‘The Foreday Riders remain true to their urban electric blues roots.’
By Ian McFarlane.
In the pantheon of Australian blues, names like Chain, Matt Taylor, Dave Hole, Dutch Tilders and The Backsliders are well known. Not so well known but of equal relevance is Sydney band The Foreday Riders. As well as being one of the first traditional blues bands formed in the country (alongside Adderley Smith Blues Band and Bay City Union) and a cornerstone institution in the development of Aussie blues, The Foreday Riders have the distinction of being one of the longest running blues bands in the country. They celebrated 45 years as a band in 2012 and as with Chain, there have been constant line-up changes over the years.
Brothers Ron King (vocals, harmonica) and Jeff King (guitar, dobro) have steered the band since putting the first, loose line-up together around 1967. As blues enthusiasts of impeccable taste, the brothers had been listening to British R&B outfits such as The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and Manfred Mann. Yet they drew their primary inspiration from the original Chicago electric blues masters such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Rogers and Howlin’ Wolf, plus the more earthy country blues of Memphis Minnie and Lightning Hopkins.
It’s difficult to pin-point that original line-up, but members during the late 1960s included Rick Lock (drums), Clive Disbery (guitar), Peter Anson (guitar; ex-Missing Links, Jeff St John and The Id), Mark Punch (guitar), Rolli Utzinger (piano), John Murphy (bass), Dave Drury (bass), Jill Drury (vocals) and Broderick Smith (vocals, harmonica).
From the early 1970s onwards, other members in a revolving door scenario included Phil Colson (guitar), Tony Pedroza (guitar), Andrew Reid (guitar), Harvey Fiske (guitar), Leszek Karski (guitar), Ian Winter (guitar), Shane Pacey (guitar), Billy Rylands (guitar), Ron Tabuteau (guitar), Graeme Gibbs (bass), John Power (bass), Harry Brus (bass), Tim Partridge (bass), Alan Britton (bass), Andrew Ross (sax), Ernie McInerney (drums) and John Simone (drums).
Recording-wise, The Foreday Riders issued one of the first independent, limited edition albums, Foreday Rider Blues Band, in 1969. It was a very primitive recording in many ways, featuring pedestrian workouts on a number of blues standards and it remains notable only for its rarity value. Probably only 300 copies were pressed and, in line with its DIY private pressing status, it came in a beautiful silk-screen printed jacket.
Recently, The Riders have reissued five of their landmark Aussie blues albums on CD, starting with their first official album, the live set Blues Live at ‘Frenchs’ which originally appeared in 1974 on EMI Records. The line-up on that album comprised the King brothers, Harvey Fiske, Rick Lock and John Murphy.
While not as progressive as other blues-based bands like Chain, Carson or even The Aztecs, nevertheless on the evidence of this album The Riders were a tough, swinging outfit with a firm grasp of the finer points of the blues. The sound is raw but always exuberant. Covers included Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Ready’ and ‘Live the Life I Love’, Muddy Waters’ ‘Can’t be Satisfied’, Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton’s ‘Need My Baby’ and Taj Mahal’s ‘Good Morning Miss Brown’. There were also worthy group originals in the same style: Ron’s ‘Educated Fool’, Fiske’s ‘When I Found My Baby’ and Lock’s ‘Wind Blues’.
The band signed to blues label Eureka (also home to Dutch Tilders and Judy Bailey) and issued Once a Week (1976) and Playin’ Up (1977). The line-up on Once a Week was Ron and Jeff, Lock, Phil Colson and Graeme Gibbs. Playin’ Up featured Ron and Jeff, Gibbs, Andrew Ross, Ernie McInerney and Adelaide guitarist Ron Tabuteau (ex-Smokestack Lightning).
The albums showcased the band’s gritty, authentic approach to roadhouse blues. As well as featuring a swag of original tunes – Ron’s ‘Once a Week’, ‘Get Rich Quick’, ‘The Wrong Man’ and ‘Liberated Woman’, Jeff’s ‘Klutz’, Lock’s ‘Been Here Too Long’ and Gibbs’ ‘Quits’ (all on Once a Week) and Jeff’s ‘Boggabri Sleigh Ride’ (on Playin’ Up) – the band covered T-Bone Walker’s ‘Stormy Monday’ (on Once a Week) and ‘T-Bone Shuffle’ (on Playin’ Up) plus Louis Jordan’s jump blues standard ‘Caldonia’, Tommy Johnson’s ‘Big Road Blues’ and a smouldering version of Beaulah Facyson’s ‘A Fool’s Way of Doing Things’ (all on Playin’ Up).
The standout track on Playin’ Up is Tabuteau’s slow-rollin’ blues ‘Cold Cold Feeling’, which he’d already recorded with his previous band, Smokestack Lightning, on their rare 1976 album Don’t Nobody Know. Smokestack Lightning certainly mined a similar vein of authentic Chicago blues as The Riders and Don’t Nobody Know is also worth tracking down.
The Riders continued to tour, but it was to be another ten years before the band issued a fifth album, Riders Digest, on the Avan Guard label – also now re-issued on CD – featuring a terrific cover of Big Joe Turner’s ‘Honey Hush’. Riders Groove came out in 1993 while Shake a Leg followed in 2005. Never driven by commercial gains, The Foreday Riders remain true to their urban electric blues roots.
Selected Discography (Now available on CD)
Blues Live at ‘Frenchs’ (EMI EMC 2514) 1974
Once a Week (Eureka E-102) 1976
Playin’ Up (Eureka E-106) 1977
Riders Digest (Avan-Guard SVL 518) 1987