Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Ross Wilson: Bio

Ross Wilson

Ross Wilson is probably the only person in Australian rock music who can't make a comeback simply because he's never been away. In a career that spans over 40 years Ross remains one of this country's most respected artists. From Daddy Cool to Mondo Rock, as a solo artist, or as songwriter of A-grade classics such as Eagle Rock, Cool World and A Touch of Paradise, or producer of the legendary Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep, The Johnnys, & more recently The Screaming Jets, Ross's involvement with success has continued unabated. He fronted Daddy Cool & exploded out of the 70s playing rootsy 50s sounds. Then formed Mondo Rock who surfed the contemporary scene with chart topping singles & albums from the mid 70s to the late 80s. As a solo performer and major songwriter he continued to achieve success & make his mark during the 90s & beyond with his songs being recorded by artists as diverse as Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, DEF-FX, Custard, Jennifer Rush (EU), Troy Cassar-Daley, Leslie Avril, Hey Gringo, You Am I, Uncle Bill, Keke (Spain), Renee Geyer, Christine Anu, Duane Jarvis (US), Elkie Brooks (UK), Ann Kirkpatrick & Lee Kernaghan, Sovereign, Pleasantville, Beccy Cole, Sonic Jihad, and The Wiggles! On trips to Europe & the USA he collaborated with O/S writers & concluded the millenium as a special guest performer on John Farnham's "I Can't Believe I'm 50" tour & live CD/DVD.

2001 saw Ross back on the frontline as the result of a decision to return to regular live performing & recording. A new solo album GoBONGO GoWild! was released in April 2001 displaying the vital influence that blues-based music, such as early R&B and jazz, continues to have on his performance & songwriting styles. Rave reviews for GoBONGO GoWild! led to an alliance with Shock Records & the November 2001 release of 'Now Listen! The Best of Ross Wilson', a 30 track, 2CD distillation of Ross's career to that point. From his first release with The Pink Finks in 1965, to brand new tracks & previously unreleased early recordings, as well as the major hits of Daddy Cool & Mondo Rock, this wide-rangeing compendium is the official 'history of', as selected by the man himself. (Go to the "NOW LISTEN!" notes below to read the full liner notes that accompanied this important release.)

2003 - Prepared simultaneously with GoBONGO GoWild! and Now Listen!, but not released til February 2003, a third album, 'Country & Wilson', demonstrated the pervasive influence of country & folk music that was hinted at in earlier RW works like Come Back Again & Bed Of Nails. Country & Wilson completed Ross's desire to reveal his fundamental musical sources & uses this genre's accent on story-telling & finely honed lyrics to deliver his most personal work to date. Produced by Nash Chambers & Ross Wilson 10 of the album's 12 songs are written or co-written by Ross. Inspired by his own experiences & beliefs from the humourous '(I Was On) MTV In The 80s', to tales of lost love such as 'Nothin's Right Nothin's Wrong', the politics of 'No Soul', to family history 'Under The Waves (And Far Away)', and backed by some of Australia's finest twangers, on this album you get both kinds of music, Country AND Wilson. Ross's second major release for 2003 was The Essential Mondo Rock, a 29 track 2CD Mondo Rock retrospective released by Sony.

2004 - Mondo Rock's classic Come Said The Boy was sampled for #1 Dance Chart entry 'The First Time' by DJ Damon Boyd Vs Mondo Rock, which is included on the freshest Mondo Rock compilation yet, Mondo Rock - The Greatest (Sony/BMG).

2005 marked the 40th year since his first release & Top 40 entry, The Pink Finks' 'Louie Louie'. This important landmark was accompanied by celebrations, group reunions, & updated retrospectives. On 27 Feb 2005 Daddy Cool performed for the first time since 1975. The 30 year gap hadn't changed them a bit which you can see for yourself on 'The Complete Daddy Cool' DVD that was released later that year. Mondo Rock also reformed for some Sydney shows (Nov 2005) & have continued to be active.

2006: Mondo Rock played to 80,000 on 'The Countdown Spectacular' national arena tour while DC recorded a superb new album 'The New Cool'.

2007: Daddy Cool capped off the reunion with their first national tour in over 30 years when they hit the road with US legends The Beach Boys. On top of this Ross kept a busy tour schedule of his own with his live action band Ross Wilson & The Urban Legends, including national appearances on the successful 'A Day On The Green' series with Chris Isaak and Crosby Stills & Nash. 

