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JON ENGLISH & The FOSTER BROTHERS LIVE at Billboard 1981 is the 38th release of the Australian Road Crew Association’s (ARCA) Desk Tape Series. The Series was created by ARCA to raise badly-needed finances for Support Act’s Roadies Fund to provide financial, health, counselling and well-being services for roadies and crew in crisis. Over 40+ artists have now thrown their hats in the ring to help.

The Desk Tape Series recordings are made off the sound desk by a crew or production member – in this case George Alexander, who headed production at Melbourne’s Billboard club, recorded this at rock station 3XY’s Winter Rage while David Williams did the sound mix – and released on ARCA’s Black Box Records through MGM Distribution and on all major streaming services.

Like other ARCA releases, Jon English & The Foster Brothers LIVE at Billboard 1981 works as a historical document and pays great respect to the man himself, Jon English.
“I really loved working with these guys,” Jon English once recalled of his days with the Foster Brothers. “We had a great sound, it was huge fun, and we were very creative and wrote some great songs together.”

The band’s rhythm guitarist Keith ‘Stretch’ Kerwin is more compelling: “I rate the Foster Brothers as one of the top three acts in the country in their time, as a touring entity which delivered monstrous shows.

“We were playing five or six shows a week, and doing doubles on the weekends, to up to 6,000 people at a time.

“Jon was an incredible front-man, he knew his craft to a tee. He could be spellbinding. He knew how to reach an audience. Sometimes it would take him 20 minutes to introduce a song like ‘The Shining’ or ‘She Was Real’ because they had a story behind them which he wanted his fans to be involved in.

“The lighting and the sound at the shows were stunning, and people would be really spellbound.”

Jonathan James English (March 26, 1949 – March 9, 2016) had been a household name since he was 22. But the Foster Brothers came into being in 1981 at a time when his career was exploding globally.

English’s career tossed between musicals, TV shows and hits as “Turn the Page”, “Hollywood Seven”, “Carmilla” and “Words are Not Enough.  He landed a worldwide deal with Mercury Records, and he got offers from US bands Tower Of Power and Night, and the UK’s Thin Lizzy after he toured with them, to move overseas and be their singer. “But I just kept coming back to Australia.”

By the time of The Foster Brothers, the chart-topping ballad “Six Ribbons” from the high-rating mini-series Against The Wind had broken him in Scandinavia (including #1 in Norway and #4 in Sweden), Ireland and Northern Europe. There was a huge demand for him to play these territories.

After their first international tour, they took out then Best Concert By Visiting Act category in Norway’s music awards, beating Bruce Springsteen.

The other band members were also extremely well regarded in musician circles.

John Dallimore, a teen prodigy from Victoria’s surf coast, made a name as a fiery fret-shredder in hard rock bands Redhouse and the John Dallimore Band. The latter released the single “We Are The Kids”.

Brisbane-born Kerwin, nicknamed “Stretch” at high school as he was 6-foot tall by the time he was 12, emerged with The Brisbane Avengers.

He moved south to plug in with Doug Parkinson, jazz fusion Sanctuary, Renee Geyer and Southern Star Band. In between session work he had songs recorded by Geyer (“Feeling Is Believing” from Blues Licence and Parkinson (Your Thing Is Done” from I’ll Be Around).

Bassist John Coker moved to Surfers Paradise from New Zealand in 1970 with NZ singer Ricky May. After two years, he moved to Sydney where he studied jazz and arranging at the Conservatorium of Music and arranged for many TV and cabaret acts.

He also played with Marcia Hines, the Daly Wilson Big Band and co-led the house band at Rooty Hill RSL for three years. In his eight years in the Fosters, three were as music director. He later wrote songs for English’s rock opera Paris and was in the orchestra of Pirates of Penzance that starred English.

Keyboards player Peter Deacon also had a flair for arrangements. In his younger days, he was in Sydney bands Rachette (with Easybeats’ Stevie Wright and future LRB member Steve Housden) and Nitro.

Greg Henson love of drums and “all things hittable” began at school. A drummer in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 he was in productions as Betty Blokkbuster Follies, Rocky Horror Show, Rasputin, Hair, Big River and Tom Waits For No Man and played with Baxter Funt, Marcia Hines, Doug Parkinson, his brother-in-law John Waters and Slim Dusty.

