|Born||July 1943 (age 79)|
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Genres||folk, jazz, blues|
|Labels||Move, Jazznote, Infinity/Festival|
Margret RoadKnight (born in July 1943) is an Australian singer-guitarist. In a career spanning more than five decades, she has sung in a wide variety of styles including blues, jazz, gospel, comedy, cabaret, and folk. In January 1976 she released a cover version of Bob Hudson's album track, "Girls in Our Town", as a single, which reached the Kent Music Report Singles Chart Top 40.
Margret RoadKnight was born in July 1943 in Melbourne. She had no formal singing lessons, "harmonizing with my mother and sister while we did the housework that sort of thing and the usual school choir and church choir." For her secondary education RoadKnight attended Santa Maria Ladies College, Northcote. She became a recreation worker in East Melbourne and "taught art and craft, games and sport to kids from 3 to 17 years old for two and an half years." RoadKnight's early inspirations were Harry Belafonte, Odetta and Nina Simone. Her first performance was on Mother's Day, May 1963 at the Emerald Hill Theatre. Her mother was in attendance at the debut gig, but she died in the following year. RoadKnight replaced Judith Durham (who was joining rising folk quartet The Seekers) as lead singer of the trad jazz band Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers at Frank Traynor's Folk and Jazz Club, for a weekly residency.
In the 1960s and 1970s, RoadKnight appeared on numerous television programmes including Folkmoot, hosted by Leonard Teale, Dave's Place, hosted by the Kingston Trio's Dave Guard, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's national weekly current affairs program, Open-End. RoadKnight's debut album was a live set, People Get Ready (November 1973), which was recorded at Frank Traynor's Folk Club. Her backing band for the night were Ian Clarke on drums and percussion; Martin Doley on guitars and backing vocals; Peter Doley on flute, kazoo, maracas and backing vocals; Peter Howell on bass guitar; and Bob Vinnard on piano, organ and backing vocals. According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, she provided "covers of material by the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Duke Ellington, Joni Mitchell and Malvina Reynolds."
RoadKnight and Dutch Tilders issued a split album, Australian Jazz of the 70s Vol. 5: The Blues Singers (1974). The Canberra Times's Michael Foster described her as a "big, big-voiced and big-hearted woman" and she "sings with that same gut-tearing intensity but tends to give more prominence to the traditional blues, the songs which blossomed in the dusty earth of the plantations." He felt that "Of all the women I have heard singing the blues Miss Roadknight comes closest to the sound of-the great: exponents... of another generation, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith." At the end of that year, she received a government travel grant to study contemporary music in the United States.
In January 1976 she released a cover version of Bob Hudson's album track, "Girls in Our Town", as a single, which reached the Kent Music Report Singles Chart Top 40. According to Rachael Lucas of Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Open the track "painted a cruel trajectory for teenage girls living in country towns; teenage school drop outs, lonely cashiers and factory workers, with nothing to keep them entertained but vanity and promiscuity." RoadKnight included the single on her third album, Margret RoadKnight, which was issued in October 1976. It appeared on the Infinity label via Festival Records and was co-produced by Russell Dunlop (of Ayers Rock), Simon Heath and Wahanui Wynyard. Her second single from the album is "Love Tastes Like Strawberries".
From August 1977 the singer travelled and performed across Europe and the US for six months. Her fourth album, Ice, appeared in 1978; it included material written by fellow Australians. Also in that year she issued "Raw Deal" as a non-album single – the theme song for a feature film of the same name from the previous year. Foster's colleague, Brownwyn Watson, caught RoadKnight's gig in July 1978: the singer had "a striking presence on stage and her folk-blues combination of songs were sometimes amusing, sometimes sad." Late that year she performed in China as a member of the Australian Theatre People's Group.
In 1980 RoadKnight and two friends formed the promotional group Honky Tonk Angels (which also became the name of her record label) to mount the first Australian solo tour by the acclaimed American singer-songwriter and slide guitarist Ellen McIlwaine, who toured Australian capital cities in November 1980 (with RoadKnight as the support act) to great critical acclaim.
Her next album, Out of Fashion... Not Out of Style (1981) included another single, "I'll Be Gone" – a cover version of Spectrum's 1971 number-one hit. The album was co-produced by RoadKnight with Warren Barnett. Her backing group were Judy Bailey on keyboards; Bob Hudson on harmonica; Sandy Kogan on Jew's harp and washboard; Graham Lowndes on vocals and acoustic guitar; Ellen McIllwaine on vocals, slide guitar and organ; Steve Murphy on guitar; Chris Qua on bass guitar and Willie Qua on drums. Garry Raffaele, another The Canberra Times reporter, saw her at a Sydney show where "she moves from traditional blues to traditional Australian to Miles Davis, then to Evita. Such eclecticism is admirable for its intent... [she] almost carries it off... Her strength is in the blues – Ma Rainey stuff; this is what she docs best. She is not Evita nor is she Elkie Brookes."
