Monday, March 26, 2018

Dukes Band Singapore 60's: Captain Zainal Abidin

 I have known Captain Z  (he loves this pangkat) since Celestial Room days and backstage at the National Theatre and other venues. We met again a few years ago and we kept in touch through WhatsApp. Zainal is another social butterfly, active with his many Makan Groups and made me a member of one. 

Crystal Abidin is his daughter, a PhD teaching in an Australian U. She wrote an article about her dad and uncle (Jerry Murad) for this blog. Of late she has written a book: 'Internet Celebrity, Understanding Fame Online', available soon.  The Captain has obliged, in concise form, the Dukes story for this blog, since many of my overseas readers have asked about them.

Thank you, Zainal. Great that we have kept in touch for so long.

Captain Z

In Jan 1962, a group of schoolboys joined the boy scout movement as their ECA under the name The James Cook Patrol in Outram Secondary School. There were altogether 4 such patrols in the schoolboy scouts group. The James Cook Patrol leader was then also the Troop Leader under the coordination of two school teachers.

He was Murad (now known as Jerry Murad) who had completed school but was asked to come back to help the two teachers. Zainal Abidin was the youngest at secondary one. Four of the others were in secondary two, and two others in secondary three (Safdar Hussein and Richard Young).

They always had campfires, and sometimes combined with other schools for the event (one of the schools being Gan Eng Seng Secondary School). At one of the campfires, guitars came out and there was a sing-along session and an idea was born.

They decided to play music at all gatherings and called themselves The James Cook Boys. They enjoyed their music sessions so much that they decided to enter the Nestle Talentime as a comedy sketch group together with music. They won the first prize and was encouraged to have proper instruments and line-up.
All practice and rehearsal were first conducted at Richard Young home at Purvis Street. In 1963, Richard’s brother Fernando Young decided to join the group as the Lead Singer, and also became the band manager. 

The James Cook Boys decided to play at the RAF and British Clubs on Saturday nights, and the group was renamed The Dukes. Fernando than focus only as the manager and the first regular gig the group had was Sunday T-Dance in the afternoon and the then Prince’s Garni Hotel at Orchard Road. More locations followed after that. One of them was in the Celestial Room, across the road to the old Cathay Cinema. 

A YouTube interview with Zainal Abidin. He is, as he explains in this video, a very happy man.

The first line up was Jerry Murad leader/lead guitar, Richard Young drums, Safdar Hussein rhythm guitar, Zainal Abidin bass guitar and the four Secondary Two boys percussions. The first few performances were for the school annual concerts. 

Their first music was Apache which was so famous then recorded by The Shadows, a famous group from Britain. Zainal became the President of the school's Literary and Dramatic Society and the James Cook Boys were always called back to play until Zainal completed his Secondary Four.
The repertoire was enlarged and practices were also done at Jerry Murad’s home at Paya Lebar. Those days The Dukes played mostly instrumental songs which were suitable for dancing. A time came when The Dukes needed a regular singer. They met Bobby Lambert, a member of the British army based in Singapore. He was the first regular singer the band had.

At that time Prince’s Garni T-Dance was always packed, while down to the other end of Orchard Road, the Checkmates with the Cyclones and Vernon Cornelius were packing them in at the Golden Venus. Safdar very soon left for further studies in the UK. Very quickly Jerry managed to get Zainal Akib (now Known as Syed Marvin, as he idolizes Hank Marvin of The Shadows) to replace Safdar. He and Jerry switched about on lead and rhythm. 
The Dukes managed to upgrade their guitars and amplifiers with Fenders equipment bought from T.M.A at High Street.  In February 1965, Fernando was responsible for arranging our equipment for the Rolling Stones performance at the Singapore Badminton Stadium at Guillemard Road. This was testimony that The Dukes has very good musical equipment at that time. 

We were very hot in the 60s with The Quests, The Trailers, The Silver Strings and other bands. Our main Sunday performance was at the old Prince Garni Hotel at Orchard Road. It is local band history that The Dukes had their picture on the Christmas issue cover of Her World magazine in the 1960's. (You can find these stories by clicking on Labels below.)

This picture was taken exactly 50 years ago at the Pasir Labar Camp, then SAFTI where a bass player of The Dukes (right) was commissioned as an army officer of the SAF. We celebrated our 50th anniversary at a club near The Padang on 7 March 2018. Awesome! 

Every Saturday nights we played at the RAF and British Army Clubs all over Singapore. We have not played together for more than 30 years.

These last few years we have appeared in quite a number of concerts, namely the ones at the National Library for Seniors, at Pek Kio CC, then during a charity dinner with Vernon, The Meltons where Jerry and Neufaces also performed and lately at the big gig in the Kallang Theatre with 5 other top local guitar bands.

We have continued doing what we love until today. 

Zainal Abidin 



Bro' Andy, my favourite quote from Captain Z: I first met him many many years ago, one Hari Raya Puasa Day at Brother Jerry Murad's place in Marine Crescent.

I asked him what rank did he holds in the SAF.

His reply: CSM. I asked again, " Company Sergeant Major ?"

His reply, " No ! Captain Sampai Mati !" Ha Ha Ha! Good One, Captain Z!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, Mike,
He's Captain now. But will soon be Major.
He heads many Makan Kaki Groups (Food Lovers Groups).
So he heads the MEJA (table).


Thanks my friend. That's for sure yah/ Real talent, remember The Dukes, as they also played at some of the RAF bases in the 60's too beside the T-Dance venues.


Captain Zainal Abidin ...forever your good old lovers !!!


Brilliant Zainal so many PMC Gigs

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

A great friend all the way Zainal would SMS for lunch meets. His favourite, the nasi-padang air-conditioned restaurant close to Sentosa. We knew each other in the mid-sixties when he was slim as Elvis with a charming boyish face. His hair is thick as ever. We spoke in only one language.

He doesn't talk much about his daughter but she has a PhD and has just completed a book. What a journey for this army Capitan. By the way, he is a BASSMAN but definitely not a bossy man.