Ayers Rock (band)

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Ayers Rock
Also known as Burton McGuire & Kennedy
Origin Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genres Jazz fusion, progressive rock
Years active 1973 (1973)–1981 (1981)
Labels Mushroom, Festival, A&M, RCA, Red Rock
Associated acts The Delltones, Jim Keays
Past members
  • Ray Burton
  • Mark Kennedy
  • Duncan McGuire
  • Jimmy Doyle
  • Col Loughnan
  • Chris Brown
  • Keith Caisey
  • Andy Cowan
  • Doug Gallacher
  • Russell Dunlop
  • Steve Hogg
  • Joe Tattersall
  • Hamish Stuart
  • John Young

Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band which formed in 1973. Early members were Ray Burton on guitar and vocals, Duncan McGuire on bass guitar, and Mark Kennedy on drums who formed a trio Burton McGuire & Kennedy in June 1973. In August, after Jimmy Doyle had joined on lead guitar, the group changed their name to Ayers Rock. The band's first two albums, Big Red Rock (1974) and Beyond (1976) both reached the top 50 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart, whilst their third album, Hot Spell (1980) failed to chart. They released six singles, none of which broke into the singles charts. They toured Australia and the United States extensively; Ian McFarlane noted that "Ayers Rock was the first Australian band to play to massive crowds on the USA touring circuit".[1] They disbanded in 1981. Rock music historians praised the group's musicianship and noted they had a dilemma between a commercial sound and a more artistically adventurous or serious approach.[2][3]

Australian music scene[edit]

The Australian popular music scene in the early 1970s was composed mainly of artists in the pop (for example Zoot, Liv Maessen), blues rock (Chain), heavy rock (Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs) and boogie genres (Carson). Added to the mix were bands that combined mainstream rock songs with progressive rock material (Blackfeather, Madder Lake). Most pop/rock music patrons had never heard jazz fusion, and there were extremely few local bands playing fusion.[4] When Ayers Rock introduced some jazz fusion material to their sets, it was a completely new sound.

Another aspect of the Aussie scene was a deep sense of frustration that so few Australian bands had been successful overseas. Many had ventured to the UK, tried their hardest, but ultimately failed (The Twilights,[5] The Masters Apprentices,[6] The Groop, Axiom, etc.). The Australian music press lamented this situation on a regular basis.

This period, also, saw the rapid expansion of pub rock venues in the southern, and eastern states.[7]

History - first era[edit]


Ayers Rock were an Australian jazz fusion, progressive rock band formed in Melbourne in August 1973.[1] In June that year, the original line-up of Ray Burton, Mark Kennedy, and Duncan McGuire had created an eponymous trio, Burton McGuire & Kennedy.[1] Burton, on guitar, had played with The Dave Bridge Quartet, The Delltones, and The Executives, and worked with Australian singer, Helen Reddy, in the United States, where together they co-wrote her international 1971 hit "I Am Woman".[8][3] McGuire, on bass guitar, was also a recording engineer and producer, and had been in Australian groups since the late 1950s, including The Phantoms, The Epics, The Questions (which later became Doug Parkinson In Focus), and with King Harvest.[3] Kennedy, on drums, had previously played in Spectrum, on sessions for King Harvest, and for Leo de Castro and Friends.[3]

The trio were joined by guitarist Jimmy Doyle, whose previous credits included The Delltones and Dig Richards, and who had worked as musical director for pianist Winifred Atwell on her Australian tours. Doyle was also a session player on Neil Sedaka's 1969 studio album, Workin' on a Groovy Thing, and the related Australian single, "Wheeling West Virginia", both of which were recorded in Sydney. Burton, McGuire, and Kennedy worked in and around Melbourne until, in August 1973, they changed their name to Ayers Rock – for the Australian landmark of the same name.[1] In October they were joined by multi-instrumentalist Col Loughnan on saxophone, flute, and keyboards.[1] Loughnan started his career as a vocalist (in the 1960s he was lead singer of The Crescents, and then The Delltones),[1] before diversifying into arranging, and playing tenor saxophone with The Daly-Wilson Big Band.[4] By December Ayers Rock had signed to Mushroom Records and issued their first single, "Rock 'N Roll Fight (Going On)".[1]

Sunbury and first album[edit]

In January 1974 Ayers Rock performed at the Sunbury Pop Festival – their Burton-penned track, "Morning Magic", appeared on Mushroom Records live album, Highlights of Sunbury '74.[3] In March Burton returned to the US and was replaced on guitar and vocals by Chris Brown (ex-Python Lee Jackson, Kala).[1] During that year Ayers Rock issued their debut album, Big Red Rock, which was recorded live-in-the-studio at Armstrong's Studios in Melbourne. Vernon Joynson found the album was "an excellent example of jazz rock fusion Australian style. The musicianship is of high quality although it tends to become a little over-indulgent in places". It includes "radio friendly" material and three tracks "filled with fine virtuoso guitar and saxophone".[2] He felt that despite being "quite a popular live act their recordings were hampered by a dilemma over whether to opt for a more serious pursuit of expanding the horizons or for a commercial sound".[2]

