Foreword

Material for this history has been gathered principally from a virtually complete collection of Newsletters in the possession of Robin and Avis Willis, kindly made available to the editor, from entries in the Club’s cash book, and from the committee’s Minute Book.

Regrettably periods existed when the Newsletter issues were many months apart, and information on happenings – such as the appearance of bands – was not recorded. That bands actually performed in the period was confirmed by entries in the cash book – but until recently, bands in that document were not identified by name.

It was therefore impossible to list all the local bands that appeared each month at the Willows and Lakeview and in other locations before 1989. Also, even if it were possible to record this information, it would have more than doubled the size of this document.

However, in adopting this course, an injustice has no doubt been done to those many local musicians who were (and still are) the backbone of music in the club.

The hundreds of performances given by these dedicated musicians for our pleasure have done more than anything else to establish the Club on a firm footing, and members and others owe them an enormous debt of gratitude, which the editor would like to acknowledge here.

This document is not a history of jazz on the Far South Coast and only occasionally is reference made to “non Club sponsored” jazz. However, many restaurants, pubs and bodies such as the Bega Arts Council have provided jazz over the years – the most notable being, of course, the Merimbula Jazz Festival, which, until 1998, was conducted independently from the DSJC.

Pre-1984

The formation of the Down South Jazz Band in 1978 by Jiri Kripac introduced some sort of frequency to jazz performances on the Far South Coast , with fairly regular gigs at various locations such as the Bank Hotel in Bega and the Top Pub in Pambula. Tuesday was practice night at Wolumla Hotel, usually attracting 10 to 15 people. The band comprised Jiri Kripac (trumpet and leader), Barry Pascoe (trombone), Monique Lysiak (clarinet), Gordon Brown (piano), John Moffatt (sousaphone), Bill McLean (banjo) and John Cursley (drums). Pat Thompson (Madam) sang regularly with the band until it disbanded in 1985.

The band was even invited by the Victorian Jazz Club to perform for them over one weekend, which they did most successfully.

On another occasion, the band was playing for a fancy dress 40th birthday at Nethercote. At 12pm they began to pack up when a 6ft 4in burly abalone diver called Harco, dressed as Superman, strode over and questioned the finishing time, insisting, in the deepest, roughest voice, it was 1am. The band, being totally convinced by his argument, started playing again and John Cursley asked Barry Pascoe, who was somewhat upset, “what will we do if he wants us to play until 2am?” Barry briefly stopped playing and quickly said out of the side of his mouth, “We’ll play till two”.

1981 saw the inauguration of the Merimbula Jazz Festival, which brought increasing numbers of expert jazz musicians into the area annually, and allowed local jazz enthusiasts to get to know these musicians personally. It also, in time, brought an urge in these fans to listen to jazz on a more regular basis, with local musicians as the backbone and visiting musicians invited with their bands or as front liners with the locals.

The catalyst in the formation of the Down South Jazz Club was the arrival in Bega in 1984 of Sydney Jazz buffs Frank and Wendy Percy, who had the enthusiasm and know – how to set up and run a jazz club. A committee was formed, a constitution drawn up and the Club came into being in April 1984. Mention should be made of those members of the inaugural committee, whose enthusiasm and self belief ensured there is now a thriving Down South Jazz Club. The committee comprised:

  • President: John Cursley
  • Vice President: Ken Gordon
  • Secretary: Frank Percy
  • Treasurer: Brenda Cursley
  • Publicity Officer: Wendy Percy
  • Newsletter Editor: Frank Percy

1984

With commendable self confidence, the committee opened proceedings with a successful visit by Tom Baker’s Swing Street Orchestra at the Hideaway restaurant in Bega, with a net profit of $147.74. If only subsequent committees could make a similar boast!

