The story so far...
by Peter Hanmer
"It all started with a band called Boss" (Tony Groenewald talking to Chris Prior on radio, 1984.)
Boss was born (in South Africa) in February 1980 when a group of kids who were tired of what was being played at the time decided to try and create some of their own music instead.
The initial line-up consisted of:
Garth Potterton (Guitars and voice), Tony 'O Dwyer (Guitars), Wayne Edgerton (Drums), Michael Potterton (Bass)
A series of line-up changes took place and they were to plague the band from the outset, right up to the end.
The first to leave was Tony 'O Dwyer. He never gave a reason for leaving but later he was seen to be playing with the "Band of Gypsies".
I arrived in Johannesburg in March 1980, having been transferred from Cape Town. I had started work on 2nd April 1980. I was quite excited about coming to Johannesburg because I'd always heard that this was the place to play music. I'd left a band in Cape Town called "Wildeside" but was looking forward to meeting new musicians.
The first three months were spent working in Johannesburg and playing with the odd "garage band". There were many of these bands at the time. I was eventually invited to audition with a rock band that had just lost their guitarist. I can't recall the details but I remember being quite excited.
At the audition, which was in the backyard of the house in a small room, I was impressed at the "tightness"
of the band and most of all, the enthusiasm of the members. We played a few songs together and then Garth suggested that we go inside the house to talk. I was asked to join as soon as possible but I remember that I accepted the offer with and option to leave after three months if I wasn't happy.
A friend of mine, Robert Blake, who had been transferred from Cape Town a year earlier came along to the audition and offered to manage the band. He'd had no previous experience but what he lacked in experience he more than made up for in the "bullshit" factor. Robert was able to talk his way into anything and that was probably a good thing in this field. We therefore joined the band together and Boss had become a five-piece band.
The band continued with this line-up until roughly December 1980. We played a few gigs including the guest spot at "Plumb Crazy". I'd heard a lot about this club while still living in Cape Town and I wasn't
disappointed. The rest of the year was spent playing at clubs on Saturday afternoons. A lot of the time was also spent rehearsing. At the end of the year I went on holiday to Cape Town and when I returned I was told that Michael had been called up for national service. It was something that we had expected but we now had to find a new bass player. Ironically the way that it happened was that the new bass player found us.
Tony Groenewald was the guitar player in a band called Heavy Weather. They'd had the same problem that we had with military call-ups and Tony found himself without a band. He promptly applied for Michael's job, replacing his guitar with a bass guitar. The audition went well because not only did Tony fit in as a bass player, he also became the second singer in the band.
It was at this time that I found that Tony and I seemed to be able to write songs together very easily as we both thought along the same lines.
Robert was also starting to find his feet in the business and was lining up more and more work.
We were an original band playing very few cover songs. Songwriting was spread out amongst all of us and a steady following of supporters could now be noticed. One of the highlights at the time was the Syringa Spa Festival. We played in the afternoon in front of roughly 35 000 people. At the festival I was introduced to a female vocalist who happened to be looking for a band. Tony had heard Abigail sing before and invited her to one of our rehearsals. She arrived at the rehearsal and sat and listened to the band. We were also auditioning other singers that night. All of the other "singers" were somewhat lacking in ability and when Abi came up to sing we realised that we had our new vocalist.
Abi made her debut in Boss at "The Fever" in Germiston in July 1981. Her presence in the band lifted Boss to new heights in terms of voices. It was just what we'd needed. We had also discovered that we seemed to appeal to a far wider audience by having a female vocalist. The band also started playing long residencies in clubs on a regular basis. The most satisfying thought however was that we were playing mostly original music at a time when cover bands were by far the most successful.
This line-up remained the same for a while but once again there were problems. Garth and I had been to a club at the Devonshire Hotel in Braamfontein to see a band called "Savannah". We were very interested in the drummer. We weren't happy with Wayne anymore and we knew that Wayne wasn't happy with Abigail. We approached Colin Heaney that night and he told us that he would come to one of our gigs to see the band.
The following week, Colin came around to the club and told us that he liked the band and wanted to join. I felt sorry for Robert as he had the unenviable task of telling Wayne. I didn't think that it would be so bad because we knew that Wayne was unhappy with the present state of things.
We were really shocked at Wayne's reaction. He was really disappointed and left the band under a cloud.
Once this hurdle had been crossed, the band started writing far more challenging material to suit Colin's style. The next few months were probably some of the best months that I've spent playing music. We were very busy performing at many venues and even at times playing at three or four venues on a single Saturday.
We had started to gain recognition as a serious working band in Johannesburg and our following was increasing all of the time
Once again however there were problems. It had become apparent that with the introduction of Abi, most people seeing the band immediately thought of Abi and her backing band Boss. It was because of this that we wanted to become a four-piece band again.
Robert was furious and he refused to speak to Abi about this. We had always run the band in a democratic way and we made it quite clear to Robert that he had been outvoted. Needless to say, Abigail and Boss didn't part on good terms.
The decision to go back to a four-piece band had been taken with the understanding that the voices would need a lot more work. Clearly Abi was a phenomenal vocalist and we were all going to have to try and improve the voices to replace her.
The first thing was to start writing new material that would suit the band and the voices. The style was changed with very successful results and a number of concerts were arranged where the "new" band proved that the decision was vindicated.
... on to 1982
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