Saturday, November 22, 2008
I have kept in contact with most of the guys who are mentioned in my story. As for the members of the Fabulous Falcons, sadly, Christopher aka 13 has passed on. He was an unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run accident. Thomas Ham is residing in the United States of America and I last visited him when I was in Boston a few years back. We still keep in contact through email. Tommy Ong is in Kuala Lumpur where he owns a recording studio. Recently I have been in close contact with Andrew Thong my partner at Miners’ Arms through Facebook. He is now a chef in London. Michael Ho, my bandmate from The Drifter days still lives in Ipoh and is retired from RTM. We meet up occasionally.
After all that is said and done, I think my life has turned out great and I am still residing in Ipoh with my wife Liz, the girl I met at Romy’s party. Both my sons are working in Kuala Lumpur. Although they are professionals in their own fields, I am glad that they, like me, have found the joy in music and made it part of their lives although not as a career.
In 1991, Guna had to leave us due to work commitments so my elder son, Donovan joined the band playing the lead guitar. He was just a seventeen year old lad, fresh from school and just started college. In spite of his age, he fitted in well with the veteran members of the band. I know it wasn’t easy for Don as he had to attend college till evening, do assignments and then off to play music at night, but he never complained. As for me, I was glad that I got the chance to spend extra time with my son and took the opportunity for father/son bonding.
This went on till the mid 1990s when Liz and I decided that I should not struggle with the late nights anymore. Don and I usually got home by about 2 a.m. and I had to clock in by 8 am for work each morning at Government Service. I hardly had time to see my wife and younger son, Jay who was a teenager by now. Although it was great being able to bond with Don, my firstborn as we played together each night, I was missing out on being part of Jay’s growing up years. I decided that I was never going to take up a gig with a contract ever again but concentrate on only playing for functions which paid really well. This will enable me to spend time at home with my family as I don’t want to regret waking up one day and realize that my family had grown up without me.
While I was busy working day and night, my younger son, Jay, developed his musical skills. He was already playing the guitar and his preference was more for bass and he could also sing so together with my elder son Don, we performed as a trio singing in harmony to songs by the Beach Boys, the Beatles and so on. This didn’t go on for too long as Don had to leave Ipoh to take up employment in Penang as an Engineer and Jay had already finished formal schooling and was in college. On hindsight now, I am glad I did not take up any more contracts for at least I got to spend some of their formative years being home with them after my day job.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
|Me and Guna at the Club|
|Me, Guna and singer Maya|
|Me, Guna and singer Zaharah|
After this short break of a few months, I teamed up with Guna a guitarist and we got a contract to play at the Royal Perak Golf Club. We were to perform at the Tiger Bar for 3 nights a week. This really suited me just fine because during the short break, I was entertaining at company functions and weddings and found this to be more lucrative than holding a contract. This way, I had four days free in a week to do whatever I liked and when functions came along, I could accept them without having to worry about getting a replacement for Tiger Bar.
We played at the Tiger bar for nearly three years. I felt I needed a change, maybe a different place and a different crowd. I was already in my late thirties by now and time seemed to have “zoomed” by so fast. I scouted around for another venue and another contract.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
After so many years of holding a day job and entertaining at night, I felt I needed a break to catch up on some sleep as I had less than five hours of sleep each night for the last 6 to 7 years when I was entertaining. My elder son was nearly eleven already and my younger son who was an infant when I went back to music was already nearly 7 years old and I missed many things in their lives. Although I provided well for the family when I was entertaining, I feared I might fail them emotionally. This was a welcome short break that I took to refresh my mind and to spend quality time with my young growing family.
