DIARY - 21 JULY 2011 - CHAD MORGAN DOCUMENTARY
MORGAN - NOT DEAD YET
the sheilahs think I'm handsome/ their fathers think I'm mad/ their mothers
think I'm a villain/ but I'm just a loveable lad/ they say I'm like Cassanova/
I drink, I smoke I swear/ they say I'm the Sheik of Scrubby Creek but
I don't care." - The Sheik of Scrubby Creek - Chad Morgan.
was a match made in hillbilly heaven - the tale of two Queensland
refugees who fled the sunshine state in the seventies to make music
south of the Murray Dixon line.
Morgan - the Sheik of Scrubby Creek - survived frequent brushes
with the bottle, drink diving and death to reach the ripe old age
But A. P. Johnson - the idol of Australian youth - plunged from
alleged armed robbery with a water pistol to death at 49 late in
the spring of 1995 from a dead liver and pneumonia.
The Cheech & Chong of cosmic counter culture country music may
have been banished from Tamworth but found an eager, much younger
fan hub on the mean streets of Melbourne.
They shared stages with some of the cooler local pop acts of an
era when redneck-hippie nuptials were a career catalyst for Texans
Waylon, Willie and Ray Wylie Hubbard and fellow outlaws Hank Williams
Jr and David Allan Coe.
A. P. appeared with country and pop peers at venues diverse as strip clubs,
The Reefer Cabaret, Prahran, The Espie Hotel, St Kilda, and festivals
at Wandong, Bacchus Marsh and way beyond.
Johnson, former member of The Whittle Family, was also head hunted by
singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman to open a show for him on
his debut 1990 tour.
He then shocked patrons at his come to church shows at the now defunct
Stockade Hotel in Carlton by having sex on the stage with a stripper,
now in her seventies.
Not surprisingly Morgan-Johnson stories of hell raising, carousing and
songwriting - often made headlines in the national media.
Sydney director Janine Hosking of iKandy Films revisited the amazing life
and times of Chad and A. P. in her acclaimed documentary, I'm Not Dead
The 95-minute documentary, screened at Sydney Film Festival in June, makes
its Victorian debut at the 60th Melbourne Film Festival at 4 pm on Sunday
July 31 at the Greater Union Theatre in Russell St.
Tex Perkins narrates the epic, prompted by radio reports of the premature
passing of the singer and his ostracism in country music HQ Tamworth.
Chad, eldest of 14 children born to a Wondai cane and timber cutter in
the Great Depression, survived brushes with death on motorbikes and in
''It gave me sister an awful fright,'' Chad revealed of radio news of
his premature passing.
''She went off her brain. I rang up the station and corrected them. But,
hey, I have been dying for 50 years. In the old days, when I was drinking
real heavy, everybody was always saying, 'He'll be dead in a year.' So
I'm kind of used to it.''
Morgan, who hasn't drunk alcohol in 26 years and happily wed to second
wife Joan, is very much alive, still touring and making music.
declare my interest in the documentary.
I was approached by director Janine after she salvaged unedited extracts
of an interview I did for another documentary on Chad for long defunct
Paul Barry hosted Witness show on the Seven Network.
That segment was filmed at my home office deep in the heart of Glen Iris
- the geographical centre of Melbourne.
This time Janine and docco crew filmed extensive interviews with this
diarist and Dead Livers bassist Michael Schack at the same locale in the
summer of 2010.
We both revealed the travails and travels of both Chad and A. P. on this
stretch of the Lost Highway.
Schack's band - one of 10 that he performs with - shared stages with both
icons of the genre.
The Dead Livers played with Chad, A.P. and many more at a seventies Bacchus
Marsh country festival staged by One Armed Bandit singer and latter day
Bona Fide Travellers front man Snowy Townsend.
They also worked many other gigs with Johnson who duetted with P.C. Caulton
on I'd Love To Have A Smoke With Malcolm (Fraser).
It was a parody of Dead Livers hit I'd Love To Have A Joint With Willie
- a spoof of the Pat Alexander penned Slim Dusty chart topper I'd Love
To Have A Drink With Duncan.
The two Duncan parodies - the former penned by the Diarist and latter
by Caulton and Johnson - were recorded at Southbound studio run by latter
day expat Australasian Barry Coburn.
They were part of an EP cassette released on Coburn's indie South Of The
Border records for Shotgun Willie Nelson's debut 1980 Australian tour.
But I digress.
Let's return to the Chad Morgan story.
SHEIK OF SCRUBBY CREEK
never, never, never tie a chook's legs together/ if you are going to chop
off his head/ because it's terrific fun, to see his headless body run."
- Never Tie A Chook's Legs Together - A. P Johnson.
I first saw
Chad perform in my hometown of Warrnambool in the sixties.
played a similar circuit to late one time Warrnambool resident Smoky
Dawson, Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams and Tex Morton.
