Monday, February 29, 2016

Tracking The Trekkers: 60's Music Trail: Part Two

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.

In Perspective

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. 

The Memories

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.
With this I end my memories of being a Trekker with the first lines of Don McLean's American Pie:

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.

Article, Images, You Tube Videos: 
Copyrights Reserved by Henry Gan.



I have to admit that this has been one of my most exciting trip doing the YouTube on the Trekkers that I wanted to do for a long time and writing the story on the Trekkers for your blog. I want you to know that without your blog this would not have been possible.

You have done an amazing job putting the Singapore 60's pops in focus and enabling us all to relive the memories of one of the most wonderful period of our life. I look forward to a discussion on Part 2 of the Trekkers Story and to be a future contributor to your blog.

Thank you Andy !

Henry of The Trekkers

Sent from my iPhone

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Dear Henry,

Thanks for write-up and chats.Keep on writing. About old Singapore if you can. And related to our music scene in the past. We're a small group of chappies that get smaller by the day, and youth need to read us.

Take care and God Bless You and Your Family. Bon Voyage.



I checked the Youtube analytics on the Trekkers and they are incredibly impressive. We have almost 3000 viewers in the 3-4 weeks with 50 % from Singapore, 12 % from USA, 12 % from Canada, 10 % from Japan, 10 % from Malaysia and 6 % from Others. The disappointing results are 98 % of the viewers are male and only 2 % are female. That's a "hmmm..."

Hope the interest on the Trekkers music are leading them to discover your blog. Again I want you to know that you are doing an incredible job on the blog. I guess we do best when we follow our passion.

JAMES LAU said...

Appreciate the many videos you have posted on YouTube. Listening to the music of The Trekkers brings back many fond memories. In fact I have forgotten about some of the nice songs and grateful to be able to listen to these melodies again."


Henry Can't help being bias ...
Our Tequila (1) really great - all 4 of us were cooking hot hot hot!!! Our sound distinctly not Shadows...

NANCY YEE said...

Thanks Henry, is a good video!

LAY TUAN said...

About my father MR TAN (TMA):
John Cher's comments stands out as pretty much the way I feel about whatever is going on ...

LAY TUAN said...

Love it!
Thank you Henry!!
I will take my time to check it all out!


Yay, congratulations, Dad! I'll post it on Facebook.


Good work Henry!
I liked it. Was a clean recording. Likes the words and photos.

NANCY GAN said...

You must have a good time tracking down your Trekkers music archives in S’pore.
Enjoy the rest of your vacation.


thanks for sukiyaki.I like it. it sure bring back memory.


Very nice to pay a tribute to Larry Lai. He was a close associate of Swee Leong.


Thanks for the videos. How did U get these?
...I am glad you have the time and patience to fix and arrange for all the recordings Trekkers made so many years ago. I must confess I lost count of the songs we used to play and was surprised and delighted to hear our rendition of Night Train and Sukiyaki. The song we played at the talentime... what was it?


on jaywalkers
Haha! Charles must have been 13 then??


Published on Feb 8, 2016
Larry Lai was a household name in many homes with Rediffusion of the 60s in Singapore. Djs' were the celebrities playing the music we like. Many teens spent countless hours listening to songs requested through Larry Lai. As he would say many years later in Andy's blog that he would find stacks of song request slips attached to the windshield wiper of his car from fans every morning. My personal word to Larry is "how can we forget you with a such song request from the Valentino Bros to the Valentino Sisters, both of Tiong Bahru, for "TELL LAURA I LOVE HER or TAKE GOOD CARE OF MY BABY."

henri gann said...

drummer George excited comments after watching The Trekkers Youtube and feeling
the old times...
"...will there be any rhythm guitarist as good looking as Charles in Spore? William was always the ladies man and all the Eurasian gals in Katong who initiated him will attest to that.
And Henry, who in Sing can hold up a guitar ( much less play it ) with his back to the audience and look cool but our own Henry or Harry in the 60s. And modest me, I look good even hidden behind the screen. Hahahah!!!!! "


The trekkers " mashi mashi " and "too much mashi mashi " will draw listener to your blog.
I see the interest on the two tunes picking up with the "pinoy" group.

Sent from my iPhone

henri gann said...

Ellen Cattan (friend)...
Wow, Henry!!! I don't recall you ever telling us that you were the lead guitarist of The Trekkers??? I do remember seeing your guitar. But surprise, surprise. Very very nice, reminds me when my brother used to play. I'll be sure to check out the other you tube clips.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Dear Henry,

Write about the time when you were in Singapore and from your own perspective, your life as a child on the island. These are truly precious memories which you should put to paper.

Whatever you experienced would be different from another's, even if the experience is a similar one. Then you connect them to songs you learnt. Your story should carry on Henry. You are part of the blog now and like ALLAN THOMPSON (please click his name and read him), carry on the lovely saga of your inspiring life in music when you were on this island.

Your story should not stop after only two very short chapters. The blog is now a life-line and like the friends you left behind, should not be abandoned.


henri gann said...

Hi Andy ! You are so right that Andy's blog is another place to find old friends. Here's mine !
from Lawrence Koh whom I have not seen for over 50 years...

You would not believe this, last night I spent quite a while, listening from the U Tube music by The Shadow, Ventures and Duane Eddy performed by four young lads from PBS and you guys sounds just like them. Fantastic sounds and I am really impressed with the talents that all of you had. Congratulations and such a pity that you had to disband to further your studies. But at least all of you can say that you brought the guitar music to Singapore during the 60s.

The late Tan Swee Leong and Larry Lai are good friends of mine due to connection with my late dad who was the network engineer for Rediffusion."

henri gann said...

Here's an email from another old friend, Jj, I recently found and after I had send him a link to your blog on the Trekkers.

Wow, good stuff!They take me down memory lane. I learn lots more of the Trekkers than the time I was in school.

Great that you took the trouble to bring history to life. Thanks.



henri gann said...

an email from my friend Ron who is now living in UK...
"Hope you and your family are well. As youngsters, we at PBS enjoyed your music and were proud of your group's musical talents.
Best wishes
Ron "

henri gann said...

Hi Andy
I have registered The Trekkers band name with ShadowMusic in UK with references to the Trekkers Story which may bring more interest to your blog.
Shadows Music is a great place to learn about band members globally who are still playing the Shadows music and to read about the Echo Tape Delay units used to produce the Shadows sound.
Here's the link for those who are still interested in the Shadows music

henri gann said...

Hey Andy
Thought your music fans will like to know that the guitar music of the 60s is alive and well today. Checkout the following groups playing music of the Shadows and Ventures

Shadows - the Desperates ( Geronimo ), the Mysteriums ( Kon Tiki ), the Mustangs ( Theme from Young Lovers ), the Siluoete ( Find Me A Golden Street ), the Explosion Rockets ( Mustang ), Blue Explosion ( Shindig )

Ventures - the Adventures ( Driving Guitars and Gandy Dancer ), the Starlights ( Flight of the Bumble Bee ), the Blue Moon Rockers ( Gringo ), Jon and the Night Riders ( Journey to the Stars )

Interesting link for Shadows and Surf Guitar Music Fans