- The Delltones
Current members of The Delltones
Background information Genres Vocal Harmony, Rock and Roll, Doo-wop Years active 1958-current Labels CBS/Coronet, Chase, EMI Records, Festival Records, HMV, K-Tel, Leedon Records, Parlophone Records, RCA, Seven, Spin, Starseed, Summit Associated acts Johnny O'Keefe Website www.thedelltones.com/ Members Owen Booth, Merv Dick, Woody Finlayson, Ian ’Peewee’ Wilson
The Delltones, a popular Australian rock 'n roll band, originally formed in 1958. They started out as a vocal harmony group with the lineup consisting of Brian Perkins, Noel Widerberg, Ian 'Peewee' Wilson and Warren Lucas. In 1962, with the single "Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands" in the top five on the Australian charts, the lead vocalist Noel Weiderberg died in a motor vehicle accident. His position was later filled by Col Loughnan.
The Delltones have been entertaining Australian audiences for over five decades, with their most successful recording years in the 1960s. Ian 'Peewee' Wilson is the only current member from the original lineup. In the mid 1980’s he transformed the group from a vocal quartet to a five piece vocal band. This along with other stylistic changes, led to the band's resurgence and the chart topping, rock ‘n roll revival album, Bop Til Ya Drop. The band remains as one of the most consistent live entertainers in Australia, with arguably the longest performing and recording history, for a vocal harmony band with an original member.
In 1958 Ian “Peewee” Wilson and Noel Widerberg, both lifesavers at the Bronte Surf Club, began singing together at the club socials. Widerberg and Wilson were also both interested in four-part Doo Wop harmony music. In the latter part of 1958 they met with Warren Lucas, a member of a vocal group The Sapphires, and the three experimented with harmony. Later that year Warren Lucas recruited Brian Perkins and the four, met up at a Bronte Club social and went looking for an echo in the shower room – The Delltones were formed. They began harmonizing at talent quests and on street corners. Their first “engagement” was at a Kings Cross nightclub. The manager heard the boys singing outside and invited them in to perform an impromptu show consisting of four songs – their total repertoire. They were paid with spaghetti bolognese and beer.
The Early Years
In early 1959 The Delltones found their way into the 2GB Studios of Bob Rogers, who was a top radio DJ at the time. They auditioned for him, during a commercial break, with the Noel Widerberg composition "Why". Bob Rogers telephoned Lee Gordon, the American promoter, to announce that he had found the vocal backing group, needed for his upcoming show – headed by Tab Hunter. The Delltones went on to perform on many of Lee Gordon’s Big Shows with their own spot, as well as harmony back up vocals for some of the American stars such as: The Everly Brothers, Fabian, Crash Craddock, Conway Twitty, Jimmie Rodgers, Tommy Sands and Lloyd Price as well as the Australian Rock ‘n Roll pioneers such as Johnny Rebb, Johnny Devlin and soon to be mentor Johnny O'Keefe.
It is worth noting that in the long running iconic ABC Television music show Rage, the opening segment was taken from one of the concerts, featuring Johnny O'Keefe and his band The Dee Jays, along with The Delltones. The Delltones also sang backing vocals on the next recording session for Johnny O'Keefe. The booming bass vocals of Peewee Wilson provided the opening bars of O'Keefe’s self composed "Why do they doubt our love", which became a hit when it was released in June 1959.
Early Recordings and Television
Johnny O'Keefe invited The Delltones to appear as regulars on his pioneering ABC Television show Six O’Clock Rock, and the radio show Rockville Junction. The band was also signed to appear on Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. This cross generational, television show helped to make them a household name.
Lee Gordon also signed them to his Leedon Records recording label and within a week the group had cut their first single – a remake of The Crows "Gee" and the Widerberg composition "Why". "Gee" was an immediate success, eventually peaking at number 15, with eight-week duration in the local charts. Though the release failed to make headway in the nationally Australian charts.
Their second single released in October 1959 was the Noel Widerberg composition "Tonight", plus a b-side cover of Dion and The Belmonts' "Every Little Thing I Do". The latter track became a minor hit, but was unable to generate sales on a national basis.
