Sunday, 25 March 2012

Murray Song/Riverbird Cries - Peter Harris (~1977)

I found this single in an op-shop in Brunswick for about a dollar. I bought it because the information on the sleeve indicated that this had been recorded in Mildura - a small town on the Murray in northern Victoria where surely very few records were ever produced. It's also where I grew up. Both tracks on this single are deceptively likeable and feature a sort of pretentious-free folk sound with the welcome addition of some fearsome sounding early synths. I found it hard to find out much about this record (the name Peter Harris isn't exactly distinctive) so I struck upon the bright idea of asking an old family friend from Mildura whose surname happens to be 'Harris', if Peter was a long lost cousin or something. Peter was no relation, but I still got a very informative reply. My friend had talked to a longtime community radio volunteer and obtained the following information:

Peter Harris was a school teacher within the NSW school system and was posted to the area around 1974. He wrote a song about the PS Ruby and recorded a full album back in Sydney which was released on Ritz records, a subsidiary of Festival. Ruby was the title track of the album (and we have a copy at HOT FM)

When I was on the tourist Board we had two goes to get a good song on Mildura. In 1975 we got the late Tex Williams to record locally a single "The Paddleboat Song" and "The Mildura Song". It was recorded at the Norco Studios in Mildura by the late Brian Norris and issued as NCP 208. Both sides were written by Tex and Paul Williams, who were living out at Ruby Hayles place at Trentham Cliffs.

Around 1977 we did a similar experiment with Peter Harris and he wrote and recorded "The Murray Song" and "The River Bird Cries" It was recorded at Nor-Co and issued with the catalogue number of NCP 243.

Soon after that Peter left the district and from memory went to the Casino area of NSW [...] Peter did a lot of work with school kids on both sides of the Murray River during his time here.

Harris's album Ruby is a very sought after record today and regularly sells for well over $100. Harris also recorded an album with one of his students Dave Madden, called Fool's Paradise which is equally revered by LP collectors (and priced accordingly) but is also available on iTunes in a slightly more affordable format.

Label: Private/NOR-CO
Released: ~1977
Players: Peter Harris - piano, guitars, synthesizers
Owen Zibbell - bass

1 comment:

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