I interviewed three of the latter quartet in the seventies but never
My only encounter with the singing actor was when he phoned the
desk I shared with Papal biographer Jim Oram on the long defunct
Sydney Daily Mirror in the eighties and asked why Oram was late
for a liquid lunch.
But Chad was a frequent interviewee in his tenure in Melbourne when
he painted the town red with Johnson who arrived down south in 1977
as the singing roadie for RCA Brisbane band Moose Malone.
Broken Hill journalist and long time 3UZ country music DJ and singer
Dave Pincombe was managing and opening shows for Chad and also writing
for the Sunday Press - predecessor of Sunday Herald Sun.
< Chad Morgan & Tex Perkins
a constant stream of stories on Chad who belatedly won his Tamworth Golden
Guitar at the age of 76.
Here are just some of them.
KILLERS ALMOST KILLED CHAD
Riley was a racehorse but he only had one leg/ he would hop around like
a kangaroo rat/ but he was born as a horse instead/ his father was a 3
legged stallion/ his mother had no legs at all/ when the marvelous moment
of his birth came around/ he was a lovely one legged foal/ he had teeth
just like Chad Morgan/ and had what me worry ears." - Riley The
One Legged Racehorse - A P Johnson.
Morgan, born in rural Queensland, had his first brush with death
at 20 on Christmas Eve in 1953.
He broke his leg in five places and spent 14 months in hospital
after a motorcycle crash when he was over-laden with Christmas presents
Chad wrote Sheik Of Scrubby Creek at 16 - long before his
protracted convalescence in hospital.
But on recovery he ascended from talent quests to performing his
unique brand of country and humour in a constant stream of hits
1977 his car hit a fence at 2 am on Raglan Parade, aka Highway One,
in Warrnambool on his return from Mt Gambier.
A Good Samaritan
- Australasian Post photographer Gary Francis - helped soak up the royal
blue blood of the Sheik until an ambulance arrived and took him to hospital.
Chad, with 28 stitches in a head wound, cancelled many gigs because he
was speechless from the seat belt wrapping around his neck.
Fortunately for Chad he was not blood tested like late Premier - Sir Henry
Bolte - who crashed further north.
But luckily for the late Knight his late night ended happily when a dingo
devoured his blood sample after it was transported from the police station
to the local hospital.
Chad, unlike Henry, had a day or two in court and hospital.
At the age of 47 the Sheik suffered a stroke.
And two years later a DUI charge in Finley - hometown of Brownlow medallist
Shane Crawford, recently deceased multiple VFL premiership coach Alan
Jeans and current Geelong star Tom Hawkins.
Chad trumped that when he blew .225% in the high country at Mansfield
en route to the Wandong country music festival.
Local lawyer Marie Tehan - latter day Victorian Minister For Health and
mother of Dan (current Federal member for Wannon) - rode to the rescue
of the Sheik for a princely $400 fee demanded and received in advance.
These were mere pit stops in the progress of the pilgrim who appeared
in the movies Newsfront and Dimboola and provided Barry
Humphries with part of the toothy template for his stage character Les
Riley's up in heaven/ having a helluva time up there/ because on every
cloud there's a filly/ and on every wing there's a mare/ and all them
heavenly horsey bodies, oh God, they're so much in love/ not with Riley
the one legged racehorse/ but Riley the one legged stud." - Riley
The One Legged Racehorse. - A P Johnson.
was during Chad's sojourn in Melbourne - much of it in Ascot Vale
- that he and Bundaberg born A.P. built a strong camaraderie with
their picking, grinning, singing and songwriting.
Chad was already renowned for songs such as The Bachelor's Warning,
Shotgun Wedding, Double Decker Blowflies, The Dinkum Dill, The Fatal
Wedding and The Psychiatrist's Joy From Kingaroy.
Morgan added another string to his bow when he recorded the A.P.
song Never Tie A Chook's Legs Together.
The Sheik also had a crack at the Johnson song Riley - The One
But Chad reportedly had trouble delivering the Melbourne Cup race
call in lyrics for the saga of the horse that became a stud in horse
heaven after winning the big event.
songs were on the earthy Johnson CD Greatest Hits And Ex-Misses
released by Nu Country Records and still in stock via this web page.
It was also
recorded at Coburn's Southbound Studio.
Chris Wilson, Marc C Halstead and Johnson's former partner Brenda Joy
also recorded his songs.
Check out the amazing story of The Sheik Of Scrubby Creek and his late
mate A.P. Johnson.
I'm Not Dead Yet, directed by Janine Hosking, debuts at the Melbourne
Film Festival at 4 pm on Sunday July 31 at Greater Union Theatre - 131
Russell St, Melbourne.
Bookings - http://tickets2.miff.com.au/session2.asp?sn=I'M+NOT+DEAD+YET
Phone - 96548133.
Further info - www.chadmorgan.com.au
CLICK HERE for Nu Country Records
for details of how to buy A P Johnson - Greatest Hits & Ex-Misses.
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