LEVI SMITH’S CLEFS HISTORY
This story has been amended immensely by Barrie McAskill from the written documentation of Chris Spencer (The Who’s Who of Australian of Rock & Roll) and Ian Mc Farlane (Whammo)
During the 1960s, Adelaide-born Barrie McAskill earned a reputation as the King of Rock & Roll with his band The Drifters. He also became acknowledged as one of the Australia’s pioneering Soul/R&B singers. A great bear of a man with a commanding presence and gravelly voice to match, McAskill led numerous line-ups of his band Levi Smith's Clefs between 1967 and 2004.
Levi Smith's Clefs initially earned a reputation on the disco /club and dance circuit as a gutsy R&B band, eventually proving to be a breeding ground for the swelling ranks of Australia's progressive music scene. Tully, Fraternity and Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly (SCRA), Mighty Mouse for example, all sprang almost intact from the bosom of the Levis.
McAskill’s philosophy became to encourage his band members to improve as musicians, and for them to move on as the urge arose. Many of them became successful musicians and bandleaders because of his willingness to share his knowledge. More than one hundred musicians have passed through the Levis ranks through the years.
The Levi Smith's Clefs story actually began in Adelaide, South Australia during 1966 when Tweed Harris (Keyboard) reformed The Clefs. This early line-up included Barrie McAskill (vocals), Bev Harrell, (vocals), Les Tanner (guitar), Vinnie Jones (drums), John Young (guitar) and Bruce Howe (bass). The Clefs, with out Bev Harrell moved to Melbourne and became an in-demand band on the city's thriving club, disco and dance circuit.
This Clefs line up issued two singles in 1966:
When Harris accepted an invitation to create a supergroup, The Groove, in early 1967, McAskill was offered the job as lead singer; however he decided to assume leadership of The Clefs, which had changed members to Les Stacpool (Guitar), Bob Jeffrey (Saxophone). Gil Matthews (Drums), Doug Stirling (Bass) he added Inez Amaya (Vocals). McAskill’s musical ear had changed from pop to what he calls symphonic soul music.
When manager Peter Raphael (The Editor of Go-Set Magazine and proprietor of the Australian Entertainment Exchange) suggested the band be renamed, McAskill decided upon, The Levi Smith Affair (which in a roundabout way had been inspired by the name of the Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs and Smith being one of the biggest listings in the phone book). Tweed Harris asked Barrie would he keep the name of the Clefs in the equation as he had spent many years building it.
Hence the “Levi Smith’s Clefs” were born.
Seek and you shall find.
Michael Carlos: Les Stacpool: John Blake: Richard Lockwood: Mick Jurd: Gary Nessell (Strauss & Nova Sound): Bruce Howe: John Bisset: Tony Buettel: Inez Amaya: John Helman: Barrie: Paddy McCartney (Twilights): Jimmy Thompson: Robert Taylor:
As a six-piece, Levi Smith's Clefs worked Melbourne and Adelaide then to Sydney where they played the Here Disco and were offered a three month season at the Whisky Au Go Go nightclub in Kings Cross, this Gig turned into a six night a week, (9.00pm till 3.00am), 18-month residency, a long party?
The line-up shifted constantly along the way, with Inez Amaya (vocals), Les Stacpool (guitar, ex-Chessmen, Merv Benton and the Tamlas, The Clefs), Ian Walsh (organ, Jeff St John & the Id), Michael Carlos (organ, Long John Law’s Disco), Doug Stirling (bass, The Blue Jays), John Blake (bass, Little Sammy, Janice Slater and The In People), John “Yuk” Harrison (bass, Ray Columbus & the Invaders, Max Merritt & The Meteors), John Helman (bass, Jeff St John & the Id), Gil Matthews (drums, Max Hamilton and the Impacts) and Jimmy Thompson (drums, Tony Worsley & the Blue Jays) passing through the ranks, some for the second time.
By 1968, the line-up had stabilized with McAskill, Amaya, Carlos, Blake, Jurd (guitar), Richard Lockwood (flute, sax) and Robert Taylor (drums, Johnny Young & Company).
The next move, Carlos, Lockwood, Blake and Taylor all left to form Tully, before joining Harry Miller’s Australian stage production of the American “tribal love-rock musical”, Hair in June 1969.
When McAskill left The Whisky Amaya also joined the cast of Hair.
