Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2017 May-Jun Contents 66 Rhythms
In the 1970s the blues boom had officially hit Australia.
Musicians across the country were grabbing hold of BB
King, Muddy Waters, John Lee and the likes, enduring
the hard yards and emulating every lick, every note,
every move the feel freaks made on their fretboards,
turning their white boy tribulations into tracks that
were dripping with solitary tones and emotion.
Among the flourishing Blues groups revelling in their
successes were equally talented yet not-so-lucky bands
that faded away into the corners of Australia’s music scene
almost as quickly as they appeared, one of those groups was
Carson County Band was formed in Melbourne in 1968 by
Greg “Sleepy” Lawrie, a slide guitar and Dobro aficionado,
who fell for the charms of the genre after discovering a vinyl
set on the roots of America’s music.
“With Carson County Band, I wanted to get some guys
together who wanted to play that kind of rock ‘n’ roll blues
blues the way white guys play it but with a particularly
Australian approach. I first heard blues music on a piece I
got from the Library of Congress, it was called The Roots
of American Music. It was a four-vinyl multitrack record. It
had all the early blues and country-blues guys on it, anyone
you’d ever want to hear,” he said.
By 1972 Lawrie had found the fellow blues performers
he’d been hoping to. With Broderick Smith on vocals and
harmonica, Tony Lunt on drums, Ian Winter on guitar, Gary
Clarke on bass, and Mal Capewell on saxophone, Carson
was born, and newly appointed front-man Smith says
joining the group was a no-brainer.
“Carson were nice guys, and they were working so it was
fairly easy for me to slip into the outfit as I had started in
blues-based groups in the western and northern suburbs
of Melbourne, blue collar areas. I particularly liked the two
guitarists as they were very strong,” said Lawrie.
With relentless five-nights-a-week touring, a solid band of
like-minded musicians, and a debut record in the pipeline,
success seemed imminent. In November of ‘72, Blown was
released on EMI/Harvest Records topping the Go-Set
charts at Number 14, and garnering a Top 30 hit single with
‘Boogie’. It was by this time that the band was due to play
the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival in Victoria, and support
rock ‘n’ roll heavyweights at the Mulwala Pop Festival.
Supporting Stephen Stills and Canned Heat at the Mulwala
Pop Festival was another defining moment for Carson.
Lawrie said that from that point on he and the band were
hopeful that with persistence and a sturdy line-up of gigs
supporting the right rock ‘n’ rollers international triumph
would be theirs.
“We could have easily had international success had we
stayed together a while longer! A lot of American guys
liked our stuff, we did two tours with Muddy Waters when
he came over here... Buddy Guy and Junior Wells came out
here to play a gig at the Garrison Club in Melbourne and
Carson supported them. Buddy’s brother Philip Guy got up
and played with us, I’ve got a CD of us performing ‘Stormy
Monday’, and its Philip Guy singing with Carson, Broderick
Smith on harmonica. That was a memorable moment.
“I remember Buddy Guy said to me, ‘We go all over the
world and Melbourne is the furthest we’ve ever come from
Chicago, and man when we saw you guys playing like that
we were blown away.’”
Smith remembers things in a different light, saying that
in retrospect the band had aimed themselves at the wrong
“Looking back, if the group had gone to Europe instead
of the UK it might have done ok, and maybe lead them
to the US. The UK scene by the early ‘70s was very loud
progressive rock, or satin and codpiece glam rock.”
Their final LP, On the Air, a live recording from their set at
Sunbury in ‘73, was released in April of that year by which
time they had already disbanded.
“We got till about 1973 and disbanded as the mainstream
rock industry had started. Mushroom wanted to sign up
Broderick, and as it turned out he was the only one of the lot
of us who could sing and do the front-man thing! I’ve never
been a singer, or performer, a show business person and so
it more or less disintegrated because the rest of us weren’t
able to do the vocal part,” said Lawrie.
Smith recalls that his decision to leave was spurred on by
the band “running out of steam,” and by ‘73 the absence of
a vocalist wasn’t the only issue pushing the blues brothers
away from their dreams. Money, or lack thereof, had taken
its toll on the group, ultimately forcing them to call it a day.
“We played with a few people in the hopes of finding
another singer, but we were playing five nights a week
and we weren’t making enough money to keep going. The
resources weren’t there to attract some well-known singer to
fill in the spot so it was a bit harder to find someone, there
just weren’t a lot of guys around in that era who could do
that harmonica thing, and were interested in playing rock ‘n’
roll blues,” Lawrie recounts.
While the chances of a Carson reunion are slim to none,
Lawrie says that he’s noticed a recurring interest in the
outfit’s LPs over recent years. People are continuing to
discover their music, whilst Lawrie continues to practice his
craft with a spiritedness, and that in itself is a victory.
CHLOE KAY RICHARDSON
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