Sunday 25 August 2013

A Celebration of the musical life of Gary Shearston, Sunday 18th August, 2013

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BMC eLIST - July 2013 Supplement - Sad News -

Gary Shearston passed away on 1 July 2013 in the Armidale Hospital after suffering a stroke at his home (near Tenterfield, NSW)

GARY SHEARSTON, Australian singer and songwriter, was a leading figure of the folk music revival of the 1960s. He has an enduring legacy in his meticulously researched versions of old 'bush' songs (folk songs), which have long been source material for younger performers. In his own younger years he was a popular singer with chart success in Australia (especially Sydney) and had his own TV show, Just Folk. As he matured, Gary achieved international success as a songwriter (including Sometime Lovin' performed by Peter, Paul and Mary) and as a recording artist (his distinctive version of Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You was a worldwide hit in 1974).
Over the years his music absorbed and adapted a diverse range of elements including Australian Aboriginal and West Indian reggae (before either was popular with mainstream western audiences). He wrote songs with influences that ranged from Irish traditional to Japanese, and released an album with jazz arrangements that perplexed his folkie and pop music fans.
Since returning to live in Australia in 1989 Gary was often placed in the country music genre and he showed that he was equal to the best in that style too. In 1990 his iconic song Shopping On A Saturday was recognised with the Tamworth Songwriters' Association's award for Bush Ballad of the Year.
Gary Shearston thwarts attempts to categorise his musical style because he never stuck to just one, but we can say that over an active recording life of some 50 years he wrote, sang and recorded wonderfully evocative and distinctively Australian original songs.
In his 50s, an age when he might have started taking it easier, Gary followed his faith and became a hard-working grass-roots Christian minister in country New South Wales. When he finally retired in 2007 he again threw himself into songwriting. Many of these 'new' songs reflect on a life full of twists and turns and the characters he's known along the way. And, as always, his heart is on his sleeve, for all to see (or hear)
Sydney Morning Herald obituary - Folk legend defined nation's identity

Sydney Morning Herald, Friday August 2, 2013.

Bruce Elder on Gary Shearston

“Gary Shearston was the closest Australia ever came to producing a local version of Bob Dylan. Not only was he an influential singer of traditional folk songs during the 1960s heyday of the folk boom but he was also a hugely gifted songwriter, a radical re-interpreter of the folk tradition (who else thought of using reggae as a backing for Australian songs as early as 1974?) and, if you need any further evidence, had he not been banned from travelling to the United States due to his involvement in the anti-Vietnam movement, he would have ended up being managed by Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman.
Grossman invited Shearston to go to the States. US Immigration locked him out. So Shearston ended up in London in the early 1970s where, signed to Charisma Records (famous for a catalogue which included Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator) he scored a hit with an unadorned version of Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out of You.
By any measure Shearston's career has been an enviable journey. From Jim Carter's Troubadour folk club in Sydney to London then back to Australia where, having written a novel, he recorded the remarkable Aussie Blue before joining the Anglican clergy. He preached in both the Riverina and on the North Coast and, at one point, wryly observed that he could now be called "the Reverend Gary Shearston" like the great African-American folk bluesman, the Reverend Gary Davis.
This 42-track double CD has been long overdue. It brings together the essence of Shearston's remarkable career. All the bases are covered. Starting with his haunting and melancholy reading of The Springtime It Brings On The Shearing it includes a range of sublime interpretations of traditional Australian folk songs, all recorded in 1965, before moving effortlessly to sensitive readings of Don Henderson's witty The Basic Wage Dream and Oodgeroo Noonuccal's passionate We Want Freedom. Shearston's early forays into songwriting – Who Can Say? and Don't Wave To Me Too Long – hover somewhere between Dylan and Donovan. They lead, quite naturally, to the extraordinary collection of self-composed songs on his two masterpieces – Dingo and Aussie Blue. Baiame, about an enduring love of Australia, is still one of the great expatriate songs. It floats on an ocean of nostalgic feeling and, quirkily, is backed by a stuttering and wildly eccentric reggae rhythm.
The difference between Shearston and Dylan is essentially cultural. Dylan's influences were Woody Guthrie and the poetry of the Beat Generation. Shearston is unashamedly Australian. He is a modern Henry Lawson whose music is infused with a "love of country" that makes it unique to this continent. He has felt the rhythms rising from the land and has turned them into timeless music.”
(Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald)

