Radio Days: when the wireless had valves and wasn’t wire-less

Richard Opat 2010 (photo :Ron Jobe)

COURTESY of drummer Richard Opat, we have just acquired two delightful CDs produced by the band Radio Days in the early 1990s.
(“Thanks for the Melody” in 1990, and “Love is on the Air Tonight” in 1992).

Radio Days was formed in Melbourne in 1989 by seven experienced jazz musicians, most of whom at some stage had been members of the New Harlem Jazz Band.

Many of you will have fond memories of The New Harlem which was founded by Ian Smith in 1968, and continued for twenty years under four different leaders until it folded in 1988. (Ian Smith, Chris Ludowyck, Sandro Donati and Patrick Miller)

The liner notes for “Thanks for the Melody” explain the purpose of the band better than I could:

The aim of the band has been to interpret songs from an era when radios still had valves. Rather than merely recreate swing band classics, Radio Days performs Pat Miller’s arrangements of popular songs, closely following the composers’ and publishers’ original conceptions of the tunes. The emphasis is on melody and unaffected vocals, yet the bubbling improvised solos and the infectious rhythms are perfect for both listening and dancing.

The unusual instrumentation of three saxophones and a four piece rhythm section is about half the usual size of a band from the era. Nevertheless Radio Days is able, through the versatility and musicianship of its members, to bring to life a time when melody came into your home by the magic of the radio.

Here’s the back cover of “Thanks for the Melody” showing the band in period setting! That’s Bill Morris (tuba) in the red tie, Neil Orchard (piano) next to him, Chris “Charley” Farley (banjo) proffering the cup of tea, Pat Miller (soprano, tenor and alto sax, clarinet) fiddling with the radio, Graeme Pender (clarinet,alto sax) dusting the three flying ducks, Jeff Parkes (tenor sax, guitar) with the vacuum cleaner, and last and by no means least, Richard Opat (drums) on his hands and knees. The lucky lady receiving all the attention is the wife of a friend of Bill Morris (name unknown). Click on the caption under the above picture to listen to Pat Miller composition, “Radio Days”.

Click on the caption to hear the title song.
The lineup is pretty much the same in 1992, except that there is no banjo in the cover picture (though if you listen closely you can hear Chris Farley plunking away), and Mike Edwards (second from the left in the front row) replaces Graeme Pender. Apart from Neil Orchard and Bill Morris, all are still playing. Jeff Parkes incidentally was the New Harlem’s first sousaphone player before being replaced by Bill Morris (a former member of The Red Onions Jazz Band). The genealogy of jazz bands is a fascinating study!

Every time I listen to these CDs, which is often, I can’t help smiling. So when the political, economic and social woes of the world get you down and the cat throws up on the carpet, get on the phone to Richard Opat on (03) 9528 6841 and beg copies of these panaceas for gloom. I believe they are $10 each including postage.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

2 responses to “Radio Days: when the wireless had valves and wasn’t wire-less

  1. Hi there – this is probably a long shot, but there are a few of us from Hurstbridge High School in the 70’s who were taught by Neil Orchard and also participated in his musical ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and would love to make contact with him again? Hope you can help!

  2. Can’t wait to get a copy of the CD’s samples sound great, well done guys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *