Saturday, June 19, 2010

Harry Cheok And Willy Jokers: 1963 - 1965

Harry Cheok is 2nd from left.

I first met Harry Cheok (image: 2nd from left with band and supporters) at a private club in Singapore at the beginning of 2010. He was sipping an iced drink despite the cool air-conditioning in the lounge and had just completed the Rolling Stones hit, Walking The Dog, accompanied by his band Blu Moon. Audie Ng, Silver Strings band leader had introduced Harry as Singapore's Johnny Lion. He won the competition singing, Let's Make A Habit Of This.

"Where are the Jumping Jewels?" I asked jokingly. "Gone back to Holland," was his immediate and humorous reply, "but do you know that my own band, Willy Jokers won the contest at the Singapore Badminton Hall in 1965." 

When I asked him how his band had such a unique name, he explained that the band's financier had a son called Willy and that all of them enjoyed a joke or two regularly when they got together.

Harry related his experience when he joined Willy Jokers as a singer in 1963. Young and fancy-free they performed for house and birthday parties from Tanjong Katong to Tiong Bahru. As they became more popular with their RnB selection, RAF Changi contracted them to play at the mess.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows contest held at The National Theatre in 1964. Harry sang Gee Whiz It's You and remembered that Hamid Bond was the compere with Wilma Tang the guest singer.

They were good, beat the competition but came in third. Kenneth Gomes and The McCoys won the title. Then came the win in '65 when they hit the popularity polls afterwards as Singapore's Johnny Lion and The Jumping Jewels.

More about Harry Cheok in future postings with his other band Wes Cossacks (1965 - 1968).

Image: Harry Cheok Collection. Copyright Reserved.
Article: Original article by Andy Lim.

The above posting was written in 2010, this one below in April 2018.

Met Harry again and here in his own words, his band history in a nutshell as he provided the names of his band members:

"Left the band to join Wes Cossacks in the year 1965 up to end of 1968.
Played for Christmas, New Year countdown, Chinese New Year and house parties. Cannot recall the venues for these functions played.
The band members are Michael Tan (rhythm) who was also the band leader. Jimmy, the lead guitarist, Alan, the bassist, Shotam on drums, Robert Tan Yong Chong was the percussionist and Harry Cheok, the vocalist.
In the initial stage, we had quite good instruments but progressed to better instruments such as the well-regarded Fender amplifiers, Fender guitars and drum sets financed by some friends. Earlier we had only basic Hofners which were already quite well known and popular.  
Later on, Alan, Jimmy, Shotam left the group and we recruited new members – George Chew, Richard Gila and Sidik. We had a contract playing at the Ritz at Tanjong Pagar area, which lasted for less than a year.  Each of our members was paid about $100 per month and we had a memorable time then. After this we split up as each of us had our own career to pursue. The year was 1968."


Unknown said...

Harry and I were classmates at ACS..Use tko tag along in his mom's Mayflower car to school from QueenSt to Coleman St together with his brother Benny...I had known all the members of the Willys Jokers with George on lead..Philip on rythmn. Francis on bass now in Taiwan and La on drums...we had a wonderful time going to gigs and entering the contest.and enjoying our supper after the gigs..Would love to contact him as I had not seen him for the pasr 35 yrs.and his former band mate Francis will love to..Would you kindly give us his contact number or other means of doing so..we are all in our 60s going on 70 ..hoping that we can meet again. Sincerely hoping that through you we can have the oppunity to do so Thanking you in advance..

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Yong Cheong,
Just spoke to Harry on the phone. If you leave me your email address on this blog I will send it to him. I won't publish it.

Glad you'll be coming into contact with him. And thank you for relating your story about Harry's wonderful group; I've met one of them - George.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Mr Tan,

Thanks for visiting the blog.

I have already sent your email address and phone number to Harry. Please wait for his reply. I"m sure he will respond.

I am glad the blog has been useful for you because (if you read my profile) I wanted it to be a kopi-tiam where like-minded people can chat and old friends can get in touch with each other.

All the best.

Warm Regards.