Publicity shot taken in Bangkok, Thailand, 1967
The first version of the band
Left to right: Jeff Doyle, Ken Lennon, Ron Hicks,
Bob Grant, Joan Harvey (seated)
A more candid shot taken the same day
Left to right: Joan Harvey (on the horse)
Jeff Doyle (holding the horse), Ken Lennon, Ron Hicks
It all started in Australia in the early '60s, when my mother was a solo singer (coming in second in the talent contest that launched Olivia Newton-John's career) and my father left the British police force to pick up a bass guitar for the first time. You'll notice a few of the band members change over the years with my parents being the only full-time members and drummer Ken Lennon hanging with us the longest.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, we travelled the world together (the only time I didn't go with them was when they entertained in Vietnam during the war), working everything from one-nighters in bars and high-class nightclubs to two-week gigs on cruise ships.
After establishing themselves in Australia in the early-to-mid '60's (enough for the gossip columns to write about their various exploits), they left to travel the world.
I logged a lot of miles in this book over the years! It was given out by Qantas to its younger passengers in the '60s and '70s. You could send the book up to the cockpit where the pilot would fill in the details of your trip and then, if you were lucky, he'd invite you to visit the cockpit and check out the view. Try doing that these days, kids, and you'll probaby end up on the FBI's Watch list or something!
The following Vietnam memories were originally published on the My Words part of my site.
The band did 2 tours of Vietnam, from September to November of '67 and the same time frame in '69.
They had to audition for a panel of judges in Saigon beforehand and the average price for a four-piece band at the time was $400 a show. They passed with flying colors and ended up getting $450, or as my Mum recalls, about $150 after the agent got a hold of it!
The shows were already half-sold on the basis of being an Australian band, something a bit different for the troops. They never got a chance to work the USO tours with Bob Hope as they usually booked American acts on the bill as opposed to Australian, so they were never asked.
Front: Joan Harvey, Major Beasley
Left to right (possibly): Bob Grant, Ken Lennon, Jeff Doyle, Ron Hicks
They were always on stand by for whatever vehicle they could get, usually Hueys or Chinooks, and my mother was terrified of the ones with no doors. She's logged more airtime than anyone I know and still has to have a stiff drink as soon as the airplane's in the air. Travelling by open-air in Vietnam scared the you-know out of her!
She remembers standing on the roof of their agents' villa in Danang and "watching the war" which seemed so close but yet so far away. They spent some time, any R&R they could get, in China Beach and I remember when the TV series of the same name was on how impressed Mum was with the way they portrayed it.
The agent cancelled one gig due to reports of snipers being seen along the route. The agency sent another group in their place, Someone and The Bubble Machine, a group of female singers, the bubble machines were all the rage at the time. They were all killed en route.
Left to right: Ron Hicks (back), Lenny Brand, Ken Lennon, Joan Harvey, Bob Grant
They got fed up with the agent's schedule at one point and got lost on purpose somewhere in the central highlands of Vietnam, just wandered around some American camps and played for food and lodgings. They did 2 shows a night for 3 days, handed the hat around after the show or received chickens, powdered milk, potatoes or booze, all delicacies at the time. And the times they played for the take in the hat, they averaged much more than the agent ever gave 'em, that's for sure.
In yet another agent-related tale, the band were all jailed for 72 hours in Bangkok, Thailand and fined 500 baht (about 25 US dollars then) because the agent didn't renew their visas. The "working ladies" in the jail were fascinated by Mum's wig, especially when she took it off and hung it on a coat rack. Wigs were just too much of a luxury for most people then, even the working gals, most of them had never even seen such a thing at the time. One of the cops pulled his gun on it when he entered the room.
Left to right: Ron Hicks, Lenny Brand, Ken Lennon, Joan Harvey, Bob Grant
Man, they just loved those snazzy jackets!
