News

12 Nov 2002

Where did the industry come from?

 

UPDATED MATERIAL FROM BILLY McCARTNEY (Dec 10):: Where did today’s industry come from? Two camps existed in the 1970’s – traditional theatre, “lovie”, and those DISGUSTING dirty ‘rock’ boys. In this section of our evolving history of the genre, we talk about how Jands was formed, amongst other things. The 1970’s was a pivotal era in Australian road touring and concert production. There are more chapters in our ‘History’ section.

In 1970, Eric Robinson and Paul Mulholland purchased J&S Research. Bruce Jackson ran off to America to find fame and fortune as soundman to Elvis, Stringsteen and others. The Mulholland brothers, Paul and David, together with Eric Robinson and his brother, Eddie, joined forces with Phil Storey and JANDS started operating from above a shop in Rose Bay.

Smart promoters like Phil Smiles (later to become a politician) and Donnie Sutherland were running new venues in youth clubs, surf clubs and community halls. The lighting in these halls was provided by small, part-time, independent operators like the fledgling MAC Lights (owned by Phil Cullen), Zapco Lighting (Julius Grafton) and Vibe Lighting (Colin Baldwin). Rarely were the bands lit, illuminated instead by overhead light bulbs on the stage. The creation of the ‘ambience’ of the venue was considered to be more important. The Strand Pattern 23 and Pattern 123 were the basic lighting equipment along with moving colour-wheels and/or ‘flicker’ wheels. These wheels usually featured 5 colours and revolved using a small motor. The first ‘moving lights’! Rows of lights inherited from old theatres called ‘groundrows’ were often constructed from timber utilising 150 watt coloured mirror back floods. They sat on the floor and were used to provide a lighting ‘wash’ for the stage and later for illuminating walls for effect. Police-style beacons, ultra-violet tubes and ‘dry ice’ in fuel drums (for a fog effect) enhanced proceedings. Strand introduced the Pattern 23 mark 2, which featured a faceted reflector!

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Jands later introduced the first locally manufactured strobe lights and colour organs which quickly became the new trend in dance halls.

English lighting operator Phil Burkinshaw arrived in Australia in 1970. He had experience behind him from touring in the UK. Phil visited the lighting operator for touring English legends, ‘YES’, at the Hordern Pavilion. The operator was Michael Tait, a UK based ex Melbourne lad, at that time a fast rising LD to the stars. He is now USA based with his company “Tait Towers”, and he used to work closely with Clair Bros productions.

Yes had steel framed containers, inside which travelled “trees”, 8 x par cans and a gas driven genie tower.

The wood panelling served to protect the lights, outriggers pushed in through slots, and the lamps rose out of the containers for use.

Phil did a deal with Michael and bought 10 lights at the end of the tour. He wired them in pairs to run at 240 volts and approached General Electric in Australia for more globes. They told him he was nuts and there was no future for 110 volt equipment in this country. That must rank with the dummy who thought that fast food chains like McDonalds would never take off in Oz and knocked back the franchise! Phil formed Krazy Maze Lighting and manufactured the first Par Cans in Australia. These bright-orange lamps changed the lighting industry forever. Push-up lighting stands were still the only support method available, so in order to lift these lights into the air, Phil then imported 20 Genie pneumatic air cylinders from the USA. Krazy Maze were momentarily the premier lighting company in Sydney (and probably Australia), using Par Cans while everyone else was stuck with Patt 23 and Patt 123.

In a parallel situation to Phil’s, Bill McCartney was also building lighting systems in a small shopfront next to “Sebastian’s” in Melbourne, (for people with a long memory),

He came up with a set of cans & genie tree’s to service the Paul Dainty Corporation tours at that time. Both the genies and the Par 64’s, (only wide beam) were sourced locally.

The Genies came from from suppliers to the air-conditioning industry – the only previous use was to raise ducting on building sites.

The cans Billy used are another story, only available then as a complete unit, lamp and housing, designed as airfield lighting units. The initial conversion of the units and the continuous modifications learnt by trial and lots of errors is another story.

At the same time Billy rebuilt 5 very second hand carbon-arc Super Troupers, acquired from the Rolling Stones tour, a long and painful education process.

“It was remembered well” says Billy, “having been arrested for testing the lamps against the ICI building, another Melbourne landmark that has disappeared”.

Sadly the carbon arc spots were only as good as their operators and experienced carbon arc operators were difficult to source.