2008 Mid-2008 saw the release of 'Tributary' (Liberation Blue) a semi-acoustic album that revisits songs from his career catalogue resulting in sometimes radical rearrangements of the hits plus fresh airings of worthy lesser known works. Reactions from both critics & fans have been overwhelmingly positive. Late 2008 Ross journeyed to Nashville where producer Mark Moffatt directed sessions for an album full of brand new songs.  

2009 These trax were temporarily shelved while he took the '5 Decades Of Cool' concerts to Melbourne & Sydney & released the resulting filmed footage as the debut RW solo DVD 'Ross Wilson Live At The Palais' showcasing his long & diverse catalogue with guest performances from members of The Pink Finks, The Party Machine, Daddy Cool, Spectrum, Mondo Rock, Skyhooks & a 3 song duet with national icon Jimmy Barnes. 

2010 The release of the Nashville trax is proof that age brings wisdom accompanied by a display of undiminished vocal & songwriting skills. The album's title is I Come In Peace  and the title track's release as a single accompanied by a hot video, saw Ross back on the airwaves all over the country. 2nd single I Got You was also added to networks in the run-up to Christmas & 2011. Bruce Elder (Sydney Morning Herald) recently stated - “Ross is unquestionably one of this country's most gifted songwriters" and I Got You is a "standout rock oriented track".  I Got You, co-written with country music star Dianna Corcoran, celebrates life in modern day Australia "We live in a lucky country / The future is ours to find / And I got you!" 

2011 became the year of touring to consolidate the success of I Come In Peace & a 3rd track The Same Moon hit the airwaves. Forays into rural areas included theatre shows in Vic & SA country areas & gold mining boom towns in NSW plus a series of 'Up Close & Personal' semi-acoustic intimate performances with the Ross Wilson Trio (RW3). Sony finally released 1971's biggest album Daddy Who? Daddy Cool for the first time ever on CD in its original form, as a remastered 40th anniversary edition, & it re-entered the ARIA Top 40 albums chart. The classic track from that album, Eagle Rock, has now achieved anthem status for fans of AFL's West Coast Eagles & NFL's Manly Sea Eagles resulting in RW appearances for both those teams. Eagle Rock also featured on the soundtrack of Red Dog, the highest grossing Australian-produced movie of 2011. During the past decade RW has become a regular performer at corporate events & conventions & 2011 was his biggest year yet in that arena.  

 

RW HISTORY (Liner notes by Ian McFarlane from 'Now Listen! The Best Of Ross Wilson)  