Monday, September 8, 2008
After my six months’ contract with Green Fern another offer from Tambun Inn came my way. I was to entertain at the coffee house of Tambun Inn, a hotel along
By this time, Green Fern Coffee House had a change of ownership and one of the new owners of the coffee house was my friend Matthew. He offered me a contract to return to Green Fern once more. I was happy to move around as this made the offers more attractive each time I moved. I seem to be holding the trump card as I was able to command a better contract each time I negotiated for one. I entertained in Green Fern for nearly a year until I met up with Andrew Thong. His partner Joey had just left him and he was looking for a new partner to team up with as he had a contract at Miner’s Arms, a pub and grill in downtown,
Christopher Choong aka 13
Sunday, September 7, 2008
|Me performing at Loggers|
|Performing at Loggers|
|At the keyboards in Loggers|
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The rest of the guys, decided to leave it all behind. They headed to
Since I left the band, I completely lost touch with music and I left the happy band days behind. In Grik it was just work and then off to the club for a game of cards with colleagues and sleep. It was the same routine day in day out till the weekend came and I travelled back to
On December 23rd 1972, Liz and I were married and the following year in October, our son Donovan was born. I was happy once more with a family of my own and I never thought much about music anymore. We had our own little nest and were doing ok until Liz had to give up her job to stay home with our firstborn, Don. Times were difficult with only one income now and we had little help from family. In April 1977 our younger son Jason was born. My young family was now complete. My wife, Liz took care of all the household chores besides taking care of our two young sons and I had to bring home the bread, so to speak. With my civil servant’s salary, I found it really difficult to make ends meet with a very young family to feed. This same year too, Liz’s mother passed away and my brother-in-law Andrew stayed with us briefly. Knowing of our situation, he suggested that I get back to music as a way of a second income. So that was how I bought an acoustic guitar from Andrew and started playing the guitar again hoping to get a gig to restart my music career.
Early 1967 we had a busy year with practices and performances lined up for us. It was the pinnacle of our fame and life was really exciting and we thought that nothing can ever go wrong. The first blow that brought us back down to earth was that Romy had to leave us. He was having some personal problems and left
I knew that the time was near when I had to leave the group due to parental pressure. Towards the end of the year, my sister got me a job in the civil service. I tried to delay taking up the posting to Grik, a small town north of Perak as this would mean that I would have to leave the band for good. Grik was a good three and half hours away from
On 1st December 1967, with a heavy heart I travelled by taxi to Grik and took my posting in the little town of
Saturday, September 6, 2008
As Christmas drew near, Romy was planning a Christmas party at his house and we were to perform for the night. At this time in my life, changes were to happen. There was a girl, Liz whom I used to admire from a distance. She was of mixed parentage and was also from my church. I was hoping that I would be able to take her for this Christmas party but was too nervous to even ask or to make a move. Luckily for me, Thomas and Christopher were dating girls who were friends of Liz. So I begged Christine and Jasmine to invite Liz to the party. As fate would have it and to cut a long story short, she attended and we got to know each other and started dating for many years. Thanks to the intervention of good friends.
The party was a huge success and the band’s performance was polished and articulate. The guests enjoyed themselves and after this function, we practiced everyday and even stayed at Romy’s house in Jalan Istana most of the time so that it would be really easy and convenient for practices. We were to perform for many more gigs after this
|At our manager Romy Tan's Christmas party|
|Performing at the Christmas party with our Burns guitars|
|Another pic of us at the Christmas party|
|I met my future wife Liz (second from right) at this party|
Friday, September 5, 2008
In early 1966 the late Victor Leong, a close friend of the band and a great supporter, introduced us to Romy Tan. He told us that Romy was interested to manage a band. If he was keen to be our manager, we were definitely keen to have him as The Fabulous Falcons never had a manager before. So that’s how Romy became our Manager.
Romy was a tycoon’s son and he was working for his father in
The Shadows, at this time, were using a new range of guitars named Burns. Romy had the means so he pumped money into the group and upgraded all our instruments. He purchased three Burns guitars, Vox amplifiers, a Vox Continental single-deck drawbar organ, Ludwig drums and also a twelve stringed Burns guitar. With the range of new instruments we had, I started to play songs by The Animals, The Dave Clark Five and Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs on the single-deck organ. It was a totally new repertoire for the band and this went down really well with the fans.
Upon completion of our contract in
I returned home with shoulder length hair, and this didn’t go down too well with my parents. Before long, I got tired of it and cropped it off. With the exposure to the kind of music in
After our return from
We had a week’s break when we returned to
The first couple of nights went without a hitch, until Christopher fell ill. He was down with a virus that made him really weak and required plenty of bed-rest. We thanked our lucky stars that it was just dining music at the Amarin so all we had to do was to rearrange our setup. Without Christopher, we got Tommy to sit in on drums while playing bass. At that time, we didn’t have any sophisticated gadgets like the beat box or drum machine so we had to improvise our playing. It wasn’t easy for the three of us but we were glad that Christopher recovered soon enough and returned to play for the rest of the engagement.
