Popular Music

Findlays Acrobatic and Ragtime Band, about 1910 (AOT, PH30/1/4385)

Popular music developed in the nineteenth century, mainly as music at local dances. By the 1920s, dances were a major form of entertainment. Music ranged from locals on the piano and accordion playing the two-step at Rokeby, to larger bands, often family affairs. In the north-east there were the Ringarooma Orchestra, the Campbell family at Scottsdale, and the Boyds at Legerwood. Perhaps the last of these bands was Margate's Melody Makers, with a drummer, saxophone player and pianist still in 1970 performing songs like 'In the Mood' at dances and weddings.

As rock, pop and jazz arrived in the 1950s, music was increasingly provided by mainland and overseas bands on records or the radio, but there were many local bands. In the 1950s the Pearce-Pickering Ragtime Five dominated Hobart jazz circles, and rock and roll had the Silhouettes, the Aztecs (Billy Thorpe on the mainland took over the name), the Planets, and the Kravats, founded by guitarist Ray Woodruff in 1957. Hobart's biggest band, they kept the Beatles off the no 1 spot in the Hobart charts for two weeks with 'Baby let me take you home'. The Kravats kept playing until Woodruff's death in 2004.

In 1963 Bill, Ross and Max Kettle from Lilydale formed the Singing Kettles, a country music group who became popular. In 1969 they moved to Tamworth, and they made over fifteen albums. Another well-known Tasmanian singer was Judith Durham, a member of the Seekers, which in 1965 had songs in the Top Ten in England and America.

There were many less well-known groups, and live local bands have continued, now playing mainly in pubs and clubs. Well-known local bands of the 1990s and beyond have been the Giant Hamsters, Fell to Erin, Sea Scouts, Frustrations and Stick Men (Hobart), Dead Abigails (Launceston), and Charlie Parkers (Devonport). Mainland bands' visits dwindled in the 1990s but have revived, with large-scale music festivals such as Gone South and the Falls Festival, and performances at the Uni Bar in Hobart. (See also Folk Music.)

Alison Alexander