It’s early 1964, and Ray Moore, just nudging out of his teens, is on his way to the home of
Kerry Wright to bring over a guitar that Kerry wants to buy. Ray, now more interested in
playing bass - had played that particular guitar in the now disbanded group The Vikings.
Ray Moore takes up the story:
I’d played in a band with Peter Wright, for probably twelve months, perhaps even less than that
and I’d bought this Fender guitar, and it was the third Fender that ever came into Toowoomba.
In those days, you had to wait for three months to get an instrument like that.
Peter was heading off to Sydney so we just disbanded, and he said to Kerry that he (Ray) may have
a guitar for sale - a Fender Stratocaster - and so I bought it around - and Kerry agreed to buy it,
and just by chance Kerry said to me - you wouldn’t be interested in playing bass guitar - and I said, yeah,
maybe I would be - and that’s how it started.
Along with Bert Shooter on drums, Kerry, aged 16, has been playing current pop instrumentals
on guitar at the YCW Club at the Holy Name Hall in Toowoomba. Another YCW club member,
Col Zeller – and co-incidentally also a drummer – sees musical potential in Kerry during these
informal club jam sessions, and proposes that he and Kerry form a working band.
Bert’s not serious about being in a band, and relinquishes his position to Col.
Ray Moore had a previous association with the Wright family. Kerry knew and respected him
as a good musician, and - more importantly - learned he was available. Col Zeller brings in lead
guitarist Ron Smith to round out the quartet.
Rehearsals commence, a musical partnership is forged, and The Defenders, come into being.
Kerry Wright reflects on those beginnings:
When I first started to listen to music on the radio, I was really interested in the guitar
sounds, groups like The Shadows, and The Ventures. Remember that , in those times a lot of
the Top 40 was taken up with instrumental hits. We had our own Joy Boys and The Atlantics
in Australia, and overseas groups like The String-A-Longs, The Surfaris, and Duane Eddy, and at
times up to 50% of the Top 40 tunes were instrumentals.
I must admit I could do without the singers - I used to wait for Elvis and Cliff Richard, and people
like that to stop singing - so I could listen to the guitar work going on behind it. Chet Atkins was
another big influence - he was in a different vein to The Shadows - he has his own immaculate style
and I just loved the sound of those guitars.
Ray Moore continues with his impressions of the genesis of the band.
Somehow...it was organised we have a practice, and the four of us turn up. Ronnie Smith, Col Zeller, Kerry Wright and myself...and we started rehearsals. I remember Kerry wouldn’t
sing in those days, because he was just wanting to learn to play guitar. Ronnie Smith was a quite immature guitarist also, and I was the only one who had an actual experience in being
in a band, so I became the bass player and the singer. Of course, later on Kerry Wright became a noted singer - he had a wonderful voice - and the fact that these two guys didn’t know
who wanted to be the lead guitarist. I think they actually tossed a coin, and Ronnie Smith became the lead guitar player - and that’s basically how the band started.
Ronnie Smith became the standard of guitar players, that followed in his footsteps in Toowoomba.
After rehearsals, the band is out on the road – cutting their musical teeth at social club and 60/40 dances in and around the Toowoomba region. Kerry Wright:
The earliest known photograph of The Defenders
(l-r) Ray Moore, Kerry Wright, Col Zeller, Ron Smith
Agricultural Show Ball, Toowoomba, early 1964
Our first real paying job as The Defenders was in a concert at the
Baillie Henderson Mental Hospital. In those days the patients and the
residents from the area, and all the hospital staff used to all get together
and go to these things, and it was a great night.
We did a Beatles song, and a couple of Shadows numbers as I remember
and that was the start of The Defenders.
These performances bring the band to the attention of the Hi-Y club,
a social club that presents dances for its members in Laurel Bank Hall,
Toowoomba. The band’s star was rising. Kerry Wright:
Then there was a weekly dance for teenagers at Laurel Bank Park Hall,
it was called the Hi-Y. We were there a lot, and for some reason, we
were big in Stanthorpe! We always seemed to be going out to the
International Club or the Civic Centre or some other venue for
60/40 dances. Our version of a 60/40 dances was a barn dance bracket,
a gypsy tap bracket, and a whole lot of current Top 40 songs!
Teenage entertainment in those days was a new concept, and I think the
promoters had to throw in some old-time brackets to keep things
We were approached by two guys - Chris Shapland and Terry Herbert -
they wanted to organise a venue that was run by teenagers, entertainment
by teenagers, and supported by teenagers. And that’s how JB’s
Cabaret was born. It started in St. Stephen’s Hall and just took off
like a skyrocket.
Kerry’s older brother - Peter - then making waves in Sydney in the music
industry, and also the subject of local teen interest on the back of a
moderately successful EMI single release and a string of national TV
appearances, is approached by management of Teen City to return home to
present a concert at this, the then top Toowoomba venue.
Peter’s previous local popularity (as Peter Wright and the Vikings) and now the upswing of refreshed local interest due to his chart and television exposure ensures
the show’s success. Peter accepts the offer, but insists The Defenders be brought in to back him. The concert is penciled in for October, 1964.
The Defenders were working for Terry Herbert, son of the owner of the Globe Hotel and a go get em’ young entrepreneur with an eye for the pop-scene.
Terry had engaged The Defenders to perform at his newest enterprise - JB’s Cabaret, operating in St. Stephen’s Hall, and The Defenders were going from strength to strength
continually increasing the JB’s attendance through mid-1964.
This Peter Wright One Night Only performance exposes the great vibe of The Defenders to the Teen City audience. These fans were the last holdouts against their growing
scene domination - and the band creates a big impression on that audience, so much so, that a significant number defect and join in with the already overflowing popularity
of The Defenders at St. Stephens Hall. This had an unfortunate side effect - within months Teen City closes.
So, Herbert takes over the old Teen City premises and moves The Defenders in - re-badging the venue as the new JB’s Cabaret.
Within eight months, The Defenders had gone from scratch, gained momentum and a strong group following and, were playing and filling the biggest capacity teen venue
in Toowoomba at that time.