The club was founded in 1954 by a mob of mostly bush types that found the jobs
had all moved to the city. They missed the friendly, informal social life
they remembered from the country towns where they grew up.
They formed a band, which they called the Heathcote Bushwhackers
, sang some
of the old songs, and played such simple instruments as the squeezebox
(button accordion) and whistle. As a group they became involved with the
New Theatre, supplying the musical side of Dick Diamond's new Australian
musical play Reedy River
Musically inclined theatricals joined the band (now just called the
) and membership rose to seven. The band now played accordion,
guitar, banjo, mouth organ, tin whistle and those distinctive home-made
instruments; bush bass, bones and particularly the lagerphone - which the
Bushwhackers first introduced to the public.
Seeking more songs and Australian historical background, they became
involved in the Australian Folklore Society and John Meredith started using
the new-fangled tape recorder (twenty kilograms of mains driven bulk in
those days) to get down authentic items from old performers. The material
collected was translated into the Bushwhackers' repertoire as fast as they
could learn it. The shape, size and style of the Bushwhackers provided a
model for every revival bush band since.
And then ...
When more and more people wanted to join the they decided to form a social,
teaching club, founded at a meeting on 14th October 1954, and called the
Bush Music Club in honour of the survival in bush areas of that style of
self reliant entertainment and sociability that seemed so scarce in the
At the Club, people could learn the newly collected traditional songs, get
tips on playing (and making) the "bush" instruments of the Bushwhackers and
form their own bands (collectively known as Bushwhacker bands in those
heady days). Eventually, similar clubs started in other states, complete
with their own bands such as the Moreton Bay Bushwhackers and the Port
In 1955 the Bush Music Club started publishing the collected songs and
music in its own magazine Singabout
, the journal of Australian Folksong.
The Club's present, two-monthly magazine Mulga Wire
deals with the social
aspects of the present-day organisation, reviews and events but Singabout
continues as a folklore section within the magazine.
And so to publishing ...
In the early days of the revival, Singabout
was the only regular journal for
publication of songs and music recorded by the pioneer field collectors.
The Wattle Records releases of The Bushwhackers and the early Festival recordings
of the BMC Concert Party were among the first performances of revived Bush songs heard by the public.
Only in the mid 1960s did mainstream publishers like Ure Smith risk bringing
out books like the classic Folk Songs of Australia
, by John Meredith and
Hugh Anderson. Of course, by the 1980s, these works had such academic
standing that Folk Songs of Australia was republished by New South Wales
University Press - as a companion to volume two, by John Meredith, Roger
Covell and Patricia Brown.
Meanwhile the BMC carried on, well to the side of academic fashion, with
publications aimed at helping and informing musicians and dancers out in
the folk world. A landmark publication, in 1984, was David Johnson's Bush
, which became one of the hardest working source books for
bush bands all over Australia. When teamed with the later Bush Dance
, by Lance Green et al, and the ten Bush Dance tapes, we had
probably the most complete integrated package of bush dance material
available in Australia.
Our recognition of the important seminal role of Singabout
magazine led to
the 1985 anthology Singabout - Selected Reprints.
This presents 86 songs, 8
poems and one yarn, agonisingly selected as the best, from the host of
beaut material published over the 12 years of Singabout.