The Black Sorrows

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The Black Sorrows
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresBlues, rock, R&B, soul, zydeco
Years active1983 (1983)–present
LabelsSpirit, Camel, CBS, Mushroom, Epic, Liberation Blue, Rajon, ABC/Warner
Associated actsJo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Daddy Cool, The Revelators, Vika and Linda, Bakelite Radio
Past memberssee Members list below

The Black Sorrows are an Australian blues rock band formed in 1983 by mainstay vocalist Joe Camilleri (ex-Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons), who also plays saxophone and guitar. Camilleri has used various line-ups to record 17 albums, with five reaching the top 20 on the ARIA Albums Charts: Hold on to Me (September 1988), Harley and Rose (August 1990), Better Times (September 1992), The Chosen Ones - Greatest Hits (November 1993) and Lucky Charm (November 1994). Their top 40 singles are "Chained to the Wheel" (February 1989), "Harley + Rose" (August 1990) and "Snake Skin Shoes" (July 1994).


Formation and early years: 1983–85[edit]

The Black Sorrows began as a loose pick-up band in Melbourne in 1983.[1][2] They played mostly covers of R&B, zydeco, soul and blues music.[1] An early line-up was founding mainstay, Joe Camilleri (aka Joey Vincent) on vocals, saxophone and guitar (ex-The Pelaco Brothers, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons); with Jeff Burstin on guitar (ex-Company Caine, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons), Wayne Burt on guitar and vocals (ex-Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, the Fabulaires); George Butrumlis on piano accordion; Wayne Duncan on bass guitar (ex-Daddy Cool, Living Legends); Steve McTaggart on violin; Paul Williamson on clarinet and saxophone; and Gary Young on drums (ex-Daddy Cool, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons).[1][3]

Initially, Camilleri used the group to play gigs in local cafes after the dissolution of his previous band, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons.[4][5] From 1983 to 1988 he used the name Joey Vincent for his work with the band.[1][5] Membership in the band has been loose and fluid.[1][3] Most of The Falcons, at one point or another, have been members; numerous other Australian musicians have drifted in and out of the line-ups.[1][3] Aside from zydeco, their early style included Cajun music.[2]

Joe Camelleri performs with the Black Sorrows at Byron Bay Bluesfest, April 2014.

Their first two albums, Sonola (June 1984) and Rockin' Zydeco (March 1985), were each recorded live-in-the-studio, in one day, with Camilleri producing.[1][3] They consisted almost entirely of R&B covers of material from Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Arthur Alexander, Don Covay, and John Lee Hooker.[1][2][5]

A Place in the World followed in November 1985, again produced by Camilleri, it only had one cover track, the rest co-written by Camilleri with Nick Smith (ex-Millionaires, The Kevins, Stephen Cummings Band), who was also on guitar and backing vocals.[2][3][5] Camilleri told Catherine Cook of The Canberra Times that they "had to exist on their own merit".[2] She noted the songwriter was "taking all the best from the music he was playing and adding experiences and ideas".[2] Also joining the group, just before recording, was Peter Luscombe (ex-Tinsley Waterhouse Band, Stephen Cummings Band) on drums and percussion.[1][3] Camilleri, Burstin, Burt, Butrumlis, Luscombe, McTaggart, and Smith were joined in the studio by sessions musicians including Ed Bates (ex-The Sports) on guitar; Joe Creighton (ex-Billy T) on bass guitar; Ross Hannaford (ex-Daddy Cool, Billy T) on guitar; Andrew Pendlebury (ex-The Sports) on guitar; and The Blackberries on vocal harmonies.[1][3]

"Classic era": 1986–1993[edit]

By November 1986 the Black Sorrows line-up was Camilleri, Burstin, Luscombe and Smith; with Johnny Charles on bass guitar.[5] The group were playing mostly original material. The group released "Mystified" which gained radio play and peaked at number 24 on the Kent Music Report. The group's fourth studio album, Dear Children (April 1987), which was co-produced by Camilleri and Burstin, initially appeared on Camel Records.[1][3][6] but CBS signed them to a distribution deal.[1][3][5] With CBS promoting, it peaked at No. 22 the Australian Kent Music Report albums chart in June.[6] In May that year, the single, "Daughters of Glory", had reached the top 50 on the related Kent Music Report singles chart.[6]

Additional session musicians used on Dear Children included: Butrumlis; Tony Faeshe on guitar and viola; Venetta Fields on backing vocals; Mick Girasole on bass guitar; Paul Grabowsky on piano; Sherlie Matthews on backing vocals; Mick O'Connor on keyboards and Hammond organ.[1][3] The band often made use of session or touring musicians including Sam See on slide guitar, Tony Norris on trumpet, and Kerryn Tolhurst on guitar.

