Sunday, June 18, 2017

Louis Soliano Singapore Jazz Legend: By Melanie Lee

The article below about drummer/singer Louis Soliano and written by Melanie Lee is published with both their permission. It is the most popular story online these past few months and taken from *SEACG Website. 
Thank you, Louis and Melanie.

I grew up in a family of professional musicians. I was taught piano and violin since the age of five, but I was more interested in playing games. However, when I was 14, I accompanied my dad, a multi-instrumentalist, to a studio recording for a silent movie at Jalan Ampas. It was there that I fell in love with drumming after I heard the drummer playing.

With that interest, my father showed me how to play the drums, and how it can be the loudest and softest instrument at the same time. I would practise at home, and the neighbours would complain about how noisy I was. By 16, I was already playing professionally in places such as the Cathay Restaurant, Golden Venus Bar, and Seaview Hotel.

'S Wonderful (George Gershwin) by Louis Soliano @ Paragon (20 Oct 11) (HD)

In 1966, I was working with my Uncle Alfonso Soliano’s band at Chao Phya Hotel in Bangkok. There was an American officers’ club at the hotel and I was spotted by an American entertainment agent. He offered me a gig to perform at American military bases in Vietnam for US$700 a week. 
I thought that was a good pay, but it was only when I got there that I found out that we would have to perform three shows a night at each military base — that meant 21 shows in a week!
In the three years, I was in Vietnam, I was always on the road travelling from one base to another. Gunshots were heard daily everywhere, and I had to carry a revolver myself for protection. Sometimes, when we played, we could hear heavy shelling and gunshots in the background. But we were young — we had energy and were not afraid of anything.
Today, I’m a father of four and a grandfather of six. Many of my friends have passed away and some are in old folks’ homes. I thank God that I’m still able to live another day doing what I love. I keep trying to grow myself. I hope to do a big-band concert in the future, working with young musicians in Singapore. I’m so glad to see how jazz here has grown with all this new talent.
At the end of the day, I hope that the great songs I bring to my audiences take them back to a special time or place in their lives.

Seventy-five-year-old jazz veteran Louis Soliano has been performing drums and vocals for 60 years in Singapore and around the world. He is considered one of the top drummers in this region and his vocal style is often compared to that of Johnny Hartman and Nat King Cole. 

Soliano has played alongside many famous musicians, including Stan Getz, Lea Salonga, Matt Monro and Anita O’Day. In 1997, he took home the Artistic Excellence Award by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) and in 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival. He released his solo album Improm2 in 2004.

Anita O'Day, Matt Monro, Lea Salonga, Stan Getz appeared with Louis Soliano.

"Singapore Jazz Legend Louis Soliano Improvises 
Life And Music."

By Melanie Lee (image right ). Article from:
*Singapore's Essential Arts and Culture Guide:

Images: Google
Video: YouTube 
By Red Taurus

May Not Be Complete Louis Soliano Awards:

Gene Krupa of Singapore Trophy.

Compass Artistic Excellence Award for his outstanding musicianship.

He released his solo album Improm2.

FLCM (Fellowship Diploma of the London College of Music) music diploma for his Percussion Performance from the University of West London, London College Of Music Examinations.

Lifetime Achievement Award from Mr Lawrence Wong, then Minister of Culture, Community and Youth at the inaugural Singapore International Jazz Festival (image).  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Another One Bites The Dust" A Story From Matt Tan

Here's Matt Tan, who was with Fried Ice in Singapore 60's, writing from Canada. He has posted some videos of his playing on YouTube. Thanks, Matt. Appreciate your contribution to this blog:

"I never had a reason to pick up a guitar till today!" (Frank Zappa)...

Do you remember the days when we were playing in a band, as young kids just starting out, the only time we hear about the loss of a famous musician is when an accident happened eg. plane crash... and we lost Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Richie Havens... and much later SRV. 

Or in the sour events, we hear of them dying on drug overdose, for those who were unfortunate to think that drugs actually could make them play much better... wrong, and shame, we lost Janis, Brian Jones, Lenny Breau... 

And yet another cause would be illness, we lost Ollie Halsall, Wes Montgomery, two of my favourite guitarists, from different genres, Wes was already great, but Ollie was one whom I think would have been as great as Jimi or Jeff or Eric, had he lived.