Memories of Gary from early members

I have attached two photos which show part of the front and rear of a 1964 Gary Shearston album.  To me it was probably the first and best album of its time. (Chris Woodland 9/7/13)

G'day Chris,

That was certainly a good LP from Gary. We had all his LPs at home in Greenacre ... in the 1960s ... Dad was quite a fan of Gary's singing & songs! I remember that Dad had bought a copy of it around the time when Dad, Eric and myself were all getting along to the BMC meetings in the Fellowship of Australian Writers' rooms ... in the old MUIOOF Building, Clarence St, Wynyard. I still have that copy in my collection (... and, probably, photos of the record sleeve ...) - but not signed messages from Gary - another 2 decades down the track!
I remember Gary Shearston coming along to the BMC ... mostly on :"Beer & Cheese" Nights (more formal song structure and mostly self-catered supper and beverages.) Gary was usually accompanied by his chromatic mouthorgan player of that time - Richard Brooks.
(Bob Bolton)

Gary was influenced by Duke Tritton. I think the young/ new folk singers of the late1960-70s felt that Duke Tritton gave them some credibility. There was lots of discussion about being a folk or traditional singer and what did 'folk' mean? Gary was genuine and wanted to make a living as a singer- songwriter. He performed at the big concerts which travelled round Australia and invited Duke Tritton along.

Dale Dengate   20/07/2013


Dave De Hugard
Hi Sandra, I was very sorry to hear of Gary's demise. He was one of the early contacts when I first arrived in Sydney from Queensland in 1966. We had adjacent flats in an older house at No 2 Phoebe Street Balmain - Chris Kempster & I with our respective partners shared one flat & Gary the other. It was an interesting place with various people involved in the Folk tradition dropping in from time to time. Edgar Waters was regularly visiting Gary in relation to his forthcoming Bushranger record. On one of those occasions I saw my first copy of a photo of Ben Hall. And Ben Hall's great (x?) grandson I seem to recall also dropped in on one of these occasions. Another interesting person who I got to know quite well was the mouthorgan player Richard Brooks - a larger than life character who was also a good bloke. In 1969 I was fortunate enough to go on a Bushranger tour out to the Forbes, Weddin Mountains, Grenfell areas with Richard and one of his friends who was an authority on the Gardiner/Hall 'gang'. For myself as a 'folkie' interested in the Australian tradition, it was the tour of a lifetime. Anyway there a fewer and fewer of the older 'school' around these days. And I am sorry to see now that Gary too has 'moved on'. Farewell & Vale Gary

PS Sandra, please feel free to share this note with anyone who you think might be interested, best wishes, Dave


I sent him an invitation for our 50th Anniversary, but he wasn't able to make it, and sent back an apology.  Sandra

BMC had a small memorial session for Gary (photo of Paul Jensen by Sandra Nixon)

and joined with Stuart McCarthy of Undercover Music for a larger celebration.

Running Sheet

Photos 1-20 by Bob Bolton of the slideshow & some performers





5.  Warren Fahey

6.  Warren Fahey

7. Paul Jensen

8.  Paul Jensen


10. Pat Drummond

11.  Pat Drummond

12.  Pat Drummond

13.  Pat Drummond








21. Session - Eddy Sampson
22.  Max Elbourne, Tom Bridges





27.  Jeannie Lewis



30. President Sharyn Mattern, Stuart McCarthy of Undercover Music, Secretary Sandra Nixon.  

Tuesday 20 August 2013

National Library Oral History holdings on John Dengate (1938-2013)

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John at the launch of his third book at the Bush Music Club, 2012 (photo ©Chris Woodland)

The National Library's Oral History and Folklore Collection

The Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection dates back to the 1950’s and includes a rich and diverse collection of interviews and recordings with Australians from all walks of life.

Our Oral History and Folklore collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life.  The collection consists of around 45,000 hours of recordings, the earlier ones dating back to the 1950s when the tape recorder became available.  More than 1000 hours of interviews, music and accents are added to the collection each year. Increasingly the collection is available online or may be requested from the catalogue. You can listen to:

  • Folklore recordings - popular culture, traditional songs, dances, music, stories and more
  • Interviews with distinguished Australians - scientists, writers, artists, politicians and sports people
  • Interviews with people who have lived through significant social trends and conditions - unemployment, the impact of child removals from families,  the Depression, and migration to Australia
  • Environmental sound - the historical sound of the built and natural environment.
Some interviews have transcripts or summaries and our online audio delivery system helps you search the content of our collection, which can be searched through Trove.
Folkloric recording, Songs of Treason workshop presented by John Dengate and friends on the 30th of March, 1975 at the 9th National Folk Festival, University of Sydney, N.S.W. - Recorded by Chris Sullivan, 1983
Charlie Batchelor, Garry Tooth, John Dengate and Phyl Lobl recorded at the Bush Music Club Annual Festival, Marrickville - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs and recites poems - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs and recites poems with John Meredith for the John Meredith folklore collection on 27 February 1985 - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs for the John Meredith folklore collection - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs and talks with John Meredith - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs and recites poems - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs - Recorded by John Meredith, 1985
John Dengate sings topical songs and talks with John Meredith - Recorded by Declan Affley, 1985-86
John Dengate interviewed for an ABC Radio National program - Recorded by John Meredith, 1988
John Dengate sings political satires for the John Meredith folklore collection - Recorded by John Meredith, 1990
John Dengate sings accompanying himself on guitar and recites topical satire - Recorded by John Meredith, 1990
John Dengate sings (accompanying himself on guitar), recites topical satire, and talks about his life. - Recorded by Peter Parkhill, 1998
Interview with John Dengate, singer, songwriter and poet - Recorded by Kevin Bradley, 2000
Folkloric recording of John Dengate : singer, guitarist and poet Recorded by Warren Fahey, 2005
John Dengate interviewed by Warren Fahey - Recorded by Alan Musgrove, 2006
John Dengate interviewed by Alan Musgrove - Recorded by Chris Woodland, 2008
John Dengate interviewed by Chris Woodland - Recorded by Chris Woodland, 2012
John Dengate recites poetry and sings songs for Chris Woodland in the Chris Woodland folklore collection 

Portrait of John by Kate Scott


Saturday 3 August 2013

Memories of Life Member Gay Scott (23rd Feb1930 to 9th June 2013)

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3 articles from those who knew her well, her eldest son and two of her oldest friends in the Bush Music Club

National Library Oral History collection - Wedding reception for Alan and Gay Scott, with music by the Bushwhackers. Part 1 [sound recording]  14th January 1956
from her eldest son Bill - 
 Of course I’ve spent the last week or so ringing people close to Mum and breaking the news: talking to people in Sydney, and some flung out along the coast and inland and so on, some of whom, just couldn’t make it, though of course their thoughts are with us and with Mum. In a strange way it’s been a comforting experience connecting with the panorama of the eighty plus years of the life that Mum lived. (Actually my maths is pretty bad. Mum was always twenty three for as long as I knew her so you’d think that would be something I could retain.)

Mum was the teetotaller who took the pledge at age six or eight or something, who inside twenty years or so was four hundred miles south at a party, a cigarette holder of Breakfast at Tiffany’s proportions in one hand and a cocktail glass of Pimms in the other. The patient and committed gardener she was quite surprised that she’d turned out to be. The hippy singer one of her friends characterised her as. I’ve always thought of her as more beatnik but I suppose there was the seventies wardrobe with the Indian skirts and so on, and anyway Mum was willing to chop and change and move on. She was the fellow traveller in the family and I’m not being flippant saying that - she was the one, during Ashley’s and my childhood, anyway, who seemed better able to metabolise change and navigate capitalism than Dad, the Marxist, who seemed to get buffeted around by circumstance. The actress, the printmaker, the bookkeeper, the quilter, the activist, the tree changer, the feminist - (better not forget that one, Mum being the only girl in a three boy family, and one of the women of her generation who were politically, self-consciously, radical.)   When she could hold people to account over what they’d said and done she would, and good luck to her.

I’m definitely my mother’s son when it comes to grappling with the arts, ideas and so on.  Dad said to us once - “you two should listen to yourselves”: - we were trying to remember the title of a play that got made into a movie that wasn’t by Arthur Miller but someone of similar vintage that had an actor in it whose name was long or doubled barrelled or something who was also was in a movie whose title we did remember, whose wife whose name Mum couldn’t remember, but was mostly brunette (although that didn’t help me much because she was known for her roles in the immediate post war U.K. black and white flicks) and starred in a whole bunch of movies made by a famous producer who (I had said at some stage earlier in the conversation) was the Merchant/Ivory team of his day (although there was just one of him and his name would be in that book because he won an Academy Award) who adapted the Henry James novel, which, of course, is quite different from Arthur Miller, but there was a connection….

