(aka Leo & Friends) Melbourne, 1971-73

Original lineup:
Leo De Castro (vocals, guitar)
Charlie Tumahai (vocals, percussion)
Tim Martin (sax, flute)
Duncan McGuire (bass)
Mark Kennedy (drums)
Rob Mackenzie (guitar) Dec. 1971 - early 1972
Phil Manning (guitar) early 1972

Apr. 1972 - Mar. 1973:
Leo De Castro (vocals, guitar)
Charlie Tumahai (percussion, vocals) until Jan. 1973
Tim Martin (sax, flute)
Ray Oliver (guitar)
Billy Green (guitar)
Duncan McGuire (bass)
Mark Kennedy (drums)

April-June 1973
Leo De Castro (vocals, guitar)
Ray Burton (guitar, vocals) 1971-73
Duncan McGuire (bass)
Mark Kennedy (drums)


Renowned Melbourne band Friends was one of the most significant progressive rock acts on the Melbourne scene of the early 1970s, and as the personnel listing above indicates, it definitely rates as an Australasian supergroup, having links with many other leading Australian bands including Doug Parkinson In Focus, Mackenzie Theory, King Harvest, Healing Force, Chain, Spectrum, Alta Mira and Ayers Rock. Unfortunately, like many of their contemporaries, Friends was woefully under-recorded, with only two Singles and a handful of live tracks officially released.

Friends (aka Leo and Friends) was formed in December 1971 by New Zealand-born musicians Leo de Castro (King Harvest) and Charlie Tumahai (Aesop's Fables, Healing Force). Mackenzie Theory founder Rob Mackenzie performed with them for the first couple of months, followed by Chain's Phil Manning, who filled in for a short time until the recruitment Billy Green (Doug Parkinson In Focus) and Ray Oliver (King Harvest) in April 1972.

The new lineup built up a strong following on the Mebourne live circuit although, curiously, their debut single, "B.B. Boogie" / "Freedom Train" (Aug. 1972) came out on the Jacobsen brothers' Sydney-based ATA label. The A-side was, as the title suggests, a solid boogie-rock number highlighted by Green and Oliver's dextrous dual guitar work, but it was the driving, prog-jazz B-side "Freedom Train" that really put them on the map. It became their signature tune and it's been hailed by many critics as one of the best Australian progressive recordings of the '70s. It was included on Raven's essential Golden Miles CD compilation and of course gave its name to Ian McFarlane's equally essential magazine.

Around the same time, Billy Green and Duncan McGuire, with Mark Kennedy, moonlighted as the "Mark IV" version of In Focus backing their old mate Doug Parkinson on the superb single "Purple Curtains" / Pour Out All You Got", which came out on Fable in September 1971. This was in the middle of a two-year period when Doug's career was stalled by contractual hassles resulting from the breakup of Doug's previous band Fanny Adams.

Charlie Tumahai left in early January 1973 to join the reformed Healing Force. At the end of the month Friends made a notable appearance at the second Sunbury festival, performing as a six-piece comprising De Castro, McGuire, Kennedy, Green, Oliver and Martin. Friends' second single (issued in Feb. 1973) was one of first 45s released by the fledgling Mushroom label. It featured raucous covers of Little Richard's "Lucille" and Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues", a track that had become well known thanks to the famous live version recorded a couple of years earlier by the Allman Brothers Band. In addition to the single, two songs from their Sunbury set ("Bird On A Wire" and "La La Song") were included on Mushroom's inaugural LP release, the triple album The Great Australian Rock Festival: Sunbury 1973, which was released in April.

Soon after the single came out Green, Oliver and Martin all left the group and in April singer-guitarist Ray Burton (The Executives) joined as the new guitarist. Ray had gone to America with his former band The Executives and during his stay there he co-wrote "I Am Woman" with expatriate Aussie singer Helen Reddy, which had shot to #1 in the USA in mid-1972 and reached #2 in Australia in early 1973.

This four-piece version of Friends only lasted until the middle of the year. In early June 1973 they were one of the groups that played at the closing nights of the Garrison venue in Melbourne, an event which was recorded by Mushroom who later released a selection of these recordings on two Albums. Two tracks from Friend's set were included on the first album, Garrison: The Final Blow, Unit 1 -- a live version of "Freedom Train" and the first ever recording of Duncan McGuire's "Lady Montego".

The group folded soon after the Garrison farewell, with Burton Kennedy and McGuire all leaving to form their eponymous trio, which evolved into the original lineup of Ayers Rock, who re-recorded "Lady Montego" on their debut album.



"B.B. Boogie" / "Freedom Train" (ATA ATAK-4763)

"Lucille" / "Statesboro Blues" (Mushroom MRK-5025)


April 1973
The Great Australian Rock Festival: Sunbury 1973 (Mushroom)
Two tracks only: "Bird On A Wire" and "La La Song"

Garrison: The Final Blow, Unit 1 (Mushroom)
Two tracks only: "Freedom Train" and "Lady Montego"

References / Links

McGrath, Noel
Encyclopedia of Australian Rock
(Outback Press, 1978)

McFarlane, Ian
Australian Encyclopedia of Rock & Pop
(Allen & Unwin, 1999)

Joyson, Vernon et al
Dreams, Fantasies & Nightmares: Australia
(Borderline Books, 1995)

Spencer, Chris, Zbig Nowara and Paul McHenry
Who's Who of Australian Rock (5th edition)
(Five Mile Press, 2002)