Stormy Monday Blues Gregg Allman: R.I.P. A Canadian Guitarist Tribute

Today, it's different, we are losing them to old age... every month we hear someone who once influenced us to play the guitar or play music has left for the big sky. Who else is left? The ones gone include:

Chuck Berry (March 18, 2017)  

B B King (May 14, 2015) 
Alan Holdsworth (April 15, 2017)

Al Jarreau (February, 2017) 

John Wetton (January 31, 2017) 
Prince (April 21, 2106)

Leonard Cohen (November 10, 2016) 
Jack Bruce (25 October, 2015)
Chris Squire (January 28, 2015) 

Jon Lord (July 16, 2012), 
Keith Emerson (March 11, 2016)
Greg Lake (December 7, 2016)

Michael Jackson (June 25, 2009)
Luciano Paarotti (September 6, 2007) 
Frank Zappa (December 4, 1993) 

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust...

(Freddie Mercury (24 November, 1991)

These stars left a long time ago: Charlie Mingus,  Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Larry Carlton; And even further back in time: Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Billie Holliday.

There's not many of them left, huh???   that is why I am back to playing the guitar. (Feb 27,2017). Someone has to carry those axes.

"Hope I die before I get old" (My Generation, 13 October 1965). I would rephrase that to,  "Hope I die before I get too old to play my guitar !"

Talkin' about my generation.

Well, people try to put us down.
Just because we get around.
The things they do look awful cold
I hope I die before I get old.

Why don't you all just fade away?
And don't try to dig what we all say
I'm not trying to cause a big sensation...

Ironic, things hasn't changed that much, only this time "people" could be referring to us "older generation"

John Sebastian – Younger Generation 
Why must every generation think their folks are square?

And hey pop, my girlfriend's only three.
She's got her own videophone,
And she's taking LSD
And now that were best friends, she wants to give a bit to me.
But what's the matter daddy? How come you're turning green?
Can it be that you can't live up to your dreams?

But some things do not change:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no telling who that it's naming
For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing...

Contributor: Matt Tan.

Matt Tan (left) with his friend Horace Wee in the 60's, also a frequent contributor to this blog.

Check out Matt's music on Youtube  and subscribe:

I'd Rather Go Blind, Hey Joe, Red House, Sleepwalk, Supernatural, Castles Made of Sand, House Burning Down, May This Be Love, Little Wing, Burning Of The Midnight Lamp.

Friday, June 09, 2017

When Vespa Scooters And Talentimes Were In Vogue

Vespa scooters were a rage in the 1960's world. At the movies, Audrey Hepburn rode a Vespa in Roman Holiday, Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida were on a Lambretta in Come September and Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee did the same.

Similarly, in Singapore; these exquisite and sexy contraptions outshone the motorcycles for a while. I had one too, breezing along from my home in the East to the College at Paterson, on a blue Vespa. Roads then were not as congested.
The Vespa Club Singapore at Siglap Road in the East Coast, was a social club for, obviously, Vespa scooter owners, since the Lambretta, a well-known competitor, was also trying to take a stake on Singapore roads. Both two-wheelers were from Italy.

The club had a Talentime or singing competition on the 17th of December, 1961 and Aminah Aziz (above) won the title of Vespa Club Talentime Champion, when she sang, I Love You More Than I Can Say.
Aminah won from five other finalists at the Contest held during the weekend. Taking the second spot was me, (image above in the Radio
Weekly pix, while the other finalists were George Ho, Baby Razak, Peter Hayko and Paddy Nyer.

Talentimes were popular in the 50's and 60's. They were held by nearly every commercial, social or private club. Youth who love to sing would participate because the exposure was good and the chance of gaining some experience of public singing was an attraction.
Remember there was no karaoke those days and the only way that a singer could be backed by a band was to participate in Talentime. Many bands and singers that played at nightclubs and cinema halls were usually winners of such singing talent contests. The Trekkers, The Jets and The Decibels, were some of the bands that could have either participated or won in such competitions.

Image 1: Google.
Image 2: Radio Weekly, Singapore (music tabloid).
Image 3: Henri Gann, Trekkers.
YouTube Video: Videoclips Roman Holiday.
Original article: Andy Lim.

Monday, June 05, 2017

School Bully: Stopped By 'Trailers' Band Member

James Kwok helps this blog with stories of his own about Singapore in the 60's. After reading about the Trailers and their Phoenix Song 50th Anniversary reminder and success, he wrote me a letter about rhythm guitarist, Edmund Tan.

James recalled his primary education at Rayman School (established in 1954) situated @ Rayman Estate. Following its closure in 1984, the school was converted into a centre for disabled people (VAPC). Rayman Estate today is known as Whampoa Estate.
                              The Trailers (Edmund Tan: sits right)
Hi Andy,

The Trailers guitarist Mr Edmund Tan Teck Chiang (image: sitting right) was my Primary Three classmate in Rayman School at Whampoa (its premises has been taken over by the Handicapped Welfare Association).