At this stage the group's popularity for live performance began to increase rapidly. They were also in heavy demand for recording sessions and participated in Johnny O'Keefe’s iconic Shout, plus Johnny Rebb’s Highway of Love. They also recorded harmony back-ups for country stars like, Slim Dusty, Reg Lindsay and Lionel Long.
Their next single "Yes Indeed" peaked at number 30 in the local charts. But the follow-up release with Ian "Peewee" Wilson singing a bass vocal lead, DooWop version, of Vera Lynne’s classic "White Cliffs of Dover", failed to make an impression. Disenchanted by Leedon’s failure to promote theses singles to a larger national audience, the Group accepted an offer to switch to the CBS (Coronet) label in June 1960.
Following a performance on The Tommy Sands Show, in mid 1960, the group befriended the Sands guitarist Scotty Turnbull who offered to write two songs for The Delltones – "Little Miss Heartbreak" and "Take This Heart". Turnbull also produced and played with the legendary Hal Blaine on drums for both singles, but unfortunately they were not a commercial success.
However the next Coronet release proved to be the breakthrough that the group had been seeking for the past eighteen months. The single "You’re The Limit", provided them with their first national hit when it reached the top ten across Australia. This release was even more successful in Sydney, reaching number 4 on the local charts, in January 1961.
After a better financial offer from EMI Records the group changed labels again and their next release "Wonder", was moderately successful at number 30 nationally. But the follow-up single String a Long, released in July, was a dismal failure.
An anecdote of The Delltones auditioning for Denis Wong, the colourful owner of the famous Sydney nightclub Chequers, has now entered into folklore. After their audition, Wong expressed his approval and asked "how much for you boys”? A fee was given and the ever frugal Wong replied “I’ll take two”.
After the expiry of the EMI deal, they resigned to the Leedon label, now owned by Festival Records, and immediately recorded "Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands" written by Bill Anderson. The record quickly picked up generous airplay right across Australia.
In early July 1962, two weeks after "Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands" entered the charts, Noel Widerberg was fatally injured in a car accident, in the Sydney beachside suburb of Brighton-Le-Sands. The remaining group members were understandably devastated and all engagements were cancelled. After a period of two months of inactivity, friends and business associates of the group persuaded the band to seek out a replacement and continue with their careers. The current single "Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands" proved to be the most successful to date, reaching #3 on the national charts. The song was also used on the sound track of the multi-award winning movie The Year My Voice Broke.
Auditions were held and Col Loughnan, formally of The Crescents, was named as the replacement for Weiderberg. His style was distinctively different to Widerberg’s.
Back In Harmony
After several weeks of rehearsal The Delltones entered the recording studio in November 1962 to record "Come A Little Bit Closer", written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Around this time, Leedon released the band's first self-titled album which included all previously released material with Noel Weiderberg. Weiderberg had been the guiding musical force and leader for the group, so after his untimely death Wilson became the groups, spokesperson. When "Come A Little Bit Closer" was released in 1963, it was an immediate hit and eventually became their all time best seller. The single reached number 3 in Sydney’s 2UE top 40, number 1 on 2GB top 30 and number 2 on 3UZ top 40. An album was also released to capitalise on the hit single.
The follow-up single "Sitting in the Moonlight", was arranged in a similar style as its predecessor, with harmonica intro. It became the groups’ eighth Sydney chart entry.
At this time The Delltones participated in a modern pantomime for children, titled Mother Goose and The Three Stooges, which opened at the Palais Theatre in Sydney. The production also featured other pop stars and celebrities of the time including: Robbie Porter aka "Rob.E.G", Brian Davies, Lucky Starr, Dig Richards, Jay Justin and actor Jackie Weaver. Peewee played Mother Goose, with the other band members as the Stooges. The matinee show had a six week run playing to full houses. They also performed an evening show, Once Upon A Surfie - a musical farce, which showcased the musical hits of the cast members.