RoadKnight's first compilation album, Living in the Land of Oz, appeared in 1984, which included her version of the title track – a cover of Ross Wilson's track for the 1976 film, Oz. Robert Christgau rated the album as B+ and felt that "she musters an impressively gruff blues timbre and on occasion some rudimentary swing, I'm not convinced she always goes flat on purpose, and when she emotes she may strain the credulity even of those who set their standards by Nick Cave and Olivia Newton-John." During 1984 RoadKnight also acted as promoter for the second Australian tour by Ellen Mcilwaine.
In February 1987 she was a member of Je Ne Sais Choir, along with Jarnie Birmingham, Mara Kiek and Moya Simpson. That choir supported Frankie Armstrong's tour of Australia. Also in 1987 and 1988 RoadKnight, as well as performing, was the musical director of Deep Bells Ring, a musical theatre presentation of Paul Robeson's songs and biography.
By October 1993 Je Ne Sais Choir were renamed as Girls in Your Town and they undertook their own tour. According to Foster the a cappella quartet sing "songs of the '50s and '60s along with gospel, jazz, drinking, and barbershop songs and African chants."
|Title||Album details||Peak chart|
|People Get Ready||
|Australian Jazz of the 70s Vol. 5: The Blues Singers
(split album by Margret RoadKnight and Dutch Tilders)
|Out of Fashion... Not Out of Style||
|Living in the Land of Oz||
|At The School Of Arts Cafe||
|1976||"Girls in Our Town"||53||Margret Roadknight|
|"Love Tastes Like Strawberries"||-|
|1978||"Raw Deal"||-||Raw Deal soundtrack|
|1981||"I'll Be Gone"||-||Out Of Fashion... Not Out of Style|
Awards and nominations
Australian Women in Music Awards
The Australian Women in Music Awards is an annual event that celebrates outstanding women in the Australian Music Industry who have made significant and lasting contributions in their chosen field. They commenced in 2018.
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|2018||Margret RoadKnight||Lifetime Achievement Award||awarded|
- "Biography". Margret RoadKnight Official Website. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Barnard, Rebecca. "Women in Jazz – Victorian Jazz Stories". Culture Victoria. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Broughton, John (2003). "Interviews – Margret RoadKnight – Transcription". Retrospectives. Retrieved 26 June 2016 – via Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions.
- RoadKnight, Margret (2001). "Margret RoadKnight Profile". The Folk Rag. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- Jackson, Andra (17 May 2008). "Feeling blue? Come to Mama – Music – Entertainment". The Age. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Margret RoadKnight'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004.
- Kimball, Duncan (2002). "The Seekers". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Archived from the original on 14 March 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Foster, Michael (6 January 1975). "Turntable: Two Accomplished Blues Singers". The Canberra Times. p. 11. Retrieved 5 October 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
- 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.
- "PBS 106.7FM - Real Radio - Callin All Cats". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
- Lucas, Rachel (30 April 2013). "'Girls in our Town'". Open. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- RoadKnight, Margret (1976), Margret RoadKnight, Infinity, retrieved 26 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia
- "Margret Packs Jazz & Blues Punch". The Age. 4 November 1976. p. 44.
- Watson, Bronwyn (15 July 1978). "Music: Martyn stylish but low-key". The Canberra Times. Vol. 52, no. 15, 637. p. 14. Retrieved 25 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Of the Streets". The Canberra Times. Vol. 55, no. 16, 586. 23 February 1981. p. 9. Retrieved 26 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- Christgau, Robert. "Album: Margaret Roadknight: Living in the Land of Oz". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- Hefner, Richard (5 February 1987). "The Good Times: Singing with special insight". The Canberra Times. p. 2 Supplement. Retrieved 9 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Event: Deep Bells Ring". AusStage. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "Theatre Program – Deep Bells Ring (musical) by Nancy Wills with the Songs of Paul Robeson performed at the Athenaeum Theatre commencing 21 March 1988". Victorian Collections: Melbourne Athenaeum Archives. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "Roadknight's Tilleys fundraiser". The Canberra Times. Vol. 68, no. 21, 380. 28 October 1993. p. 11. Retrieved 9 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- Foster, Michael (20 January 1994). "Good Times: The girls in your town are coming to our town soon". The Canberra Times. Vol. 68, no. 21, 463. p. 22. Retrieved 9 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 253. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "2018 Recipients Finalists". women in Music Awards. October 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2021.