The Seekers in 1965
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Genres||Easy-listening, pop, folk|
|1962-1968 , 1975 -1988 , 1992 -present|
|Labels||W&G, EMI, Columbia, Astor|
The Seekers are an Australian folk-influenced pop quartet, originally formed in Melbourne in 1962. They were the first Australian pop music group to achieve major chart and sales success in the United Kingdom and the United States. They were popular during the 1960s with their best-known configuration as: Judith Durham on vocals, piano, and tambourine; Athol Guy on double bass and vocals; Keith Potger on twelve-string guitar, banjo, and vocals; and Bruce Woodley on guitar, mandolin, banjo, and vocals.
The group had Top 10 hits in the 1960s with "I'll Never Find Another You", "A World of Our Own", "Morningtown Ride", "Someday, One Day" (written by Paul Simon), "Georgy Girl" (the title song of the film of the same name), and "The Carnival Is Over" by Tom Springfield, the last being an adaptation of the Russian folk song "Stenka Razin". The Seekers have sung it at various closing ceremonies in Australia, including World Expo 88 and the Paralympics. It is still one of the top 50 best-selling singles in the UK. Australian music historian Ian McFarlane described their style as "concentrated on a bright, uptempo sound, although they were too pop to be considered strictly folk and too folk to be rock."
In 1967, they were named as joint "Australians of the Year" - the only group thus honoured. In July 1968, Durham left to pursue a solo career and the group disbanded. The band has reformed periodically, and in 1995 they were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. "I'll Never Find Another You" was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia's Sounds of Australia registry in 2011. Woodley's and Dobe Newton's song "I Am Australian", which was recorded by The Seekers, and by Durham with Russell Hitchcock and Mandawuy Yunupingu, has become an unofficial Australian anthem. With "I'll Never Find Another You" and "Georgy Girl", the band also achieved success in the United States, but not nearly at the same level as in the rest of the world. The Seekers have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
The Seekers were formed in 1962 in Melbourne by Athol Guy on double bass, Keith Potger on twelve-string guitar and Bruce Woodley on guitar. Guy, Potger and Woodley had all attended Melbourne Boys High School in Victoria. In the late 1950s, Potger led The Trinamics, a rock 'n' roll group, Guy led the Ramblers and, with Woodley, they decided to form a doo-wop music group, the Escorts. The Escorts had Ken Ray as the lead singer and in 1962 they became "The Seekers". Ray left the group to get married. His place was taken by Judith Durham, an established traditional jazz singer who added a distinctive female lead voice. She had earlier recorded an extended play disc on W&G Records with the Melbourne group, Frank Traynor's Jazz Preachers.
Durham and Guy had met when they both worked in an advertising agency - initially Durham only sang periodically with the Seekers, when not performing at local jazz clubs. She was replaced in Traynor's jazz ensemble by Margret RoadKnight. The Seekers performed folk-influenced pop music and soon gathered a strong following in Melbourne. Durham's connections with W&G Records led to the group's later signing a recording contract with the label. Their debut album, "Introducing the Seekers", was released in 1963. Their debut single was the traditional historic Australian bush ballad from 1894, "Waltzing Matilda", which appeared in November and reached the Melbourne "Top 40" singles chart. and peaked at number 74 on the national chart. When being photographed for the album's cover, Potger was replaced by Ray - his day job with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) as a radio producer barred him from involvement in a commercial enterprise.
The Seekers were offered a twelve-month position as on-board entertainment on the Sitmar Line passenger cruise ship Fairsky in March 1964. In May, they travelled to the U.K. and had intended to return to Australia after staying ten weeks, but upon arrival they were offered work by a London booking agency, the Grade Organisation. They signed there with World Record Club and issued a single, "Myra", co-written by the group. The group regularly appeared on a British TV show series, "Call in on Carroll", hosted by Ronnie Carroll.
