“Jabulani” is the Zulu word for “Rejoice”.
I have been very involved since the beginning of April 2021 with re-establishing the Online Presence for South African musician Steve Louw
Steve has been around since the early 80’s and he released his new album Headlight Dreams on the 7th May 2021 and it has been attracting a lot of positive attention.
I love building websites! I have been building them since 1997.
Here are just a few of my recent web projects.
- Ernestine Deane
- Guide Me Cape Town
- Martin Myers
- McCully Workshop
- Moonshine Productions
- Neo Muyanga
- Piet Botha & Jack Hammer
- Ramases – Space Hymns
- Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse
Let’s build something together!
I have been building websites since October 1997, before Google, Wikipedia and Facebook even existed!
I was involved in the amazing Searching For Sugar Man story and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and I co-founded the South African Rock Music Digest in January 1999.
My fledgling Vagabond website from 1997 can be still be seen at Vagabond’s World.
Let’s build something together!
McCully Workshop 2016McCully 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 BEGINNINGWhen 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.”
RICHARD BLACKRichard 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 MELLORIn 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 REVISITEDThe 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’.
THE EIGHTIES AND NINETIESDuring 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 MILLENNIUMTully 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 KOREAIn 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-OPENSMcCully 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 DREAMIn 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!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
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
Piet Botha was born on the 18th July 1955 and passed away on the 2nd June 2019 (today a year ago).
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
It was 50 years ago, round about this time, that acclaimed South African band Abstract Truth released their debut album, Totum. Before the end of 1970 a second album and a compilation had been issued. And then during 1971 the band imploded.
This is their story.
Adapted from the sleeve notes for the RetroFresh CD release, July 2005
The band Abstract Truth existed only for a very short time, but it was a time of super-creativity. They played a fusion of blues, folk, jazz and Eastern music and lifted South African pop of the early 70’s from the syrupy blare of bubblegum music to new heights of progressive rock.
Abstract Truth (they shunned the prefix of “the” because they didn’t want to sound dogmatic) was the brainchild of one Kenneth Edward Henson (dubbed Ken E Henson by David Marks).
The band Abstract Truth existed only for a very short time, but it was a time of super-creativity. They exploded onto the Durban music scene early in 1969, released 2 studio albums during 1970 (as well as a compilation in the same year!) and, after numerous line-up changes, imploded in 1971.
Henson had been the guitarist in a band called the Leeman Ltd, which had formed in Durban in 1965. In 1966 he and the enigmatic Ramsay MacKay got together with ex-Navarones members Colin Pratley and Nic Martens to create Freedom’s Children, arguably South Africa’s greatest rock band. Clive Calder, who signed Abstract Truth to EMI in 1970, said in the early 2000s that Freedom’s Children in his opinion “was then and probably still is today (over 30 years later) the only South African rock group that, given the right circumstances in the right geographical location, could have become an internationally successful rock band just by being themselves and doing what they did.”
Henson was involved in the early single releases by Freedom’s Children, which were unbelievably credited to “Fleadom’s Children” because the government of the time considered the word “Freedom” as unacceptable! Henson then left Freedom’s Children to join The Bats for a six-week sojourn.
In 1969 Henson and sax-player Sean Bergin were in a jazz group called The Sounds. Henson says, “In February 1969 I was approached by the owner of a local hotel. He had heard that I played the sitar and asked if I could get together an exotic/Eastern-sounding outfit to back a belly dancer in the hotel’s disco/pub.” The pub was called “Totum” and was situated at the Palm Beach Hotel in Durban’s Gillespie Street.
Robbie Pavid, who had played drums for The Mods in 1967, remembers: “[The club owner] wanted a backing band for a belly dance act that would attract customers to his cocktail hour. Ken got hold of Brian Gibson who would play bass, formerly from the British group the 004’s, Sean Bergin who would play flute and sax, myself on percussion, who was with the band The Third Eye, and Ken on lead guitar and sitar. I was playing in The Third Eye at the same time as Abstract Truth (whose gig at “Totum” was a 5 to 7 cocktail hour gig) and would then rush off to The Third Eye gig…. ahh, what you can do when you are young!!!!”
A quote from a 1969 poster sums it up: “swing to Abstract Truth every night at Totum in the Palm Beach Hotel from five o’clock to seven.”
“To fill out the evening after the belly dancer had done her thing,” recalls Henson, “we started playing a hybrid of jazz standards, folk/rock and Eastern-type jams. We soon replaced the main attraction and the belly dancer was no more.”
