Monthly Archives: December 2011

Geelong RSL Gigs over Christmas and New Year

HERE’S the latest update on gigs at the Geelong RSL Club, 50 Barwon Heads Road, Belmont, Vic.
Live jazz from 5.30pm to 8.30pm on Sundays (except 25 Dec and 1 Jan).
8 Jan 2012 – Royal Garden Jazz Band
15 Jan 2012 – Des Camm Jazz Band
22 Jan 2012 – Maryborough Trad Jazz Ensemble
29 Jan 2012 – Moonee Valley Jazz Band
5 Feb 2012 – Huey’s Nite Owls
12 Feb 2012 – Weary & Friends
A cover charge of $10.00 applies – this entitles you to a $5 voucher discount off a drink or meal. 5241 1766.

Thanks to Sandy Leaman for this information!

Willie Watt: 18 January 1935 to 4 November 2011

Willie Watt

Willie Watt

Obituary for Willie Watt written by Eric J. Brown

ON FRIDAY the 4th of November 2011 renowned Australian banjo player Willie Watt died. Born on the 18th of January 1935 Willie became a member of probably one of the best rhythm sections of Australian jazz, that of the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band.


Ken Colyer: New Orleans to London

Like many Australian jazzmen of the 1950s , Willie left for England with trumpeter Frank Turville. There they became hooked on the New Orleans style jazz played by bands such as the Ken Colyer Jazzmen.

Back in Melbourne Llew Hird’s New Orleans Jazz Band was playing once a week at the Blue Heaven Restaurant in St Kilda.   Llew left that band to form another band featuring his wife Pamela Hird on trumpet. This was the beginning of the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, with Frank Turville on trumpet and Willie Watt on banjo. At the same time German bass player Mookie Herman joined the band and they enjoyed great popularity taking part in Australia’s first real jazz church service put on at St Alban’s Church of England by the Reverend Peter Thompson, and even opened a cat show!

[This CD from the Victorian Jazz Archive of The Downbeat Concert No.55 at the Melbourne Town Hall, 27 June 1960 contains the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band playing “Dauphine Street Blues”. Click on the cover and be patient.]

From within the band their vocalist, Paul Marks, formed his folk singing group which was extremely popular. This had Willie, Mookie and drummer Graham Bennett backing Paul on vocals and guitar.

The Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band obtained a contract in 1961 to play jazz clubs in England and Europe which were experiencing a jazz boom at the time. This boom was to hit Australia a couple of years later.
[Here’s a picture of the band with George Lewis taken in London in 1961. From left to right: Kevin Shannon, trombone, Willie Watt, banjo, George Lewis, Graham Bennett,drums, Mookie Herman, bass, Frank Turville, trumpet, Nick Polites, clarinet. (from “The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz by Bruce Johnston)]

Melbourne News Orleans Jazz Band with George Lewis

The band toured successfully and then broke up in England in early 1963 with some of the members returning to Melbourne to join local jazz bands. Willie and Frank Turville joined the Hot Sands Jazz Band led by drummer Graham Bennett. This band became very popular playing to large crowds at the Campus Club at the Glen Iris R.S.L. Unfortunately the Hot Sands Jazz Band made only one recording, a 7” E.P. which included the number Willie’s Weary Blues. Willie had always been known for his tiredness and I remember him playing and sleeping at the same time in Hamburg. Another time he fell asleep in the toilets at Heathrow Airport while waiting for Max Collie to arrive from Melbourne.

From the Hot Sands Willie joined the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band in the 1970s. This culminated in his being with the Yarra when they did three concerts backing New Orleans trumpeter Alvin Alcorn at the A.M.P. Theatrette. Two of these concerts were recorded by Paul Burke and are of studio quality. My ambition is that these concerts be issued on CD for all to hear instead of accumulating dust on my record shelves.

After a long lay off Willie “ rediscovered his banjo under the bed” ( his words) and joined Hugh De Rosayro’s New Orleans Nite Owls which played mainly at the Boundary Hotel in Centre Road, East Bentleigh. Unfortunately he never rediscovered that wonderful ringing tone of his early years. He acknowledged this when I played him one of Paul Burke’s A.M.P. recordings with the comment “ I don’t play like that now “. What a pity! After backing renowned English clarinet player Sammy Rimmington’s tour with the Nite Owls in 1997 he joined the Des Camm Band together with Hugh De Rosayro. They were sacked from that band for some obscure reason (?). Willie then retired to live in Elsternwick where he filled in his time with child minding, betting on horses etc etc – a model father!

