Welcome to my tribute to Terrence Michael "Fox" Walsh a.k.a. Johnny Dole
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Terrence Michael “Fox” Walsh was a singer, song writer, musician, entertainer who is best known as the lead vocalist for Sydney based Punk Rock band Johnny Dole & The Scabs from 1977 – 1978.
Terrence Michael Walsh (born: 6th November 1953 – died approximately: 9th August 1987) was born in Liverpool England and migrated to Sydney Australia in early 1962 with his mother Betty, affectionately known as “Vicki”, father John and brothers Raymond and Philip along with their sister Sandra.
At first living in migrant hostels and not settling in any one place for quite some time they moved around the country till they took up residence in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville New South Wales.
Coming from a family with a background in entertainment including his grandmother, Elsie Brown who was a vaudevillian style banjo player/entertainer who had won an award for England’s Premier Lady Banjoist.
His father was a great dancer, could play piano and harmonica, sing a little and had people in stitches when he stood up and told jokes.
Unfortunately his father had passed away from throat cancer so, was unable to encourage his young son. But it was in the genes and bursting to come out. So it was not surprising Terry showed a talent for singing, which was encouraged by his mother. During this time he entered many talent quests with his mother by his side encouraging him to be as good as he could. If he didn’t do too well his mother would say “Don’t worry, it’s just practice, you’re improving so much”.
His brother Phil recalls how Terry got his nick name of Fox: “Yep, it’s basically all I called him my whole life and still do when I talk about him. It came about when he was about 10 or 12. He had a skinny kind of face, not a bad looking kid but kind of long and skinny. We were joking around one day and I said he had a “sneaky” looking face; he looked sneaky like a fox. From that day on, he was Fox”. In 1968 when The Monkees toured Australia Fox just had to go and see them! Phil recounts: “When we were living in Queensland, The Monkees were touring and we walked miles and miles to try to get to the airport to see them. When we got close enough we could hear the girls screaming. Realising it was too late to see them; we turned around and went home. But we pretended that we were the stars and the girls were screaming for us, so we started running to get away from them”. It seems Fox couldn’t wait to be a star?
By the age of 14, Fox sent away for his first “mail order” guitar from the Melody School of Music.
Enlisting the services of guitar teacher Lynton Bridge of Campsie New South Wales and with lots of hard work he was soon playing it like a pro.
His brother Phil recalls Fox saying George Harrison said he used to practise until his fingers bled. “Fox came to me one day and showed me his finger tips, they were bright red and had blisters on them, he was very proud”.
One of his greatest influences was The Easybeats, having a similar background as English migrants it was no surprise he was drawn to them and the great songs didn’t hurt either.
Of course The Beatles were also a huge influence on him and from the rougher side of the tracks, The Rolling Stones. But, ….. Tiny Tim? ….. he just loved how freaky he was.
Fox had a typical love affair with school life that he would share with many other students over time; he couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there and back home so he could work on his singing and guitar!
By the time he turned 18 he formed his first “professional” band, Screamin’ Bilbo & The Rockin’ Hobbits but only managed to play one gig, although they all got $10.00 and a beer! This was enough to spur him on and he formed Flash Jayne in 1972 which saw him go through his Glam Rock period.
In 1973 he’s now using his middle name and calling himself ‘Mike’ Walsh (surely it can’t hurt using the same name as an Australian celebrity …. can it?). He joined Eddy Halley & The Starliters and with Fox’s influence they changed the name to Eddy Holly and Sirikit. They were a very popular band and at times Fox would be recognised walking in the streets of Sydney, which of course he loved.
After he left Eddy Holly and Sirikit, he formed the five piece band The Blue Strays in 1974 and later dropping the Blue, “We just thought it sounded better” to become The Strays.
It was now late 1975. Guitarist Mark Wong See: “When I first met him he was amiable and good natured but serious about his music. He told me once that he wanted to be famous rather than rich. He was certainly diligent in his approach to rehearsals and gigs. I liked Fox a lot and he was fun to be around”.
He started to leave the Rocker thing of the 50’s behind and began to get a bit tougher in his approach to performing. The Strays were now playing songs by The Troggs, The Kinks and The Loved Ones which were more garage band in style, as Phil puts it “Kind of hard and powerful”.
At one memorable gig at Corrimal, the band sprayed the audience with beer that had been shaken up backstage by the roadies.
This didn’t go over too well with management and they were not asked to return. Mark Wong See: “Image became increasingly important to him, looking and living the part”.
