Once upon a time in the 60s...

How Mel & Mel met: where they performed; when Julian joined the band; who they met along the way; their influences and the key people in their brief, but sweet career ... and what they're up to today. Enjoy!

Links in the M,M&J Chain...

Influences & Earworms...

Two young guys singing in an art school classroom at lunch hour to appreciative listeners, and the realization that they had something special.

Key people and places in their career:

The Troubadour Coffee/Steakhouse in Johannesburg, THE folk club where it was happening!

Gary Bryden, Brit folkie, who got Little Mel up on stage at the Troub in the first place.

Keith Blundell, who auditioned Mel & Mel and who without hesitation offered them a weekly gig at the Johannesburg Troubadour..

Des Lindberg who kept them on at the Troubadour as headliners, when they weren't playing full-time at their long hotel residencies.

Ben Segal, quiet folk fanatic and founder of SAFMA, the South African Folk Music Association, and 3rd Ear Music, who opened his vast collection of music and his hospitality to the guys. 

Johnny Kongos, friend and a hit-making rock & roller, who encouraged them & introduced them to...

John E. Sharpe, a wonderful bluesman, who was managed by...

Billy Forrest, South Africa's greatest C&W singer and mentor to many young musicians, who became their manager, friend and guiding light.

Brenda Newfield, a wonderful folksinger, who gave Mel  & Mel some of their first gigs, and who opened up her home & her record collection to them, thus helping them expand their repertoire. 

David Sapire, a photographer and a fan who also helped with their repertoire, and who most significantly... introduced Mel and Mel  to his brother Julian!

Mike Dorsey, entrepreneur & club owner on the Durban music scene, became a fan, a mentor and helped the band in many ways.

Their influences. They  listened to everything possible, at parties, record shops, friend's living rooms, records and reel-to-reel tapes... absorbing everything that appealed to their evolving musical tastes and their developing musical skills. 

See the BLOG PAGE which has a list of recording artists and songs which first caught their ear(s) and whose styles and genres were adapted to suit their style, carrying on the "the folk-process" down in South Africa.

 

Historic Reference

In 1994 Mel, Mel & Julian were acknowledged and included in the book, "History of Contemporary Music in South Africa"...taking their place as one of few notable folk groups to make an impression on the evolving contemporary music scene.

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A Reunion? (Also read the blog)


Mel, Mel & Julian from an interview in a Durban newspaper, drawn by Jock Leyden, who got it right!

Occasionally we hear from old fans, who invariably ask:  Wouldn't a re-union of Mel, Mel & Julian be wonderful?

The practical answer: Mel Miller has a career in stand-up comedy in South Africa, while Julian does his thing making his own great music, and music for movie sound-tracks, commercials and also performing live around South Africa.  Mel Green is a professional Graphic Designer by day, and sings solo and with various groups around Boston, USA... but if the right offer and opportunities should come up, well, who knows!

We ain't getting any younger, in fact the guys are all  70... yikes! So if you are seriously interested and have the financing? Please contact Mel Green at mel_green_1@hotmail.com 

MEL MILLER 
Lead Vocals, Upright Bass & Very-very Funny Comedian
MEL GREEN  
Harmony Vocals, Rhythm & Fingerpicked Guitar, Harmonica & Straight-Man
JULIAN LAXTON 
Lead Guitar

  (L to R:)  Julian Laxton, Mel Miller & Mel Green

Mel, Mel & Julian were a famous Johannesburg-based, mid-60s South African folk-comedy group, who rose quickly to national prominence during residencies in Durban and Cape Town. After their first recording prompted Mel & Mel to invite Julian to join the band...  they became a welcome attraction in the various cities and were a guarantee for a good night out. Their popularity at The Edward Hotel in Durban was such that they had repeat long-term residencies there from 1964 through 1967, and they also had residencies at Deal's Hotel in East London, as well as at Cape Town's Grand Hotel. During the rather short period of time they were together, they recorded three LPs for Columbia Records (South Africa)... of which, their last LP "Miscellanea" was voted one of the Top 10 South African Folk Albums. The group disbanded at the end of 1967, after making a considerable contribution to a contemporary folk music sound and even early folk-rock in South Africa!

How the band started... the short version:  Mel Green transferred from the University of Cape Town to do his final year at the Johannesburg School of Art, where he met Mel Miller, the school comedian... they snagged a Wednesday night gig at the Troubadour Coffeehouse, which became quite a draw, attracting audiences rapidly. Mel & Mel were among the few who performed at the very first Johannesburg Folk Festival concert with their pal Louis Meyer backing them on banjo. An LP was recorded, after which the record companies were quick to sign up every folksinger in sight, Mel and Mel among them.

     

After a year they were doing quite well, but also working day jobs after they both graduated from art school... Columbia, their record company asked them to make their first "real" recording, a 45, which was backed up by a blues band... and then the second folk festival rolled around, and their manager, Billy Forrest invited Don Hughes, a booking agent, to come and see the duo perform. He offered them a contract shortly afterwards at The Edward Hotel, Durban's only 5-star establishment. The duo gave up their day jobs and plunged into a 6-night a week job, and after 4 months returned to Johannesburg to fulfill their record company's demand for their first album of songs.

    

Enter Julian... After returning from Durban and their first hotel gig, Mel and Mel were discussing what to do next in their plans to record their first LP for CBS They happened to strike up a conversation with a friend at their gigs, David Sapire, a young doctor who was a fan and who happened to like their sound. He suggested that they might consider recruiting a lead guitarist, and by the way, he had just the right one in mind. He was referring to his half-brother, Julian Laxton, just recently a member of a band called "Them" which had just broken up.  David arranged for the Mels to audition Julian... and they were duly impressed. Thanks to David Sapire, Julian was recruited to add lead guitar to their first LP ("Songs about mines, people, places and one train"). His musical talents exceeded all expectations.

Shortly after wards, Mel & Mel were offered a 6-month contract at The Edward Hotel in Durban and so they negotiated with their agent to have Julian join them permanently... and that is how Mel, Mel & Julian came to be...  His contribution as lead guitarist to the band turned  the South African folk scene scene on it's head, because no other folk group was making "folk" music like they were. Another string of hotel residency contracts soon followed and Mel, Mel &Julian were on their way.... making a huge contribution to the local entertainment scene. A night out at a Mel, Mel & Julian show included musical interludes, broken up by hilarious story telling by "Big" Mel Miller, who had audiences rolling in the aisles. He used "Little" Mel Green and Julian as his "straight" men to good effect.

Now, read on to get the inside story and details about the guys, the band and their career!

