All we’ve had for the past seven months in this country has been politics, so I figured it was a good day to go back to happier times. In this post we look at six lead singers who helped change the musical landscape of this country and then met with an untimely demise. And while the post is called ‘Six Aussie lead singers …’ I do have to acknowledge that more than half of them were ‘adopted’ by us, as is our way 😀

These are the men I remember – I am sure there have been others over the years. We’ve recently lost Chrissy Amphlett, various other lead singers and members of many other bands, but in this post I wanted to pay tribute to those lead singers from my time as a ‘growing girl’.

So pour yourself a Ben Ean, a Palfrey Pearl or a KB and step back in time …

1. Graeme ‘Shirley’ Strachan

Lead singer of Skyhooks

Born: 2 January 1952 in Malvern, Victoria
Died: 29 August 2001 (aged 49) in Maroochydore, Queensland

Shirley was a real surfer boy – complete with beach-bleached blonde curls. He burst onto our screens as the lead singer of Skyhooks and once we understood why he was called Shirley (it turned out to be his nickname and not the legacy of some very cruel parents!), we embraced him and his interestingly-dressed band wholeheartedly. It didn’t hurt that one of their early singles was ‘You Just Like Me Coz I’m Good In Bed’ – covered later in concert by John Mellencamp, among others.

Image of Shirley courtesy of
 http://www.ozziemusicman.com/2009/01/post-43-shirley-missing-you.html

Shirley was killed in a helicopter accident in Maroochydore, Queensland. He had his fixed wing pilot’s licence and was in training for his chopper licence when he died.

His ashes were scattered in the sea by his wife, Sue, following a beachside funeral.

2. Steve Gilpin

Lead singer of Mi-Sex

Born: 28 April 1949 in Wellington, New Zealand
Died: 6 January 1992 (aged 42) in Southport Hospital, on Queensland’s Gold Coast

Steve Gilpin was one of the sexiest men I had seen in rock ‘n roll, and was even better in real life with Mi-Sex at the Comb and Cutter Hotel, Blacktown, around 1979-80 (and affectionately, or rather, disparagingly known as the ‘Kerb and Gutter Hotel’ by us locals).

Mi-Sex hit the charts big time with ‘Computer Games’ and I really couldn’t name another song they did! But Gilpin was sexy and that was all I really cared about. 😀
Image of Steve Gilpin courtesy of
 http://www.australianmusicdatabase.com/people/steve-gilpin
Sadly, he died all too young following a car accident on his way home to Mullumbimby. He received head injuries in the accident in November 1991 and spent several weeks in a coma before passing away in Southport Hospital just after New Year in January 1992. It must have been an awful time for his family.
He is buried on his property.

3. Ronald Belford ‘Bon’ Scott

Lead singer of AC/DC

Born: 9 July 1946 in Forfar, Angus, Scotland
Died: 19 February 1980 (aged 33) in East Dulwich, London

Who can forget singing ‘It’s a long way to the shop if you want a toilet roll …’? Or the more drunken, late-night version: ‘It’s a long way to the Cross if you want to (blank) a moll …’?

One of the ‘nicer’ photos of Bon Scott, courtesy of
 http://www.last.fm/music/Bon+Scott/+images/25807627

Apparently, Bon was not the first lead singer of AC/DC – that honour went to a fellow named Dave Evans. Whatever happened to? Bon was also not the last – he was successfully replaced by Brian Johnson following his death after a big night out in London. Original thought was that he had choked on his vomit, which hasn’t been totally ruled out, but his death certificate refers to ‘death by misadventure’ and ‘acute alcohol poisoning’.

Sadly, he died alone in a car parked outside 67 Overhill Road, East Dulwich, London (for all the pilgrims). His friend had sat him in the car to sleep off his alcohol intake from that evening, but when he returned the next day, Bon was lifeless and pronounced DOA at hospital.

He was cremated and his ashes brought home to Fremantle Cemetery, Western Australia. His gravestone is now on the National Trust list of heritage places and his gravesite is reportedly one of the most visited graves in Australia.