Existing Strand follow-spots couldn’t penetrate the power of the par cans, so Burkinshaw found a solution in America, the Strong ‘Super Trooper’ with a Xenon globe. It was huge and weighed a tonne or two! Burkinshaw promptly had five shipped to Australia. By now, Burkinshaw had a host of talent working with him (including Colin Baldwin who purchased three banks of 8 par 64’s and pneumatic towers ) and secured the most-prestigious hires including local bands and lots of international shows. Without a doubt, Burkinshaw’s contribution to our industry was probably the most-significant lighting production achievement of them all. These days he makes innovative stage support systems.

By 1972, WASP had started making PA systems to compliment their backline amps and boxes. Whistler’s Mother and Buffalo both purchased WASP audio rigs to add to their inventories. The members of Whistler’s Mother apparently still own their complete backline and PA system which is stored in Mudgee and works perfectly. The Ted Mulry Gang also bought one of the biggest sound systems of the time from WASP, who by then had a thriving wood working business supplying boxes to other companies such as Jands and Roland. In 1974, Ian Johnstone and then-Hush roadie, John Swiney, designed a modified JBL 4530 cabinet with a JBL 4370 horn and called it the ’J’ box. In the same year, Ian sold a young Peter Ratcliffe (now a Director of Jands Production Services) and David Williams their first PA system.

WASP created what was to become the largest-selling single 15-inch bass speaker box in Australia’s history in 1978 the legendary (EV) TL15. The inspiration came from local musician Faye Reid, a bass player who had used an Altec/EV theatre box called a TL606 in Germany as a bass box! Faye asked Ian to build something like it for her own use and the TL15 was born. It officially became an Electro-Voice box in 1979. It also served as a low-end PA box and was complimented by a 3-way version, the TL15-3. By 1982, Ian had sold over 3,000 amp heads and 2,500 TL15 cabinets and he decided he’d had enough. He sold his wood working business to Jands, complete with contracts and staff. Ian left Jands in 1985 and went to Electro-Voice, where he is currently the Australian National Sales Manager.

In Adelaide, Lee Conlon had grown from a service agent to a manufacturer with his company, REVOLVER AUDIO. By 1974 he was making his own amps, mixers and electronics to use with the standard JBL 4560 bins and 2482 horns. In 1977, two young South Aussie bands decided to tour Australia and bought a PA system together. By 1978, both Cold Chisel and The Angels had hit records and the time came to expand. REVOLVER left Adelaide and moved to Sydney but discontinued production of amps and desks because the Aussie dollar was at high-value, allowing superior imported products to sold at cheaper prices. Their hire business boomed and they supplied equipment to a host of ‘heavyweights’ including Chisel, Angels, Icehouse and the Divinyls. In 1981, Lee imported the Martin Audio ‘Phillishave’ midrange (2 x 12) cabinet to Australia and impressed everyone. The JBL 4560 was on its last legs.

By 1975, the Paul Dainty Corporation used a Clair Brothers audio system which had been bought to Australia. Bruce Jackson travelled out for some tours. The first tour was by ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’.

The PA and Billy McCaartney’s lighting efforts was instigated by Ron Blackmore, primarily to service the needs of the Paul Dainty Corp tours, this was well prior to Artist Concert Tours being formed.

Ron had production bits and pieces in place all over the country, sadly the master story teller is no longer around to elaborate further. Ron passed away some years ago.

Ron went on to form Artist Concert Tours (ACT). Their PA was arguably the most-advanced in Australia at that time. Featuring RCA ‘boats’ for bottom-end (7-foot long boxes with 2 x 15 speakers), Clair Bros ‘Roy’ (2 x 12) midrange bins, and JBL top-end, this PA was virtually ‘state-of-the-art’. The console was built by Clair Brothers and designed by Bruce Jackson – the Australian co-founder of Jands. It featured 24 inputs, parametric equalisation and a unique ‘foldaway’ design into the touring flightcase. It apparently is now in Thailand!

Artist Concert Tours PA had DBX processing equipment, a Belden multicore, Phase Linear and SAE amps, an excellent monitor system and a very competent Melbourne road crew – which made this system the most sort-after in the country.

Concert Lighting Systems was formed in Melbourne and manufactured quality par cans, truss and lifting systems. They did a lot of international concert tours, and today are still considered the quality manufacturer of concert truss.

Also in 1975, Harry Lloyd-Williams began a small manufacturing facility in Brisbane called MATRA AUDIO. They introduced mad amps and speaker boxes and, with the arrival of engineer/designer Richard Faint in 1978, significantly increased production to allow enormous expansion. Harry changed the name to Acoustic Technologies in the mid-eighties. This company is now one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of quality speaker cabinets and has a healthy export trade.

—- More in ‘History’! Read on. And, email any corrections, new (old) pix, or further recollections to juliusmedia@me.com

 

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