In the early 1960’s, back when we first learned rock ‘n’ roll was here to stay, my favourite songs were not from the likes of Elvis (the King), Jerry Lee (the Killer), or any of the other superstar singers of the time—Dion, Ricky, Roy, or even Chubby and Fats.
Nor was my preferred music drawn from the best-selling albums of the mega-bands—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, CCR, or any of the others.
I did enjoy them all, mind you, and many more besides—The Mamas & the Papas, Dylan, The Moody Blues, Aretha, The Platters, Buddy Holly, The Supremes, and Ray Charles (the Genius).
If you liked early rock ‘n’ roll, and I did, these were all great artists among a plethora of others too numerous to mention.
I, however, favoured folk music. Not that I was an habitué of coffee-houses, with their pungent substances and aromas, both drinkable and inhalable. And I certainly was no one’s idea of a flower-child or long-haired hippie. I had a buzz-cut, for goodness sake!
Truth be told, a square is what I was. What today one might call a dork, a dweeb, a wally.
So inevitably, I became an unofficial folkie, listening to wonderful artists from as far back as the 1940’s—Seeger, The Weavers, Woody (and later Arlo), The Blue Grass Boys, Baez, The New Christy Minstrels, Buffy, Simon & Garfunkel, Odetta, The Kingston Trio, Lightfoot, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Joni, to name but a few.
So well-known are these performers, even today, that I’m able to list many with only their first or last names. And there are innumerable others not even on this brief roll.
All of which is but a prelude to my introduction of my all-time favourite folk singers, the incomparable group from Australia—The Seekers.
Unlike many of their contemporaries, their names are not as well-known individually, but their music certainly was. The only surviving band from the ‘60s, anywhere in the world, with the original founding members (albeit with an interruption along the way), they compiled an amazing list of firsts in their heyday—
- first group ever to reach No. 1 on the UK charts with their first three singles,
- first Australian group to reach No. 1 in the USA,
- first Australian group to reach No. 1 in the UK,
- first Australian group to reach No. 1 with a debut song,
- first concert artists ever to draw more than 200,000 people to a concert,
- three worldwide No. 1 hits (The Carnival Is Over; I’ll Never Find Another You; Georgy Girl), and
- quadruple Platinum for their 1994 live-in-concert video, 25 Year Reunion Celebration (which knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller 10th Anniversary video off the No. 1 spot).
It wasn’t their awards that attracted me to The Seekers, however. It was the music! Three instrumentalists—Athol Guy on bass, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley on banjo, guitar, and keyboard—backed up the lead singer, Judith Durham, augmenting the crystal clearness of her voice with subtle harmonies.
Whether you’re a musician or music-lover, if you want to do your ears a good turn, you have to listen to someone with perfect pitch. Perfect pitch means hitting the real notes—their core sound—and singers who have it can do that. Judith Durham had it in spades, and it was her voice that initially attracted fans to the music the group produced.
The Seekers were the final act in the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Paralympic Games in Melbourne, and their performance of one of their signature songs sparked both joy and tears in the athletes assembled in front of them, as attested to in this link—
They had so many hit songs, most in the folk genre, some crossing into the spiritual category, that it’s impossible to list them all here. Some of my particular favourites are—
- Allentown Jail,
- A World Of Our Own,
- If You Go Away,
- Morningtown Ride,
- Silver Threads and Golden Needles,
- Sinner Man,
- The Leaving Of Liverpool, and
- When The Stars Begin To Fall.
The last one in the list, for which I’ve provided a link, is my all-time fave, as fresh in my mind today as when I first heard it more than fifty years ago—
If you want to listen to any of the songs for which I haven’t provided a link, they can be found on YouTube, and they’re well worth the time.
In 2010/2011, the group toured Australia and New Zealand with Andre Rieu and his famed Johann Strauss Orchestra, packing every venue. This final link, however, is to their 50th anniversary concert at Albert Hall, London in 2014, described at the time as ‘one big hug of a tour’—
I enjoy The Seekers as much today as I did when I sported that long-ago buzz-cut. I hope you will, too.