Session singer Kaff unmasked

Terry Kaff

Terry set to return to recording for Four Tops tribute


SYDNEY performer Terry Kaff has the distinction of being Australia’s most recorded session singer between 1968 and 1978.

As a session singer earlier in his career much of Terry’s work has – to the uninformed public – gone largely without acknowledgement, despite his voice dominating our early television broadcasts and compilation albums of themes such as Farewell Aunty Jack (singing the theme from the Aunty Jack Show) and 70s hit, Class of ’74,  plus a host of commercials including Coca Cola.

So prevalent were they at the time that fellow musician Bob Pierse quipped `Terry’s voice is behind 60 per cent of all ads and shows on television’.

The themes were also featured on `the TV Times record of Top TV themes’, recorded under the baton of renowned composer/musician Eric Jupp and his orchestra at the EMI Studios in Sydney. Eric Jupp also wrote the theme from the early Aussie TV classic `Skippy’.

Terry, now in his 60s, was one of the `lucky’ ones who was able to turn his passion into a full time career although much of it was in a discrete fashion, being the voice behind the television theme song or advertising jingle.

It is a ‘discreteness’ enjoyed by many of our all-time favourite performers including the likes of Trevor White, Kerrie Biddell, Linda George, Claire Pool and Brenda Kristian.
``I really loved the singing and session work – it was my forte and my passion,’’ says Terry.

But like so many aspiring performers of the day and with quick roads to success such as today’s `You Tube’ technology still in the future, Terry was not an instant hit … he had to find his way into the world of entertainment. ``At the age of 19, I gave away an accountancy job with Qantas to pursue my singing,’’ he said. `` I entered a talent quest at the Bronte Charles Hotel in 1968 which sparked an invitation to join `The Sounds of Lawrence (S.O.L.)’ as vocalist with Peter Rappolt and Brenda Kristian.’’

Terry Kaff, left,  in The Sounds of Lawrence (S.O.L.) 1968

It was with S.O.L. that Terry developed into a good band vocalist which later paved his way into session singing.

Terry left the band to work with record producer and in-demand session player and arranger Mike Perjanik who would later be a groomsman at his wedding to wife of almost 41-years, Laine.
Terry also worked with the New-Zealand born Perjanik in a new band called the Mike Perjanik Complex, which released a single ``She Never Smiles Anymore’’/``I’m Gonna Love You’’ on EMI-Columbia. The group also supported The Four Tops on the Australian tour in 1970 with Terry opening the show singing `Macarthur Park’.

When the stage version of Jesus Christ Superstar first hit Australia with an all-star cast of Trevor White as Jesus, Jon English as Judas, Michelle Fawdon (1972-1973) and then Marcia Hines (1973-1974) as Mary Magdalene along with Reg Livermore, John Paul Young as Annus , Stevie Wright, Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock, Terry’s vocals were once again called upon for a Jesus Christ Superstar album release, which was separate to the `Cast’ Album. ``The album had huge sales but no-one knew that I had done the vocals because our names weren’t on it,’’ said Terry. ``It was a lot of fun though.’’

In total, Terry has put his voice to over 900 session recordings, television themes and jingles and even made a brief appearance on Channel Seven’s popular Home and Away series. ``I’m not sure how that really came about. I just received a call from the producers one day offering me the role and I accepted it. I don’t know to this day what motivated them to call me, but it was fun.”

Terry’s son David was also drawn to the small screen in the 1992 ABC television mini series `The Leaving of Liverpool’, when he was about 10 years of age. The Leaving of Liverpool won the Most Outstanding Telemovie or Mini Series at the 1993 Logie Awards.

David, now 34, took a slight detour away from acting to become the Australian Junior Speed Skating Champion and is still a step ahead of the rest when it comes to talent.

Talent appears to run in Terry’s family. His brother Phil Kafcaloudes hosts the Breakfast Show on ABC Radio Australia and has recently released a highly successful book `Someone Else’s War’ (also known as Olga’s War), based on how their Greek grandmother rescued flyers trapped in Greece during the war, and how she was trained by the British in espionage, and of how she became estranged from her family, who believed she was dead.

Terry’s brother Michael who is 10 years his junior, is also a talented singer and teacher. ``I am so proud of all my family and it is humbling to know that they were all proud of me too. I was so self-absorbed in singing when I was young, including 3-4 years of classical training. They were all so proud of me but I never knew it because all I thought about was music, music, music. I’m so sorry for that.’’

Throughout his career, Terry has always helped to promote new talent and to also acknowledge great performers, having held the position of Chairman of the Australian Entertainment MO Awards in 1981 and 1982, after first joining the committee as treasurer in 1978. He also guided the likes of Human Nature along their journey which led from talent quests to the bright lights of Vegas.

These days Terry operates – with the help of daughter Natalie - his own Terrence Marketing business which undertakes promotions and events at venues to help increase patronage in membership, social and gaming areas.

Terry has recently been approached by renowned bass player and guitarist and former member of Australian Crawl Harry Brus to return to his first love as a vocalist to record a special tribute to the Four Tops, whom he had appeared with earlier in his career. ``I stopped recording in 1984 but this is something I really want to do as a tribute to the late Levi Stubbs who died on October 17, 2008 and the other members of The Four Tops. It would mean so much,’’ said Terry. ``Of course, no-one could sing it as good as Levi but I’ll give it a go.’’

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7 Responses to “Session singer Kaff unmasked”

  1. Phil Kafcaloudes Says:

    You are fabulous Tez. Your voice is meant for a Levi tribute. Great stuff. Love, Phil


  2. Natalie Kaff Says:

    You are a very cool dude Dad 🙂
    Love you XX


  3. Your old brother in Law Sydney.. Says:

    This sounds real cool yes you can do this — no trouble to you
    I remember way back going to your shows it was great fun .
    If I can help with any songs please let me know because I was a singer in my early days.

    Used to sing in the silent movies Ha Ha looking forward to seeing you next
    Friday 12th April about 5.30 – 6Pm. driving down from Tamworth.
    love Jokie & Syd..


  4. TERRY GAVIN Says:

    Terry Kaff sang THE BEST version of Macarthur Park I’ve ever heard. I took my band, Next Move. (formerly of NZ) to hear The Complex about 10 times…at least, fantastic band. Terry also introduced me to Professor Fritz Philipsbourn (the great vocal coach); I became a pupil. The teaching was invaluable and I’ll always be grateful. Tez you will nail Levi’s work, Harry will be at his funkiest best; have the most amazing players around …I’ll be first in line to buy a copy. I’m very proud of our friendship of … can you believe 43 years. Terry Gavin (Brotherhood).


  5. Carol Heuchan Says:

    Good on you Terry. I know you will do it well,


  6. Jon Blake Says:

    Just watched “The Nickel Queen”. The theme sung by Terry Kaff and Kerri Biddell…just fabulous.


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