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Interview: STEVE MULRY (TMG)

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When TMG drummer Herm Kovac called to say ‘It looks like we might get the band back together  and we’d like to know if you would like to be part of it,’ Steve Mulry, younger brother of the band’s lead singer Ted Mulry, didn’t need to think about it. “I suppose I should have waited two seconds at least to think about it,” he laughs. “I just said ‘Yeah’. I’ve waited for a long time for those guys to get back together and I’m sure a lot of fans have as well. A couple of the Ted Mulry Gang sites on Facebook have shown quite a lot of interest in the band. I said yes straight away because I think those guys deserve it.”

As many of his fans would know, Ted Mulry started his musical career as a songwriter but was eventually convinced by record company Albert Productions to record his songs. ‘Julia’ became a big hit for the singer/songwriter in 1970 and the rest is history. Eventually, Ted chose to swap his acoustic guitar for the bass and formed a band with guitarist Les Hall and drummer Herm Kovac and they were later joined by guitarist Gary Dixon. This became the classic line-up of the Ted Mulry Gang, later to be known as TMG.  The band had a string of hits in the 70s including a revitalised version of an old song, ‘Darktown Strutters Ball’, ‘Crazy’, ‘My Little Girl’ and ‘Jamaica Rum’ but their biggest and best known hit was undoubtedly the tongue-in-cheek ‘Jump in My Car’ which reached the No. 1 position on the music charts and stayed there for eleven weeks.

When Ted sadly passed away on 1st September 2001, it was a great loss to all those who knew him and it seemed highly unlikely that we would ever see a reunion of the remaining band members. Now, fifteen years after their friend and lead singer/bass player’s passing, Les, Gary and Herm are once more playing those songs that many of us grew up with in the 70s and 80s and taking the show on the road again.

“When those guys stopped playing in TMG,” explains Steve, “they were all younger than I am now. When I think of it that way, I think how young they were to have finished their careers. Gary still plays in a couple of bands and Herman went on with his studio and Les is still involved in the music industry but they stopped as TMG. Of course, Gary left some time before that. It seems to me, when I look at it now, how young they were when they stopped. They’ve still got it in them and they should still be playing.”

Guitarist Gary Dixon has been playing regularly in covers band, The Bandits for several years and is also part of the trio The Bell who play regular gigs around Sydney. Herman still runs a recording studio in Sydney and is a successful country music producer and lead guitarist Les Hall also remains involved in the music industry.

Gary, Les and Herm are joined by Steve and Mark Evans.

Steve has been in a number of different bands over the years but is best known as the lead singer of hard rock band Black Label which he was with for nineteen years. He recently made the decision to leave the band plus another of his bands, Weekend Detention, to focus on other projects.

Former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans is an old friend of the band and the guys are delighted to have Mark on board to fill the spot of bass player. Mark is also involved in various regular projects, one of those being the band Blood, Sweat and Beers who tour regularly.

This current line-up of TMG played their very first gig at The Bridge Hotel in Rozelle, Sydney last month and, as Steve says, “There was obviously a lot of expectation. We’d done, I think, five rehearsals leading up to it. Of course, the two main people who really needed the rehearsals were Mark Evans and me. At least Mark and I were both gig fit, shall we say. Mark and I were both doing a lot of gigs with whatever bands we were in and Gary was too but Herman and Les, not so much. But when we did the first rehearsal at Ramrod Studios, the guys just fell straight back into it. It had been years of course since they’d played together as TMG; more so for Gary but it all fell together for those guys. It was Mark and me who had to put in quite a bit of effort to make it sound as it should. We’ve all got our own styles. I obviously do my best to keep the songs the way Ted would have sung them in his style and Mark did what he could to sound like Ted playing the bass.”

Steve admits that there was more than a touch of anxiety amongst the band members that they would be able to pull this off. “But on the night of the gig,” he reveals, “Boy! Did it fall together! From my perspective, on stage, it all went really well. The room was packed, more than you’d call comfortable and I haven’t heard any negative feedback about it yet.”

Speaking as someone who was there that night, I can honestly say I agree. It was a great night and it all came together really well.

“It’s been a lot of years,” he points out, “and you want it to be exactly the same or as close as possible and of course you have to remember that Ted’s not there and it’s taken a couple of ring-ins to cover his job but you still want it to be as you remember it. I think we got close for a live show and I think it can only get better.”

Steve agrees that the difference in singing styles did pose a bit of a challenge. “We sound similar. We do have a similar range in our voices but style wise we are different. I use more vibrato than Ted ever did and his style was more a pop rock style. Mine is more of a hard rock style so it wasn’t just a matter of just ‘doing it’. It took considerable, shall we say, restraint to some degree because I’m a vibrato style vocalist and I had to basically knock all that out in order to make the songs sound authentic and the sound, I think, was testament to the fact that the core of the band was still intact and the band was using their old sound engineer as well. Malcolm is fantastic! What can I say? Thank goodness he was there and thank goodness he’s doing the rest of the gigs with us.”

A new CD, ‘The Very Best of Ted Mulry Gang’, will be released on Friday 2nd September, coinciding with what would have been Ted’s 69th birthday. The album features 21 tracks including all TMG’s singles from ‘Jump in My Car’ through to ‘Old Habits’. The CD will be available at upcoming gigs and the band members will sign copies after the show for those who buy them. According to Steve, more remastered recordings are in the pipeline which should keep the fans happy.

This coming weekend, TMG will play another show at Revesby Workers Club in Sydney. The show, on Saturday 3rd September, is a very special one for the band and their fans. In addition to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the band’s first big hit, ‘Jump in My Car’, the 2nd September would have been Ted’s 69th birthday and the 1st September marks fifteen years since his passing. A Memorial Weekend is held every year at this time to give family, friends and fans an opportunity to get together and remember Ted and this year’s event will culminate in the show at Revesby Workers Club that night.

The ‘This One’s For Ted’ tour will then hit the road in November, with shows in Queensland and Victoria as well as shows in Sydney and Newcastle in December. More shows will be announced next year. “There are obviously places where people want to see us,” Steve acknowledges. “And I think they should get to see the band. It’s been so long since TMG has been able to tour. The fans deserve it and I think the band deserves it.”

There has been a lot of interest from fans over the years in having the Ted Mulry Gang  reform in some way and there is plenty of proof of that in various social media pages dedicated to the band and to Ted but, until now, the remaining members had steadfastly resisted the call to play again without the man who started it all and whose name the band proudly carried. Steve respects that and, as Ted’s brother, could hardly argue with their decision. “It was hard for the guys to step out again with that name ‘Ted Mulry Gang’ and I certainly understand that,” he admits. “But it is what it is and they seem to be happy.”

Click here for a full list of TMG tour dates and to book tickets.

For more information about the Ted Mulry Memorial event this Saturday 3rd September in Sydney, click here

This one’s for Ted…

 

by Sharyn Hamey

 

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2016.  All rights reserved

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