The first time ribald singing satirist Fred Negro fought the law he won - with a little help from a bemused Prahran magistrate.

It was 1986 and Fred was fronting one of his many bands I Spit On Your Gravy whose alter ego The Gravy Billies were later banned from Tamworth.

The Richmond born, Collingwood supporter singer's record retailers were busted by the Vice Squad over the band's debut vinyl disc, St Kilda's Alright.

The gendarmes received complaints about the disc's lyrics and lyric sheet they seized in a raid on Greville Records in Prahran and a St Kilda store in June, 1985.

Magistrate Graeme Golden - a connoisseur of fine arts - was handed the case in the then modern Prahran courthouse.

The now defunct courthouse may have been modern but His Worship noted that none of the courtrooms were fitted with musical accoutrements such as a record player.

Magistrate Golden, wishing to give the retailers the full benefit of his musical and legal knowledge, requested the Vice Squad or prosecutor oblige with such an accessory.
There was a deafening silence - perhaps an omen for the outcome.

I suggested to the cops they borrow one from lost property at the adjacent police station.


Such daytime concerts were light relief for long suffering court reporters who spent most of their days writing about and ducking and weaving wealth belt snobs, crims, celebrities, sport, TV, radio and rock stars and other flotsam and jetsam.

The prosecution subsequently located a stereophonic unit with minimal hiss and the show began with all the flourish of John McMahon's Radio Auditions on 3UZ.

Gregarious Golden dropped the needle on the Gravy and treated an ever-growing cast to selected tracks from the distinctly Australian album in a welcome sense of fair play.

I don't recall the name of any of the long forgotten tunes but have a vivid impression that none featured pedal steel, fiddle or banjo.

Golden, a man of diverse taste and humour, ruled the lads disc might offend some but it was not obscene.

"Anyone possessed of a reasonable intelligence would not buy it," Golden declared for the benefit of the Press.

"If I said it was obscene it would probably increase sales and I don't want to do that."
His Worship said that most of the $9 retail price wasn't spent on the music.
"I imagine most of the $9 went into packaging."

So the charges were dismissed and Negro went away to find other means of increasing his infamy.


Negro's many bands included the Editions, Brady Bunch Lawn Mower Massacre, The Band Who Shot Liberty Valance and Fuck, Fucks but none went to Tamworth in January of 1986.

So it was left to the Gravy Billies who joined an old style package show with the late A P Johnson and the Dead Livers at Tamworth Workmen's Club at the 14th annual festival.
But there lay the problem.

The Dead Livers, under the tutelage of St Kilda promoter and expatriate Kiwi guitarist Tex Nobody, was the only one of those three acts booked at Tamworth Workmen's Club.
Johnson and Negro's lads merely stepped into the bawdy breech as a public service when Sydney band Shotgun failed to front for their support role.

The Gravy Billies were gonged after performing such crowd pleasers as The Ballad Of Rockabilly Hudson & Gomer Pyle, We Ate The World, Dim Sim Head, The Monster Grows, Football Mouth and Let's Buy A Pizza.


So was Johnson when he serenaded a NSW Vice Squad sergeant, celebrating his 30th birthday, with a selection of David Allan Coe country porn classics from his Nothing Sacred and Underground albums.

The birthday party, including Papal biographer - the late James Oram - was also treated to Johnson performing his original Tamworth RIP.

So the "support" acts were fired and the Dead Livers lived to play another day.

This was not suffice strife for Gravy Billies, buoyed by possibilities of pending publicity in Australasian Post, Truth, Sunday Press, People, Juke and The Age.

"We've been kicked out of better joints than this," Negro said before launching plan-B.
The lads ventured into other venues and conducted a unique talent quest - their Nipple Print Hall Of Fame.

Not a huge success but a feat appealing to the large press contingent jaded by the P R trotted out by festival organisers.

But that was then and this is now.

Johnson's CD Greatest Hits & Ex Misses was the first release on the Nu Country record label.

CLICK HERE to read how you can buy a copy.

And Negro's new roots country band Shonky Tonk is now mainstream as the acts it once parodied.


Singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman booked Johnson as his support act for the final night of a three-date season at now defunct ID's in Prahran on his debut Australian tour at Easter of 1990.

The Kinkster, unimpressed by the booker's choice of Dave Graney for the first two gigs, spotted A P lurking in the shadows at the venue.

Kinky called Johnson up on stage to tune his guitar during the second show - sadly old A P de-tuned it so badly that hot shot guitarist Mick Hamilton earned a cameo repairing the damage.

This earned Johnson - not Mick - the support on the third gig.

It was a novel way of choosing a support act but a trend continued on future tours when the artist was not happy with local supports chosen by the promoter or booker.


Negro formed Shonky Tonk with a bunch of desperadoes in 1993 and didn't have to wait long to win the support for a tour by Waylon, Willie and Billy Joe Shaver in 1994.

The band played in the foyer of the Rod Laver Arena as the entree act and guitarist Dave Moll wrote the tune Billy, Willie & Waylon about their life changing experience.

Shonky Tonk landed the gig with the help of Musicians Union officer Paul Gruyters who needed an Australian support.

They also landed a gig on the second Kinky Friedman tour from Gruyters successor - the late Andrew Laverty, also a big supporter of Nu Country.

So by the time Kinky returned for tours in 2000 and 2002 the lads were there by popular request from artist and promoter alike at Melbourne shows.

Shonky Tonk backed Kinky and Little Jewford at the famed Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda, on Saturday August 26, 2000 at an huge benefit after our Beer Can Hill studios burned down on June 26.

The show saved the bacon of the radio station, later resurrected at the Paris, Texas, end of Collins St in 2001 and now branching out into TV as well as live shows.


Billy, Willie & Waylon is one of many highlights of the band's 1998 debut CD, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

The album also featured Peter Lillie tune I Wanna Sing A Johnny Cash Song - the writer also recorded it but not on his Poetry & Western disc.

Shonky Tonk also recorded other originals including Lillie's Brand New Appliance, the Negro-Moll collaborations Miss My Mind, Something More Comfy, Girl From APRA (with Jason Evans who also co-wrote I Hate Collingwood.)

Negro adapted Old Pubs from a Peter Gow poem, penned The Song Radio Would Flog with and Moll penned the self deprecatory Big Time about his ambitions.

The band also covered the late Roger Miller's This Town, Roger Ferris's George Jones hit Yabba Dabba Do and Johnathan Richman's Horsies.

And don't forget their finale cut of Hank Williams Jr hit All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight - the killer song after which Fred named his son.


That's real country and so is Negro who designed the Nu Country dingo logos that have adorned our tee shirts, caps, windcheaters and other merchandise.

Negro generously donated his talents over a decade to our multi media missile that is still aimed high and wide.

One of his many dingoes was animated for the first 13 episode series of our TV show and others are roaming the unlucky radio country.

Shonky Tonk performs live from the Jackson St festival in St Kilda on Nu Country TV - Saturday December 27 - and when it's repeated in 2004.

If that doesn't sate your taste - the band has a full book of gigs over summer.

Check out Fred's Pub Strip in InPress magazine and his Esplanade and Greyhound Hotel cartoon ads in Beat and InPress for full details.

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