Little Mel
Mel Green grew up in Mayfair, in Johannesburg's southern suburbs. After matriculating high school at Queen's College, he spent two years at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, and in 1964, transferred as a third-year student to the Johannesburg School of Art... where he and (taller, bigger) look-alike, Big Mel Miller eventually got together at lunch breaks to sing and tell stories for their fellow classmates.
“One day in my classroom, I was playing guitar and singing a folk song, and out of nowhere I was aware of this great voice harmonizing with me, I turned around to see that funny guy — that’s how I met Mel Miller.”
Little Mel was a regular of Johannesburg’s famed Troubadour coffeehouse and during a singalong, Gary Bryden, (of We Three) stopped right in the middle of a song and asked him to come up on stage to sing with him. A pivotal moment for Mel, who eventually persuaded Big Mel to come to the Troubadour to “do a few songs”...
Big Mel
Mel Miller was raised in Yeoville, a suburb north of Johannesburg. After his high school years at King Edward High School, he studied Industrial Design at the Johannesburg School of Art. A natural comedian, he entertained his fellow students during lunch breaks during his final year Hhe heard about some other Mel entertaining his class mates during their lunch break upstairs in the Graphic Design Department... which was wher he fopund his namesake and spontaneously began harmonizing one day. 
Mel and Mel and sudden popularity
Little Mel eventually persuaded Big Mel to come to the Troubadour, and they asked folk singer Keith Blundell, one of the managers if they could have an opportunity to sing. They did, and Keith immediately offered them a regular Wednesday night gig! (They only knew three songs at the time, but Big Mel told Keith they knew 30... before Little Mel could stammer out "Th-th-three!"!)
So, for the next month they "bunked/played hooky" from art school and learned 16 new songs, not quite enough for a 4-hour night of songs ... so, on the night of their first gig, Big Mel filled up the time between songs with his hilarious jokes and convoluted stories, thus setting the format for their future stage act.
Soon the previously quiet Wednesday nights at the Troubadour were filling up and selling out, as Mel & Mel’s reputation as a first class folk-comedy act grew ... and grew... until they were doing weekend sets on the same nights as the more established folkies, like Des & Keith and Leon & Mike, holding their own and becoming contenders for top spots at the club. The reputation he and Little Mel were establishing on the side in folk music at The Troubadour Steak- and Coffee house had not quite "sunk in" yet...
They spent some Sunday afternoons with their banjo playing friend, Louis Meyer, traveling around the Witwatersrand to perform at open talent shows, which served as great training for facing large audiences who were not folk fans. Significantly, Mel, Mel & Louis were invited to perform at the very first Johannesburg Folk Festival in 1995, which was recorded, by CBS ... and they had the distinction of having 3 of the tracks on that LP... And they were also the first South African group to attempt to play Bluegrass.
Their friends Johnny Kongos and John E. Sharpe had established recording careers at the time, and Sharpe's manager, Billy Forrest, the reigning king of South African Country & Western music, hit making recording artist producer, and an aficionado of music in general, and manager / mentor to other young singers on the South African music scene... was introduced to the Mel's at the Troubadour after seeing the Mel's in action one evening in 1965. He was very impressed with their talent and thought their folk / comedy act could go far, with an attentive manager, a booking agent and their own recording contract ... he offered to become their manager, and the momentum of their career began...
By 1965 Mel and Mel had established themselves as a sure thing for a good night's entertainment at the Troubadour. Both were happily occupied in their respective day jobs - Interior Designer and Assistant Advertising Visualizer/Art Director. They continued building their repertoire, and were quite content with their successful regular Wednesday night gig at the Troubadour, which had grown to such an extent that the size of their audiences were rivaling Des Lindberg's and Keith Blundell's Saturday night shows!
With Billy Forrest as their manager, a real recording contract was negotiated for them with Columbia, where they recorded their first single, Hedy West's “500 Miles”, with “Sorrow & Pain” (supposedly ghost written by Lennon & McCartney and recorded by Unit 4 + 2, on the flip side, which was backed up by their friends Johnny Sharpe and the Squires, the popular R&B group. (These cuts were recently remastered and are on the "One More Town" CD!)
.During the whirlwind of recording their first album, they were introduced to international music stars who were passing through South Africa on their own tours... amongst them The Byrds, Theodore Bikel, The New Christy Minstrels and later, the Everly Brothers from the USA, the Ivy League from the UK, Geula Gill from Israel and The Seekers from Australia.
The Mel's were grooming themselves as a “Peter & Gordon” type duo, wearing black turtlenecks, blue jeans, Cuban heel boots and Dylan caps. Of course the Beatles had just taken the pop music world by storm, coinciding with the ongoing Folk Boom in the USA, which was dominated by singer-songwriters in particular. Mel and Mel were incorporating these new folk songs into their act, getting advice on repertoire from their friends Brenda Newfield and David Sapire...
They were invited to be one of the featured main stage acts at the first Johannesburg Folk Festival, where they performed with Louis Meyer. After that their fame grew even more. At a post-Folk Festival show at the Troubadour, Billy Forrest introduced the Mel's to agent Don Hughes, who was very impressed by their dynamic act and on Billy Forrest's recommendation, he returned the following Wednesday evening to see them do their multi-set show, comedy, music and all. He left that evening with the boast that he would soon have a full-time gig for them at one of the top hotels in the country... both Mel's were skeptical at the time, and weren't considering music as a full-time career.
Don Hughes was true to his word, and when he returned from Durban, he offered them a 3-month gig at The Edward Hotel, and another 1-month residency at Deal's Hotel in East London. Mel & Mel were faced with making a major decision ... to leave their new found day jobs. After heart-searching discussions with their employers, relatives and friends ...
Mel & Mel took the plunge, and were soon on their way to Durban as professionals, their first three-month residency in their own cabaret room at Durban's 5-star Edward Hotel, which the management imaginatively dubbed "The Troubadour Room". Soon they were filling up the 100 seat room nearly every night of the week! And before long they established long-standing friendships with many of the rock groups and entertainers playing at the other hotels in this premier coastal resort city.
And Julian
When they returned to Johannesburg from their first two long-term gigs in Durban and East London, Mel & Mel were asked to make their first album. After a well-earned break, they started to rehearse their favourite songs for the LP. They asked their music fanatic friend and ”sounding board", David Sapire, for assistance and advice on the repertoire for the LP... David advised Mel & Mel to “improve their sound”....By adding a lead guitarist to the group, at very least for the recording, as Little Mel was a relatively rudimentary folk guitarist at that time, and an album featuring his sole guitar accompaniment was not in the duo’s best interests for a debut album, so ...David recommended his brother, Julian Laxton. Julian was an out-of-work Rock & Roll guitarist, as his last group "Them" had just broken up. Big Mel was a bit skeptical, and Little Mel went to meet Julian and run through some tunes...
He convinced Big Mel that Julian was versatile enough to adapt to any kind of music. After hearing Julian for himself, Mel Miller eventually agreed that he was just the guy to improve their group sound! Julian was a quick study and could play anything.
Julian added his terrific acoustic lead guitar work to that first LP, which set a South African folk music standard. His uncanny knack for adding innovative rhythmic and lead parts, really helped establish the group's unique sound. And so, because the Mel's were so impressed by Julian they asked him to join the group, and needing a job, he agreed to join the group immediately … which quite naturally became known as Mel, Mel & Julian...
Because their first contract at The Edward had been such a great success, Don Hughes contacted Mel & Mel to let them know they had been offered a 6-month contract to return to the Edward Hotel in Durban, followed by a return engagement at Deal's in East London. The Edward Hotel contract was to begin in a month .... so they persuaded their agent to include Julian in the contract...
After rehearsing with Julian for the rest of that month, the new group drove down to Durban and were set up in a larger “Troubadour Room” at the Edward. Their contract ran right through the busy July winter holiday season, and word of their reputation for a great night of entertainment spread quickly, and they were soon filling every show to capacity!
What became quickly apparent was that the various quirky personalities of the group enhanced their entertainment value... Mel Miller's rubber face and natural talent as a comedian, as well as being a talented lead singer, made him a huge draw, which was previously offset by Little Mel's "straight man" roll and guitar playing and harmony singing. Now with the addition of Julian's deadpan reactions as a foil to the comedy, plus his fleet-fingered lead guitar playing, the group's audience appeal became irresistible.
Julian was soon establishing a name for himself as a prime lead guitarist, and his reputation grew among the many musicians and bands playing professionally in Durban. His innovative musicianship added stature to the group's fame, and he became a huge influence on both Mel and Mel ... Their daily rehearsals included guitar lessons for Little Mel, who credits Julian as his most important guitar and music teacher... and he also encouraged Big Mel to take up double bass to augment the group's already innovative acoustic sound.
Mel, Mel & Julian 
The group became a welcome attraction in the various cities they played. Their popularity at The Edward Hotel in Durban was such that they had repeat long-term residencies there from 1964 till 1967, and they also had residencies at Deal's Hotel in East London, as well as at Cape Town's Grand Hotel, during which period of time they recorded three LPs for Columbia Records (South Africa)...of which, their last LP Miscellanea was voted one of the Top 10 South African Folk Albums!
Although the group lasted for a relatively short time (until late 1967), their contribution to a contemporary folk music sound and early folk-rock in South Africa was considerable.
M,M&J in the Future.....
In 1969 Mel Green signed on to become a member of the Dream Merchants, (with Billy Forrest and Billy Andrews), but they too broke up before anything came of that group as a trio.
Mel moved to the United States in 1970, and has lived there ever since. He is a songwriter these days and plays around New England as a solo act as well as with his folk-rock quintet "The Maple Street Project".
To this day Mel Miller is a major star on the South African & International comedy circuit. There has been talk of a Mel, Mel & Julian reunion, which hope will become a reality in the not too distant future.
Recently Mel was awarded A Lifetime Achievement Award for Comedy in South Africa in 2010, and he goes from strength to strength, recently selling out the Sydney Opera House in 2011!
Julian Laxton is still a major force in the South African popular music scene to this day, still gigging and still making wonderful rock music, recordings, award-winning commercials and soundtracks for South African movies. 
If you are interested in booking Mel, Mel and Julian, you could hire the group for a concert appearance .... Please contact Mel Green at mel_green_1@hotmail.com or Mel Miller or Julian Laxton in South Africa.

