MILESAGO - Obituaries

Frank West 1943-2001

Saxophone stalwart of Oz rock

They played with the Bee Gees in front of 250,000 people in the '60s, supported the Allen Brothers and jammed alongside Col Joye and the Joyboys. The Steeds, who carved out their own distinct place in rock history, lost their saxophonist, Frank West, on August 14.

Frank was born in Sydney on December 1, 1943. At Hurstville Boys High, where he was involved in sport, he found his first love - the clarinet.

In 1958, Frank met Warren Daly who was running a portable newspaper stand at Penshurst railway station while playing drums in a band.

As Frank helped Warren put up posters for his band, he told him: "'I play clarinet." Warren asked if he played the saxophone. Frank replied: "No, but my father can get me one." He was in.

Warren's band was the Ramblers, one of the first six professional rock 'n roll bands in Australia. Soon renamed the Steeds, they were one of the premier Australian backing groups, touring with a variety of renowned Australian acts, including the Delltones and Johnny Devlin.

Unusually for a rock band,all four members could read music fluently.

The group was also well known in its own right for recordings such as In a Persian Market, Baby Elephant Walk, and the singles Road Runner and Mama Inez.

In 1966, Frank, whose large frame scored him the nickname Barney, left the band to manage a service station in Revesby.

He soon became an interested observer of a "petite blonde" who walked past occasionally . Friends challenged him that he couldn't get a date with this beautiful stranger. He not only made a date - he married her.

"I remember getting a 13-page brief from my father as to why I shouldn't go out with a rock 'n roll star, especially one who drove a station wagon," wife Lynne recalls.

"The first time Frank took me to a drive-in he said, 'Do you want to get in the back seat?'. I said, 'No, I want to stay here in the front with you,' and I was serious!"

Frank and Lynne were married for more than 30 years. They built a house in Lugarno, where they gave legendary parties. Frank was known for being able to turn any social occasion into an event to remember, delivering instant opinions on any topic, recalls family friend and neighbour Evan MacKenzie.

He was a devoted to his children, Murray and Stacey, and later in life increasingly spent more time with small groups of friends and family. But, says Warren, the bonds formed in the Steeds will never be broken. "In 1990, in Sydney we held a 32nd anniversary for the group," he says.

"And Frank and I were discussing a 43rd anniversary get-together the day before [he] died."

Lee Glendinning