Monday 8 June 2020

The hunt for the Bush Music Clubs of Australia

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Information will be added as located.

Across Australia in the early 1950s people started looking for the songs and tunes their parents and grandparents sang and played to counter the increasing Americanisation of our culture.

Folklore Societies were founded in several states, & the first group to perform these re-discovered songs, The Bushwhackers (1952-1957) were also the first to establish a club (October 1954) to cater for the increasing numbers of musicians and singers who wanted to be part of the band. Interstate members also joined Sydney's Bush Music Club. 

Within a few years there were Bush Music Clubs around the country as it seemed that everyone, everywhere, wanted to be a Bushwhacker and sing and play Australian songs and tunes.

These Bush Music Clubs are elusive. References to them appear in our Newsletter (est. 1955), and our Singabout Journal of Australian Folksong (est. 1956) & also in Australian Tradition, The magazine of The Folk Lore Society of Victoria and The Victorian Folk Music Society (est. 1964), but the State Libraries of their home states do not appear to have much, if any information about them, or to hold their publications.

BMC members also established Bush Music Clubs in their home towns, or if they moved out of Sydney, in their new homes - Mulawa, Kempsey, Araluen, Bathurst, Crookwell, Gulgong, Orchard Hills (May 1969 newsletter) Bush bands, as currently formulated, experienced a revival in 1953 with the musical play Reedy River, which was first produced and published by the New Theatre (Sydney)[2] and most recently produced in 2002.[citation needed] Written by Dick Diamond, the musical featured twelve or so Australian songs, which included Doreen Jacobs' setting of Helen Palmer's "Ballad of 1891," as well as the title song, Chris Kempster's setting of Lawson's "Reedy River." The backing band for this popular stage production was "The Bushwhackers," who had formed a year earlier in 1952. As the musical was performed in Brisbane and other Australian cities, local "bush bands" modeled on the Sydney group, such as Brisbane's "The Moreton Bay Bushwhackers," sprang up in each place; many of these remained together following the closing of the musical, and spawned other, similar groups
Victorian Bush Music Club
History of the VFMC 
60 years of the Victorian Folk Music Club (est 1959 as the Victorian Bush Music Club) as recorded in Singabout

Bush Music Clubs of Queensland -

 Singabout, Volume 1(2), Autumn 1956, p.14

Singabout 1(3), Winter 1956, p.16 - first issue of magazine The Queensland Bush Telegraph

Singabout 2(3) December 1957, p.4.  Banana-Benders' Ballad Night

Ballad Night Sat. 29 June 1957. Circular No. 1

Distribution list includes Brisbane Bush Music Club, Brisbane Singers, Eureka Youth League, Morton Bay Bushwhackers, New Theatre, Realist Writers' Group, University Bush Music Club, Waterside Workers Entertainments Committee, & Sydney Bush Music Club for information.
Singabout 3(1), Summer 1958, pp. 9 & 20 Melbourne & Brisbane

Brisbane Notes - the University BMC was absent. Queensland Plywood Board is cooperating with the Federation to bring out a leaflet on making instruments.


Singabout 3(2) Autumn 1959, p.1, Manifold children with home made instruments
Singabout 3(2), Autumn 1959, p.2-3. Calabash Instruments

Singabout 3(2), Autumn 1959, pp.10-11
Singabout 3(3) Winter/Spring 1959, p.18 Queensland Ballad Night - attendees included (Qld?) Bushwhackers, Uni BMC, Morton Bay Bushwhackers, Gravaterrs & Bandicoots, 


Singabout, 3(4) undated,  (1959 or 60), pp.14 & 20. Ballad Night - Free for all at Wynnum by Hans
Zupfgeige - bands included Bandicoots, Calliwags, Eatons (alias Gravatters), Greenhide & Stringybark, Krontjongs, Rosettes, University, Wrights.

