DIARY - 25 OCTOBER 2003
A P JOHNSON - NOT CARTER
FROM BAY CITY UNION TO MOOSE MALONE
(Paul Anthony according to court documents) Johnson - first came to musical
notice as a member of Brisbane blues band The Bay City Union at the age
The learned larrikin also chanced his arm on banana plantations, bull
riding and working as a singing roadie for Moose Malone & The Country
Johnson moved to Melbourne with Moose Malone in 1977 and joined them on
stage when his lugging and loading in was laid to rest.
The band landed a deal with RCA records, recorded the album House Of Blue
Lights but kissed their deal goodbye after turning a record company soiree
for the late John Denver into a memorable riot.
Johnson fell in love with suburban chanteuse Brenda Joy and they recorded
a seven track cassette with a band featuring the late Sunday Herald-Sun
columnist and Panton Hill Umbrella Club bassist David Speedy Hampson,
Peter Martin on guitar, drummer John Blackburn, pedal steel guitarist
Mike Burke, harpist Dave Hogan and sax man Mike Bowden.
Ironically, Hampson - a well read columnist who frequently quoted country
song lyrics in his columns - died two months earlier of cancer at the
age of 53.
MORGAN SOUL MATE
was a fleshed out showcase for Johnson whose tune Never Tie A Chook's
Legs Together was recorded by fellow Queensland larrikin Chad Morgan -
the Sheik Of Scrubby Creek.
Another evocative Johnson tune Change Partners was recorded by Marco Halstead
and the singer was posthumously eulogised by fellow Melbourne singer and
harpist Chris Wilson in his tune Desperadoes Waiting For A Tram.
But this disc is the original, embryonic recordings of the singer whose
lachrymose life ended in a bed in St Vincent's Hospital in Fitzroy - the
suburb where he waltzed the mean streets with a guitar and a grin while
he sang for his liquid lunch and supper.
Johnson greeted God after a bout of pneumonia snuffed the candle of the
recidivist rebel whose jousts with his maker promised a much earlier departure.
On a level radio playing field the singer's infamous exploits - including
a live sex act on stage with a fan dressed as a schoolgirl at a Sabbath
come to church gospel gig and other well publicised exploits which landed
him briefly in the slammer - would have catalysed record and concert sales.
But, with no current releases and a voice destroyed by the ravages of
life on the wild side, he was just a rolling stone on the cold shoulder
of the lost highway.
A. P. FOUGHT THE LAW
brushes with the law - keystone cop capers at the Gypsy Bar in Fitzroy
and trendy Route 66 clothing corral in Prahran - found him quoting from
Waylon Jennings and Joe Henry songs in his records of interviews and witness
Asked by Fitzroy detectives if he had psychiatric problems after a bungled
mock robbery with a shiny black $3.40 water pistol, replete with imitation
walnut grip, the singer quoted a Jennings song.
"I've always been crazy, it stops me from going insane."
He saved his Joe Henry reprise for an appearance in the witness box at
Melbourne County Court when on trial for attempted armed robbery of a
pair of Justin cowboy boots from Route 66.
Asked about an alleged comment to the male victim, whom an inebriated
Johnson thought was a girl, he replied "it was just a phrase I was
It was no surprise that Johnson was banned from country music HQ Tamworth
after appearing with outrageous singing cartoonist Freddie Negro &
The Gravy Billies, busy collecting nipple prints on drink coasters for
their hall of shame.
The singer was kicked out of the Workers Club after singing a bunch of
country porn songs from his own archives and two discs by seven times
wed former convict country star and actor David Allan Coe.
It was all for the 30th birthday of a NSW Vice Squad sergeant and late
Papal biographer James Oram.
Johnson also earned infamy for landing a punch on the long suffering Keith
Glass who was promoting Billy Joe Shaver's debut Australian tour and live
A P also fell asleep on stage while performing live at the Brunswick venue
Madigan's - operated by singing satirist Paul Madigan.
That was the wild side of Johnson whose life has been researched for a
movie and was hand picked by singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman
to support him on his first Australian tour.
But beneath the bar room bravado beat the heart of a hurting honky tonk
hero who could reduce an audience to tears of sorrow or joy with his whiskey
soaked vocals and pathos primed parables.
It's a mixture of those tearjerkers and his wry comedy songs that have
been belatedly preserved on his Greatest Misses - the debut release on
Nu Country Records.
CD is available for just $15 - including postage - from Nu Country at
P.O. Box 625, Northcote - 3070.
You can also buy it for $10 at our Christmas Party at the Bush Inn, West
Toorak, on Saturday November 29.
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