Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Message Stick -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) From child star to alcoholism to singing his way out of jail, a fascinating life story. Message Stick caught up with Uncle Vic while he was on tour with another Aboriginal music legend, Uncle Jimmy Little. The entertainers have put behind them their past differences

to share the spotlight for possibly one last time.

I hope you enjoy this Message Stick special. '50s ROCK-AND-ROLL MUSIC MAN: Welcome back to the stage the legendary Uncle Vic Simms! APPLAUSE AND CHEERING Well, the story - well, it'd be more a fractured fairytale than anything. It won't be all romance and highlights. There'd be know, there were some downers in my life too, which a lot of people aren't aware. And...but I've got nothing to hide and I feel that people might respect me for being who I am and for a little bit of the honesty. 'GLORIA' BY VAN MORRISON PLAYS Well, how the concept of this concert tour came about

is, well, this time it's Vic Simms WITH Jimmy Little. 'Cause I've been trying so hard, for the sake of music and myself, to have a musical reunion of two old mates.

Because, you know, the reality of it is we're not overly crash-hot health-wise, you know.

We're both made up of spare parts. So I thought, well, now's the time to go and do it, and people laughed at me. They said, "Oh, is this the...? "You want to put together "the 'come and see them while they're still alive' tour?" (Sings) # I, I, I, I, I, I (Back-up singers sing) # Gloria

# G-L-O-R-I-A

# I'm gonna shout it every day # Gloria # Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah... # SONG: # Let me know you # Let me show you # Life's colourful and pretty # Stop drowning in self-pity... # My name is William Victor Simms, and I'm one of eight children, and I come from La Perouse. # Then you feel so disenchanted... # The Aboriginal tribal people of this area, my people, are called the Bidjigal people, and we reside on the north side of Botany Bay. # Let me know you

# Let me show you... #

All the old houses were here. There was one, two... one, two, three, four. Where I'm standing now was... Just to the left of me was the old mission, and it continued just down to that last palm tree there, then it went down, down towards the shoreline,

and extended to, when we moved in from the shack, to where it is now. And right here, just where this little gateway is over here, is where I was born - one of the early mission houses, or one of the reserve houses at that time.

So, it's...nothing's really changed except the housing. The families of the old people are still here today. GENTLE ACOUSTIC GUITAR MUSIC My dad, my dad. He was a very defiant man. I guess I've got a little bit of his fire flowing through my veins as well, because he wouldn't take a backward step and he stood up to the management and the police and they bashed him and they put him in jail for short periods of time, three to six months. He was the scourge of the managers of the Welfare Board system, because he wouldn't do anything that he thought wasn't right to give him indignity. SONG: # Do you see the spirit in me? # Or do you think that I'm here just for you? # Nothing was ever easy growing up here, and we lived under curfews and the oppression of the Aboriginal Protection and Welfare Boards

and managers and police and being told how to live your life, you know, even as a young kid. SONG: # I am only yours part of the time... # SONG: # Good golly, Miss Molly # Yeah, she sure knows how to ball... # So, I just got...I went to a football social one day, and it was good

because there was a little freedom and they could let their hair down. I could even have a dance, you know, because sometimes they had a band there. This particular night there was a group of musicians and there was a singer, so this singer decided to take a break and he said, "Look, I'm gonna have a break" - and these were his words - he said, "Someone from the audience get up and just sing a song, "even if it's for 10 minutes. "It'll give me an opportunity to go do what I've gotta do, "and I'll be back up." So, all the kids said, "Yeah, he can sing!" (Sings) # I, I, I, I, I # G-L-O-R-I-A # Gloria # G-L-O-R-I-A

# I'm gonna shout it every day

# Gloria... # BELL TOLLS So, that was it. That was the start of something big. (Johnny O'Keefe sings) # C'mon, everybody, it's six o'clock... # From 11 years of age onwards, I was having quite a good time. PATRIOTIC MUSIC Hi, Sam. My name isn't Sam. It's William. OK, Bill. Thirsty, huh? Yes. FANFARE PLAYS

