In 1978, to experience The Cyril B. Bunter Band in their own natural habitat, the only place to be was The Welcome Inn, the first bar up from the docks at the dirty end of Sussex Street, Sydney. Known to the diehards as The Buncha. A fine stand-alone toilet-tile pub where the band could turn up and play LOUD, with no neighbours to complain.
For around five years from 1974, every Friday and Saturday, The Bunters, lit only by a couple of lights, would crank out set after set of visceral blues and boogie, always with the little front bar packed fit-to-bust. There was no stage, the band played on the floor hard up against the wall, eyeball-to-eyeball with the front row of fans just three feet away. Pretty it wasn’t. Raggy LaPells’ raw slide guitar wailed while Maybelline Broadbent walloped the bejeezus out of her Wurlitzer electric piano. Delivering his indecipherable gravelly vocals, Jake Grinder pounded his bass guitar while drummer Chester laid down slinky backbeat shuffles and greasy jump-swing grooves behind it all.
The regulars congregated from all points to be at The Buncha on the weekends – from Bondi, Botany and Blacktown, from Clovelly, Cronulla and Collaroy, Manly and Maroubra, and everyone just had a ball. No RBT, no sniffer dogs, not a poker machine to be seen. The only turntable was behind the bar, to provide break music between sets. No bouncers either – violence was rare, most folks were already mellow when they arrived. It was just about the music, loose and live, and the fans simply partied in that dank, glorious, stinking public bar until they’d got enough and staggered out happy. Then they’d climb into their seatbelt-free shitbox rustbucket Holdens and drive home.
The Bunters eventually spread their wings beyond their Surry Hills/Bondi roots, going on to become friends and touring partners with many greats. Between ‘77 and ‘85, they performed on endless roadshow tours – including three national tours opening for John Mayall’s BluesBreakers and four tours with Canned Heat. After becoming fast friends with the band during three tours together, George Thorogood recorded The Bunters’ song “Boogie People” as the title track of his 1985 album with The Destroyers.
Melbourne’s king of the blues, Dutch Tilders, travelled the deadly Hume and Pacific Highways with The Bunters playing behind him on many tours during the same period, and in between all this the band continuously traversed Australia fronting their own tours, making friends everywhere through their straight-up, full-tilt boogie and blues
In the 70s and 80s, The Bunters truly were a rite of passage for countless Sydney fans, and signified Good Times. And now in the 21st Century, they’ve brought back that Good Boogie