By Phil Jarratt
Almost 50 years ago, classically-trained Melbourne blues and rock musician Andy Cowan was walking down Hastings Street, Noosa, when he spied in the window of a hot dog emporium a small, hand-written notice: “Keyboard player wanted.”
“How often do you see an ad like that?” Andy laughs while enjoying a coffee at a sidewalk café in Pomona this week. “Never. It was bloody amazing, so of course I phoned the number and took the gig with a rough little band called Bunky’s.” For a muso who’d just left the respected Madder Lake and would go on to stints with Skyhooks and Ayers Rock, among many other headline bands, this was a different track.
A two-week holiday in Noosa to see his fish-crazed grandfather turned into a two-year stint for Andy and wife Wendy, playing bar and surf club gigs along the Sunshine Coast. He recalls: “There were really only two bands getting regular work around the coast then, and they were Barry Charles and the Rockets and Bunky’s. Barry and I would meet up at places like Rio’s or the Green Cherry and sometimes jam together, but we never played in the same band. We were all in our early twenties, loving the sun and the surf and the mateship of playing music together. It was a perfect time.”
But when their son was born in Nambour Hospital, Andy and Wendy decided it was time to go home to their Melbourne families, and Andy became a Skyhook. Barry Charles, by this time fast becoming a legend of live music in Noosa, remained friends with his new jamming partner, and the two musos got together often over the ensuing years, in Melbourne and Noosa, with Barry ultimately recording an album at Andy’s home studio in Olinda, Victoria.
While Barry has remained a Noosa institution, renowned for his eclectic musical style and his extraordinary vocal range, Andy’s keyboard playing, embracing blues and rock, along with soul and jazz and other influences, has gained him an international following. But nothing has been able to split this amazing musical mateship, and since Andy and Wendy moved back to the Sunshine Coast a couple of years ago, the two mates have been recording in the Cowan home studio in the Noosa hinterland, and have performed together for a one-off concert at The Shed in Yandina.
Says Barry: “That was amazing because the venue didn’t have enough chairs for the crowd that turned up, and people were sitting across the road.” That won’t happen at the next partnering of the two, with the historic Majestic Theatre at Pomona the venue for a one-off, two-man concert called Time To Reflect on Saturday, June 19.
Time To Reflect will feature solo sets by Andy and Barry, followed by a closing jam. Both of these legendary musos will share stories of their independent journeys in local, national and global music. Although they have followed quite different career paths, both enjoying many successes in their storied careers, they are similar in musical styles.
Says Barry: “We do have similar tastes when it comes to the standards, but our original songs are different. I guess Andy will do the blues and I’ll do Tom Waits!”
Whatever they do, these two award-winning musicians and pioneers of Noosa rock will bring the house down at the Majestic Theatre on June 19. Make sure you’re there.
Tickets available at https://www.themajestictheatre.com.au