Peewee tells the story of The Delltones – March launch
By SHIRLEY BROUN
`HEY Surfer Girl, ‘Come a Little Bit Closer`’ and `Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands`’ so you can `Get a Job’ and be `Tickled Pink’ in a `Papa Oom Mow Mow’ way to `Hangin’ Five’ with me later.
HAVE you ever known a group whose hits have been able to capture the very essence of several generations in one sentence? Just take a look at the above list of chart-toppers released since 1958 by Australia’s own hit-makers The Delltones.
Each one tapped into the lifestyle and music of the times to become all-time favourites of millions of Aussies who still find they can’t get enough of this enduring and highly successful group’s infectious music which is still so much a part of today’s modern era.
And, the fact the group is still headlining at venues around the country 55 years after its formation is testament that good music stands the test of time. As do top vocalists with a passion to entertain! And it all began with Noel Weiderberg, Ian `Peewee’ Wilson, Brian Perkins and Warren Lucas back in 1958.
Peewee and The Delltones Today
JUMP 55 years to the present – the year 2013- and still the Delltones’ magic continues to light up stages across the nation with the same energy, enthusiasm, professionalism and smooth harmonies as when it all began – the era that gave birth to rock’n roll in Australia.
Book launch `where it all began’
In an interview just prior to the Delltones kicking off their 2013 touring schedule, the group’s leader and only remaining founding member, Ian `Peewee’ Wilson, 72, told On With the Show’s Shirley Broun he was proud of their pioneering history in the Australian music scene and had no thoughts of retiring. “As long as people keep coming to hear our music, we’ll keep on performing,” he said. “There’s nothing I would rather do.”
On March 7 at the Bronte Surf Club Peewee will launch his book all about the Delltones journey over the past 55 years. Why the Bronte Surf Club? “The Bronte Surf Club is where it all began,” said Peewee.
“While the members have changed through the years, the founding members of the group including Brian Perkins, Noel Weiderberg, Ian `Peewee’ Wilson and Warren Lucas were all lifesavers and members of the Bronte Surf Club,” said Peewee, who remains a club member to this day.
“At the time the club hosted a lot of entertainment including the hugely popular Col Joye who regularly performed at the Sunday night rock’n roll dances. He inspired us to get up and have a go.”
Kings of Doo Wop music
Peewee remembers those early days with fondness: “We would walk around Sydney’s streets and at the right place suddenly launch into a doo wop song. That was how we got our first gig; a restaurant manager heard us and booked us. Payment was a plate of spaghetti bolognaise and a beer each,” he recalled.
Johnny O’Keefe was also instrumental in giving the band the opportunity to appear in front of large audiences and the opportunity to observe and to learn stagecraft, which just came naturally to him.
While the Delltones repertoire of songs is immense today, back then the group was still building its song-base. “Initially we only had a repertoire of five songs yet we were playing to up to 15,000 kids at Sydney Stadium as vocal backing support for U.S. stars like the Everly Brothers, Fabian, Conway Twitty, Crash Craddock and Jimmy Rodgers,” said Peewee, who was fast building his own reputation as `The Bassman’ or `The Beanpole of Bop’ (due to his tall stature).
A chance meeting with an up and coming actress/dancer in London changed Peewee’s life forever – and, according to the strikingly tall and handsome bassman, it was love at first sight.
“The band was in London, performing at the Playboy Club and recording at EMI. Carla was a Playboy bunny and an actress, working there between jobs. We fell in love and she came back to Australia with me. We have been married for over 40 years now. She has managed the Delltones for over 30 years and tours with us. Meeting Carla changed my life … in the best possible way.”
London proved hugely successful for The Delltones. They got to record a whole album there – London Session, most of the songs written by former Delltones member Bob Pierse and the late Digby Richards, which now commands big bucks on the collectors’ market.
Peewee has been fortunate to have witnessed the many changes in the music industry over more than five decades … and there have been many. “When we first started in 1958 there was no local music industry and radio was mostly playing imported records and rock’n roll was considered just a passing fad,” he said.
New technology changed the way songs were recorded
The Delltones line-up today (2013) featuring Ian `Peewee’ Wilson (right) with Owen Booth, Merv Dick and Woody Finalyson.
But the Delltones proved all the doubters wrong, as they progressed through the ages using the technology of the day to the best of their abilities.
“Music has changed parallel with technology,” said Peewee. “When we first started, the recording equipment we used was so primitive. Single track Ampex tape machines were the order of the day at Festival records in Sydney and the only effect we had to put on the recording was reverb or echo … done in the ladies toilets. The sound would travel down through speakers in the ladies toilet and be picked up down in the studio. “We used that effect on records like Hangin’ Five to give a warm, round sound.”
