A REUNION? COMING SOON!


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

A REUNION IS "IN THE WORKS"!
The band is planning to re-unite in South Africa in 2018 for a few dates in the Johannesburg area... Where? When? To be arranged soon, so please watch this space for details!

We are pleased to announce our booking agent: Please contact Rael Birns at Rael@raelbirns.co.za or 082 452-1100

 

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

 

   Mel Miller continues his stellar career as Grandfather of South African comedy at shows around South Africa.
   Julian Laxton continues to make his own great music, plus sessions, sound-tracks, commercials around South Africa.  
   Mel Green is a professional Graphic Designer and Illustrator by day, is a songwriter and sings solo around Boston, USA...
   So, please watch this space and your local media for news of future shows!

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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I first met Mel & Mel at a folk club with Billy Forrest, who was so impressed with their stagecraft and sound that he offered to help promote their music career across SA. I worked with Mel & Mel on their first Road Show to Bloemfontein and Kroonstad. On the bill with them was a young John E. Sharpe & The Squires, plus a local Bloem group, with the show headed up by Billy. 

On the recommendation of John E. Sharpe, Billy Forrest first went to see Mel & Mel at the Troubadour folk club/coffeehouse in Johannesburg. He managed them for a while and introduced them to Don Hughes, a theatrical entertainment agent who signed them up to their first pro gig at the very upmarket Durban Hotel - The Edward.

To introduce Mel & Mel to the Durban Hotel entertainment scene, we drove down to Durban, leaving Jo'burg late at night to take advantage of lack of traffic, with Billy and I in the Kombi with their gear, and Mel & Mel behind in "Little" Mel's jalopy. Early next morning with an hour or two to go to Durban, Little Mel got into a skid on an icy road and rear-ended his little car, a Fiat 600 into a 50s Chevy. Luckily they were both OK so we all carried on to the Edward to begin their first professional gig. 

In a very short time, Mel & Mel took Durban by storm and they never looked back. I must admit that I can't recall when Julian joined the duo, but he added a new dimension and became another foil for Big Mel's humour. 

I will always have very fond memories of Mel, Mel & Julian at the Edward in Durban.
Have all your recordings. Thank you for the memories.
Cheers

I would like to let you know just how much I have enjoyed listening  to ‘One More Town’ over the years and how much I love the music: such a great blend of blindingly good singing and guitar! Since your website offered the other CD’s  I have also had the huge pleasure of listening to them, and again have been blown away by the craftsmanship and musicality... songs I only heard before from Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot presented in superb Mel, Mel and Julian style. I’ve listened to a lot of ‘folk’ music over the years, and Mel, Mel and Julian are right up there with the best of Bob Dylan, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Don Maclean and others.
To anyone who hasn’t heard the CD’s in this collection... put them on your bucket list! Thank you for your 45 year contribution to me!

The 'ETHNIC/SHMETHNIC' CD – MEL, MEL & JULIAN

 

Not polysyllabic, introspective, social-issue driven modern folk, but classic, traditional-sounding folk with Mel, Mel & Julian's own arrangments, and is more fun than much modern folk. 'Ethnic/Shmethnic' flows through still pools and over jumping rapids, carrying one along nicely.

 

This album is a balanced mix of vigorous folk and melancholy ballad, all delivered in tight harmony. Folks who don't care for folk music wouldn't think of it as high-energy, but two guitars and two rollicking voices can generate energy as well as they produce emotion. The singing on 'Ethnic/Shmethnic' is mostly strong male voice duets, but Julian Laxton fans will want to hear him play, and, on one track, sing!

 

My favorite songs are those with the active guitars, the "Wild Geese" sort of uptempo numbers, but the mournful and tragic numbers are, like the blues, songs about feeling bad that make one feel good to hear.  Here's a quick tour through the album's various tempos and lovely melodies that take one's feelings from soaring to melancholy. Take a deep breath and begin.

 

'Katy Kline', uptempo and jumping; 'The Water is Wide', slow and thoughtful, 'Little Beggar Man', uptempo and lively; 'Ox Driver's Song', soaring and free, manly; 'Ramble Away', slow, a rambling rogue falls in love with pretty Nancy; 'Gypsy Rover', happy-go-lucky, luvverly, nice whistling; 'Mary Anne', I'm leaving on a ship, fare-thee-well; 'Irish Rover', delightful nonsense, rich, rioting, and rollicking; 'Sinner Man', "Where you gonna run to all along that day?", 'Van Diemans Land', don't get caught poaching, ye slowly rambling boys of Liverpool; 'Hangman', a really old favorite; 'Let Me Fly', spiritual folk; 'Banks of the Ohio', a mournful murder tragedy. ('Hangman', Just as many American kids learned of the blues from the British Invasion bands, I learned of this ancient folk song from Led Zeppelin. Folk or rock it's a favorite.)

