engagements across the federal government. He drives innovation to support organizations achieve their transformation goals, from legacy infrastructure to cloud services. Located in Canberra, over his career Reuben has held leadership roles providing technology to the government. He understands the pressures to provide better, smarter, and simpler public services, within budget constraints and to meet high levels of accountability.
Joe Bettle is Chris’s eldest son. Joe has worked largely in hospitality as a cook over the decades and also lives in Canberra.
Marsh Robinson (1972-1974)
Marsh, who played double bass and also guitar in the Band decided not to join the 2022 Zoom sessions or to contribute some paragraphs. Ian Sullivan, Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band double bass player before 1972, added these pertinent recollections about Marsh being recruited to the band from Chadstone in Melbourne when Ian stepped aside.
I can still recall the day in 1972 when I asked my Double Bass teacher at the time, Tom Howley, if he knew of anyone who would be interested in a full time touring bass job. He replied that he had a student named Marsh who was unhappily enrolled in an Engineering course at the then Caulfield Institute of Technology. He gave me his ‘phone number and the rest is history. I don’t know the reaction of the Robinsons, but I guess he was not cut out to be an engineer. I recall Marsh was playing with a group called ‘Yasmin and the Tea Leaves’ and see on the ‘net he is in Toowoomba still playing bass.
Marsh and Colleen in 2022 live at Torquay, a coastal suburb on Harvey Bay in the Fraser Region. Marsh retired after a long career as a music teacher a few years ago and has been Twitter user since 2014. Marsh’s profile at https://twitter.com/melaleuca1000 includes a photo and words as follows: Retired music teacher. Bleeding heart. Hate the LNP and all they stand for. Wish the religious could keep their beliefs in their pants, out of everyone else’s.
Jim Nichols (1972-73)
Jim Nichols, originally from Walcha in the New England Tablelands, was recruited to the Band in 1972 as an Armidale friend of Chris’s to become the Band’s sound person, bus driver, roadie, whatever. Jim penned the following.
Since leaving the Band life has continued to be good and interesting. I have mostly worked in Adult Education including stints in Queenstown, Tasmania, Hobart and then in Lismore, NSW. I ran the College in Hobart and in Lismore.
After resigning the Lismore position, I continued as a trainer over more than 10 years. My main project was Certificate IV in TAE [Training, Assessment & Evaluation] and also trained in Frontline Management and the Library course when we offered it at the ACE College in Lismore.
A few of us got a band going in the eighties called Buckley’s Chance. My other interest since 1983 has been Aikido [a Japanese martial art]. I reached a high level in Hobart and again in Byron Bay. I finally opened my own dojo [martial arts hall] in Alstonville until COVID 19 blocked us out.
During this time, I have also raised three children. Amy has been in London for many years and is finally coming home at the end of 2022. Matt has been in Melbourne for a long time and Bronwen moved from Melbourne to Mullumbimby as a lawyer and promptly was flooded out in February 2022. There are three grandchildren: Khaya, Ani and Nia. I now live in Tregeagle outside Lismore with Anne and sometimes Anne’s daughter Emily who has mostly transferred to Melbourne for university.
Jim and partner Anne McDermott have lived and worked in the Lismore – Byron Bay area for many decades, largely in the field of adult, vocational and community education. For several decades they were on acreage with a macadamia plantation out of Alstonville, but have recently downsized closer to Lismore at Tregeagle. Jim explains as follows:
More that 24 acres [at Alstonville] was too much mowing so we have moved to 5 acres which is enough for 3 horses. The work continues because there were few horse amenities here [for Anne’s Dressage passion] and so now an arena has been put in plus stables. The next job is fencing. Luckily, we were above the flood zone when it hit Lismore [in 2022] so that was a relief.
Clive Willman (1974-1975)
Clive, a good friend of Barry’s who completed a joint Geology Honours thesis in the Walhalla area with Barry, was originally recruited to the Band to manage sound and lighting when Jim moved on.