Bon Scott’s memorial in Fremantle (not his gravesite),complete with scultped high-waisted jeans, real Levi’s buttons and a real microphone use by Bon when performing. Image courtesy of
 http://www.smh.com.au/travel/bon-in-bronze-and-other-hits-20100107-lw6g.html

4. Marc Hunter

Lead singer of Dragon

Born: 7 September 1953 (he would have been 60 today – happy birthday, Marc!) in Taumarunui, New Zealand
Died: 17 July 1998 (aged 44) in Kiama, NSW

It must be something about those Kiwi men, but I thought Marc Hunter was pretty damned hot, too! That kick at the beginning of ‘April Sun in Cuba’ got me every time. Check it out here:

Following a heroin addiction in his younger days, Marc was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. Despite undergoing various forms of traditional and alternative treatment, he passed away in Kiama in July 1998.

Marc in healthier days, courtesy of
 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/dragon-singer-marc-hunter-an-aussie-heartbreaking-machine/story-e6frf96f-1226193542554

He left behind is wife, fashion designer Wendy Heather and (from what I can tell) three children: two from his marriage to Wendy and one from a prior relationship.

5.Michael Hutchence

Lead singer of INXS

Born: 22 January 1960 in Lane Cove, Sydney
Died: 22 November 1997 (aged 37) in Sydney

While I liked INXS’s music, I wasn’t personally a big INXS or Michael Hutchence fan. However, as the years have passed I’ve come to better understand and appreciate his magic and his resemblance to Jim Morrison.

Michael Hutchence – or is it Jim Morrison? – courtesy of
 http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/michael-hutchence-biopic-two-worlds-colliding-in-the-works/

Despite initial suggestions that he had died from a sexual exercise involving a belt around his neck and a fire door, the evidence from those who spoke with him in the hours leading up to his death and other evidence supplied led Coroner Derek Hand to rule Michael’s death a suicide.

Michael left behind a string of broken hearted ex-girlfriends and a devastated Paula Yates, mother of his only (that I’m aware of) child Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

6. Ted Mulry

Lead singer of the Ted Mulry Gang (aka TMG)

Born: 2 September 1947 in Oldham, Lancashire, England
Died: 1 September 2001 (the day before his 54th birthday) somewhere in Australia

Who can forget ‘Jump in my Car’? Such a great song even The Hoff did a cover version! And then there was ‘Dark Town Strutter’s Ball’ – a rocked up remake of a song first published in 1917. Refresh your memory here, of Ted, the band, disco balls, mullets, and too-tight high-waisted flares:

Ted was one of your good old, straightforward, no mess rock and rollers. Out the front, solid guitar, solid band, solid songs. I saw TMG live at the Hordern Pavilion as a 14 year old – my first rock concert (along with Sherbet and John Paul Young – those were the days!). I then saw JPY, TMG and a few others live on the floating barge moored off Milsons Point at what was probably an Australia Day concert in the mid-to-late 1970s. TMG was one of those value-for-money working class bands.

Ted announced that he had terminal brain cancer in early 2001 and sadly passed away the day before his birthday, later that year.

Thank you for the music, Gents. You made this little girl’s teen years happy ones.

47 thoughts on “Six Aussie lead singers no longer with us

  1. I grew up in the same neighbour hood as Steve Gilpin Lower Hutt.He Will always be in my humble opinion one of the best lead singers of his time why because Steve could genuinely sing which was rare back in the day.You live on in our hearts to this day and yes we still rock to Misex at our parties.%

    • Hear, hear, Wayne – on re-reading my post there I realise that I barely mention his singing, if at all. You’re right, he was good – and a good stage presence, too. Nice to hear you’re still enjoying his music, his legacy, and that of the band’s – I’m sure his family and fellow band members would take comfort from that.

      Cheers

      Jenny

  2. MiSex were one of my favourite bands growing up, and continue to be now. I remember waking up, I think it was New Year’s Day maybe 1991 or 92 to the news that Steve had been involved in an accident at or near Moobal, I was devastated when he passed, to this day his voice and music bring back great memories of good times.

