THE OLD RABBITER’S GIFT by John Meredith, 1997.
In this day and age no self-respecting Bush Band would be seen – or heard – without its lagerphone. But it was not always thus. Forty-five years ago the now ubiquitous noise maker was unknown. In fact, before nineteen fifty-two there wasn’t even a bush band.
That was the year when I had a brilliant idea. I played the old traditional bush instrument called the button accordion, and my brain-wave was to con a couple of my mates, Brian and Jack into joining me to form a group which would sing old bush songs to the accompaniment of the squeeze box, as it was affectionately called.
Then Brian and I went on a visit to my family in my home town of Holbrook.
Come up to my place tonight, said my brother Claude. I’ve got a surprise for you. Bring your squeeze box.
In due course we arrived and I was ordered to play. Give us something lively, ordered big brother, going into the adjoining room. I swung into “Cick Goes the Shears” with Brian singing. Then there came this crashing, jingling rhythmic sound as Claudie marched in bouncing a strange looking instrument!
It consisted of a bald-headed hair broom – they were made entirely of wood in those pre-plastic years – covered with loosely nailed-on bottle tops, which covered the head and most of the handle.
As Claude bounced it along the floor to the down-beat, he alternately struck and sawed at the handle with a serrated waddy. Then he proudly pronounced those portentous words: Introducing – The One and Only Celebrated Lagerphone!
Excitedly we wrested it away from him, or rather Brian did. My hands were strapped to the squeeze box. After a couple of tunes, we paused for another beer and the obvious question: Where in the hell did you get that from?
And he told us the story.
The local branch of the Red Cross Society had organised a fund-raising “Amateur Hour” concert – open to all performers, with prizes for various sections.
An old Rabbit poisoner turned up. He came from about ten miles out, where there was a little village called Lankeys Creek, and brought to the concert this, as yet un-named percussion instrument which he played to a piano accompaniment and scored a prize in the novelty section.
He certainly was novel, and brother Claude could hardly wait to get home and make one for himself. He coined the name “Lagerphone” because the words “K. B. Lager” appeared on the instrument several hundred times!
Extract from article in Singabout October 2014, written by John Meredith 16/1/97 and originally published in Transmissions 9, Aug 2003.
Merro with the original Lagerphone made by his brother Claude. (Rob Willis photo)
Lagerphone made by John Meredith
Email from Chris Woodland, May 2013. An original BMC badge was set into the head.
I finally got to the Braidwood Museum to photograph the lagerphone Merro made for Molly Collins of the Araluen Hotel in 1964 or ‘5. I think it was the second or third time I had taken Merro to Araluen. Molly always had me singing and when Merro came with his squeeze box she thought it was heaven! Sometimes the pub would stay open until 3.00 o’clock in the morning, 3.45 was the latest night I recall. Molly treated me like her white-haired boy and always referred to me as her Wild Colonial Boy. What great nights and times they were, playing, singing and reciting with the real old timers!
Drawing by Bob Bolton of the original lagerphone used by the Bushwhackers.
Lagerphone made by John Meredith & held by the National Library (BMC archives)
Concert Party member Frank Maher with his 50 year old, well used lagerphone
(Sandra Nixon photo)
Concert Party member Ann Maher playing the family lagerphone, Yass October 2014
(Sandra Nixon photo)
1964 - Ann Maher (nee Banks) with the lagerphone.
Some historic lagerphones as illustrated in an undated page from Stringybark & Greenhide magazine
Jim Buchannan, Victorian Folk Music Club
Peter Jenner's lagerphone used in Shearer's Dream last century & later at the reunion in August 2016 (Kerry Doherty photo)
Don Richmond's lagerphone, July 2013 (Sandra Nixon photos)
Currawong Bush Band's lagerphone
Flying Wombat Bush Band lagerphone
The lagerphone which lives in the Hut & sometimes appears on stage in The Lola Wright project Merringong - Oct 14 (Photo Sandra Nixon)
and other times is used by Lola when she joins Concert Party at their workshops.
Hannah Fong photo above