Saturday, September 30, 2006

The 'small world' of a marvellous community

Flashback: First, we’ll go way back to spring 1989. The image shows the cover of a tape that a neat little combo put out in Sydney’s inner west. Drummer Ross Welch gave me the tape as part of a promotional package for his band, the Nevva-binta Memphis Mudsteppers. Slow to absorb all the details between writing a ‘hard’ yarn for the front page and getting down the club for the newsrooms’ traditional unloading after edition day deadline pressures, I asked Ross how the band got its name. "Mate, just think about it for a minute," he said. The response comes to mind every time I look for the musical treats that I have locked away on tape and vinyl. In spring 2001, Ross and I crossed paths again, after I followed up a meeting notice from the Classifieds in the Tweed Daily News. Here is a reprint of that column.

PEOPLE with all sorts of interests "beat their drum" through the Classifieds public notices.
So it was no surprise to see the Murwillumbah Musicians Club advertise its Tuesday night AGM (annual general meeting) at the Courthouse Hotel.
But it was a surprise to learn that the meeting elected drummer Ross Welch as president, not because of any doubts about his suitability for the job but rather at his change of address.
A tape of one of Ross’s bands, The Nevva-binta Memphis Mudsteppers, has been in my collection for 12 years since I wrote about it in Sydney’s inner-west in 1989.

AT the time Ross was working hard on getting a music festival going.
He later was the driving force behind jam sessions, workshops and community music at such venues as the Glebe markets.
Apart from organising, he also showed his versatility on music ranging from the Memphis/country blues of the Mudsteppers to jazz with the Swing Masters.
Our yarn on the phone on Wednesday night was the first in at least a decade.
As I write, my tape deck has the Mudsteppers playing Walk Right In, and it seems to reflect the mood of the AGM where Ross walked right in, sat right down and ended up with the top job.
In rare agreement between a guitarist and drummer, acting president Ray Catt was pleased Ross took the post.

RAY said he wanted to step down from the chair after taking a caretaker role during internal upheaval in the club a few months ago.
The vice-president’s role allows Ray to help Ross get in the groove.
Ross is the sort of player who uses a whole range of instruments outside the standard drum kit but is happy to be called drummer rather than percussionist.
He also is the type of bloke who can build on the solid base of fundraising for causes including the PNG tsunami aid appeal and the bushfire brigade, holding monthly jam nights at the Courthouse Hotel and displaying original compositions in special events twice a year.
Ray, like Ross a longterm professional muso, says he is always amazed at the depth of talent in the area.

"JUST so many people live up in the hills playing their music in their sheds," Ray says.
"There are just so many who are pretty good.’’
The "original music" concert, set tentatively for the Courthouse in November, will certainly be an apt project for Ross, who has a track record as a pretty original thinker.
Ross’s first task as president is to consolidate the clubs’ support base.
"I see my role as a facilitator and mediator and our guiding light will be a vision statement or purpose statement," he says.
"People will compose that collectively so it suits the individuals and sectional interest groups.
"Basically what we are going to do is open up the perspective of the club so it takes in all sorts of musical interests, with as much scope as we can give."

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