Throughout the year, performances by local musicians were held approximately monthly at the Bank Hotel, Bega and the Top Pub, Pambula. A concerted membership drive saw membership rise in the first year to 182. A number of fine visiting artists performed at the Bank Hotel and Hideaway Restaurant in Bega and Eastern Jade Restaurant in Merimbula:

27th April -Tom Baker’s Swing Street Orchestra – Hideaway Rest.
13th June – Sydney Jazz Quintet – Bank Hotel.
6th July – Mike Hallam Hot Six – Eastern Jade Rest. (A tribute to Louis Armstrong)
12th August – Madam Pat and Rag Tag Band – Bank Hotel.
!st Sept – Dick Hughes with DSJB – Hideaway Rest.
18th Oct – Tom Baker’s Swing Street Orchestra – Eastern Jade.
27th October – Graeme Bell’s Allstars – Bowling Club. (Graeme’s 70th birthday)11th November – The Mildewed Figge J.B. – Bank Hotel.

A very fine start to the Club’s programme, by any standards.

Visiting band members always stayed at the Cursley’s, Gordon’s and Percy’s and very many late nights ensued. One night, at the Cursley’s Lyn Wallis went missing and John Cursley eventually discovered him lying on his back in the front yard. Lyn then proceeded to bring John’s attention to the wonderful stars above Bega!

1985

The Down South Jazz Band, the Southern Swing Quartet (comprising Charlie Gibbons on trumpet, Freddy Thomas on piano, Don More on bass and John Cursley on drums), and other local musicians, continued to entertain on a regular basis at the Commercial Hotel, Top Pub, etc.

Frank Percy developed the format of an attractive newsletter which rivalled the best produced in the capital cities.

Membership dropped off from 182 to 140.

Microphones and a multichannel mixer were purchased. The piano from Bega Town Hall was acquired, its action renovated and located at the Hideaway Restaurant for jazz gigs. Speakers were purchased from Tom Baker.

A high number of imported bands was maintained, despite reduced attendances.

The following bands were engaged:

11thJanuary – Paul Furniss’ San Francisco J.B. – Bega RSL Auditorium.
13th January – Paul Furniss’ San Francisco J.B. – Eastern Jade Restaurant.
26th January – 1st Jazz Ball – New Harlem J.B. – Bega RSL Auditorium.
23rd March – Madam Pat and Rag Tag J.B. – Black Dolphin.
1st September – Black Mountain J.B. – Kameruka.
2nd November – Madam Pat and Rag Tag J.B. – Tathra Bowling Club.
16th November – Annual Jazz Ball – Jiri Kripac “Southern Odd Balls Banned” Twyford Hall.
24th November – Tom Baker and Swing Street Orchestra – Hideaway Restaurant.

President commented that the Annual Ball and Tom Baker functions were a great success, although only 30% of the audiences were Club members.

1986

In an early Newsletter, the president highlighted the poor attendance of Club members at most functions, commenting that only 20 turned up to the last function at the Hideaway. He warned that unless attendances at the Hideaway and Kameruka improved, these venues would be lost to us.

An experimental get-together with jazz clubs from Canberra, Sydney, Illawarra, Kiama and Narooma was held at the Steam Packet Hotel, Nellingan on Sunday 13th April. Many bands including the DSJB, musos from Canberra, Madam Pat and her band and many others provided the music. It was apparently a rip roaring success, with around 300 present.

Gigs were introduced at the Cobargo Hotel and Tathra Surf Club, for some reason known as “Sippers”. (John Cursley explains: “nippers” are young members of surf clubs. “Sippers” were the 5pm – 9pm Sunday drinkers at the Tathra Surf Club).

A Club badge was issued, but abandoned for later years on the grounds of cost.

Windcheaters in blue with a gold “Down South Jazz Club” logo were purchased from Tulgeen Industries in Bega. Wendy Percy supplied and attached an embroidered music note to each of the first garments purchased. As there were only a few, they were prized as indications of founder membership.

This year heralded the real start of the “bucket brigade” at the Yellowpinch Picnic at the end of the Merimbula Jazz Festival, in which raffle tickets were sold with great enthusiasm to the picnickers. Reference to the appendix will indicate just how much the Jazz Club has relied on this raffle to keep afloat financially. It is mostly the same team today continuing the tradition, so – to take the opportunity to plug – any new volunteers will be most welcome and a lot of fun is guaranteed.

