The Hitmen

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The Hitmen
Also known as
  • Johnny and the Hitmen
  • Hitmen DTK
Origin Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Years active
  • 1977 (1977)–1984 (1984)
  • 1989 (1989)–1992 (1992)
  • 2007 (2007)present
Associated acts
  • Johnny Kannis
  • Tony "the Kid" Robertson
  • Murray Shepherd
  • Tony Jukic
  • Vince Cuscuna
Past members see Members

The Hitmen are an Australian hard rock band formed in November 1977 by long-term members, Johnny Kannis on lead vocals and Chris Masuak on lead guitar as Johnny and the Hitmen. The group went through numerous line up changes in its first run from 1977 to 1984. They regrouped under a new name, Hitmen DTK, between 1989 and 1992. They have issued three studio albums, Hitmen (July 1981), It Is What It Is (November 1982) and Moronic Inferno (November 1991). The Hitmen reformed in 2007; Masuak left in 2015.


The Hitmen were formed in November 1977 in Sydney as a hard rock group by Charlie Georgees on guitar (ex-Hellcats), Warwick Gilbert on bass guitar (also in Radio Birdman), Johnny Kannis on lead vocals, Ron Keeley on drums and Chris Masuak on lead guitar (both also in Radio Birdman).[1][2] Kannis and Masuak had been band mates in the Jackals from 1974 to 1975 alongside Rubin Acosta, Archie Archilles, Alf Azzopardi and Steve Willman.[2]

According to Kannis the Jackals were "a school band that Chris Masuak and I started while we were in year 10 [with a] Maltese rhythm section."[3] They played cover versions of material by Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Lou Reed and original country rock tracks written by Masuak, including "Death by the Gun".[3] Masuak joined Sydney-based punk rockers Radio Birdman in October 1976 alongside Gilbert and Keeley.[2][4] Kannis was that group's MC and he formed the new group, as Johnny and the Hitmen, "for a series of fun gigs" between Radio Birdman commitments.[1]

Radio Birdman started a European tour early in 1978, and Kannis formed a new line-up of Johnny and the Hitmen with Georgees, Clyde Bramley on bass guitar, Alan Brown on drums, Steve Harris on keyboards, Angie Pepper on vocals and Lynne Phillips on vocals.[1] Johnny and the Hitmen recorded three tracks and released two on a 7" single, "King of the Surf" backed by a cover version of the Drifters' 1964 single, "Under the Boardwalk", as Kannis' solo effort in November 1978.[1][2] In the interim Radio Birdman had disbanded and, in July 1978, Kannis and Masuak reformed the Hitmen with Ivor Hay on drums (ex-the Saints) and Phil Sommerville on bass guitar.[1][2] In September Gilbert rejoined, on rhythm guitar.[1]

The Hitmen were signed to WEA in March 1979 and released their debut single, "Didn't Tell the Man", in July of that year.[1][2] By that time Hay had already quit and was replaced by Geoff Peterkin (ex-Ol' 55) until August when Mark Kingsmill joined on drums (ex-the Hellcats, the Other Side).[1][2] Soon after Sommerville left, Gilbert switched back to bass guitar and Tony Vidale joined on guitar.[1][2] A second single, "I Want You", appeared in March 1980.[1][2]

In December 1980 the band entered the studio to record their debut self-titled album, which was released in the following July, with Mark Opitz as producer (AC/DC, the Angels, the Reels).[1][2] Vidale had been replaced on guitar by Brad Shepherd (ex-Fun Things, 31st) during the recording sessions – Shepherd re-recorded the guitar parts.[1][2] Susan Moore of The Australian Women's Weekly described the group as "keeping the riotous rock flag flying with a crystal clear production... The songs are well-crafted although it's the overall onslaught that's the most memorable; the direction is decisive and determined. And there's a lucid layering of instrumentation – each component rubbing shoulders comfortably."[5] Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, opined that the album and lead single, "I Don't Mind" (June 1981), were "excellent slices of melodic hard rock. Opitz had achieved a full-throated production sound in the studio that did justice to the band's fierce live reputation."[1]

The group supported United States group, Steppenwolf, on the Australian leg of their tour during November 1981.[1] In 1982 the group left WEA and signed to RCA Records, quickly releasing a follow-up album, It Is What It Is (November 1982), which was produced by Bruce Brown and Russel Dunlop.[1][2] that ended up selling poorly. When Iggy Pop toured Australia in 1983, three of The Hitmen and one member of The Celibate Rifles were selected as a backing band to Radio Birdman singer Rob Younger, who was picked as the opening act (as The New Christs). Kannis went on the road with a new band, Johnny Kannis and the Night Train, during this hiatus. Kannis was injured in a car accident on tour and was out of commission for over a year; the group broke up shortly after a farewell tour once Kannis was well again. Following this was a live album, Tora Tora DTK, for which the band did a few one-off shows in 1985.

Towards the end of the 1980s Kannis re-formed the Hitmen with a new lineup as the Hitmen DTK. After one EP, the lineup changed yet again, and in 1991 another LP followed after recording sessions in Austin, Texas. The group toured Australia opening for Dark Carnival, but broke up soon after.

The band reformed in 2007, doing a round of Australian shows. The line-up was Kannis, Masuak, bassist Tony "The Kid" Robertson, guitarist Tony "Juke" Jukic and drummer Murray "Muzz" Shepherd.

