Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Gumbies Bush Band - 15 taped tracks

We now know a little about more this bush band.
(Re-edited entry) 
 And now some more again (see below)

One of our regulars had come into possession of a home-prepared cassette tape containing 15 tracks and the only identifier on the cassette was "The Gumbies Bush Band".  Our early research had been unable to identify this particular bush band other than possibly a very cursory reference to an appearance of the "Gumbies" at the Port Fairy Folk Festival in 1980.  I suspect that the cassette was recorded from an LP because of a few typical vinyl-type problems.
It is most definitely a "bush band" - lots of enthusiastic performers, lagerphones, teachest bass, whistles, banjos, guitars, harmonica, accordions, flutes, boot thumping and lots of vocalisers.  It's very much in the style of The Bushwackers and quite listenable.

Well, at last one of our visitors, Andy, has been able to provide some additional information together with the graphics (posted here) from a six track cassette he bought from the band when they used to play at the Mount Dandenong Hotel at Olinda (lovely area) in the Victorian Dandenongs in about the late 70s or early 80s where they were a local group.  Andy recalls that the bloke on the right was "Hank". From the Cassette insert, it appears that they were not all that sure as to whether they were "The Gumbies Bush Band" or "The Swamp Gumbies Bush Band" or "The Fair Dinkum Gumbies Bush Band". Many thanks Andy for the graphic and the information.

Well, we now have some more information about this group from Paul, the son of Hank "doc" Karssen. The band originally was "The Hustlers" but in the early days of venturing into folk, two of the band members came first and second in a gumboot-throwing competition at a folk festival and this lead to the name "Gumbies". They played at many folk festivals, pubs and halls etc, and appeared on the same bill as The Bushwackers and Redgum. The six track cassette was their only commercial release. The 15 track version appearing here was self-made for distribution for promotional purposes.

There were some changes in band membership over the years. The members in the photograph - starting from second left - were Ken Creighton (on mandolin), the late Peter "Pedro" Ellsworth (sitting, guitar), "Jenko" on tea-chest bass (details anyone?), and, on the far right, the late Hank "Doc" Karssen. The gentleman on the left "Tex" with the washboard was not a member but occasionally helped out and added comedy during breaks. A lady named "Merle" of Emerald (Vic) was also a regular member of the band at one time and presumably is the occasional female vocalist on some of the tracks, most notably Lazy Harry's. Most band members were originally from the Dandenong Ranges area. Many thanks for the information, Paul.

The Merle mentioned above has now been in contact with me. I'll use her words:-
I was a member of the band from 1980- name is Merle Hopman. And I was in fact the female vocalist, whistle, flute player for the band. My friend Nick Safstrom also played bush bass with the band and my husband Rob Hopman played guitar for a while as well. The band was incredibly popular at the time and we played throughout the Dandenongs, folk festivals including Ferntree Gully, Longford, Montrose, Walhalla, new Lincoln inn in Carlton etc. The name  Gumbies, from my memory,. was because originally Pedro lived in an old cottage off Colchester road and to get to band practice the boys donned gumboots to get through the mud. Hank even made a lager phone with a boot on the end. I would love to contact Paul Karssen if you have his email address. I am also happy to share photos etc if Paul or others are interested. I looked through the tracks and just knew that I could still play every one of them.
Rob and I were also founding members of Jindivic and I played with the Woolybull bush band. We live in Bendigo and I am a music teacher. 

Merle would welcome contact from anyone seeking contact or more information. She would also like to contact Paul Karssen. Merle can be contacted on

The song tracks (in the order they appear on the tape) are:
1. Cocaine - (Nobody's Business But My Own)
2. Old Joe Clark (USA traditional)
3. Queensland Railway Line
4. An instrumental set
5. Lachlan Tigers
6. Lazy Harry's
7. Bullocky O
8. Maggie May
9. Maranoa Drovers
10. Instrumental Dance set
11. Rain Tumbles Down in July (The Slim Dusty standard)

12. Old Palmer River song
13. Bundaberg Rum
14. Another Dance Set
15. Queensland Overlander/Queensland Drovers

Any contributions or suggestions, email me, Paul, as usual on or add a comment

Download with a tape graphic (not same)

Link failed? Then please leave a comment or contact


  1. hi there can remember mt dandenong hotel in the early 80s what a great foot tapping night, the people waiting to get in was huge outside the lounge doors, it was a hat night everyone was meant to wear a hat, to this day there is a framed photo in the main bar where it is to remain. and unfortunatly 2 members of the band have past away there names were pedro and hank (doc), ken and jenko are still living to this day, ken is still playing in bands around gippsland. they were a great bunch of fun loving guys.

  2. I remember the Swamp Gumbies at the Chateau Wyuna and their last night at Mt Dandenong hotel, I was wondering if anyone knew the current whereabouts of Ken?

  3. Remember them as a child growing up in MtD in the 80s, my parents were close friends with the members and their families. I recall them being called the 'Bush-a-billy boys'. Great memories of a wonderful talented bunch.