TRACKS

  1. The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me
  2. Jugband Music
  3. Hernando’s Hideaway
  4. The Human Race
  5. Your Feet’s Too Big
  6. That Cat is High
  7. My Canary Has Circles Under its Eyes
  8. Smoke Dreams of You
  9. Wangaratta Wahine
  10. Juggling Time
  11. The Masochism Tango

CREW

Ian Bowles
audio
Tim Marmach
audio

The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band emerged in the early 1970s playing a mix of jugband, swing, blues, cabaret and jazz.

They incorporated underground theatre, circus, visual arts, counter culture politics, irreverent humour and vaudeville routines as tap dancing, juggling and fire-eating, and became one of the biggest bands of that time.

The Ormond Hall in Melbourne was their spiritual home.  So it’s not surprising that when they reunited as an eight piece in 2011 for the Reignited Tour, they would return there for a three night run.

“The audience was always crazy when we played there,” says Matchbox’s long time sound engineer Ian Bowles, who recorded the tapes with Ormond Hall’s house engineer Tim Marmach.

“This time was no different, this was the last of the thee nights. “The one thing about Matchbox was that their audience was very diverse, and those who came out for Reignited were no different. “It was a good room to play in, great acoustics.”

Mic Conway, who co-founded Matchbox agrees.

“The Ormond Hall show was part of a tour that started late December 2010 at Woodford Music Festival called Matchbox Reignited and went through 2011.

“Ormond Hall was a favourite stamping ground for us in the mid seventies with concerts for the Melbourne Artists Workshop and the legendary Reefer Cabarets.

“Ian “Bowlesy” Bowles was our sound engineer at the time and the best one we ever had. He was a wild boy, but no matter what he got up to, he did a great job with a sense of fun. We were thrilled to have him do sound for us for the revival.”

The eight who played on Reignited Tour were:

  • Mic Conway : Vocals, jug, washboard, tenor guitar.
  • Jim Conway : Harmonica, vocals
  • Don Hopkins : Keyboard, harmonies
  • Phil Donnison : National guitars, slide, ukulele, harmonies
  • Jess Green : Guitar, banjo, harmonies
  • Cazzbo Johns : Jug, electric bass, harmonies
  • Jeremy Cook : Drums, washboard, percussion, harmonies
  • George Washingmachine : Violin, mandolin, harmonies

Live At Ormond Hall 2011 includes all their stage favourites, including “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes”, “That Cat is High”, “Smoke Dreams of You”, “Hernando’s Hideaway”, “The Masochism Tango” and their famed set-closer “Wangaratta Wahine”.

Mic and Jim Conway grew up in Melbourne mesmerised by the 78 rpm records of their grandparents, who were in vaudeville, and their parents who had a similar love for the style, and passed on their love of Fats Waller, the American jazz pianist, singer and comedian.
When at Camberwell High School, they formed the Jelly Bean Jug Band, whose antics included throwing jellybeans into the crowd.

All art or film students, they initially didn’t take themselves seriously, but their musicianship and whacky showmanship worked in their favour.

The name change to Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band came when they made it to the finals of Nine Network’s New Faces.

As Conway ruefully admits, they started out as a piss-take on the rock scene and despite their best intentions became part of it!

Their first single, a cover of the 1931 druggy song “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes”, went Top 40 in Melbourne in November 1972.

Debut album Smoke Dreams, from that year, stuck only to 1930s and 1940s jazz, blues and jugband standards. It was released in the US in the short-lived quadrophonic format, and very much in demand as a result.

The second album Wangaratta Wahine (1974) included covers of Fats Waller “Your Feet’s Too Big” and tango show tune “Hernando’s Hideaway” from the musical The Pajama Game.

But Mic and new Matchbox multi-instrumentalist Dave Flett were also penning songs, like “Wait For Me Juanita” and “Wangaratta Wahine”.

Legend goes that Jim Conway hated “Wangaratta Wahine” so much that he threatened to quit.

It wasn’t even intended to be a single, but radio started playing it, and they were invited to perform it on Countdown, and it reached #4 nationally.

Cartoonist Michael Leunig’s cover artwork saw it win 1974’s Album Cover of the Year.

Through the years, no less than 34 musicians passed through the ranks – all fine ones, including Stephen Cooney, Eric McCusker, Jimmy Niven, Louis McManus, Dave Hubbard, Peter Inglis, Mick Fleming, Chris Worral and Manny Paterakis.
Some went on to play in major bands, made movies, became major names overseas, and one joined the Hare Krishnas.

When the band began, Mic’s ambition was just to make an album.

In the end, they ended up releasing half a dozen, “two gold records and a ton of bad gigs.”

Early on they appeared in the Tim Burstall film “Stork” and later John Duigan’s1979 film “Dimboola” at about the same time as their last album “Slightly Troppo”.

The end came after the band suffered two disasters.

A nine week tour across the US, six with US bluesman John Lee Hooker, was cancelled when Hooker had a stroke.
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In 1980 they split up after a tragic truck smash which killed a crew member, seriously injured two, and destroyed much of their equipment.

Members remained in the spotlight with The Backsliders, The National Junk Band, The Conway Brothers Hiccups Orchestra and The Nighthawks.

Then in December 2010, Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival asked them to reunite, and they played at the festival which drew 126,000 patrons over six days.

It made sense to extend that to a national tour which saw them return to Ormond Hall.