Little River Band
|Little River Band|
Little River Band performing at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood in October 2006
|Genres||Folk rock, pop rock, soft rock|
|Labels||Harvest, Capitol, EMI|
|Associated acts||Axiom, Mississippi, The Twilights, Zoot, Birtles & Goble, Birtles Shorrock Goble|
|Past members||See Band personnel|
The band chose its name after passing a road sign leading to the Victorian township of Little River, near Geelong, on the way to a performance. The band enjoyed sustained commercial success, not only in Australia but also in the United States. They have sold more than 25 million records and achieved 13 U.S. Top 40 hits, besides many music awards gained in Australia.
The band's original members were Glenn Shorrock (born in England, 1944), Graham Goble (born in Australia, 1947), Beeb Birtles (born in The Netherlands, 1948), Ric Formosa (born in Italy, 1953), Roger McLachlan (born in New Zealand, 1954) and Derek Pellicci (born in England, 1953). The music and lyrics for most of the group's songs were mainly written by Goble and Shorrock, with contributions from Birtles, David Briggs (who replaced Formosa) and Pellicci.
In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "Cool Change", written by Shorrock, as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. The classic line-up of Birtles, Goble, Pellicci, Shorrock, Briggs and bass guitarist George McArdle (who replaced McLachlan) were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame at the 18th Annual ARIA Music Awards of 2004.
The Little River Band has undergone numerous personnel changes since its formation in 1975, with over 30 members performing with the band.
Early years : 1970s
In Australian terms, the original lineup of the Little River Band can be considered a supergroup. Glenn Shorrock had been the lead singer of leading Australian 1960s pop band The Twilights and highly regarded early 1970s country rock band Axiom, alongside Australian singer-songwriter Brian Cadd. Beeb Birtles had been the bassist in the popular 1960s band Zoot (which launched the career of singer-guitarist Rick Springfield), and Goble had led Adelaide folk rock group Allison Gros before forming the harmony-country-rock band Mississippi (joined by Birtles and Pellici), which had enjoyed some chart success in Australia and built up a strong following on the concert and festival circuit; during 1971-72 the original members also recorded under the studio band pseudonym Drummond, scoring a national #1 hit with a novelty cover of the song "Daddy Cool".
LRB found immediate success in Australia, but individual members had greater ambitions. Like other Australian groups of the period, both Axiom and Mississippi had tried to break into the UK record market without success. Axiom disbanded after moving to the UK, and Shorrock sang for a short period with the more progressive rock outfit Esperanto before meeting and joining forces with Birtles, Goble and Pellicci in 1974. They agreed to meet back in their homeland by early 1975. Remembering the indifferent reaction they had received in the UK, they decided their new band would focus on establishing themselves in the United States.
A key factor in their eventual success was a fellow Australian they had met while in England who became their manager, Glenn Wheatley. Wheatley had been the bassist in the highly regarded Australian rock band The Masters Apprentices and his first-hand experiences of the rip-offs in the 1960s music scene, combined with his subsequent experience working in music management in Britain and the United States in the early 1970s, allowed him to help the Little River Band become the first Australian group to enjoy consistent commercial and chart success in the United States.
Encouraged by a very successful Australian hit single, "Curiosity Killed the Cat", the band began making promotional visits to the United States in September 1976, which resulted in a US hit single, "It's a Long Way There" (edited down from the album track, which went for over eight minutes long). The song broke into the US Top 30 and galvanised the commitment of the band members.
Success and changes of personnel
Just before they began touring abroad, lead guitarist Ric Formosa, apparently not enthusiastic about touring outside of Australia, left the group in August 1976 to pursue other musical interests and was replaced by David Briggs. At the same time, the group decided to replace bassist Roger McLachlan, who left to join Stars and was replaced by George McArdle. However, Formosa remained in touch with his former bandmates and conducted and wrote string parts for several songs after he officially left the band.
More concert performances in the U.S. followed and in 1977 "Help Is on Its Way" (an Australian #1 single) and "Happy Anniversary" were both mid-top 20 Hot 100 singles. From 1978 until 1981, the Little River Band achieved one gold album (Diamantina Cocktail, released in 1977) and two platinum albums (Sleeper Catcher in 1978 and First Under the Wire in 1979) plus six US Top 10 singles with "Reminiscing" (#3, their biggest hit), "Lady" (#10), "Lonesome Loser" (#6), "Cool Change" (#10), "The Night Owls" (#6) and "Take It Easy on Me" (#10). During their career they have sold more than 25 million records and scored 13 American Top 40 hits.
