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WATCH: ROSS WILSON – EAGLE ROCK 50TH ANNIVERSARY INTERVIEW

Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips chats with Ross Wilson about the 50th anniversary of Daddy Cool’s hit single ‘Eagle Rock’. We cover the gear the band used in the studio at the time,  the writing of the song and the song’s influence upon many international artists.

Now listen! If you were a young music fan 50 years ago, chances are you owned Daddy Cool’s joyous single Eagle Rock, featuring Bom Bom on the flipside, released on the Sparmac label. 50 years ago, Daddy Cool’s first single “EAGLE ROCK” topped the charts for months on end. It became a genuine cultural phenomenon, and the group’s debut album DADDY WHO? went on to break every sales record in the book; between the two of them, the single and the album had a combined 17 weeks at Number 1.

To celebrate fifty years of Daddy Cool and “Eagle Rock”, Ross Wilson is set to undertake a tour that will celebrate the band and the song upon which his long and successful career as a singer/songwriter/musician was built.

Sadly, Daddy Cool itself is no longer around to do it – both lead guitarist Ross Hannaford (Wilson’s musical partner since the mid- ‘60s) and bass player Wayne Duncan have passed away, and drummer Gary Young is in semi-retirement – but it is an anniversary worth celebrating. While Ross of course will touch on other aspects of the career that Daddy Cool gave him, these shows will feature a preponderance of Daddy Cool material, as well as material from the band in which the four members first united – in fact, the band in which “Eagle Rock” was first performed – the legendary hippy rock ensemble the Sons of the Vegetal Mother.

Ross Wilson’s “50 Years of Eagle Rock” tour will take in all states, with a special show in Melbourne that will feature an expanded DC-related repertoire and an expanded line-up of his band (including the addition of young guitarist Aaron Schembri, who was mentored as a teen by Ross Hannaford).

Daddy Cool’s “Eagle Rock” remains a ubiquitous radio hit, the West Coast Eagles use it to signify a win and apparently it was a bunch of Queensland Uni blokes who started dropping their dacks and dancing to it, but the song and its creators really do not get the respect they reserve.

50 years ago, Daddy Cool broke every sales record in the book, topped the charts for months on end and were a genuine cultural phenomenon. All of which came to be, astonishingly, within six months of their first gig. Seemingly lost in the glare of familiarity, however, is the simple fact that they were a seriously great rock’n’roll band. So great that T.Rex’s Marc Bolan demanded to meet Daddy Cool’s Ross Wilson at a press conference upon arriving in Australia in 1973. So great that Elton John said Daddy Cool were one of the greatest bands he had ever heard and acknowledged the influence of “Eagle Rock” on his own international smash “Crocodile Rock”. So great that, decades later, it was revealed Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers formed over a shared love of Daddy Cool’s first LP. Tom would play them regularly on his radio show and keyboard player Benmont Tench would perform “Come Back Again” and tweet about Daddy Cool drummer Gary Young’s singular groove.

Daddy Cool were everywhere in 1971, but what most people do not realise either is that “everywhere” included the USA. Indeed, Daddy Cool hit the Los Angeles tarmac while “Eagle Rock” was still a top the Australian charts, and they would tour there twice again over the next ten months, having signed a US deal with the legendary Reprise label. While they never broke nationally in the States and Wilson’s decision to end the band in ’72 before a proposed US tour with Elton John killed any chance of that, they did connect regionally in a lot of markets on the back of heavy airplay for “Eagle Rock” and a sting of rapturously received shows. The band played its own headlining shows and opened for the likes of Deep Purple, Captain Beefheart and even pre-Stevie and Lindsay Fleetwood Mac.

Daddy Cool achieved all this in an existence of less than two years, having signed to a start-up indie label in Melbourne within weeks of playing their first show. That all this happened for them, and in such a short period of time, attests to their greatness; that sort of trajectory is something that hype and marketing spends cannot buy.

It is not impossible to overstate the importance of Daddy Cool in the context of Australian rock’n’roll, but it is close to it.  They broke every record, they pioneered Australian music’s incursion into the US and, significantly, they helped Australia move into the ’70’s – albeit with a sound at least in part based on the ’50s – with a vitality, wit, self-determination and sense of freedom that presaged the “It’s Time” push ahead of the election of the Whitlam Government in ’72. Ross Wilson would then do it all over again with the band he discovered, mentored, and produced, Skyhooks, who broke all the records that Daddy Cool had set. Wilson of course went on to nurture other significant acts including Sports and Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons before again topping the charts with his own band Mondo Rock. All the while Daddy Cool’s songs have remained part of Australia’s soundtrack.

ROSS WILSON EAGLE ROCK – 50th ANNIVERSARY TOUR

Fri 6 Aug – Royal Hotel, Nundah, Qld
Sat 7 Aug –
Bribie Island Hotel, Qld 
Sun 8 Aug – Wallaby Hotel, Qld 

Fri 20 Aug – The Palms @ Crown, Vic  
Sat 21 Aug – Bridgeway, Pooraka, SA  

Fri 3 Sept – Belmont 16s, NSW  
Sat 4 Sept – The Cube, Campbelltown, NSW   

Sat 11 Sept – Nimbin Roots Festival, NSW 

Sat 2 Oct – Bluesfest Byron Bay, NSW 

Sat 9 Oct – Winnaleah Hall, Tas 
Sun 10 Oct – Longley Hotel, Tas 

Fri 15 Oct – Charles Hotel – WA  
Sat 16 Oct – Northshore Tavern – WA

Fri 29 Oct – Yarraville Club, Vic

www.rosswilson.com.au

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