 Little Mel 
Mel Green grew up in Mayfair, in Johannesburg's southern suburbs. After matriculating high school at Queen's College, he spent two years at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, and in 1964, transferred as a third-year student to the Johannesburg School of Art... where he and (taller, bigger) look-alike namesake, Big Mel Miller eventually got together at lunch breaks to sing and tell stories for their fellow classmates.“One day in my classroom, I was playing guitar and singing a folk song, and out of nowhere I was aware of this great voice harmonizing with me, I turned around to see that funny guy who he'd seen entertaining fellow students in the art school common room — (that’s how I met Mel Miller.)” Little Mel was a regular of Johannesburg’s famed Troubadour coffeehouse and during a singalong, Gary Bryden, (of We Three) stopped right in the middle of a song and asked him to come up on stage to sing with him. A pivotal moment for Mel, who eventually persuaded Big Mel to come to the Troubadour to “do a few songs”...

 Big Mel
Mel Miller was raised in Yeoville, a suburb north of Johannesburg. After his high school years at King Edward, he studied Industrial Design at the Johannesburg School of Art. A natural comedian, he entertained his fellow students during lunch breaks. He heard about some other guy (also called Mel) entertaining his class mates during their lunch break upstairs in the Graphic Design Department... which was where he found his namesake and spontaneously began harmonizing with him, and did so frequently after that.

 Mel and Mel, and sudden popularity Little Mel eventually persuaded Big Mel to come to the Troubadour one night, and he asked folk singer Keith Blundell, who was one of the club managers if they could have an opportunity to sing. He said there was, and so they did, and Keith immediately offered them a regular Wednesday night gig! (They only knew three songs at the time, but Big Mel told Keith they knew 30... before Little Mel could stammer out "Th-th-three!")

So, for the next month they "played hooky" from art school and learned 16 new songs, not quite enough material for a 4-hour night of songs... so, on the night of their first gig, Big Mel filled up the time between songs with his hilarious jokes and convoluted stories, thus setting the format for their future stage act.

 Soon the previously quiet Wednesday nights at the Troubadour were filling up and selling out, as Mel & Mel’s reputation as a first class folk-comedy act grew ... and grew... until they were doing weekend sets on the same nights as the more established folkies, like Des & Keith and Leon & Mike, holding their own and becoming contenders for top spots at the club. The reputation that Mel & Mel were establishing in folk music at The Troubadour was beginning to get around...


They spent some Sunday afternoons during their first summer together with their banjo playing friend, Louis Meyer, traveling around the Witwatersrand to perform at open talent shows in Krugersdorp, which served as great training for facing large audiences who were not folk fans. Significantly, Mel, Mel & Louis were invited to perform at the very first Johannesburg Folk Festival in 1964, which was recorded, by CBS ... and they had the distinction of having 3 of the tracks on that LP... They were also the first South African group to attempt to play Bluegrass.

Their Rock & Roll and Blues friends Johnny Kongos and John E. Sharpe had established recording careers at the time, and Sharpe's manager, Billy Forrest, (the reigning king of South African Country & Western music, hit-making recording artist producer, and an afficionado of music in general, was manager/mentor to other young singers on the South African music scene... was introduced to the Mel's at the Troubadour after seeing the Mel & Mel duo in action one evening in 1965. He was very impressed with their talent and thought their folk / comedy act could go far, with an attentive manager, a booking agent and their own recording contract ... he promptly offered to become their manager... and so the momentum of their career began...

By the end of 1964 Mel and Mel had established themselves as a sure thing for a good night's entertainment at the Troubadour. They continued building their repertoire, and were quite content with their successful regular Wednesday night gig at the Troubadour, which had grown to such an extent that the size of their audiences were rivaling Des Lindberg's and Keith Blundell's Saturday night shows!

By 1965 theyhad graduated from Art School, and both were occupied in their day jobs - Big Mel as an Interior Designer in an established Jo'burg firm and Little Mel as an Assistant Advertising Visualizer/Art Director at an international Ad agency. Their weeknights were occupied with their social lives as well as rehearsing and improving their "act", continuing their Wednesday evening gig as well as graduating as one of the top draws performing on the weekends at The Troubadour. Friendly rivalries could be witnessed when thewy were on the same bill as Ian & Ritchie, and other favourites.