After Mulga Bill I moved to Castlemaine with the dream of building a mudbrick house, which somehow had not seemed a possibility in Carlton! Come 1980 the house was built, and then unexpectedly, geology came knocking on the door. I spent several years at Chewton’s Wattle Gully gold mine, an old fashioned mine with a shaft, hand trucks and crusty characters. Forty-two years later I’m still working in geology trying to unravel the history of the Earth and hoping to find a little gold along the way.
Castlemaine proved to be a good choice as a place to live: the energetic community, wonderful natural environment and diverse cultural life. Elizabeth Eager joined me in here in 1996 and we’re both very busy with Landcare and other projects. My experience in Mulga Bill encouraged my lifelong interest in sound and images, so for the past 17 years I’ve been making films about geology, both for my own satisfaction, and sometimes for government departments. Liz and I have made a few short films together, one on a landscape artist and another on a book conservator. Apart from that I’m involved in local groups such as the Buda historic house.
I remember my time in Mulga Bill with great affection. It was very important in opening my mind to Australia in the 1970s, and particularly to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities we visited. Some of our films can be accessed at this YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClcZXBMeHSw-4BwOfVQPK_g
Clive won’t tell you this, but there is a lovely account of Clive’s significant contribution to Victorian geology, publicly acknowledged by him being awarded the Geological Survey of Victoria’s prestigious ‘Selwyn Medal’: see https://www.gsavic.org/willman.html. Mulga Bill even gets a mention!
Peter Howell (1974)
Peter was recruited to Mulga Bill from Melbourne, playing double bass, having beforehand played in many groups and venues including Frank Traynor’s Folk and Jazz Club in Melbourne (which closed in 1975). Peter, who now lives on Raymond Island in Gippsland, penned some words in the form of a list, below, under the heading ‘Highlights of a Great Time’.
I’ve made a very short list of things I’ve been up to. My apologies to anyone I may have offended in the past! Played with some great people over the past 50 years or so including: Phil Manning, Broderick Smith, Dutch Tilders, Margret Roadknight, Eric McCusker, The Whirling Furphies, Bert Jansch; Played on over 100 albums across many styles; Worked with Ian Noyce [a luthier from Ballarat] making guitars. Had my own business painting old homes; Designed and built my own semi acoustic double bass with Ian Noyce; six Years working in disability for TAFE in Gippsland supporting students with learning problems. Currently living on Raymond Island where I spend my days recording and producing for people from here to England.
John Langmead (1974-1975)
John has covered a lot of ground over the decades since playing guitar and singing with Mulga Bill, but in retirement has recently made a sea change to Apollo Bay in Victoria. These are his words in 2022.
After leaving Mulga Bill in early 1975, and after a month’s stint as a tractor driver on gardening duties in the Fitzroy gardens, I hitch-hiked to Queensland where I found employment at the Mackay slipway. It was there that I met the new owner/builder of a 42 foot ketch who was temporarily stranded on a mooring there as he had no crew. So I sailed with him on his yacht around the Whitsundays for three months. My next gainful employment was as a resident singer in a tourist hotel in Mackay. That was where I met Liz. We travelled around Queensland a bit then went to New Zealand on a working holiday together for about three months.
During 1976 and for the first half of 1977 I worked for the Victorian Education Department in various unsatisfying music education roles. I gained my private pilot licence in that period then resigned from the Education Department. My next career move was three months as assistant stage manager for the Victorian State Opera during the rehearsal period and the performance in the Princess Theatre of the Debussy opera Pelleas and Melisande. In late 1977 I headed north again for an extensive trip: this time in a hired Cessna 182 with a couple of friends to test out my new pilot licence.