From then it just happened, one thing after another - the tours and TV, and I was singing here, there and everywhere, which went on for many, many years. '50s POP MUSIC PLAYS I think at this time Col Joye, Vic Simms and Jimmy Little would be the most enduring entertainers in the Australian musical scene. My involvement with each of those guys was being part of their performing troupe through the Jacobsen stable, once again, the Col Joye troupe. Peter Allen, the Allen Brothers, Vic Simms, Judy Stone, uh... So many people in that stable. SONG: # Well, his tears, they cause a dirty mark # Flowing down his face... # Well, this tour - Vic Simms WITH Jimmy Little - to me, is the highlight of my career... I'm waiting for them to put the escalator in. ..'cause I feel that we've still got a lot to offer. We'll see how we go. Yeah. The media... I haven't stopped, you know. The phone hasn't stopped ringing and there's been interviews left, right and centre. WOMAN: It's excellent, eh? You've got a 3-state tour happening here in Sydney, then Melbourne and then Tasmania. And the last time you performed together, I believe, was at the Sydney Opera House all those 32 years ago. What took you fellas so long to get together again? You been fighting or something? No. No, no. We just had musical... different musical directions.

Yeah, two different styles. Two different styles. But two singers, both separate singers with other types of acts. So, to me, this is the ultimate of a 50-year career, getting together after all this time. And, no, we didn't we stand on opposite sides of the street throwing boondis and boomerangs and everything at each other. No, we just went different musical paths where we were good at. Jimmy did his thing, I did mine and we did it quite successfully. So, why now, after 32 years - why now get together and bring back a performance together? Anniversary, celebration, NAIDOC. And also in this new world of technology, all the generations following through need to be reminded by the elders. We just want to remind them that the youth today must also collaborate and work together and keep the harmony and the rhythm and the rhyme happening, and, you know, that proves it. If we can do it, anyone else can do it. Everybody, here we go, here we go. (Sings) # Rambling rose (Sings) # Koori rose # Rambling rose # Koori rose (Laughs) # Why you ramble... # # Why you ramble, no-one knows Only Vic knows. # Well, though I love you That's what he says. # With a love true But he's only gammin'. # Who can cling to # A rambling rose? # (Sings) # Koori rose... # THUNDER ROLLS Throughout the early '70s... ..early '70s, uh, things really got bad for me. My career sort of started to suffer. I went downhill and I was more drunk than I was sober. EERIE MUSIC Alcohol, to me, was my way out, my way out of...of just forgetting about everything that was happening to me, you know. You could be a successful prodigy, child prodigy, and go through till your early teens, and all of a sudden you come to a point in your life where nothing's left there anymore. So, what do you do? Do you become an outright drunk or do you take, you know, the suicide way out? And that was... I thought about that too. I couldn't live with the shame of... (Stammers) ..of having such a promising career gone down the drain because of alcohol and wanting to rob people to get the price to gather up more grog. I went out and I committed a robbery, which just went badly out of hand. EERIE MUSIC We went so close, you know. We went so close to killing someone to get the price of a drink. Obviously I went to prison for it... ..and, you know, I... But it could have been a lot worse. It could have been a life imprisonment term. Thankfully, it didn't get that far.

EERIE MUSIC The losing of the career, I thought, was the end of the road for me. Even at that stage I didn't have anything going for me. Music was the only avenue that I knew I could survive with, and I just threw it away. REFLECTIVE MUSIC We did the crime, do the time. It's no good crying about it, so I settled down into prison life.

And so one day in the yard, this social group come around and we were just playing and singing, and I was singing, and they said, "Oh, look, we like that stuff. "If we could get a tape recorder to you, "can you record it and send it down to us?" I said, "Yeah, OK." I said, "Well, talk it over with the powers that be." So, that night... (Stammers) They were a couple of nice ladies. They said, you know, "You're allowed to get this tape recorder."