In November they released a single, "Lady Montego", which was a new version of a McGuire-penned track originally performed by Friends.[3][9] In January the following year Tony Catterall of The Canberra Times declared that the group "has absorbed its influences so well that they're almost unrecognisable in the final product. And into this synthesis the band has infused some things peculiarly Australian".[10] He praised the title track in which Loughnan "[evokes] the power surrounding the area [of Uluru] in a burst of truly inspired musicianship".[10] Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski spruiked the band to US labels and had them signed with A&M Records.[4] Gudinski told Tony Wilson of The Sun (Melbourne) that "Jerry Moss, the president of A&M Records USA, flipped when he heard it, so A&M will release it world-wide."[11] In January 1975 the group performed at the next Sunbury Pop Festival. From late 1975 to early 1976, they promoted Big Red Rock by touring the U.S.[1] Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane cited Ayers Rock as the first Australian band to tour the U.S. and play in front of large crowds.[1] In fact, they were years ahead of the Little River Band, AC/DC, and Air Supply.[1]

Outback scene with mountains in the background
Beyond front cover (U.S. release).
What appeared to be mountains (above), now becomes head of an aboriginal man
Beyond front cover rotated right.
Two views of the U.S. release of Beyond showing an outback scene (top), and the head of an Australian aboriginal man (bottom). Cover design by Ian McCausland.

Second album[edit]

During September 1975, while in the US, the group recorded their second album, Beyond at The Record Plant, L.A. In February 1976, before its release, Kennedy left to join Marcia Hines '​ backing band and was temporarily replaced by Doug Gallacher.[1] In April 1976 Beyond was issued in Australia, and America. A unique feature of the U.S. album cover is that the "rock" in the distance appears to change into the head of an aboriginal man when the cover is rotated to the right (illustrated). The album spawned two singles, "Little Kings" (October 1975) and "Song for Darwin" (May 1976) – but neither were successful on the charts.[1] In May, Gallacher was replaced by Russell Dunlop (ex-Aesop's Fables, Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA, Mother Earth, Johnny Rocco Band).[1] In 1976 from May to July they toured the US again, however they "only achieved limited success overseas".[1] After that tour Dunlop, Loughnan, and McGuire all left, and remaining members Brown and Doyle placed the project in a year long hiatus.[1]

History - second era[edit]

Brown and Doyle reconvened the band with Bermuda-born Keith Caisey on percussion, Joe Tattersall on drums (Healing Force, Barry Leef Band) and John Young on bass guitar (De Castro). By 1978 the line-up of Brown, Caisey, and Doyle were joined by Andy Cowan on keyboards and vocals (Madder Lake), Steve Hogg on bass guitar (Bakery), and Hamish Stewart on drums.[1]

In March 1980 Ayers Rock issued another single, "On the Avenue" followed in May by a third LP, Hotspell, on Red Rock Records, distributed by RCA Records. It was recorded at The Music Farm, Byron Bay, and engineered by former member, McGuire.[12] According to The Canberra Times '​ Luis Feliu's review of the album and a July 1980 gig, Ayers Rock were "once Australia's hottest progressive rock" group,[13] at their peak. However not all audience members at the Sydney performance in 1980 agreed with the band's direction; Feliu reported that "a few comments of dissatisfaction, like 'boring', were heard, then that was at the bar up the back".[13] In July 1981 the group released a final single, "Lies", but disbanded that year. According to McFarlane, the members "were seen as 'musician's musicians'. The band issued a series of technically proficient recordings, but in the long run any quest for commercial acceptance was marred by the seriousness of the music".[1][disputed ]


In late 1974 Ayers Rock members Brown, McGuire, Kennedy, and Loughnan[14] performed on several tracks on Jim Keays' debut solo album, The Boy from the Stars.[15][16] At the January 1975 Sunbury Pop Festival, Keays performed most of the album's tracks live with the three Ayers Rock members joining the ensemble to record "Nothing Much Left" and "Urantia".[15][16] Upon return to the US, Burton was a session player for Billy Joel, Dave Mason and Jimmy Webb; he wrote "Best Friend" for the feature film Airport 1975 (1974).[17] In 1976 Burton formed the Ray Burton Band with Rex Bullen, Terry Gascoine, Steve Hogg and Tim Piper.[18] From 1977 to 1980 McGuire was a bass guitarist for The Southern Star Band alongside Doug Parkinson on vocals, Tommy Emmanuel on guitar and Kennedy on drums.[18][19] In 1978 Burton issued a solo album, Dreamers and Nightflyers, which spawned the singles, "Too Hard to Handle" and "Paddington Green". After touring with Crossfire in 1979, he returned to the US to work as a songwriter.[17][18]