One major faux pas which may have caused an international incident occured at an Officer's Club in Thailand. Whenever they did a show at one of these clubs, the VIP tables were marked with a small US flag so Mum (or any performer) knew not to approach that table during one of their routines (she used to scan the crowd to find a "healthy" looking man and sit on his lap while he helped her sing a song with the band, Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport").
So, this one evening, Mum goes into the audience, finds a candidate with no flag on the table, sits down and tries to engage the man in the song. He keeps saying, "No thanks, really, please go away." Most of the time the men would jokingly refuse at first and then join in, but this man made it clear she was to leave and she was getting looks from around the room telling her to back off so she did.
After the show, someone apologized for not putting the flag on the table; the man was Captain Ernest Medina, the commanding officer of the unit charged in My Lai. He was on his way to Lieutenant William Calley's court martial. Probably not really in the mood to be singing about kangaroos.
Left to right: Joan Harvey, Ron Hicks (in his witch-doctor get-up),
Bob Grant, Lenny Brand
Yet another snap with those jackets!
Early version of the outfit Dad wore when they performed
"My Boomerang Won't Come Back".
The later, more "classic" version, is here
A more harrowing and sobering experience occurred in Dong Ha (sp?), a mere 7 miles from the DMZ. A stage was built in the middle of nowhere and the audience numbered around 400, all of the men dressed in full combat gear. The band arrived via a one-engine helicopter, maybe a Osterdehavilland or Austerdehavilland, I can't be sure as I'm not familiar with 'copters, but it was one that didn't have a radar on board.
The show was a rousing success and the men asked if they'd like to stay for a cookout, but the helicopter pilot had been warned of an incoming storm so they had to leave right away. They did receive gifts of fresh chickens and powdered milk, something they hadn't seen in weeks.
They departed with a heavy heart, everyone wanted to stick around and enjoy some downtime. With no radar on board, the 'copter had to fly below the gathering storm clouds and follow the coastline back to Danang, flying approx. 200 feet above the China Sea.
Long after they landed safely they found out they had about 10 minutes worth of fuel left. Much later, they discovered that the trees surrounding the stage had been full of Vietcong snipers. All during the show they just sat in the trees watching, then opened fire about 15 minutes after the helicopter left. Not one member of the audience survived.
Mum remembers being in Saigon and meeting some soldiers just back from R&R in Australia, the first ones to go abroad after the Tet Offensive. They were all treated like royalty, she was told, and one soldier said it was the first time he "forgot I was a black man." Not trying to make trouble here, just passing on memories.
The Americans and Aussies may both speak English, but the Aussie tongue can get in the way sometimes. They arrived on one base hours before showtime and Mum needed a rest so she asked a soldier to have someone "knock me up about 5", meaning to wake her up, of course, you naughty people :-) It was the talk of the base, the boys cracked up over that one.
Boarding a plane to somewhere, love the skinny ties
Bottom to top: Jeff Doyle, Ken Lennon, Joan Harvey, Bob Grant, Ron Hicks
They had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner in Takhli, Thailand; the menu alone was an adventure. Mum recalls how strange "pumpkin pie" sounded to her then. A whole pie made out of one vegetable? How odd. The band performed before dinner and enjoyed everyone's company during the meal.
That night, one of the soldiers was shot down and, as they'd been instructed, stayed exactly where he landed, a tree. He spent the night hanging in this tree with a broken leg and a broken arm. In the morning's light he saw where he was ... about a foot off the ground.
Mum visited the hospital tent the next day and saw him sitting in his cot wearing headphones and listening to a reel-to-reel tape player. He looked up at her and his face lit up. Without saying a word, he removed the headphones and handed them to her. He was listening to the tape someone made of their show from the night before. She's never forgotten how touched she was that this man found some kind of relief and release in her voice.
Another soldier she recalls, Captain Irv LeVine, who may have been at the dinner, handed my Mum a song called, "Bunker Number 3", and while she loved the song, they never got a chance to use it. It's long gone now and she's always regretted losing it.
NOTE: Thanks to Irv and my father, this matter's been finally cleared up right here!
Personally, I can vaguely recall another Officer's Club in Thailand where we spent Christmas of 1969 (same time frame when we stayed and the band performed at the spectacular Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok, where I spent every waking hour in the fabulous pool ordering fruit plates for lunch at 9 bucks a pop!).
An officer gave me a hand-made doll which I dragged around Asia for a while and I sang "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" for the crowd of home-sick men. Not a dry eye in the house, of course, I was just 5 years old at the time and represented all the kids these men had left at home.
Cover of a publicity fold-out flyer from the early days
Left to right: Ken Lennon, Lenny Brand, Joan Harvey, Bob Grant, Ron Hicks
Second page of the flyer featuring Joan Harvey, Bob Grant, and Len Brand
(we all called him Little Lenny due to his size)
Third page featuring Ron Hicks and Ken Lennon
And the back page featuring various shots from around the world
From Vietnam, they travelled to Hong Kong where I was staying with a family friend and they played the Playboy Club in Kowloon, a standing gig they had for a few years. Check my '70s Site page for a pic of me with a Playboy Bunny and my "graduation" picture from the school I attended at the time (it's a classic!).
From there they went to Australia to pick up a cruise ship, The Ocean Monarch, where they shared the bill with a bunch of other bands. They ended up doing 2 shows in the 2-week period and I got to revel in a cruise ship's glories but that's another tale along the riverbank.
Left to right: Bob Grant, Ron Hicks, Joan Harvey, Ken Lennon, Lenny Brand
The only shot I have left of the fab Beatles style suits.
Soon after this voyage, they opened for The New Seekers, a HUGE gig at the time and later shared the bill in Okinawa with Johnny Cash and Roger Miller. The poor man's gone now (Roger Miller) so we won't mention him falling off his barstool ;-) Just shows how our lives were at the time, one week in Vietnam and the next on a cruise ship. From the ridiculous to the sublime indeed.
Joan Harvey in the back
Left to right: Ron Hicks, Lenny Brand, Ken Lennon
Around this time, we attended a wedding at the Cliffside Hotel in Guam, I still have pictures of the gorgeous ice sculpture swans surrounding the pool. On the guestlist, the Marcos', Ferdinand and Imelda. All my Mum recalls is that Imelda changed shoes three times :-)
- The Auctioneer (written by Leroy Van Dyke)
- Early Morning Rain (written by Gordon Lightfoot)
- Mule Skinner Blues (written by Jimmie Rodgers)
- Waltzing Matilda (written by Banjo Paterson and Christina Macpherson)
No sound files available yet, but I'm working on it. I especially want to be able to share "Early Morning Rain" where my mother sings a duet with herself.
From the back of the single:
From "Down Under" - The Four Ways Show
The songs which we have selected for this album are some of the numbers which we have found most popular during our appearances at nightclubs and U.S. military establishments all over Europe and S.E. Asia in the past two years. Our rhythm guitarist, Len Brand, is featured in his version of the all time country favourite, "The Auctioneer". Female vocalist, Joan Harvey, sings a duet with herself in the Canadian folk ballad, "Early Morning Rain", and lead guitarist Bob Grant then joins with Len in the Rusty Draper hit, "Mule Skinner Blues". Finally the whole group including drummer Ken Lennon join Joan in the much requested title track, "Waltzing Matilda".
We trust you will enjoy our selection and we sincerely hope you will have the opportunity of hearing them in person some time in the future.
Our warmest regards,
The Four Ways
Left to right: Ron Hicks, Joan Harvey, Ken Lennon, Lenny Brand
According to my Dad, Captain Al Goree wrote "Bunker #3". They met the musical Irv LeVine in Korat, Northern Thailand, and I'm delighted to say he's been in contact through the site. With a song in his heart, he still performs occasionally and has been a veterinarian in Idaho for the last 25 years. Great to hear from you, Irv, and thanks for the pics!
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