Rayman School in what used to be called Rayman Avenue, off Towner Road which today is  Whampoa Drive. (Towner Road still exists today, but the section from Balestier Road to under the CTE is now Whampoa Drive).

Our teacher in Primary 3B (1956) was a Ms Alice Tan, the teacher in charge of Girl Guides. After the three exams, she would gather her Guides in our class to practise songs. Naughty boys like Edmund and me would imitate them, and change some of the words to the songs to make them sound funny.  

Recently after visiting the FOY (Friends of Yesterday) website, I met an old friend, who told me that Edmund Tan is one his cousins, but have lost contact with him ever since Edmund went overseas.  If he has been working in Singapore perhaps my friend doesn't know that. 

I told him that I wanted to get in touch with Edmund, who was a kind of a big brother protector to me. I received a double promotion from Primary One in 1955 to Primary Three in 1956, so I was the smallest boy in class. But I still managed to come out first in class after the first term examination (image left: James Kwok). 

I became the target of some unhappy boys who did not do well, but somehow Edmund got them to leave me alone.

My friend told me that he has lost contact ever since Edmund got married.

James Kwok.


So Mr Edmund Tan from the pop 60's band The Trailers and a former Rayman Primary School student, wherever you are, James wants to meet you again.


"Bullying In Singapore Schools Today:

Results showed that approximately 1 in 5 primary school students surveyed was a victim of bullying, defined as any action apparently intended to victimise and repeated at least twice every single month over a span of one school year. 

Bullies and their victims tended to be of the same gender, the same ethnic group, and in the same class at school. However, more bullies and victims were boys than girls, and there was the greater tendency for boys to bully girls than for girls to bully boys. 

Students of any ethnicity were equally likely to be bullied. Similar proportions of children reported being bullied at each primary level - A Survey of Bullying in Singapore Primary Schools (2007)."

Children's Society’s website at

Images: A Private Collection.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

President Donald Trumps Sings, Rattles and Rolls

In season 12, NBC's America's Got Talent follows Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel in their talent search, showcasing unique performers from across the country. 

The Singing Trump: Presidential Impersonator Channels Bruno Mars - America's Got Talent 2017

Here's my favourite POTUS tribute artist, in a singing role. Beats Vladimir Putin with his, Blueberry Hill.

I know many shared this a few days ago. But I just can't resist this guy.

Check Labels below to read about his favourite singers and bands. Or just connect here:

Video from YouTube.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Asian Vinyl With Singapore Theater Background: Heritage & Collectors Value

He's here again and has been around studying the local music scene for many years now. Pushing aside his busy lecturing schedule, Dr Steve Farram has contributed yet another article for the blog. 

Many thanks, Steve.

Hi Andy, 

I really enjoyed reading Michael Bangar’s reminiscences in his recent post about the National Theatre and all the bands that had played there. Some time ago I wrote to you about the Australian band The Troupadors who had had their photo taken at the phone booths at the old Singapore airport for the cover of one of their records; as had The Jets and at least one other band (I still can’t remember who the other one was!) 

I said then that there was an even more popular spot for record cover photo shots in 1960's Singapore. Yes, it was the National Theatre. Here are all the ones I have in my collection and a little bit of what I know about the various artists. 

Hi-Fi Twins and The Kings 

I have read that the Hi-Fi Twins were from the Philippines. They give the appearance of being a couple of old hands on the show scene and the songs they chose to record for this EP were mainly early 60s numbers like ‘Papa Oom Mow Mow’, ‘Papa and the Mama Twist’ and ‘Boom Boom’. 

They did get a bit more contemporary with their version of the Knickerbockers’ ‘Lies’. I don’t know anything about their backing band The Kings or if they ever recorded anything else. Judy Lee, I do not much at all about Judy Lee, but she appears to have been a regular on the live scene in Singapore. 

In another entry on this blog you can see that she once appeared on the same bill as Barry Walker & The Figures and a host of other artists at the Capitol Theatre:

My favourite track on this EP is her take on the song ‘Mary Mary’. I don’t think the Monkees ever did a Chinese version, did they? I have read that Judy’s backing band on this record was her Blue Star label-mates The Jets, although it says nothing about that on the record itself. 

