Posted in Album Covers, Brian's Best, Cape Town, Charts, Golden Oldies, Latest News, McCully Workshop News, Music, Music Research, SA Music, SA Nostalgia, SA Rock Digest

McCully Workshop: After More Than 50 Years The Workshop Is Still Open

McCully WorkshopMcCully Workshop 2016

McCully Workshop is arguably one of South Africa’s finest pop rock bands. They started way back in the ’60’s, had their first hit single in 1970, dominated the South African airwaves in the ’70’s, continued through the ’80’s and ’90’s and in the 21st century are still going strong.

IN THE BEGINNING

When asked about their beginnings, vocalist, bassist and producer Tully McCullagh had this to say: “My brother, Mike, who plays drums and myself would play around and record ourselves in the lounge, I was about nine at the time. We recorded a track called ‘Swinging Time’ with some other friends when I was thirteen and sent it to a record company. The track didn’t get anywhere but it was quite interesting. We grew a bit more and when I was sixteen we started a band called McCully Workshop and a whole string of other bands and I started a garage studio.”

McCully Workshop has had many line-up changes over the years, but these 2 talented brothers have always surrounded themselves with superb musicians.

In 1965, the McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947) started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Hyam had previously been in a folk duo, Tiny Folk, with his sister Melanie.

After a few personnel- and name-changes, like The Blue Beats and Larfing Stocke, the line-up settled down (for a while) in 1969 and they called themselves the McCully Workshop because they used to rehearse in Mrs McCullagh’s garage.

Vocalist Glenda Wassman later married Richard Hyam, and then formed the pop band Pendulum who had a big hit with ‘Take My Heart’ in 1976. Glenda Hyam then went on to major success with the all-girl group, Clout, who had a worldwide smash hit with ‘Substitute’, which went to #2 in the UK in 1978.

McCULLY WORKSHOP INC.

Their debut album, ‘McCully Workshop Inc.’ was produced by great South African singer and producer Billy Forrest (born William Boardman). The album features a variety of styles and influences including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and early Pink Floyd.

The Forced Exposure website has this quote: “A superb South African band’s stunning debut album. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ influenced psychedelic music blended with R&B, garage punk tunes. Great songs, lovely vocals, strong harmonies, great distorted guitar work.”

Why Can't It Rain
Why Can’t It Rain

‘Inc.’ was released in June 1970 and included the epic and powerful ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, which went to #12 on the Springbok Radio charts in July 1970 and reached #13 on the LM Radio charts. This hit single featured a fiery guitar solo by Allan Faull who went on to form the eclectic Falling Mirror with his cousin Nielen Marais. Tully McCullagh was also very involved with Falling Mirror, but that’s another story…

McCully Workshop also played on country-pop singer Jody Wayne’s ‘The Wedding’ in 1970 which hit #1 for 3 weeks on the Springbok Radio charts.

GENESIS

Genesis
Genesis

The follow-up to ‘Inc’ was the album ‘Genesis’ released in June 1971. This was a concept album based on the book of Genesis from the Bible and included a number of long tracks with sub-sections, typical of other prog-rock albums of the time. ‘Sweet Fields Of Green’ was released as a single, reaching #2 on the LM Radio charts in August 1971. The follow-up single ‘Birds Flying High’ (actually the flipside of ‘Rainbow Illusion’), recorded during the ‘Genesis’ sessions, but not included on the album, peaked at #9 on the LM Radio charts.

Crocodile Harris (born Robin Graham), recorded the haunting pop classic ‘Miss Eva Goodnight’ (Springbok #5, April 1974) which was written by the McCullagh brothers and featured the musicianship of all the then current McCully Workshop members. Harris’s classic pop hit ‘Give Me The Good News’ released in 1982 was co-composed by Crocodile Harris along with Geoff Coxall. Tully McCully produced this single and played on it.

RICHARD BLACK

Richard Black (born 9th December 1946) joined McCully Workshop on guitar in 1975. Black had been playing since the early 60’s in bands like Rigar 5 and the Nu-Trends. In 1969 he had been in Elephant with Savvy Grande (who went on to form Suck) and George Wolfaardt from Abstract Truth.