Still at The Whisky, McAskill, Amaya and Jurd assembled a new Levi Smith's Clefs with John Bisset (organ, The Mods, The Action), Bruce Howe (bass, Fraternity, Something Purple, The Clefs, Mickey Finn, Some Dream), and Tony Buettel (drums, Bay City Union, Band of Light). This line-up recorded the adventurous Empty Monkey album for the Sweet Peach label. It was one of the first Australian albums to combine Soul / R & B / pop / jazz with a more progressive rock outlook.
Ed Nimmervol of the editor of Go-Set & Juke magazines, now Howl Space on the web, reviewed this album and concluded that, “This is the best rock album ever produced in Australia”.
Despite being a groundbreaking release in many ways, the album failed to see the success it deserved.
Perhaps due to Sweet Peach changing its recording company from Polydor, to Polygram half way through the promotional tour: And Sweet Peach’s own agenda to take over McAskill’s band: The standout cut was an 11-and-a-half minute arrangement of The Beatle’s You Can’t Do That, Sweet Peach also lifted two singles from the album, Lisa*****Roadrunner (January 1970) And a cover of Junior Walker’s: Shotgun*****Who is it that Shall Come (April 1970). By the time the album came out in March 1970, Jurd, Bisset, Howe and Buettel were leaving to form Fraternity with Bon Scott and supply the backing for Doug Ashdown’s double album The Age of the Mouse, released by Sweet Peach.
McAskill assembled a new Levi Smith's Clefs and returned to Whisky Au Go Go in Sydney. This line-up comprised of Linda Cable (vocals, The Vamps, The Pussy Cats), Steve Doran (keyboards), Peter Karlanek (guitar, Blues Syndicate), Doug Stirling (bass), John Freeman (drums, Red Angel Panic), who was lured away to join Fraternity when Buettel quit, to be replaced by Michael Darby, (drums, Jack Stradbroke & The Action).
Steve Doran: Linda Cable: Barrie: Peter Karlanek: John Freeman: Michael Darby: Doug Stirling:
When McAskill was offered the famous “Chequers Night Club” where he did another mammoth stint 6 nights a week for a year, another long party.Mike Cousins (trombone, Jeff Duff & Kush), Steve Bowden (trumpet, Daley Wilson Big Band), Bill Harrower (sax), Ken Deacon (Vocals, Everton Park, and Cool Bananas) joined this line up.
It wasn’t long before changes developed to, Mick Kenny (trumpet, The Chant), Bob Jeffrey (sax), Jim Kelly (guitar, Kerry Biddel and The Affair, Dal Myles, their manager was at Peter Raphael’s home when McAskill renamed The Clefs). Russell Dunlop (drums, Aesops Fables), John (Yuk) Harrison (bass, Max Merritt & The Meteors, Genesis), Bruce Howard (piano, La De Das), Michael Carlos (organ returned from Tully & “Hair”).
Throughout 1971, this band held down the residency at Chequers night club in Sydney. Kelly, Dunlop and Kenny then joined Peter Martin’s, Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly (SCRA) when McAskill's season at Chequers finished. (One Year).
The Levi Smith’s Clefs went on the road again, line-up changes continued apace with Ted (The Head) Yanni (guitar, Plastic Tears, Maple Lace), Yuk Harrison (bass), Doug Stirling (bass), Allan Turnbull (drums, Don Burrows), Greg Henson (drums, The Rhythm Aces) and Bob Jeffrey (sax), Michael Carlos (organ).Carlos and Henson then joined the backing band for the Australian production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
In late 1971, McAskill’s “Madmen, Mescaline & Music” days began, as quoted by Julien Cumming of Juke Magazine.
Some of McAskill’s bands became known as The Bear’s Brigade, McAskill, McAskill's Marauders, McAskill’s People, Barrie McAskill and Friends, “McAskill, Murphy, Melouney, Firth and Barns”, God’s Warriors & the Amazons, however he always thought of them as the Levi Smith’s Clefs.
Barrie McAskill's People comprised Vince Melouney (guitar; Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Bee Gees, Fanny Adams, Cleves, Flite), Michael Barnes (guitar; Nutwood Rug), Ken Firth (bass, Tully, The Ferrets) and Kevin Murphy (drums, Wild Cherries, The Aztecs, King Harvest, Chain, Leo D’Castro & Friends, Rush):.
