Ross talks to Athol Guy about his career with The Seekers and life outside of music
Athol Guy from The Seekers
Ross Greenwood: Anybody who understand Australian music, would understand that tune in an instant. For that is ‘The Carnival is Over’ by The Seekers. Probably one of Australian’s greatest local and international recording artist. The group, of course, was really setup as a result of some amazing things.
Judith Durham, Keith Potger, and Bruce Woodley were joint Australians of the Year in 1967 along with my next guest. That man, Athol Guy, the bassist. I got to tell you about Athol.
Athol now is in his mid ’70s. Let’s be polite here, a little bit. But the truth is also, it’s not just his musical career that has been quite astonishing. It’s also about the fact that he really is been an advertising agency director. He’s been a very good PR man in his time . He’s been inside financial institution. He’s actually been one of the great fundraisers during his time.
On top of that, in his later life he suddenly become a wine maker. If you go, for example, around the Macedon Rangers, up towards Heathcote, those types of areas. Some award winning Shiraz has come out some of the winery that have been owned by Athol Guy. I’ll tell you what? He’s also a good bloke and he’s on the line. Hello Athol, how you doing?
Athol: Hello Ross. Yes, mate, I’m very well, thank you very much. There have been little bits and pieces under the bridge, haven’t they?
Ross Greenwood: I got to say, but the thing about you is, that musical career, technically a lot of people would say, would’ve set you up for life. You could’ve actually just sat back and milk the recording royalties, all that type of thing. Why is it that you didn’t do that because you ended up having another four or five careers?
Athol: Well, this sounds crazy because of the way that The Seekers is still in existence. A couple of years ago they had their 50th Reunion International Tour. We are truly blessed. We’ve got music that was created basically back in the ’60s although a lot of it is being created since then by Bruce, of course with his great arm of Australian songs. To me, it’s always sort of been a hobby.
Ross Greenwood: Sort of been a hobby? Hang on, wait on, wait on, wait on. Nominated Georgy Girl, which we’ll hear in a minute for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. I’ll Never Find Another You, currently 60 million plus hits on YouTube. The Carnival is Over, number one hit that outsold the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Let’s even go to, I’ll never Find Another You, was first number one Australian hit in the U.K with a debut record. Also the first Australian group to reach number one in the U.K with, I’ll never Find Another You, that not even The Easybeats or INXS could do. For a hobby, it wasn’t a bad hobby.
Athol: No, look, we were truly blessed. There was a bonding. We had musical interest plus we came from different musical areas. We just clicked. Most of the support from other people did it. The fact that the music was embraced immediately, we had our first sing-a-long together in a coffee lounge. These are the things that particularly uplifted. Every step of the way, we had nothing but support from coffee lounge groups, theatre groups, television people. I have to say, without being patronizing, the media all the way, along the line, found something about the group and its music, that they related to. They really did latch onto us in the nicest way. Respect our music and the critics were at our concerts. Always, every step of the way we were put in on a very nice thread.
Ross Greenwood: I know you started the Channel Nine. You’ve been at the Melbourne High School before then, you could’ve been a high jumper I understand you’re pretty good at that.
Athol: I loved athletics and football. My two ambitions were either to be the next John Talman, who I idolized. Just sit behind the goal post and watch him. I went down to play with the under 19 with St Kilda and the my eyes went all funny. The athletics of course I did love. I was Junior High Jump champion. I came second the next year. One of the Olympians guy, called Collin Ridgeway-
Ross Greenwood: This is just an amazing story. I didn’t even tell people Athol Guy, about all your different careers that I told you about. You’re a politicians at one stage. You served in the Victorian Government. In fact, if people know one of Australia’s great and most iconic tourist destinations in Victoria, which is Werribee Park, which included the magnificent open air zoo there as well.
Athol: Yes, I’m very proud of that.
Ross Greenwood: Just incredible that’s part of your accomplishment as a politician.
Athol: It came about because I had a huge electorate in those days. But the kids from the Werribee High School came to me. It was coming up for auction, it was in the hands of the Catholic Church. The kids came to me with a wonderful document on the property. And say, ‘Would you be able to talk to the Government about buying?” I said, “Yes, Of course. I could.”
This is how things went in those days. I took the documents to the Head of Treasury, he loved the idea, he said, “I’ll take it to the Premier,” This was on a Friday. Rang me back later in the afternoon. He said the Premier will see the party, meeting next Tuesday. I’ve done a big documents on top of their presentation which is really terrific. Walked into the party room on a Tuesday and he did pull me over to the desk before the meeting started. He simply said, “We’ll buy it.”
Ross Greenwood: Wow. This is astonishing. This is a great life, I’ve got to tell you. Because to actually keep– But it’s not a bad to listen to other people to take your skills and try to keep repackaging it and recreating them. You obviously had a bit of talent for athletics, you had a bit of talents for music. You clearly had a bit of talent for marketing. You had a bit of talent for administration. All of these different things. But you kept using those skills over and over again.
Athol: Well, it’s an accumulation, Ross. You know yourself, and your own finance world, your own TV world. One thing links to another. One door shut another open. Not too many shut for me, I guess and I’m still able to parlay whatever skills I have out into a variety. They still come together every now and then. It’s a amalgam. I’m always busy with bits and pieces, but it all seems to be the natural part of my story.
Without being overly fatalistic, I’ve lost track of the number of times in my life, especially the group of course, where I’ve said, “Look doesn’t get any better than this.” Surely somewhere there gone down a few holes, don’t worry about that. I’ve made my mistakes too, but equally I’ve been able to learn from it, pick it up– Look I’d be able be less sincere, I guess, which we haven’t got time going today. I’m a true Capricorn. People like to read up about their life. I’ve just been given the opportunity, to do things. Like being a member of parliaments in my 30s was a fantastic time–
Ross Greenwood: I tell you what, I just love hearing the story. They just fantastic. The winery, all of these types of things to get– My final one for you. Is there such a thing as a retirement?
Athol: No. No. I don’t think any of the issues that were these days. That next part of your existent on the planet, where most of us feel, probably all of our lives been doing the thing that’s been the second best at.
Ross Greenwood: I tell you what, great to have you on the program. It’s a great story, it is a great life. I’m just going to leave you with a little bit more of The Seekers, because it is just so good to hear about it. In the mean time, Athol Guy, can I just say, thanks very much for the story. It is just a wonderful one. I’m so pleased we caught up and had a chat.
Athol: Ross, thank you very much. My best to everybody out there and may you keep enjoying The Seekers music. It’s been a great pleasure and we’ve been very privilege.
Ross Greenwood: Thank you so much, Athol.