By the latter part of 1963 surf music dominated the Australian Charts, particularly in Sydney and Brisbane. The Delltones were quick to release the tongue in cheek composition, “Hangin’ Five”, written by Ben Acton. This release was almost as successful as “Come A Little Bit Closer” – reaching number 3. “Hangin’ Five” became a cult classic in California along with The Atlantics instrumental “Bombora”. “Hangin’ Five” also featured in Mel Gibson’s first movie, Summer City, released in 1977. That year The Delltones picked up four radio awards including “Gold and Silver Baton Awards,” “Golden Microphone Award” and “The Best Australian Record Award”.
Once again an album was quickly issued and consisted mainly of current surf hit covers. Since the surf craze showed little signs of waning the next single “Out the Back” was also written by Ben Acton, but it failed to capture the light hearted spirit of “Hangin’ Five”.
The first of the final two Leedon singles was a version of Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy.” The final release on Leedon “Tonight We Love”, was heavily produced in the style of Phil Spector and was adapted from Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in B-Flat Minor. A period of recording inactivity followed. At this point the group concentrated on their live performance, including shows for the troops in Vietnam and later received “The Vietnam Logistic & Support Medal”.
After their return from Vietnam, Warren Lucas left the group, followed shortly by Col Loughnan. Col joined the band Ayers Rock and went on to become one of Australia’s most experienced Reed players, arranger and teacher.
Ray Burton and Wayne Cornel filled the vacancies, however, Burton left after only a year, then later went on to write the Helen Reddy hit song “I am Woman”. He was subsequently replaced by Bill Kerwyn. Both Cornell and Kerwyn continued with the band until 1968.
London and Europe
In that same year, Sep Martin and Bob Pierse, formally of The Ambassadors joined the group. Both were lead vocalists with experience in harmony. In 1969 The Delltones went back to Vietnam and toured the Far East. They also went on to London, like many other Australian artists such as The Bee Gees and The Seekers, in an attempt to crack the overseas market.
After a showcase performance at the London Playboy Club, The Delltones were offered a seven-week residency. This is where Peewee met his soon-to-be wife, Carla Prowse, an actress, who went on to manage the group from 1981. During their stay in London The Delltones were signed to EMI records and recorded ten tracks for their later to be released album “London Session” produced by ex-patriot David McKay from Eaton Music.
Bob Pierse and the late Dig Richards wrote most of the songs. The album was arranged and conducted by Bill Shepherd of The Bee Gees fame, and backed by Australia’s own Twilights, musically led by guitarist Terry Britton, who would later write global hits for Cliff Richard, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. One outstanding track was a reworking of Stevie Winward's “Gimme Some Lovin’“ which became Radio Luxembourg's hit pick of the week and top DJ Tony Blackburn’s’ opening signature tune.
They were also invited to perform “Gimme Some Lovin’“ on Top of the Pops, hosted by Jimmy Savile. The single was released in America and Europe. The band also toured throughout Europe, though after tensions between the group and their manager Bill Watson, over financial problems, they decided to return to Australia.
The Delltones returned to Australia at the end of 1970. The following year they recorded the classic single “Rock ‘n Roll Will Stand”, which was backed with a Bob Pierse composition “Billy’s Rock ‘n Roll” for Festival Records. Following this they released the album “London Session”, in Australia. The single release from this album “Birmingham” was also written by Bob Pierse and backed with a cover of Frank Zappa’s “Tears Begin To Fall”. But both releases failed to register on the charts. For the next three years the band toured nationally. The tour culminated with their near-demise, in the infamous fire at Brisbane’s Whisky a Go Go nightclub.
In 1973, following disenchantment with city life, the show business industry and tensions within the group, The Delltones split up. Martin and Pierse continued performing as a duet, while Wilson and Perkins turned hippy and settled with their families on a farm in the Mid North Coast of NSW.
In 1978 after pressure from various sources, including Johnny O’Keefe, The Delltones reformed. They went on to tour for the next two years, sharing the bill with Digger Revell. The Delltones backing band at the time was Jon Hayton aka Farmer Jon, Michael Lawler and Leon Isackson. Former tensions and contentions arose in The Delltones, with Sep Martin leaving in 1981 followed by Bob Pierse and finally Brian Perkins.
