Longmore: King of
the Crystal Palace
A REFERENCE to Australian guitar legend Dave Longmore in
last week's About Town report on
Doris Dazed certainly brought a
few old stagers of the country
scene out of the woodwork.
Veteran country connoisseurs,
including Dave Longmores
widow Terri and Doug De Kroo,
mingled with post-Grand Final
revellers at the Hopetoun Hotel
to check out this super-hot
all-woman band, and particularly
the lead guitarist Donna Day.
Terri Longmore had apparently been
shocked to read that, horror of
horrors, a woman was being compared
with her late husband.
But on the night she did concede that
times had changed and, yes, Donna was
one mighty picker. But, she added
diplomatically, she's working in a
pretty smart band.
Comparisons aside, the night evoked
many memories of Dave Longmore, a
colossus among rock and country guitarists
who played with just about
everybody (from Johnny O'Keefe to
Ray Hoff) and who, for many years, was
a session musician at Festival Studios.
One of my favorite Longmore yarns is
told by Mort Fist (a cohort of Dave's in the
Masked Cocky Stranglers).
It goes back to the early 70's when the
Crystal Palace at Railway Square was
the undisputed headquarters of the
Sydney country music scene.
Fans and aspiring pickers would flock
there on Saturday
Heaps of bite!
afternoons to catch
"Kevin Kings Country Sounds"
Dave Longmore, the peerless pedal steel
picker Kenny Kitching and Jan Kelly
(still Australia's best country singer).
Guest pickers would come along and
attempt to match licks with Longmore
It was all played in a spirit of camaraderie
but sometimes the competition
was fierce, with the best pickers in the
country all trying to outdo each other.
On this particular day, the guest picker
was the great Maori guitarist Johnny J.
Walker ( whose son Darryl, incidentally,
is now with the Flying Emus).
All afternoon the solos had become
more intense as the competition hotted
up and it became obvious that the
encore, Guitar Boogie, was to be one massive showdown.
Kenny Kitching opened the batting
with one of those exquisite breaks that
he makes look so easy; he'd cunningly
selected a key which would make picking
difficult for the following guitarists
and the tension mounted...
Johnny J was next. A big man, he
played guitar seated on a bar stool with
his left hand over the top of the fretboard
in the Thumbs Carlisle style.
He peeled off a lightning solo and just
as the crowd was casping a collective
"Strewth!" he picked up his instrument
and ripped into a refrain by picking
with his teeth, a stunt that usually only
a Jimmy Hendrix could put over.
The Palace erupted and Johnny J.
grinned at Longmore with a look that said "Top that if you can".
Longmore, never one to be fased,
launched into a solo and, just short of
the crescendo, calmly pulled out his denture plate,
proceeded to use said plate as a plectrum
and, naturally, produced the solo of the day.
Kitching and Walker fell off their
stools laughing and the jury, a packed
barful of well-inked country music lovers,
duly awarded the "contest" to Longmore,
Sadly, Dave Longmore died in late '86,
but as long as there are good musicians
around who enjoy a post-gig libation,
the Longmore legend will be told for
many years to come.