There was an undercurrent of new music about to burst onto the scene.
The Strays were evolving and slowly started to change their style. Shortly after finding a new drummer bands like the Ramones and The Sex Pistols were on the scene and Fox had finally found what he was looking for. The now 4 piece band had mutated into a Punk Rock band. With this came a new name not only for the band but for Fox as well, Johnny Dole & The Scabs were born early 1977.
Gigs at the legendary Oxford Funhouse in Taylor Square and being asked to leave Chequers after only playing one set were laying the platform for what was to come. Supporting The Saints at Sydney Uni in May 1977 and getting good reviews in RAM and Juke magazines only strengthened the bands popularity. During this time Fox was in his element and had great success with many interviews in the leading newspapers and magazines of the time. This was an area he excelled in, his humour and quick wit giving him many great responses to journalist’s questions.
Taken from the A Current Affair interview:
Mike Carlton: But why is it so vulgar? You know, why is it spitting,
why is it throwing…
Johnny Dole: …why does Kamahl get away with wearing a dress?
Mike Carlton: That’s a very good point I suppose, thinking about that, yeah.
But why break things up. Why not just get up there and sing a few songs?
Johnny Dole: That’s ‘all’ I do!
Other successes for the band were a recording session with the ABC’s top producer Keith Walker, who was working for Sydney radio station 2JJ at the time.
This resulted in 8 songs being recorded. A number of radio interviews on 2JJ and the songs being played on rotation. A film clip produced for one of the band’s songs, Aggro. A three year publishing deal with Penjane Music Publishing and the band was on the cusp of a recording contract.
Unfortunately for Fox and the band, drugs and alcohol began to impair his performances.
Over time the band started to disintegrate, losing their drummer early 1978. A new drummer needed to be recruited so Fox’s brother Phil filled in for one gig while a replacement was sought. This proved to be harder than expected; two drummers would come and go but the band was never the same again. Johnny Dole & The Scabs finally disbanded mid 1978.
Fox and fellow Scabs’ guitarist Peter Mullany, joined forces with Tommy & The Dipsticks to form The Crooked Hearts, which lasted about 12 months playing the odd gig including French’s Darlinghurst and The Grand Hotel - Broadway.
By now his drug and alcohol addiction was becoming more serious.
After a short trip to France Fox then relocated to Manchester England, where he got a job as a Bus Conductor of all things. Peter Mullany and Bob Short (from Filth and The Urban Guerillas fame) met up with him to start up a new version of The Crooked Hearts.
Things went from bad to worse and this band didn’t even get to rehearse. Bob Short: “I must admit I was the first to back away from the idea”.
When asked of his impressions of Johnny Dole Bob had this to say. “I believe he was a genuine talent with his one failing being his lack of patience. Nothing could come fast enough for him”.
Now desperate to get home Fox returned to Sydney where he started the short lived bands The Shakers, The Fleas and finally Switchblade.
Unfortunately his habit was now so overwhelming he started to lose contact with the very people he needed the most. Peter Mullany: “By now his drug taking was really affecting his health”. Doing the odd one off gig around town he was never again in another full time band and becoming more reclusive. Dejected and unable to pull himself out of the dire straits he found himself in, Fox died alone in a rented room in Darlinghurst where his body was not found for 5 or 6 days after he passed away.
Official reason of death, accidental overdose but his brother Phil puts it in a completely different light “I think he died of a broken heart”.
Once again this hideous disease had taken another life. His mother was understandably devastated by his death. He is buried along with his beloved mother who passed away in 2008, in the Field of Mars Cemetery at North Ryde.
His legacy along with Johnny Dole & The Scabs is overlooked today by mainstream journalists. Without Johnny Dole & The Scabs it could be argued that the explosion of Punk Rock and New Wave music in Sydney may not have been as extensive.
At that time, the only venue opening its doors to Punk Rock was the Oxford Funhouse. With its closure, Johnny Dole & The Scabs were responsible for opening the doors to a new venue for Punk Rock, the Grand Hotel – Broadway, which became ‘the’ place to play. This would see bands such as Rocks, Shock Treatment, Blackrunner, Psycho – Surgeons, Mental As Anything and many, many more find a new home. If these bands hadn’t had the opportunity to play, who knows what would have been?
Terrence Michael “Fox” Walsh and Johnny Dole & The Scabs should be remembered for their contribution to the early days of Punk Rock in the Sydney scene.
Greg Morris - July 2012.
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