By the end of 1981 Ian 'Peewee' Wilson, the only surviving member, realised the limits of a harmony ensemble in a live environment dominated by tensile Oz Rock bands. So he set about reinventing the venerable entity, changing it from vocal group to vocal band. The line up changed but the essence continued on. Contributors to these changes included: musician and vocalists, Johnny Charters who played with Johnny Rebb’s Rebels in the sixties, Alex Plavsic an ex-member of the Progressive Rock group Sebastian Hardie, Vic Schrier, Ralph Wilcock, Bob Cook, Robert Kitney, and Alan Freeman who previously played bass with the jazz singer Kerry Bidell.
Danny Mayers joined The Delltones after Wilson saw him perform at the Palais Royale in Newcastle. The Delltones went on to play a record sixteen-week run at Kinselas in Sydney’s Taylor Square, Darlinghurst. Included was a memorable guest performance by Tiny Tim. They performed at the Anti Nuclear Rally alongside Aboriginal band No Fixed Address and then at the Tivoli with Mondo Rock. By the end of 1981 they had played 171 gigs. At this stage the Band was being managed by Carla Wilson, who threw in her lot with Peewee all those years ago, and they touched a wider range of Australians than almost any other rock group.
1984 kicked off with the rock ‘n roll revival album “Bop Til Ya Drop”. It featured a garish pink and green jacket, designed by renowned artist Martin Sharp, who had also designed album covers for Cream. It went gold almost immediately, and was number 2 on the Kent Music Report Album Chart in Sydney. It also entered the Aria Charts at number 20.
This coincided with a film clip for the single “Get A Job”, directed by Yahoo Serious, who then cast Peewee for the role as his Dad in the film Young Einstein. The Delltones then played at Moomba, the Adelaide Festival of Arts and the AFI Awards, plus appeared in the Australian television soap opera A Country Practice.
The release of the “Tickled Pink” album followed. It was recorded and mixed at Alberts Studio, produced by Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop, the co-writers and producers of the number 1 hit “Space Invaders”.
With their single “Papa Oom Mow Mow” at number 1 and “Tickled Pink” high on the charts, in the Darling Downs, they went on to record the live album “Out In The Open”, in front of a record 28,000 people at the Toowoomba Show grounds. Both albums failed to register on the national charts.
“All These Things And More” a Christmas EP was the last recording with Danny Mayers before he left to pursue his own career and was later replaced by Nevin McLean in 1985. The group now consisted of five members including, Nevin McLean(vocals), Allan Freeman (tenor vocals/bass), Merv Dick (alto vocals/drums), Woody Finlayson, (baritone vocals/guitar), Peewee Wilson (bass vocals).
By this time The Delltones were in a full-blown revival, with regular appearances on television shows such as Hey Hey It's Saturday, Mike Walsh, Donnie Sutherland’s Sounds. The Midday Show and many more. The notable exception was Countdown. This along with press exposure opened the doors to a national touring circuit, of clubs, pubs, theatres, and concert halls with sellout shows. A whole new generation of fans established their reputation as one of the great performing bands in Australia and this has continued to sustain them to this day.
In January 1988 the group performed as part of Australia's Bicenntennial celebrations in front of Princess Diana and Charles.
Also during 1988 we observed the start of the digital music revolution, Peewee and Alan Freeman along with Russell Dunlop, experimented with traditional DooWop harmony and digital generated music, using a Fairlight synthesiser, to develop the album “Oasis”. Both Freeman and Wilson wrote several of the tracks – “One Man Woman”, “Touch and Go” and “You Changed My Life”. These featured along with revised versions of Aussie classics such as: Cold Chisel's “Forever Now” and The Reels' “Love will find a Way". The album failed to impress radio or their fans at live performances.
The Court Case
November 1988 saw Peewee Wilson and, one of the original members of The Delltones, Brian Perkins clash in court. Perkins, after seven years of absence from performing, formed a band called “The Dellies”, a well-known Australian colloquialism for The Delltones, with ex-Delltones vocalist Danny Mayers, Sydney bass singer Max Wright and Ricky Organ. Wilson claimed that Perkins was cashing in on The Delltones name, which Perkins didn’t own, and that the similarity in names would cause confusion with agents and fans alike. Perkins issued a counter claim for a share of The Delltones profits to date, claiming that the partnership he shared with Wilson had never been properly finalised. Wilson won the court case and prevented Perkins from using the name. It was a bitter, sweet victory.
