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Mike Perjanik is a New Zealand-born musician, record producer, composer, arranger and bandleader who became well known in Australia from the late 1960s for his work on pop and rock recordings, and as a composer, arranger, bandleader and producer of music for film, television and advertising.
New Zealand career
Perjanik grew up in the New Zealand North Island town of Dargaville. While attending Dargaville High School he joined The Spotlights, an instrumental band formed with fellow students Doug Jerebine (guitar) and Barch Sevren (drums). They entered a talent quest at the Auckland Town Hall and came third. The group expanded to five, with Ken Lawrie replacing Sevren, and Roy Calkin (guitar) and Ray Mayall (bass) joining.
Although largely self-taught as a keyboard player, arranger and composer, Perjanik's skills soon made him a prominent figure on the thriving New Zealand music scene of the mid-1960s. After moving to Auckland in 1963 he joined local group The Embers and encouraged his friend Doug Jerebine to follow him; Jerebine eventually joined Perjanik in The Embers after a short stint in the popular band The Keil Isles.
When The Embers split up, Perjanik took some of the members to form his own group, The Mike Perjanik Band, which became the leading session group on the Auckland recording scene between 1964 and 1966. They also worked as the backing band for many popular New Zealand solo artists including Tommy Adderley, whom they backed on The Dinah Lee Spectacular, Dinah's farewell tour of New Zealand before her move to Australia.
Perjanik began writing music and his songs were recorded by New Zealand pop singers of the day including Dinah Lee; he also arranged music for Ray Columbus and toured with visiting international performers like Gene Pitney. One of the Perjanik Group's first sessions was backing a new singing duo discovered by Viking Records boss Ron Dalton; the duo, Sue and Judy Donaldson (who were childhood friends of La De Das guitarist Kevin Borich) were renamed by Perjanik as The Chicks; The Mike Perjanik Group backed them on their debut single "Heart of Stone"/"I Want You To Be My Boy" and in 1966 they also backed The Chicks on their single "The Rebel Kind".
Perjanik discovered another talented female singer while he was playing at a hotel. Impressed by her powerful voice Perjanik informed Ron Dalton of his discovery and she was soon brouight to the Viking studio to record "Tumblin' Down", which was released under the singer's new stage name Maria Dallas.
Perjanik played an important part in launching the career of vocalist Allison Durbin. They first worked together when Durbin was backed by Perjanik's band in the studio and they subsequently began a relationship. Durbin was soon performing as the band's featured singer and in October 1966 they travelled to Australia for a residency at Sydney's Coogee Bay Hotel, before moving to Sammy Lee's prestigious Latin Quarter club in May 1967. After nine months with the band, Durbin left to pursue a solo career; she subsequently scored several hit singles in Australia, was named as Australia's "Queen of Pop" and became a prominent recording and TV performer in the 1970s.
The Mike Perjanik Group recorded their own single in 1967, "We Can Make It"/"My Girl", made for HMV Records (NZ), which was released in both Australia and New Zealand. The vocals were performed by Mickey Leyton, a little-known but often-heard singer who became one of Australia's most in-demand session vocalists in the 1960s and '70s. Around 1969 Mike formed a new band called The Mike Perjanik Complex, which released another single on EMI-Columbia, "She Never Smiles Anymore"/"I'm Gonna Love You".
Settling permanently in Australia, Perjanik established himself as a sought-after record producer. Ca. 1969 he was appointed as an A&R manager and house producer for EMI Australia's Columbia label. Among his production credits in this period are most of the 1969–71 recordings by pioneering Australian country-rock band The Flying Circus, including their Top 10 Australian chart hits "Hayride", "La La" and "Run Run Run", their debut LP (1969), the Frontier EP (1970) and their acclaimed second album Prepared in Peace (1971).
In 1973, Perjanik put together a new group called Synthesis, with himself on piano, organ and synthesiser, Dave Donovan (guitar), Dave Ellis (bass) and Will Dower (drums) and they released an album called Lennon and McCartney: Today and Yesterday on the independent Drum label.
By this time Perjanik was in high demand as a session player and arranger and he contributed to many notable Australian rock and pop recordings. In 1972 he was part of the studio band that backed Richard Clapton on his debut LP Prussian Blue. In 1975 he was part of the all-star studio group Patch, which recorded the concept album Star Suite with producer (and fellow New Zealander) Peter Dawkins. As well as Perjanik, the Patch LP included Mike McClellan (acoustic guitar), Mike Rudd (electric guitar), Rod Coe (bass), Tony Esterman (keyboards), Doug Gallacher (drums), Bill Putt (bass), Tim Gaze (lead guitar) and Tony Ansell (organ).
TV and film music became a mainstay of Perjanik's work during the 1970s. One of his first soundtracks was for the 1972 movie Private Collection. Since then he has written, recorded and produced themes and incidental music for hundreds of Australian films, TV shows and advertisements. His credits include music for major corporate clients such as Arnott's, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's and Wrigley.
His many TV credits include the themes for some of Australia's most popular and successful TV series – The Naked Vicar Show, Glenview High, The Restless Years (including a single version of the theme song performed by Renee Geyer), Chopper Squad, Kingswood Country, Arcade, Holiday Island, Daily at Dawn, A Country Practice, Rafferty's Rules, Hey, Dad!, The Family Business, Family and Friends, My Two Wives, Late For School, Bullpitt and the perennial Home and Away, for which Mike has been writing the incidental music since its inception. His mini-series credits include The Power, The Passion and Grim Pickings and his movie and telemovie scores include Norman Loves Rose, Bush Christmas, Queen of the Road, Warming Up, Whipping Boy and Without Warning.
In 1977 he formed The Mike Perjanik Orchestra, which featured as the house band on the hit comedy series The Naked Vicar Show, which marked the start of a long association with the show's co-creators Gary Reilly and Tony Sattler.
As well as his composing, recording and production work, Perjanik has been a board member of the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) for 15 years and chaired the APRA board for over ten years.
- debbiekruger.com – APRAP – Mike Perjanik
- New Zealand Music – Mike Perjanik Band
- debbiekruger.com – APRAP – Mike Perjanik