From 1976 through 1985, the group maintained a constant touring schedule which kept it in the U.S. for long periods of time and may have contributed to much of the constant shuffling of personnel. For example: The band's schedule was so busy that when drummer Derek Pellicci was severely injured in a gas grill fire in May 1978, the band brought in a substitute drummer (Geoff Cox) rather than cancel shows. Drummer Cox remained with the group through the summer of 1978 and even played alongside Pellicci after he came back until he was healed enough to continue on his own. A keyboardist, Mal Logan, was added in time for another U.S. tour in late 1978.
Bassist McArdle left the band in 1978. He went on to take up Bible study, eventually pursuing a path as a minister. Barry Sullivan took over on bass until American Wayne Nelson, currently the group's lead singer, joined in April 1980. In 1981, he provided lead vocals for their Top 10 U.S. hit "Night Owls", the debut single from their Time Exposure album; and shared vocal duties with Shorrock on the next single "Take It Easy on Me". Time Exposure had been recorded in Montserrat with famed Beatles producer George Martin.
Guitarist Stephen Housden joined the band in August 1981 replacing David Briggs (who left over musical disagreements) right as Time Exposure was being released. Housden currently owns the legal rights to the name "Little River Band". He co-wrote the band's last hit in Australia, "Love Is a Bridge", in 1988.
John Farnham years: 1982–1986
In early 1982 Shorrock went on to pursue a solo career but failed to make much of an impression in the U.S.. He did, however, have a substantial hit in Australia with a revival of Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover".
John Farnham replaced Shorrock in February 1982 and "Man on Your Mind" (the third single released from Time Exposure and the last to feature Shorrock until 1988) reached No. 14 in the U.S. The first single with Farnham as lead vocalist, "The Other Guy" (one of two new offerings on their Greatest Hits album, released in November 1982), reached #11 in the U.S., while the next single, "We Two", from their album The Net (May 1983), reached #22 in the U.S. That same year, "You're Driving Me Out of My Mind" became the group's last single to reach the U.S. Top 40. Subsequent singles were only minor charters. In Australia, the band continued to be popular and songs such as "Down on the Border" and "Playing to Win" were major hits. At this point the band sought to move towards a more "80's style" sound and added keyboardist David Hirschfelder in September 1983.
The pressures of success and constant touring took their toll on the band as the lineup continued to turnover. Birtles left in October 1983 because he did not like the harder, more progressive musical path the band was taking and because he was not a fan of Farnham's vocal and performance style. He was not replaced. Pellicci left in February 1984 for similar reasons. Steve Prestwich (formerly of Cold Chisel) was brought in as new drummer while Birtles was not replaced.
The Little River Band performed four songs for the 1985 Oz for Africa concert (part of the global Live Aid program)---"Don't Blame Me", "Full Circle", "Night Owls", and "Playing to Win". It was broadcast in Australia (on both Seven Network and Nine Network) and on MTV in the US. "Don't Blame Me" and "Night Owls" were also broadcast by American Broadcasting Company during their Live Aid telecast ("Night Owls" was only partially transmitted).
Farnham left in May 1986 following the completion of the group's short Australian tour (which featured drummer Malcolm Wakeford in Prestwich's place) in support of their album No Reins. He continued to be managed by Glenn Wheatley and his solo career took off almost immediately with the release of the successful Whispering Jack.
Shorrock's return: 1988–1996
After Farnham's 1986 departure, LRB was essentially in limbo until the following year when Shorrock and Pellicci returned at the suggestion of Irving Azoff, who was now the head of MCA Records and brought the band over to the label. With Shorrock and Pellicci back in the fold, along with remaining members Goble, Housden, and Nelson, the group released two LPs on MCA, Monsoon in June 1988 (from which the single "Love Is a Bridge" was a moderate Adult Contemporary radio hit in the U.S.) and Get Lucky (February 1990). (MCA released a compilation of tracks from those two LPs on their Curb Records imprint in 1991 entitled Worldwide Love).
Goble ceased touring with the group in 1989 and left altogether by 1990. Peter Beckett (formerly of Player) joined in 1989 to take Goble's place and the group went through a series of keyboard players: James Roche (1988–1990), Tony Sciuto (1990–1992, 1993–1997), Richard Bryant (ex-Doobie Brothers) (1992–1993), Adrian Scott (ex-Air Supply) (1998–1999), and Glenn Reither (1999–2004), before Chris Marion arrived at the end of 2004.
Shorrock left again in 1996. He was offered the option to buy out the remaining members. He decided to take his one-third share of the monetary value of the company as he did not want to commit to the band's U.S. touring schedule. He was replaced by Melbourne singer Steve Wade. Wayne Nelson also left in 1996. Hal Tupea then came in as bassist. This lineup lasted until late 1997. At that point, everyone, except Wade, departed and Derek Pellicci left again in early 1998, leaving Housden as sole owner of the band's trademark.