 

The CD liner notes provide a concise history of folk in the Fifties and Sixties up to Dylan plugging in - all in a handful of paragraphs!

 

If you're a long time Mel, Mel and Julian fan, you will be excited (and I don't use the word lightly) and two studio CDs are being remastered. I'm not a long time fan, but a new fan of the work of Mel, Mel, and Julian.

This CD ("Ethnic/Shmethnic") is a re-issue of one of my favourite LP's of all time.
Mel Mel and Julian are right up there with the likes of Steeleye Span for sheer musicianship and entertainment value. Whether they are belting out Katie Kline or weaving the tight and intricate harmonies which are their trademark, they are icons of the folk rock era.

"I got your album, Ethnic/Shmethnic and I like it a lot! Some great tunes back in that era. Keep singin'."

Most people my age will remember (Big)) Mel Miller from ‘Biltong and Potroast’, that early SABC TV program that now has legendary status. They will also know Julian Laxton as a hard rocking axe hero... but they may, or may not remember (Little) Mel Green...

   Between the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and when ‘Biltong And Potroast’ ruled the airwaves, these three formed a formidable trio that ranked highly on SA's folk scene, at times apparently pulling bigger crowds than Des Lindberg and other notables at Johannesburg's Troubadour Coffeehouse.

   Until recently most of this trio's recordings have only been available to connoisseurs of vinyl (well those that could find copies), however, Mel Green, who now lives in the States, has put together ‘Ethnic/Shmethnic’ a collection of traditional songs from their early albums. These songs have been re-mastered from the original vinyl and thus a few crackles appear on the CD, (the master tapes were unavailable) but the overall sound will not distract the listener. 

   And so to the music. The first thing that strikes you is the great vocals and vocal harmonies that the two Mels put together. At times there's a twangy American-styled vocal such as on the opener, ‘Katy Cline’, Then there are some quite beautiful harmonies like on 'Gypsy Rover' and 'Mary Anne' where they take on a softer, more gentle tone. Also Mel Green's solo vocals on ‘The Water Is Wide’ (previously on their "Miscellanea" LP) is pure joy to listen to. 

   Underpinning this is some magical guitar plucking. Quite different to what Laxton fans would be accustomed to as it's acoustic for a start and secondly... well it's folk, not rock. But this is top quality folk and one can only admire the guitar skills on show. The songs are all traditional folk tunes that are given the MM&J treatment to good effect. Tracks like‘Irish Rover’, ‘Banks Of The Ohio’ and ‘Sinner Man’ will probably be familiar to most while some others may only be immediately recognised by folk aficionados. 

    This is a laid back album that gently flows from your sound system and cascades over your senses for a soothing 40 minutes or so. It (and two others CDs) are now available direct from the group's website along with a detailed history of the group. 

"Glad to have found this site. Takes me back to my youth in Durban. Listening to Mel,Mel & Julian..."

“I had fun tonight listening to your CD. Wow! You should’a been a contender – you guys are up there with Peter Paul & Mary, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention (sans electricity), Jan and Dean, definitely the Irish Rovers, and Simon and Garfunkel!

 My favorites tend towards the traditional spare Irish and English style — e.g. Ramble Away, Mary Ann, and Van Diemensland. I also like the close harmony on Banks of Ohio, (Little Mel’s) tenor lead on Water is Wide with that hint of a sustained tremolo, and the shared harmony Irish style (with that Nashville picked guitar!) as on Beggarman. The combination of shared harmony and the simple mandolin (mandola? ... no 12-wstring capoed high!) the chorus on Ramble Away, with its English feel and familiar melody, makes it probably my favorite of the album. But I also like a lot the western “Bonanza” feel of Ox Driver’s with your tenor drone and the galloping guitar, the fun you seemed to have with Let Me Fly, the “Old Timey” guitar and vocal on Katy Cline, the 60’s feel of Gypsy Rover, and the wailing tenor on Sinner Man. And I imagine that your live stuff took off from there. It must have been a fun time!”

 

Hey Mel
Just had a real great time wallowing in the nostalgia of “swinging 60's”.
The music is great and the wonderful memories regurgitated were many!
G-D bless and take care, Michael 

Hey Mel,
You did everything we expected you to do! Your voice and fingers are still sublime.
Totsiens, Ernie