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Gympie muso backed Robin

Gympie muso Ralph Ward is saddened by the tragedy of the Bee Gees later lives.
Gympie muso Ralph Ward is saddened by the tragedy of the Bee Gees later lives. Renee Pilcher

IT'S been a rough week for disco fans.

First the death of Donna Summer, aged 63, and then three days later the loss of a third brother Gibb - Robin, at the age of 62.

Gympie rocker Ralph Ward doesn't care much for disco, but he is saddened by the tragedy that seems to have dogged the talented young brothers he first met at the Palm View Lounge on The Esplanade at Coolangatta in 1961, and who went on to become disco legends.

Back then Ralph was the base guitarist in a band of young Brisbane musos called The Tremors.

He'd left Gympie to try his luck in the city.

The Tremors had a regular gig at the Palm View on Friday and Saturday nights, and Ralph was just 16 years old when he first started playing back-up for the three Gibb brothers, who started to perform semi-regular "spots" at the Palm View under the watchful eyes of their parents.

Barry was 15 years old at the time, and the twins Robin and Maurice were 12.

None of the Gibb boys played any instruments at that stage, which was where The Tremors came in.

But their three-part tight harmonies were already amazing.

"We never took any photos with them or anything because we were just kids running around," says Ralph.

"If we'd known then that they'd go on to become so big ...

"Their parents always brought them down (from Redcliffe, where they had moved from England).

"They used to play around Redcliffe a lot but we never played there.

"We played at the Palm Beach Hotel and they did a spot there with us too.

"They were a bit younger than us and their parents were always there."

The Tremors played many back-up gigs for the Gibb brothers between the years 1961 and 1963.

One of Barry's old girlfriends became friends with Ralph.

It wasn't until 1965 that things really started to take off for the Bee Gees, and by 1966 they had their first national best-seller, Spicks and Specks.

By the time it became a hit the family had the made the decision to return to England.

"They went to England and I came back to Gympie," says Ralph, who continued on his own musical quest, playing in bands and doing his own solo work for many years, going on to back the Webb Brothers for many years, Reg Lindsay and Slim Dusty.

He still plays regularly at family get togethers and parties.

The Bee Gees went on to be successful for most of their decades of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a pop act in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s.

Their three-part tight harmonies were instantly recognisable: Robin's clear vibrato lead was a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry's R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the late 1970s and 1980s.

The brothers wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists.

Born in the Isle of Man to English parents, they lived their first few years in Chorlton, Manchester, England, then moved in the late 1950s to Redcliffe.

After returning to the UK in early 1967, they became international hits.

Topics:  entertainment music robin gibb

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