After filling in on a bill headlined by folk singer Dusty Springfield, they met her brother, songwriter and producer Tom Springfield, who had experience with writing folk-pop material and lyrics/tunes with the siblings' earlier group The Springfields. He penned "I'll Never Find Another You", which they recorded in November 1964. It was released by EMI Records, on their Columbia Graphophone Company (Columbia) label, in December and was championed by the offshore radio station "Radio Caroline" which frequently played and promoted their music. Despite the fact that the group had not signed a contract with EMI, the single reached the U.K. "Top 50" and began selling well. In February 1965, it reached No.1 in the U.K. and Australia, and No.4 in the United States where it was released on EMI's Capitol Records label. "I'll Never Find Another You" was the seventh biggest-selling single in Britain for 1965 though their own "The Carnival Is Over", released later in the year, would eventually eclipse it - and went on to sell 1.75 million copies worldwide.
The Seekers were the first Australian pop group to have a "Top 5" hit in all three countries - Australia, U.K. and U.S.A. Australian music historian, Ian McFarlane described their style as "concentrated on a bright, uptempo sound, although they were too pop oriented to be considered strictly folk and too folk to be rock." The distinctive soprano voice of Durham, the group's vocal harmonies and memorable songs encouraged the British media, including the national broadcasting agency on radio and television, the BBC, to give them exposure, allowing them to appeal to a broad cross-section of the young British folk, pop and rock music audience.
The Seekers achieved their first success in the United States in 1965 with their highly popular hit, "I'll Never Find Another You", reaching peaks of No. 4 - Pop and No. 2 - Easy Listening in Billboard magazine surveys. They followed "I'll Never Find Another You" with "What Have They Done to the Rain?" in February 1965 which did not chart into the "Top 40". In May, another Tom Springfield composition followed, "A World of Our Own", which reached "Top 3" in Australia and the U.K. and "Top 20" in the U.S.Malvina Reynolds' lullaby "Morningtown Ride" was issued in Australia in July and peaked in the "Top 10". "The Carnival Is Over" (the melody is based on a Russian folk song, while the lyrics were written by Tom Springfield), appeared in November, which reached "No. 1" top status in both Australia and the U.K. At its peak, the single was selling 93,000 copies a day in Great Britain alone.
Also in 1965, they met Paul Simon (of the American duo Simon & Garfunkel) who was pursuing a solo career in the U.K. following the initial poor chart success of the duo's debut LP, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.. In 1966, the Seekers released the Simon-penned "Someday One Day", which reached "No. 4" in Australia and "No. 11" in the U.K. Their version was Simon's first U.K. success as a songwriter, and his first solo major hit as a composer outside of his work with Art Garfunkel. Woodley co-wrote some songs with Simon, including "Cloudy", "I Wish You Could Be Here" and "Red Rubber Ball" which became an American "No. 2" single for the Cyrkle group. The Seekers' version was provided on their 1966 LP, "Come the Day" (released on the album "Georgy Girl" in the U.S.A.).
Early in 1966, after returning to Australia, the Seekers filmed their first TV special, At Home with the Seekers. The band were named "Best New Group of 1965" at the 1966 New Musical Express Poll Winners Awards. They appeared at the celebratory Wembley Arena concert, on a bill which included the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and the Animals. On November 16 in the same year, they appeared at a Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium, before Queen Elizabeth - the Queen Mother (spouse of the late King George VI). In November, a re-recorded version of "Morningtown Ride" was released in the U.K., which reached "No. 2". The song had been recorded earlier as an Australian single from the 1964 album "Hide and Seekers" and appeared on the 1965 American debut, "The New Seekers". In February 1967, "Morningtown Ride" reached the "Top 50" in the U.S.