Feeling the need for regular employment and an address other than post restante [X] to impress Liz that I was a better prospect than my life trajectory between 1975 and 1977 suggested, I contacted the Minister for Education in each of the states with vast remote areas, offering my services in a unique but as yet non-existent position the specifications of which I spelt out for them. It essentially involved me utilising my teaching qualification, my thorough knowledge of three chords on the guitar and my private pilot’s licence to bring music to children in remote areas. The South Australian Education Department decided, remarkably, to hire me to take up the position it created in accordance with my suggestion, and based me at Port Lincoln. Liz moved there with me and worked as a nurse in the local hospital.
We spent three wonderful years (1978-80) on the Eyre Peninsula. I flew musicians and other performing artists to remote settlements throughout South Australia (including to many Aboriginal communities), with the occasional foray into Northern Territory. I also flew hang gliders during those years when the sport was in its infancy. That period was followed by two years in Adelaide (1981-2). During this period I improved my flying qualifications by studying and training for a commercial pilot licence and instructor rating. I did some charter flying and flight instruction on the side, eventually obtaining a grade 1 instructor rating. I have logged over 2,700 flying hours total.
1983-1986 were spent studying Law full time at Melbourne University. We had a one year old (daughter Jess) when this project commenced and her sister Georgina was born in early 1987. We survived by Liz working nightshift as a nurse during the academic year, and me working as a flying instructor each summer break for three months.
Following Articles at a Melbourne law firm in 1987, I went straight to the Victorian Bar in 1988. I worked full time as a barrister for a little over 33 years and retired in the middle of 2021. I was appointed QC in 2001. I specialised in all facets of aviation law and prosecution of contempt of court charges. Apart from those specialisations, I had a general commercial practice. The aviation law component regularly took me to courts right around Australia. The contempt practice was interesting, and a highlight perhaps was being briefed by the Attorney General of Samoa to prosecute the leader of the opposition for contempt of court. That was a colourful and exotic case and experience. I appeared in courts and tribunals in Australia from magistrates’ courts to the High Court.
Liz and I now live in Apollo Bay, with Magpie, our cross Border Collie/Koolie pup. We have kept a small house in Melbourne as we visit there regularly to see our daughters and five grandchildren. As for general interests, in addition to flying hang gliders (which I still do in the ridge lift along the coastal hills and cliffs of the Great Ocean Road), sailplanes and aeroplanes (which I no longer do), I ride a motorbike. My current bike is a BMW R1200GS which in 2010 I rode around Australia. It’s a 2008 model and currently has over 238,000kms on the clock. I have fallen into the habit of riding to the beautiful and spectacular Flinders Ranges in SA regularly, with my 5th trip completed in May this year.
I ran a lot to keep fit as a young bloke, but for the last 30 years or so swimming has been my main sporting activity. I swim daily in the ocean at Apollo Bay all year round. In 2017 I swam across the Rip at the heads of Port Phillip Bay with five other swimmers and a kayaker. I also have a surf ski in the shed on which I ride waves in the bay when conditions are right.
The Tama guitar I played with Mulga Bill and for years before and after my time with the band, was an imitation Martin. In the 1990s I finally bought a Martin 000-28H which is a sweet instrument. I play it most days, with the same set of fingerpicks I had when with the band. I rarely touch a flat pick. The Martin is mostly in open D tuning, and I often play with a slide on the little finger of my left hand. The fingertips of my left hand still have callouses. I recently had the setup of this guitar tweaked and it is a joy to play. I have written a few songs, but don’t sing much. The last time I sang in public was at an Apollo Bay Sunday arvo open mike session where I performed a song which I wrote for Liz to mark our 40 years together. I didn’t push my luck and left the set at one song. I enjoy photography and the repository of most of the photos from the last five years or so which I wish to keep as a public non-commercial blog which, for those interested, is at: southernoceanblog.com
Geoffrey O’Connell (1974-1975)
Geoffrey, who mainly played the electric bass as well as being a vocalist in Mulga Bill, was asked to share some paragraphs, and responded with less than 20 words: ‘since those heady days, my only activity has been the same – writing songs. Sorry, can’t expand that to paras.’ Geoffrey has for many years lived in Kyneton, Victoria. Before COVID Geoff was actively involved with local theatre groups. The rest of what follow follows was ferreted from what is available on line. A short video Geoffrey produced for the Kyneton Town Square Cop is at: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=530474054202281
Geoffrey has been a songwriter including for New Music Theatre since 1975, completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Composition at Victorian College for the Arts in 2005. You’ll find one of Geoffrey’s recent songs ‘Hard Times’ with a 2021 photo via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_eumX3_0Pc
Anne Paterson (1975)
Anne was recruited to the Band during the final year of Mulga Bill, joining then partner Geoffrey O’Connell, ably managing much of the tour organisation and front of house. Post the Band, Anne lived for several decades out of Korumburra, in Gippsland, but in 2022 is living happily in inner suburban Kensington in Melbourne.
