Years: 1964 - 1969
Styles: Beat, Folk Rock, Garage Rock, Rhythm and Blues
Peter Bruce - Guitar (in band: 1964 - 1966)
Peter McKeddie - Vocals (in band: 1964 - 1966)
Max Ross - Bass Guitar (in band: 1964 - 1968)
Richard Wright - Drums, Vocals (in band: 1964 - 1969)
Brian Cadd - Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1966 - 1969)
Ronnie Charles - Vocals (in band: 1966 - 1969)
Don Mudie - Bass Guitar, Guitar (in band: 1966 - 1969)
The Groop originated as The Wesley Three, a folk trio formed by schoolfriends from Melbourne's exclusive Wesley College, Peter McKeddie, Max Ross and Richard Wright. The Wesley Three evolved into The Groop in late 1964 with the addition of English-born guitarist Peter Bruce.
The Groop drew on a range of diverse musical influences including jug-band and Cab Calloway-style "jump" music, as well as zany vaudeville/cabaret material. They performed on the Melbourne upper-class social circuit, establishing a solid following with gigs at debutante balls, college formals and similar events.
After signing to CBS in 1965 they released theur first two singles, "Ol' Hound Dog" and the double-entendre laden "The Best In Africa". Although considered by some as frivolous novelty records, they proved very popular both with radio programmers and the buying public, and both made the Top 20 in Melbourne.
Their self-titled debut album (CBS 1966) featured severeal witty originals, together with covers of staples like Them's "Gloria"; it sold in respectable numbers, particularly in their hometown, where they were feted as a top-drawer live attraction, strongly supported by regular airplay on Melbourne radio stations 3UZ and 3AK, TV appearances and consistently favourable and prominent coverage from the fledgling Go-Set magazine.
A third single, the vaudeville-styled "I'm Satisfied" (b/w "Bad Times") gave them their best chart placing to date, and the band also recorded a second LP, I'm Satisfied, in mid-66, but their fourth single "Empty Words" / "The Gun And Flowerpot Trick" stiffed, so McKeddie and original manager Tony Dickstein decided to head for England in August 1966, leaving the band in disarray. Rare 1966 videos of the original Groop performing "I'm Satisfied" and "Empty Words" (probably on Kommotion) can be viewed on YouTube.
Peter Bruce then tendered his resignation, leaving the rhythm section of Max Ross and Richard Wright to re-build the group. They first recruited the multi-talented Don Mudie, and were soon successful in wooing singer Ronnie Charles (Ron Boromeo) and keyboardist Brian Cadd (who, at Molly Meldrum's suggestion, briefly changed his surname to Caine) from The Jackson Kings, who had been performing around Melbourne, with a residency at Melbourne's premier blues/rock haunt Garrison and had released a couple of R&B-styled singles on CBS.
The Jackson Kings had attracted The Groop's attention when they supported them at McKeddie's farewell party. The Groop were apparently only interested in Ronnie and didn't really want a keyboard player at all, but Ronnie stuck by his mate and suggested that Brian be taken on as well. Most accounts of The Groop have wrongly reported this story in reverse (i.e. that the band wanted Brian but didn't want Ronnie) however both Ronnie and Caddie have recently confirmed the fact that it was Ronnie who was first approached to join the band.
The new lineup made its recording debut in late '66 with a storming rendition of Solomon Burke's "Sorry" (b/w Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love"), scoring a national Top 10 hit. Both live and on record, Ronnie Charles' gritty, soulful voice was the undoubted focus (not to mention his dark, sultry looks that appealed to a growing contingent of young lady followers) but the new Groop proved to be an extremely tight, musically dextrous and creative pop band, each of whose members contributed to the songwriting.
In May 1967 saw the release of the soul-inflected, reverb-drenched "Woman You're Breaking Me" (b/w "Mad Over You", which was written by, and heavily featured drummer Richard Wright, with organist Brian Cadd. This was a major hit -- #6 in Melbourne, #12 in Sydney -- and even charting in some key American centres when it was put out by Columbia Records there.
The single was followed by an album of the same name. It was a strong collection of originals and well-chosen covers that were mostly drawn from the band's current popular performing repertoire. It's also notable as one of the first Australian pop LPs to be recorded in stereo.
The peak of The Groop's career came in July, when they took out the grand prize in the Hoadleys' Battle of the Sounds, competition, ahead of other worthy finalists like The Questions, James Taylor Move and Gus & the Nomads. The prize, provided by the Sitmar line, was passage for the whole group by on a cruise liner to England, with gig and recording opportunities.
During The Groop's eleven-month stay in Europe, they made several recordings. CBS UK issued both "Woman You're Breaking Me" / "Mad Over You", and a second single, "Lovin' Tree" / "Night Life", made the Top 10 in Germany, and they toured there successfully in July that year. Perhaps the most intriguing of these sessions was the one that yielded the notorious, raunchy "Maid Of Iron", a collaboration with Harry Vanda and George Young that was cut at The Easybeats' London recording HQ, Central Sound in Denmark Street. The song was never released, most likely because of its supposedly questionable lyrical content; another track, "Mandrake Wine", also remains unissued.
The only officially-released English recordings came out on an early 1968 single. "Seems More Important To Me" was a multifaceted rocker with Sgt Pepper-style guitar flourishes. The flipside, also a Ross/Cadd original, was a whimsical, bass-driven roundelay called "Annabelle Lee". Sadly, this absolutely superb acid-pop double A-side record failed to chart after its release in Australia. However, the Ross-Cadd team had some success in placing tunes with other artists, notably "When I Was Six Years Old", which was a hit for both English singer Paul Jones and Australia's Ronnie Burns.
They also came to the assistance of The Masters Apprentices -- they had just lost their songwriter Mick Bower, who was forced to leave the group after suffering a nervous breakdown -- and the Cadd-Ross song "Silver People" (retitled "Elevator Driver" for their version) proved to be a vital stepping stone in group's continued career, providing them with a national Top 10 hit.
Just before its return to Australia in October 1968, Max Ross left due to illness, and he was not replaced; Don Mudie switched to bass and the band continued as a four-piece. Don Mudie proved to be a perfect songwriting foil to Brian and their bubbling, organ-propelled "Such A Lovely Way" was released in 1968 to great acclaim, making the national Top 20. Nevertheless, the band had become destabilised and restless in the wake of founding member Ross' departure. Another significant factor was that Cadd had fallen under the spell of The Band's seminal Music From Big Pink (evident in the choice of Richard Manuel's "We Can Talk" as the b-side of "Such A Lovely Way") and he was keen to move his music in that direction.
After their tenth single, a fine soul-inflected groover called "You Gotta Live Love" / "Sally's Mine", was ignored, The Groop abruptly broke up mid-year. In spite of the recent chart failure they were still extremely popular, so there was shock on the Australian pop scene when it was splashed over the cover the 10 May edition of Go-Set. The Groop breakup and the formation of Cadd and Mudie's new band Axiom was extensively covered by Go-Set over succeeding weeks, and there was evidently some rancour about the fact that (as they later admitted) Cadd and Mudie had been considering the move for some time, but had not advised Richard and Ronnie about it.
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