    • I know what you mean, Mark. It was a sad day, indeed. I thought I heard somewhere that Mi-Sex are still touring, but I can’t imagine them without Steve Gilpin. It just wouldn’t be the same.

  3. I attended a Push Push / Dance Exponents gig, in Christchurch, the day after Steve Gilpin died and Mikey Havoc put a candle on stage and dedicated the night to the memory of Steve. Which I thought was cool.

    I played “Computer Games” on my car stereo this arvo when I picked my 8 yr old daughter from school and she laughed and enjoyed Steve Gilpins vocal theatrics in the song and I remembered how awesome Mi-Sex was.

    It was this that prompted me to read up on Mi-Sex when I got home and so here I am !

    Thanks for a great article. Can I suggest a list of Kiwi musicians that crossed the Tasman and are now considered “Australian” ?

    • That’s a great idea, Keir! You do realise, of course, that if I do that, ‘We Across the Ditch’ will have no one left to count as Aussie … 😉 But I shall put it on the ‘to do’ list for 2016.

  4. Steve Gilpin was a humble man at the peak of his success – where else could you have a drink with a terrific bloke and later find out he was the frontman of the band you came to see that evening. I will never forget that night at the Sunnybank Hotel in Queensland.

    • It’s always nice to hear that people in the limelight like that could still earn the title of ‘terrific bloke’. Thank you, Garry! 🙂

    • Ooh – I hadn’t thought about him, Victoria. Probably because he was a bit before my time – he didn’t influence me the way the people on my list did. But granted, he really was a mover and a shaker (all puns intended) in helping develop the Aussie music scene. Perhaps I should re-work the article and call it ‘Seven Aussie lead singers no longer with us’? 🙂

    • Good thought Russell! I may have to rewrite the post now and include Doc and JO’K and make it ‘Eight Aussie lead singers no longer with us’! (Looking at the dates, I put the original post online about eight or nine months before Doc left us.)

      I was lucky enough to see the Angels supporting David Bowie at the Sydney Showground in November 1978 – they were awesome! And then I was at the Opera House concert New Year 1979/80 when Doc got hit in the head with a can (or bottle) thrown from the audience. When that happened, they cancelled the rest of the night. 🙁 It was a great concert up until that point!

      Yep, I think I’m going to have to revisit this post!

      • Jon English , no list should be complete without ole black eyes …….. Vale Jon

  5. Teds brother steve’ still plays gigs at a lot of venues’ ted was a legend as is the others’ but steve who is a mate’ looks similar and plays the same style as ted used to. I’m sure all the legends that are gone are still here in spirit.

  6. I was lucky enough to stay in Australia for part of 1989 and most of 1989.
    I lived in Neutral Bay (Sydney). I used to go to a bar called Palace Cafe. There, I met Ted Mulry. I had no idea who he was, being from Canada. He had no “airs” about him and his success at all. The nicest guy, ever. I would speak with him whenever I saw him there (with his beautiful girlfriend, Rainn). He drank Stoli and Coke.
    I was just made aware of his passing.
    Thanks for being so nice to a foreigner, Ted.
    Heaven is more harmonious, now.

    • That’s a nice memory, Thom – I’ve heard Ted was a pretty decent guy, so it’s great to hear it confirmed by someone else, from so far away. Lovely to hear that he touched a stranger’s life like that.

      Cheers
      Jenny

  7. Thank you for sharing
    They were some of my greats also.
    The 70s was a great era for Aussie music.
    RIP
    Bon, Ted, Steve, Marc, Shirley, Michael and Doc
    Your music will always live on

  8. I met Jon English before a concert by The Who at Acer Arena in Sydney. We had a good chat about the classic British bands of the day. He was quite taken with my Thin Lizzy t-shirt – he supported them at the Sydney Opera House in 1978. We had a few beers and a chat and he kindly posed for a photograph with me. He was an awesome chap with no ego. I was saddened to hear of his passing this year.

