THE ELKS 1976-78

In July 1976, playing blues guitar again was not what I expected. However, when Reg and Ivan Zar told me they were putting another band together, I turned up at Reg's place to check it out. 

I had only met Terry Serio a couple of times, in fact he turned up at the Sid Rumpo house I think around 1973 with his friend, John Ryan (RIP).

Then there was Dave Brewer, young, long hair and the kid could play. On bass was Keith Jacob, I didn't know him either.

As I said, I didn't expect to be playing blues again but these guys were seriously good musicians! So I signed up.

We were quite successful in Perth, and did a couple of tours to the East coast. I learned so much about blues from this band. I haven't heard a better Chicago-styled blues lineup in Australia and it certainly wasn't because of me. 

I got to play a lot of guitar, but having Dave on the other side of the stage was a joy. Night after night, he would burn it up. Dave and I got on really well and the playing always seemed to blend, we certainly didn't have any major problems with the allocation of guitar parts.

Terry was the consumate stage performer, a cliche I know, but this time it's true. Listening to him every night, he constantly changed his phrasing, always keeping it interesting.

Reg and Ivan both had incredible feel and, when we picked up Howie Shawcross on bass, it was perfect. I didn't really notice Howie at the time, but after going back to the tapes years later, I realised how much "push" he gave to the band.

I sometimes say to people that it took me ten years to really understand the music of Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy and all of those other Chess artists. With Reg, Ivan and Dave in the band, they were so into getting the correct feel of the tunes, the secrets of this music started to be revealed to me.

On to the music. This gig was a live recording in Melbourne. At that time the lineup was Terry Serio - vocals, Ivan Zar - harp, Reg Zar - drums, Howard Shawcross - bass and vocals, Dave Brewer and JH on guitars. The date on the cover says April 1978, but I'm pretty sure it was late in 1977. (I have evidence)

I believe this to be the classic live Elks' gig. A youthful HG Nelson made the introductory remarks (honest). The room was great, with natural reverb. 

There is a point in my solo in She's Into  Something when the reverb really kicks in, it may have also been something to do with the sound guy. I can still remember the feeling when I hit that note - awesome. 

I once heard a guy play my solo note-perfect at a blues festival. Hearing it was weird, Dave and I never played the same solo twice.

    This was the totally politically incorrect cover from the original cassette.

So, here it is The Elks FM Live ...

1. Introduction by HG Nelson (0:35)
2. Little Red Rooster (6:36)
3. She's Into Something (3:19)
4. Loaded (2:24)
5. You'll Be Mine (2:29)
6. Had You Told It Like It Was (3:16)
7. Mighty Crazy (5:14)
8. Looking Back (2:18)
9. All Aboard (4:48)
10. Lawdy Lawdy (4:33)
11. I'm A Lover Not A Fighter (2:21)
12. Lonely Avenue (3:38)
13. Boom Boom Out Go The Lights (3:35)
14. Change (3:16)
15. Nine To Five (3:52)
16. Fast Buck (4:10)
17. Cadillac (3:02)

The album plus two other Elks' albums are available as free MP3 downloads here.

We also did a couple of tours with Dutch Tilders. We would play a set, then Dutch would do a solo set. Then we would come on and back him for the finale. Ivan wasn't always very fond of this arrangement. One night at The Broadway Tavern, he let me take his place on harp - I had an absolute ball. I'm still a fully paid-up member of the mythical Harmonica Player's Union. 

A friend of mine reckons that the harmonica is the only instrument that you don't have to learn before they let you record with it.


                   Dutch Tilders and a herd of Elks in King Street, Perth

 Early in 1978 we started to record our first album "Refer To Drawer", a reference to the way rock'n'roll cheques tend to bounce occasionally! Matt Taylor produced the album and we flew in Wilbur Wilde for one day to put down some horn parts.

I remember going home one night after rehearsals prior to the recording and coming up with the concept and structure for Sitting In The Dark. Terry and I had written some other tunes this way as well. I didn't play on this track, but Dave's piano is cool.

We seemed to come to a consensus that we wanted Joe from Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons to put an alto sax solo in to this one. This was duly arranged by flying the master tapes to Melbourne where he did his thing on the track. I think the solo is magnificent, a great R&B solo.

I don't actually remember much about the recording process, except a lot of sitting around waiting to do your thing. I got to play some harp in Cadillac and All Aboard, which features Ivan on the more prominent chromatic minor sound. I also played a little mandolin as well. 

I'm pretty sure that Dave did a lot of the rhythm parts as nobody seemed to trust me. (I'm OK on rhythm now). I soloed on guitar on Slop Around, She's Into Something and Chicago Bound. I also played harp on All Aboard and Cadillac.


After this album and our two tours, the rest of the guys wanted to move permanently to Melbourne or Sydney to really have a crack at it. I had a partner in Perth with a young son, so I had to say "farewell" halfway through a tour, which was a little sad.

About a month after I left, Reg and Ivan also gave their notice and returned to Perth. They told me that they had lined up a guitar player who had auditioned for my spot and that he was coming over to Perth to play with us.

But that's another story, titled "The Roosters"



Copyright 2005