With Billy Forrest as their new manager, a real recording contract was negotiated for them with Columbia, where they recorded their first single; Hedy West's “500 Miles”, with “Sorrow & Pain” (written and recorded by Unit 4 + 2) on the flip side. Their very first recording session at the famous Gallo Studios in Johannesburg had them backed up by their friends Johnny Sharpe and the Squires, the popular R&B group. (These cuts were recently remastered and are included on the Two-fer 
"Miscellanea/One More Town" CD as bonus tracks!)


The Mel's were grooming themselves as a “Peter & Gordon” type duo, wearing black turtlenecks, blue jeans, Cuban heel boots and Dylan caps. Of course the Beatles had just taken the pop music world by storm, coinciding with the ongoing Folk Boom in the USA, which was dominated by singer-songwriters in particular. Mel and Mel were incorporating these new folk songs into their act, getting advice on repertoire from their friends folk-singer Brenda Newfield and David Sapire, a regular Troubadour attendee...

Turning Point After that their fame grew even more.  The second Folk Festival was held in'65 and at the party afterwards at the Troubadour, Billy Forrest introduced the Mel's to agent Don Hughes, who was very impressed by their dynamic act, and on Billy Forrest's recommendation, he returned the following Wednesday evening to see them do their multi-set show, comedy, music and all. He left that evening with the boast that he would soon have a full-time gig for them at one of the top hotels in the country... both Mel's were skeptical at the time, and weren't even considering music as a full-time career.

Don Hughes was true to his word, and when he returned from Durban, he offered them a 3-month gig at The Edward Hotel, and another 1-month residency at Deal's Hotel in East London. Mel & Mel were faced with making a major decision ... to leave their new found day jobs. After heart-searching discussions with their employers, relatives and friends, and with much encouragement ...

Mel & Mel took the plunge, and were soon on their way to Durban as professionals, their first three-month residency in their own cabaret room at Durban's 5-star Edward Hotel, which the management not-so-imaginatively dubbed "The Troubadour Room". Soon they were filling up the 100-seat room nearly every night of their 6 day week! And before long they established long-standing friendships with many of the rock groups and entertainers playing at the other hotels in this premier coastal resort city.


 And Julian makes three!
When they returned to Johannesburg 4 months after their first two long-term gigs in Durban and East London, Mel & Mel were asked to make their first album. After a well-earned break, they started to rehearse their favourite songs for the LP. They asked their music fanatic friend and ”sounding board", David Sapire, for assistance and advice on the repertoire for the LP... David advised Mel & Mel to “improve their sound”... by adding a lead guitarist to the group, at very least for the recording, as Little Mel was a relatively rudimentary folk guitarist at that time, and an album featuring his sole guitar accompaniment was not in the duo’s best interests for a debut album. David recommended his brother, Julian Laxton, who was an out-of-work Rock & Roll guitarist at the time, as his last group "Them" had just broken up. Little Mel went to meet Julian and run through some tunes...

 He returned from that eye-opening meeting and jam and convinced Big Mel that Julian was versatile enough to adapt to any kind of music. After hearing Julian for himself, Mel Miller eventually agreed that he was just the guy to improve their group sound! Julian was a quick study and could play anything, eventually adding his terrific acoustic lead guitar work to 11 of the 12 songs on that first LP, the caliber of which eventually set a South African folk music standard. His uncanny knack for adding innovative rhythmic and lead parts, really helped establish the group's unique sound. And so Mel & Mel were so impressed by Julian they asked him to join the group, and needing a job, he agreed to join the group immediately… after which quite naturally became known as Mel, Mel & Julian...

During and after the whirlwind of recording their first album, and along the way, they were introduced to and played for international music stars who were passing through South Africa on their own tours... amongst them: Theodore Bikel, The New Christy Minstrels and later, the Everly Brothers from the USA, the Ivy League from the UK, The Seekers from Australia and Geula Gill from Israel. They also met fellow Columbia recording artists, The Byrds through their mentor Billy Forrest.

Because their first contract at The Edward had been such a great success, Don Hughes contacted Mel & Mel to let them know they had been offered a 6-month contract to return to the Edward Hotel in Durban, followed by a return engagement at Deal's in East London. The Edward Hotel contract was to begin in a month .... their agent persuaded the hotel management to include Julian in the new contract. Ultimately this proved to be a brilliant move, because advance publicity was changed to announce the addition of Julian, and the anticipation about the now stronger trio set them up for what proved to be an immediate success...

Fresh from their recording session they continued to rehearse with Julian for the rest of that month adding to the repertoire and which Julian augmented brilliantly, and the newly expanded group drove down to Durban and were set up in a larger “Troubadour Room” at the Edward. Their contract ran right through the busy July winter holiday season, and word of their reputation for a great night of entertainment spread quickly, and they were soon filling every show to capacity!

 Durban Nightlife, something new for a great night's entertainment! What became quickly apparent was that the various quirky personalities of the group enhanced their entertainment value... Mel Miller's rubber face and natural talent as a comedian, and talented lead singer, made him a huge draw. And what was was previously offset by Little Mel's "straight man" roll, which along with his guitar playing and harmony singing was, with the addition of Julian's deadpan reactions as a foil to the comedy, and especially his fleet-fingered lead guitar playing, irresistible to the group's audience appeal.

Julian was soon establishing a name for himself as a prime lead guitarist, and his reputation grew among the many musicians and bands playing professionally in Durban. His innovative musicianship added stature to the group's fame, and he became a huge influence on both Mel and Mel ... Their daily rehearsals included guitar lessons for Little Mel, who credits Julian as his most important guitar and music teacher... and he also encouraged Big Mel to take up double-bass to augment the group's already innovative acoustic sound.

Three years of playing and living at different hotels around South Africa eventually took its toll, and each of the three members were beginning to realize their talents and quite naturally conflicts began. As the focal member, Mel Miller was taking mre and more time to tell his stories and become the stand-up comedian he would eventually excel at. Mel Green and Julian Laxton were beginning to feel like book-ends to Mel Miller sitting there doing nothing for what felt like most of the time. Although they were at the height of their development and talent, the arguments and some resentment that ensued was only natural, and by the end of their last residency at the Edward, they decided to break up the group. They shook hands amicably and went their separate ways...

M,M&J in the Future... 
Mel Miller
soon left for Israel after the 6-Day War. where he spent time on a kibbutz, became a welder, met his wife and started a family... He worked in Graphic Design for awhile over the years and also began a wonderful career as a Stand-Up Comedian of note. Mel has also worked in film and has made many commercials. He has also worked in Theatre. To this day Mel Miller is a major star on the South African & International comedy circuit. Recently Mel was awarded A Lifetime Achievement Award for Comedy in South Africa in 2010, and he goes from strength to strength, recently selling out the Sydney Opera House in 2011!

Mel Green returned to Cape Town for short time living with his family and eventually returned to Johannesburg to look for work in Advertising, and also where he began his solo singing career back at the Johannesburg and Pretoria folk clubs. He established a good following and took part in other groups, such as Keith Blundell's Balladeers, and with a Mamas & Papas-type of group called We Four. 

