Backward Glance: Let’s dance, dance, dance
  • Wednesday 06 December 2017

The early community halls and clubs played a large part in the Sunshine Coast’s social development.

Many of the Sunshine Coast’s older halls remain almost unchanged since they were built and are a testimony to our pioneers.

During the early 1960s, the halls and other venues came alive to the sound of a special band known as the Blue Hawaiians. 

Life before the Blue Hawaiians

The Blue Hawaiians formed in 1964 and soon became a drawcard throughout the area.

They served their Sunshine Coast community well.

The driving force were lifetime Sunshine Coast residents and musicians Ivy Garrad and her husband George.

Ivy Duffield spent her early years on “Brooke Lodge”, a dairy stud on the foot hills of the Montville range.

She was an accomplished pianist and during her teenage years Ivy played at many engagements, weddings and soldier send-offs.

World War II veteran George Garrad was a Woombye resident of the pioneering Garrad family. George married Ivy after the cessation of World War II when he returned to Australian shores.

Prior to forming the Blue Hawaiians, Ivy worked with another group of musicians.

She was part of a trio formed with Yandina’s Melba Murray.

Melba was known as the “Yandina Songstress”.

Renowned for her beautiful singing voice, Melba entertained with Ivy and Amy Holt.

Melba was also known for her duets with John McGrath, another North Coast entertainer.

The Garrads set up their home and farm together in the late 1940s, opposite what is now the Sunshine Coast University, and then moved to Yandina in the 1950s.
It was in Yandina that the Blue Hawaiians formed. 

Life during the Blue Hawaiians

Ivy was the band leader and played the keyboards and piano whilst George was master of ceremonies.

A young 16-year-old David Richardson played steel guitar, Neil Jansen was on rhythm guitar and 14-year-old Ross Baldwin played drums.

It was a time of social change the 1960s with rock music surfacing, but that didn’t matter on the Near North Coast.

The locals enjoyed the classic sounds of the Blue Hawaiians and they had their own cult following.

People travelled many miles to enjoy the Blue Hawaiians play at dances and fundraising was a major motivation in the community they played for.

An oral history featured on Sunshine Coast Libraries website, as told by Beerwah sisters Robyn and Yvonne Turner, recalled the splendid nights in the Beerwah Hall when the Blue Hawaiians played each fortnight.

“All the community would come along with their kids.

“The kids would go to sleep under the seats.

“Mothers would get dressed up and the parents were such good dancers.

“Beerwah Hall had a great dance floor and people would come miles for the dances.

“That was the fun and all of the time people were contributing to one cause or another.

“The dances were good and they were all for charity.”

In 1967, George Garrad advised the North Coast community in the Nambour Chronicle that the band had a new name and new sound. 

Life after the Blue Hawaiians

The band was to be known as the Rhythm Ramblers, featuring Ivy on electronic organ and a trumpeter Murray Kay.

George was the MC and a dance was held at Palmwoods on October 7 with proceeds going to the local P&C. Cost of entry was 50 cents.

It was the same the following week, the Rhythm Ramblers played at Beerwah with proceeds going to the local tennis club.

Supper was to be served and the entry again was 50 cents.

Such was their popularity, the Rhythm Ramblers featured at a dance on the Coast each week, sometimes twice, anywhere from Conondale to Pomona.

A Nambour Chronicle advertisement in 1968 announced, “Ahoy dancers this Friday night March 1 the Rhythm Ramblers breaks into a new sound of music with modern, old time and pop music supported by Dave, John and Rob, to make this the greatest night of entertainment to be presented in Nambour”.

By 1969, the local community were advised that Nambour vocalist Rex Eggmolesse was featuring as a member of Robbie G’s Rhythm Ramblers.

In the words of the Nambour Chronicle, “a good time was assured” if attending the Buderim dance where everyone was invited to sing along with top vocalists David Crear and Rex Eggmolesse of Robbie G’s Rhythm Ramblers. 

