Saturday, September 27, 2008

THE STOMP.


My first report on how and when the Stomp began has long since been proven to be entirely incorrect.
As the years fly by, one's memory, although accurate in the mind, can be and in this particular case was indeed completely wrong, causing history to be altered and nowhere near what actually occurred. Extensive research revealed just how inaccurate my storytelling was and what follows, I sincerely hope puts things right.
Years ago I forwarded the false history to an old sparring partner of mine residing at Brunswick Heads and he included it in one of his blogs. I have advised him of the errors, but alas the old version of events remains for all to see and read.
I have edited the original and apologise for the false reporting previously. This is what actually took place................












For about 2 to 3 months on every Saturday night the clubhouse literally rocked. The cross beams supporting the dance floor could be seen moving up and down a distance of at least 3 inches.
1200 feet pounded away wearing all the polish and varnish from what started out as a highly polished surface. By midnight all that remained was raw timber.
For what it’s worth the band was BILLY JAY AND THE SUNDOWNERS, the year was early 1963.

REAL GONE BLONDE HEADED STOMPIE WOMPIES
SEASON 1962--63

In December 1962 a phenomenon called the Stomp took an unsuspecting nation by surprise and enabled us to pay off our new surf clubhouse in less than 3 years from its opening in November 1960. While I was still at school in 1957, I remember discussing with classmates, a television news item that showed American sailors on board one of their visiting ships demonstrating a weird dance that they called the Surfers Stomp. Little did I know then, in five years time it would resurface and become a dance craze that would become bigger than the Twist. Stomp dances and in some cases surf clubs, started to appear all around our sunburnt country from Emu Plains to Kalgoorlie.
Back then, boardriding or surfing as it was simply called was still in its infancy. The balsa Ockanuis had been taken over by the foam and fibreglass Malibus, ever since boardbuilder and surfer Gordon Woods imported Australia's first blank making machine around 1959 or '60 I think. Surfing's popularity was on the up and up as these old snaps from the early 60's clearly show and it continued to rise, eventually making Australia the world's greatest surfing nation.


The Wanda carpark.
Manly on any weekend.
A 1960's common sight.
Although there would be quite a few who would disagree with me, I am certain that during the last quarter of 1962 a Rock ‘n’ Roll dance became a regular  afternoon event at the clubhouse. I cannot recall whether it was held on a Saturday or a Sunday arvo. It commenced at 1pm. and ended at 5pm. Some former members and friends from back then have told me they cannot remember an afternoon dance at all and were sure it was on a Saturday night, however, rightly or wrongly, my memory is quite clear that it was definetly an afternoon dance. The band, the Sundowners was excellent, as was their lead singer Billy Jackson, who went by the name of Billy Jay, but it was a struggle to attract more than 18 to 24 people, despite much publicity. The band was confident that things would eventually improve and persevered, seemingly content to play for nothing until respectable crowds started attending.
It so happened that during December that year, the club was to have an open surf carnival. Being a small club at the time, the carnivals’ held at Avalon were restricted to clubs in our local district that extended from Warriewood in the south to North Palm Beach in the north, a total of nine beaches and surf clubs. Being an open carnival meant that many more clubs would be competing and hopefully many more spectators would be watching, so to help alleviate the added costs of providing trophies, medals etc. a Rock ‘n ‘ Roll dance was to be held in the clubhouse after the carnival, commencing at 8 pm. At this point in time I always was of the opinion that I was the club’s Social Secretary,  but a Surf Club Annual Report clearly shows I was not.           
 
Despite this I took it upon myself to make up a large blackboard sign that said, ROCK"N"ROLL DANCE SAT. DEC. 22nd. 8pm.
I hung the board over the front of the verandah rails and there it stayed until the morning of the Surf Carnival.
                                                                                

THE AVALON STOMP
Attending the afternoon disasters was a small group of surfers, who I thought were from Narrabeen and/or Manly, who spent all of their time bouncing up and down in the middle of the dance floor.  
Among this group of extremely bad dancers was soon to be surfing legend Bob McTavish  These blokes began to instruct a handful of girls as to the basics of the dance and these young ladies then showed the blokes how a few extra body movements could transform a simple two stomps left and two stomps right into something almost meaningful. The guys female partners made them appear much better than they actually were. Nipper asked me what the ridiculous dance was that they were doing and a memory of those visiting American sailors from 5 years previous stirred. To confirm my suspicions, I asked them was their dance known as the Surfers Stomp and they informed me that indeed it was. I was also told that the stomp was being performed on many a Californian beach by the surfing set.  I found out much later that a guitar playing icon named Dick Dale was regarded as the creator of what was about to become a national craze here in Oz. His riffs on the guitar were previously unheard of and along with his band the Deltones, he had a huge following along the Californian coast.