In 1969 Mel Green signed on to become a member of the Dream Merchants, (with Billy Forrest and Billy Andrews), but they too broke up before anything came of that group as a trio, (maybe he was too short, or they were both way over 6'!)

Mel moved to the United States in 1970, and has lived there ever since. He is a songwriter these days and plays around New England as a solo act, as well as with his folk-rock quintet "The Maple Street Project". He released his first CD of his own songs called "I'm Taking My Time"... catch up with Mel at www.melgreensings.com and on Facebook. 

Julian Laxton went on to make innovative music with Freedom's Children, Hawk and other famous South African Rock bands and with his self-named band. He is still a major force in the South African popular music scene to this day, still gigging and still making wonderful music, recordings, award-winning commercials and soundtracks for South African movies. These days you can catch Julian at gigs around Johannesburg.

Although the group has disbanded, for the right amount of money you could hire the Mel, Mel and Julian for a concert appearance, in fact a tour would be preferable, requiring a decent period of time to rehearse, regroup and get their act together.... Please contact Mel Green at mel_green_1@hotmail.com ... Heck, the Seekers have done it, and many other pop groups as well!

 

Mel Miller 
Before my kids remove life support 
I started my show business career in August 1963. Together with Mel Green we formed a folk group 
called Mel & Mel (original hey). We were both at Art School and did gigs on an amateur basis. One 
night the audience just weren’t listening to the music, so I decided to tell a joke - AND THEY 
LAUGHED! 
A whole new world opened to me, so I started to combine jokes with the folk music and all of a 
sudden we became the most popular folk group in town. 
At the time there weren’t too many venues available to us, so we worked mainly at Des Linburgs 
club - The Troubadour for the princely sum of R5.00 a night for a four hour gig, (plus a meal - as 
long as it was Spaghetti Bolognese). 
We were spotted one night by an agent - Don Hughes who offered us a professional gig at the Edward 
Hotel in Durban for three months. The gig was four hours a night, five nights week for R300.00 a month. This was big 
money, so we dropped out of art school and turned pro. (The best decision I’ve ever made). The hotel gave us great publicity 
and we soon became a household name there. 
We returned to Jo’burg to cut our first LP and were joined by Julian Laxton as a backing guitarist. The LP was recorded in 
one day and released, and lo and behold we were offered another three month contract at the Edward. This time we went 
as Mel, Mel & Julian - the contract was extended for two years and believe it or not, we played to packed houses for the 
whole run. While we were there we recorded two more LPs. 
From there we went to Cape Town and appeared at the Coral Lounge in the Grand Hotel, Deals Hotel in East London, the 
Elizabeth Hotel In Port Elizabeth and returned to the Edward until I left for Israel in 1967 as a volunteer. 
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mel and Julian for allowing me the space to develop my comedy 
I carried on my with my folk music/comedy act in Israel at a club in Eilat called ‘The End Of The World’. 
My first night on stage at ‘The End Of The World’ I made grammatical error in Hebrew and the audience laughed and from 
that night on I did all my comedy as a new immigrant using all the grammatical errors and slang I could lay my hands on. 
I returned to South Africa in 1970 and continued with the folk music/comedy thing. 
A theatre owner, Adam Leslie saw me at the Nite Beat folk club and offerd me a part in his revue theatre (The Adam Leslie 
Theatre). The show was called ‘Hair Hair’. 
I think this was the most important and influencial part of my carrer, because Adam taught me stagecraft and how to think 
on my feet. For example - He would come to a rehearsal in the morning with a piece which he had read in the newspaper 
the night before. We had to write, coreograph, dress and stage a sketch on the subject that very night. 
As a member of a revue company, I was surrounded by people who had been doing this stuff for years - it was like being 
paid to go to school! I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of Hal Orlandini, Ian Lawrence, Anthony Fridjohn, Shirley 
Sherman and mostly Adam Leslie. 
I was only doing small walk-ons, and when Adam had a heart attack, I was informed that the next night I was to take over 
all his parts (which was 90% of the show). I spent the whole night working on it and with massive amounts of coffee and 
Valium, managed to get the whole lot under my belt. 
It was all over the papers and the night I opened in Adam’s role, to my horror, all the critics were invited. I was lucky to get 
rave reviews and stayed with the Adam Leslie Theatre for three years in shows such as ‘Group Hairier’, ‘The Adam Leslie 
Revue’, and ‘A Tribute Cole Porter’. 
After the run with Adam Leslie, I appeared as Snoopy in the South African Production of ‘You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’, 
followed by ‘What The Butler Saw’, ‘Mama Is Terry Coming Home For Good’ and ‘ A Long Days Journey Into Night’. This 
last production convinced me that I would never be a serious actor ( how could I play an angry young man, when all I 
wanted to do was make people laugh). 
By this time Hal and Ian introduced me to radio and I started doing character parts on serials for Springbok Radio - ‘The 
World Of Hammond Innes’, ‘Marriage Lines’, ‘Jet Jungle’ and ‘Squad Cars’ among others. 
At the same time I started doing stand-up comedy at ‘Athens By Night’ in Hillbrow (before Hillbrow became Lagos Ext.2). 
By now I had dropped the music in my act - I thought that with a voice like mine, I didn’t want to mess up too many songs. 
My stand-up consisted mainly of characterisations and jokes linked together the form of stories. 
But there was still something missing. I was doing comedy that people laughed at, but didn’t necessarily have to think 
about. 
One day I was in town and went to a redord shop called The Long Player and the only comedy record I could find was of 
Lennie Bruce. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing - a guy telling it like it is. It was like hearing a cross between Mahatma 
Ghandi and Vlad The Impaler. I knew at that moment what I wanted to do - speak about issues. I started copying Lennie 
Bruce’s style and re-wrote some of his sketches to suit the South African situation (with only mild success). 
I then started to look at the society we lived in and suddenly another new world opened up (South Africa has always been 
a good country for comedic material). We have proudly bred politicians and public figures who have managed consistently 
to raise the standards of ineptitude to a whole new level. 
I realised that this form of comedy, in a repressive country like ours, was going to cause was bound to cause trouble for 
me, but what the hell - if I was going down, it would be with a bang not a whisper. 
Ten years had passed in my career, but now I had a style. 
At the time the Top Of The Carlton only hired overseas acts and when one of them fell ill, I was the first South African to be 
asked to fill in for a few nights. The act went down well and I was offered a contract to work there. I did four seasons, breaking 
attendance records every time. 
In those days, every hotel chain had a cabaret circuit, and I started to do country-wide tours. 
The Southern Sun, Holiday Inn and Crazy Horse circuits (and others that I’ve blocked from memory for fear of permanent 
trauma) taught me a lot about getting an audience on my side - and with my kind of comedy in South Africa, that wasn’t 
easy. 
It was quite gruelling being away from family and friends for eight months of the year, but I was finally making a name for 
myself nationally (TV wasn’t around at the time, so it was all word of mouth). 
In 1976 TV started and I was asked to appear in a program called ‘Potroast and Biltong’. The idea of the program was to 
pit South African comedians against British comedians. The adjudicator was Clark McKay. 
The program took off and at one stage we had more viewers than the BBC’s ‘World At War’. 
We were paid R35.00 a show (even then it was bad money), but for the first time a million people could see us at the push 
of a button. I also appeared on ‘The Everywhere Express’, ‘Us Animals and Things’ and ‘Punchline’. 
It had taken me twelve years to become an overnight success!! 
By now I was pushing the envelope even more (this was my radical period you understand), and in 1985 after a show at 
the Top Of The Carlton, I was picked up by the security cops, taken to the Hillbrow police station and roughed up for my 
anti-government comedy. My phone was bugged and my family threatened. 
For the next ten years I concentrated on corporate comedy (which was more private). 
In 1990 Joe Parker persuaded me to start working in clubs again and I started at O’Hagens in Dunkeld. The word got 
around that I was back into club gigs and I started to get back into the circuit of clubs and pubs. I think I’m the only comic 
of my generation that still does club gigs. 
At the begining of South Africa’s transition, Joe Parker and myself wrote a revue called ‘Nelson De Klerk and His Amazing 
Technicolour Country’ which played to packed house for six weeks. 
In 1995 Sam Hendricks asked me to take part in the Smirnoff Comedy Festival in Cape Town. After being out of the public 
eye for ten years, I was concerned that the public in Cape Town had forgotten me. They hadn’t. The reception that I received 
at the festival was so overwhelmiong, that I returned to Jo’burg, resigned my job as art director in a publishing company 
and returned to what I loved most. 
I subsequently appeared in nearly all the Smirnoff Comedy Festivals, co-wrote, produced and directed show with the late 
Shaun Griggs - ‘Things To Do In Jo’burg When You’ve Forgotten That you’re Dead’ (packed for three weeks),sold out at 
the Grahamstown Festival twice, toured with my own shows - ‘Captain Chaos’, ‘Captain Chaos Flies Again’, Divine Madness’, 
‘Fat, Fiftyish, Pissed Off and Funny, ‘Mel Miller’s Big Fat Comedy Show’, appeared in Israel with Cyril Green and 
Eddy Eckstein and in London as part of the South African Comedy Festival. 
In 2011 I was awarded the Comics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award (the proudest moment of my career). 
In March 2011 I appeared at the Sydney Opera House in Australia and sold out with ‘Mel Miller’s Big Fat Comedy Show’. 
I’ve been doing this for 46 years and when it becomes work, I’ll retire. Until then, I’m unstoppable. 