On The Road Again
During the eighties and into the nineties The Delltones had as their support acts, some of the top, up-and-coming-stars of the country music industry, such as: Brett Parlane, James Blundell, and Adam Harvey. They also had Allan Caswell as a special guest on their live show towards the end of this period. In 1993 they teamed up with Caswell on the single “Stole My Heart Away" which was also written by Caswell. The song featured on many Country Charts.
In 1995, weary from constant touring, Nevin McLean and Alan Freeman left The Delltones. Later the same year, Nevin and Alan would team up with former Delltones drummer and musical director Leon Isackson and Idris Jones from the "Mixtures" to form another vocal band called "Phoenix". The band won critical acclaim for their harmonies and stage show winning several music awards including an ACE and Mo Award for excellence.
Later in 1995 saw the return of Danny Mayers and a new member Owen Booth. Owen was a former member of Aesop’s Fables and bass player for many international touring artists, including Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. In 1995 they returned to their surf culture roots with the album “The Sunshine Club”. The title track was written by Wilson and Freeman. The pair also teamed up with Mayers to write “Gimme Love”, while Woody Finlayson wrote “Slow Down”.
At the same time they recorded the single “Breaking Waves”, written by Allan Caswell and dedicated to the Surf Life Saving Club's of Australia. Then in 1998 they started a national tour, with the release of the compilation album “The Big Four O”, to celebrate the bands 40th anniversary.
The New Millennium
In 2000 Sony Music released a charity compilation album Andrew Denton's Musical Challenge which included The Delltones DooWop version of the Sex Pistols' punk classic “Pretty Vacant”. For the first time in almost 30 years The Delltones were being featured on independent radio stations throughout Europe and the United States.
In 2005, forty six years after backing Johnny O’Keefe, The Delltones were invited by Jimmy Barnes to sing back-up vocal for his version of Shout”. It was a duet with the late Billy Thorpe on Barnes’s “Double Happiness” album.
In 2008 The Delltones embarked on a national tour to celebrate "Fifty Years” of performing in theatres, clubs, town halls, civic centres and outdoor concerts. They released a double album CD and DVD entitled, "BopaDooWop A-Live in Concert". The first CD "Unplugged" featured mainly Doowop songs from the band's early repertoire. The second CD "Electrified" contained songs with elements of pop, rock and soul, from different periods throughout their career, including their own hits from the sixties.
The release coincided with the Warner Music’s Deluxe Collectors Limited Edition Release of “Fifty Years of Australian Rock ‘n Roll”. The Delltones featured on disc one with their first ever recording of "Gee".
In mid 2011 Danny Mayers left the group. Founding member Ian 'Peewee' Wilson in concert with the other Delltones continue to tour with a four-part harmony ensemble. The will embark on a national tour in 2012.
The phrase “Keep on raging – to stop the ageing” was adopted by Peewee in the 80s. True to the spirit of that slogan The Delltones continue to record and perform.