AGES

Ages‘ was released in 1975 which reflected musical styles from the different ages of music and various influences could be heard: Uriah Heep, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, etc. The vocal harmonies are superb throughout. ‘1623’ is a wonderful violin-led instrumental and the keyboard-dominated ‘Guinevere’ reached #10 on the LM Radio charts and the band even appeared on the very early days of South African TV playing this hit song.

RUPERT MELLOR

In 1977 the best-known incarnation of McCully Workshop was formed with the addition of Rupert Mellor (born Anthony Rupert Mellor, 7th August 1947). Mellor had been in a variety of bands including The Difference, First Acquaintance, Hell’s Disciples, The Hedgehoppers and The Claude Larson Singers (yes, really).

WORKSHOP REVISITED

The 4th McCully Workshop album, ‘Workshop Revisited’, released in late 1977 shot them to prominence when it introduced South African fans to the hits ‘Buccaneer’ and ‘Chinese Junkman’.

Workshop Revisited
Workshop Revisited

‘Buccaneer’ entered the Springbok Radio charts on 11th November 1977 and spent 15 weeks on the charts, reaching the coveted top spot on 30th December that year and staying there for 2 weeks. ‘Buccaneer’ also hit #1 on the Radio 5 charts and Mike McCullagh won the 1978 ‘Songwriter Of The Year’ award for this composition.

The follow-up single ‘Chinese Junkman’ entered the charts in March 1978 and peaked at number 9, spending a total of 8 weeks in the top 20. However on the Radio 5 charts it followed ‘Buccaneer’ to number 1. The next single which was released in 1978 was the non-album track ‘Villa Muddy Water’ which unfortunately did not chart.

CANTERBURY TALES

Canterbury Inn, Fairmead Hotel, Rondebosch

McCully Workshop used to play in the late ’70’s at the Canterbury Inn at the Fairmead Hotel in Rondebosch, Cape Town. They were famous for their comedy, ripping off many of the politicians and sportsmen of the day. On Saturday nights McCully Workshop were the resident dance band, and on Sunday nights wonderful renditions of classic progressive rock tunes could be heard. Chicago’s version of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘I’m A Man’ (with a very long percussion section including all the band members), Barry Ryan’s ‘Eloise’, Traffic’s ‘Feelin’ Alright’ and of course their own songs like ‘Buccaneer’, ‘Fame And Fortune’, ‘Come Let Me Love You’ and ‘Dancin’ Tonite’ were all included in the set list. Of course no dancing was allowed on a Sunday in those dark days, so the audience had to just sit and listen… and listen they did (I know, ‘cos I was there).

THE EIGHTIES AND NINETIES

During the turbulent ’80’s a number of singles were released including a powerful re-recording of ‘Buccaneer’ featuring the guitar talents of Jethro Butow, but with no chart success. Richard Black co-founded Street Level Productions with James Stewart. Black released an instrumental solo CD ‘Skadu Dans’ (Shadow Dance) in 1997. In 1998 the line-up from the late ’70’s reformed and re-recorded the McCully Workshop classics and hits as well as 6 new songs and released the album ‘Buccaneer‘. ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ also received a make-over losing none of its power and gaining an even stronger production. Allan Faull again featured as guest guitarist.

IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Tully McCullagh kept running his extremely successful Spaced-Out Sounds Studio in Cape Town. He wrote most of the songs and played bass on the highly acclaimed 2003 release by Cape Town rockers BlueScream. Mike McCullagh had directed many popular musicals since 1988, most notably “Tribute To Bob Dylan”, “Beatlemania” (for Artscape), “Station 70”, “Sixty Something”, “Eighty Something” and “Milestones To The Millennium”. Rupert Mellor, a sort-after session musician, could be seen performing in and around Cape Town.

Mellor and Black along with Flibbertigibbet’s Dave Williams on fiddle, released ‘Sheriff Bush and Deputy Blair’ as an mp3 single in January 2003. Calling themselves the Nukular Stompers they saw this novelty song topping the SAmp3.com charts for 3 weeks and they even appeared on eTV.

