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REDGUM - Years of Toil With a Bunch of Mates

When Brian Medlin, convenor of the Politics and Art course in 1975, suggested that some people might like to co-operate on a music project, three people raised their hands.

John Schumann, Michael Atkinson and Verity Truman were as yet unaquainted It came to light later that Michael thought John was a loudmouth, John thought Michael was wet, and neither of them had really noticed Verity because she was very quiet.

They immediately fell into a deep and meaningful relationship with each other and wrote about eight songs. They performed the songs to the class and met such a strong and positive reaction that Michael, John and Verity decided to accept some of the invitations that followed to play at various gatherings.

At a function held by the Progressive Art Movement, Chris Timms, a former student of Flinders University Philosophy, offered his services as a violinist. A friend from university, Steve Brown, suggested the name Redgum and for want of anything betterm the quartet adopted it.

Redgum started on the South Australian campus circuit. The strikingly original material and the uncompromising delivery won them a small but very supportive following. A campus tour of Melbourne was organised and during that hectic week, the ABC recorded some of their songs. Community radio 3CR taped the band and played the songs regularly to a responsive listenership.

The band returned to Melbourne several times during 1976 and 1977, sometimes sponsored by 3CR, sometimes by progressive groups, to play concerts, rallies, benifits and the odd pub. Redgum quickly established a sizeable and quite general audience.

Back in Adelaide, Redgum performed "live to air" for 5UV, the radio station attached to the University of Adelaide. At folk concerts, union nights, rallies and benifits, Redgum would appear sporadically in Adelaide until their self-produced show 'One more boring Thursday night in Adelaide' established them outside of campuses. This show was part of the Festival of Arts Focus program in 1978 and was listed by The National Times as an attraction not to be missed.

It was shortly after this, and numerous enquiries in Adelaide and Melbourne as to the availability of tapes, that 3CR asked Redgum's permission to run off tapes for the people who had asked for them. On hearing that there were two hundred people listed as wanting copies the band decided to make an album.

The sales of the album "If You Don't Fight, You Lose" surprised everyone concerned. It became Larrikin Records' best seller and received airplay on most on the non-commerical stations around the country.

On the strength of the album, Redgum ventured to Sydney and Newcastle. They played a number of shows for the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, a concert at the Balmain Town Hall and a couple of folk clubs.

It is interesting to note that all this time, Michael, John, Chris and Verity all held full time jobs in Adelaide. Michael was teaching part time and studying, Verity had disappeared into the bowels of the Public Service,
Chris was Academic assistant at the South Australian School of Art and John was an English and Drama teacher at Marion High School. Trips interstate were made on weekends and in school holidays. This madness persisted until December 1980.

The bands trip to Melbourne in 1980 saw Dave Flett playing bass and Gordon Mclean drummin. In Adelaide, Chris Boath played bass and Geoff Gifford played drums.

During the middle of 1980 Redgum began work on 'Virgin Ground', their second album. It was released late in 1980 and, like its predecessor, it met strong critical acclaim.

Michael, John, Chris, Verity and Chris Gunn made a number of important decisions regarding the bands future in 1981. The five friends decided to give up full time employment in favor of Redgum. Tom Stehlik, an Adelaide drummer was recruited and with Dave Flett Redgum passed the sixth month mark as a professional band.

The band's third album, 'Brown Rice and Kerosene', introduced the single '100 Year On/ Nuclear Cop'. The Redgum Songbook 'Stubborn Words, Flagrant Vices' was also published in 1981.
In May 1982, long-serving member Chris Timms left the band to be replaced by Hugh McDonald (violin, guitar, vocals). The 12-inch EP 'Cut to the Quick' was released in September 1982 and contained four tracks.

By 1983 Redgum was one of the biggest crowd-pulling bands on the Australian scene. The live album 'Caught in the Act' produced the classic song 'I was only Nineteen (A Walk in the Light Green) which reached #1 and stayed in the top 40 for four months.

Caught in the act was produced by former folk musician Trevor Lucas (author of Poor Ned)

By 1984, the Redgum line-up comprised Schumann, Truman, Atkinson, McDonald, Stephen Cooney (bass,didgeridoo, mandolin, banjo), Michael Spicer (piano) and Brian Czempinski (drums).

Redgum's fifth album, Frontline, was released in August 1984. A compilation album 'Everythings Legal Anything Goes' was released in November 1984.

Redgum toured the UK and Europe in the latter half of 1985 and released a compilation album in a number of territories. The band was well received on the festival circuit and earned itself a strong and loyal following in London during its time there.

In may 1986, co-founder John Schumann surprised fans by leaving the band. He signed with CBS as a solo artist and he recorded the album 'Etched in Blue' at the Music Farm in Byron Bay in 1987. Schumann's touring band included Mal Logan, Louis McManus, David Dharamaesena, Mark Peters and a trio of backing vocalists Deborah Paul, Melinda Pike and Nicky Schultz.

In 1989 Schumann produced a childrens' record, 'Looby Loo', for CBS. In September 1992 he recorded the single 'Eyes on fire' on the Sony label. This was the first of two singles released from the 1993 album 'True Believers'.

In the meantime, Truman, Atkinson, McDonald and Spicer continued on as Redgum, recording the album Midnight Sun. Redgum's final single was 'Roll it on Robbie/Empty Page' which reached #34 in May 1987.

Michael Atkinson left Redgum in 1987. His departure precipitated the bands' break-up soon thereafter.