A wake in Willie’s honour was held at the Louisiana Shakers’ regular gig at the Clyde Hotel in Carlton on Sunday the 13th of November 2011. The event was packed with many musicians and friends plus there were many sit ins. Willie’s former wife Wendy and his son and two daughters attended as did Doctor John Roberts. It was a fitting farewell to a much loved musician. Also noticed that day was Dave Rankin, who performed with Willie on the very first commercial recording of the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band for Swaggie in 1959. Dave travelled from his home in Lithgow in New South Wales for the occasion. It turns out that Willie and Dave had gone to primary school together starting a life long friendship.

I am sorry that all of the above is constructed from my memory as Willie rejected my request for an interview for the Australian Jazz Interviews Project. I am sure that he would have given us many more stories from over the years such as the “ Nude Banjo Band” he led at the Australian Jazz Convention held at Cootamundra.

[We don’t have any footage of the Nude Banjo Band, but here’s a short film of that great Convention].

Many thanks must go to Ashley Keating, Kevin Bolton and to Willie’s family for organising such a wonderful tribute to a great musician.
Farewell Good Friend,
Eric. J. Brown

The Melbourne New Orleans Band plays “The Saints”

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Shaking the Clyde: The Louisiana Shakers blowing up a storm at The Clyde Hotel

Clyde HotelLAST Sunday we wandered up to the venerable  Clyde Hotel, corner of Elgin and Cardigan Streets in Carlton (and traditional drinking pub of mathematicians from Melbourne University so I’m told) to hear one of our favourite bands, the legendary Louisiana Shakers.

Since they were formed in 1994 the Shakers have toured the world, played all over Australia, produced numerous CDs and endeared themselves to lovers of New Orleans style jazz for their authentic sound, relaxed presentation and empathy with the audience.

On our visit the band comprised the usual suspects: Ashley Keating, leader on banjo, Nick Polites on clarinet, Derek Reynolds on trumpet, Charlie Powell on trombone, and helping Ashley keep the rhythm section on beat, Nat Garbutt on bass and Kevin Bolton on drums.

The opening number was “Black Cat on the Fence”, a 1940s tune which has become a favourite with the New Orleans revivalists.

This was followed by “Breeze” with Charlie Powell “singing” as only Charlie can.

Here’s a standard of the George Lewis band,”Redwing”, played by the Shakers with high hilarity!!

During the afternoon, Frank Stewart and Kay Younger dropped in after Frank’s street walking gig with Simon Vancam in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds. When offered a sit-in, Frank said “Yes please”. Here’s a clip with a double clarinet frontline playing “Somebody Stole My Gal”.

The Shakers play at the Clyde every Sunday afternoon from 2pm to 5pm. You might want to be there when the doors open at 1pm to get a front-row seat, or to eat before the music starts.  Meals are GENEROUS, and the crowd of regulars and drop-in musicians is appreciative. The atmosphere is informal and welcoming. 
Speaking of “regulars”, I was reading a back issue from 1996 of Jazzline, the magazine of The Victorian Jazz Club, when the Shakers were playing at another Carlton pub, The Prince Alfred, and who should be in the audience then but Mick Potter, Eddie Brown and Irene who always managed to find a spot to dance. And guess who were in the audience last Sunday still enjoying the Shakers’ music!

Next Sunday, 18 December, is the Shakers’ last gig at the Clyde for 2011, but they’ll be back after the break on 5 February 2012.

In the meantime, here’s a film and interviews of the Shakers taken earlier this year by the John D. Elliott film crew (yes the Carlton John Elliott)

Frilly Knickers at Phillip Island: a girl band

THERE is a long tradition of all-female bands in jazz. Frilly Knickers, which was the brainchild of tuba player Darryl-Clare Webb from Queensland is one such band.

Frilly Knickers Jazz Band

Frilly Knickers jazz Band

Nicola Shaw

Nicola Shaw
(Photo: Ron Jobe)

One of the early members was Nicola Shaw (Qld.) a well-known trombone and tuba player.