BIG IN KOREA

In 2003 a Korean label, Beatball Records, re-issued the first album, ‘McCully Workshop Inc.’ in a mini-gatefold cover. This CD re-issue included detailed sleeve-notes and a printed version of the online Family Tree.

THE WORKSHOP RE-OPENS

McCully Workshop re-formed in 2003 doing a large outdoor concert at Buitenverwachting which attracted over 2000 patrons.

Then in 2004 they performed at Grand West for the Reach For A Dream foundation and raised more than R70000 for them.

Other gigs followed in Paarl and Stellenbosch over the next 4 years.

REACHING FOR A DREAM

In 2005 McCully Workshop finally released a much-demanded ‘Best Of‘ CD. All tracks were newly remastered by Tully McCullagh at his Spaced Out Sound Studio, though in some cases the master tapes were missing, so the original vinyl had to be used. A brand new song, ‘Reaching For A Dream’ was also included on the ‘Best Of’ CD. This uplifting song was composed by all 4 members of McCully Workshop with lyrics by Alistair King and was used as part of a campaign for the Reach For A Dream Foundation.

LIVE!

McCully Workshop at Die Boer
L-to-R: Richard, Mike, Tully, Rupert
McCully Workshop at Die Boer, L-to-R: Richard, Mike, Tully, Rupert

In early 2008 McCully Workshop played gigs at Die Boer in Durbanville & the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to capacity crowds. A live album recorded at these venues, ‘McCully Workshop Live!’ was released in March 2008 and launched at a series of concerts at The Barnyard Theatre in Willowbridge. This album also included a new studio recording, ‘The Aliens Are Landing’. “Our version of ‘Blueberry Hill’, well known from Canterbury days became an on-demand classic again and is on the ‘Live!’ CD” said Mike McCullagh.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

Work In Progress, 2013
Work In Progress, 2013

In 2009 McCully Workshop started working on a new album using new mics developed by Tully, which gave the sound an American feel. The album was scheduled for release in 2010 but ‘Work In Progress‘ eventually only saw the light of day in 2013.

Journeyman musician Gordon Mackay, who with his brother Duncan, had started in the late 60’s with the band Tricycle, was added to the line-up playing guitars, keyboards, violin and also singing. Gordon had appeared on the acclaimed 1974 Prog Rock album ‘Chimera’ by Duncan Mackay.

In 2015 the band won best South African group in the annual Wawela Awards with ‘Money In Your Pocket’ (featuring the rapper Brown) voted the best song off the ‘Work In Progress‘ album. They travelled to Johannesburg to receive the award and discovered that many black musicians held them in high esteem!

Infinity, 2019
Infinity, 2019

Tully sold his studio in Cape Town and built one at his home in Camps Bay which was finished in October 2019. A new album ‘Infinity‘ was released in October 2019 to critical acclaim.

In January 2020, Richard Black emigrated to the UK.

During 2020, Tully and Gordon, as McCullagh MacKay, recorded an album of all new keyboard-driven songs in the style of 70’s Prog Rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Rick Wakeman.

After more than 50 years the Workshop is still open for business…

Brian Currin,
Cape Town, South Africa,
July 2020

McCully Influence

The music industry has felt our influence world wide as the Tulmic [microphone developed by Tully] is now generally accepted as the world’s best guitar mic and my son James … who started doing live sound from the age of 17 and worked extensively with Tully in the studio has now become one of the world’s top sound engineers having worked with top artists like JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, USHER, MILEY CYRUS, JOURNEY, JOE BONAMASSA, ADELE, KATY PERRY, ROGER TAYLOR AND QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA and many more … and is held in very high esteem overseas. He is currently with THE BACKSTREET BOYS  and 2 years ago when he joined them he innovated their live sound by re-recording all their original tracks with a live band so it sounds like they have a real band behind them as he can mix all the tracks separately … shortly after other artists using tracks copied him … now they all do it … he has also appeared on the cover of the top Sound Magazine in the US last year.

