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.
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 teh-tarek (frothy hot tea) and teh-aliah (ginger tea) 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.
(I sometimes appear as a solo singer without the Silver Strings or Velvetones as the above advertisement shows.)
Image/article: Andy Lim Collection.