During 1988 Smith left the performance line-up, however he continued writing lyrics for the Black Sorrows over the following two decades. By mid-year Burt had returned on guitar, Charles was replaced by Girasole on bass guitar, and Vika and Linda Bull joined on backing vocals and occasional lead vocals (ex-Sophisticated Boom Boom, The Sacred Hearts of Sweet Temptation, The Honeymooners).[1][3] Australian journalist Ed Nimmervoll described the "classic line-up" of the group as Camilleri, Linda and Vika Bull, Burstin, Burt, Girasole and Luscombe.[7] The Bull sisters readily identifiable singing style became a big part of The Black Sorrows' sound.[1][5] At live gigs each had their own "spots" showing different voices: "Vika strong and soulful. Linda soft and gentle."[8]

The group's fifth album, Hold on to Me, was issued in September 1988, which was co-produced by Burstin and Camilleri.[1][3] As well as the standard version CBS released a limited edition 2× LP in Australia.[3] AllMusic's Rudyard Kennedy felt the lead singer was able to "channel the voice and persona of" Van Morrison and while the group "borrow many of the same ingredients" however "the trick is in mixing those well-worn ingredients together and coming up with something new" such that the album "deserves to be heard and hailed by music fans the world over".[9]

The album peaked at No. 7 on the ARIA Albums Chart in May 1989 and remained in the top 50 for 46 weeks.[6] It provided two top 40 hits on the associated Singles Chart: "Chained to the Wheel" (March 1989 – their highest charting single at No. 9) and "The Crack-Up" (April).[6] At the ARIA Music Awards of 1990 they won Best Group.[10] Internationally Hold on to Me peaked at No. 6 on the Norwegian Albums Chart;[11] No. 18 on the Swedish Albums Chart;[12] and No. 35 on the New Zealand Albums Chart.[13]

Before recording their sixth album, Harley and Rose (August 1990), Jen Anderson was added on violin (ex-Kings of the World); and Richard Sega replaced Girasole on bass guitar.[1][3] It was co-produced by Camilleri, Burstin and Luscombe; and the CD format has six bonus tracks compared with the LP version.[3] It peaked at No. 3 in Australia and remained in the top 50 for 51 weeks;[6] No. 5 in Norway;[11] and No. 36 in Sweden.[12] The album produced two top 30 singles; "Harley + Rose" and "Never Let Me Go".

The Revelators a band made up of members of the Black Sorrows released their first album, Amazing Stories, in December 1991.[1][14] The Revelators sound was a return to early The Black Sorrows material: playing largely R&B-oriented cover songs.[1]

Burt left the Black Sorrows before recording for their seventh album, Better Times (September 1992), and Stephen Hadley (ex-Kate Ceberano and the Ministry of Fun) replaced Sega on bass guitar.[1][3] Also added to the line-up were Barker and James Black (on keyboards) of The Relevators.[1][3][14] Finally, Laurie Polec took over as the band's primary lyricist,[1] although Smith contributed to this and future releases. Better Times peaked at No. 13 in Australia.[6]

The Black Sorrows play at Byron Bay Bluesfest, April 2014

In March 1993 the group re-released Better Times as 2× CD pack with The Revelators' Amazing Stories as a bonus disc.[1][3][14] The pack reached No. 14 in Australia.[6] In September, the Black Sorrows released "Stir It Up" – a cover of the Bob Marley track. Their first greatest hits album, The Chosen Ones - Greatest Hits, appeared in November 1993, which peaked at No. 4 in January 1994.[6]

By the end of 1993, Camilleri announced that after The Chosen Ones Tour, the current line-up of The Black Sorrows would be dissolved.[15] It became his solo band with "a floating line-up of specially selected musicians".[1][5] Vika and Linda launched their duo career in March 1994.[16][17] Luscombe was later a session drummer or band member for various groups including Paul Kelly Band (and associated side projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five),[18] and as from May 2014 is a member of the SBS-TV quiz show, RocKwiz house band, RocKwiz Orkestra since 2005. Black also worked as a session musician or band member including for Sherine's X Machine, Things of Stone and Wood, Deborah Conway,[19] and with Luscombe on RocKwiz since 2005.