In December 1966 they issued "Georgy Girl", which became their highest charting American hit when it reached "No. 2" on the Billboard Hot 100 and "No. 1" on the Cashbox "Top 100" in February 1967. It was the title song and theme for the British film of the same name starring Lynn Redgrave and James Mason and sold 3.5 million copies worldwide. The band was awarded a gold record certificate by the Recording Industry Association of America. Meanwhile, it was "No. 3" in the U.K., and "No. 1" on the top of the charts in Australia. Its writers, Jim Dale and Tom Springfield, were nominated for the 1967 Academy Award for Best Original Song of 1966, but lost out that year for the "Oscar" to the title song from the film, "Born Free".
In March 1967, The Seekers returned to Australia for a homecoming tour, which included a performance at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, attended by an estimated audience of 200,000.Guinness Book of World Records (1968) listed it as the greatest attendance at a concert in the Southern Hemisphere. Melburnians were celebrating the annual Moomba Festival, a free community festival, and many thousands were enjoying other attractions but are included in the crowd estimate. The Seekers were accompanied during their 20-minute set by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hector Crawford. Film of their appearance was incorporated into their 1967 Australian television special The Seekers Down Under, which was screened on Channel 7 and drew a then record audience of over 6 million. It was also screened in the UK on BBC1 on 24 June 1968, and repeated on 27 December 1968.
In January 1968, on Australia Day, in recognition of its achievements, the group was named joint Australians of the Year - the only group to have this honour bestowed upon it. They personally accepted their awards from John Gorton, the Prime Minister of Australia, during their tour. During this visit, the group filmed another TV special, The World of the Seekers, which was screened in cinemas before being screened nationally on Channel 9 to high ratings and is in the Top 10 most watched TV shows of the 20th century in Australia.
During the New Zealand tour on 14 February 1968, Durham approached the other group members to announce that she was leaving The Seekers to pursue a solo career and the group subsequently disbanded. Their final performance, on Tuesday 9 July, was screened live by the BBC as a special called Farewell the Seekers, with an audience of more than 10 million viewers. The special had been preceded by a week-long season at London's Talk of the Town nightclub and a live recording of one of their shows was released as a live LP record, Live at the Talk of the Town. It reached No. 2 on the UK charts. Also in July, the compilation album The Seekers' Greatest Hits was released and spent 17 weeks at No. 1 in Australia. It was released as The Best of The Seekers in the UK and spent 6 weeks at No. 1 in 1969, managing to knock The Beatles (White Album) off the top of the charts and preventing The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet from reaching the top spot. The album spent 125 weeks in the charts in the UK.
Following the Seekers' split, Durham pursued a solo career. She released a Christmas album called For Christmas with Love (recorded in Hollywood, California) and later signed with A&M Records, releasing more albums including Gift of Song and Climb Ev'ry Mountain. Guy hosted his own TV show in Australia, A Guy Called Athol, before entering politics in 1973. In 1969, Potger formed and managed another group, the New Seekers in the UK, which were more pop-oriented. Woodley released several solo albums and focused on songwriting, including co-writing the patriotic song "I Am Australian" with Dobe Newton (of the Bushwackers) in 1987.
From 1972, Guy, Potger and Woodley planned on reforming the Seekers without Durham. By 1975 they had recruited Louisa Wisseling, a semi-professional folk singer formerly with Melbourne group the Settlers. They had a top 10 Australian hit with the Woodley-penned "The Sparrow Song". Woodley left the group in June 1977 and was replaced by Buddy England, a former 1960s pop singer and member of the Mixtures. In 1978, Guy was replaced by Peter Robinson (ex-Strangers) and Cheryl Webb replaced Wisseling as lead vocalist, leaving only Keith Potger from the original Seekers line-up. In 1980 the group released an album, A little bit of Country and toured periodically until the mid '80s. In 1988, Guy, Potger and Woodley reformed the Seekers with Julie Anthony, a popular cabaret singer. In May, the group sang "The Carnival Is Over" at the World Expo 88 in Brisbane. In March 1989, the group released the album Live On, which peaked in the top 30 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Albums Chart. In June 1990, Anthony left and was replaced by Karen Knowles, a former teen pop singer on Young Talent Time. However the unique timbre of Durham's voice was missing from their sound and the group split again.
