ONE of Australia’s most successful country rock bands is the Wolverines. You’ll often see them playing at biker rallies; and up in Tamworth, they even have a poker run named after them.
John Clinton, the drummer in the Wolverines, took time out to talk to Ozbike.
I guess the Wolverines started when I went for a Harley ride to the Wiseman’s Ferry pub with my son who was only about 10 years at the time. Darcy was out there doing a one-man-band thing and we had each other on a bit about the old days. He remembered when I was playing at the Persian Room in the ’70s and suggested I would be better off playing drums with him rather running a music shop and selling a lot of sound and lighting stuff to various clubs and pubs; and he said he knew this great keyboard player (Chris) who looked the part.
The three of us ended up having a rehearsal and all of us thought we had something unique—apart from the fact that we were pretty bloody ugly.
So the next thing was that I was installing a huge sign out the front of Tamworth Services Club during the Tamworth Country Music Festival and the general manager made the mistake of showing me around the club where I found this room that wasn’t being used.
“I know a band who could fill this space,” I told him. “The Wolverines.”
After a bit of arm twisting we finished up doing a deal.
The first night we only got about 12 people; on the second there were about 24 people. Also on the second night one of the reporters from the Leader was there and he gave us one hell of a write up, and so the third night we arrived and we couldn’t get in—there were people queued from the entrance to the room right up the stairs, right up through the lounge-room, right up through to where you sign in; the queue effectively jammed up the club.
After we did the Tamworth Festival we got a lot of enquiries about the band and we were in the fortunate position to be able to pick and chose where we played so it was great.
Our first big hit was Sixty Five Roses. It was written by Lee J Collier from Canberra. She had sent it to LJ Hooker who were the sponsors of cystic fibrosis at the time. Their business manager approached us because he had heard us at Tamworth and also heard that we did a lot of stuff raising funds for kids for different causes. We recorded a very radio-friendly version, a typical Wolverines sound, that took it to the top of the country charts, and it went up to about number eight on the man charts. Also in New Zealand it got to the top of the charts. Sixty Five Roses was only one of four singles to go gold in 2001.
One of the things that we realised earlier was that we had to have our own brand of music, and I believe if you listen to any song on our albums, you would pick it as Wolverines. We are daring to be a little bit different, and that carries on not only from the music but also our looks—we are not the bloody best looking mob of blokes that you have ever seen—and I think that’s a lot of the Wolverines attraction.
I guess you would class our music as more country rock, although we like to give it a kick along whenever possible, especially at bike rallies like the Harley Owners Group show we recently did up at the Gold Coast. When we toured the Middle East entertaining our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we toured with Amy Williamson (John William’s daughter), Brielle Davis and Angry Anderson. Being on the same stage as those people, we all kicked arse.
I am a life member of the Harley Owners Group and proud of it. My son was certainly brought up with an extended family being members of the Harley Owners Group. Many times the Wolverines have combined with the Harley Owners Group to raise funds for kids and also to support their push with muscular dystrophy.
We have recorded six Wolverine CDs to date, and out of the 90 songs on them, at least 65 are originals plucked out of our personal experiences. It’s amazing how much you can pluck out of an experience like riding a Harley that’s really suitable to turn into a song. Like moving on down the highway—it’s a great feeling. Sure, some of our songs are tongue in cheek, but they are pretty close to how you are feeling. For instance, Nobody Rides my Harley But Me has a message about how you feel about your bike. Same with Gonna Ride all Night Long and Hog Heaven. We used to ride up the Putty Road in a group, and we were going a bit hard one day and a mate of mine came off; he and his girlfriend were taken to hospital. It made me wonder where do all the old bikes go, and of course they go to Hog Heaven.
Pics by Giulian Wiggins