Queensland Centenary Pocket Songbook

Singabout 4(1), October 1960, First issue of Bulletin of the Federation of Bush Music Groups~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Singabout 4(3), September 1961, p.17 - Queensland News - 2 upcoming books, The Morton Bay Dance Book, & Bush Tunes for Beginners (tunes used by junior bands of Brisbane Federation of Bush Music Clubs)

Singabout 4(4), July 1962, p.17 - Impressions from Queensland - Ballad night 1962 by John Manifold

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Malcolm J. Turnbull
Meanwhile, just as response to Reedy River (1954-5) had led to the formation of scholarly folklore societies and bush music clubs in Victoria and NSW, so the Brisbane production of Dick Diamond’s play produced the Moreton Bay Bushwhackers Band (MBBB), members of which included Stan Arthur and, later, Bill Scott. (Novocastrian Stan played ‘Irish’ in Reedy River). Together with other enthusiasts, the MBBB formed the Brisbane Bush Music Club (which eventually revamped itself into the Queensland Folklore Society). Bill Scott recalls that the Club inaugurated its own newsletter and songsheet, the Bush Music Telegraph and, in the early 1960s, convened monthly singabouts (Sydney-style) at the Oddfellows Hall in Charlotte Street. A couple of buckets of burgundy punch, circulated over the course of the evening, generally spiced up the proceedings. [Scott Interview NLA]
The year 1959 was the first Centenary of self-government for the colony and State of Queensland. The recording label, Wattle, issued this LP featuring traditional Australian songs collected in Queensland. Two groups contributing to the LP, namely, The Moreton Bay Bushwhackers and The Bandicoots, featured some of the early stalwarts of the Australian folk music scene particularly in Queensland. John Streeter Manifold the prominent poet and writer with a deep interest in folk music was a member of The Bandicoots and leads on two songs. Bill Scott, who was later to become famous for his songs, poetry and folklore writing, leads on three songs. (read on)


extract from Origins of the Australian Folk Revival, A tribute to the pioneer field collectors of the 1950s by Keith McKenry (c)1997  
From a concert at National Folk Festival, Canberra, Friday 10 April 1997

In Queensland, too, there has been great activity on the collecting front. A Federation of Bush Music Groups has been established in Brisbane - these groups include John Manifold's Bandicoots, Bill Scott's Moreton Bay Bushwhackers, and Stan Arthur's Wayfarers.

In 1956 thirty old bush songs, collected and arranged by Group members are published in the Queensland Centenary Pocket Songbook, edited by John Manifold.

The songs include
Augathella Station
Bold Tommy Payne
Wallaby Stew
Waltzing Matilda (Qld version)
The Reedy Lagoon
Australia's on the Wallaby
Old Black Alice
The Convict Maid

National Library of Australia catalogue -

List of Wattle records & films

C Series 10" LPs  C9 Bandicoots & Moreton Bay Bushwhackers Songs from Queensland

Bush Music Club of Adelaide
Minutes - 31st July 1962 - Adelaide BMC set up recently (1957-78 minutes book)

Newsletter April 1968, page 2
Perth Bush Music Club

Newsletter May 1964 pp.2-3.

Membership records ANCOL book 2 - Mrs Delys Cross, 26 Saunders Bay Rd, Caringbah, 1/1/66
Singabout 6(2), 1967, pp. 9 &18 - "The Truth of the Story" sent by Perth Bush Music Club 


Australian Tradition December 1969 contained 2 pages from The Wildflower Songsheet, a publication of the Perth Bush Music Club.

Moondyne Joe and other Sandgroper Ballads (1969) by L.G. Montgomery  includes correspondence from L.G. Montgomery about his authorship of these ballads.

Reproduced by permission of Steve Bullock, President Victorian Folk Music Club


The State Library of Western Australia holds The wildflower songsheet of Australian ballads [music] Description - 1 Score, Contents - Fremantle Gaol -- Lasseter's last ride -- Kangaroo pups -- The Truth of the Story -- Burke and Wills, with no information on the author/publisher. The editors of Australian Tradition received their copy from the Perth Bush Music Club.

Broken Hill Fullskip Bush Music Club


The National Library catalogue has a subject Bush Music Clubs but 11 of the 12 entries relate to our Club, the original Bush Music Club, & one to the Queensland Bush Music Club, for 3 issues of their journal.
The Queensland bush telegraph : the official monthly bulletin of the Queensland Bush Music Club
[Vol. 1, no. 1]-v. 1, no. 3 (1956) Vol. 3, no. 1 [1958]

They also have 3 entries for the author Victorian Bush Music Club

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