You cannot see the actual National Theatre building in the photograph of Judy here, but the fountains, the fence etc. make it obvious where she was 

Naomi and The Boys 

This was Naomi and The Boys first recording for Decca after a number of great records on the Philips label. My favourite track here is the Peter Thomas song ‘Bad Loser’. I don’t think anyone who is a regular on this blog needs an introduction to Naomi and The Boys! 

For those who don’t know, one place to start is Andy’s previous entry here: 

The Peels 

The Peels were a band from Bandung in Indonesia that released a number of records in Singapore. I have a few of their EP's, but they produced a lot more than I have. They seem to have been very popular in Singapore and Malaysia. 

This is the only record from my collection where the National Theatre is designated by its Malay name: Panggong Negara. I really like the song ‘Neng Geulis’. How many people in Singapore understood the Sundanese lyrics, I wonder? 

Teng Teng and The Stylers

I cannot read Chinese, but I was told the singer’s name is Teng Teng. Please tell me, anyone, if that is wrong. Teng Teng is very young in the photograph of the cover of this record, but I have seen some other records by The Stylers that seem to show a slightly older Teng Teng on the cover. 

My favourite tracks on this EP are the versions of ‘Hang On Sloopy’ and ‘Be Bop A Lula’. The Stylers backed many singers on albums and EPs (mainly in Chinese, but not always) and produced a mass of records of their own. Andy has written about them several times elsewhere on this blog, so find out more there. 

The Travellers 

I do not know much about the Travellers except that they released a number of instrumental albums under their own name and several albums and EPs backing various singers, always in Chinese. By the look of the cut of their clothes, I’d say this record was from the early 1970's. This is the only record of theirs that I own 

The Vantomites 
Judy Lee

The Vantomites offer a couple of instrumental tracks on this EP. I also have two EPs where they are backing singers Liu Zhong and Jing Jing. On those two records, they are recorded as the Vandomites on the record label. The photograph for this record seems to have been taken at about the same place as that for Judy Lee, which means you can see the fountains and so on, but not the National Theatre itself 

That’s all for now. There are probably other records showing the National Theatre, but these are the only ones I know about.

Best Wishes  
Steve Farram.
     1970 The Travellers ‎– 24 Non-Stop Dancing Music - You Tube Video by: fhlew888

These Chinese song/artist vinyl are becoming rare now. None going to print because they cost a fortune to produce and many collectors are just keeping them. Sungei Road (Singapore's Flea Mart), that was selling them, will close in July 2017. Used to cost $2 a piece. Lately, saw them for sale at $20 each.) 

The English Singapore collection, like the Malay ones, are going for more, some as much as $200 a piece. Andy.
Images: From Steven Farram.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good Looking Fatso Recalls Singapore Pops

Suittuapui wrote to me a long time ago, and as I rolled around, with my mouse, I found his letter by chance, which I had forgotten to post. I apologise for the long wait but here it is in full. He also tells us who he is. Thank you for writing.

Suituapui (sui = good-looking, tua-pui = fatso) says:

Ooooo...  one of my all-time favourite songs. 3 Dog Night's Pieces of April - 1973. I was in Singapore that year, Stamford College, Waterloo Street. 

Those were the days. I saw Heather and the Thunderbirds - Lost Horizon, Shangri La... and also another place, Malaysia Hotel... can't remember the name now.  

I saw a very young Anita Sarawak too - Top of the Hilton.  Oooo... What memories. 
Silver Strings Shirley Nair: Come Home To Me: You Tube Video by Basil Yeo.

Love Shirley Nair's Come Home to Me. I hear she has passed on, real sad. I knew Veronica but I can't remember what songs. Teresa Khoo's Singaporean too or not? I remember her Unspoken Words.

I like Russ Hamilton's My Mother's Eyes best. When I was a kid, my father had the LP record. I don't think it's a lullaby - years later, I was singing another Russ Hamilton's song to put my little girl to sleep -  Little One. That's a nice lullaby.  

Who’s Suituapui?  

Personally, I am
…chronologically-advanced but always young at heart. Horizontally-challenged, hence the name or in short, STP, which means, “Good-Looking Fatso”.

…someone with a passion for food! I know the best places to eat, that’s for sure and enjoy cooking but mostly the simple stuff – mum’s home-cooked favourites!

…one who likes meeting people and mingles well with friends of all ages, both young and old.

…an ardent radio-listener. I enjoy the current hit songs as well as some older ones. No particular favourite singer or band; anything that is nice.

Thank you Suituapui for this cavalcade of Singapore songs, singers, bands and entertainment venues that you have so informatively mentioned. 