Dick Dale.

We later on asked these foot stomping guys and gals if they would approve of demonstrating it at our December dance and they agreed. We offered them free admission and free refreshments and the deal was done. On the eve of the Carnival and dance I reworded the sign to say, ROCK'N'ROLL DANCE TONITE 8pm. and rehung it. 


On the Saturday morning as I was about to enter the surfboat to assist with the laying of buoys, Club member Barry Feehley suggested I change the sign to read, ' STOMP DANCE TONIGHT ' 8pm. and as I was aware of the deal done with the stompers, when I returned from my aquatic duties, I did just that. Shortly before the carnival began, the sand hills were covered with a sweating mass of humanity, the ladies auxiliary was doing a roaring trade flogging all sorts of goodies and the money appeared to be rolling in quite nicely.
In the boat race our B crew was entered as the A crew and was eliminated first heat. The A crew, which I was a member of, was entered as the B crew and we won our  heat, our quarter final, our semi final and even though we were one quarter of a boat length in front when we hit the beach in the final, we unfortunately finished in the middle of a gouged out section of sand, which meant the boat had to travel another half length before grounding. Despite our protest Palm Beach was awarded first place............. Bastards. Before we knew it, the carnival was over and our Rock'n'Roll dance now renamed a Stomp dance was underway. As a show it was a complete success.



We were expecting around 200 to 250 to attend, but ended up with just over 500. The club’s dance hall was choc a block and once again the ladies aux made an absolute fortune. After an hour or so a small percentage of the crowd were attempting to copy our stompers and by 11pm at least 80 percent were going right off big time. In the locker room underneath the dance floor, the ceiling kept dropping and rising to the beat at least 3 inches. Just after pumpkin time, when the dance ended, Barry Feehley and I agreed our afternoon dances had to be changed to Saturday nights. Barry jumped onto the stage and  asked the crowd would they like this to become a regular event. The answer was a resounding YES!!!!!!! Everyone was advised that the next dance would have to be in early January due to the Xmas/ New Year break and were told to spread the word around. The two week break was a cause  for concern, but we kept our fingers crossed and hoped to attract around 250 to 300 people.
The first Stomp dance of 1963 was held on Saturday January 5th. starting at 8pm. and instead of attracting 300 people, it attracted 650. The second, 750, the third, 800 plus, the fourth, 900 plus and finally number five topped 1100. The regular band’s perseverance had more than been rewarded and they found themselves earning more than many of Australia’s top entertainers. Television appearances soon followed and they were booked into Surf City, the huge Stomp centre at Kings Cross. The licensing police arrived on our biggest night and demanded we reduce the crowd to a maximum of 300 for safety reasons, otherwise they would shut us down. It so happened our club President Harry Ragen decided to check out what all the fuss was about and ended up being taken away by the fuzz. Without any restrictions on our part, the next dance attracted 600 plus, which ended up  becoming the average attendance at the remaining few dances,when  damage to the clubhouse forced us to shut the dance down during the first half of the year. It was taking at least 24 club members each week to police the event and as quite often happens in many clubs, it was the same 24 every week. This foot stomping dance was only a part of the club for around 2 months or so, but it enabled the committee to pay off a large portion of the mortgage and we ended up owning the building years earlier than expected. Months later the Stomp and the club were featured on Johnny O'Keefe's TV show and in December it was Bandstand's turn to film an episode in the clubhouse and on the beach and surrounds.
 
During the years that followed, there were many different opinions put forward as to the origins of the Stomp. The truth is it originated on the sands of California sometime during the late 1950's and made its first Australian appearance at the Avalon Surf Club late 1962, then exploded at the Avalon Club during January 1963.
Although I was involved, those responsible for its emergence were those surfer guys and gals who began demonstrating it at the Surf Club's Sunday afternoon dances late in 1962 and it was through the efforts of club member Barry Feehley that it quickly became a National craze. Barry became the Manager of the Sundowners and when the Avalon dance folded,  they became the resident band at North Narrabeen. Under his guidance they, as previously stated, became well known at Sydney's Surf City in Kings Cross. I believe the guy responsible for the development of short board surfing in OZ, namely Bob McTavish, could also claim to be responsible for the Stomp. One of the well known boardrider's at the time was David Jackman who, so I am told, attended that first dance after the Surf Carnival in December '62 and was part of the demonstrators.

The Stomp lasted approximately 2 years and with the rapid rise of the Beatles, it, along with the surfing music, died a sudden death, just like the Twist that preceded it, but life carried on as normal and it wasn’t too long before it all became a distant memory. It was a great time for the bands and brought about a revival of Rock'N'Roll music and the birth of many a first class group and a swag of entertainers. Despite the money that poured into the coffers of the Surf Club, after its demise many club members were heard to mutter,"Thank God."



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