Ross Wilson has come a long way since 1964 when he fronted The Pink Finks, a schoolboy R&B band. In 1965 they recorded 'Louie Louie' a bona fide garage record and possibly Australia's first independent single. The disc charted in Melbourne leading to a record deal & 3 more singles being released, while he was still at school! In 1966 he formed The Party Machine & honed his emerging songwriting skills. The band published a lyric book in 1968 which was seized by the Vice Squad, deemed as obscene, & burned!! It was time to leave home. Ross relocated to England at the invitation of Procession, Australia's avant-garde rock pioneers. Returning to Australia in late 1969 he formed Sons Of The Vegetal Mother from which a splinter group, Daddy Cool emerged in 1970. Summer 70/71 saw DC take Melbourne by storm via their TF Much Ballroom performances. Appearances at outdoor rock festivals sealed their reputation nationally. In early 1971 Daddy Cool released Australia's all-time champion #1 Rock Anthem ‘Eagle Rock’. By the end of the year the group had set new sales records in this country, dominating the charts & concert scene, and became the first Australian band to make a real impact on the US touring circuit playing major concerts with Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Captain Beefheart, Little Feat, Linda Rondstat, Earth Wind & Fire, Elvin Bishop & more & releasing albums worldwide on Reprise Records. From 1974-76 Ross produced 3 albums for Skyhooks and again set new sales records & redefined standards and directions for a vigorous and expanding domestic music scene. In 1976 the soundtrack for Australia's first Rock Movie OZ included his debut solo recording, Living In The Land Of Oz, championing aboriginal rights. At this time he also produced Jo Jo Zep's first two albums & early recordings for Stephen Cummings' group The Sports. In 1977 he formed Mondo Rock. Their 2nd album Chemistry became one of the largest selling albums of 1980/81, yielding the hits Cool World, State of the Heart, Chemistry, & Summer of '81. Mondo Rock continued to produce hits with No Time, Come Said The Boy, and Primitive Love Rites, until Ross decided to pursue a solo career, releasing the 1989 album Dark Side Of The Man & the hit single Bed Of Nails. After 20 years of non-stop touring Ross took a few years off to concentrate more on writing than performing. Some were lucky enough to catch his recreational power-funk outfit RAW, 1991-93. A collaboration with The Angels & Angry Anderson in 1997 became 'The Lounge Lizards' national tour. He does his country thing at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and has worked with jazz men such as Jex Saarehlaht, Paul Williamson, John McAll & the Heta Moses Big Band around his home base in Melbourne. All of these experiences are now being reflected in his latest releases & performances. Jan 12 2001 Ross took to the stage at Melbourne's renowned Continental Cafe to launch a new era in his solo career & hasn't stopped since. 2002 witnessed capacity attendances & rave reviews for Ross's debuts at the internationally acclaimed Port Fairy Folk Festival & Australia's biggest blues extravaganza the East Coast Blues & Roots Festival. In full-house arenas during August & September 2002 he warmly embraced his past by playing his 1971/72 Daddy Cool hits to 150,000 fellow Australians as part of the national, ground-breaking, Sold Out, 50s-70s, Oz Rock heritage tour, Long Way To The Top. As he says, "I want to be able to play for any audience, anywhere, & have them dig my music." Quite an ambitious aim but the current genre-hopping tour schedule is proving Ross Wilson can do exactly that. Ross Wilson - Now Listen! Liner Notes By Ian McFarlane When I suggested to Ross Wilson that he has given more to the institution of Australian rock'n'roll than can ever possibly be repaid, he laughed heartily and replied, "Yeah, I like that comment. I think I'll work that theory for a while." 'Eagle Rock' is a celebrated case in point. You only have to recall those indelible opening chords and Wilson's admonishment to 'Now Listen!' to realise how completely the song has embedded itself into the country's collective consciousness, become such a part of the cultural milieu in which we thrive, as to be accepted unconditionally. And being nominated as the second Best Australian Song of all time by the Australian Performing Rights Association (APRA) isn't such a bad thing either. The fact that Wilson's songwriting has withstood that most stringent (some may say insidious) of modern rock precepts, 'classic hits' radio programming, serves to hammer the point home emphatically. Listeners never tire of hearing the likes of 'Eagle Rock', 'Cool World' or 'Touch of Paradise' (okay, so John Farnham had the hit), simply because they're great songs. Yet that only tells part of the story. In a career spanning almost four decades, the tenacious Ross 'The Boss' Wilson has participated in the transformation of a fledgling industry into an enormously successful and well-respected force on the international stage. He's issued over 45 singles and EPs (17 of which hit the Top 40) and 25 albums (including compilations), an astonishing tally by any criteria. For most of his 38-year career, Wilson has led rock bands although he has periodically taken to the stage as a solo performer. This compilation is the first serious attempt to chronicle the man's entire career, balancing the familiar hits with three new recordings and a bonus disc of rarities that's sure to satiate the demands of Wilson aficionados and lovers of arcane esoterica alike. And it's fitting that Wilson has overseen everything himself, from the track selection to the mastering process. Beginnings By the time he was 16 years old, Wilson was already an R&B devotee. He got his first taste of the rock'n'roll lifestyle, during 1965, as a member of Melbourne teenage R&B combo The Pink Finks. Alongside 13-year-old lead guitarist Ross Hannaford, Wilson