THE Cherokees were formed in 1961 when Johnny Chester a local singer in Melbourne decided to downsize his band "The Chessmen" which had become too big, sporting up to three guitarists at one time. Johnny approached Billy Dale, one of the guitarists and said why not start a new band, Billy said that he preferred to play instrumentals, as that is what he did when he played with his first band "The Jaywoods" who went on to be "The Chessmen". Chess said no problem, start an instrumental group and I will book you at my venues, (Johnny ran several dances around Melbourne at the time). Johnny Chester suggested we hold a competition at Preston town hall in Melbourne which was THE prestige venue at the time, while the band was out and about that day they say a poster advertising a new iced lolly on the corner of Gilbert road and Bell street Preston. you guessed it it was called "THE CHEROKEE" icy pole...Billy said that's it, that's what I'm calling the band ,we are going to be called "THE CHEROKEES".. Billy went down and registered it at the Titles office the very next day. The first line up was with Billy Dale on guitar, Alan Chung on rhythm guitar, Mick Lynch on loan from the Chessmen, and David Thompson on Bass a few weeks later Barrie Windley stepped in on drums and Barrie King on rhythm guitar and vocals. the line up lasted quite a while until dave thompson left and Doug Trevor from another local band "The Marksmen" joined up. Just after the first single was recorded which was "Running WIld" B/W"Moon In The Afternoon" on W@G records ,Barrie King left and Doug's mate Lindsay Morrison joined to replace Barrie on rhythm guitar. It was with this line-up They recorded the instrumental album "Here Come The Cherokees" with the front cover paid for by Rose Morris with one of their Golden Tone amps on the front. Now this was unheard of in those days for a local band to record an album, but Ron Tudor who had just been promoted to head of A&R gave the nod and so it was recorded and released. not long after Billy left due to marital commitments and bassist Pete Tindal was bought in to fill the gap on a tempory basis. Doug Trevor went from bass to lead guitar and I filled Doug's shoes. I came from a band called "The Scorpions" which had just recorded their first single "Buckskin" B/W "Flip" it got a few plays on Grantley Dee's radio show but that was about it. The band was playing at a venue called "Tenth Avenue" during lunch times and three evenings a week, pretty much full time, as well as playing other venues around Melbourne.
"The Cherokees" went into the studio and recorded "I've got something to tell you baby" on W@G records. this was a first because up until then the band only had recorded instrumentals, apart from what Barrie sang on the first album. This song went to number ten within a week or so and so the band was off and running. We used to play as did the Scorpions and every other band at Sunday afternoon shows at the Melbourne Festival Hall. The shows were run by a DJ from Melbourne radio 3DB. I was standing down in the audience chatting to some girls, when a three piece boy vocal group came on they were bottom of the bill and I stopped talking and listened they were great ha ha they were "The Bee Gees" how about that, we were top of the bill, they were bottom, how things were about to change.
Ron Tudor joined up with some other people and started "GO" records and took us with him. And so a two year relationship started with the label, All in all it was a good label and it was the best label to be on in sixties OZ. The first single with them was "I've Been Trying" a bit of a mournful song from an "Impressions" B side I still wince when I hear the bass line. The song just managed to scrape into the charts and was a bit of a stiff really. The next single was a bit more like it "That's If You Want Me Too" which peaked at number 7, this song always worked at gigs and I thought was the direction the band ought to go in, "Full Tilt R'n'R", but it seems I was wrong and we headed off down the path of covering American soul artists which was OK in its self but not the be all and end all.. We went into a studio in St Kilda in Melbourne . An old theatre I can still remember the place, an engineer called Roger Savage did the recordings. "We recorded The Angels Listened In" by the "Crests" and "Thats If You Want Me To". We also recorded "I Can Tell", its really weird, I went home after a gig one night and wrote that song, but it turns out someone else wrote it, how about that, I had never heard the song before, it was as obscure as you can get, but well, there you go..pretty bizarre stuff. we also recorded a song we all wrote called "Shame On You Baby" .
We went into Bill Armstrongs new studio next, it was one of those old Melbourne terraced houses and recorded "The Womans Got Soul" B/W I'll Give You Love" Barrie did a great job on the drumming, he was a really good drummer. I would say one of the best around at the time and he had a great voice. But as luck would have it the song just bumbled along on the charts. I remember we did Brian Hendersons Bandstand in Sydney with another up and coming group called "The Bee Gees" You could see back then that they were world class. We used to stay at "The Sheraton Inn" and order the best steak sandwiches ever.
Doug and I went down to the Whiskey a gogo club one night to see Dion Warwick and we got to meet her, wow what a buzz and said she saw us on TV before she came to the gig. We were blown away by this beautiful black six foot woman. Things were going great ,we had it all, even though chart success eluded us ,our live performances were knocking them out, we were packing them in, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Tasmania, we were up there, with them all we played all over OZ.
