As it was often the case those years, his music adventure started when Cliff Richard's movie, ''The Young Ones'', showcased in his town in East Malaysia in 1965. Cliff and his Shadows, like bombs, created a huge crater where thousands of its youthful citizens were immersed in a British Invasion, caught within the fun and frolic of a musical extravaganza. And similarly, like the British lads that we copied, Martin and his swinging Swallows were dressed to the nines, with full suits, complete with ties and resplendent polished shoes [Beatle boots later]. In fact most Shadows bands dressed well in the 60s.
In Malaysia, Singapore and other South East Asian countries where Cliff with his four shadows appeared, the many thousands who followed them wanted to swing with the group's red Fenders and rock and roll on stage too. Martin Ong was one of them.
To cut the chase, when one of the country's business bosses found that he could sing, Mr. Wong, owner of a vinyl record shop in Sibu and who knew Martin, introduced him to a group of band boys called, The Swallows. His connection with them was immediate. They practised hard, entertained in cosy venues and spread their popularity in the town and they, according to Martin, ''became the most famous band in Sibu.''
As the news spread about Martin and the Swallows, they were already performing in numerous gigs in town and countryside. These places included the S.R.C. Hall [Sibu Recreation Club] and other entertainment spots. By December that year, and with Christmas around the corner, the Director of Radio Sarawak [now RTM], got them to perform at the Kuching Cinema for a 'Christmas Hamper Show'.
''Well, that's how I got started with The Swallows,'' concluded Martin Ong.
I haven't got to know or meet Martin personally but flipping through his Facebook pages I find that he rides a fancy motor-cycle, loves Elvis as much as he loves Cliff and plays the acoustic guitar well enough to entertain on stage. Martin, you are a music hero indeed.
Today he is still actively singing, time and again, for almost four years but only when he's invited to. As for the band boys, A. Rashid still lives in Sibu but Martin has lost contact with him. Stanly Tiong had passed away while James Tan lives in Australia and Wong Teck Sing in Canada.
Comments if you wish to tell us about his shows that you might have seen.
[Thanks Martin Ong for your music journey which I found fascinating. East Malaysia is one place I have never visited. I hope to one day... and meet Sarawak's Cliff Richard and his Shadows.]Images and information from this article are copyrighted by Martin Ong.