A one-off gig in February 2008 with former Dark Carnival/Destroy All Monsters singer Niagara at The Crest Hotel, Sylvania, was recorded and released as "St Valentine's Day Massacre" by Savage Beat/Shock in Australia and US label Steel Cage around the world. Re-issues of "Hitmen", "It Is What It Is" and "Tora Tora DTK" have been released on Savage Beat/Shock, each with detailed liner notes and extra discs of bonus material.

The band has gigged solidly since then with a national tour with Niagara undertaken in April 2010.

The Hitmen marked their 30th anniversary with a one-off show at the Sandringham Hotel, Newtown, in Sydney on 21 May 2010. Another retrospective collection "Dancin' Time" of studio and live material was released in November 2010. The band is on hiatus as Masuak has moved to Spain. Johnny has almost finished recording his new solo single which is being Produced by Hitman Tony Jukic @ Alchemy Music Group Studios.

in 2017 the Hitmen have regrouped for a National Tour to promote there "Solid As A Rock" Best of Album,Available on iTunes, with Johnny Kannis-Vocals,Tony the Kid Robertson-BASS-Tony Jukic-Guitar, Murray Shepherd-Drums,Vince the Wiz Cuscuna-Guitar



  • Peter Banesevic : Guitar
  • Gye Bennetts : Drums (1989)
  • Clyde Bramley : Bass (1978)
  • Alan Brown : Drums (1978)
  • Charlie Georges : Guitar (1977–78)
  • Warwick Gilbert : Bass, Guitar (1977–78, 1981)
  • Steve Harris : Keyboard, Guitar (1978)
  • Ivor Hay : Drums (1978–79)
  • Richard Jakimyszyn : Guitar, Vocals (1984)
  • Tony Jukic : Guitar (2007- )
  • Johnny Kannis : Vocals
  • Ron Keeley : Drums (1977)
  • Mark Kingsmill: Drums, Vocals (1979–84)
  • Chris Masuak : Guitar, Vocals
  • Angie Pepper : Vocals (1977–78)
  • Geoff Peterkin : Drums (1979)
  • Lynne Phillips : Vocals (1978)
  • Tony Robertson : Bass, Vocals (1982–86, 2007- )
  • Brad Shepherd : Guitar (1981–82)
  • Murray Shepherd : Drums (2007- )
  • Phil Somerville : Bass (1978–79)
  • Tony Vidale : Guitar (1979–81)
  • Robert Sattler : Guitar (1987–91)
  • Vince Wiz Cuscuna:Guitar (2016-)


Studio albums[edit]

As the Hitmen
  • Hitmen (July 1981) – WEA (600097)
  • It Is What it Is (1982) – RCA (VPL1 0403)
    • "It Is What It Is" (2007) – re-issue 2× CD, Savage Beat/Shock

Live albums[edit]

As the Hitmen
  • Tora Tora DTK (1984) – Rattlesnake Records
    • Tora Tora DTK (2009) – re-issue 2× CD, Savage Beat/Shock Records

Compilation albums[edit]

As the Hitmen
  • Compilation 78-82 (1988) Survival Records
  • Solid as a Rock (2017)
As Hitmen DTK
  • Moronic Inferno (1991) Zeus Records

Extended plays[edit]

As Hitmen DTK
  • U.E.L.A. (1989) Survival
  • Surfin' in Another Direction (1992) Zeus


As Johnny Kannis
  • "King of the Surf/Under the Boardwalk" (7", 1978)
  • "King of the Surf/"Pushin' Too Hard" (The Seeds cover) (7", 1991; recorded 1978)
As Hitmen
  • "Didn't Tell the Man/I Am the Man" (7", WEA, 1979)
  • "I Want You/Tell Tale Heart" (7", WEA, 1980)
  • "I Don't Mind/Rock & Roll Soldier" (7", WEA, 1981)
  • "Everybody Knows/Dancin' Time" (7", RCA, 1982)
  • "Bwana Devil/Didn't Wanna Love You" (7", WEA, 1982)
As Niagara & Hitmen
  • "St Valentine's Day Massacre" (live LP, Savage Beat/Steel Cage, 2009)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o McFarlane, 'The Hitmen' entry. Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Australian Rock Database entries:
    • The Hitmen/Hitmen D.T.K. (1977–84, 1989–92): Holmgren, Magnus; Georgieff, Didier; Weld, Henry; Regan, Craig; Bennetts, Gye. "The Hitmen/Hitmen D.T.K.". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 30 December 2003. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
    • Johnny Kannis (1977–84, 1989–92): Holmgren, Magnus. "Johnny Kannis". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 3 March 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
    • Chris Masuak (1977–84, 1989–92): Holmgren, Magnus. "Chris Masuak". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 29 December 2003. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
    • Brad Shepherd (1981–82): Holmgren, Magnus. "Brad Shepherd". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 2 January 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
    • Deniz Tek (1991): Holmgren, Magnus; Whyte, Tony. "Deniz Tek". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 10 March 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Kannis, Johnny. "Johnny Kannis Story". Radio Birdman Official Website. Archived from the original on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2017. 
  4. ^ McFarlane, 'Radio Birdman' entry. Archived from the original on 9 August 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  5. ^ Moore, Susan (29 July 1981). "TV and Entertainment World – Moore on Pop". The Australian Women's Weekly. 49 (8). p. 169. Retrieved 24 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 

External links[edit]