Brisbane / Melbourne,1967-70

Garth Austin (bass)
Ross Bentley(vocals)
Roger Gellicoe (guitar)
Graeme Rabnott (guitar)
Mick Monaghan (drums)

Roger Hicks (guitar, ex Zoot) 1969
Julian Jones (vocals, ex The Breed)
Keith "Stretch" Kerwin (guitar) 1968-1969
Don Lebler (drums)
Andy Tait (bass)

The New Avengers, 1970
Jeff Black (vocals)
David Briggs (guitar)
John Bush (guitar)
Bobby Jacobsen (organ)
Rick Matson (drums?)
Andy Tait (bass)


Formed in 1967, The Avengers built up a strong following on the Brisbane club and discotheque scene in the late 1960s and rose to become one of the top Queensland bands of the period. Like many other acts of the day, their repertoire was mainly Top 40 covers. They were signed to EMI's Columbia label in 1968 and released their first single, "What Price Love", in June 1968. 

Late in 1968 the original version of the group fell apart and a new lineup -- singer Julian Jones, guitarist Keith Kirwin (ex Capital Showband), drummer Don Lebler and bassist Andy Tait -- was recruited. This lasted for approximately a year and recorded a second single "Listen, Listen" / "Just One More Chance" (Jan. 1969). Neither single made any impression on the charts, although the group was very popular by this time and entered and won the Queensland final of the Hoadley's Battle Of The Sounds.

In early 1969, following the shock demise of The Twilights, lead singer Glenn Shorrock briefly took over as the Avengers' manager. Ex Twilights guitarist Terry Britten wrote the A-side of The Avengers' third single, "Tweedelee Dee" / "Caroline Court" (May 1969) which was a minor hit in Brisbane and their only charting single. By this time the band had relocated to Melbourne and the lineup had changed again -- Kirwin quit, unhappy with the gorup's pop direction, and he was replaced by former Zoot guitarist Roger Hicks and drummer Don Lebler. Hicks -- who had recently quit Zoot, unhappy with the group's corny "Think Pink" publicity campaign -- was reportedly The Avengers' second choice. They had were hoping to snare Rick Springfield (ex-Wickedy Wak) who, was being pursued by several Brisbane bands at the time but, in an ironic twist, Springfield turned down the Avengers' offer and wound up taking Hicks' place in Zoot.

The '68-'69 lineup of The Avengers broke up in September, with Don Lebler soon joining Shorrock in the new supergroup Axiom. By the end of the year bassist Andy Tait had put together The New Avengers, which included guitarist David Briggs. He played with the New Avengers for about six months before leaving to join highly regarded Melbourne band Cycle -- who backed Russell Morris for some time.  Briggs was replaced by John Bush, but this last incarnation The Avengers last only a short time and broke up in late 1970. David Briggs of course went on to great success in the 1970s, replacing Rick Formosa as lead guitarist in Little River Band in 1976.

In late 1979 former Avengers guitarist Keith Kirwan joined Doug Parkinson's acclaimed Southern Star Band. Keith recently submitted these fascinating recollections about his early years on the Brisbane rock scene to the Revolution Rock website:

My earliest memories of Brisbane live music go back to sitting on the footpath outside a house in Coorparoo listening to The Planets or maybe it was The Dominoes rehearsing. Having my first guitar lessons at Drouyns in Stones Corner, circa 1964. The Beatles at Festival Hall '64.

Then, I think it was '64, whilst attending dance lessons at Arthur Murrays in Adelaide St on Saturday morning, wandering down to catch the tram, heard the music coming from the Elizabeth Arcade, tentatively went down the stairs, and there was the Primitif, inhabited by beatniks and The Purple Hearts. This 15-year-old sat six feet in front of Lobby's amp and was mesmerised.

This was it, Lobby with his fag hanging from the lip, his Fender Jaguar strapped out through the Vox AC-30, Bob Dames on the Gibson bass, to me, these guys looked like giants. Mick Hadley just raging, blues harp, I mean they're all big guys but the music was so full on that they seemed to grow even bigger before your eyes. I forgot about the dance lessons and just went straight to the Primitif every Sat arvo.

Later when I was a professional muso myself I got to meet some of the guys over the years, they'd never remember but I do. I got to play at the Red Orb later in '67, The Caramel Straws, that was Fred's, our drummer at the time, idea, the name that is. Thursdays Children were the resident band at the time, Paul Murphy or "Murph" as he was commonly known, with a million "gotta gotta's" and "sock it to me's", they were doing a mix of Otis Redding type soul and blues. There was Barry Sullivan on guitar, Barry Harvey on drums, later collectively known as BG and LG, Big Goose and Little Goose [dont ask me why], Steve on bass, and Heinze on 2nd guitar, sorry dont know surnames.

If memory serves me correct, the "Red Orb" was set up when after a road accident where Red had sustained a badly broken leg, during a Purple Hearts tour, he was laid up with plaster from tip of the toes to the nether regions so somehow he got his own club. I remember the "Door lady", Lorraine, heavy man. Lorraine Pole looked after the door, the counter, and pretty muchly everything else, Red was in the back room/office with the leg up. I met Lorraine in Melbourne a couple of years later, off the gig and found her to be just a fantastic person, but on the "door", man oh man.

