Mississippi

Mississippi was an Australian rustic harmony-rock band from Melbourne that released a self-titled album in 1972 on Bootleg. They cut three prior singles as Alison Gros, which masqueraded as Drummond on the 1971 novelty hit “Daddy Cool.”

Guitarist–singer Graeham Gobel and post-album members Beeb Birtles (ex-Zoot) and Derek Pellicci achieved subsequent stardom in the Little River Band. Late-period Mississippi bassist Charlie Tumahai surfaced in Be-Bop Deluxe.

Members: Graeham Gobel (guitar, vocals), Russ Johnson (guitar, vocals, 1972-73), John Mower (vocals, 1972-73), Kerryn Tolhurst (guitar, vocals, 1973), Harvey James (guitar, 1973-74), Peter Martin (guitar, 1973-75), Beeb Birtles (vocals, guitar), Colin Deluca (bass, 1972-73), Andre Santos (bass, vocals, 1973), Charlie Tumahai (bass, 1973-75), Derek Pellicci (drums, 1973-75)


Background

Mississippi sprung from Alison Gros, an Adelaide folk trio comprised of singer John Mower, and guitarist–singers Graeham Goble and Russ Johnson.

Goble (b. May 15, 1947) took an interest in harmony pop as a child. He first played drums, then banjo. The moment he held a string instrument, melodies sprung to mind. He played played in a sequence of local beat groups (The Silence, Travis Wellington Hedge) before Alison Gros (alternately spelled Allison Gros), named after an 18th century Scottish child’s ballad about an ugly witch from the north country.


Alison Gros

In 1970, Alison Gros linked with the Adelaide small-press Gamba and cut their first single: “Naturally,” a Russ Johnson original backed with Goble’s “Would You Really Have To Go,” both produced by Trevor Milburn of the ABC Big Band.

In 1971, Alison Gros moved to Melbourne and signed with Fable Records, the just-launched independent label of veteran Aussie producer Ron Tudor. Between May and September 1971, they cut their second and third Goble-penned singles: “If I Ask You” (b/w Johnson’s “So Good”) and “All the Days” (b/w “Weaver of Live”), both produced by Ern Rose, a recent soundman for Allison Durbin, John Farnham, and The Mixtures.


“Daddy Cool”

Between the two 1971 singles, Fable enlisted Alison Gros for a Chipmunks-style version of “Daddy Cool,” a 1957 Cameo–Parkway b-side to “Silhouette,” a US Billboard No. 3 hit by NYC doo-wop group The Rays; co-written by producer Frank Slay and future Four Seasons writer Bob Crewe. Due to the song’s uncharacteristic nature, Alison Gros released it under the pseudonym Drummond, a name used for an earlier Fable single (“For You Blue”) cut by studio musicians (also used on the “Daddy Cool” b-side “Hot Mumma”).

“Daddy Cool” appeared just as the namesake band reined with 1971’s biggest hit, “Eagle Rock,” a Fifties-inspired rock ‘n’ roll original by Daddy Cool frontman Ross Wilson. Fable selected the 1957 song to capitalize on Daddy Cool’s saturation of the Australian airwaves.

On the week of September 7, “Daddy Cool” reached No. 1 on the Kent Music Report, where it ended the ten-week chart summit of “Eagle Rock.” Drummond (aka Alison Gros) held the top spot for seven weeks and bowed in late October to “Banks of the Ohio,” the inaugural No. 1 of Olivia Newton-John.


New Name

Fable released three further singles attributed to Drummond, each recorded by studio musicians with no involvement from Alison Gros, which continued under a new name, Mississippi. Tudor reassigned them to Bootleg, the new Fable subsidiary co-started by former Axiom keyboardist Brian Cadd.

In July 1972, Mississippi debuted with “Kings of the World,” a Goble original backed with Johnson’s “City Sunday.” Rose co-produced both sides with pianist–arranger Peter Jones, who also worked on Cadd’s debut solo album and recent titles by Farnham and former Twilights associate Ronnie Burns.


Mississippi

Mississippi released their singular self-titled album in September 1972 on Bootleg. It features both sides of their pre-released single and nine further originals by Graeham Goble and Russ Johnson.

Goble wrote six songs, including “Day Job Song,” “Three Days,” “Feel Alone,” and the subsequent b-sides “All Through the Day” and “Sweet World.”

Johnson submitted five songs, including “Save the Land,” “Do I,” “When You’re Old,” and the second Mississippi single, “Mr. Moondog.”

Goble, Johnson, and singer John Mower are supplemented on eight tracks by Chain bassist Barry Sullivan and Bootleg Family Band drummer Geoff Cox. Select tracks feature piano by co-producer Peter Jones (“Save the Land”) and flute by veteran jazz sessionist Graeme Lyall (“All Through the Day,” “Sweet World”).

