Colin Hay will be playing at the Echuca-Moama Riverboats Music Festival alongside other artists including Tex Perkins & The Band of Gold, The Bamboos, Mark Seymour, Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission, Vika & Linda Bull, Lanie Lane, The Audreys (duo), Clairy Brown and The Bangin’ Rackettes, Benny Walker, Ryan Meeking, The Bride Stripped Back and more. Held from Feburary 17 to 19 this is one event not to be missed. Bendigo magazine is excited to give away two double passes to our readers. To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less why you would like to win these passes. Email firstname.lastname@example.org before December 20, 2011 for your chance to win.
old buzzard When Bendigo musician Marc Leon arrived in Australia in 1954, aboard a ship called the Seven Seas, it was in search of a better life. Writer: Ben Cameron – Photograph: Andrew Perryman Hailing from a tiny German town called Prien am Chiemsee (80 kilometres south of Munich), he never dreamed his new life would one day involve playing with the likes of John Farnham and Normie Rowe.
plans to turn him into the next Tom Jones, he finally found a name to settle on. “He said my name had to go,” Leon says.
Via Perth, Melbourne and Albury, Leon eventually made his way to Villawood Migrant camp in Sydney.
“Ironically, a couple of years later, Engelbert Humperdink came on the scene.
“The government paid for our passage under the proviso we would stay for a minimum of two years... to add to the growth of the nation,” he says. “It might have been similar to living in a caravan park, in lots of ways.” That camp would be home for four years, as it took a 14-year-old Leon and his father that long to build a house with their own hands. “We made our own bricks and all... I lived there until I moved to Melbourne to join The Vibrants,” he says.
“I miss my friends and family, and the food and the coffee, and the space, and the ocean, and the burning sun,” he says. “I don’t miss drunks trying to impart a gem of wisdom from their innermost thoughts at the baggage carousel. “I also don’t miss who I was when I lived there. “I find myself ordering multi-grain toast with vegemite, and a side of avocado.” Although Men At Work downed tools for good nearly 30 years ago, classics like Who Can It Be Now and Be Good Johnny, remain in the Hay set. “I wrote Who Can It Be Now in the bush in Southern NSW, with frogs as my audience, they seemed to like it,” he says. “As for Johnny, well we’ve all been young and told to toe the line. “If only we’d known it wouldn’t end there.” Colin Hay plays the Echuca-Moama Riverboats Festival February 17 to 19. ■
It was a major shift, going from a migrant camp to a rock band in Melbourne, but it’s typical of Leon’s incredible life story – the self-taught guitarist would go on to perform with Farnham and Rowe, come to know the pre-teen Bee Gees, and play a private set for George Benson. Leon got to Bendigo (in 1999) the long way round. In 1954, when his parents decided to leave Germany, it definitely wasn’t on the short list of destinations. “They originally thought about Brazil, but a friend suggested Australia,” Leon says. “Germans weren’t liked much in Australia back then... the racial issue at school was the worst thing to deal with.” Cultural difference eventually forced him to change his name from Fred Himmelsbach to Marc Leon. “Because of the racial thing I had to endure, I did hate my German name, besides, no one ever pronounced it proper,” he says. “I’d get names like Camelsback or Hamburger.
“After much arguing and to and fro, we finally settled on Marc Leon.
“So much for a weird German-sounding’ name, eh?” Leon’s music career took flight in 1968 when he joined Graduate after leaving The Vibrants, who survived various incarnations for a decade, until the “Disco Boom” came along. In fact after lead singer Glenys Hewett (the woman Leon would eventually marry) left the band temporarily in 1972, a young Chrissy Amphlet auditioned. But Leon wasn’t impressed. “I knocked her back, because I felt she wasn’t good enough,” he laughs. “We did hire her for a four week gig later on, though.” Fast forward three decades to 1999, and Leon found his way to Bendigo, where early connections with local musicians Barry Gray and Roy Webb, led to the creation of MTB, and his joining The Old Buzzard Medicine Show. Leon became a full time Buzzard just this year, while MTB was born with a simple creed at Leon’s house, in February 2008. “We made a pact that we would not play any daggy songs and that we’d rather not do gigs unless we played what we wanted to play,” he says. Becoming an official Old Buzzard has been a highlight. “I love playing in that band,” Leon says. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had at any time, it’s like instant chemistry between us.
“So, when I started singing I initially called myself Freddy Cooke... I didn’t mind Freddy and my singing Idol was Sam Cooke.”
“Roy and Sue have had a major influence on what’s happening in the Bendigo music scene right now.
Twelve years later, when Leon’s manager had
“It wouldn’t exist without them.” ■
issue 25 - bendigo magazine | 87
Bendigo Magazine Issue 25 - Summer 2011