Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Dr Charles Koh: Gynaecologist Flamingos Combo

Remember Charles Koh from the Flamingos Combo? I do. Whenever he comes over from the U.S. the newspapers would announce his arrival. A gynaecologist, they say, cannot be a musician. 

But Dr. Koh is both, and an excellent one at that. A Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from NUS (1967) he now practises in the US.  Here's the truth unravelled as his colleague Dr. Raymond Tan and friend John Cher tell us about this extraordinary man.

I must thank them both for the articles below:

Dr. Raymond Tan says: "I was a medical student during the mid-sixties and Charles Koh was a few years my senior. Charles was a bright student who won the State Scholarship (equivalent to today's President's Scholarship). I was always amazed at how Charles could spend his evenings playing music in a hightclub (Rose D'or - Lido Cinema, Shaw House, Orchard Road) and still keep up with his medical studies.

Charles was a colleague and senior when I worked in the Gynae and Surgery departments. He left in 1971 for UK where he obtained his specialist degree in Gynecology. He later on moved to US and became a successful gynecologist.
The Flamingos music was sometimes broadcast live over radio (RTS) and they played beautiful music with Charles (a self taught musician) playing on the vibraphone. Charles was quite versatile and could sing and play a few other instruments."

John Cher says: "Charles Koh indeed loves music and despite his status as a doctor of eminence in the USA, he was unassuming and soft spoken. His two sons are into music as well. I remember having lots of fun jamming with all of them at a church music room many years ago. He used to return to Singapore about once a year and his good friend, James Choa, another member of The Flamingos would arrange for jamming sessions. 

The very last time we jammed was at The Peranakan Restaurant in the basement of Hotel Negara at Orchard Road. The boss of the restaurant Bob plays the piano and sings as well. Jimmy Chan, who was also with The Flamingos at one point, used to drop by after he completed work at The Mandarin Hotel. After the last customer had left, Bob would lock up and we would jam till the wee hours! 

Always remember Jimmy's joke that dying and going to the washroom is the same. If you have to go, you have to go! Lost touch with Charles completely after the passing of James about 3 years ago. Always nice to recall about the old days!"

Anglo Chinese School Class Of 59/61 says:  Within the Flamingos Combo, Charles Koh was in a vocal group called the Gaylads. "Before you jump to conclusions, we would state categorically that Charles is not that way inclined but how the name Gaylads came about merits explanation. 

Before joining ACS, Charles with Peter Loh Boon Tan and Robert Gay studied at the Presbyterian Boys School (PBS). When the group was formed, the name Gaylads was decided on to honour their PBS Principal, Mr. Gay Wan Guay, who happened to be Robert’s father."

Many readers know Dr. Koh. Do write in.

On the internet, articles abound about Dr. Koh. Here's one:

"He is an infertiity microsurgeon who merged the art of microsurgery to laparoscopic surgery and performed the first laparoscopic microsurgical tubal anastomosis in 1992. He has applied this convergence to the art of radical endometriosis surgery with fertility preservation and organ repair for the past 20 years.

He has created many innovations, inventions and techniques for advances in laparoscopic surgery, lectures and performs demonstration surgeries around the world.

In 2009, Dr Koh was awarded the Distinguished Surgeon Award from the Society of Reproductive Surgeons, American Society of Reproductive Medicine. He was the former President of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons (2009)."

For further reading go to:

This article is not an advertisement and does not promote any person or persons. The doctor mentioned is a personal friend of the two writers.
Images: The Straits Times Singapore; Google; Dr. Charles Koh Website.


Unknown said...

Hi Brother Andy

I have forgotten about this short piece that I wrote. Reading it again, I just cant help thinking of James Choa, our mutual friend who passed away on March 27th 2011. The only person I know of who could give us an update on Charles Koh would be Jimmy Chan. He reads your blog and lets hope that if he chance upon this, he would take some time to share with us the current status of Charles. Humility is the virtue upon which all other virtues are built upon. Charles Koh is an example of a man of humility! He belongs to a rare breed of human beings.