  Mel Miller Before my kids remove life support, it should be known that... I started my show business career in August 1963. Together with Mel Green we formed a folk group called Mel & Mel (original hey?). We were both at Art School and did gigs on an amateur basis. It was at our very first gig, when I realized that we didn't have enough songs to fill four hours, so I decided to tell a joke - AND THEY LAUGHED! *

A whole new world opened to me, so I started to combine jokes with the folk music, often using Little Mel as my "straight man" and all of a sudden we became the most popular folk group in town. At the time there weren’t too many venues available to us, so we worked  at The Troubadour, which was managed by Des Lindberg - for the princely sum of R5.00 a night for a four hour gig, (plus a meal - as long as it was Spaghetti Bolognaise). 

We were spotted one night by an agent - Don Hughes who offered us a professional gig at the Edward Hotel in Durban for three months. The gig was four hours a night, six nights week for R300.00 a month. This was big money, so we dropped out of art school and turned pro. (The best decision I’ve ever made). The hotel gave us great publicity and we soon became a household name there. 

We returned to Jo’burg to cut our first LP and were joined by Julian Laxton as a backing guitarist. The LP was recorded in one day and released, and lo and behold we were offered another six month contract at the Edward. This time we went as Mel, Mel & Julian - the contract was extended and we played there periodically over the next two years and believe it or not, we played to packed houses for the whole run. On occasional return visits home to Jo'burg we recorded two more LPs. 

We also went to Cape Town and appeared at the Coral Lounge in the Grand Hotel, Deals Hotel in East London, and returned to the Edward until I left for Israel in 1967 as a volunteer (which was when the band broke up.)

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mel and Julian for allowing me the space to develop my comedy. 

I carried on my with my folk music/comedy act in Israel at a club in Eilat called ‘The End Of The World’. 

My first night on stage at ‘The End Of The World’ I made a grammatical error in Hebrew and the audience laughed and from that night on I did all my comedy as a new immigrant using all the grammatical errors and slang I could lay my hands on. 

I returned to South Africa in 1970 and continued with the folk music/comedy thing. (Mel Green and I briefly reunited for a few wonderful gigs as a duo.)

A theatre owner, Adam Leslie saw me at the Nite Beat folk club and offered me a part in his revue theatre (The Adam Leslie Theatre). The show was called ‘Hair Hair’. I think this was the most important and influential part of my career, because Adam taught me stagecraft and how to think on my feet. For example - He would come to a rehearsal in the morning with a piece which he had read in the newspaper the night before. We had to write, choreograph, dress and stage a sketch on the subject that very night. 

As a member of a revue company, I was surrounded by people who had been doing this stuff for years - it was like being paid to go to school! I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the likes of Hal Orlandini, Ian Lawrence, Anthony Fridjohn, Shirley Sherman and mostly Adam Leslie. 

I was only doing small walk-ons, and when Adam had a heart attack, I was informed that the next night I was to take over all his parts (which was 90% of the show). I spent the whole night working on it and with massive amounts of coffee and Valium, managed to get the whole lot under my belt. 

It was all over the papers and the night I opened in Adam’s role, to my horror, all the critics were invited. I was lucky to get rave reviews and stayed with the Adam Leslie Theatre for three years in shows such as ‘Group Hairier’, ‘The Adam Leslie Revue’, and ‘A Tribute Cole Porter’. 

After the run with Adam Leslie, I appeared as Snoopy in the South African Production of ‘You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’, followed by ‘What The Butler Saw’, ‘Mama Is Terry Coming Home For Good’ and ‘ A Long Days Journey Into Night’. This last production convinced me that I would never be a serious actor ( how could I play an angry young man, when all I wanted to do was make people laugh). 

By this time Hal and Ian introduced me to radio and I started doing character parts on serials for Springbok Radio - ‘The World Of Hammond Innes’, ‘Marriage Lines’, ‘Jet Jungle’ and ‘Squad Cars’ among others. 

At the same time I started doing stand-up comedy at ‘Athens By Night’ in Hillbrow (before Hillbrow became Lagos Ext.2). 

By now I had dropped the music in my act - I thought that with a voice like mine, I didn’t want to mess up too many songs. My stand-up consisted mainly of characterisations and jokes linked together the form of stories. 

But there was still something missing. I was doing comedy that people laughed at, but didn’t necessarily have to think about. 

One day I was in town and went to a record shop called The Long Player and the only comedy record I could find was of Lennie Bruce. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing - a guy telling it like it is. It was like hearing a cross between Mahatma Ghandi and Vlad The Impaler. I knew at that moment what I wanted to do - speak about issues. I started copying Lennie Bruce’s style and re-wrote some of his sketches to suit the South African situation (with only mild success). 