And we all know how successful KEVIN SHIRLEY has become having been taught by Tully.

Mike McCullagh, 22 July 2020
 

At The Movies

‘Buccaneer’ was used in the movie ‘Moffie’ this year and 2 songs  ‘Hardcase Woman’ and ‘Gunpoint’ were used as soundtracks in the ‘Space’ movie …… we also had a track from ‘Work In Progress’ called ‘100 miles per hour’ by Rupert (Mellor) used in another movie ‘Shepherds And Butchers’ in 2017.

Mike McCullagh, 22 July 2020
Posted in Latest News

Jack Hammer at the Whammy Bar, 11th November 1999

The day I met Piet Botha and told him I had created a website for him, and he asked me what a website was!

Piet Botha

from SA Rock Digest, Issue #39, 21st November 1999

Whammy Bar 11 November 1999 Whammy Bar 11 November 1999

Piet Botha’s famed blues-rock band is releasing a retrospective of their 4 albums on a new compilation CD early in December. Titled simply “Anthology” this CD will include 4 or 5 new songs plus a new re-recording of the classic ‘Fort Lauderdale’ alongside tracks from all 4 previous albums.

Those of you who were lucky enough to see Piet Botha on his recent “Skopgraaf” tour would have heard a couple of the new tracks, including ‘April’.

Piet Botha, Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis wowed the enthusiastic audience at the Whammy Bar in Cape Town recently. Their set included Piet Botha solo songs, Jack Hammer tracks and some covers including a stunning version of Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

Note from Brian Currin: this is when I first…

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Posted in Latest News

South African Rock Legends: Piet Botha and Jack Hammer

It was 20 years ago….

This was the original entry on the South African Rock Files website (in February 2000) before being expanded into its own website on 21st January 2001.

Piet Botha Gypsy 2000

Discography:

Review:

SA Rock Digest Issue #47, 21 February 2000: The Digest caught Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin’s unplugged set at two different venues in Cape Town recently. First at the Big Tree in the Strand on the 12th February and again on the 17th February at the Whammy Bar in Table View.

These 2 musicians are incredibly talented and they entertained the enthusiastic crowds with songs from all 4 previous Jack Hammer albums, as well as Piet’s 2 solo Afrikaans outings.

They also played a few covers which included Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’, Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’, Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Guns ‘N Roses’ ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ and Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

Two brilliant evenings of Acoustic Afrikaans Alternative Folk Rock (pick one or all of the above) which will never be forgotten…
— Brian Currin, February 2000

Biography:

For over 30 years, Piet Botha has been working, playing and building a legendary reputation on the SA rock scene. He began writing songs and forming bands while still at school and then hooked up with Abner Smith at university to develop their acoustic duo. Botha then connected with the members of Tusk (Doc Barendse, Dino Salvatori and Derek Riley) to establish the band Raven. This hard-rocking four-piece won the “Beat 79” nation-wide competition for new rock groups and released the singles ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ and ‘The Horseman’ on David Marks’ Third Ear Label.

Botha then formed Catherine Wheel with the two members of Wildebeest, namely Dave Tarr and Colin Pratley. With Botha on bass, piano and mouth organ, the group expanded to a five piece and in 1981 the classic ‘Bushrock 1’ album was released. In 1984, Botha’s new band, Jack Hammer, was started with Boet Faber, Jan Maloney and Eric Birckenstock, but the band’s activities were put on hold when Botha relocated to the US in 1985. There he met Billy Bob Thornton with whom he began a strong friendship; Thornton also played drums and sang on the first Jack Hammer album. Twelve years later, Billy Bob Thornton won the “Best Actor” Academy Award for his part in the film ‘Slingblade’.

After returning to SA in 1986, Botha restarted Jack Hammer and for the next ten years they released four excellent and acclaimed SA rock albums – ‘Jack Of All Trades’ (1987), ‘The Judas Chapter’ (1990), ‘Ghosts On The Wind’ (1994) and ‘Death Of A Gypsy’ (1996). During 1995, Eckard Potgieter decided to grow his successful CD club, Mainline Music, into an SA record company, and Wildebeest Records was born with Piet Botha very much part of their plans. Wildebeest released the Jack Hammer albums alongside albums by Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis, Transformers and the quirky Naaimasjiene.