Jacqui O’Neill (drums & washboard, leader) and Jaz Stutley, (vocals & kazoo) joined at the 2007 Australian Jazz Convention in Goulburn, NSW. They decided to make the band Victoria-based to facilitate playing other gigs, not solely Jazz Conventions.

The current line-up is Jacqui and Jaz; Jenny Wagstaff, (cornet, tenor sax); Kay Zhang (alto sax) Renee Limenidis (trombone), Lyn Thomas (keyboard), Dawn Houghton (banjo,) and Chris Farmer (bass). These musicians have varied backgrounds in jazz, cabaret, big band, brass band, blues and country, music teaching and music therapy.

Frilly Knickers have played at Maryborough in February 2011; Grampians Jazz Festivals; Merimbula Jazz Festivals; Australian Jazz Conventions at Lismore 2008, Melbourne 2009 and Orange 2010, and for the Darebin Music Festival and Phillip Island Jazz Club in 2010.

Phillip Island Jazz ClubThis last gig is about to be repeated on Sunday December 11th from 2-5pm in the Bass Room at the All Seasons Phillip Island Resort, 2128 Phillip Island Tourist Rd., Cowes. The performance will be preceded by a BBQ lunch/Jazz Club Christmas Breakup from 12.30-1.30pm. $11.00 per head (meal only). Phone Jill Boyce on 5952 6800 or 0417 416 300 or for bookings.

P.S. Yes – the band does have its own wine label; a Frilly Red Merlot and a Frilly White Sauvignon Blanc!

Frilly Knickers Contact Numbers: Jacqui O’Neill: (03) 9380 6992
Jaz Stutley: 0419 363 623
Email: (Jacqui) (Jaz)

The Cairo Club played at The Astor

Astor Theatre

Astor Theatre, St Kilda

PETER Milley’s Cairo Club Orchestra, that wonderful big band re-creator of the style and music of the 1930s, recently teamed up with The Astor Theatre in St Kilda to present a special event.

As Melbourne film buffs would know, The Astor on the corner of Chapel Street and Dandenong Road, St Kilda is a movie theatre in the grand manner. More than 75 years old, it retains the Art Deco glamour of the 30s when going to a movie was an EVENT. On Sunday 20 November, the matinee was made even more special by the “curtain raiser” to the classic Bogart film, Key Largo.
In addition to the Cairo Club, the bill of fare included special guests Nichaud Fitzgibbon, dancers Eden and Hannah, Greg Sumner on banjo, and exotic dancer Azura.

Unfortunately I didn’t hear about this occasion until after the event, but I am indebted to Jaz Stutley of the band, FRILLY KNICKERS, for this review.

In the tradition of old time radio and variety theatre (such as the famous Tivoli) but with the addition of film and swing orchestra, this unique event was another success for both the band and the Astor Cinema.

The Astor’s Art Deco surroundings are an entirely appropriate venue for such an enterprise. This is the seventh event by the band in this venue; but never before with the special guests we saw perform with such skill and panache.

All it lacked was a comedian – no, actually, Bandleader Peter Milley was in his usual form – and acrobats; though the young dancers Eden and Hannah came close with their tap-dancing and cartwheels.

Nichaud Fitzgibbon

Nichaud Fitzgibbon


Azura, exotic dancer

Nichaud Fitzgibbon was in fine relaxed voice and fettle, surprising us with her Dietrichesque costume change for the second bracket and inspired interpretations of songs of the period.

Azura WAS “Egyptian Ella” and brought a sense of humour as well as her exotic dance expertise, presence and costumes.

The Cairo Club Orchestra supplemented their extensive repertoire with hot new numbers, and played with élan and gusto. Special guest Greg Sumner and his banjo were a big hit with the enthusiastic crowd.

All this, and Bogey and Bacall too! I was so involved in the entertainment that I dropped bits of choc-top down my front, and so went home completely satisfied.
Jaz Stutley

Here’s a clip (filmed and edited by Richard Bence) of the band playing Egyptian Ella.

To get yourself onto the Astor mailing list for future movies and specials, go to and Subscibe.
To follow the travels of the Cairo Club, go to