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News March 8, 2016

Aussie guitar legend Ross Hannaford passes

Senior Journalist, B2B
Aussie guitar legend Ross Hannaford passes

The three surviving members of the original line-up of Daddy Cool paid tribute to guitarist Ross Hannaford, who passed away yesterday in Melbourne after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 65.

His childhood friend Ross Wilson said, “We were so lucky to find each other in the wilds of 60’s suburban Melbourne. He was like my little brother, we grew up together in life and in music. He was truly one of a kind.”

“We’re gutted,” remarked bassist Wayne Duncan. “We’ve lost a great friend today. He took me on many a journey.”

Drummer Gary Young added, “We’ve lost one of the world’s most unique guitarists.”

Born in Newcastle and raised in Melbourne, the lanky bespectacled Hannaford certainly was a one-off. It reflected in his approach to music making and songwriting, as well as his quirky clothes sense, colourful collection of instruments, dry wit, expressive paintings and a strong interest in Australian and Jamaican indigenous cultures. He’d recall, “The music was always a groove for me. I can’t read music, I close my eyes and work everything out in my head.”

In his early teens, Hannaford’s aim was to become a painter and attended art school. Instead The Rolling Stones inspired him to pick up the guitar. In 1963, he met Ross Wilson who turned him onto the blues and to his father’s jazz collection. It gave them a unique approach to rhythm and instrumentation. From 1965 they formed a series of progressive music bands Pink Finks, Party Machine and Sons of Vegetal Mother.

In the early ‘70s, Daddy Cool burst into place in Australian pop culture, with phenomenal local sales with Eagle Rock and Come Back Again (the latter Hannaford’s favourite DC song), zany costumes (who could forget Hannaford’s propeller cap?) and an international appeal. Their fans included Elton John, Alice Cooper, Tom Petty and Marc Bolan.

Their debut Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! (1971) became the first Australian album to hit the 100,000 mark. The follow up a year later, Sex, Dope, Rock’n’Roll: Teenage Heaven a year later, was a more contemporary effort, and saw Hannaford contribute to the songwriting and designing its cover.

But being part of a phenomenon and having to pay for four US tours exhausted the members, and Daddy Cool split in late 1972. They would reunite a number of times after. In 2014 the original line-up was inducted into The Age Music Victoria Hall of Fame and performed for the last time together.

After the first split, Hannaford and Wilson stayed together for Mighty Kong. Hannaford then tapped on his love for reggae with bands like Billy T who were signed to CBS Records.

“I started digging it in the early’ 70s, I loved the way reggae brought the rhythm guitar to the front. I was never a flashy lead guitarist, because it was always about being fast and I could never do that.”

He was a sought after player, doing stints with The Black Sorrows, Ian Moss, Steve Hoy, Mark Gillespie, Goanna. Renee Geyer, John Farnham, Ian Moss, Kate Ceberano, Tim Finn, The Cruel Sea, Vika & Linda Bull. He formed Dianna Kiss, The Ross Hannaford Trio and Hey Gringo, and could also be spotted regularly busking around Melbourne.

In early 2015 Hannaford was diagnosed with a virulent strain of cancer. Steve Hoy and songwriter Margret Barret gathered the Melbourne community for two sold-out benefit shows, with members of Daddy Cool, the Black Sorrows, Mike Rudd and Brian Nankervis from RockWiz as MC.

Hannaford threw himself into making his final album, Hanna. He performed at its launch on December 10, nine days after his birthday, at the Caravan Club. As late as last week, he was still recording new material.

For a lengthy DVD interview with Hannaford called Hanna: In A Nutshell, conducted in 2014 by filmmaker Haydn Keenan, go to smartstreetfilms.com.au.

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