Your blog is such a great way for people of my/our generation to recall pleasant memories of people, music and to remind us to always remember to count our many blessings. Indeed, What A Wonderful World !

Thank you Andy! God bless!

AUDIE NG said...

I know him cause we performed on the same stage in Neptune Restaurant for a concert. "Those Were The Days" in 1989 but I know Philip Goi from The Gaylads better. The Flamingos Combo is a different type of pop band because in those days such combos are considered as professional groups.


Thanks Andy. It's good to reminisce at times. Yes, I have played with him on quite a few occasions. Cheers.


Met him before but I don't think he will remember me.


Yes, I was with 'The Flamingos' in the early sixties. We were very popular and played for so many functions; too many to name.

When Larry Lai joined Rediffusion, I happened to visit him at the studio; I met CHARLES KOH there and he heard me tinkling on the piano.

Then he asked me to join the band. The rest is history.


Yes, we used to jam a long time ago, with James and John.


Know him by name and reputation.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

One of the most talented groups from the late 50's, The Flamingos Combo and Gaylads (4 from the Combo) were active around the same period as The Bambinos but before The Crescendos, The Tidbits and Sundowners.

You can read about the groups on this blog using the SEARCH engine on the right bar of the main page.

Thank you all for support, including the 36 readers from Twitter.


Hi Andy,

I grew up in Farrer Park. I was familiar with the Flamingos, Gaylads and the Crescendos, etc. who were in the age group of my late brother (10 years my senior). If I am not wrong some members of Crescendos were my brother.

If I am not wrong some members of the Crescendos were my brother's HDB colleagues. It took me some 25 years before I met James Choa. Thanks for the memories.


FACEBOOK said...


DENYSE TESSENSOHN (for sharing post)

JK said...

I don't know him personally, only attended a lecture and demonstration
by him.

I know Flamingos' member Philip Goi who was one of my freight forwarders
when I was managing company operations in a British firm. Lost touch since
after leaving the organisation in 1979.



I had dinner with him in Wisconsin many years ago.


Wow! Musicians who diversified into different professions seem to be very successful. Like Dr Charles Koh. Sad to say musicians of our times in Singapore who continued in the music industry dun seem to be doing well. As you can see many left the music profession have found success in their new fields.

Unknown said...

DR RAYMOND TAN, retired doctor
I was the doctor mentioned earlier in this article.
As for the name "Gaylads", it was linked to Robert Gay's father who was principal of PBS, mentioned above.
But the group could partly be influenced by a singing quartet "The Gaylords" from the US who had many hits in the charts. During the 1950s and 1960s the word "gay" did not have the connotations it has today. "Gay" just mean happy and there was an amusement park during that time called "Gayworld" owned by Shaw Bros who also owned the defunct "New World" and "Great World".

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Dr Tan. Apologies for the late reply. Your mail went to SPAM. Don't know why.

Yes, the information you provided is useful. 'Gay' is such a common word but now burdened and categorised under something else.

I remember Gay Wan Gay as principal of Presbyterian. And of course ISLE OF CAPRI and RAMONA by the Gaylords.

Please visit the blog again, and, if you wish to tell stories about our music past feel free to do so. Just write to me again with your email (private) and I shall write to you personally. said...

Dr.Raymond Tan,
It is obvious that Charles had a passion for music. During medical student days Charles formed a musical group with 3 or 4 other students and called themselves the "KEVIIANS". They were all residents of King Edward VII Hall (KE Hall) the hostel they lived in. They played at medical student functions or sometimes just jammed to get away from the drudgery of studying for exams.
During the 1960s the Flamingos played at concerts with other singers and groups of the 1960s. They had a varied repertoire but their favorite was Latin American hits like "Perfidia" and "Besame Mucho". I attended only a few of their public performances and could remember Charles on the vibes, Robert Song on the conga drums and a burly Malay guy on the double bass. Jimmy Chan joined them later as pianist. I cannot what instruments the other members played. I hope Jimmy or somebody else can enlighten us.