by Grant Hewson
Through many gigs and other sessions, I got to know some of the local performers in the Kimberley. I started to play and record with them, sold CDs to tourists and split the cash. We also made up a pretend recording company.
For some years now, this material has remained stored on hard drives in my wardrobe. Lately, however, my son has patiently skilled me up in the use of websites such as Patreon and Bandcamp. With his encouragement and the support of friends and family, I have now begun posting some of the best elements of this collection of recordings online.
Listen to the EP while reading the text.
I grew up in Perth, WA. I began learning the guitar at about 16 years old. After failing high school in 1983, I started playing in on some gigs at the Shaftesbury Hotel, the Wizbah, the Shents, the White Sands, the Stoned Crow, and others. The bands I played in liked and went to see bands such as the Triffids, The Bamboos, The Stems, and The Marigolds.
Later on, I gave up on the performance side of things, spent a lot of time recording music, became a High School teacher and, in 2000, got a job in Halls Creek DHS. I joined The Shoveller Band as a bass/acoustic guitar player. In 2002, I participated in the recording of their Where we sat down CD. Through many gigs and other sessions, I got to know some of the local performers in the Kimberley.
Geoffrey Fletcher was a well-respected indigenous performer in the Kimberley, and in low-key C&W circles around Australia. He’d recorded some CDs with various commercial studios before I met him (Walking with Jack, Limbs from a Different Tree, Busted Old Tin Shed). He’d played with people such as Buddy Williams, Lindsay Butler, Ian Simpson, Lucky Oceans, and recorded in studios all over. He’d often say, that none of his previous recordings sounded as good as ours did (I never believed this, but it was an encouraging talk).
I started working with him in 2006. He’d come round of an evening with a song; I’d set the electronic drum to the right tempo, and he’d record the song as a guide track. Then I’d play bass along to it; he’d record the acoustic by itself, and then sing lead vocals. Then he’d add picking, harmonica, and harmonies (after the first CD, somebody else would usually come in to play lead). I’d edit and mix it, and he’d come back and say the vocals are too quiet or whatever, and I’d remix it.
White Rock Records
When we had 10 or so songs mixed, we’d take some photos in the local area. I’d set up the covers and put it all together. We’d sell the finished product to tourists and split the cash.
We made up a pretend recording company called White Rock Records (his choice of name; named after the China Wall geological feature near Halls Creek) and recorded 4 CDs of his songs under this fictive company: Going Walkabout Again, Old Mate, Way Up North, and Right as Rain.
In 2008, the DHS where I worked ran a ‘four-day school week’ trial. The Friday was optional for students, but I ended up having to run a ‘Community Music’ program. This ran nearly every Friday of the 2008 school year from 8.00am to Midday. From the first week, Aboriginal people (adults) from outlying communities would come into a small classroom and perform while a group of school children hung around watching.
It seemed culturally interesting, so I began filming it. I’d edit the footage, burn it onto a DVD, set up a cover with a story about who was playing and when it happened, put it together and try to sell it to tourists. A few exemplary performances are available on my website.
At this time, I was recording town Aboriginal people and community Aboriginal people. (In Halls Creek, these groups of people are often cautious of one another). I recorded solo CDs for two town musicians, Malcolm Walalgie and William Johnston (Malcolm Walalgie’s CD features Geoffrey on a couple of tracks). The CD Right as Rain, also recorded that year, was our best effort. It features the guitar playing of Wayne Gordon, who works on local cattle stations.
In 2011, I was working in Kununurra and Geoffrey visited to record a fifth CD, Point me North. Wayne came up and did the lead. While it did not match Right as Rain, it had a few good tracks. Shortly after, Wayne asked me to put together a Best of Geoffrey and Wayne CD. For a while, music shops in Port Hedland, Broome and Halls Creek were ordering 10 or 20 of all 8 CDs; and I sent lots of CDs to radio stations and people in communities and towns.
In 2013, Geoffrey passed away. I put more time into my own recordings for a while after that. In 2015, Wayne and I talked about a final Geoffrey CD. The idea was, to begin with some guitar trickery that the old band used to play while patrons entered the Halls Creek pub (Guitar Medley). We took a few songs from his early CDs and a couple of outtakes, and Wayne added new lead guitar work. Peter Brandy helped with a few instrumentals. However, the project was abandoned. Some of the instrumentals appear on Wayne Gordon’s ‘Country Favourites’ CD.
For some years now, this material (masters of all the CDs, hours of video footage of community music, miscellaneous recordings by performers I’ve met and worked with, and hours of my own recordings) has remained stored on hard drives in my wardrobe. Lately, however, my son, Phoenics, has patiently skilled me up in the use of websites such as Patreon and Bandcamp. With his encouragement and the support of friends and family, I have now begun posting some of the best elements of this collection of recordings online.
Kimberley community music. WA, Australia. Community Music producer