Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Trebles: Dance Band @ Local British Bases

Laurence Lim and I became friends when he replaced me for the part of Grandfather for the You Tube video, You're The Boy, which featured Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings. He supports us during our gigs and tries to be present during our performances whenever he is free. When I found out he has a 60's guitar group I asked if he could write about the band. 

Here is his story. Thanks very much, my friend.


In the early 1960's,  a group of 3 friends, in their mid 20's, Jerry Lee, Alan Yuen and Michael Tham got together to form a 3 piece band as a form of hobby and entertainment. They came from different walks of life, an accountant, a school teacher and a patissiere.

They had no expensive or flashy looking instruments to boast of, but it was their love for music that brought them together.  Their first jam session  was in an old HDB flat in Redhill Close and they named the group The Trebles.
Jerry (rhythm), Andrew (bass), Michael (drums), Alfred (percussion).  Front row: Alan (lead), Laurence (vocals).

Not long after, they managed to recruit a bassist, Andrew Lee, whose music loving father Mr.Francis Lee in subsequent years,was instrumental in securing regular contracts for The Trebles to perform. Singapore in the early 60's was still under British rule and having army camps scattered all over Singapore, from Changi to Naval Base, to Seletar was a common sight. 

With all the enthusiasm and opportunities The Trebles was still incomplete. They had no vocalist. It was by chance that Alan and myself were teaching in the same school at Bukit Ho Swee Secondary School, and during one of the lunch breaks he started talking about music and asked me whether I was a music lover. 

That was the beginning of a 50 year relationship with The Trebles and when I fronted the group as their permanent singer. The  We played twice weekly at army camps and for a one night performance of 3 hours duration we were paid $300/ which in the 60's was a princely sum.  
Like the people in attendance we dressed very formally during performance. The crowd was made up of 90% Caucasians who were British servicemen.  There was no necessity to go for supper after the gig with plenty of hard liquor and good buffet spread each time we performed.

We have a wide repertoire of songs made popular by Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Bill Haley, The Animals, Frankie Avalon, Roy Orbison, Bryan Hyland, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and The Beatles. Our instrumentals include numbers by The Shadows and Ventures.

During the 60's more bands and vocal groups  began to appear namely The Quests, Trailers, The Stylers, Cyclones,Crescendos, Naomi and the Boys, The Silver Strings, Matthew and the Mandarins. 

The Trebles had never been in the limelight all those years as our interests were more towards providing dance music to party goers and dancers. We were not performing artists, as such we would only be known and heard of by dance enthusiasts.

Laurence remarked, "When the folks drink they don't care whether you go out of key, as long as the tempo is there. It is real fun but slightly different when you play dance music. The lyrics are not important but the tempo must be there. But when you perform on stage with an audience watching, words and timing must be correct."

Today we are still in the music scene for birthday, company and charity functions. All the original members of The Trebles, Michael, Andrew, Jerry, Alan (leader) and myself are now in our 70's.

Music has provided us the joy and zest to live well.

We are all Blessed.

Click comment page (below) to read more about this band and Laurence Lim's reply about band news from local 60's tabloids.
   Laurence Lim (today) as Grandpa in You Tube Video 'You're The Boy'

Latest News (July 2016):

This posting is in honour of Michael Tham (image left: drummer) who had just passed away. Friends, fans and readers of this blog send condolences to Mrs Tham and her family. 

Written by Laurence Lim (image: with yellow batik).
Article and personal photographs have been copyrighted.


John Cher said...

Hi Andy.. Thank you for story on The Trebles. I first met the group a few years ago at a music studio at Lor 25. All of them were really nice folks who just enjoyed playing music and singing. It was Jerry Lee who invited me to join them. It was on a Sunday. The drummer was unable to join in the jam session and I was the replacement for him. This is where I first met Laurence. When I met him again, it was at the Ubi Studio. The Silver Strings had a gig at Sentosa and we had gone to Ubi for a practice. Laurence could recognized me from our earlier jam at Lor 25. It was really nice to meet him again. After practice for SS was over, I prompted Audie to ask Laurence to sing a couple of songs. He did a medley of country songs and it was really fun. btw Laurence, if you happen to read this, I still owe Jerry a lunch.

Look forward to jamming with The Trebles again.. Betty is a very nice lady and a really good singer as well. Cheers!

ps: sincerely sorry to hear of Michael's demise and will pray for him and his family.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Always with a cheerful smile and always with a helping hand. That's John Cher. Again thank you for sharing your experience about the bands and members that you meet. You've always been one of the first people to comment on a new posting.

anon said...

Hi Uncle Laurence,

Nice article. I'm in France right now.


Thanks Andy.
Long article well presented. I sent out abt 30 broadcast to all over. One in France, India, Malaysia, Surabaya, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Still sending.


Click connection to read about Servicemen and their music in local military bases in the 60's

anon said...

