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backonstreetagainFestival Records have released yet another brilliant compilation of long lost treasure from their vaults. This one is  Back On The Street Again, a compilation of funk, soul and psych rarities from the 60s and 70s. AM editor Greg Phillips spoke to Warren Daly, whose group the Daly-Wilson Big Band feature on the album.

It may have escaped some of you but the good souls at Festival Records have been trawling though their archives over the last few years, uncovering some long-forgotten and other never-really-known musical gems in order to release a series of outstanding compilations albums. Compilations released so far have covered themes ranging from surf music of the 60s & 70s, to Australian psychedelia, pub rock and punk and new wave. One of their most recent releases is Back On The Street Again, a 20 track collection of Australian funk, soul and pysch tracks from artists such as Billy Thorpe, Renee Geyer, Khavas Jute, Tamam Shud, Blackfeather and John Sangster to name a few. It’s a disparate batch of artists that compilers Pete Pasqual, Erica Olsen and Dj Kinetic have put together but collectively, they form a picture of a style of music which permeated the Australian music scene in the 60s and 70s.

Another group which appears on the compilation is the Daly-Wilson Big Band, who were a huge success in the 70s, combining traditional big band brass with rock band instrumentation. Led by drummer Warren Daly and Ed Wilson on trombone, the Daly-Wilson Big Band burst on to the Australian music scene in 1969 and throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s and enjoyed unprecedented success via sold out national and international concert tours. Even for Warren Daly, despite being in the thick of the scene back in the day, he struggles to recall ever hearing some of the rare tracks captured on Back On The Street Again album. “Interestingly I was just looking through them and I’d say that  40% I knew their names, three of them I actually knew them had worked with them,” he tells me. “Renee had sung with my big band. Billy Thorpe I came across when I was with my own rock ‘n’ roll band called The Steeds back in the early 60s. John Sangster I worked with on sessions. I knew other names but wasn’t familiar with their music. I put on this record and heard a lot of this material for the first time.”

Daly-Wilson Big Band Hong Kong 1975

The Daly-Wilson Big Band track which appears on Back On The Street Again is ‘City Sounds’, which features legendary Australian jazz singer Kerrie Biddell. It was recorded in August 1971 and was written by husband and wife team Ron and Carol Philpott, who performed as The Carons. Kerrie Biddell had only been singing with Daly-Wilson for around 9 months at the time but had already made quite an impression. “She was unbelievably gifted in so much as she only had one lung functioning,” Warren explains. “She had enormous range, the raw power was astonishing given that handicap. She also suffered from arthritis badly. She was challenged physically all of her life. To work with her, like all of us she was a perfectionist. You wouldn’t hear Kerrie miss-pitching something very often. She was very good at nailing takes. She studied piano too, so she was a very good all round musician. She didn’t have a lot of experience as in performance at that stage, in fact we gave her the concert platform. She was our feature singer for a long time along with others such as Ricky May.”

Warren Daly had been touring America throughout 1968 as part of the iconic Glenn Miller Orchestra but returned to Australia intent on forming a band with his friend Ed Wilson, which would combine his two musical loves; big band and rock band sounds. Little did he know at the time that two significant American bands, Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears were also plotting a similar sound, albeit with a smaller group of musicians. The timing was right for all three, as they all enjoyed a long period of recording and performing success and helped to place the brass rock sound firmly in the spotlight worldwide.  Another synchronistic event which was fortuitous in the development of the Daly-Wilson Big band was a television strike in the late sixties which created an abundance of available brass players, who normally might have been employed on television shows.
“We insisted on getting young guys because we wanted the enthusiasm of youth,” says Warren about putting the band together. “We tried to do this first in 1965 but there wasn’t enough talent around to play this adventurous music. When I came back from the states in1968, there was a television strike so there was an abundance of all these guys who may have been swept up in a lot of TV work but that strike gave us the opportunity to rehearse behind closed doors for nine months. Nobody heard us for 9 months.”