In mid-1972, McAskill reverted to the Levi Smith's Clefs name for the line-up of Doug Stirling, Kevin Murphy, Les Stacpool and Ian Clyne (keyboard, the Loved Ones, Ram Jam Big Band).
By October 1972, McAskill was working with a line-up, which comprised Murphy, Clyne, Mal Capewell (sax, flute, Dr Kandy's Third Eye, Dada, Little Gulliver’s Company Caine), Russell Smith (trumpet, vocals, Ram Jam Big Band, Power House), Phil Manning (guitar, Bay City Union, Chain, Band of Talabene), and Barry Harvey (drums, Chain). A month later, Murphy, Clyne, Capewell, and Harvey broke away from McAskill and became Mighty Mouse.
It would appear McAskill was left high and dry once again, although he has never seen it this way, he says, “there are more musicians for me to meet and I hope it will remain this way for the rest of my life”, “there is always something new to learn, new chemistries to blend and new music to play”.
McAskill formed a new band called McAskill, (Barns, Stirling, Royal & Doran) which occupied him until 1973. Some of the members of his bands at various times have included: Alvin Tutin (guitar), Lindsay Wells (guitar; Healing Force, Chain, Blackfeather), Jeff Spooner (guitar, Red House Roll Band), Ian Mawson (keyboards, The Ferrets, Company Caine), Howie Morgan (keyboards), Eddie McDonald (bass; Bakery), Doug Stirling (bass; Levi Smith's Clefs), Warren Ward (bass; Flying Circus, Blackfeather), Bob Fortesque (bass; Blackfeather), Roger McLachlan (bass, Stars, Mississippi, Little River Band), Dallas `Digger' Royal (drums, Salty Dog, Rose Tattoo), Stevie Dunstan (bass & keyboards) Mick Eliot, (guitar). And Paul Johnson (drums).
McAskill returned to Adelaide in late 1974 and formed or joined an ever-evolving series of bands: Peter (Beagley) Head’s East End Street Band, Peter (keyboard & vocals, (Head Band, Mount Lofty Rangers), Benni Seidel (bass & vocals), Graham Bartlet’s Keytones and Nexus), Dave Colville (guitar), Doug Johnston (drums, The Drifters), Vonny, (congas & vocals), Joan Boylan, (vocals, Nexus), Pandora Leader, (vocals), Kevin Locket, (sax & flute):
Barrie McAskill's on Fire: Doug Johnston, (drums) Randell Wilson (drums) David Dempsey (guitar), Kirk Steele (piano), Benni Seidel, (bass), Joan Boylan, (vocals), Kevin Locket, (sax & flute), Steve Goss, (pedal steel guitar):
Barrie McAskill and Friends, Chris Finnen, (guitar & vocals, Chain), Carl Orr, (guitar), Doug Johnston, (drums, The Keytones, The Fabulous Drifters), Russ Johnson, (guitar, Country Radio, Mississippi), Stan Chamarczuk, (bass, The Brats), Laurie Pryor, (drums, The Twilights, Healing Force, Hair), Dean Birbeck, (drums, Bobby Bright, Doug Ashdown, Hayden Burford & The Beaumen), Fred Payne, (trumpet, Freddy Hampton’s Big Roll Movement), Stan Koretjni (guitar, Some Dream), Graham Conlan, (guitar, Sybil Graham’s Alice’s Wonder Band, Sue Barker & Self Abuse, The Onions).
In Adelaide, 1983, McAskill recorded two tracks he had written himself. “The Hindley Street Shuffle*****Dance With Me”. (Also film clipped). Levi Smith’s Clefs once more with its big brassy sound, this line up: Mick Jurd (guitar), Phil Cunneen (arranger & piano, Here’s Humphrey, Some Dream,), Russ Johnson (bass, Mississippi, Greg Quill’s Country Radio), Dean Birbeck (drums), Fred Payne (trumpet, Nutwood Rug, Hair, Freddy Hampton’s Big Roll Movement), Schmoe (sax), Bob Jeffrey (sax, The Penny Rockets, The Hi Marks, Neville Dunn’s Planets, Ronny Carson’s Big Seven, The Bob Koss Quartet), Peter Trotter (trombone, Australian Crawl), Irene Petrie, Jaqui Phillips, Marlene Richards, Sue Barker (backing Vocals).
