I'll sing my song and I'll be gone ...

MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964-1975

"I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to."
- Elvis Presley

History of the Beat ‘n Tracks - Perth 1965-1967

Vale Nat Kipner

We are sad to report that producer, songwriter and entrepreneur Nat Kipner died recently in the United States. Nat was one of the most important figures in the  Australian pop music industry of the 1960s. As well as his role as house producer for the Sunshine, Spin and Downunder labels, he was an accomplished songwriter who wrote or co-wrote many of the releases he produced, including several songs he co-wrote with Maurice Gibb. Among his later credits was "Too Much Too Little Too Late", which was a major international hit for Deniece Williams and Johnny Mathis in the late 1970s. Nat is also notable as the father of renowned musician and songwriter Steve Kipner.

Nat was born in the USA. He joined the USAF when America entered WWII in 1941, and served in Australia and the Pacific. He was wounded during a Japanese air-raid on Finchaven, New Guinea and was awarded a Purple Heart. He met his wife Alma while stationed in Brisbane; they married at the end of the war and returned to the USA. Their son Steve was born in Cincinatti, Ohio, but the Kipners returned to live in Brisbane in the late 1950s, where Nat started out in business selling real estate on the Gold Coast.

The ever-enterprising Kipner then talked his way into a job as a producer with an early live-to-air pop music show on Brisbane television. This brought him to the attention of rising pop promoter Ivan Dayman, who had moved to Brisbane from his native Adelaide as he built his Sunshine mini-empire, which at its peak included a string of venues called "The Bowl" and Brisbane's famed Cloudland Ballroom, as well as artist management and record labels.

Nat became a partner in Sunshine, which prospered as the Beat Boom exploded across across Australia. Nat produced many of the best Sunshine releases including most of Normie Rowe's debut LP and his top-selling national #1 hit  "Que Sera Sera" / "Shakin' All Over", as well as Tony Worsley & The Blue Jays' biggest hit, "Velvet Waters". He also continued to work in TV, producing the mid-Sixties pop shows Saturday Date and Teen Beat.

Nat and his family moved to Sydney to establish the Sydney Bowl nightclub, which was opened in a basement in Castlereagh St, near the corner of Park St. However, in late 1965 he sold his share in Sunshine and The Bowl -- a wise move, as it turned out, since the company went broke soon after. He then took up an offer from Clyde Packer to become the A&R manager for Packer's new record label (originally called Everybody's) which was soon relaunched as Spin Records. Nat stayed with the label until 1968, helping it to become the most successful independent Australian label of the late 1960s.

During the early days of Spin, Nat played a pivotal role in the career of The Bee Gees. The group had released a string of singles for Festival's subsidiary Leedon in the early Sixties, but none had been successful (although they had written several hits for other artists) and by the end of 1965 Festival was on the verge of dropping them. Fortunately for the group, Nat had become friends with the Bee Gees' father Hugh Gibb and at this point he took over as their manager. Crucially, he was able to persuade Festival to release the band from their Leedon contract and allow them to transfer to Spin. Festival agreed on condition that they retained the distribution rights to the band's Spin recordings. This proved to be a goldmine for both companies, since the grateful band granted Spin the Australian distribution rights to the hugely successful recordings the group made after they returned to the UK in 1967. 

After signing The Bee Gees to Spin, Nat introduced the trio to independent producer-engineer Ozzie Byrne, who took them under his wing and gave them  unlimited access to his home-built St Clair studio in Hurstville, Sydney. It was during this very fertile period that the Bee Gees recorded their breakthrough hit "Spicks and Specks", which Nat produced.In collaboration with Byrne, Kipner also produced a string of singles and EPs for the shortlived Downunder label, and many of the songs recorded by these artists were co-written by Nat with either Maurice Gibb or Ossie Byrne. 

At the same time, Nat's teenage son Steve was also enjoying his first success as the leader of pop band Steve & The Board, who scored several Australian hits in the mid-1960s. After that group split up Steve joined forces with Steve Groves, formerly of The Kinetics, relocated to the London. There, thanks to a chance meeting with Barry Gibb, they were signed by Robert Stigwood and as Tin Tin they scored an international hit in 1971 with "Toast and Marmalade For Tea". 

Nat and his wife eventually moved back to USA and he spent the remainder of his life there. In later years he collaborated with a number of other songwriters including John Vallins (a member of the Kinetics with Steve Groves) with whom Nat wrote his most successful song,"Too Much Too Little Too Late".

Nat's great contributions to Australian music and the long-overlooked story of the Spin label were recently documented by historian Bill Casey, who has written the definitive history of the label, and fortunately he was able to interview Nat at length for his research. Speaking from his home in Melbourne, singer Dave Miller paid tribute to Nat, who signed The Dave Miller Set to Spin and helped to launch their career. 

In closing, we in offering our sincere condolences to Nat's family and friends.


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