    • I have to admit, David, I never heard a bad word about Jon English. Your story probably explains why.

      I first heard of him and saw him as a youngster when he played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar – the way he jumped about the stage was just incredible. I’d never seen anything like that before! Mind you, I was only 11, but it was still an incredible performance.

      So far, 2016 has been a bit of a bad year for our rock ‘n roll heroes, hasn’t it? Here’s hoping 2017 (when it comes around) is a little kinder to them all. 🙂

      • My greatest memory of Jon English performing a show was at the 1984 Narara Music Festival. It was on a Sunday night and during continuous torrential rain the festival was being threatened to be shut down. Jon English refused to let the crowd down. He came out on stage in hammering rain and performed incredibly. Thinking back now he was likely risking electrocution. The memory lives on, Jon. Thank you!

        • Wow – that’s pretty incredible, Chris! You’re right – his insurance company would never let him get away with that these days, would they? And probably rightly so … if I’d been his mother I’d have been on their side. 🙂

    • True, David, all good talent laid to rest – but if I’d added them I’d have had to change the title to ‘Ten Aussie lead singers no longer with us’! 😉

  9. Hi Jen,
    In regards to Mi-Sex, they had quite a few hit songs. Blue Day in 1983, But You Don’t Care in 1979, Space Race in 1980, People in 1980, Falling In and Out in 1981, Castaway in 1983, It Only Hurts When I’m Laughing in 1980.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Mi-Sex live on many occasions in The 80’s
    Very sad when Steve Gilpin died, many tears were shed.

    • Mi-Sex did do some good stuff, didn’t they, Alan? I have to admit, Computer Games was my favourite – possibly because it was so different – but have to admit that some of their other stuff was probably of better quality. I only saw them live once, but it was a sad day for me, too, when Steve Gilpin died.

    • Yes, I did love Billy Thorpe, too, Lou. Can’t say I’m a fan over ‘Over the Rainbow’ – I prefer a more rock sound, personally. But a great talent and, I believe, a lovely bloke.

  10. When I heard of Shirl dying in 2001, it really struck me hard. I liked the ‘hooks, but wasn’t mad over them.

    Over the years, I’ve respected more and more the lyrics of Macainsh and musicianship of the band. But most importanly, Shirl’s vocals are so underrated – on a par with how Bon Scott’s are underrated.

    To this day, it’s personally way sadder to me than the events in the US that happened 13 days later. I still often look up info about Shirl and the ‘hooks – there’s no doubt he was one of our great star frontmen.

  11. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to write Six Aussie lead singers no longer with us – Part 2, doesn’t it?

    Note to self: start some research. 🙂

    Thanks for the interest, everyone, and I’m sure our dear departed rockers thank you, too. 🙂

  12. Just came across this post doing some research for our band. We pay homage and tribute to wonderful artists like these who we have sadly lost and have shaped Aussie music and we think it’s important that they are never forgotten. Hope you can come see the show one day. We are Dead Singer Band/Lost legends showcase. It is a real honour to be able to celebrate the lives of these wonderful artists.

    • That sounds like a great night out, Vanessa – who knows, one day I just might come along and see the show if you’re in our area! But nice to see you keeping the music alive – we do it for Beethoven and so many others, why not our more recently-loved artist? Good on you! 🙂

  13. Just found this old post by chance. Need to say that Ted Mulry was the first rock star (or person!) that I ever fell in love with. I was thirteen years old and my family was walking through the gardens near the Myer Music Bowl, in Melbourne. I was thinking about the band and their music and that was the moment I first fell in love. Never forgotten the moment.
    Saw them too many times to remember the best. Will always remember the most awkward. Was telling some workmates I was going to see TMG that night and one creepy (short) guy thought I was inviting him. Yuck!
    Have played drums occasionally and Herm Kovacs’ steady drumming style is great to learn as you play along. Always start with a song you know really well.

