Years: 1965 - 1972; 1987 – 1991; 1994 – 1995; 1997; 2001 – 2002
Styles: Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Rock and Roll
Mick Bower - Guitar, Rhythm guitar (in band: 1965 - 1967)
Brian Vaughton - Drums (in band: 1965 - 1967)
Gavin Webb - Bass Guitar, Guitar (in band: 1965 - 1968)
Rick Morrison - Guitar (in band: 1965 – 1967)
Jim Keays - Guitar, Harmonica, Lead vocals, Vocals (in band: 1965 – 1972; 1987 – 1991; 1994 – 1995; 1997, 2001–2002)
Rick Harrison - Guitar (in band: 1967)
Steve Hopgood - Drums (in band: 1967 - 1968)
Tony Sommers - Guitar (in band: 1967 - 1968)
Peter Tilbrook - Bass Guitar (in band: 1967 - 1968)
Colin Burgess - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1968 – 1972; 1987 – 1991; 2001 – 2002)
Glenn Wheatley - Bass Guitar, Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1968 – 1972; 1987 –1988; 2002)
Doug Ford - Acoustic guitar , Guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals (in band: 1968 – 1972;1987 – 1991; 1997; 2001 – 2002)
Denny Burgess - Bass Guitar (in band: 1972)
Roger Faynes - Bass Guitar, Guitar, Keyboards (in band: 1988 - 1991)
Tony Day - Drums (in band: 1997)
Peter Farnan - Guitar, Keyboards (in band: 1997)
John Favaro - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 1997)
Rob Hornbuckle - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 1997; 2001 - 2002)
Wayne Mathews - Bass Guitar (in band: 1998 - 1991)
Tim Wheatley - Bass Guitar (in band: 2001 - 2002)
One could easily make the case for designating the Masters Apprentices as the best Australian rock band of the '60s. Featuring singer Jim Keays and songwriter/rhythm guitarist Mick Bower, the band's earliest recordings combined the gritty R&B/rock of Brits like the Pretty Things with the minor-key melodies of the Yardbirds. The compelling "Wars or Hands of Time" and the dreamy psychedelia of "Living in a Child's Dream" were undiscovered classics, although the latter was a Top Ten hit in Australia.
Bower left the group after suffering a nervous breakdown in late 1967, and the Masters grew steadily less interesting, moving from flower pop and hard rock to progressive and acoustic sounds. Plagued by instability (undergoing eight personnel changes between 1966 and 1968), the group moved to England in the early '70s, achieving some cult success with progressive rock albums before breaking up in 1972.
Debut mixes sloppy covers of popular '60s rock and soul tunes with some fine originals, most of which were reissued on the much more widely available best-of Hands of Time. Collectors will find this of most interest for the fairly strong original track "Theme for a Social Climber," which somehow didn't make it onto that compilation.
The Masters Apprentices had changed a lot in both personnel and style by the time they issued their second LP, two and a half years after their first. It's a respectable but oddly schizophrenic effort, finding them searching for an identity with competent forays into hard rock, early progressive rock, and poppy folk-rock, with orchestral instrumental links between many of the tracks adding to the confusion (as there's no concept driving the LP). "A Dog, a Siren and Memories" ranks as the most accurate Simon & Garfunkel imitation ever.
In late 1974 Keays embarked on his ambitious concept LP, Boy From The Stars, which was premiered at the final Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1975, where his all-star backing group was joined by Wheatley, recently returned from the UK, in their last performance together for over ten years. Ironically, after ripoffs endured as The Masters Apprentices, Keays and his band were the only group at Sunbury who were paid—Keays had wisely arranged an outside sponsor—low attendance and the huge $60,000 fee paid to headliner Deep Purple meant that none of the other Australian acts were paid, and the festival organisers went into liquidation soon after.
Wheatley moved into a career in management, applying lessons learned and contacts made with his band to managing other bands. He spent several years in UK and America, on the eve of his return to Australia at the end of 1974, he was invited to manage the reformed version of Australian harmony-rock band Mississippi, after a name change to Little River Band they set about cracking the American market and Wheatley was instrumental guiding them to their historic American commercial breakthrough in 1976–1977. From 1980 Wheatley also managed John Farnham and oversaw his career revival, initially as a solo artist and then as a member of Little River Band, eventually mortgaging his own house to finance Farnham's hugely successful solo album Whispering Jack in 1986. Under Wheatley's guidance, Farnham staged a spectacular comeback as an adult pop artist when Whispering Jack became the biggest-selling locally produced album in Australian recording history.
In the early 1980s there was a revival of interest in The Masters Apprentices due partly to rock historian Glenn A. Baker, who featured the band for his Rock & Roll Trivia Show on Sydney radio's Triple J, which in turn led to the release of a definitive compilation LP, Hands of Time by Baker's Raven Records in 1981. The classic Burgess, Ford, Keays and Wheatley line-up reformed in August 1987 for a "Back to the 1960s" special on the popular TV variety show Hey Hey It's Saturday. It marked the first time all four had played together since Wheatley had left in late 1971. They undertook a reunion tour during 1988 and released an album, Do What You Wanna Do, featuring new material and new versions of their earlier songs, from which they lifted the single "Birth of the Beat". The perennial "Because I Love You" also gained new prominence around that time via its use in a series of advertisements for a well-known brand of jeans; the revamped version of "Because I Love You" peaked at No. 30 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Singles Charts.
The group minus Wheatley (who only participated in the TV reunion and a few early gigs) undertook occasional reunion concerts, and in September 1995 they released a new version of "Turn Up Your Radio", recorded with Hoodoo Gurus. Ford, Keays and Wheatley subsequently reunited in Melbourne in 1999 to perform 'unplugged' at the launch of Keays' memoirs, His Master's Voice: The Masters Apprentices: The bad boys of sixties rock 'n' roll, in which he stated that he would not initiate any further reunions. Wheatley's own memoirs, Paper paradise: confessions of a rock 'n' roll survivor, was released later in the year.
The Masters Apprentices were popular throughout Australia, scored a string of Top 20 chart hits and were consistently hailed as one of Australia's best live and recording acts. They started out as an instrumental band, rose to prominence during the mid-Sixties "Beat Boom", moved through psychedelia and bubblegum pop, finally becoming one of the first and best Australian progressive/hard rock groups of the early Seventies. They went through many line-up changes, with vocalist Jim Keays being the only constant, and their membership also illustrates the intricate interconnections between many Australian bands of that era.
The group was notable in the Australian context in that they played mainly originals. One of their hits, "Undecided" (1967), was revived by Silverchair in 1997, and their well known song "Because I Love You" has been revived many times, including its use in an Australian jeans commercial in the late 1980s. Swedish progressive metal band Opeth named the track "Master's Apprentices" from their 2002 album Deliverance in honour of the band; Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is a fan.
In October 1998, The Masters Apprentices received formal recognition for their achievements when they were inducted, alongside The Angels, into the ARIA Hall of Fame. The same year they were also honoured in Australia Post's "Rock & Roll" series, with a stamp commemorating "Turn Up Your Radio".
1999–2000 saw the long-awaited release of remastered editions of all The Masters Apprentices' original albums on CD, the publication of both Keays' and Wheatley's memoirs, and the establishment of official web sites for both Keays' and The Masters, and in June 2000 ABC-TV screened an edited version of the documentary Turn Up Your Video, which was accompanied by the release of the full-length home video. The Sydney community radio station FBi Radio launched on August 2003 with an alternative Sydney music all-stars version of "Turn up your radio". In October 2010, their 1967 debut album, Master's Apprentices, was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
1. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 702 - Richie Unterberger
2. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masters_Apprentices
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