Membership slightly increased to 150.

The following bands were “imported”

30th March – DSJB with Joe Stokman & Paul Ingle – Hideaway
13th April – Nellingan Rort with other jazz clubs. See above.
15th June – Madam Pat with the Hot Club de Bega – Kameruka.
29th June – Clare Hansson with Madam Pat – Eastern Jade.
26th July – Sydney Jazz Quintet – Eastern Jade Restaurant
27th July – Sydney Jazz Quintet – Hideaway Restaurant.
25th October – Annual Jazz Ball – Mike Hallam’s Hot Six – Twyford Hall.
26th October – Recovery Cruise – Mike Hallam’s Hot Six – Sinbad, Broadwater.

Claire Hansson was a much acclaimed sit – in at the Ball. Life membership was presented to our very distinguished Pat Thompson by President Terry Hayes.

The editor happily recalls the look of horror and disbelief on the face of President un – faze Hayes when we arrived at Sinbad for the Recovery Cruise to discover their liquor licence had not yet come through and the ship was dry! Naturally, the cruise was delayed whilst the situation was rectified.

1987

Membership fell to 95.

The number of “imported” musicians was reduced by around half because of losses sustained in previous years. Bank balance fell to $144 at one point during the year.

Founder members Frank and Wendy Percy returned to Sydney, with loss of their enthusiasm and organising talents to the Committee. Frank Percy was appointed Life Member of the Club in recognition of his unstinting work to get the Club off the ground.

Ken Gordon became Newsletter Editor.

Pat Thompson and her band undertook their first overseas tour to London, Edinburgh, Frankfurt and Holland. Its success may be judged by the many subsequent tours demanded by Pat’s overseas fans.

“Non – Club” Jazz was re-introduced to Kameruka, with the Andrew Ferguson Quartet playing on the afternoons of Candelo market days.

The following visitors played for the Club in 1987:

14th February – Mike Hallam’s front line – Merimbula Golf Club.
15th Feb – Mike Hallam’s front line, backed by Messrs Cursley, Moffatt & McLean, with vocals by Madam Pat – Sippers at Tathra Surf Club.
24th May – Madam Pat & Her Rent Party Band – Sippers, Tathra Surf Club.
8th August – Tribute to Benny Goodman by Paul Furniss and Glen Heinrich backed by Freddy Thomas on piano, Don More on bass and John Cursley on drums – Bega Bowling Club.
23rd October – B & W Ball – Society Syncopators – Black Dolphin Motel .

The Benny Goodman night was acknowledged by all to be unforgettable, with brilliant clarinet playing by Paul Furniss and superb vibraphone work from Glen Heinrich, ably backed by our local musos. John Cursley found it difficult to move his arms for the next week after his frenetic drumming on Sing, Sing, Sing.

Due to previous bookings, the committee broke with tradition in holding the annual ball at the Black Dolphin instead of Twyford Hall. Special efforts to make the venue attractive included beautiful table decorations in the form of black cardboard silhouette stands of musical instruments, lovingly made by Avis and Robin Willis.The ball was a great success, but a consensus of members demanded a return to Twyford Hall in future. Perhaps another reason was the portable dance floor at the Dolphin caused more cursing and swearing during its temporary installation than a golf round.

1988

Membership fell yet again to 86.

“Non – Club” Jazz twice a month started at the Candelo Pub, with Bob Porter’s Back Alley Five.

Again, due to lack of finance, visiting musicians were limited to:

15th January – Pat Thompson & Nyn Hamilton – Tathra Bowling Club.
6th March – The Abel Jazzmen – Tilba Winery – joint venture with Batemans Bay Jazz Club.
26th March – Tom Baker’s Swing Street Orchestra – Kameruka.
29th October – Black & White Ball – Jeff Embleton’s Jazz Band – Twyford Hall.