I then started to look at the society we lived in and suddenly another new world opened up (South Africa has always been a good country for comedic material). We have proudly bred politicians and public figures who have managed consistently to raise the standards of ineptitude to a whole new level. 

I realized that this form of comedy, in a repressive country like ours, was going to cause was bound to cause trouble for me, but what the hell - if I was going down, it would be with a bang not a whisper. 

Ten years had passed in my career, but now I had a style. 

At the time the Top Of The Carlton only hired overseas acts and when one of them fell ill, I was the first South African to be asked to fill in for a few nights. The act went down well and I was offered a contract to work there. I did four seasons, breaking attendance records every time. 

In those days, every hotel chain had a cabaret circuit, and I started to do country-wide tours. The Southern Sun, Holiday Inn and Crazy Horse circuits (and others that I’ve blocked from memory for fear of permanent trauma) taught me a lot about getting an audience on my side - and with my kind of comedy in South Africa, that wasn’t easy. 

It was quite gruelling being away from family and friends for eight months of the year, but I was finally making a name for myself nationally (TV wasn’t around at the time, so it was all word of mouth). 

In 1976 TV started and I was asked to appear in a program called ‘Potroast and Biltong’. The idea of the program was to pit South African comedians against British comedians. The adjudicator was Clark McKay. 

The program took off and at one stage we had more viewers than the BBC’s ‘World At War’. 

We were paid R35.00 a show (even then it was bad money), but for the first time a million people could see us at the push of a button. I also appeared on ‘The Everywhere Express’, ‘Us Animals and Things’ and ‘Punchline’. 

It had taken me twelve years to become an overnight success!! 

By now I was pushing the envelope even more (this was my radical period you understand), and in 1985 after a show at the Top Of The Carlton, I was picked up by the security cops, taken to the Hillbrow police station and roughed up for my anti-government comedy. My phone was bugged and my family threatened. 

For the next ten years I concentrated on corporate comedy (which was more private). In 1990 Joe Parker persuaded me to start working in clubs again and I started at O’Hagens in Dunkeld. The word got around that I was back into club gigs and I started to get back into the circuit of clubs and pubs. I think I’m the only comic of my generation who still does club gigs. 

At the beginning of South Africa’s transition, Joe Parker and myself wrote a revue called ‘Nelson De Klerk and His Amazing Technicolour Country’ which played to packed house for six weeks. 

In 1995 Sam Hendricks asked me to take part in the Smirnoff Comedy Festival in Cape Town. After being out of the public eye for ten years, I was concerned that the public in Cape Town had forgotten me. They hadn’t. The reception that I received at the festival was so overwhelming, that I returned to Jo’burg, resigned my job as art director in a publishing company and returned to what I loved most. 

I subsequently appeared in nearly all the Smirnoff Comedy Festivals, co-wrote, produced and directed show with the late Shaun Griggs - ‘Things To Do In Jo’burg When You’ve Forgotten That you’re Dead’ (packed for three weeks), sold out at the Grahamstown Festival twice, toured with my own shows - ‘Captain Chaos’, ‘Captain Chaos Flies Again’, Divine Madness’, ‘Fat, Fiftyish, Pissed Off and Funny, ‘Mel Miller’s Big Fat Comedy Show’, appeared in Israel with Cyril Green and Eddy Eckstein and in London as part of the South African Comedy Festival. 

In 2011 I was awarded the Comics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award (the proudest moment of my career). 

In March 2011 I appeared at the Sydney Opera House in Australia and sold out with ‘Mel Miller’s Big Fat Comedy Show’. 

I’ve been doing this for 46 years and when it becomes work, I’ll retire. Until then, I’m unstoppable. (July, 2011)

 Mel Green I'm the guy who should take the blame for starting the group...  I am , or was "the quiet one", and truthfully had no idea that I could actually "start a group", but that's what happened very rapidly but which actually began when I coaxed Big Mel into the Troubadour to "audition" for Keith Blundell, who was looking to fill the Wednesday night spot all those years ago. Anyway, that story is pretty much complete for your reading pleasure (and patience) above. 

How did I get into this? Well, I've always been a singer whether I knew it or not, singing along to the radio with my mother, singing the morning hymn at school, at the rugby game singalong and once in a while in public, nervous and alone, although it all started to come together at boarding school, when I picked up a friend's neglected guitar one Sunday night when it's owner was away at church. I taught myself a few chords, which were enough to make me an enthusiastic guitar basher during my first year at university, while I was whiling away my spare time after doing art school homework. A year later I was giving concerts for the neighbours... I sat out of sight on the balcony of our flat, playing and singing the hits of the day and occasionally getting applause from a girl in the block of flats opposite.

After moving to Johannesburg to continue studying Graphic Design, I bought my first guitar, a little nylon-string Hofner and I became an enthusiastic member of the South African Folk Music Association, attending their meetings quite often to play for each other. I made good use of my nights off as a waiter at the Troubadour, this time sitting in the audience listening to the "pros" up on that little stage, observing their guitar licks and figuring out how to fingerpick by observation.

Big Mel and I discovered each other at art school and started singing together during lunch break. I coaxed Mel to the Troubadour to sing for Keith Blundell who offered us the entire Wednesday night spot, (based on our audition which featured our entire three song repertoire!) We had to learn new songs fast! That's all history now... as Mel incorporated his inimitable comedy talents filling in the gaps as we slowly increased the number of songs we knew well enough to sing in public.

We eventually graduated from art school and took full time jobs... he with an interior design firm, and I with a large international ad agency... we continued practicing quite often and performing on Wednesday evenings at the Troubadour, and sometimes at talent shows around the Reef with our friend Louis Meyer, the only 5-string banjo player in the country. We were honoured to be among the few invited to play at the first Johannesburg Folk Festival which was recorded by Columbia... 

I had always thought that commercial art would be the main thrust of my life, but after this surprising acknowledgement of a dream realized, I was really in two minds... which way to go: should I really pursue this music thing more seriously, or should my new career in advertising take precedence? Well, little did I know that decision would have to be made sooner than expected.

Billy Forrest, South Africa's premier C&W singer and recording artist was introduced to us, at one of the Rock clubs... our buddy Johnny Sharpe had some very nice things to say about us. So after seeing and listening to us at the Troubadour a few times he told us that he admired us and offered to become our unofficial manager. His benign influence and encouragement was welcomed and we appreciated his willingness to find out what our ambitions were and we followed his very good advice... and so because we already had a recording contract (signed after the folk festival album was made) he persuaded Columbia to record us again. This time we did a single, backed up by our friends, Johnny Sharpe & the Squires. 

Our image was akin to a Mutt and Jeff/Donovan look-alike duo... black turtle necks, jeans, Cuban heel boots and soft black corduroy caps. By that time we had been at it for over a year, and we were invited to do a short set at the second Folk Festival, which was held at the Troubadour. Billy introduced us to Don Hughes the Booking Agent, who loved our act, and he boasted that he could get us a full time engagement at the Edward Hotel in Durban, which was the only 5-star hotel in South Africa at the time. 