New line-ups: 1994–98[edit]

For the new iteration of The Black Sorrows, Camilleri retained only Hadley from the previous line-up. The group's next album, Lucky Charm (November 1994) was recorded in New York with Camilleri co-producing with Kerryn Tolhurst. While the group had no fixed line-up at this juncture, in the studio the group most frequently called on the services of Hadley on bass guitar, Tolhurst on guitar, mandolin, tiple and keyboards, Rob Burke on saxophone, Claude Carranza on guitar, Steve Ferrone on drums, and Andy York on guitar. Lyrics for the album's songs were supplied by James Griffin, Smith or Polec. McFarlane noted that the album was "a more reflective, rootsier collection than previous band efforts".[1] It reached No. 20 in Australia.[6]

The group's ninth studio album, Beat Club was released in November 1998. The album was co-produced by Camilleri, Black and Tolhurst.[3] It also used guest musicians including Burstin, Burt and Renée Geyer on vocals. McFarlane described it as containing "R&B-tinged jazz and blues tunes".[1] The lead single, "New Craze" (August 1997), was nominated at the 1998 APRA Awards for Most Performed Jazz Work in Australia for its writers Camilleri, Smith and Black.[20]

In the early 2000s Camelleri founded another side project, Bakelite Radio, which temporarily supplanted his recording activity with The Black Sorrows. As is characteristic of Camilleri's projects, Bakelite Radio started as a loosely organised covers band with a fluid membership. However, the players in Bakelite Radio were generally similar to the membership of the concurrent line-up of The Black Sorrows, with only the repertoire differing.

Camelleri also reunited with The Revelators and released ARIA Award nominated studio albums in 2000 and 2002.

Return from hiatus: 2004–08[edit]

The Black Sorrows returned from hiatus and released an acoustic album, One Mo' Time, in 2004 with returning members Camilleri, Black, Burstin, Floyd and Hadley. The band's follow-up album was Roarin' Town, released in October 2006. For this release, The Black Sorrows were Camilleri, Black, Floyd, Hadley, and the returning Carranza. Carranza and Black had also played with Camilleri in Bakelite Radio. As well, Nick Smith, who had been one of several lyricists used by The Black Sorrows in the previous decade, was now once again the band's sole lyricst in terms of the band's new original material.

The 2006 touring line-up of The Black Sorrows consisted of Camilleri, Black, Creighton, Carranza, Floyd, and new recruits Annette Roche and Troy McMillan on backing vocals. When the band resumed touring in 2007, Roche and McMillan had left the group.

A one-time only gig in December 2008 featured a Black Sorrows line-up that traversed different eras of the band. This line-up included Camilleri, Anderson, Bates, Vika and Linda Bull, Butrumlis, Carranza, Creighton and Floyd.

Later activity: 2009–present[edit]

Camilleri continued performing with The Black Sorrows, The Revelators and Bakelite Radio at gigs with a changing roster of musicians. In late 2009 The Black Sorrows released a CD/DVD compilation pack, 4 Days in Sing Sing (2009). The DVD chronicles the making of the album, which consists of 17 tracks recorded live-in-the-studio at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne. All tracks were versions of The Black Sorrows and Bakelite Radio tracks, and were played by the then-current line-up for both bands: Camilleri, Black, Carranza, and Creighton.

The 2010-2012 Black Sorrows line-up consisted of Camilleri, Carranza, Creighton, and the returning Floyd, alongside new vocalist Atlanta Coogan who joined in 2010. In 2012 the line-up released Crooked Little Thoughts, a 72-page hard cover book including 3× CDs, photos, lyrics and the artwork of Victor Rubin.

By 2013 the line-up had shuffled again. Camilleri and Carranza were now joined by Angus Burchall on drums, Mark Gray on bass guitar, and John McAll on keyboards and backing vocals.[21] The group released their 14th album Certified Blue produced by Camilleri and McAll, on April Fool's Day 2014.[21] A pair of follow-up albums, consisting of cover songs recorded during the 'Certified Blue sessions, were released simultaneously the following year. Entitled Endless Sleep Chapter 46 and Endless Sleep Chapter 47 produced by Camilleri and McAll, these albums were issued on vinyl, with a CD version included as a bonus -- the CDs were not available to purchase separately.

In September 2016, keeping the same line-up, The Black Sorrows released Faithful Satellite, produced by Camilleri and McAll, their 17th studio album.