Compressing 50 years of life is hard! … so much to say with so little of significance really! Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band introduced me to outback Australia; indulged my love of live performance and satisfied my joy of forever being ‘on the move’ … indeed as I reflect on my life that has been the one constant … moving/ changing/ discovering! I have lived in umpteen houses, had a myriad of occupations and relationships (probably far too many!), experienced a range of wonderful communities both in the city and country, explored numerous interests (even golf!) and travelled, travelled, travelled.
Today I live in a tiny house in inner city Melbourne with my black schnauzer Humphrey … from here I can easily access the other constant in my life … my love and attachment to the Arts … without music, opera, dance, plays, galleries, architecture, recitals and literature I would be so much less …
I keep good health, walk lots … meet and greet many folk along the way and keep in touch with the drift of society through my nieces, nephews and their many children … If any of you are ever in Melbourne and would like to call by, I would be delighted to see you [35 Robertson Street,
Kensington 3031, 0418 503 213].
Lionel O’Keefe (1975)
Lionel toured with the band during its last few months in the road as a guitarist and vocalist. Sadly, Lionel died in 2014. What follows borrows heavily from the following wiki link: https://en.everybodywiki.com/Lionel_O%27Keefe
Lionel O’Keefe (22 September 1950 – 27 September 2014) was an Australian Folk musician of Australian South Sea Islander descent, known for his contribution to the Australian Folk Music. Early in his career, he performed regularly at the Folk Centre in Brisbane, Queensland, and was associated with a number of Australian folk music groups including The Wayfarers, The Larrikins, Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band and The Currency Lads.
Lionel also contributed to the establishment of the New England folk music tradition and the collection and performance of the “core repertoire of Australian Traditional music” as a member of the Horton River Band with Chris Sullivan, Dave Game, Mark Rummery and others. Later in his career, Lionel performed in The Border Band, with his wife and fellow folk musician, Cathy Duffy, and well-known performer and teacher of Australian traditional music, Anthony John “Jacko” Kevans.
Lionel had a keen interest in traditional Australian and Irish Music and went on to record and perform on fiddle, button accordion, guitar, bass and vocals. He was known to have learnt “bass on the spot” for the Wayfarers band for a performance on ABC Television Around Folk. Lionel was also known to have played with and collected tunes from Traditional Folk musician and accordion player, Andy Grant, of Warwick, Queensland.
In 2003, Lionel O’Keefe’s contribution to Australian folk music history, and his commentary on South Sea Islander history and the political climate of the time – including the Vietnam War and its divisive effect on the folk scene, as well as the impact of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland (1968-1987) was captured in an interview with prominent Indigenous Australian Singer Songwriter and musician, Kev Carmody. This work has been included in the National Library of Australia Oral History and Folklore Collection. Commentary by Lionel O’Keefe and his wife, Cathy Duffy, on Australian folk music, folk dance music, and Australian and Irish fiddle and accordion music, has also been recorded for posterity in the Chris Sullivan Folklore Collection, held by the National Library of Australia.
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