And so I did all that was required of me, put the lyrics down with a strumming guitar. You know, time went by - months - and out of the blue one day, the governor called me over to his office. UP-BEAT MUSIC He said, "That stuff you sent away for the social group, "they approached RCA Records and they want to do a 10-track album." And I said, "Well, yeah, that's great." So, I said, "RCA. "I'm going to join the elite "from beautiful behind-the-wall Bathurst Prison." So, they took me down. I signed a contract and letter of agreement to get the musicians in. They brought this big mobile studio in, set it up, and we had a sort of audience already there, so that was no trouble. So, they set it up, we went through it and they said, "Well, look, you've only got an hour to do this thing in." SONG: # Stranger in my country # Stranger in my land... # The result of recording that thing at Bathurst was going back...back to Long Bay and getting involved in a series of jail concerts elsewhere, and going out to do shopping malls as promos and doing actual concerts. I did a week of concerts at the Sydney Opera House in the first week it was opened, so there you go.

SONG: # Living my life by the day is alright... # Basically, yeah, I sung my way out of jail. # Yesterday's history... # 30 years down the track and I'm still here. I'm back again and things have been really good throughout that period of time from the '70s up until today.

So, everything's... quite a lot's been achieved. A lot of damage has been done because it was really, really tough, and I had to convince a lot of people that I was worthwhile having a bit of faith in and create an image. So I took on the image of being a very astute performer, entertainer. I always knew inside that I could deliver the goods. # When the deck is stacked against him # Will you turn your back? # I started working with all these top people once again and held my own, and many, many awards and recordings and stuff down the track, here I am today. I've gone from one extreme to the other and I'm known as... People who know me, or know OF me, know the trails I've been along the way, and... But I've overcome them, and the only way I've overcome them is by doing what I know best, and that's by being an entertainer. PLANE ENGINE ROARS Melbourne could be the Armageddon of my career, the beginning of the end. But I've been prompted by members of my family to call it a day. I do tend to think I put too much into my act, you know. I'm not a lair or anything like this. I just enjoy what I do onstage and I bounce around and, you know, they say, "What the hell," you know. "He's a 60-year-old man up here, jumping around "as if he's some young whippersnapper out of some hip-hop group." But I don't know any other life. You know, it's easy to say, "Give it away,"

but I just enjoy what I do. You know, I've been an entertainer for 50 years. That's been my bread and butter. (Status Quo sing) # Well, here we are and here we are... # So, Melbourne is very important to me. It's gonna be a crossroads to say, well, do I take the advice of my family and finish it up? # Rockin' all over the world... # (Sings) # And I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it # I la-la-like it, la-la-la # Here we go # Rockin' all over the world... # Hey, hey, hey! Looking back at my life and what it holds has taught me at this stage is... I don't want to die.

I want to be around a lot longer, but the reality is, I know... I'm surprised with every new day, and so... So, I could handle that, I could handle that. I've had a good life. Even though it's been pretty rough at times, I've had a great life. I've got a great family. I've got really good friends. SONG: # Well, I'm going downtown to see Miss Brown, oh, yeah

# Well, I'm going downtown to see Miss Brown, oh, yeah... # This is my mum, Barbara, and... mum comes from the Dixon family, and a very strong and...respected family. She's a long-established member of the community, much loved and respected and admired by a lot of people, and possesses a wonderful history of wisdom, more so than anything.

And we're very fortunate, me and my sisters, because everything we know in our lives, even taking care of ourselves, has been implemented by our mother, you know. We've been taught the ways of survival by our mother. I mean, if there was...

We could always go to certain places on the coast and get a feed. We're never short of a feed. We know how to survive. That's right. And... Mutton and fish. Yeah, mutton... (Speaks indistinctly) Mussels or oysters. So, we know how to do it, and then there's the gift of knowing the medicines, the plants, what she shows us as well. Sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla for all this... these internal problems. That's for an upset stomach. So, all these things are still taught to us today, and obviously you can see we're not young, but we're still in the learning process. And I ate kangaroo, I ate possum, I ate porcupine, possum. MAN: Which one's your favourite? And at Christmas time we couldn't afford a nice leg of lamb, and... (Speaks indistinctly) He used to kill the swan for us. We'd give him five shillings for the swan.