    • Ah, we all remember our first one, don’t we, Nette?

      Mine was David Bowie, but I do recall the effect Garth Porter had on me the first time I saw him. I’d been to see The Mulry Gang, John Paul Young and Sherbet at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion. (Circa 1975 if I remember rightly!) I didn’t care about Sherbet – I was there for JPY and The Mulry Gang. (I preferred Mulry’s music to Sherbet’s.) But then Garth Porter came one … aaaahhh! 🙂

      Mind you, I can see the attraction with Ted. He did have a certain – how do the French say it? A certain je ne sais quoi. I think it was that cheeky smile!

      Ha ha – wish I’d been there to see you wriggle out of inviting that creepy guy along! Funny the things we remember, isn’t it? I wonder where he is today … ?

  14. Steve wright was a brilliant front man back in the day of outdoor concerts
    He really had amazing energy .man he could sing similar voice to the great man don Scott.
    It’s so unforgiving the dark side of rock n roll , firstly their talent taken from them and then their Adoring fans!
    Also respected the talent ,lead frontman of band chain Matt Taylor he could rip the harp
    And perform brilliantly live.

    • Well, I have to admit, I never saw Chain and could barely tell you a thing about them, so thanks Mick, I’ll have to go investigate there! As for Stevie Wright – you’re not wrong. (See what I did there? 😉 He was full on, wasn’t he? So sad that he couldn’t have faith enough in himself to stay sober. But a lot of the time, it’s not rock ‘n roll that does it to them, but rock ‘n roll that attracts those that need faith in themselves. May they all live on in our LP collections! (Yep, showing my age. 🙂 )

      • Gotta love Spotify! Just found ‘I remember when I was young’ – didn’t know I knew Chain! Thanks Mick, another band to add to my 70s playlist. 🙂

  15. I saw Mi-Sex in concert in 1980. I was such an avid fan, having bought their latest album in a record shop in Westfield Parramatta. The shop was decked out with cut-outs of aliens and similar, advertising the album. I then moved to Rockhampton and was so thrilled to learn they were going to play there with Sherbet as back-up. I was super shy back then but I could of swore that Steve Gilpin winked at me in the audience. Wishing thinking but I was glad to have seen them live – they were perfect both sound-wise and visually.

    • Wow – that says something if Sherbet were the back-up for Mi-Sex!

      And you know what, Michelle? Whether Steve Gilpin really did wink at you or not, only he knew for sure, so I reckon if you saw it, then it happened. 🙂

  16. I was terribly sad to learn about the death of Ted Mulry, as I saw him in concert in Adelaide, South Australia several times in the 70’s and TMG were my favourate aussie band, I used to love listening to there music and enjoy playing along with my Gibson Grabber Bass, which is the same bass Ted himself used to play. I will miss Ted Mulry being a fellow Mancunian from Manchester, England. Rest in peace Ted, I’ll miss you greatly.

  17. I saw Mi Sex at St George Leagues Club during the 80s For some unknown reason there was only about 20 people in the audience. Steve Gilpin came out, saw the poor numbers but said ” We’re here to play and are going to have a great night”. The band still put everything into the show, didn’t cut any corners and played as awesome as they sounded on record.
    Great night and memory of a great band and even greater frontman. So sad about his passing
    The band has reformed over the past few years with Steve Balbi (ex Noiseworks) as lead and still crank it as if back in those golden days whilst at the same time still paying tribute to Steve
    But You Don’t Care and Blue Day still Great Auusie Classics in their own right
    The others mentioned are all worthy plus other additions since original article as listed

  18. Polishing up the play list for my 50th in a few weeks time…. Space Race will certainly be in there!

    Checking on the net, I can’t believe it only got to 19 in the the NZ charts (and 28 in Australia). It’s a lot better than that!!

    • Ah! I remember Space Race! The things we forget. 🙂 You’re right – I would have thought it would have done better on the charts than that.

      Happy 50th, Ed – hope it’s a great party and that you educate all the young ones with the right music mix!! 😀

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