To show how the best laid plans can go wrong, a couple of days before the Tom Baker gig , the local licensing sergeant stopped the performance being held in the restaurant. Undaunted, we hired a marquee and held the night in the grounds in Kameruka; truly a memorable night, witnessed by about thirty enthusiastic fans.The band and ourselves agreed the acoustics were superb.

In discussing the Ball band, none of us had heard of the Jeff Embleton band but the Lavers reckoned it was the best band at Thredbo, so we booked them. They were very good, but finishing the music for the Black and White Ball at eleven thirty was definitely unappreciated by the large crowd, who were just getting warmed up!

Pity Harko wasn’t there!

1989

The Willows Era

 

Membership rose to 94.

The Club was Incorporated towards end of year.

Bob Porter, as musical co-ordinator, convinced the committee that we needed a base in which to conduct monthly jazz gigs. Various venues were proposed, but Bob came up with the Willows at Pambula. Bob made all the arrangements with Trish and Joe, the licensees, and thus started a very happy association for nine years.

First Newsletters under the joint editorship of Mark Westwood, Colin Gould and Bob Wade.

John Moffatt appointed Public Officer, with the principal place of administration of the Club registered as 35 Beach Street, Merimbula.

Limited funds kept “imported “ musos to:

1st September – Paul Furniss & Paul Baker with Louisa Searle and Peter Saunders from Canberra and local musicians Bob Porter, Bill McLean and Bob Everard – Merimbula Golf Club.
3rd September – Paul Furniss & Paul Baker same backing – Greenacre.
22nd September – Sydney Jazz Quintet – Twyford Hall – joint venture with South Coast Arts Council.
28th October – Black & White Ball – Black Mountain Jazz Band – Twyford Hall.
17th November – Tom Baker’s Chicago Seven – Hideaway Restaurant.

The President commented in the Newsletter that the Sydney Jazz Quintet provided an excellent performance. Unfortunately, the concert was attended by only a select few – only about thirty turned up. This had a detrimental effect on subsequent attempts to lay on some modern jazz, the comment always being – it’ll cost us a bomb!

On Thursday 21st December, a large crowd enjoyed a Christmas function at the Willows. The band was led by Bob Porter, accompanied by Ken Gordon (piano), Bill McLean (banjo), Walter Brunton (washboard), Chris Owen (reeds) and Ted Daniel (drums). Later in the evening, Graeme Walker added his guitar to the band to signal the arrival of the one and only Pat Thompson for some outstanding vocals.

1990

Membership increased dramatically to 142. Membership charge increased from the original $10 to $12.

Jazz Club banner for parades brought up to date and a new JAZZ backdrop curtain provided by Clare Gordon after the previous one was stolen.

In December, John Martin was appointed Public Officer in place of John Moffatt and the principal place of administration changed to 5a Collins Street, Merimbula.

Bottom Pub monthly functions went from strength to strength. It was decided to pay the bands a nominal sum ($20 per head, with visitors payment at the discretion of the organiser). In lieu of charging admittance (which would have been difficult owing to the number of entrances to the Willows), a raffle was run, the prizes being a choice of a tape or CD. Sometimes a prize of a bottle of wine was offered by the publican.

A cheque from the Festival Committee was presented to the Club and an amplifier, worth around $800, made available for its use.

John Cursley left the district, with his enthusiasm and knowledge being greatly missed.

Col Gould authorised to set up a photographic and Newsletter library.

Visiting bands were:

28th June – Jumping Jazz Cats – Hideaway. 
25th July Bob Barnard Jazz Band – Twyford Hall.
27th October – Black & White Ball – Abbey Jazz Band (Eric Holroyd) with Nyn Hamilton – Twyford Hall.

The Newsletter commented that the Jumping Jazz Cats, a popular swing style group from Canberra, entertained an appreciative audience of around forty at the Hideaway. As around one hundred were required to break even, it was observed that the Club lost most of the profits from the festival raffle in one evening.

The Black & White Ball attracted over 120 people to Twyford Hall – a record for the Club.