“The music seemed to connect and flow from the very first night,” says Pavid, “so the belly dancer was duly dismissed and the band employed to continue in the very different style that evolved. Most evenings were packed out with young people eager to listen and experience the free form of sounds that flowed from the long improvised songs.”
Reporter Carl Coleman described their sound in a news article at the time as “totally unlike any other young group around Durban. They are probably the most advanced group in the country. Their music is exotic, progressive, and not commercial.”
“I suppose we’re something new musically”, said Henson in the same article. “Basically our sound is free-form music – we use the melody line, but improvise on solos. It’s really a fusion of blues, folk, jazz and Eastern music.”
Henson’s self-taught playing of the traditional Indian stringed instrument, the sitar, further enhanced the Eastern feel. “He plays this immensely difficult instrument with comparative ease”, said Coleman.
Brian Gibson came from Wales where he had started in cabaret. “I was into pop for two years then came to South Africa with a group known as the 004’s”.
Future Bats guitarist Pete Clifford was also in the 004’s and the band released a few singles and an album titled ‘It’s Alright’ in the mid-60’s. On the b-side of one of their singles was a version of boogie-woogie pianist Mose Allison’s ‘Parchman Farm’, which was later reworked by Abstract Truth and released on the ‘Totum’ album. This is not the same as Bukka White’s ‘Parchman Farm Blues’, which was recorded in 1937, though it does cover a similar theme.
The album ‘Totum’ was recorded in Johannesburg over a single weekend using a 4-track machine. The album was released in early 1970. “According to today’s standards it’s pretty rough,” says Henson, “but I guess it was an honest interpretation of what we were doing.”
In another newspaper review Coleman had this say about the release of Abstract Truth’s debut album: “Sean, Brian, Robbie and Ken have lifted South African pop from the syrupy blare of bubblegum music to new heights of progressive pop. What an achievement!”
The Freak Emporium online store had this brief review of ‘Totum’ on their website: “Excellent early ’70s melodic wistful freak rock blends with African sounds featuring assorted instruments: keyboards, flutes, electric guitars, saxophone, percussion, etc. A refreshing approach.”
Most of ‘Totum’ consists of unusual reworkings of jazz, folk and blues songs. The only band composition is the sitar-drenched ‘Total Totum/Acid Raga’. Donovan, Dylan, Gershwin, Simon and Garfunkel and others all get given the special Abstract Truth treatment that is reminiscent of early King Crimson in places.
3rd Ear Music had been involved with Abstract Truth from the beginning and mainman David Marks remembers that he had driven down to Cape Town to fetch Sean Bergin and George Wolfaardt to join a new Abstract Truth line-up. “Sean had been in the original band from mid-1969, but had returned to the Cape. Robbie Hahn had taken over – in what seemed to be a loose manager/friend’s role for Abstract Truth (before Big B Brian Pretorius was appointed manager.)” says Marks on the 3rd Ear Music website.
Brian Gibson left the band to go solo and then became a well-known gospel preacher. Gibson recorded a gospel album in 1981 entitled ‘Special Agent’, which was released on the Revelation label, distributed by WEA Records and co-produced by Hawk’s Dave Ornellas.
“The music of Abstract Truth was quite unique at the time as the line-up was totally different to what was generally happening,” remembers Robbie Pavid. “For me it was one of the best and most rewarding times of musical exploration and satisfaction. Playing with Ken especially was rewarding as we seemed to connect and go places musically.” Pavid then left Abstract Truth to devote his full attention to The Third Eye with Dawn and Ronnie Selby and they released three prog-rock albums between 1969 and 1970, but that’s another story.
David Marks takes up the story again: “Brian [Finch] and I wanted to get our musician friends Mike Dickman (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Pete Measroch (piano and vocals) – two born-and-bred Northern Suburbs Johannesburgers – down to stun Durban.”
“I’d heard George [Wolfaardt] playing with a three-piece Jimi Hendrix look-alike outfit in Cape Town [Elephant with Richard Black and Savvy Grande],” said Mike Dickman in July 2001, “and so, when Dave Marks happened to be going down there for some reason or another, I said to him: ‘Look – there’s this guy called George who plays the bass there. If you come across him, tell him we need him here…’ Oddly enough he did, and in the meanwhile we’d contacted Sean, so – in a single weekend – the band expanded. The band shifted quite rapidly into a fairly Zappa-esque mode, which wasn’t where I was headed, so I left, probably stupidly…”
“Mike Dickman couldn’t handle Durban,” says Marks, “he stayed for a gig or two and then went missing to re-surface in the Golden City back to his solo and wandering ways. Mike emigrated to France in 1985 – with French wife Vera – still playing guitar and translating Buddhist verse into French and English.”
