Photo: Copyright © 1976 [Sharyn Hamey]
On Saturday, 1st September 2001, just one day short of his 54th birthday, the Australian music industry lost one of its greatest and most lovable performers and those of us who knew him, lost a very dear and treasured friend.
Ted and I first met when I was 15 yrs old. The setting was a makeshift dressing room at the back of the local Police Boys’ Club where The Ted Mulry Gang were playing that night. We were introduced by Roger Davies who, at the time, managed both Sherbet and TMG. Ted and I seemed to just ‘click’ from the very beginning and he was a big part of my life from that moment on, so Rock Club 40 couldn’t let the day pass without remembering Ted, paying tribute to his music, his life and the impact that he had on all those who knew him. So, here is our tribute, with a little help from a few of his friends…
John Paul Young was one of those friends for many years. He and Ted shared a long history. John remembers that he first met Ted in about 1969. “At the time,” John recalls, “he was still working for what was called the DMR back in those days, and he drove a road roller. They were doing the upgrade of theHume Highway out where he lived. We were both immigrants and we had a lot in common. When I sang in my first band, called Elmtree, we were actually his first backing band. We did a job with him at The Trocadero in George Street just before they pulled that down.” John not only performed at Ted’s benefit concert, ‘Gimme Ted’ in March 2001, but he also had the honour of singing the beautiful ‘Here We Go’at Ted’s funeral service six months later and gave a moving performance his old mate would have been proud of. “We were very close,” he says, “very good friends.”
In the seventies, TMG embarked on a national tour with their good mates, Sherbet. The appropriately titled ‘Around Australia in 80 Days’ Tour saw the two bands travelling the length and breadth of the country together. Sherbet guitarist, Harvey James, forged a strong friendship with Ted and remembers that time fondly. “Ted was such a lovely man,” he says. “When I was in Sherbet, we spent a lot of days on the road together. We ended up being ‘brothers’. I was drawn to Ted probably because, being an English migrant, we both had common ground. Ted was just a fantastic person. And doing that benefit concert for him, just the fact that Sherbet got back together again just for one night to do that show…” He pauses for a moment. “We didn’t do it for the money, we didn’t do it for the adoration. We did it for only one reason: because Ted meant a lot to all of us. As individuals, he was a big part of our lives. During that whole tour with Sherbet and TMG, Ted would do his gig and then, when we’d get up and play, Ted was always at the side of the stage for the whole gig, laughing, having a great time. And when we did that benefit, nothing had changed. We were up there and there was Ted, with a big, beefy smile on his face. And that was the whole reason for doing it. To see that smile on his face made it all worth it.”
Reminiscing about Ted’s infamous ‘soft spot’ for Johnnie Walker, Harvey laughs, “He definitely went through a few crates of Scotch, that’s for sure! He loved his Scotch. He could generally be found with a bottle of Black Label before he even went on stage.”
“The one thing that consoled me about Ted,” Harvey adds “was that he had a damn good time!”
As Harvey points out, Ted shared a very special mateship with all the guys in Sherbet and his friendship with keyboard player and songwriter, Garth Porter, was a very close one, as shown in this letter to Ted which Garth has kindly shared with us.
After all these years, there are still many moments I recall, shared times. Man, it was crazy back then, and you were as mad as anyone I knew. Yes, we drank a lot, we laughed a lot, and we made the most of the chances we had. Cake fights, girls, whiskies and cokes, and a lot more that, well, are better not mentioned here.
Your crazy sense of humour; you always had a joke… about The Bay City Rollers, in a broad Scottish accent “My name’s Woody, I drink milk, straight from the cow’s tit”. Unforgettable to me, and always brings a smile to my face. There was never a dull moment when you were around. I was most often inclined to be serious… ok, over serious, and you cut through that in an instant with your jokes and wicked humour. For reasons never asked, or ever explained, you always called me Carter, in a strange Scottish/Irish/English accent and I, for no particular reason, called you Millrod. Just us having a laugh. We had some great times on the road.
And now, along with my personal happy memories of you, there is your music. You had a great voice, whether caressing the melody in Julia, or Strutting at the Darktown Ball, or putting a spin on a young woman to jump in your car, you sang your way into so many people’s lives. As I recall, with a big Gibson bass over your shoulder.
You will most likely argue about this, but I reckon you were at your best on the ballads, kind of innocent, but beautiful.
And your songs; I still remember when you played us ‘You’re All Woman’ at a motel in Melbourne, and said it was cool if we recorded it. It became a Top 10 for us. I guess it was about 1972.
Yes old mate, you have given me so many things to be grateful for.
With any luck, we’ll continue the party when I finally move on.
Cheers and thanks Millrod,
And, finally, this tribute wouldn’t be complete without a few words from some of Ted’s fellow band members.
Drummer, Herman Kovac, had a long standing friendship with Ted…
Having met Ted within two weeks of him arriving in Australia, we soon became close friends which lasted right up to his passing away.
We were best friends and you could count the arguments in 30 years on the one hand. He never called me Herm, it was always “little pal”.
I service my own cars now because he taught me. He also taught me how to cook. I also would not be producing records today if not for him. He always encouraged and supported me.
Ted was the most easy going, generous person I have ever met, incredibly funny and destroyed many a recording session because we were all in tears from laughing.
He was like a big brother and the suit I wore to his funeral was one of big brother Ted’s hand me downs.
I still miss him and have dreams where he is as real as life.
I am lucky to have had him as a best friend.
And the following tribute from long time friend and TMG guitarist, Les Hall, pretty much sums it all up for us…
Sometimes words are not capable of conveying how we feel when we lose someone.
They can’t begin to describe the memories and emotions that are inevitably entwined with the loss.
Like the roller coaster that affects so many of us in the creative industry, Ted had his ups and downs and, like all travelling bands, life on the road simply reflected where the roller coaster was at that point in time.
Sometimes it was great. Sometimes we made the best of a bad situation but he always kept his sense of humour.
It is very easy to make a martyr of those we have lost, but I know Ted would hate that. His legacy, the recordings and songs that touched so many lives will speak for him.
As much as my life was richer for having known, travelled, worked, created, argued, laughed, cried and of course had the occasional Vodka with him, it is poorer in simply not having him around.
I will always miss him.
Rock on Ted and thanks for the music, the laughs and the memories….
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2010 [Sharyn Hamey] All Rights Reserved