The band was in Broken hill in South Australia we had just driven from Adelaide and were we tired. We decided to try and get some sleep, but there was this piped muzak playing all over the hotel it was like Liberace on bad acid. Doug went out to the truck got a pair of plyers and went snip snip and we had some peace and quiet. There was a load of cowboys at the gig who then proceeded to pick fights with all and sundry, and so we had to pack up and go home. Back in the studio again and we recorded "Little Lover" B/W "The Thought Of You" with Barrie on vocals this again bumbled along the bottom of the charts it was strange, our live gigs were full houses but our record sales just enough to justify having a contract both were great songs how can you tell what will be a hit. Ron Tudor came up with an idea , that was to record a Ted Weems song called "Oh Monah" it was a kinda jug country Blues song which I thought was a bit of a joke as did we all, but we went in and recorded it and bang, off it went it sold like hot cakes how can you tell eh .we were back in the charts all over the country, and off we went again touring and carousing all over the place.
Barrie got sick and was out of action so we had to get a stand in drummer real quick, by this time we had joined up with Carol West (bad decision) we were booked on a tour of South Australia , and with Barrie in hospital I had to cop all of the vocals. It tuned out ok with the stand in drummer who was adequate and fitted in well at short notice. but the question remained what to do about Barrie, who was still in hospital. Kim, our managers secretary was tour manager and held it all together.We had to make some sort of decision about Barrie, how can you sack your mate who's in hospital gasping and wheezing and here we are with a nationwide hit and no singer what a bummer. So we had it decided for us, Lindsay got the push Doug went from lead to rhythm we bought in Marty van Wyk from the Throb and Kevin Smith from the D Coys on lead vocals and Pete 'Max' Bilney from the Secrets on drums. Now this was not all to my liking but we had no choice. Kevin and I were sharing an apartment in a Melbourne suburb called Northcote, and all was going fine so I suggested him for the band, Marty was a great guitar player he bought a new dimension to the band doing Hendrix stuff and the like, playing the guitar behind his head and all of that malarky, his party piece was to stand on a table at parties and do hambones and various other sexual high jinx . But Kevins rages saw the end of that and Marty left. Now we had another problem, we had just recorded the Cab Calloway song called "Minnie The Moocher" and it was taking off .
We managed to get "THE MONKEES" tour as support and all was great, what a Buzz, but Marty had left so we got in Mike Macquire, who bumbled along with us, I never got to know the guy as we were from different planets, I guess I should of got in my space ship and visited. After the Tour we recorded one more single called "Sally," yet another mistake as it was in the same style as Minnie The Moocher . We broke up, another mistake and I took off for Perth for a while, then I found myself in Amsterdam, then to London and that was that. What a trip, that was one minute in a band in OZ ,next minute sitting in a club in Amsterdam.
This single-disc Cherokees retrospective almost form a wide-lens snapshot of the changes undergone by Aussie rock (and, in similar senses, rock around the globe) from the early to late '60s. Although this only covers releases from 1964-1968 (with an unissued cover of the Rivieras' "Little Donna" thrown in), stylistically it encompasses everything from early-'60s style surf music to British Invasion, garage rock, vaudevillian rock (a 1967 cover of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher"), and good-time psychedelic pop. The common ground is both musical competence and, to be harsh, a lack of originality, though nothing's lousy, and some of it's good. Most of the first third of the disc might as well have been the work of an entirely different band than the British Invasion-inspired one that had a few Australian hits in the mid-'60s, since it's almost wholly given over to surf instrumentals in the style of the Shadows and, occasionally, Tornados. Those tracks are OK but lack the spark that made the Shadows, Tornados, and for that matter the Atlantics (the best Australian '60s surf band) so identifiable from other instrumental groups of the period (though "Thundercloud," the best of them, certainly sounds like the Atlantics in its threatening high-pitched gallop). The same could be said of the material after the band had switched approaches almost entirely and adopted vocals, mixing fair but unremarkable covers of the likes of Manfred Mann, the Beau Brummels ("That's If You Want Me To," actually one of their biggest hits), and Curtis Mayfield with some reasonable original material in the garage-British Invasion-pop mold. There are some decent early British Invasion imitations ("Only If You Care," "Stop This Misery") and garage pop outings (the stomping but tinny-sounding "The Thought of You," "Ain't Gonna Cry No More," and "Just Can't Cry Anymore"), and the group were able harmony singers. Still, unless you're a real deep collector of '60s sounds, it's a struggle to come up with a reason why you should get this when there are so many more similarly styled but more exciting reissues of Australian '60s rock out there.