He did just that. The big decision had to be made and I asked my family for their opinion, as well as that of my boss, Barry Crystal, of Afamal Advertising, where I had a Junior Visualizer job.  My parents were skeptical, but Barry gave me the best advice of all. He said "Do it, you can always come back for a job in advertising if the life doesn't suit you." Mel's folks also gave their blessing, and soon time came to drive down to Durban to take  our first job in Residence for three months at the Edward Hotel! That was followed by a month doing a Happy Hour cabaret spot at Deal's Hotel in East London... during those four months we increased our repertoire, gained much experience as fledgling entertainment pros and worked very hard at the getting to the next step.

After we returned to Johannesburg for two months, our record company requested an LP from us, and we were happy to oblige.  Although we had enough good songs for a record, we soon realized how sparse our sound really was. Just OK for a live show, but not for a recording. A good friend we'd made at the Troubadour, David Sapire, knew our repertoire and act quite well, and occasionally he would offer  some good suggestions for new songs, being an avid record collector. And so in an effort to fill out our sound, he recommended his brother, Julian Laxton to play lead guitar on our tunes. Truthfully, I was a very basic folk guitarist, and knew it.

And so I drove to see Julian at his home, and auditioned him. I played a few of our songs and Julian just jammed along with me. I was very impressed by his skill and quick take of the tunes. Mel was also impressed, and so the three of us, plus bass player Manny Parks, went into the main studio at Gallo Africa Ltd. and taped twelve songs in a little under seven hours! It was a terrific recording session, and our rehearsal time with Julian had paid of nicely. 

Our first LP was called "Songs about mines, people, places and one train" (my title) and it soon set the folk scene on it's ear, because no other folk group had a real lead guitarist at the time, at least not one as good as Julian!  Soon afterward, the Don Hughes Organization offered us another residency at the Edward... six months this time, with a three-month stint to follow at Deal's in East London. It was a great reassurance to us to know that we had contracts for almost a year.  Before we left for Durban we played at the Troubadour frequently and soon had a nice buzz going, our reputation was growing by the day, and by the time we got to Durban we were filling our own little "club" at the Edward almost every night!

I am really a very modest person, and so I was not prepared for the reputation I had as part of what was becoming a famous entertainment trio.  I love to sing and that showed, my ego was non-existent at the time so I had no problem taking a back-seat to Mel or Julian... I suppose I was being "myself". Just enjoying life in my naive way. The show-biz life is essentially a lonely one, and when we were just beginning I was still quite shy... not having it any easier with the ladies as I would have in everyday life. Let it suffice to say, that Mel Miller's girlfriend at the time was kind enough to notice my "state, and introduced me to one of her friends, and soon I had a steady girlfriend of my own, who did not seem to mind coming to our shows two or three times a week to sit alone or with Mel's girlfriend. Life was good and it helped me to grow up somewhat secure in the knowledge that my very unusual life was becoming quite pleasant.

My days in Durban were a delight: breakfast in the staff dining room followed by morning on nearby North Beach, which was only a hundred yards or so right across from the hotel. I'd shed my T-shirt and flip-flops and go for a daily two-mile walk up or down North Beach. I would return for lunch with Mel and Julian to plan our afternoon rehearsal and discuss general "business". Then I'd stroll back to the beach for a swim and meet new found friends, and then return in time for dinner at the hotel, followed by a quick bath, then I'd get dressed in the "stage uniform" of the day, and get down to our "Troubadour Room" to set up, tune up and be on stage by 8:15pm for four-sets of comedy and song until midnight, six nights a week! What a job! 

After we had shut up shop for the night, we would often walk down to the Cuban Hat Drive-In restaurant on North Beach for a late night snack and to gather with other musician friends. It was a great way to compare notes on each other's venues, the musical news of the day, who was soon to arrive in town and so on... it was our way to stay aware of changes on the scene, and who our competition might be. 

The life of a musician was an interesting and idyllic one to say the least... our sojourn as professional entertainers was short, but very eventful, and I would do it all over again!

Julian Laxton He has been active in the music industry for many years. Significantly, he made a  name for himself as the lead (acoustic) guitarist with "Mel, Mel and Julian" from 1963 to 1967, and from the very beginning his influence on the South African folk scene was strongly felt... soon there were quite a few groups, duos and trios with guitarists adding that lead line to their arrangements. He was auditioned, when Mel Green met him one day to play a few songs typical of their repertoire. Little Mel was very enthusiastic when he told Big Mel that "Julian could play anything", and that he was also a very quick study!

The relatively short career of Mel, Mel & Julian was significant because of their rapid ascent to become the top professional folk trio of their day, playing long residencies at hotels, performing in concerts, folk festivals and at the folk clubs, as well as producing three LPs for CBS South Africa, which sold very quickly.  They made their mark as being prime representatives of South African entertainment, with a huge amount of the credit due to Julian's contribution as a solid innovative guitarist, and who also produced their second and third records, bringing his wonderful ear to the recording and mixing process. 

 

He got his first taste of production with the encouragement of his band mates Mel andMel, when he put overdubs and other instruments on their third LP "Miscellanea", and with the assistance and guidance of Graham Beggs, he also co-produced, and mixed that first South African folk-rock album.

After Mel, Mel and Julian broke up, Julian went on to add his ground breaking guitar work with such innovative rock bands such as "Freedom's Children", "Hawk" and the "Julian Laxton Band" with which he penned such hit songs as 'Celebrate The Rain', 'Blue Waters' and 'Johannesburg'. (The Julian Laxton Collection).

Over the years he has developed his formidable talent on the production side of the music industry, which has won him a "Sari" award for best recording engineer. He has also produced South African artists such as "Rabbitt", "Stingray", "Margaret Singana", "Mango Groove", "The Stockley Sisters", "Lucky Dube" and many others.

Julian has also written many radio, T.V. and cinema commercials  and has won two bronze awards in the New York Advertising community and a South African Lurie award for 'Best Music' for a Coca Cola Commercial.

...And he has written music scores for film and T.V. such as: the main title theme for "Shaka Zulu". And for "Hold My Hand, I'm Dying", "Jewel of the Gods", "Quiet Thunder", "Panga", "Final Alliance", "Purgatory, "The Evil Below", "Headhunter", "Rising Storm", "Crime Lords" and "Okavango".

For a time Julian presented his awesome prowess playing guitar in a show called "The Legend of Clapton" which was dedicated to Eric Clapton's long and successful career. He is currently doing odd gigs with his Blues band called "Julian Laxton and Friends" and he also wrote new material for his 1994 album, The Julian Laxton Collection.

 

Many South Africans consider him the best guitarist in the world and if he were put on the same stage as other prime guitarists, he would certainly prove he could hold his own as one of the very best! 

 


(Notably: Julian also produced and released a popular series of Children's CDs titled "Majors for Minors"... featuring favourite children's tunes played by Julian on keyboards and piano!)