The Daly-Wilson Big band celebrated great success on stages at home and overseas. They did numerous national tours of Australia and on one tour, filled the Sydney Opera House 4 nights in a row. There were tours to New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and America as well but the tour which sticks in Warren Daly’s mind the most is the one to the USSR.
“The big one was Russia,” he says. “We were the first Australian group to go behind the Iron Curtain. We were the second big band in the world to go there, behind Benny Goodman. We played Latvia, Lithuania, Leningrad and Moscow, 5,000 people per night and they all but ripped the seats out of the place they were that excited to hear the band. I have my own personal tapes where you can hear the 5,000 people in the basketball stadium in Latvia erupt when we played Jesus Christ Superstar off our ’75 album. We got the slow hand clap. They gave us what we would call the death clap in Western society but it meant the supreme accolade from them, the slow clap. That meant you’d done it! They loved it but if you got that out here, it would mean get off. So it was fantastic, 20 concerts then onto Las Vegas and Hollywood. We had the who’s who of musicians from the Hollywood scene there because the Daly-Wilson Big Band album had been put on the turntables by Frank Sinatra’s producer Sonny Burke prior to our getting there, saying this is how I want you to play! True story. Sonny told me that, he really took to the band.”

Daly-Wilson Big Band in Russia
Daly-Wilson Big Band in Russia

Apart from Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Louie Bellson, you’d be struggling to come up with too many more drummers who led big bands, so Warren Daly was unique in that regard. One of the reasons for that could be that having the responsibility of leading a large group of musicians in addition to hitting the drums hard enough to cut through all of the brass was as Daly tells me,  “a very big physical effort.” Consequently Warren needed to have a top quality kit. “I had the best big band drum set ever invented,” he claims proudly. “It was a Camco, who are out of business now, taken over by DW ultimately. The sound of those drums was the best and I complimented it with concert toms. I had a rack of four concert toms and at times double bass drum, double tom toms on top and the floor toms, snare and double bass drum. Or if I wasn’t doing that, it might be a single bass drum with single pedal or it could have been a double pedal. I was a test pilot for Sleishman in ’69. He was delighted giving me these double pedals, especially if I could bend them for him. I would run on them and say at the end of the concert that they looked like bananas and he was delighted because when he took it to the market, the product would withstand anything they could throw at it.”

Warren Daly in his studio

Fast forward to 2016 and Warren Daly is far from being inactive. He has written a major work based on the American civil war, which he will perform in the USA at some point featuring a 120 piece orchestra, 60 piece choir, big band, five drummers and will include gatling guns and projections among many other highlights. More news on that later. For now, you can get a small taste of the Daly Wilson Big Band, as well as many other funk, soul and psychedelic musicians from the 60s and 70s on the wonderful new compilation Back On The Street Again.

Side 1
1. Billy Thorpe – Back On The Street Again
2. The ID – Feel Awright
3. Ross D Wyllie – Do The Uptight
4. Johnny Rocco Band – Funky Max
5. Daly-Wilson Big Band (Featuring Kerrie Biddell) – City Sounds
Side 2
6. Dalvanius And The Fascinations -Voodoo Lady
7. Renee Geyer – Be There In The Morning
8. John Sangster – Hair
9. Ray White Revival – Superstition
10. Festival Studio 24 Orchestra – Africa (L’ete Indien)
11. Brute Force & His Drum – Weird and Wonderful
Side 3
12. McPhee – The Wrong Time
13. Kahvas Jute – Odyssey
14. Tamam Shud – Sea That Swells (from Morning of the Earth)
15. Blackfeather – The Rat Suite “Main Title”
Side 4
16. Al Styne – Vehicle
17. McPhee – Indian Rope Man
18. Hot Source – Oz Bump (Soul Thing)
19. Count Copernicus & The Cosmic Fire – Painted Ego
20. John Sangster – A Day In A Life

More info on Warren Daly here

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