It didn't take long for staff at the roadhouse on Horsham's Stawell Road to get to know Darryl Davey and Gerry Duffy.
The schoolboys - a guitarist and saxophonist respectively - would frequent the roadhouse with their instruments, put money in the jukebox and work out the keys and chords of songs for the benefit of their band, the Draculas.
"The only thing you could get in those days was sheet music, and that would only become available six months after the song came out on the radio," Darryl remembered, "So that was the only way we could get the music we played".
The Draculas will be one of dozens of acts performing in Horsham across the weekend of February 7 to 9, as part of the 60 years of Wimmera Rock event.
The group began in 1963, when Duffy, Davey, guitarist Allan McMaster, bassist Michael Boyko and drummer Johnny Boyle formed the Cavemen, before changing their name.
Allan began his journey with music when his mother Jess started him learning Hawaiian guitar, but he quickly eschewed it for a six string and the instrumental rock of the early 60s espoused by UK band the Shadows.
Fortunately, his parents and those of the other band members were very supportive.
"We used to run our own gigs and the parents would sell drinks and man the door," he said. "When we couldn't get a gig we would just run one for ourselves at the youth club hall on Firebrace Street or the Church of England, they were the popular places. All the fights were out the back and we would play in the hall, so that worked fine!"
"Father McIntyre was really into the youth, and he was keen on everyone running these dances so we used to go in there as often was we could."
"There were no bands in pubs in those days - the pubs closed at 10pm," Darryl said. "And there was no alcohol allowed anywhere near any of the dances we played at. The only digs that had alcohol were the deb balls and specially-licensed venues. No one sold grog - you had to bring your own in an esky or something."
Though they only played covers and only for five years, The Draculas would live their own version of a rock and roll dream, touring across southern New South Wales and Western Victoria and supporting legendary 60s acts the Easybeats and Normie Rowe when they came to the Wimmera.
Allan remembers the band getting kicked out of venues in Nhill, Horsham and Ararat for being too loud.
"We played a motor show in Horsham one year, because it was always held in the town hall when the new model cars would come out," he said. "We played one song, and got halfway through the second one when the curtains closed on us!"
"In those days the telephonists were on the exchanges - there was no automatic dialling phone - so we used to ring the them in all these towns and ask them what halls were good and the gossip. Then we'd book the halls and send them our flyers and they would put them up for us around the town. We went off through the Christmas holidays and spent several weeks on tour.
"We used to sleep in the halls of every gig we played slumming it - Raymond our manager drove us. That was a great time because when we arrived in each town we'd be welcomed with open arms - the girls who put all the flyers up met us and the mothers would get our autographs. We really felt like rock stars in that period."
Allan said the Rolling Stones were a major influence on the band's setlist and look, and this choice won them admirers and adversaries alike.
"The girls loved us but the blokes didn't because we were so popular," he said. "We'd rock into places like Warrnambool and we had to take the legs off our amplifiers, fight off blokes and take off in the car. We played in Wangaratta and got chased around the motel: There was a bloke with a fence picket and god knows what he was going to do!"
"That's how it was," said Darryl. "If you ask any band from that time, even the big ones, they experienced the same thing."
Like the Stones and the Beatles, the Draculas had a rivalry with cleaner-cut contemporary the Sonomatics, the biggest band in Horsham when they started.
"We were like a thorn in their side," Allan said. "We'd run our own gigs against them at the youth club when they were in the town hall."
Darryl remembered it coming to a head when they beat Sonomatics in a Battle of the Sounds music contest in Hamilton.
We really felt like rock stars in that period.Allan McMaster, the Draculas
"I remember talking with (Sonomatics singer) Ferdy van der Riet after the 50 years of Wimmera Rock, and he said 'How did you beat us?," he said.
"They were pitch-perfect musicians, dressed in smart suits and stood still. We bought flowery shirts, beatle boots, moved about the stage and had hair hanging down like mop tops. We played with the crowd acting like idiots. We just presented better."
"After we won we went to Melbourne, stayed in the Menzies Hotel and played at Festival Hall: That was probably the most memorable gig we did. Gerry was moving like Mick Jagger with his saxophone about the stage and he bouncers were having to throw women back into their chairs!"
Gerry is returning from Paris to perform with the Draculas. He splits his time between France and Sydney, where he works at Labsonics Australia helping to score soundtracks for television dramas.
The band split up in 1968 as the members went off to university, to finish school and work.
They have been performing several times a year since the 50 years of Wimmera Rock event - in Ocean Grove, NSW mid north coast and other areas where their old friends now live.
By 1987, Horsham's live music scene had moved from the hall to the pub.
It was here that Rockabilly group Blackboard Jungle - named after 1955 US film with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack - made their mark.
Guitarist Chris "Squizzy" Taylor, double bassist Barry Devlin and drummer Campbell Ballinger formed having previously played in ACDC-oriented covers band Runaway Boys. Barry and Campbell also attended Horsham tech together.
They have reformed at the request of 60 years organiser Lynton Brown in the past six months, having split up in 1991. Chris remembers their last gig - at Horsham's Commercial Hotel - fondly.
"I had started a band called Harsh reality and that was our first gig and Blackboard's last. I remember the fire marshal said 'You know, I should have shut this down because it's just packed. I stopped clicking the counter at 321'," he said. "The capacity at the time was 180!"
"In two years we played 104 shows from Hopetoun to Warrnambool and Ararat, three nights a week around our day jobs. We had a residency at a place called the Caledonian in Warrnambool, so we were down there every month sometimes twice a month and then we'd play Friday and Saturday night.
"We always had a good time and a laugh, the miles would roll by, then we'd drive home at 3 or 4am on a Sunday morning."
The trio remembered the Lascelles hall and a nightclub where Horsham Sports and Community Club now stands as venues they played that have since closed down. Campbell said the crowds at the time were generally well-behaved.
"They just liked having a good time, and the thing is nothing was accessible like it was now with the internet," he said. "I think people have lost that ability to go out and get into a live band. It's coming back a bit, but it's not like it used to be."
Campbell said he hoped people who attended 60 years appreciated the amount of work the bands put in to performing, then and now. He said despite the three-decade hiatus, the band quickly rediscovered the special connection they had while playing together.
"We can read each other - you know what's going to happen before it happens," he said. "Barry and I have been playing together for 32 years, so we follow each other and off Chris goes playing solos. He can say something while we're playing - or not go up to the mic at all - and we know when and how to keep going."
Chris said: "I'm really grateful to be back playing with these boys. I never thought it would happen again."
This feeling of special bond, forged out of unique shared experiences and hard work, is something Blackboard Jungle shares with the Draculas.
Bassist Michael credited being in a band with "ruining" his secondary education, but said the lasting friendships made it worthwhile.
"I don't know whether I was all that into it," he said. "I wasn't a talented musician or anything - Darryl taught me the bass - I just enjoyed the company.
"Looking back now they were tremendous years, we had some really good times."
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