In 1983 Cowan joined a short-lived reformation of Blackfeather by Neale Johns.[20] The album No Worries by Georgie Fame (1988) featured three Ayers Rock alumni: Loughnan, Doyle, and Dunlop.[21] McGuire died in July 1989 from a brain tumour.[1] In the late 1980s, Hogg formed The Rhythm Snakes with Clayton Black on drums, Howie Smallman on harmonica and Bob Thorne on guitar.[22] In 1989, Hogg assembled a studio band to record an album of his own material with Thorne, Mark Alderman on harmonica, Ian Ironside on drums, Bob Patient on piano and Bernie Payne on saxophone.[22] Hogg died on 20 July 1990, and the album, Various Fools & Vices, appeared in 1992.[22] In 1993 Kennedy drummed for The Blazing Salads, with Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Rex Goh and Kirk Lorange.[18] In 1998 Hamish Stuart supplied drums for Chris Abrahams and Melanie Oxley's album, Jerusalem Bay.[23] Doyle died in May 2006 from liver cancer.[3] Loughnan is a lecturer in saxophone (jazz) at the University of Sydney's Conservatorium of Music and has been a member of the Jazz Faculty since 1979.[24] In 2007 he released a solo album, Ellen St.[24]


  • Duncan McGuire - bass guitar (1973-1976; died 1989)
  • Mark Kennedy - drums (1973-1976)
  • Ray Burton - guitar, vocals (1973-1974)
  • Jimmy Doyle - guitar, vocals (1973-1981; died 2006)
  • Col Loughnan - saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, vocals (1973-1976)
  • Chris Brown - guitar, vocals (1974-1981)
  • Andy Cowan - keyboards (1978-1981)
  • Keith Caisey - percussion (1977-1981)
  • John Young - bass guitar (1977-1978)
  • Steve Hogg - bass guitar (1978-1981; died 1990)
  • Russell Dunlop - drums (1976)
  • Doug Gallacher - drums (1976)
  • Joe Tattersall - drums (1977)
  • Hamish Stuart - drums (1978-1981)




  • "Rock N Roll Fight" (December 1973)
  • "Lady Montego" (November 1974)
  • "Little Kings" (1975)
  • "Song for Darwin" (1976)
  • "On the Avenue" (1979)
  • "Lies"/ Feel The Heat" (1981)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s McFarlane, 'Ayers Rock' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Joynson, Vernon (1999). "'Ayers Rock' Entry". Dreams, fantasies, and nightmares from far away lands: Canadian, Australasian, and Latin American rock and pop, 1963-75. Borderline Productions. ISBN 978-1-899855-10-0. Archived from the original on 4 June 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kimball, Duncan; Burton, Ray; Loughnan, Col (2006). "Ayers Rock". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Kilby, David; Kilby, Jordie (8 December 2011). "Rare Collections". Jazz-Rock in Australia. 666 ABC Canberra. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Kimball, Duncan (2006). "The Twilights" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  6. ^ McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Master's Apprentices'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Kimball, Duncan (2006). "Australasian popular music of the 1960s and 1970s -- an overview" Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Note: section headed: "The Third Wave", 1970-75. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  8. ^ "'I Am Woman' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2012.  Note: Helen Reddy is given as H Wald – her then-married name.
  9. ^ "'Lady Montego' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Catterall, Tony (6 January 1975). "Rock Music: Surprisingly Good Australian Rock". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 11. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Tony (1 May 1975). "How Mushroom started to grow ...". The Sun News-Pictorial. (Melbourne). p. 4.
  12. ^ Hotspell (LP album notes). Ayers Rock. Red Rock Records. May 1980. 
  13. ^ a b Feliu, Luis (7 July 1980). "Best of both Armatradings". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 11. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  14. ^ The Boy from the Stars CD discogs.com entry. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  15. ^ a b The Boy from the Stars (Media notes). Jim Keays. EMI Records. 1974. EMA. 308. 
  16. ^ a b McFarlane, 'Jim Keays' entry. Archived from the original on 30 September 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  17. ^ a b McFarlane, 'Ray Burton' entry. Archived from the original on 28 June 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d Entries at Australian Rock Database:
    • Rex Bullen: Holmgren, Magnus. "Rex Bullen". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
    • Tommy Emmanuel: Holmgren, Magnus; Carruthers, Melody. "Tommy Emmanuel". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
    • Brian Cadd: Holmgren, Magnus. "Brian Cadd". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "Doug Parkinson". Australian Jazz Agency. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  20. ^ McFarlane, 'Blackfeather' entry. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  21. ^ No worries (LP album notes). Georgie Fame. Four Leaf Clover Records. 1988. ASIN B0083L40WC. 
  22. ^ a b c McFarlane, 'Bakery' entry. Archived from the original on 20 April 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  23. ^ McFarlane, 'Chris Abrahams' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  24. ^ a b "Col Loughnan". Sydney Conservatorium of Music. University of Sydney. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.  Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  26. ^ a b Ryan (bulion), Gary (23 August 2012). "Albums Pre 1989 Part 2 – Ayers Rock". Australian Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  27. ^ "Who's Who of Australian Rock / Compiled by Chris Spencer, Zbig Nowara & Paul McHenry". catalogue. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 

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