Gay & Alan Scott (photo courtesy Bill & Jane Scott)

I'm not a good singer but I’d be a lot worse if not for dad and mum. Mum took me to singalongs while I was still in the womb. And later on she’d put me on the swing and push, over and over again, in time to whatever she was singing. I remember her, up until the last few years of life, as someone brimming with enthusiasm, confidence and vitality.

I probably walk to and fro to work almost every day because of Mum’s influence. Mum was a bushwalker and a conservationist. These days every one’s middle name is environmentalist but bushwalking remains an obscure (and to some people a disconcerting) subculture.

It’s actually a bit awe inspiring to think that the longest time she spent in one place was at Bent Acres in Balmoral - she was in the centre of the life and projects in that community and I was always a bit bewildered - getting names muddled and losing track of which activity was associated with which project and so on. I talked earlier about connecting to Mum’s life because I was only was around for a fraction of it - there’s only a certain proportion of it that I can reconnect to in a life so full and wide and varied. And it was a good life; we’re all here to attest to that. She had her heart in the right place, she gave it a go and she travelled far, and you couldn’t give someone a better epitaph than that. 
Memories of Gaynor [Gay] Scott by R. Dale Dengate

Around 1961, at the Bush Music Club, I first noticed Gay Scott singing On the Banks of the Condamine beside her husband, with head thrown back and rattling the bones. 

Concert Party at Orange at Lake Canobolas Regatta, Banjo Paterson Festival -
Jamie Carlin, Jan Jones, Frank Maher, Gay Scott, Alan Scott, Jack Barrie, 1960 (BMC archives)

There is a photo of them on a cover of Singabout, Vol 3 No 1, Summer, 1958  with a young Jamie Carlin on concertina.

Gay and Alan Scott were Life Members of the BMC as along with Alan or Scottie and Merro [John Meredith] she was a stalwart of the Bush Music Club and had performed as part of the Concert party in the late 1950s. Gay told an amusing story of their visit to Orange for a Paterson festival when she and Jan Jones were walking behind the men in the BMC concert party. They overheard the locals declare that ‘a band of gypsies in their shabby uneven clothes had come to town’. So much for the band from Reedy River’s efforts to look like old bush musicians.

There were a number of women who were dedicated committee members of the early days [1950s-60s] of the BMC regular meetings and Singabout evenings. Gay along with Pam Loughlin, Jan Jones, Noreen Grunseit, Barbara Gibbons and Janet Wakefield were some of the feisty folk at the regular meetings held in the Fellowship of Australian Writers rooms. [Incidentally it was Jan who introduced me to the BMC via the Singabout Songsters, while I was at a YHA in the national park.] It’s times like these that I wish that I walked around with a tape-recorder like Merro, as I can recall many conversations with Gay, but won’t vouch my accurate recall of all details.

Gay told me about the early BMC concert party and attitudes to performing with serious intent. It was not to be taken lightly. There was a growing awareness of the unique quality of Australian traditions in song, music, dance, verse and story.

Gay Scott, nee Terry had come from Queensland, and from her aunt, had a song about The Gatton Tragedy of 1898 which was printed in the Singabout songster of July, 1965 [Vol 5 no 3]. She introduced me to this unsolved murder story involving possible links to the 1891 shearers’ strikes. Some complex theories were published by Stephanie Bennett and actually shown last night on ABC TV's Australian Story. It was one of many stories we discussed as we often swapped books and compared ideas about writers. Gay loved reading and discussing the ideas one can get from books. She was involved in the Peace Movement and would speak her mind on feminist issues of the day.

Gay was also interested in Arts and Crafts, so I often met her with Ann Maher, a President of BMC in 1960s, while walking through the NSW Art Gallery. She was also part of the innovative pottery making group centred around Balmoral Village in later years. She and Alan had lived in Chatswood before moving to Loftus with their two young sons, Bill and Ashley. They probably would have stayed there permanently, but felt that suburbia was encroaching. Also they had spent wonderful times at Walden, Merro’s property at Balmoral Village. I recall meeting Alan on the Mittagong station some time back in the late 1960s and hearing him talk animatedly about the adobe mud brick cottage he and Gay intended to build on the land they bought in the Bargo Brush.

Eventually they built a kit home and the stories Gay told of Alan’s effort to put up the roofing while swinging from guttering, often single handed, bought tears to our eyes. Eventually the house at Bent Acres was up and a fine house warming was held. The first of many entertaining afternoons of singing with good tucker and home brew, music and yarning at the Scotts.