In 1998 Housden brought in new players Kevin Murphy (vocals, drums, percussion), Paul Gildea (vocals, guitars) and Adrian Scott (vocals, keyboards, ex-Air Supply), and brought back Roger McLachlan, the group's original bass player, who made a surprise return after 22 years. But McLachlan's second tenure was short lived. Both he and Scott departed after a year, not accustomed to the band's heavy touring schedule abroad. Wayne Nelson then returned (in early 1999) and Glenn Reither joined as keyboardist. But the revolving door of personnel continued as Wade and Gildea were next to leave in early 2000. Australian Greg Hind (vocals, guitars) then jumped aboard as Nelson took over most of the lead singing. The lineup of Housden, Nelson, Hind, Murphy & Reither was stable for almost five years and appeared on three releases: Where We Started From (2000), One Night in Mississippi (2002) and Test of Time (2004).
At the end of 2004, Glenn Reither and Kevin Murphy left the band after more than six years. Chris Marion took over keyboards while Kip Raines took over drumming duties temporarily until Billy Thomas joined in early 2005. Housden left the touring band in 2006, although he participates in the band's recordings and management. Rich Herring took over lead guitar on tour and Mel Watts replaced Thomas on drums in 2007 after Thomas suffered a shoulder injury. Ryan Ricks subsequently replaced Watts in 2012.
Three founding members, Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble, went on to perform reunion concerts (in 2002-2007), but because they relinquished the legal rights to the name "Little River Band" they appeared under the name "Birtles Shorrock Goble." The current Little River Band play songs written by Birtles, Shorrock and Goble along with new material. Founding members Goble and Birtles shared their frustration through song, with Goble recording "Someone's Taken Our History" and Birtles recording "Revolving Door".
An appearance by the current Little River Band scheduled for 12 January 2015 on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was cancelled after complaints from original members concerning the present lineup's promotion of a 40th anniversary where no current member of the band was involved in its formation. Permission for any song written by Goble, Shorrock, Birtles or Briggs was refused for the performance, which left no hits for the current band to play. Little River Band made no reference to these developments, instead blaming the cancellation of The Tonight Show appearance on the program's refusal to allow them to play any of their new songs.
The Little River Band is considered to be among Australia's most significant bands. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "Cool Change" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. The "classic lineup" of the band (Birtles, Shorrock, Goble, Pellicci, Briggs, and McArdle) were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame at the 18th Annual ARIA Music Awards of 2004. They performed "Help Is On Its Way" at the induction ceremony in Australia on 17 October 2004. Shorrock, who wrote "Cool Change", had previously been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1991.
"Reminiscing", written by Goble, was recognised by BMI as one of the most frequently played songs in the history of American radio, with more than five million plays. "Lady" has also accumulated more than three million plays. Goble is the only Australian songwriter ever to win a Five Million Air award from BMI. According to Albert Goldman's biography, John Lennon named "Reminiscing" as one of his favourite songs. May Pang, erstwhile girlfriend of Lennon, said they considered "Reminiscing" as "our song".
LRB were mentioned in the film The Other Guys when the character played by Will Ferrell played "Reminiscing" while driving in his Toyota Prius. The character played by Mark Wahlberg threw the CD out the window, but Will Ferrell played it again later on and said that he always had six identical LRB CDs in his car.
- Wayne Nelson - bass (1980-1996, 1999–present), lead vocals (2000–present)
- Greg Hind - guitar, vocals (2000–present)
- Chris Marion - keyboards, vocals (2004–present)
- Rich Herring - guitar, vocals (2006–present)
- Ryan Ricks - drums, vocals (2012–present)
- Deceased members
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- 01 Jun 1978 - Pellicci to miss much of tour
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- 22 Sep 1982 - Moore on pop
- "Oz for Africa". liveaid.free.fr. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
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- "Someone's Taken Our History". graehamgoble.com. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- Cashmere, Paul. "Beeb Birtles Says Screw You To Current Little River Band". noise11.com. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show request reignites bitter Little River Band feud - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- "Despite our requests to perform a song... - Little River Band - Facebook".
- Sams, Christine (12 September 2004). "ARIAs reunite Little River Band". smh.com.au. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
- "ARIA 2008 Hall of Fame inductees listing". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
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- Steve Prestwich obituary
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- update on band feud
- Little River Band official website
- Little River Band official Myspace
- Stephen Housden's official site
- Birtles Shorrock Goble
- Beeb Birtles' site
- Graham Goble's site, includes preview clips from his latest album
- Graeham Goble's official Myspace
- Glenn Shorrock's official Myspace
- Roger McLachlan official website
- Little River Band: Born In The Sign of Water, originally published in Goldmine magazine, written by Chuck Miller
- David Briggs website
- George McArdle's biography
- Interview with Wayne Nelson on Yuzu Melodies