After a month in
Instead we travelled by road across the Korat Plateau in the north of Bangkok to Udorn Thani, a city near the Thai-Loatian border. We discovered that although the culture and the people are the same, the food was slightly different from what we had in
Our shows were held at their movie theatres and we played to pack houses mostly every night for two weeks. We were treated like celebrities and were specially invited to attend dinner parties hosted by the Governor of Ventianne at his residence overlooking the
After the two weeks’ stint at Ventianne, we travelled by long boat back to Nong Khai and by road to Udorn Thani to resume another week of performance before we head back to Bangkok. Another local that was performing alongside us, played the Beatles’ number “Don’t Bother Me” in Romvong beat and I found that fascinating.
The little stars with Luan standing in the centre
On opening night, at The Lido Nightclub, we made a grand entrance and was introduced as The Shadows of Malaysia to a full house audience. They applauded with such enthusiasm and gusto when we, four jittery teenagers emerged, that any nervousness we felt dissipated. We were really glad and mildly surprised for this warm reception.
Our opening song was our signature tune ‘Midnight Express’ which got the crowd cheering and screaming, when the sound and whistling of the train came from my lead guitar coupled with the chugging which came from Christopher’s superb drum playing and my guitar. I must admit at this juncture that the effect of The Swiss Echo Unit greatly enhanced the sound of the Choo Choo Train. Unlike bands of today, the swiss echo was the only gadget we possessed.
Midnight Express really got the party going for us. As we played the song, we made our moves with arranged footwork and guitars behind our heads. This got the crowd wild and we got thunderous applause for every song we played and it was really a joy playing to such an appreciative audience. Our performance on opening night was a huge success. The Lido Nightclub in
In late 1965, the four of us together with Rocky Teoh, and Kai Leong aka technician headed north of the peninsular border to
When we arrived in scorching
We were amazed at the vast number of nightclubs and bars in
|Together with the late Rocky Teoh at a show.|
|Rocky's Single with the Fab. Falcons|
n 1965, Cathay Organisation offered us a contract to perform at their Cinemas, together with Rocky Teoh ,
Saturday, August 30, 2008
1964 was an uneventful year for me as far as music went. As I said earlier, I was busy studying and trying to make my parents happy. In December 1964, I took the
While the Falcons were busy making a name for themselves in the Malaysian music scene, another group of younger musicians consisting of Jerry Felix and his boys from
|The first EP of The Fabulous Falcons|
|Second Single with me in the band|
|Third Single with me in the band|
In 1963, I was in Form 4 and at this time too, Christopher Choong, who was from a Chinese medium school was transferred to St. Michael’s Inst. He was placed in the same class with me. As I was a tall guy, I was made to sit at the back of the class and Christopher sat next to me. It was the beginning of a whole distracting year for me as Christopher would be talking to me all the time and mostly about music. He would play with his imaginery drumset, using pencils to strike the geometry box as a snare drum, bottles for cymbals and the desk as his bass drum. It was a bit disruptive to the class and he would get punished. I was also punished as it was “guilt by association” as far as the teacher was concerned although I didn’t get to talk much at all sitting next to Christopher. If you know Christopher, you will know that if he is talking nobody can really get another word in. He seem to have music in his head all the time and nothing could ever distract him from music, not even punishment meted out by the teacher. He was a really creative and talented guy. He might have been born with drumsticks in his hands !! Of course it came as no surprise to everyone, that Christoper became the top drummer in
Michael Ho and I then decided to form a band as we were from the same school. We knew a guy called Christopher Choong aka “13” (Sup Sum in Cantonese). He played the drums really well and together with a young boy Thomas Ham, an Andersonian, we formed a band. Forming a band was easy but what about the instruments. We definitely didn’t have the funds to purchase expensive instruments being just school boys then. We cracked our heads wondering what we should do and our prayers were answered in our schoolmate Robert Ng whose father was a tin miner. As he came from a wealthy family he agreed to be our manager and would purchase all the necessary instruments for the band. Cool! In those days, it was really something to have a manager in the band but we didn’t see the necessity to give the band a name. We would gather at Robert’s house, a bungalow in Greentown for practices everyday. We would practice for an hour or two, then stop for a break. We really had a great time then, because at break time, his servant and “Mah Cheh” would prepare tasty munchies for tea. We worked really hard and played even harder then.
Time flew by and I made the acquaintance with Roland Foong who used to be a bassist with a band from