The Seekers reunited late in 1992, with the classic line-up of Durham, Guy, Potger and Woodley. In March 1992, all four met together, for the first time in 20 years, at a restaurant in Toorak. Before then they had never talked about reforming, they just wanted to get to know each other again. It was two months later that they decided to do a reunion concert, which led to a 102 date tour.  The 25-Year Silver Jubilee Reunion Celebration tour in 1993 was sufficiently successful that the group has continued to perform and record together, on and off, ever since. They staged several sell-out tours of Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The reformed group issued several albums, including new studio albums Future Road in October 1997 (which peaked at No. 4 on the ARIA Albums Chart) and Morningtown Ride to Christmas (which reached the top 20 in 2001). and both albums were certified platinum.
In 1995, the group were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. In the buildup to the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, an ABC TV satire, The Games, parodied the Seekers in the final episode, "The End". Durham had suffered a broken hip and sang "The Carnival Is Over" in a wheelchair at the closing ceremony of the related Paralympic Games on 29 October. Long Way to the Top was a 2001 Australian Broadcasting Corporation six-part documentary on the history of Australian rock and roll from 1956 to the modern era. The Seekers featured on the second episode, "Ten Pound Rocker 1963-1968", broadcast on 22 August, in which Durham and Woodley discussed their early work on a cruise ship, meeting Tom Springfield and their success in Britain. Four of their songs were played during the episode: "I'll Never Find Another You", "The Carnival Is Over", "A World of Our Own" and "Georgy Girl".
In October 2002, on the 40th anniversary of their formation, they were the subjects of a special issue of Australian postage stamps. On 1 September 2006, they were presented with the Key to the City by Melbourne's Lord Mayor, John So. In February 2009, SBS TV program RocKwiz hosted a 50th anniversary concert at the Myer Music Bowl, RocKwiz Salutes the Bowl, which included "World of Our Own" performed by Rebecca Barnard and Billy Miller and "The Carnival Is Over" by Durham.
In 2004 a DVD, The Seekers at Home and Down Under, was released. It consists of a 1966 television documentary on the Seekers and a 1967 special. The cover includes a photo from the 1966 documentary.
In October 2010, The Best of the Seekers (1968) was listed in the book 100 Best Australian Albums. Also in October, they were scheduled to tour various Australian cities in support of violinist André Rieu and his orchestra. However, the tour was postponed when Rieu was taken ill. They released another Greatest Hits compilation in May 2011 which peaked in the top 40. That month they supported Rieu on the rescheduled Australian tour. "I'll Never Find Another You" was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of the Sounds of Australia registry in 2011. "The Seekers' Golden Jubilee Tour" kicked off 2013 in May, celebrating fifty years since the group had formed in December 1962. Performing in Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle and Melbourne, they received rave reviews to sold-out audiences. However, Judith Durham suffered a brain hemorrhage after their first concert in Melbourne. The rest of the Australian tour and later-to-be-staged UK tour were postponed; the former continued in November, while the UK tour took place in May and June 2014, ending with two performances at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
In November 2015, during a tour of Guy's new band 'Athol Guy and Friends' featuring Jenny Blake on vocals, Guy's band was joined by his two Melbourne Boys High School colleagues Potger and Woodley for a one-performance fundraiser hosted by the school. The performance featured many of the Seekers' hits as well as other songs that had influenced them over the years. The performance closed with a performance of I Am Australian which Guy introduced as a song that was pertinent given "what was happening around the world" at the time.
The following recordings by The Seekers were each certified as having sold over one million copies: "I'll Never Find Another You", "A World of Our Own", "The Carnival Is Over" and "Georgy Girl". They were each awarded a gold disc. The Seekers have sold over 50 million records worldwide.