During our chat on the current episode with Ivor Haarberger – the former head of Gallo in South Africa – the fact that the company made guitars (and other items) as well as records in its early days came up. I mentioned that David Kramer sang of a “Gallo Guitar” in his song chronicling the early rockers called “Budgie & The Jets” and thus the instrument had its place in SA rock mythology.
What I didn’t know was that it also had a place in international rock ‘n’ roll iconography. Ivor pointed out that there was a Beatles connection. And so there is. This photograph of a young John Lennon is famous, but I bet you didn’t know that he’s clutching a South African-made Gallotone guitar. I didn’t!
John Lennon, with the Quarrymen performing at St. Peter’s Church fête in July 1957.
Doing a little research on the Gallotone guitar (there isn’t very much) I discovered that another rock colossus started out on a guitar from a factory outside Durban with the marketing slogan: “guaranteed not to split” .
The tell-tale sign of an authentic Gallotone guitar.
Indeed, Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds and later Led Zeppelin fame is also pictured as a lightie with a Gallotone ‘Wonder’ model:
A young Jimmy Page with his Gallotone Wonder
Now you may be wondering how these South African guitars become seemingly so popular in Britain. The answer is that in the 1950s there was a Board of Trade ban on the import of American goods into the UK, and even when it was lifted the duties were quite heavy making Gibson and Fender guitars too expensive for aspiring teenage rockers. In contrast, cheap guitars made in the Commonwealth were very obtainable.
There is one small inaccuracy in David Kramer‘s song, however. When he sings that Budgie played ‘a Gallo guitar’ with a home-made amplifier and used the whammy-bar like ‘Hank Marvin’ he’s taking a bit of artistic license: Gallo never manufactured electric guitars, “only acoustics,” Haarberger reminded us.
Catch the episode where we chat to Ivor Haarberger the here.
Master-guitarist Tony Cox has turned to crowd funding to raise money for his new album. He says he has no record company support at this time – which is beyond comprehension! How can an award-winning, internationally respected musician with many successful albums to their name be abandoned like this? But you can’t keep a great muso down.
He says via his Facebook page:
I’ve been working hard on my new album over several months now and will be ready to begin recording in January. Padkos is an album that is very different to all the others that I have made over the years because it has a large percentage of covers. I have made my entire career on the back of exclusively original work and so for Padkos, I decided to arrange covers of some of my favourite South African tunes that stretch all the way back to my youth. Among them are, P J Power’s, Jabulani, Bright Blue’s, Weeping, the old traditional Sarie Marais, Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mannenberg and Nico Carsten’s Zambezi. Mixed in there are a few new thought provoking songs and instrumentals that have been inspired and pushed out by my life experiences these last few years.
I have named the album Padkos (road food) because so many people write to me and tell me how much they enjoy the music while travelling and we all know music is food for the soul…
Helping me give the tunes some verve and power will be a line-up of some of my favourite SA musos such as Jimmy Dludlu and Steve Newman. There will definitely be a few surprise guests not mentioned here.
To fund the Padkos project, Tony is pre-selling signed copies of his forthcoming album to be released early next year. Copies cost a mere R160 (or $20/£12.50 for international orders). However, a great deal is available for R320. This will include the album, plus you will be Dropboxed digital copies of three more of his award-winning albums: Matabele Ants, China and Blue Anthem.
You couldn’t ask for a better deal. If you’re in SA, you can buy it via bank transfer (details here) or if you’re overseas you can buy it using Paypal from his website.
Tune Me What? co-presenter Leon Lazarus was lucky enough to be in L.A. to attend the launch party to celebrate the release of National Wake’s “Walk in Africa 1979-81” by Light in the Attic Records where he caught up with former band member Ivan Kadey who steered the remastering project.
Leon was also thrilled to meet Baba Vusi Shibambo. Vusi was a neighbor of the Khoza brothers and landed up living in the house with Ivan, the Khoza brothers and others at the age of 16. He played African drums at the launch party. A very talented man indeed.
If you haven’t listened to our special episode with Ivan Kadey in which he talks about his time in National Wake, the remastering of the archives and spins some of his favourite records, catch it here!