In 1983 McAskill returned to Sydney and within two weeks another Levi Smith’s Clefs featuring the amazing “Dash Riprock” formed, The band that was backing Reg Livermore’s Firing Squad Musical asked him to sing with them when their season ended.
Carl Hammond: Dash Riprock: Steve Russell:
Bob Birtles (sax, Max Merritt & the Meteors), Steve Giordano (sax, USA, Wilson Picket Band), Jim Wiseman (trumpet Sydney Symphony Orchestra), Joe Epps (trombone), Colin Watson (guitar, Slim Dusty Band), Chris Qua (bass, Galapagos Duck), Graham Fischer (drums), Joanne Goodman (vocals), Karen Johns (vocals, Digger Revel’s Band): Helen Ryder (vocals) and Jan Manning / McAskill (vocals, Rhapsody, Divinyls, C Sharps, UK): In a couple of weeks the changes began, Perry Johnson, (drums) Peter Figures, (drums, The Throb, Jeff St John’s Copper Wine), Steve Igoe, (The Ron Barry Band, the “Boy from Oz” and “Mama Mia Stage Shows”), Steve Russell, (bass), Mick Jurd, (guitar), Willie Qua, (sax, Galapagos Duck), Willie Qua took the horn section leaders Chair, then the fun began, McAskill says he played with nearly every top horn player in Sydney., some of them being, Warwick Alder (trumpet), Peter Cross (trumpet), Ralph Pyle (trumpet, Long Way to the Top), Uri Naradalek (trumpet, Czechoslovakia), Herb Cannon (trombone, Chant, SCRA), Carl Hammond (trombone, USA, Buddy Rich Band), Paul Andrews (sax), Roy Ainsworth (sax), Glen Henrich (sax, USA) and Bill Innes (trumpet). These are just a few players that spring to mind.
After a year of keeping a ten piece band together for a year, McAskill formed his Bear’s Boogie Band, then Who Dat Dere, these units had many styles and faces:
Jackie Ozarski, (bass, Syrius, Marcia Hines Band, Bakery, Jump Back Jack), Harry Bruss (bass, Black Feather, Renee Geyer Band), Doug Williams, (bass, USA. Von Ryan’s Express, Young Hearts, Power House) John Poshee, (drums, John Poshee’s Ten Part Invention), Bill Flemming, (drums, The Questions), Jimmy Doyle, (guitar Aesops Fables, Rush) Duncan McGuire, (bass, The Questions, Doug Parkinson In Focus, Rush, Leo D’Castro and Friends, King Harvest), Terry Gasgoine, (drums Faye Lewis’s McFee), Hugh Williams, (guitar, Daley Wilson Big Band), Brendon Dart, (keyboards), Andy Atwell, (bass), Liz Wilder, (vocals, Graeme Bond’s Boys Own Macbeth), Camille Gardiner, (Vocals, ABC’s Sweet & Sour, Divinyls, The Mandy Dahl Band, USA) and Jan Manning now McAskill, (Vocals, Levi Smith’s Clefs).
Jan & Barrie married and formed a Duo, Topsy & The Bear, (Jan McAskill, (keyboard & vocals), Barrie McAskill, (guitar & vocals) and toured Australia with their son Tarrin for ten years to eventually settle in Adelaide and now work their Duo as Barrie & Jan McAskill.
Smith’s Clefs reunions were held in Melbourne: 2002 & 2003.
Ian: Warren: Les: Jan: Barrie: Gil: Billy:
Gil Matthews, (drums, the original Levi Smith’s Clefs, Billy Thorpe’s Sunbury Aztecs, Ross Wilson’s Mondo Rock, The Richard Clapton Band), Les Stacpool, (guitar, Merv Benton & The Tamlas, the original Levi Smith’s Clefs, The Browns, Wendy Saddington), Warren Morgan, (piano, The Beaten Tracks, Chain, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, John Paul Young’s All Stars), Billy Kristian, (bass, Ray Columbus & the Invaders, Max Merritt & The Meteors): Ian Mason, (keyboard, vocal, Mason’s Cure, the Music Farm Recording Complex) Jan McAskill, (vocal & Keyboard): These are Barrie McAskill and the Levi Smith’s Clefs Adventures. Updated: 10 / 6 / 2006:
It’s not over yet.
Levi Smith’s Clefs Discography
Runner / Lisa:
just slip into something more comfortable”,