Hey, it's a Leap Year 29th February today.
Continuing the Story of The Trekkers:
We played in many contests like the Great World Cabaret and charity shows at the YMCA and schools such as St Patrick's and the Presbyterian Schools. In the Town Convent Girls’ School and the University of Singapore. Charles's sisters were often there to watch us perform. They were our biggest fans.
Our first win in a talent show was actually at the Great World Cabaret in the Battle of the Combo Band. We won a prize even though we were competing against some very accomplished jazz musicians. We gave them the new Duane Eddy sound, and they liked it. Charles was also a favorite of the voting dance hostesses. We also played in Swee Leong friend's club, the Rosi D'or at the old Lido Theater a couple of times. Performing at the old Britannia Club on Beach Road was another favorite because they had a lively crowd of British service personnel.
We experimented with adding vocals to the group. The Jaywalkers, comprised of Charles, his sister Ng Pau Yin, and the late Susan Lim, joined one of our practice sessions. They won a trophy at Rediffusion and were only twelve and thirteen years old at that time. Another singer (Aniz ?) also sang in our group. He had a voice for Buddy Holly and Cliff Richard hits, and the Britannia Club crowd loved him.
In our last year together, we accomplished resident group status in the Rediffusion Discovery Series together with Cynthia Hay. She had a voice like Connie Francis'. The shows were hosted by Larry Lai and Joseph Goh and pre-recorded at the old Odeon Theatre. When the show ended we remained in contact with the late Tan Swee Leong and were guests in several of his Rediffusion shows.
Finally Tan Hock Lye had us play his Make Mine Music program on the radio, and Steven Lee invited us to play the opening and closing number for the first live broadcast on Singapore Television. That was our last performance.
Unlike many bands in Singapore The Trekkers never cut a record. It simply was not an option in the period pre-1963. We had an offer from the old Rank Organization in UK while playing at the Britannia Club, but we were disbanding. First George left to join his siblings in the UK, and I left Singapore next to go to college in the United States. Charles studied law at the local university. Only William continued his musical career, going on to play with the Stray Dogs. We accomplished plenty in the short time we were together and had fun doing it.
The only recording that remains of that special time is a tape of our last jam session. William’s cousin Ah Siong recorded it with his new sound recorder, and my brother Johnny saved the tape for us all those years. The tape resurfaced in 1980, and we took it to Swee Leong for an interview on Rediffusion. Later, we submitted the tape together with The Trekkers old photographs to a contest by the Singapore National Archives. We won a consolation prize thus sealing our legacy as part of the Singapore pop scene of the 1960's.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was surprised to find that the 4-piece guitar band was an international phenomenon of that time and not just in Singapore. Playing Ventures and Shadows music was popular everywhere. The Ventures are still popular in Japan today among the Baby Boomers.
YouTube currently has a lot of guitarists playing Ventures and Shadows music using a Line 6 type device and Apple Garage band software. Ramon "RJ" Jacinto of the Philippines who started playing Ventures in the 60's is about the only one who is still playing in a band.
When George, Charles, William, my brother Johnny and I are together, we always talk about The Trekkers and the good times we had playing music. We talk about the music scene in Singapore and listen to our favorite tracks from those days. When we disbanded, we were at the crossroads of our lives. I'm happy with my decision to go to college in the US even though it meant never recording an album with my friends. We accomplished plenty in the relatively short times we were together.
Like many guitar groups, we had our own unique sound. For The Trekkers that sound was a presentation by four musicians who played to complement rather than compete with each other. In The Trekkers rendition of the old hits by Ramon "RJ" Jacinto, Mashi Mashi, you can clearly hear the distinctive rhythm of Charles, the bass of William and the drum beat of George; all synchronizing and complementing the lead guitar. Thus I believe we had fulfilled our aspiration (and my demands) to play the best music together. We now still talk excitingly of our music and share one of the most wonderful memories of our moments in The Trekkers.
A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while...
Thank you for reading.
A special thanks to my daughter Carolyn for editing this short history.
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