Tony Cahill replaced Red in the "Hearts", later he joined the Easybeats. Occasionally the Orb could afford some special guests [it could only hold about 200 at a pinch, if that]. I saw The Twilights, The Groove, The Questions there, other Brissy bands, Black Cat Circle, The Chelsea Set and my favourite The Bay City Union. Jim Brelsford [guitar] was a school mate of mine from Camp Hill H.S.[years later he called himself Moose Malone and the Country Cassanova's]. I used to go up to his place in the next street when they were rehearsing. On one of these occasions the then singer, Terry Hannigan [that deep voice of Jim Beam ads] looked at me and just said "Stretch" [I hit 6ft1 when I was 13 and to this day, I'm 53 now, it's still my nickname]. Matt Taylor joined the Union a little later, I loved they're 1st single "Moureen".

For my own part, I was a sponge, just soaking up everything that was going on. I was approached at some stage by another of the bands that played the "Orb", The Capital Showband. So I joined Warren Wilesmith [vocals and allround good sort] Julian Young [keys] Ian Profke [drums] and Robert Stevenson aka Steve [bass]. Steve was in an accident not long after and Alan [Jack] Wilson took over on bass. We played "soul" mixed with some pop, quite a bit of Booker T & the MG's and we were the 1st band to ever play at ADAM & EVES in Brunswick st, later it was Whispers and the Jet Club and a variety of other names over the years. I played there in the 80's with Jon English and the Foster Bros; it was Whispers then I think.

In '68, Warren Wilesmith was called up into the army, all of us turning 20 around that time were faced with it, so the Capital Showband was in disintegration mode. We'd gotten beyond the Orb so to speak, and were getting out into the pop world, we did Everybody In, which was a 'live' kids' arvo tv show. Uncle Jim Iliffe was the compere, ably assisted by Jackie McDonald and Kerry Anne Wright [now Kennerley]. Greg Jefferies from 4BC was also co-compere, so that was great local exposure which generated gigs and all that go with it for a number of local bands and acts, The Sect, Hands Down [Jamie Dunne was the drummer for Hands Down, if your can imagine him with a full head of hair, slim, clean shaven, bit of a Tony Curtis look was young Jamie].

Can't forget the jams at Fords at the 'Gabba. Saturday mornings every muso in town was there. Mal Stevens was the man, Mal would have sold every muso in Brisbane their first instrument. A little later it was Tony [can't remember the surname Tony, I know it was Italian, or Greek perhaps]. Perhaps Lobby would turn up and a young bloke might get to jam with the great one, and we did. I remember an almighty breakthrough when Lobby imparted the secret of string bending, move all the strings down one and put a light banjo string in place of the top E, man o man. Remember we're talking about a time before pedals and extra light gauge strings etc; we had to find out for ourselves the hard way or have little pearls of knowledge given to us by our "older brothers".

Late '68, the Capital Showband was disintergrating, I was approached by the then Top Dog of the Brissy scene, John Hannah. Would I be interested in becoming a full time musician [give up the day job with Q'ld Rail] and join the then top band in Brissy, "The Avengers" and go to Melbourne and record and all that stuff. The original Avengers had been around in Brissy for years beforehand, in what we'd call now the "corporate scene". The original guys still get together and gig now, but then they were in a state of flux. They could tell you that side of things better, all I knew was I'd been scouted and offered the gig to replace both guitarists, Roger Jellicoe and Graham Rabnot [sorry about the spelling] with one, moi. So there I was in a cafe in Stones Cnr, surrounded by the heavy's of the Brissy scene at the time, John Hannah, Jon Blanchfield, Jim Considine, can't remember the others, being asked to join the top band, not only in Brissy but the whole state, of course I said yes, just had to convince my parents. Which, as it turned out wasn't too difficult, I was turning 20 in 6 months and it might all be over anyhow and I'd be off to fight in the jungles of Vietnam.

So that was me turning professional in 1969, "The Brisbane Avengers" as we were billed [there was another Avengers from New Zealand in Melbourne at the time but that's another story] won the Q'ld Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds [still got the medal] a couple of times and I spent about a year with them, it became way too poppy for me and as it turned out, for the other guys as well, so we split up and limped back home oin various forms over next few months. So began the hard part of professionalism. Over the next few years, in and out of Brissy, I played at the top of Lennons in Keith Lloyd's restuarant gig up there. There was one on the 30th floor of the SGIO building as well.

A couple of years later I joined "Everton Park" the resident band at Chequers, and saw the fence paling bashings going on from the stage as the Whiskey au go-go thing developed. I was playing resident at "Whiskey" for 6 weeks prior to the fire, we were moved the weekend before, played our last gig Sunday, it went up Tuesday.

But the 70's is another story, so too the 80's etc ...

Regards to all, lots more to tell, let me know if you's wanna hear more.... Keith Patrick Kerwin [aka STRETCH]



Jun. 1968
"What Price Love?" (Malcolm-The Avengers) / "Only Once In My Lifetime" (Malcolm) (EMI Columbia DO-8373)

Jan. 1969
"Listen Listen" / "Just One More Chance" (EMI Columbia DO-8657)

May 1969
"Tweedelee Dee" (Terry Britten) / "Caroline Court" (Jones-Phelps) (EMI Columbia DO-8756)

Only one Avengers track, "Tweedelee Dee", has been officially re-issued to date; this was included on the 1984 Raven Records compilation LP Kicks (RVLP-12).

References / Links

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

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

Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara and Paul McHenry
Who's Who Of Australian Rock (Five Mile Press, 2002)

Kelvin Johnston
Revolution Rock: Oral History of Brisbane Music 1942-present

National Film & Sound Archive
The Sixties: Australian rock & pop Recordings 1964-1969
(.pdf document)