The blogger must be commended for painstakingly doing reserch to provide all music enthusiasts with new stories. It's not an easy task to compile long lost info in great detail. Congrats.

anon said...

Friend u should have been singer instead you join the shipping industry.

anon said...

Great uncle. That's really a great job.

From Jogja, Indonesia.


Andy this latest broadcast was sent to 70 recipients in my alumni chat group. It's globally covered: Canada, Australia UK, NZ, Hongkong, China, India, Mauritius, Euro

Your blog is getting extensive coverage globally. Well done !!


Hey bro Andy,

I remember Laurence being at some of 'The Silver Strings' gigs. To be honest, just now, thru your blog I am getting to know 'The Trebles'. They seem to come from the same crop of bands who used to service The British Forces. Oh! What a great era for Singapore music! Long forgotten! I hold all those bands in high esteem.

I was in the British Royal Air Force 1966-1969. Seletar, then at Changi Air Bases. I was 17 - 20 years. I used to go to their weekly dances held at their Malcolm and Chalet Clubs. A different band every dance. I watched many bands. 'The Trebles' could have been one of them.

I remember seeing the known bands of that period, 'Quests', 'Silver Strings', 'Thunderbirds'. Drinks were at bar prices: eg Tiger Beer was 35 cents per can, per bottle 65 cents. For a ticket price of $1.50 you get a full buffet spread (excellent food) plus dance to a live band.

Ha, ha! Those were great times for me. Always in my memory. Thanks.

FACEBOOK said...

Andy thanks the following for liking this post:

Tin Leong Lim
Philip Chew
Wong Kc
Yip Dick
Randy Lee Keng
Eileen Tan
Ann Rowena Lim
Airina Imran

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks to so many of you writing in to boost 'The Trebles' pop group and its singer, Laurence Lim, who has a tsunami of readers and friends from all points of the compass. Goodness!

Thank you also to Michael Bangar, a regular now, and to Facebook friends who like the post.

This posting went up as top story from 0 to #2 within a few hours today.

FL said...

Hi, Andy, thanks for putting up the article about the Trebles. I remember that whenever a new pop band appeared in the sixties, the ex-Radio Weekly (RW)tabloid would not fail to publish the article on the new band. However,I could not recall it. Hope the group would pardon me. Perhaps, the band members could confirm if their group news appeared in RW before. Agree that the Trebles was not in the limelight then compared with the well-known ones, like the Quests, Silver Strings, Trailers, etc. Nevertheless, it's a blessing to read and get to know The Trebles again. All the best to the group members.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks FL for your positive comments. I have asked Laurence Lim, writer of this article, to reply to your question. I am sure other readers would want to know too.

It's a pity that readers interested in Radio Weekly news articles about local pop bands have to go all the way to the National Library to read up about them. After all archived ST news are so readily available on the net. Furthermore, one needs to pay $1 to print a photocopy in black/white for a RW image.

I am sure many readers will agree with me, especially Senior Citizens and those keen to pursue tertiary studies about Singapore music.

This note is not a complaint but positive feedback for all to read.

FACEBOOK said...

Thanks to the following for liking this post:

Tan Soo Khoon
Koo Victor
Toh Richard
Jalani Mohd
Jon Goh
Merlin Lim
Athena Bagani
Terence Lee


Hi FL,

Thanks for your keen interest in wanting to know more about The Trebles. No, we had never appeared in any radio shows or received any publicity in any of their tabloid. We were probably not aggressively promoting ourselves enough to draw the attention of radio personalities.

As mentioned we were not a "performing band." We were a dance band merely playing at army camps, exclusively for British servicemen n their families. Occasionally we would play at organised parties among them at CSC (Ceylon Sports Club) in Balestier Rd. As a dance band we did not play in public venues, but more often in clubs premises, which explains why were were "unknown".

During that period there was another dance band known as "The Black Jacks" whose leader was a friend of mine called, "Jason". Not too sure whether you had the opportunity to hear them play. But it's unlikely, unless you were present at one of the organised parties. If you could recall, during the sixties organised parties were common occurrences. Some enterprising young guys would ge together to organise "Dance Nites".

In the 60's there were many more groups that were not featured in the radio shows, but were actively providing good music for the "Diehards'.

FL said...

Hi, Laurence, thank u very much for enlightening me with your reply. At least, I, including Andy's readers, now learn more about The Trebles and the group's showcases in the past. Best wishes. Also, my thanks to Andy, too.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks to Laurence for the immediate reply. I appreciate very sincere friends and readers alike who respond to this blog and my requests to write about their bands without any agenda.

One million viewers in 7 years is not a lot statistically but, as Laurence explained, it's good this blog is read by people who are genuinely interested in Sing60's music.

Thanks again to FL and all supporters and readers of this blog from FB, TWITTER and EMails.