Whilst the name of the band changed five times over the years and players came and went, the constants were George as MC and the band leader on keyboards Ivy, or Mrs Garrad as she was known to many younger, regular dance followers and younger band members.

From the 1960s until the 1980s, the dances continued and provided funding for many charities and the principal social focus of the Near North Coast community.

Over the years, the band, with Mrs Garrad as leader, reinvented the sounds and were also called The Sensations, The Ingredients and lastly Sunshine Swing.

Such was Ivy’s dedication, she had to rearrange the music to fit each instrument and the tempo played.

Not once did the Garrads let their community down. They always showed up.

For so many years Ivy watched from the stage as romances formed and sometimes blossomed into marriage.

George’s philosophy and words were: “We don’t play bowls and this is our whole enjoyment, being with people. It’s not about money”.

One of the Coast’s favorite dance numbers was a mixture of a sing-a-long and waltz.

People joined hands in a circle and sang old favorites such as Daisy and Good-night Irene.

Ivy told the local paper in 1985 that attendees would “roar the place down” and their reputation continued to grow.

In 1996, the Blue Hawaiians returned to the stage for a reunion at Yandina Hall and word spread like a wildfire. 

A bus load of local people came from Conondale for this dance and many others came from places as far away as Gympie and Beerwah.

It was a great night of entertainment that packed the Yandina Hall to the rafters.

Ivy lost her dance MC when her beloved partner George passed away in 1991, but Ivy kept playing well into her nineties, keeping the band active.

In 2003, Ivy Garrad was recognised in the Australia Day Awards for her contribution to the Sunshine Coast community.

Always the entertainer, Mrs Garrad trained Peter Sanders to take her place before she retired.

In more recent years, the Sunshine Swing Band continued to play at various localities, including monthly at the Belli Community Hall.The line-up consisted of guitarist and lead singer John Roza, drummer Greg Kiemann, keyboard player Caroline Sergeant, trumpeter Adrian Van Gaalen and singer Rex Eggmolesse.

Now retired, Rex played with the band for more than 40 years.

At her funeral in Nambour in 2014, a large crowd of Sunshine Coast residents respectfully gathered to share memories and to farewell Ivy.

The familiar voice of Nambour identity Rex Eggmolesse could be heard singing Amazing Grace as they farewelled their Mrs Garrad, the leader of their band.

George Garrad MC and Mrs Garrad the band leader were Sunshine Coast treasures.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

In 2017, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit http://www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/fifty

Image Captions:

Hero: Robbie G's Rhythm Ramblers Band on stage with Miss Rugby League winner, Sunshine Coast, 1973
Taken at the Rugby League Ball held in the Nambour Civic Hall on 31 August 1973. Band members pictured: Robbie, Adrian Van Gaalen, Ivy Garrad, Brian Kuss, Bryce Eggmolesse and Jenny Harper (wearing sash). The band performed at a variety of dances, balls and fund raising events held in local halls throughout the Sunshine Coast.

Image 1: 'The Ingredients' Band performing of stage, Sunshine Coast, 1973nd members include: Peter Hall (drums), Rex Eggmolesse (singer), Brent who took over vocals from Bryce Eggmolesse, Adrian Van Gaalen (trumpet), Ivy Garrad (key board) and George Garrad (Master of Ceremonies).

Image 2: Australia Day Awards recipient Ivy Garrad with fellow members of the Sunshine Swing Band, Palmwoods, 2003. 
Ivy received the Australia Day Award in recognition of her efforts in the Sunshine Coast Community.

Image 3: 'The Sensations' Band perfoming on stage, Sunshine Coast, ca 1980.
The band performed regularly at local dances and cabarets as well as Debutante Balls, Show Balls and fund raising events in Beerwah, Palmwoods, Maleny, Eumundi and adjacent townships. They played a variety of 60/40 dance music, swing and waltz.