If you read this post, do write in again. Andy. 

You can check the writer out at:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Niagara Falls: Maid Of The Mist, Lady In Red?

The Truth About Creatures In The Night
Another Travel Tale:

I travelled alone to Niagara Falls and was on the Canadian side. Heard so much about it. One of the greatest tourist attractions in the world. It was my first visit at late morning. I had the usual tourist treats, and even in the 80's, it wasn't cheap. I couldn't remember how I got there but it was a hotel not too far from the Falls.

Got on a boat, Maid Of The Mist tour and watched Niagara Falls up close, pouring its heart out for everyone. But the view from the boat? All we saw was water. 
 Well, it's water, water everywhere
And not a drop to drink
So tell me now 
Oh what else can a poor fella do 
But sit right down and...*

It was like walking in heavy rain. But they gave me this plastic raincoat with a hood. Blue, I remember was the colour. Or was it yellow? Then we got into the lower part of the falls (image above), got into a boat and got wet, just so we could see Niagara above us.

It was supposed to be exciting going on this boat ride. But it wasn't. And the camera got wet (we didn't have iPhones then). And it couldn't function properly.
The mist could be seen behind me. It was cold and wet even with raincoats.

I was in that area for hours, supposedly to enjoy its unique environment and listen to the ever-roaring waters. It was special. Because the last time I saw a waterfall was at Kota Tinggi. Cannot compare. Like looking at an *attap house in Malaysia at one end and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at the other.

Had lunch alone, then tea, cakes and a simple burger for dinner. 
Then it got dark. A mist fast shrouding the area. I wasn't aware of the time. As the weather was cold, I felt my heart being squeezed tight by some unseen hand... Breathless, choking.

I was in pretty bad shape, bitter cold and fearful. I looked around me. Most folks had left, with only a few young couples idling around. The presence of the frightful heavy mist encompassing the already dark woods was eerie.
In the boat under the waterfall. Tourists were soaked. I was drenched.

Don't ever get lost in the evening, in the open, in Canada. You freeze to death. And this wasn't Winnipeg. It was Ontario. Just as gripping. 

Worse, I had read about a native Indian story, the Maid of the Mist legend where a young woman, in suicidal bereavement, got into a canoe and entered the waters above the falls.

I realised that it was only about 5 pm but it was totally dark and I knew I was lost in unknown territory.  I walked and walked and walked, quite far now from where the Falls were. Then I realised I was walking round in circles beside a high wire fencing. 
 The cold was getting through my Nike track shoes, my blue jeans and even my leather jacket. I had no muffler, no thick gloves and my skinny self could not take the icy pangs of the blowing wind. Mind you this wasn't even Winter.

This was it I told myself. Here lie I, waiting to die. I reached the road after walking up a gradual incline, and looked around, praying for someone to help me. Nothing... but only the mist and I could hardly see three feet in front of me. I trudged on and was walking for about ten minutes with really weary legs when I heard the sound of a car behind me.

Lady in Red Chris de Burgh. Video by Kawaii Mango. Nearly 6 Million viewers.

I turned around and, although dazzled by the lights, I felt the bumper nearly touching my legs, I saw this beautiful sight; a lady inside wound down her window. She was pretty. And de Burgh's music coming from her car radio:

And when you turned to me and smiled
It took my breath away
And I have never had such a feeling
Such a feeling of complete and utter love
As I do tonight

I honestly could not remember what happened after that. From the moment I stepped into the lady's car, up to the time I spoke to the concierge, what happened in between was a blank.

The biggest surprise I got, was when I spoke to the concierge to tell my tale. 

"Oh, there are haunted houses and roads near Niagara," he mentioned nonchalantly.  

"Oh," he added lamely, "you'll never get lost in the woods at Niagara. There's always a lady dressed in red, in a red car, ready to pick people who are lost."

When I asked him for the time, he replied, "It's two in the morning, sir." 


Even till today, I am confused. 


From the film "The Tommy Steele Story" - 1957 by Lionel Bart / Michael Pratt / Tommy Steele

THE LADY IN RED (You Tube Video)
Into The Light Album - June 1986
British-Irish singer-songwriter Chris de Burgh

Images: Google ones are for illustrative purpose only. A personal collection taken at Niagara Falls shows two pictures of myself in the boat.

This story is absolutely true. I was lost at Niagara Falls, walked in the cold in heavy mist and was sent to my hotel by this mysterious lady who neither spoke nor smiled at me. What happened in between remained a mystery.
Not a spook; definitely a guardian angel.