Another good turnout was at the Christmas function at the Willows. The musicians were Joe Stokman (reeds), Don More (vibrophone), Walter Brunton (washboard), Bill McLean (banjo), John Moffatt(sousaphone), John Judge(Trumpet), Ken Gordon (piano), Don Lawrence (saxophone), Pat Thompson (vocals), Margie Fullerton (piano), Tony Fullerton (trombone), and Graeme Walker (guitar). This function was becoming one of the big events of the year for Club members.

1991

Membership dropped again to 105.

A very notable benefit night to assist Pat Thompson to undertake another overseas tour was arranged by the Down South Jazz Club Inc., at the Merimbula Bowling Club on 6th June. The sum of $2,100 was raised to help Pat.

The Club address was changed from PO Box 646 Bega to PO Box 346 Merimbula.

50 new Club windcheaters were ordered from Tulgeen Industries.

In December, it was decided to increase the base payment of musicians at the Willows from $20 to $40.

The first of many Christmas parties at the Willows was held, with virtually all local musicians who had performed for the Club during the year being invited (and paid) to play at the function.

In December, Walter Brunton invited the Club to have a jazz picnic on his farm. Music was provided by local musicians.

Apart from Pat Thompson’s benefit night, the only visiting musicians were:

18th October – Black & White Ball – Society Syncopators – RSL auditorium, Merimbula.

1992

Membership fell further to 87.

January at the Willows saw the start of what was to become an annual event in the form of a visit by Tony Thomas and Geoff Speed of the Black Mountain Jazz Band, backed by our local musos Bob Porter, Bill McLean, John Moffatt and Walter Brunton.

Introduction of Members’ Attendance Jackpot Prize to encourage attendance, particularly at the less popular gigs.

The Black and White Ball had become something of a social event in Merimbula, with many non – member locals attending because it was the place to be seen. Many of the guests produced silver goblets, French champagne, and a quite elaborate meal. Club members spent the Saturday afternoon decorating the hall and tables and Twyford Hall was transformed into a fairyland of colour. With the great jazz bands selected to provide the music, it was definitely the event of the year for Club members.

Increasing funds meant that consideration could be given to employing more visiting musicians and the following were invited to play:

17th January – Tony Thomas & Geoff Speed (Black Mountain J.B.) with local backing – Willows.
28th March – Riverboat Rascals – Twyford Hall
16th April – Madam Pat and David Bates with Sapphire Coast Quartet – Willows.
18th October – Black & White Ball – Shakytown Strutters – Twyford Hall.
17th December – Christmas Party – all local musicians plus Pat Thompson and David Bates – Willows.

1993

Membership increased again to 111.

The Willows performances took on an established format, commencing at 8pm and continuing until around 11-ish. Around 10pm, publicans Trish and Joe served a free light supper, which was greatly appreciated by the band and audience alike. Providing the audience totalled more than forty, a raffle was conducted. Prizes were originally records, later tapes or CDs. Considerable care was taken in the selection of these prizes to try to give members a wider experience of jazz. At the Christmas party, the Club contributed to the cost of the supper to provide something a little more substantial in recognition of the occasion. Father Christmas usually made his appearance about then.

Various local bands took turns apiece to appear at the Willows and sometimes visiting artists were booked to augment the local bands.

Mark Westwood left the area and relinquished editorship of the Newsletter, a job he had performed with distinction since 1989. Col Gould, Bob Wade and Margaret Howard continued the good work.

The following visiting artists performed for the Club during the year:

21st January – Tony Thomas & Geoff Speed (Black Mountain J.B.) backed by the Down South Jazz Quartet – Willows.
19th February – Tom Baker’s J.B. – Twyford Hall.
17th August – Jim Hilson & Tony Thomas (Black Mountain J.B.), backed by the Down South Jazz Quartet – Willows.
6th November – Black & White Ball -Geoff Bull’s Olympia Jazz Band Twyford Hall.
14th December – Christmas Party with all local musos – Willows.