After emerging in the ‘60s with The Groop and Axiom, Brian Cadd’s multi-platinum solo path saw him surrounded by top-notch players.
This was the case of this ARCA tape when Cadd put incredible musicians around him when he returned from his home base in America for a four-week run in Australia.
Like the other dates, the Sundowner was a sell-out.
“It was so packed and rocked like hell,” Cadd recalls. “The band was incredible. Pub rock was at its epicentre, and people of that generation knew one thing – go to a pub and rock!”
“As the tape shows, all those shows were up-vibe,” adds Andy Rayson, who did the sound for the Brian Cadd Band’s run in between stints with Australian Crawl and The Divinyls.
“The crowd was mostly in their 20s and 30s, all reactive, laughing, clapping and dancing.
“The Sundowner was a good sounding room, with a straw roof and probably held about 500.”
Brett Allen, who did the stage on the tour, points out “Brian was a star, so he could afford to hire the best, and this band was phenomenal.
“Everybody went ‘wow’ when the tour started, but they got more red-hot with each show.”
Starting out in 1973 in Adelaide as a guitar tech with Stars, Allen moved to Melbourne and did time with Avalanche, Little River Band and Renee Geyer.
A year after the Cadd tour, he went overseas to tour with Paul Simon (the Graceland world tour), Cher and Beach Boys and then set up Brett Allen Studio Rental at 5718 Troost Ave in Los Angeles, with clients such as John Mayer, Jeff Beck, Black Eyed Peas, AC/DC and Eric Clapton.
Based in LA, Allen emphasises how world-class Australian crews are.
“Through that Cadd tour people were telling me how great the band sounded, and that’s because I count Andy Rayson as among the best sound guys in the world.”
Brian Cadd learned about stagecraft from his early teens when his mother took him to see the great 1950s rocker Johnny O’Keefe, aka The Wild One, in Brian’s hometown of Perth.
He’d already started learning classical piano but seeing the Wild One convinced him that was what he wanted to do with his life.
“You were riveted by him. It’s not like you were having a chat with someone next to you or order a drink, or go and have a wee, when he was on.
“He and The Easybeats were masters at controlling their presence. They were totally focussed on that audience the whole time.
“Bands who go onstage and just play for themselves – or don’t look interesting or interested – lose one of the great things about performance, which is that wonderful rapport with the audience.”
Many songs on Brian Cadd Band Live At The Sundowner Geelong 1982 came from his latest album, No Stone Unturned.
It was a guitar-heavy record, with some wonderfully unorthodox and inventive playing from Little River Band’s Steve Housden, and Cadd’s use of sequencing for the first time.
“My live show then was a pretty wondrous time for me. So many new musical things were happening in my life.”
One aspect of the ARCA live tape is that Cadd’s earlier hits as “A Little Ray Of Sunshine”, “Keep On Rockin;”,“Ginger Man” and “Let Go” remain powerful.
“A Little Ray Of Sunshine”, written about the birth of a friend’s daughter, took a life of its own.
“A bloke with two daughters flew me up to Cairns (Far North Queensland) to play ‘Little Ray’ at a wedding. Just that song. Nothing else.
“Four or five years later, his second daughter got married, and he flew me up again.
I said to him, ‘Sure you don’t want me to do a couple of other songs as well since I’m here?’ and he replied, ‘Nope, just that one.’
“At a reception on the Gold Coast, a woman came up to me and said, I want to tell you how important ‘A Little Ray’ is to me. I played it at my daughter’s funeral.
“I’m pretty verbose but that was a rare time when I was lost for speech.”
Cadd’s successful career as a songwriter came after he joined Melbourne pop-rock band The Groop in 1966 as keyboard player.
The band already had established songwriters. But as they were to record an album, their record company CBS (now Sony) suggested that all the members come up with songs.
Cadd worked with drummer Richard Wright on “Woman You’re Breaking Me,” his first song.
When the producer heard it, he said, “That’s the single!” It went to # 1. Brian was 20 years old.
He wrote another hit, “Such A Lovely Way.”
In 1968, The Groop were in London, after winning the Hoadley’s Battle Of The Sounds band competition, whose prize included a trip to London and gigs in Britain and Europe.
One night while hanging out in The Easybeats’ basement flat in Earls Court, there was a knock at the door at 3am.
It was the road manager for Led Zeppelin, he’d just come back from America, with (an early reel-to-reel copy of The Band’s landmark debut country rock album) Music From Big Pink.
He said, “I’ve only got one side of this album. You’re not going to believe this, it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever hear.
“The Easybeats had it up to 11, as loud as anything. The reel stopped at the sixth song. No one could think of anything to say. We just looked at each other.
(Easys) Dick Diamonde got up and rewound it and we sat there speechless for another listen.
Ronnie Charles (Groop singer) and I left the Easybeats’ flat at 7 in the morning. As we were walking home, Ronnie looked at me and said, “What are we doing here, why are we here?”
Cadd then formed the country-rock Axiom with Glenn Shorrock and launched with “Arkansas Grass” and “A Little Ray of Sunshine”.
Axiom made the mistake of heading to London instead of to Los Angeles where there was an explosion of new country rock names as Crosby Stills & Nash, the Eagles and Poco.
But in 1976, after signing with Capitol USA, Cadd moved to live in America, first in Los Angeles and then Nashville.
He set up publishing companies and a recording studio, played with the Flying Burrito Brothers Band and was instrumental in expanding the country music genre globally.
There he was recognised as a major songwriter. In Australia he’d written (or co-written) hits as “Elevator Driver” for Masters Apprentices, “When I Was Six Years Old” for Ronnie Burns and “Don’t You Know It’s Magic” for John Farnham.
Now his work was being recorded by Joe Cocker, The Pointer Sisters, Ringo Starr, Bonnie Tyler, Glenn Campbell, Charlie Daniels, Dobie Gray, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Little River Band, Yvonne Elliman and many more.
“Baby Let Go”, a beautiful country ballad (it’s on the ARCA tape, as is the excellent “White On White Eldorado”) has been covered 68 times. It went to #1 in South Africa twice, in the Swahili language.
In 1997 he moved back to Australia, his career continuing with sell-out tours, being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame both in 2007, and in 2018 awarded an Order of Australia (AM), which he described as an “amazingly different kind of honour”.