Blues Portrait Vol 3 – Pauline Bailey




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About The Books

Blues Portrait – A Profile of the Australian Blues Scene by Pauline Bailey Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4

“Blues Portrait” provides a snapshot of the contemporary Australian blues scene. 172 musicians across four volumes share their thoughts and insights about their musical journeys and describe, in their own words, how they discovered the blues and what it means to them. The books explore how they have each shaped the broad, rich and diverse blues scene we have in Australia.

About Blues Portrait

In November 2019 I self-published my first book, Blues Portrait. This was followed by Volumes 2 and 3 which were released simultaneously in November 2021. The most recent installment, Volume 4, was published in 2023. I have always had a passion for Australian music – blues music in particular, and I’ve always believed that Australian blues has been overlooked in the musical landscape. When I started looking for books on the subject, I was surprised to discover that no one had properly documented this genre, so in 2017 I decided to track down some of this country’s blues legends. I was curious about their experiences and stories, and I thought other people might be interested in hearing them as well. I began with some friends and artists that I knew, and started the process of interviewing, transcribing, writing and building a profile of each artist on my list. Once I started interviewing people it quickly became evident that the blues scene was far more diversified and expansive than I had anticipated. The initial interviews were only the tip of the iceberg – each person took me down a different road, and I discovered many more people keen to tell their stories.

The end result is a collection of 172 people spread across four books, illustrating this country’s broad and impressive blues culture. Because the books also discuss how blues has affected and influenced other musical styles, I’ve included people who aren’t technically “blues” – individuals with a variety of backgrounds, influences, and inspirations, but who all have one thing in common: the desire to make music. I’m extremely grateful to every one of these incredible musicians for generously sharing their time, stories, and perspectives on what it means to be a musician.

Vol 3 viii, 355pp soft cover, colour pics throughout


“Blues Portrait is an incredible book which documents the Australian blues music scene and it’s amazing musicians.” – Peter D. Harper

“Pauline Bailey’s “Blues Portrait” book series has every artist telling their story in their own words. The insights, philosophies, outlooks and tales make for a great read. Her choices for inclusion are interesting and diverse, the variety gives the book a wonderfully rich texture, and her interviewing style obviously made every one of them feel relaxed enough to open up.” – Craig B.

“If you collect music biographies (or just want a good read) you need this book. It fills a big void in any collection because there are so few books about blues musicians – especially Australian ones. Even if you’re not a blues fan (God forbid!), the book is full of great down-to-earth chats with the likes of Kevin Borich, Bob Spencer, Phil Para and Kerri Simpson, to name but a few.” – Sharon B.

“I learnt so much and filled in a lot of gaps that I didn’t even know were gaps in this wonderful music scene we have here. So grateful to have this book.” – Grant

“Can certainly recommend this book to any music enthusiast, no matter what their preferred genre is – the blues is where it all began for the music of today.” – Lee

“An unparalleled reference on blues music in Australia. Part 4 of this excellent series of books about the Australian blues scene does not disappoint and goes a huge way to furthering the knowledge base of this widely variable genre of music and those who keep it alive for now, and for future generations. Pauline Bailey has taken on this monumental task with gusto, and along the way has created an unparalleled reference of those who eat, breathe, live and play the blues.” – Andrew F


Pauline Bailey Blues Portrait: A Profile of the Australian blues scene. Volume 3.

Book review by Tony Smith

TN2546-B – $40

TN161 Feb 24

Jeff Lang’s Foreword to this volume notes that Pauline Bailey’s approach to the blues is ‘gratifyingly broad and inclusive’.

He observes that our geographical and cultural isolation have given local musicians the freedom to either accept new influences or keep traditions alive.

So the language of the blues runs through our musical landscape in ways ‘overt and camouflaged, traditional and idiosyncratic’.

It is all valid and results in rich diversity.

Volume 3 (2021, 355 pages) of 42 musicians includes household names Joe Camilleri, Russell Morris, Nick Charles, Mal Eastick and Steve Tallis.

It follows Volume 2 as a post-Covid portrait.

It reveals that quite a few musicians were born overseas: Camilleri (Malta), Henry Rollins (Washington), Shane Pacey (Yorkshire), Chris Stockley (UK), Harry Brus (Austria), Ric Hall (Chicago), Susan Espie (London – parents from Perth), Rudy Miranda (Chile) and Ian Ferguson (England) or have exotic ancestry such as Michael Vdelli’s Greek background.

Rollins makes interesting comments about Australian distinctiveness.

He notes that the wide open spaces are ‘blues country’ and also observes that ‘the scene in Australia isn’t nearly as contaminated with the idea of radio play, video play, units shifted etc., it’s more music for the sake of music.

“When you’re not looking to make a ‘hit’, you might just make something good instead”.

Michael Vdelli detects a ‘hardness and toughness’ about Australian bands especially of his generation and a certain professionalism about road crews.

Ron (harmonica) and Jeff (guitar) King have been mainstays of the ‘Foreday Riders’ since its formation in 1967.

Dubbed Sydney’s ‘university of the blues’ the group has helped launch the careers of many blues musos.

Meanwhile Nick Charles has managed to maintain a solo career which has seen the release of 20 albums and work with internationally acclaimed musicians.

No doubt, his philosophy of being obsessed with being a better musician has been the key.

Initially, Nick tried to emulate his heroes but then found his personal interpretation which was more significant.

Mish Davie has performed in some unusual bands.

‘Mother’ was all female and ‘HER’ sounds as though it should be.

Penny Ikinger admits to a peculiar relationship with the blues.

When she started playing, Penny felt that it was an all male world.

Male musicians tended to use the electric guitar as a phallic symbol and there were only a few women such as Joni Mitchell using the instrument.

Penny later discovered a world of women playing the blues, but generally the genre seemed unwelcoming.

When Ikinger began her musical career, women were stereotyped as singers rather than instrumentalists.

She recalls that being in rehearsal with four men was ‘terrifying’.

The upside of this prejudice has been that women do their own thing rather than attempting to fit a mould.

“They weren’t copying other people; they were just following their own instinct.

“When that happens, you get original music”.

Ikinger notes that “Women move outside the template more than men and bring a different energy to music”.

Small wonder Chrissy Amphlett interviewed Penny Ikinger for a documentary by Rachael Lucas called ‘Electra: the Music of Penny Ikinger’.

Ikinger also makes the interesting observation that “when you play music you’re in a different state of mind”.

She also reckons that she sometimes feels as though she is “chipping away at a huge mountain with a little toothpick” but that “every artistic person should keep striving to move into the new”.

Joe Camilleri, leader of ‘Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons’ and ‘Black Sorrows’, says that he started playing blues in the sixties without knowing it.

Over time he has noticed the development of a “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” attitude in audiences as attention spans have shrunk.

While every day might be a struggle, Camilleri’s final word probably speaks for most blues musicians: “I’m so happy that I got on this road”.

No doubt blues musicians and fans are just as happy that Pauline Bailey took to the portrait road as well.

Additional information

Weight 1.25 kg
Dimensions 25.5 × 18 × 25 cm


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