Some time in the 1980s Gay rang me and asked me to do some drawings to put in a book of Sally Sloane’s songs which she had typed up. Alan transcribed the music and Gay was keen to produce a songbook which provided material which women might have traditionally sung or songs they might enjoy singing. She said that she needed the sketches in two weeks time as someone had agreed to publish the book. So each night after work, I would do a black and white ink or wash drawing and send them off to Gay. But all sorts of problems were met and the manuscript had just about disintegrated by the time of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the BMC, in 2004. I suggested publishing it to the BMC Committee who agreed; so it was launched at the National Folk Festival, at a special Sally Sloane concert where Gay spoke and the first edition sold out.

Another memory I have of Gay involves us both shaking our heads at our husbands’ lack of patience with developments in bush dancing. We were at a bush dance held in Sydney Town Hall, during the early 1980s. A number of the BMC members got up for a dance which involved a series of different moves and was taking a long time to explain, so the blokes decided to sit down. They said: we used to teach these bush dances when no one else did them, but what is happening to them now.

Although Gay left active participation in folk music to Alan, in later years, she did a lot of transcribing of tapes of interviews for the Oral history and Folklore Section of the National Library as she was a trained typist and always maintained an interest in traditional Australian material.

After Alan’s death, Gay stayed on at Balmoral as she was a very independent and self sufficient person and had very good neighbours. Gay had a wry sense of humour and made me laugh when she said: I was so annoyed with Alan for dying when he did, as he and Merro had planned to debate, as they had many times already about whether the millennium started with 2000 or 2001.

Well, Gay has shed this earthly coil and maybe she has gone to join the comradely debates among the old musicians, singers and artists who have already gone or maybe she has gone to rest in peace away from earthly pain and troubles. 
Vale - Gay Scott, Chris Woodland 13/6/13.

Gay’s daughter-in-law, Jane, once told me at a folk festival, that when she married Bill she did not realise that she had married into Folk Royalty! After I winced at the word ‘royalty’, I understood immediately what she meant. Though the Scott Clan did not inherit their wonderful abilities, knowledge, humanity and personalities, they were the better for it – the labour of love in being creative, and all those things that such people do to move the world forward towards a better life for the so-called common people.

The Folk Royalty, of course, consisted of Gay, husband and mate Alan, and Alan’s brother, Bill senior.

Gay was an inspiration to many, including me. When Merro died she was very thoughtful and generous in her understanding way. She also made things happen for me, which otherwise probably would not have occurred. Following her passing I have thought of the many times we have talked about the inevitable Human Condition, books, politics, and, of course, we sang, and played often. Gay always had a ready smile and positive comment. Who could forget her contagious, happy laugh?



 Gay Scott (courtesy Scott family)

Being a liberated woman, Gay once told me how disappointed she was that her mother did not tell her of her religious background. It was not until after her mother died that she discovered her mother had been brought up a Roman Catholic, but never told anyone. Apparently Gay’s father was a hard man and not only did he deny his wife her religion, but ensured the fact was to be kept unknown to others, including the family. Yes, Gay grew up with a strong mind of her own.

Today there will be eloquent words spoken in the memory of the interesting and creative life of our dear friend Gay.

I regret that Virginia and I are unable to join you all for this celebration of Gay’s life and to hear the expressions and tales of this wonderful person who was many things to many people, including mother, mate and comrade.

At this sad time our heartfelt sympathies go out to Bill and Jane, Ashley and Jules.
Photos © Sandra Nixon 

1.   Jamie Carlin, Brian Dunnett, Frank Maher, Jane Scott, Ann Maher

2. Ashley & Bill Scott

3.  Christina Mimmocchi, Dale Dengate 

4.  George Gibbons, Frank Maher, Jamie Carlin, John Dengate 

5. Brian Dunnett, Frank Maher, Ann Maher, Bill Scott, Ashley Scott

6.  John Dengate, Frank Maher

7.  Jane & Bill Scott

8.  Bill Scott

9.  Concertina lesson with Jamie 

10. Jamie Carlin

11. Barbara Gibbons, Ann Maher

12.  Dale Dengate, John Dengate, Frank Maher

13. Maher daughters, Elizabeth & Monica, Dale & John Dengate

14.  Dale & John Dengate

15. John Dengate singing Decimal Currency Song 

16. Jamie Carlin, Frank Maher, John Dengate

17. Jane Scott, Jamie Carlin

18.  Ann Maher

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