In 1995 Jack Hammer played support for the Gauteng leg of the Uriah Heep/Deep Purple “Masters Of Rock” South African tour. Jack Hammer also supported one of Piet’s main influences, ZZ Top, on their SA tour. In 1997, Piet Botha and Wildebeest Records released Botha’s first solo album, the All-Afrikaans, “n Suitcase Vol Winter’, which has received critical and public approval. A second Afrikaans album, ‘Jan Skopgraaf’ was released in October 1999 and Piet toured South Africa with Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis during November 1999 to promote this album and his back catalogue.

A Jack Hammer compilation titled simply ‘Anthology’ was released in January 2000 and featured tracks from all 4 previous albums plus 5 new recordings including a re-recording of their classic song ‘Fort Lauderdale’.

Piet and Jonathan Martin toured again in February 2000 to promote the ‘Anthology’ CD.

— Brian Currin, February 2000

Piet Botha

This was the original entry on the South African Rock Files website (in February 2000) before being expanded into its own website.

Piet Botha Gypsy 2000Discography:

Review:

SA Rock Digest Issue #47, 21 February 2000: The Digest caught Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin’s unplugged set at two different venues in Cape Town recently. First at the Big Tree in the Strand on the 12th February and again on the 17th February at the Whammy Bar in Table View.

These 2 musicians are incredibly talented and they entertained the enthusiastic crowds with songs from all 4…

View original post 539 more words

Posted in Blues, Brian's Best, Favourites, Jack Hammer News, Latest News, Music, Playlists, SA Music, SA Rock Digest

Get A Haircut, Get A Real Job

Piet Botha was born on the 18th July 1955 and passed away on the 2nd June 2019 (today a year ago).

Piet Botha

I created a mix inspired by attending a variety of Piet’s gigs over the years, and discovering some of his many and varied influences.

I have only just scratched the surface here, as Piet’s repertoire was vast, including Southern Rock, Metal, Blues, Reggae, Folk and more.

I have chosen some of the songs that Piet covered in concert, but for a bit of variety I have chosen different artists versions, such as The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” done by Poison and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” by Albert de Wet.

Some other Piet Botha-related mixes

Posted in Latest News

The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll

Classic 35 2

I love many different types and genres of music from many different eras, but for me the Golden Age Of Rock & Roll was the late 60’s and the 70’s. This pretty much also coincided with my pre-teen and teenage years, a very impressionable time.

Many Rock Legends started coming to the fore during this time and cemented their reputations with songs that still endure. The music from this era is not called Classic Rock for nothing, but at the time we just called it Rock.

The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll  is a series of  mixes of songs that I fondly remember, though not necessarily the big hits or well-known tunes. And maybe a track or two from that era that I have only discovered more recently, thanks to Mixcloud, Youtube and Facebook Groups like The Great Unknowns.

35 Classic 4

And then there is a series called Rock Legends.

Classic Rock Title Tracks

And another series called Rock Memories.

TD4

Posted in Latest News

Life Child 2012 Remix has an extra verse

Space Hymns

Take 1 of Life Child, which was an out-take from the Space Hymns sessions was remixed in 2012 with newly recorded guitar, drums, piano and strings, and released in 2014 on the Complete Discography 6CD set.

The sun is fading from your city Life Child
From where I stand it ain’t so pretty Life Child
I see your sun is going down
I see your wreckage on the ground oooh Life Child

Your seas are full of poisoned water Life Child
We took the place that was your daughter Life Child
And as our dirt is spread around
We build our houses off the ground oooh Life Child

EXTRA VERSE (not on original)
Nowhere to go, but going upwards Life Child
And now we know we are nothing Life Child
We spoiled the places that we own
We left an Eden full of sore
mmmm … Life Child

Came down…

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