"The Man from Down Yonder"
The Rockin' Reeds
(Clockwise from left to right)
Harry 'Doc' Bertram
Horrie Dargie (center)
Horrie grew up in Melbourne. His first harmonica was a boomerang.
He began his musical career as a diatonica player. He joined the Yarraville Mouth Organ Band, which practised in a shoe repairshop.
Later he joined William Ketterer's "Victorian Mouth Organ Band". This band consisted of the most promising players in the state of Victoria.
In the early 30s he took up the chromatic harmonica and won a variety competition on a local radio station in 1937.
In 1938 he moved to Sydney. He was a well sought after musician. He featured in "There's a Goldmine in the Sky" and "In the Still of the Night", and played a solo version of "I love to Wisthle" with the Jim Davidson's Dandies.
Dargie studied clarinet and orchestration and started his own harmonica school in Sydney. With Williamson, Lois, and Metcalfe on chromatics, and Shea on chords and Bertram on Bass he started a harmonica group "The Rockin' Reeds" (see above).
They recorded six tracks in 1940; 'El Rancho Grande/My prayer', 'Twilight in Turkey', 'Solitude', 'Chinatown my Chinatown', Undecided and 'Especially for you'. Eight more were recorded in 1941; 'Somewhere a Voice is Calling' - 'All through the Night', 'Kiss the Boys Goodnight' - 'Delores', Friendly Tavern Polka' - 'I Hear a Rhapsody', 'Waltzing Mathilda' - 'On the Road to Gundagai'.
Horrie joined the army during the war, and became the Musical Director/ Performer in the third Armoured Division Concert Party. While in New Guinea he attended a concert at the American base where Jack Benny and Larry Adler performed. Completely by surprise Larry called him up on the stage and enticed him to play one of his harmonicas, which, to me, is the biggest honour that can fall upon oneself.
After the war Horrie formed a new group "The Harlequintet", which was to become recognised Internationally. The players were; Dargie on Clarinet, Harmonica and Vocals. 'Doc' Bertram on Bass, Bass Harmonica and Vocals. Verne Moore on Guitar, Saxophone, Polyphonia Harmonica and Vocals. Joe Hudson on Drums, Chord Harmonica and Vocals, and Reg Cantwell on Piano. They were not so much a Harmonica Act, they were rather an Instrumental/Comedy Act using harmonicas as well as other instruments. They played in Jazz concerts, clubs and on radio in Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand, before going on an overseas tour that lasted five years. Before leaving for Europe they held a farewell concert in the Sydney Town Hall on 18 November 1952. This was recorded 'Live' for a 10" microgroove record which became Austrlia's first 'Gold' album. They toured England, Scotland, Wales, Austria, Holland, France, Italy and West-Germany. They also appeared on radio and television. A second LP was recorded "Dargies in Deutschland".
While in West-Germany, they visited the Hohner display at the Frankfurter Messe, and were presented a new set of harmonicas each at the Hohner factory in Trossingen.
Dargie contracted polio in 1955 and became very ill but finally managed with walking sticks only. The tour went on and a miracle must have happened, although he never recovered completely, he managed to continue the tour and recorded a third album, "Globetrotting with Dargie" Their cover version of "Green Door" became a single hit. They returned to Australia in 1958.
Dargie recorded many singles, EPs and LPs between 1958 to 1970 as a solo artist and with the Dargies. The albums included; 'Among my Souvenirs', Dargies make the Party Go', 'Dargies sing the Big Hitys', Dargies Party Sing-a-long' and 'Dargies at the Grand'.
He compered, presented and directed television shows, and made two instrumental albums in 1973 "Horrie Dargie Harmonica Spectacular" and 1974 "Harmonica Favourites". He composed and arranged music for radio, television and film. He supplied the harmonica music for "Crocodill Dundee II".
Horrie will be remebered as a true musician, and is left by his lovely wife Cathy, two daughters Lynne and Anne, and two sons Brad and Greg.
Available on cassette:
Horrie Dargie's Rockin' Reeds
2. Especially for you
3. Twilight in Turkey
4. Chinatown my Chinatown
6a: El rancho grande
6b: My prayer
7. Waltzing Mathilda
8. On the road to Gungadie
9. Somewhere a voice is calling
10. All through the night
11a: Kiss the boys goodbye
12. Friendly tavern polka
13. I hear a rhapsody
Horrie Dargie's Harlequintet
14. The three bears
15. The death of Willie
16. Autumn leaves
17. Mutiny in the nursery
18. The cry of the wild goose
19. Walkin' my baby back home
20. I'm forever blowing bubbles
21. Down by the junction
22. Juke-box saturday night
23. Yes we have no bananas
25. Ritual fire dance
26. Big noise from Winnetka
Tracks 14 - 26 - Recorded 'LIVE' at the Sidney Town Hall 18/11/1952 (Diaphon DPR 6)
Listen to recordings in Windows Media format. Click the Icon to download at no charge.Waltzing Mathilda
Horrie Dargie - Copyright © larrikin 2 LRH 390 CD
The Story of the Harmonica in Australia, 1995
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