A1. “Save the Land” (5:15)
A2. “Mr. Moondog” (2:48)
A3. “Three Days” (3:50)
A4. “All Through the Day” (2:53)
A5. “Sweet World” (4:37)
B1. “Feel Alone” (3:38)
B2. “Do I” (3:53) features Lyall on tenor saxophone and Jones (along with Johnson) on percussion.
B3. “Kings of the World” (2:30)
B4. “City Sunday” (1:30)
B5. “When You’re Old” (3:23)
B6. “Day Job Song” (4:52) features bassist John Gray and drummer Tea Van Zyl.

Sessions took place in mid-1972 at Bill Armstrong Studios, where Robinson co-produced Mississippi with engineer Ern Rose.

Mississippi appeared in a white gatefold with the arched Bootleg logo (front and labels). The inner-gate features lyrics and a color upshot of the casually dressed trio.

By the time Mississippi hit shelves, “Kings of the World” peaked at No. 7 on the Kent Music Report. In December, Bootleg lifted “Mr. Moondog” as the album’s second single (b/w “All Through the Day”).

In 1973, Mississippi appeared in the US on Fantasy, a San Francisco label steeped in jazz and West Coast rock. This version sports an alternate cover with an illustration of a 19th century Mississippi River Paddle Steamer.


New Members

As Mississippi climbed the chart, the trio needed a full band to tour the album. They hired bassist Colin Deluca (ex-Fugitives) and drummer Derek Pellicci, recently of hard-rockers Ash, which cut two singles on Havoc Records. Meanwhile, Goble contacted Beeb Birtles, a fellow graduate of Adelaide’s beat scene who recently switched from bass to guitar.

Birtles (b. November 28, 1948) was borne Gerard Bertelkamp in Amsterdam. He moved to Australia with his family at age eleven. After high school, he hit the Adelaide rock scene in Times Unlimited, a beat group that evolved into Down The Line and finalized as Zoot, which cut two albums and seven singles between 1968 and 1971. Their final lineup featured guitarist–singer Rick Springfield. Zoot charted with their 1970 arrangement of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby” and made their grande finale with “The Freak,” a psychedelic rock classic.

After Zoot, Birtles and singer Darryl Cotton formed the pop duo Frieze, which made the album 1972 B.C. on Warner Bros. (Australia). Goble overcame his bandmates’ objections and lassoed Birtles into Mississippi.


1973–74 Sunbury Rock Festivals

In January 1973, Mississippi (with orchestral backing) played the second Sunbury Rock Festival, a three-day event (Jan. 27–29) at George Duncan’s farm in Diggers Rest with comedian MC Paul Hogan and sets by Bakery, Blackfeather, Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, Carson, Coloured Balls, Band of Light, Coloured Balls, Flying Circus, MacKenzie Theory, Sid Rumpo, Spectrum, and fifties Aussie rock ‘n’ roll icon Johnny O’Keefe.

In February, Russ Johnson left Mississippi for a brief stint with Infinity recording artists Country Radio, whose outgoing guitarist, Kerryn Tolhurst, briefly joined Mississippi (en route to The Dingoes). Mississippi found a steady guitarist in Harvey James, a twenty-year-old English–Australian musician.

In July 1973, Mississippi released their third Bootleg single: “Early Morning,” the first Birtles–Goble co-write with additional input by Johnson; backed with the pre-released album track “Sweet World.”

In October, Mississippi played opening slots on the Australian tour by The Jackson Five. Deluca and co-founder John Mower left the band, which hired Charlie Tumahai, a Maori journeyman bassist with stints in Healing Force, Chain, and Friends.

In January 1974, the final (Goble, Birtles, James, Pellicci, Tumahai) played the third Sunbury Rock Festival, MC’d by former Masters Apprentices singer Jim Keays with sets by Ayers Rock, Kush, Skyhooks, Sherbet, and multiple acts from the prior event, plus a then-unknown Queen.

Sunbury ’74 coincided with Mississippi’s final Bootleg single: “Will I,” a live favorite from the Dirtles–Cotton partnership backed with “Where In The World,” the second Birtles–Goble co-write.


Final Activity

Mississippi hoped to expand their market into the UK but disbanded in April 1974 due to frustration with the country’s live circuit. Goble, Birtles, Pellicci remained for six months in England, where they befriended ex-Masters Apprentices bassist Glenn Wheatley. Elsewhere, Tumahai became the second bassist behind Bill Nelson in Be-Bop Deluxe.

In JUne 1975, Bootleg lifted two Mississippi album tracks as a posthumous single: “When You’re Old” (b/w “Do I”).

Wheatley agreed to manage the new band envisioned by Goble, Birtles, and Pellicci. They contacted singer Peter Doyle but then remembered ex-Twilights frontman Glenn Sharrock, who cut two albums with Axiom and moved to the UK, where he recently recorded with the multi-national flamenco-rock act Esperanto.

The new band, initially called Mississippi, rendezvoused in Austalia, where rocketed to international fame as the Little River Band.


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