became an instant celebrity at school when the band's raunchy, primitive take of Richard Berry's 'Louie Louie' became a hit. "I already had a knowledge of where jazz and blues converged because I'd worked my way through my father's record collection," Wilson recalled. "I'd taken up playing the harmonica because I was laid up in hospital with a broken leg, quickly learned how to improvise around the songs, you didn't just have to stick to the melody. Then having dug the Rolling Stones I'd made the connection in my mind between what they were doing and the blues guys they were learning from. I was getting hold of these import albums by Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and all this solid stuff and we started applying that to the Pink Finks. I'd say there's this great Sleepy John Estes song, why don't we have a go at that?" Indeed the Finks dug deeper into the history of the blues for material like their cover of Willie Dixon's 'Backdoor Man', in which the teenage Wilson sounded like a slimy 60-year old with nefarious intentions! On the other hand, their cover of local rock'n'roll legend Johnny Chester's 'You're Good to Me' was a great little Rolling Stones rip somewhere between 'Oh, Carol' and '19th Nervous Breakdown'. The Pink Finks played the local dance circuit alongside other likeminded R&B outfits of the day, the likes of Keith Glass' band the Rising Sons and the King Bees, fronted by Joe Camilleri. Yet the Finks were never destined to last, and by 1967, under the influence of Frank Zappa in addition to Howlin' Wolf, Wilson had unveiled The Party Machine. Along for the ride were Hannaford and Mike Rudd, with the band managing to issue the impossibly rare 'You've All Got to Go' b/w 'The Gentle Art' single and turn a few heads in the process. Yet it was notoriety rather than success that befell the band, in particular when the Victorian Vice Squad deemed their printed songbook (which contained such choice Wilson-penned songs as 'I Don't Believe All Your Kids Should be Virgins') to be obscene and seditious. "I was into the Jefferson Airplane at the time, the Freak Out album by Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, I got the early Pink Floyd singles when they first came out, so it was a good time for experimentation. But I had this desire to write my own material. As a piece of music 'Virgins' stands up, there's some great things going on with the guitars, strange chords that I'd worked out on piano. It was just about being able to take the pill, which was new then. So the question was 'what's the problem now?' You can have sex without getting pregnant, so why not? It was a bit of a generational-type song. It was in tune with the times." Vegetal Mothers & Eagle Rock Wilson skipped Australia for a time during 1969, when he received an S.O.S. call from psych-pop band Procession, then based in England. The attempt to salvage the band from imminent stagnation did not work, and Wilson returned to Australia in early 1970. Recalling Hannaford and Rudd (then fronting Spectrum), Wilson formed esoteric, special-occasion band the Sons of the Vegetal Mother. The Australian progressive rock era was beginning to burgeon and the Sons emerged as one of the movement's leading lights, making an impression at such popular 'head' venues of the day as the T.F. Much Ballroom. The Sons issued one of the rarest artefacts of the era, 'The Garden Party' EP which was only ever given away at a multi-media happening / art exhibition arranged by artist Warren Knight. The hypnotic 'Love is the Law' was based around Aleister Crowley's dictum 'to do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law' while the primal rock rant 'Make it Begin' possessed an intensity rarely captured before. Wilson abandoned the Sons concept when he and Hannaford launched the popular, good-time Daddy Cool during November 1970. Interestingly, what started as a bit of a joke for Wilson, a doo-wop revival outfit, soon became one of the mostly fondly remembered Australian bands of all time. Daddy Cool was Wilson's chance to indulge his new passion for vintage Los Angeles harmony rock'n'roll, a humourous and entertaining diversion from the serious business of advancing the horizons of rock music. Forget the heavy stuff; let's just have fun! By applying a commercial outlook to the prevailing underground trends of the day, Wilson and Daddy Cool not only entered the hearts of numerous gig goers but also made a major impact on the Australian charts in the process. With the bold, exuberant debut album, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! and the Australian dance classic 'Eagle Rock', both hitting the national #1 spot, the entire nation rocked incessantly to the vibrant beat. The album set a new yardstick by which Australian rock success could be measured by selling, a then unprecedented, 60 000 copies. "I started writing 'Eagle Rock' in England. I'd developed this finger picking style, like a rural blues style, and I came up with this riff. There was this article in The Sunday Times and it had a picture of people dancing in a Juke Joint, and the caption said they were 'doing the Eagle Rock and Cutting the Pigeon Wing'. This is the way songwriting works, I'd got the title and that was the key to unlocking what was in my subconscious. I got back to Australia and I finished off the chorus. I'd play it to people and say 'do you like this riff?' 