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Uncle Bob's Band Album Appeal

$9,555 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 59 people in 6 months
Created July 10, 2018
AUSTRALIA Day 1975 marked a high point in the history of popular music in this country. The ABC's youth radio station 2JJ had begun broadcasting on January 19, 1974, and a year and one week later the station staged a triumphant free concert at Dawes Point, just beneath the southern pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The line-up was a corker: Skyhooks, then at the peak of their record-breaking popularity; Ayers Rock, Australia 's premier serious rock outfit; and . . . Uncle Bob's Band?

Who the hell were they? And what were they doing on the bill? For anyone at the gig watching the band set up, it was obvious from the battered, home-made nature of much of their equipment and from the antics of their bumblefooted road crew that Uncle Bob's Band had a long way to go before they could hope to reach the stellar heights of the other bands on the bill. They appeared to be from another world.

They were there because they had developed an inner-city reputation as a sure-fire dance band. Inevitably, this brought them within the radar of JJ's trend-attuned scouts, who quickly adopted them as Sydney 's version of Captain Matchbox. But with more of an edge. (The two bands always had a fraternal relationship – UBB even appeared on Wangaratta Wahine , providing bird noises . . .)

Uncle Bob's Band was Terry Darmody (vocals, harmonica), Bob McGowan (guitar, mandolin, kazoo and vocals) and Tony Burkys (guitar, and vocals), three former members of the Original Battersea Heroes, a cult jug band formed in the mid-1960s, which had metamorphosed into the Heroes in the early ‘70s, made one album and then broke up.
 
Warwick Kennington on drums and John Taylor on bass were two young veterans of various mute inglorious Sydney bands, who discovered that they made instinctive vocal harmonies together. Saxophonist Keith Shadwick was fresh from Sun, Renee Geyer's first band.
 
They were young and imbued with the spirit of the age, and crazy enough to believe that they could make real music, and earn a living doing it. Their influences were diverse, from the crassest modern pop to the rawest Delta blues, a creative patchwork of 20th century popular music. Their motto wasn't, but could have been: “It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.” And swing they did.

To their diverse musical smorgasbord they added original material hewn from the same sources, drawing on that bumblefooted road crew, Mark (Basil) Butler (that's me) and John (The Doctor) Dease, who revealed some talent as lyricists. Tony, who had been writing for several years with the Heroes, fell upon their words and made them into UBB songs, as did all the other band members. Writing songs became a way of life in UBB.
 
Ironically, by being such an amalgam of the music that went before them, they were ahead of their time. Unlike today, in the ‘70s popular music was segregated into mutually exclusive channels, which infrequently converged, and consequently some audiences found the band's joyous genre-surfing too difficult to assimilate. Captain Matchbox had proved that if you stuck to one exotic genre you could flourish; mixing them up, as UBB did, invited confusion and resistance. But when the audience was with them, the magic was palpable, and dancing usually ensued.

Such moments generally occurred at the band's self-promoted gigs, at Balmain Town Hall and other inner-city venues, or at the Dural Memorial Hall in the then rural Hills district north of Sydney where half the band lived. Thousands of Sydneysiders still fondly remember the Adventures in Paradise series of shows at Dural and at Paddington Town Hall , and the sold-out Spring Cleaning and Desperate Straits shows at Balmain Town Hall.

 After nearly two years of working their own gigs and other gigs from Pentridge jail to the Sydney Opera House and the Reefer Cabaret in Melbourne, and more concerts for JJ and ABC TV, the band bowed to market forces and signed up with a manager, former Skyhooks lead singer Steve Hill, and decamped for Melbourne, where audiences were more sympathetic to difference and there was a sniff of a recording contract in the air.

But while they developed a passionate following in Melbourne, the transplant didn't take, and by the end of 1976 it was all over. They did record an album with Dave Flett producing at Richmond Recorders, but it was never mixed and the master tapes were later lost in a burglary. UBB became another footnote in Australian popular music, a “right bunch of ratbags”, as JJ's Chris Winter dubbed them, who briefly brought colour and flair to the live music scene in Sydney and Melbourne.

Although UBB had broken up, most of its members remained friends, and in different combinations played together on and off, but always there was a gnawing sense of unfinished business. It wasn't until Bob's 50th birthday celebration in 1995 that the band, minus Keith (who had moved to Britain), finally reunited on stage.

That reunion was remarkable for the ease with which they slipped back into the groove. Songs they hadn't played in nearly 20 years came storming back. But with band members spread between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane it seemed they would never record again. But they did, even if it took another nine years to do it, and in 2004 they put down 12 tracks. The result was Unfinished Business, which was released in 2016.

Now, with several members well into their 70s, they wish to make their final recording (without Keith, who died in 2008). However, making music in Australia, even if you have the odd hit record, has never been lucrative, and they need help to make their final statement. They have written a swag of new material and plan to include two tracks from that 1976 session, plus some bonus live tracks from their heyday. 

All they need is your help. In  return, if you donate $40 or more, you will receive a copy of the CD. And their eternal thanks.
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Update 8
Posted by Mark Basil Butler
21 days ago
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Happy New Year! The news fromJohn Taylor, our man in Melbourne, where all the magic is happening:
Tony's Sydney Sessions are with Dave Flett to be added to the original Melbourne backing tracks. The assembly is underway.
Dave also has the older tracks and is using today's technology to basically remix those songs to as-good-as quality.
There is still some musical-type work to be done - the fine-tuning here and there - and the Christmas/New Year has slowed things down, as was expected.
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Update 7
Posted by Mark Basil Butler
1 month ago
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Good news! Recording is now finished, with the final job of mixing the tracks down to master producer Dave Flett, which means we should have the CD available by early New Year, perhaps January. As a bonus, a stellar, heartbreakingly beautiful version of Rollin' Back recorded by Bob with his daughters Eva and Jessica, with Steve James on slide, will be added to the album, along with the two tracks he recorded for the album before his untimely death.
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Update 6
Posted by Mark Basil Butler
3 months ago
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Sadly, Uncle Bob McGowan, the heart and soul of Uncle Bob's Band, master guitarist and mighty human, has succumbed to his illness and now plays among the stars, and will not complete the journey we embarked on all those weeks ago. But he did complete one track for the album, Still Got Some Ramblin to Do. We also propose to make that title of the album, which we hope will be a fitting monument to his life and career. Shine on, Bob.
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Update 5
Posted by Mark Basil Butler
3 months ago
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All set for recording to happen in the first week of November. We have contacted all donors seeking an address to send their copies of the finished CD, but if you​ haven't been contacted, reply with your address and you won't miss out. John Taylor has also been busy creating T-shirts featuring some of his finest posters for the band. They are available here: https://unclebobsband.secure-decoration.com/shop
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$9,555 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 59 people in 6 months
Created July 10, 2018
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