When The Foster Brothers got together for their first rehearsal in mid-1981, most knew each other. Coker and Henson were in the earlier English band Baxter Funt, and Kerwin and Deacon were in Southern Star Band and toured with comedian Norman Gunston and wheelchair bound R&B singer Jeff St. John.

Remembers Stretch Kerwin: “Peter Deacon asked me to come down for a jam. I knew of Jon, of course, but hadn’t met him. We played for about two or three hours – mostly Jon’s songs, some Rolling Stones, Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’, blues classics.

“The idea was to test our feels, styles and latitudes. Particularly the guitar styles of John Dallimore and mine.  JD is a whiz bang player who can fly all over the place. I’m more basic like the Pete Townshend/ Keith Richards/ Malcolm Young role. At the end of it, Jon said, “do you want the gig?”

“We couldn’t believe how well it fell together. We were touring in two or three weeks. Within two months we were in Scandinavia, wandering around the fjords of Norway and playing in cities where legendary classical composers were born.

“The whole experience with The Foster Brothers was fantastic, we all hit the mark from day one. We played to thousands of people at the AFL and NRL grand finals, and toured with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Jon and Marcia Hines made the Jokers And Queens album and they toured with their respective bands, no less than 24 musicians on stage!”


As LIVE at Billboard 1981 shows, the band’s interplay is superb, as shown on “Words Are Not Enough”, “I’ve Been In Love Before”, “Handbags And Gladrags”, a Rod Stewart album track, and English’s first hit “Turn The Page” (“I didn’t even realise it was a Bob Seger song until Bob sent me a Christmas card thanking me for doing his song”).

English’s attraction to a good story came from his love for theatre and the English Literature course he did at college.

“Hollywood Seven”, a great song about a real-life cheap motel tells of a country girl from Omaha who comes to the big smoke to make it in show business and staying next door in a cheap room “for seven bucks a night”. When the money runs out with no acting jobs, she becomes a hooker. The character in the song finds her one morning:

“She’d gone and brought the wrong one home this time

There were crazy lipstick marks on the wall

Now she’s going back to Omaha but not the way she’d planned.”

The band handles these ambitious theatrical songs as “Josephine” also about an aspiring actress, “The Shining” and “Last Night In Hollywood” with the same aplomb as the ballads as “Carmilla”, “Beautiful Loser” and “Six Ribbons”.

The global hit “Six Ribbons” was written by Jon English for the 1978 miniseries Against The Wind. Jon and childhood friend, guitarist Mario Millo of Sebastian Hardie, shared writing credits for the miniseries Against The Wind which English starred in. “Initially the producers were going to use music from a production library but I talked them out of it. They paid me $600 an episode for the music so I kept costs down by playing the instruments I knew.”

The Foster Brothers, though, are in fine rock-out form on “You Might Need Somebody”, “Straight From The Heart” and “Stranger In A Strange Land”, capturing everything that is exhilarating about rock and makes both audience and band swell up under the spotlight, building up until the finale cover of The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” tears the room apart.

The Foster Brothers were one of the acts who played a tribute show for Jon on April 4, 2016 at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. He died 17 days before his 67th birthday due to post-operative complications from an aortic aneurysm.




1. (In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Grieg) / Overture / Survivor
2. Turn The Page
3. You Might Need Somebody
4. Been In Love Before
5. Handbags & Gladrags
6. Josephine (Too Many Secrets)
7. The Shining
8. Beautiful Loser
9. Carmilla
10. Six Ribbons
11. Straight From The Heart
12. Last Night In Hollywood
13. Words Are Not Enough
14. The Punk & The Godfather / Hot Town
15. Stranger In A Strange Land
16. Hollywood Seven
17. We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Jon English (R.I.P) – vocals, 12-string guitar
John Dallimore    – guitar, flute, vocals
Keith ‘Stretch’ Kerwin  – guitar, vocals
Peter Deacon    – keyboards
John Coker    – bass
Greg Henson   – drums

John Cashion – lights
David Williams – sound
Wayne King – monitors
Simon Thomas – rigger
Jack Frost – stage

Jon English & The Foster Brothers LIVE at Billboard 1981 live tape (available Feb 1) and all the ARCA Desk Tape Series recordings are available through Black Box Records – ARCA ( and the following: (paste into browser if it fails to work)

Apple Music / iTunes
Black Box Records
YouTube Music

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