2019 saw the release of Citizen John produced by Camilleri and recorded at Woodstock Studios in Melbourne. This was all Camilleri and Smith songs with the exception of Silvio, a Bob Dylan Robert Hunter cover. The band was Carranza, Gray, Burchall, and McAll.

In September 2021, the band will release their 19th studio album Saint Georges Road.


According to sources:[1][3]


Awards and nominations[edit]


The APRA Awards are held in Australia and New Zealand by the Australasian Performing Right Association to recognise songwriting skills, sales and airplay performance by its members annually.

Year Award[22] Work Result
APRA Music Awards of 1991 Country Song of the Year "Harley + Rose" Won
APRA Music Awards of 1998 Most Performed Jazz Work "New Craze" Nominated

ARIA Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony that recognises excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of Australian music.

Year Award[23] Work Result
1989 Album of the Year Hold On to Me Nominated
Best Group Nominated
Best Adult Contemporary Album Nominated
Engineer of the Year Doug Brady for Hold On to Me Won
Producer of the Year Joe Camilleri & Jeff Burstein for Hold On to Me Nominated
1990 Song of the Year "Chained to the Wheel" Nominated
Single of the Year Nominated
Best Group Hold On to Me Won
1991 Song of the Year "Harley + Rose" Nominated
Best Group Harley and Rose Nominated
Album of the Year Nominated
1992 Best Group "Never Let Me Go" Nominated
1993 Best Group Better Times Nominated
Producer of the Year Joe Camilleri for "Ain't Love the Strangest Thing", "Better Times", "Come on, Come On" Nominated
Best Cover Art Pascoe & Gray Design, Eryk Photography for Better Times Nominated
1994 Producer of the Year Joe Camilleri for "Stir It Up", "Come on, Come On" Nominated
1995 Best Adult Contemporary Album Lucky Charm Nominated
1997 Engineer of the Year Charles Dickie for "New Craze" Nominated
1999 Best Adult Contemporary Album Beat Club Nominated
2015 Best Blues & Roots Album Endless Sleep Nominated


  • McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa McFarlane. "'The Black Sorrows' entry". Archived from the original on 20 April 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Cook, Virginia (13 March 1986). "Zydeco/Cajun Specialists a twist of Rhythm and Blues". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). National Library of Australia. p. 5. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Holmgren, Magnus; O'Shea, David. "The Black Sorrows". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 November 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  4. ^ McFarlane. "'Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons' entry". Archived from the original on 13 August 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Black Sorrows". HowlSpace – The Living History of Our Music. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Australian chart peaks:
  7. ^ Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Black Sorrows: More". HowlSpace – The Living History of Our Music. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  8. ^ Nimmervoll, Ed (15 December 2000). "Album of the Week: Vika and Linda – Live and Acoustic". Howlspace. White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 28 September 2001. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  9. ^ Kennedy, Rudyard. "Hold on to Me – Black Sorrows". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  10. ^ ARIA Music Awards for The Black Sorrows:
  11. ^ a b Hung, Steffen. "Discography The Black Sorrows". VG-Lista. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  12. ^ a b Hung, Steffen. "Discography The Black Sorrows". Swedish Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  13. ^ " > Discography The Black Sorrows". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Holmgren, Magnus. "The Delta Revelators/The Revelators". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  15. ^ Leedham, Nicole (10 February 1994). "Backstage a concert tour of the better times". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). National Library of Australia. p. 30. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  16. ^ "Canberra Festival '94". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995). National Library of Australia. 10 March 1994. p. 23. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  17. ^ Holmgren, Magnus; Baird, Paul; Janovskis, Paul. "Vika and Linda Bull". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  18. ^ Holmgren, Magnus. "Peter Luscombe". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  19. ^ Holmgren, Magnus. "James Black". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  20. ^ "APRA|AMCOS: Nominations – 1998". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)|Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  21. ^ a b Cashmere, Paul (8 April 2014). "The Black Sorrows 17th Album Marks Joe Camilleri's 50th Year in the Biz". Noise11 (Paul Cashmere, Ros O'Gorman). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  22. ^ "APRA Awards [search] Black Sorrows". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) | Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  23. ^ "ARIA Awards [search] Black Sorrows". ARIA Awards. Retrieved 18 August 2016.

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • The Black Sorrows discography at Discogs
  • Liner notes to the following Black Sorrows releases: Sonola, Dear Children, Hold on to Me, Harley and Rose, Better Times, Lucky Charm, One Mo' Time.