A number of other musicians have played live as part of the ever-changing Abstract Truth line-up (Henson being the only stable factor) including Ian Bell, Eric Dorr, Harry Poulos, Ramsay MacKay and Brian Alderson. In late 1970, however, the line-up that recorded the superb ‘Silver Trees’ album was Ken E Henson (guitar, vocals), Peter Measroch (keyboards, flutes, vocals), Sean Bergin (flutes, sax) and George Wolfaardt (bass, flutes, drums).
Music collector and Abstract Truth fan John Samson wrote in the South African Rock Digest e-mag in 2002: “This is somewhat psychedelic prog that is full of swirling organ, steady rhythmic bass and loads of flute. In fact 3 of the 4 members of the group are credited as playing flute and it this that gives the album a lightness to it. Also of note is that there is only one song over the 4 minute mark, an unusual trait in a prog-rock album. The long song is the title track that features some awesome guitar from Ken E Henson and intricate organ playing from Peter Measroch.”
“Another interesting touch,” continues Samson, “is the African jive sound on the opening track ‘Pollution’ and the harpsichord on ‘Moving Away’, the former placing the album in Africa, the latter placing the album in Medieval Europe, both giving the album a sense of timelessness and universal appeal. It’s this wonderful brew of psychedelic, rock, jazz, classical, blues, funk and jive that makes this a special album that should be sought out, and with the wind instruments playing a major role on the album, this could make a really good (Retro) Fresh Flute Salad.”
“‘Silver Trees’ was an attempt to record our more structured, self-penned songs,” remembers Henson, “to make us a bit more accessible to the record company/record-buying public.” Unlike ‘Totum’, ‘Silver Trees’ features no cover versions and all the tracks were composed by various members of the band. The title track was co-composed by Mike Dickman, who had already left by the time this recording was laid down.
Peter Measroch has some interesting memories about the making of the album cover for ‘Silver Trees’: “The story behind that fuzzy looking cover is that the photo was shot by a Swiss photographer who was in South Africa for a while, Teak Glauser, I believe. Teak had been part of the group that had looked after Timothy Leary in Switzerland while he was on the run at one point apparently.
Anyway, he had come up with a photo technique where on a colour photo everything would appear normal except for objects that moved – these would get a rainbow aura around them, really trippy stuff. So the album cover was shot making sure that we all moved at the critical moment. EMI however refused to spring for a colour photo so it ended up just looking blurred in black and white. Oh well … the good ol’ bad ol’ days…”
Shortly after ‘Silver Trees’, EMI compiled an album called ‘Cool Sounds For Heads’ which featured tracks off both the ‘Totum’ and ‘Silver Trees’ albums and also included a previously unreleased track, ‘My Back Feels Light/What Can You Say’, which was probably an out-take from the ‘Silver Trees’ sessions.
The ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz, published in 1994, has this to say: “Abstract Truth produced ‘head-music’ (i.e. inventive, mind-stimulating music) and were one of the most progressive groups in South Africa. Unfortunately not too many other heads were into their music and so, a group which could have gone on to better things broke up in 1971.”
Abstract Truth’s recorded output and short life span as a band is far outweighed by their willingness to stretch boundaries and the fondness with which are they treated by old and new fans alike.
File them under “Classic South African Rock” along with Freedom’s Children, Hawk, Suck and Otis Waygood.
A final word from Ken E Henson: “The group is dear to my heart as my ultimate musical experience. I would love to have us get together after 35 years and see what transpires musically.”
Unfortunately this will now never happen as Henson sadly passed away on the 24th May 2007.
Brian Currin, July 2005, updated March 2020
Photos courtesy of 3rd Ear Music website, thanks to Dave Marks, June 2005.
Musicians (at various times):
- Ken E Henson: guitar, vocals
- Peter Measroch: piano, organ, flute, harpsichord, vocals
- Mike Dickman: guitar, vocals
- Robbie Pavid: drums, percussion
- Ian Bell: flute
- Brian Gibson: bass, vocals
- Sean Bergin: flute, saxophone
- George Wolfaardt: Bass, flute, drums, vocals
- Brian Alderson: keyboards
- Harry Poulos: guitar
- Eric Dorr: flute
- Ramsay Mackay: bass
A mix inspired by Sabaton’s album “The Great War” (to be released 19 July 2019) and the ultimate South African Border War song, “Goeienag Generaal” by Piet Botha.
I have also included “Jacob Klipkop” by Piet Botha, a song about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I don’t believe has properly been addressed in the South African context.
“Battle hymns for the broken,
battle hymns for the misled”
– from “Battle Hymns” by Tom Morello