'Have you heard it somewhere before?' It seemed so good, I was thinking, 'gee I hope I haven't pinched that from somewhere'. After a while I figured I must have come up with it myself. I've read similar stories like with Paul McCartney when he wrote 'Yesterday', or Keith Richards with 'Satisfaction'. Those are quintessential songs. It's something that's there inside you. With 'Eagle Rock' it formed the foundation for everything I've done since. It summed up a philosophy I had, just have fun with this music, you know. And it was the combination of players in Daddy Cool that made the impact. It was absolutely the right group of guys to play that song, and they just latched on to it straight away." The second album, Sex, Dope, Rock'n'Roll: Teenage Heaven, was more adventurous musically, boasting tracks like the buoyant rocker 'Hi Honey Ho' and a raunchy cover of the old R&B tune 'Baby Let Me Bang Your Box'. It also managed to outrage church groups and politicians with the title alone. Both albums retain a satisfying freshness and charm to this day. Following the break up of Daddy Cool, Wilson unveiled the short-lived Mighty Kong, represented on the bonus disc by the cautionary 'Hard Drugs', produced the first three groundbreaking Skyhooks albums, issued his debut solo single, 'Living in the Land of Oz', and launched Mondo Rock. Cool World The multifarious Mondo Rock came to be a dominant force on the Australian music scene for most of the 1980s. Not only an accomplished live act, the band excelled in the studio. And the hits flowed effortlessly: 'The Fugitive Kind', 'State of the Heart', 'Cool World', 'Chemistry', 'Come Said the Boy', 'No Time' and 'Primitive Love Rites'. Yet behind the success, Wilson found the going tough at times. For starters, the instability of a couple of the many different Mondo line-ups was a cause for concern. Nevertheless, Wilson found one trusty, long-term collaborator in guitarist / songwriter Eric McCusker. "My songwriting kinda dried up there for a while, I lost the plot a bit in the 1980s. So it was great to have Eric on board, I needed someone else to help carry the burden. He wrote stuff like 'State of the Heart' and 'Come Said the Boy'. Mondo Rock worked solidly for over 10 years; it kept me alive. Then I got my solo thing happening with the Dark Side of the Man album in 1989." Featuring the hit 'Bed of Nails', the album proved to be Wilson's last solo release for 12 years until the Go Bongo, Go Wild! CD (which represented his work throughout the 1990s) appeared in early 2001. To be sure, he'd never stopped working in between times. Mondo Rock came back for one more album, his awesome powerfunk outfit RAW made an impact on the live circuit (sadly no recordings were ever issued) and he wrote a stack of new songs. Two of the new songs appear here for the first time, the beguiling ballad 'Slave to My Emotions' and the revelatory 'Same as Me'. Both fit stylistically with the mainstream pop feel presented on Disc One. There's also Wilson's new arrangement of the enduring 'Touch of Paradise', the song he co-wrote with Gulliver Smith for John Farnham. "I've been doing my own thing for a long time. In the last few years I've been working with a pool of musicians, really great jazz players and we don't have to rehearse too much. The music's great, they can play whatever I want them to play, and then some! And they like working with me too! When I did the Dark Side of the Man album, I'd worked with some fantastic people, both here and in New York, and it blew my mind. I learned that the only way I could keep improving was to always work with the best players. I took a vow then that's what I would continue to do. And I've been doing that ever since." Ross Wilson, may your career continue to thrive for another 38 years! © Ian McFarlane 2001 Ian McFarlane is the author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop, published by Allen & Unwin, 1999. Disc 2 CRACKLE & POP 1965-70, 1973, 1976-79 Tracks 1-4 & 7-9 were transferred from vinyl recordings as the master tapes were either lost or unavailable. Hence there are a few audible pre digital era cracks & scratches to add to the atmosphere. The first 8 tracks of this companion disc to Now Listen! demonstrate the startling musical evolution I shared with my guitar playing pal Ross Hannaford during the 6 year journey that lead to the so-called 'overnight success' of Daddy Cool & the associated kick-starting of an acceleration of acceptance & consumption of Aussie music by its audience. From our schoolboy band The Pink Finks (65) releasing "Louie Louie" on their own Mojo label, through the honing of songwriting skills with The Party Machine (67-69), until the rampaging Sons Of The Vegetal Mother (70) give birth to Daddy Cool at the T.F.Much Ballroom, the progression is audible & amazing. Post-DC I started off on another trip, first with the short lived Mighty Kong (73), then with the early twin guitar powered lineup of Mondo Rock (76-79) My longest lasting project, Mondo Rock (76-90) started as an occasional thing to help promote my 1st solo single "Living In The Land Of Oz" (NL!) & it wasn't until 1978 that we issued our debut single "The Fugitive Kind" (NL!). It did well enough for us to be able to work non-stop on the booming national pub-rock circuit. "Love Shock" (1979) failed to chart but I like this previously unreleased 1981 remix that improves on the original. Its B-side "The Mood" is a mono live cut which, despite its lo-fi origins (a desk-mix cassette) , is testament to the fire & groove we could produce on a good night. Mondos' 1st album "Primal Park" (title track included here) also came out in 1979 around the time internal problems made me decide to seek a new lineup, management, & label. The result was the hit-making group that featured ace songwriter/guitarist Eric McCusker & for the next decade he & I shared another roller coaster ride through the Oz-Rock fun park. The mainstream hits of Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock, and just plain Ross Wilson, are well represented on Now Listen! This disc is about the pre-fame & between fame time I put in and is full of the energy & excitement that comes from having nothing to lose & bugger-all recording budgets. Most of these 12 tracks fell through the cracks back then but are tendered here as proof of the dues that must be paid, & the time to experiment that is necessary to refine sound & style, before 'overnight success' is achievable. It's a long way to the top all right; over & over. Ross Wilson, October 2001