With new technology introduced into the music industry, came a totally new sophistication all around, said Peewee.
But, he stressed, there is still a huge interest in recording technology of yesteryear. “A lot of contemporary artists are still going back and using the early technology (microphones and amplifiers) to try and duplicate that warmer sound. Not all changes are good,” he said.
However, Peewee believes talent shows of today such as The Voice, Australian Idol, and Australia’s Got Talent etc, are uncovering a huge array of talent which augers well for the future. “There is some incredible talent around.”
But, despite the growing competition and advanced recording technology, there is no denying, the creamy harmonies and booming bass tones that is the Delltones continues to attract generation after generation of music lovers. Some have been fans since the group first formed and others have identified with some of their huge hits like `Mr Bassman’ which can almost be regarded as Peewee’s signature tune.
Over five generations of hits
“All our hits were in the Top 5 on the charts and we find audiences want to hear them all, not just one particular song these days,” said Peewee.
There is one song, however, that brings back special memories for Peewee. “We had just recorded Get a Little Dirt on your Hands when our group’s leader Noel Weiderberg was killed in a car accident in 1962. That really hit us all hard … he was so young and newly married,” said Peewee. “It was so sad, and that song will always be a sentimental favourite of mine.”
Throughout the years, The Delltones have featured many talented members including lead vocalist (1984-1995) Nevin McLean who describes his time with the group as the `highlight’ of his career. “It was a great time in my life and Peewee should be recognised as a true `living legend’ … he deserves it,” said Nevin.
Today, The Delltones line-up includes Merv Dick on drums/vocals, Woody Finlayson on guitar/vocals, Owen Booth on bass/vocals and Ian `Peewee’ Wilson who says `I just sing’.
In 2012 on behalf of The Delltones Peewee Wilson received The Life Achievement Award at the Australian Club Entertainment Awards.
The Delltones remain one of the most consistent live entertainment groups in Australia with arguably the longest performing and recording history for a vocal harmony band with an original member – Peewee.
While retirement is not even in the vocabulary for Peewee and six months of the year are dedicated to touring with the Delltones , he and Carla spend quality time enjoying their idyllic rural setting at Verrierdale on the Queensland Sunshine Coast which they have called home since 2005.
“The combination of the rural hills behind us and the beach in front is magic. And, it’s a great place to come home to after long days on the road.”
Not a bad place for the former Bronte lifesaver and Australian rock’n roll music legend to watch the waves of time roll in again and again and again … of course, that’s between gigs!
The Delltones kick off the 2013 Touring Schedule in NSW at Windsor RSL on February 8 and The Cube, Campbelltown on February 9.
Tasmanian Tour – February 12 to 16.
NSW Tour (following book launch at Bronte Surf Club on March 7) – March 8 to 30.
Victoria and South Australia Tour – April 4 to 20.
Western Australia Tour – May 16 to 25.
DELLTONE’S MEMBERS OVER THE YEARS
Ian ‘Peewee’ Wilson – vocals (1958–1973, 1978–present)
Merv Dick – vocals, drums (1985–present)
Woody Finlayson – vocals, guitar (1984–present)
Owen Booth – vocals, bass guitar (1995–present)
Brian Perkins – vocals (1958–1973, 1978–1981)
Warren Lucas – vocals (1958–1965)
Noel Widerberg – vocals (1958–1962; died 1962)
Col Loughnan – vocals (1962–1965)
Wayne Cornell – vocals (1965–1968)
Ray Burton – vocals (1965–1966)
Bill Kerwyn – vocals (1966–1968)
Bob Pierse – vocals (1968–1973, 1978–1981)
Sep Martin – vocals (1968–1973, 1978–1981)
Alan Freeman – bass, vocals (1981–1994)
Johnny Charters – keyboards, vocals (1981–1984)
Alex Plavsic – drums, percussion (1982–1984)
Vic Schrier – instruments, saxophone (1981–1984)
Ralph Wilcock – guitar, vocals (1981–1983)
Bob Cook – bass guitar, vocals (1981)
Robert Kitney – drums (1981-1981)
Danny Mayers – vocals (1982–1984, 1995–2011)
Nevin McLean – vocals (1985–1994)
Jon “Farmer Jon” Hayton – guitar (1978–1979)
Michael Lawler – bass guitar (1978–1979)
Leon Isackson – drums (1978–1979)