- Woody Finlayson - guitar, vocals
- Merv Dick - drums, vocals
- Ian 'Peewee' Wilson - vocals
- Owen Booth - bass guitar, vocals
- Brian Perkins
- Noel Widerberg
- Ian 'Peewee' Wilson
- Warren Lucas
- 1963: Golden Baton, Hang'in Five Best Australian Composition, Macquarie Radio
- 1963: Silver Batton, Best Vocal Group, Macquarie Radio
- 1963: Golden Microphone Award, Best Vocal Group, 6ix Perth
- 1963: Best Australian Record, Come a Little Bit Closer 3Uz
- 1982: Mo Award
- 1983: Mo Award
- 1985: Mo Award
- 2002: Mo Award
- 2006: Ace Award
- 2007: Ace Award
- 2008: Ace Award
- 1962: The Delltones [Leedon]
- 1963: Come a Little Bit Closer [Leedon]
- 1964: Surf n Stomp [Leedon]
- 1964: The Best Of The Delltones [Leedon]
- 1964: Golden Hits of the Golden Groups [Leedon]
- 1965: Dellies Burst Out [Leedon]
- 1971: London Sessions [Parlophone]
- 1973: Do You Wanna Dance [Horizon - Festival SH66-94072]
- 1978: 20 Golden Greats [Festival]
- 1979: Over the Years [Seven Records]
- 1983: Bop Till you Drop [K-Tel]
- 1984: Tickled Pink [Chase]
- 1985: Out in the Open [Chase]
- 1985: All these Things and More [Chase]
- 1988: Oasis [Chase]
- 1993: The Ultimate Recollection [Starseed]
- 1995: The Sunshine Club [Starseed]
- 1997: The Big Fouro [Starseed]
- 2008: The Delltones BopaDooWop A-Live In Concert [Starseed]
- 1959: Gee/Why [Leedon]
- 1959: Every Little Thing I do /Tonight [Leedon]
- 1960: Yes Indeed / Tell Me That You Care [Leedon]
- 1960: White Cliffs Of Dover / Land of Beauty [Leedon]
- 1960: Little Miss Heartbreak / Take This Heart [CBS/Coronet]
- 1960: You're The Limit / Girls Were Made For Boys [CBS/Coronet]
- 1961: Wonder / Teenager In Love [HMV]
- 1961: String A Long / Even Tho [HMV]
- 1962: Get A Little Dirt On Your Hands / A Happy Pair [Leedon]
- 1963: Come A Little Bit Closer / Joanie [Leedon]
- 1963: Sitting In The Moonlight / Mary Anne [Leedon]
- 1963: Hang'in Five / Surf City [Leedon]
- 1964: Out the Back / That's How Many Tears [Leedon]
- 1964: Walkin' Along / Paper Doll [Leedon]
- 1964: Hey Girl Don't Bother Me / The Wonder of You [Leedon]
- 1965: Loney Boy / Walk [Leedon]
- 1965: Tonight We Love / Don't You Dare [Leedon]
- 1967: I'm A Boomerang Bender / Is It Any Wonder [CBS]
- 1970: Gimme Some Lovin' / Have A Little Talk With Myself [Columbia UK / Capitol US]
- 1971: The Way I Feel / Carry Me Back To OldGeorgia [Parlophone]
- 1971: Rock 'n Roll Will Stand / Billy's Rock 'n Roll [Festival]
- 1971: Tears Begin to Fall / Birmingham [HMV]
- 1983: Get A Job / Hucklebuck [RCA]
- 1984: Papa Oom Mow Mow / Papa Oom Mow Mow (Dance Mix) [Chase]
- 1984: I Wonder Why / Hit And Run Love [Chase]
- 1985: There's No Snow Here / Baby Come Home' [Chase]
- 1986: Standing In Line / Angela [Chase]
- 1988: Love Will Find A Way / So In Love [Chase]
- 1988: Forever Now / Touch And Go [Chase]
- 1988: Burn Like A Rocket / One Man Woman [Starseed]
- 1993: Stole My Heart Away /With Allan Caswell [Starseed]
- ^ a b Glenn A. Baker (Writer/Broadcaster/Rock Historian), The Delltones - History
- ^ Ian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (Allen & Unwin, 1999) p.167
- ^ a b c d e f Top Forties Research - 7th Edition 1956-2005 ISBN 978-0-646-25736-5
- ^ The Year My Voice Broke (1988), Yahoo Movies Cast and Credits Database
- ^ From the Vault - From the Australian Record Collector Volume 1 No3, 1987
- ^ Australian Music Abroad, Anthony O'Grady
- ^ It's an Honour website
- ^ Young Einstein
- ^ A Country Practice - ATN7 Episode 207 and 208
- ^ Toowoomba Showground - Sunday Mail 14 April 1985
- ^ Court Case – Sunday Telegraph 27 November 1988
- ^ The Delltones Gig Guide
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW. ISBN 978-1-86508-072-7.
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