That was our Christmas turkey, and it was beautiful.

Good tucker. Adrian said, "What's your favourite?" Turkey... Oh, no, not turkey. Not the swan. My favourite is susee.

What's susee? Ask me. What's susee? Rabbit. Ohhh. (Laughs) She likes the old underground mutton. (Laughs) The best part of my relationship with my mum is just knowing who she is, knowing she's my mother and the sacrifices she's made for us, for me and my brothers and sisters, and she's been a real battler. I survived. So, that's my mum.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC (Man sings in Aboriginal dialect) MAN: We've been mates all our life, eh? Yep, and close and trusted of each other, and critical of each other. Called a spade a spade. SONG: # You cannot hurt me # I'm the apple of the eye... # See, Robert, to me, is - not only amongst our Aboriginal people, but a lot of the non-Aboriginal circle as well - one of the great balladeers of our time in Australian music. See, we're closer than... We're sort of family. And what happens with us is that, you know, at least we know we've got each other, you know. Like, don't care where it is. And, you know, a lot of people look at me and sometimes they'll say, "Well, you know, what do you think about Vic?", and all this.

And I say, "Well, you know, my brother." We've stood up to the authority, Robert. That's what we did. We did tents, Parliament House. Yeah. Yeah, we did it all. Vic's been to marches with me. We sat down through the tough times of fair goes for blackfellas, and we're quite known for that as well, as well as our music. You know, people respect our political points of view because we were fighters, same as our fathers were, you know. They got it tough. (Robert McLeod sings in Aboriginal dialect) # Don't get caught out on the run # Getting sick from too much sun... # The future for Aboriginal music industry within the mainstream is the main question. I'm proud of the... (Stammers) ..steps Aboriginal music has taken to get where it is today. SONG: # If you're looking to party # And you're feeling naughty # When you shake your body, Go oh-oh-oh... # We have left these legacies, you know, to people who are upfront. You've only gotta look in the Aboriginal musical library today to see who has contributed to the wellbeing of Aboriginal music. But...we must establish stronger ties within the music industry.

We've gotta create stronger recording...recording ventures. (Both rap) # Come on, move like this, move it up

# Come on, move like this # Come on, move like this... # But by the same token, again, you know, we gotta be fair dinkum. There's a lot of learning still to be done by a lot of emerging artists.

# Come on, move it up # Come on, move, move, move, move, move it up # Move it up... # When I see the talents that are existing at the moment up on the charts and sort of making it into the mainstream... (Sings) # Caught on a line... # gives the impression

that it was well worth going through the hard times of music. But by hell, they've done really well to get where they are so far. So, you know, they've gotta be congratulated. (Casey Donovan sings) # Out of control # Still waiting for flow # Waiting for flow... # GENTLE MUSIC SONG: # There's a bay that's in my place of dreaming

# Where the honey and the moon are sweeter than your tears # And although I'd like to see you crying... # My lifetime has been a mixture of highlights and lowlights as well, but I tend to think there's been more highlights than the lowlights. # And I'm free # I will find my way... # The legacy I'd like to leave behind as an Aboriginal person is that obstacles can be overcome. # You let the rain fall and the storm begins # Feeling empty... #

The journey through my life as an Aboriginal person is just one of the most positive and rewarding aspects

of human kindness and dignity that's ever been instilled into me. I'm a 24/7 blackfella. # Follow your sun... # As for that being their last tour, it seems that Uncle Vic and Uncle Jimmy are planning one more last national tour. So, keep an eye on our website for details at And that looks like all we've got time for this week. I've enjoyed your company and look forward to seeing you again next week on Message Stick. 'Bye. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd