Thursday, December 11, 2008

Andy Young & The Velvetones - Early 60's Sixties

The Velvetones, the original line-up, one of the pioneers of kampong bands or as they call them in the West: garage bands.

I was a neighbour and met The Velvetones by chance when they were practising in an exceptionally large bungalow near the junction of Lorong 39 Geylang and Sims Avenue, Singapore. It was a stone's throw from another bungalow owned by the former Chief Minister of Singapore, Mr Lim Yew Hock.

I remember, from the left, Aziz (bass), Adam (drummer), Teo Bock Kiong (rhythm), Andy (vocals) and Wilson (lead) as shown on the image above. They were using Hofner guitars then and Aziz and Kiong were quiet and great team players. 

Because he was so good looking, Aziz was always sought after by the young ladies in the crowd. Drummer Adam was exceptionally good with his skins and a pretty serious player at that. The drum set wasn't that great as it had a tinny sound. It could have been an inexpensive set. But as a group, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Wilson didn't have too many problems with his lead and was exceptional with his fingering and ability to master the chords of many Shadows and Ventures numbers (60's popular guitar bands from the west). He had leadership ability and was able to steer and encourage the group for the few months I was with them. The Velvetones was a formidable group, enthusiastic and strong during the early years of Singapore's guitar group craze.
*Straits Times Advertisement with ANDY YOUNG at National Theatre 1965.

The team was financed by a member of the family called Mr. Wahab (of Arabic descent) who owned the bungalow and regular practices were held in the evenings amidst the living room comfort and middle eastern décor. A large radiogram, in the corner of the spacious hall where they met, played Extended Play and Long Play vinyl records for the group's pleasure and practice.

Those were really great days as most of us did not have a care in the world and enjoyed our practices and gigs together as a team. There were no squabbles on financial matters and the time we had together was blessed with a peaceful calm amidst the cool surroundings of Lorong 39 which was a tree-lined lane with huge double-storey bungalows.

I can never forget Mr. Wahab's family who were so kind and allowed us the use of the family bungalow (image below as illustration).  Sometimes finger food was served to enable a hungry lot of youthful musicians to fill themselves in fun and frolic.

The Velvetones were a good, confident group, enthusiastic and strong during the early years of Singapore's guitar group craze so when the band boys finally separated, three of them became The Firebyrds with a new singer, a young and talented lady called, Katherine.

Andy joined The Silver Strings and sang with The Swallows during a show at the Victoria Theatre. These two bands were among the top dozen local bands during the golden music heyday those years.
A typical Geylang bungalow in an avenue (lorong), huge and airy.

But many neighbours knew our presence and the only sound to have disturbed the quiet neighbourhood in the evenings would have been the group playing Shadows and Ventures melodies on their solid guitars. 

At the end of our practices, we would sometimes adjourn to the sarbat stall at the junction of Lorong 39 and Geylang Road, sipping frothy hot tea (teh tarek) and ginger tea, (teh-aliah) in the dead of night.

These years were truly the beginning of local pop music, where guitar bands sprouted like soya-beans (or towgay: a Chinese dialect) from everywhere. And it's all thanks to Cliff Richard and his Shadows. But never forget, that it was not the beginning of pop bands in Singapore because pop bands and combos came well before Mr. Richard visited in Singapore. 

So if you have read books and articles on the internet that Singapore's pop music history started with Cliff Richard it isn't true. For these stories, you need to browse around on this blog to find out.

This blog welcomes artistes, musicians, friends who appeared at the above show. Many of us have lost touch with one another so please write in on the Facebook page. It was 1965, more than half a century ago.

*(Sometimes appearing as a solo singer without the Silver Strings or Velvetones as the above advertisement shows.)

Image/article: Andy Lim Collection.
Image 2: from Straits Times Press.

SG50: The Pioneering Spirit walks The Singapore Memory Trail.


Anonymous said...

You cut a dashing figure, Andy. Great pic again. Hope others will contribute pictures and anecdotes of the era.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you. Wondering if you have pictures of yourself with your partner on the dance floors in Singapore in the 60s? Or your own experience with the music then? Any favourite bands, groups or singers you may have listened to?

MARK TEO said...

Hi, I am the son of Teo Bok Kiong he just passed away. Would like to ask about his days when he was young. My hp is...

Kal said...

Andy, I just found by sheer accident this article. I remember the Velvetones very well. Mr Wahab you mentioned, was my late uncle (he married my aunt). After he got married with my aunt, the Velvetones continued their practices at our Upp Serangoon bungalow house. I was very young then, probably in Pr 1 or 2. & I enjoyed listening to their practices.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Kal,

It's really nice to hear from you.
Thanks for visiting the blog.
Yes, I knew your Uncle and am sorry to hear that he has passed away.
I am not aware that the Velvetones continued at Serangoon.

Would be nice if you could write again and leave me your email address [I shall not publish it]. I just wanted to know what happened to his younger brother whom I met some years back. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hi, do you have an email address where I can ask you more questions about The Velvetones? I'm interested to learn more about them and their musical style.

Anonymous said...

Hi I’m so happy to see the picture of your band Velvetones, because 1964 I got a pen friend called Charles Tung,of Chinese dad and English mother, he and his friends formed a group called Velvetones too,and later changed to Comorans, his friends are Wilson Ong, Sam and Sammy the drummer, the 3 f them are guitarists ,then in 1978 when I was moving the house I lost his pictures, address , as he just moved too,I wonder f any of you know anything about these boys, we are now almost 80 years of now, as my family can to go for a holiday in Singapore , He always like to talk about how nice is your country always wanted us to go visit it whenever we can . so I hope any of you can help me please find my friend , he has a younger brother called Walter , a younger sister called linda, for a longtime they lived with their parents on 110 Dorset road Singapore 8 .I would very much appreciate your help ,the sixties had the best music and songs . We are lucky to passed through that era , thank you So much in advance, I pray to get sone good news .

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


If there is any response your friends will write to me.
I shall give them your email address if you send it to me.
You must also provide me your full name, address and the country you are from.

I SHALL NOT PUBLISH your address, etc. on this blog.
It will remain CONFIDENTIAL.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Regarding the Velvetones and you wanting to ask me questions about their musical style.
I probably can't help you with that since it happened so long ago.
I was with them for a short period, just singing for fun.

We played mostly Cliff and Shadows music and during gigs, Velvetones were also well-versed with Malay pops.

Thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
He told me what kind of music they played, I just like to hear what he told me every times he wrote, but do not like to interfere.Yes, that was a long time ago now,when he stoped telling me about his practice I did not ask. I know everybody needs to go study

My dad was inthe entertainment business ,that time .
I remember there were a group came from your country performed so many times in our theatres,there was a tall Chinese girl who sang Chinese songs and English songs,even the crowd don’t understand Chinese loved to listen to her sing, her most popular song was its now or never one of my favourite , she sang the high voice at the ending part ,we all love to ask her encore . She always performed the last .every body just waited patiently to listen to her,forgot her name now, it was before 1964 , so many performers came and go that time.
Time flies, now we are so near to 80 years old,
God bless you and your family with very best health and happiness forever !

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
I just found out you won the Paul Anka contest back in 1959!
Congratulations! You are amazing! You still sing for your age ! Nice to do what you love in your life !
I try to read your blog little by little, being busy , just found out your age .wow, you look younger than your and singing is the best things for everybody! And we are so lucky to passed the through the best era of music. I always play those music every day while cooking and love to sing along too,specially when Connie Francis is singing.
Thank you to remind every body and give the younger generations a chance to enjoy and talk about it.
Also just found out you came to study in my city too.
You are really so humble and nice to do something good in the society .
May God bless you and your family the very best of health and lots of joys. Keep on singing. Big Bravo to you !

Rosemay said...

Hi Andy,
Actually it’s me Rosemay Chung again. I was so surprised to read you actually came to Winnipeg to study too. You have a very wonderful and busy life .
I did not get a chance to learn the music,
But gave my 2 girls the chance to Learn to play piano
Love listen to them when they were practicing the music of Chopin and Mozart.I also made them listen to music of our time. Life without music is boring.
Keep on singing Andy, you are so amazing! Thank you for doing something so nice to the old and young generations All over the world, but specially to your lovely Singapore ! Big Bravo to you again Andy !
Rosemay .

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Rosemay for the generous contribution of greetings and accolades.
I hope some members from the Velvetones will read your letters and write to you.

Rosemay said...

Hi Andy,
You actually deserve all the very BEST for what you still helping to do for the society and your beautiful country !
I’m an old lady now so close to 80 kids encouraged me to learn the new technology, giving me an iPad, taught me to use it.Then I realised I am lucky my kids love me and care for me .he was the same and very nice to accepted me , and told me do not be scared,just keep on reading and writing,even helped me to get my English better. He was one year older than me, treated me like a sister or so, I’m always grateful to him .
Yes,I’m sure that day will come soon. I believe in Miracle .and you are an angel to us!
God bless you always Andy and your family with the veryBest health, the only thing we all need is good health,
Then you can continue to sing to entertain the crowd!