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From the Source

"Margie-Lou sings from a well so deep, where cold heartache swirls with white-hot joy, to be in her presence is to drown in the extremities of experience. I adore her. And feel privileged to go asunder."

Tim Rogers

"Margie Lou and her band, steeped in gut-bucket jazz and blues, draw fresh water from an old well. Her piano playing is raw, fiery, mournful, joyous. Ragged and right. I could listen to her dancing left hand all day and night. When she sings, pain turns to jubilation"

Paul Kelly

Spending a Sunday eve in Claypots dancing to the magical music of Allan, Margie Lou, Hayley and the band was easily one of the highlights of the many wonderful years I spent living in Melbourne. A seriously transporting experience: such amazing talent and an atmosphere like nothing I can describe. Incredibly treasured memories. Just waiting for the UK tour to be announced so that I can relive some of the magic back home! X

Helen Nodding

Testimonials & Reviews: Testimonials


MARGE LOU DYER (Jazz Pianist/Singer)

Article by Andra Jackson:

'Margie Lou Dyer was a baby when her father, legendary Australian jazzman Warwick “Wocka” Dyer died, yet he has guided her career path. Wocka Dyer played trombone and piano and sang and composed in Melbourne’s famous Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders before he died in a car accident while returning from a performance in Nagambie in 1955. He left behind a wife, an 18-month-old daughter, and a trove of his recordings.

His daughter grew up listening to them. “I think mum wanted me to know about my father and this was a great way, apart from all the photos,” she says.

Now a singer and pianist herself, Dyer says “at six, you don’t understand really when a person is dead, especially when you hear a parent’s voice coming through the radiogram. I used to think he was in there.” Her father also left a collection of 600 records of black American jazz artists that her mother Peggy played in their Highett home. Dyer would fall asleep as the bluesy voice of American early jazz singer Bessie Smith or the blues/ragtime piano playing of New Orleans’ Jelly Roll Morton filtered through to her room. Her mother also kept her connection with Melbourne’s jazz fraternity, holding American-style “rent” parties with live music.

Decades later, the petite Dyer is virtually the only female musician in Melbourne playing blues-tinged early jazz and New Orleans jazz. Her CD, Allfrey Street, is a homage to trumpeter Bob Barnard’s band, the Allfrey Street Stompers, which included her father.

She is performing in this year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival and holds down two gigs a week at St Kilda’s Claypots – Sunday nights with the Margie Lou Dyer Quartet with her husband, drummer Allan Browne, and Wednesday nights playing solo piano. She also fronts her own gospel group that includes Stella, one of her two daughters.

“St Kilda’s Claypots is just perfect for what I play,” she says. “The audience get it. It is a different understanding and a lot of the musicians who come [to listen] are rock players and blues musicians like Paul Kelly, who comes to our gigs.” Sometimes daughter Hayley sits in on drums, to audience acclaim.

At her home in Malvern, Dyer describes an upbringing that provided a window into Melbourne’s early jazz history.

“Billy Kyle, who was the pianist for Louis Armstrong, had become very fond of us.

"The band came here often and mum and dad used to entertain the Louis Armstrong band. He used to write to mum and ask, ‘When is Margie Lou going to learn piano?’ ”

She remembers farewelling Armstrong at Essendon airport. He impressed her as “very quiet and extraordinarily dignified” compared with his musicians who were “full-on ragers”.

Other visitors to her childhood home included the Frank Johnson band, trombonists Roger Janes and Dave Rankin, drummer Len Barnard, singers Judy Jacques and Margret RoadKnight and a pianist known as “The Tortoise”.

At eight she began classical piano lessons. Roger Janes taught her Apex Blues. “It sent me crazy. I loved it,” she recalls. “I used to practise the blues in between the little Mozart exercises.” Her classical teacher would catch her out, remarking: “You’ve been playing jazz again”.

Dyer joined her first band while at the University of Melbourne, where she was on a teacher studentship, and went on to play with groups such as the Nick Politis Band.

A turning point came when she was urged to sing. Dyer’s range is mezzo soprano and she produces gravelly vocals that suit the style of the music she plays. She took opera lessons to develop her vocal control.

By the late ’70s she was playing with the popular Krazy Kats, which had a weekend residency at the Middle Park Hotel. Among the band’s regular listeners was former Red Onion Jazz Band drummer Allan Browne, who eventually asked to sit in with the group.

For Dyer there was a synchronicity to their meeting. “I remembered him,” she says.

“The Red Onions used to play where dad [previously] played at the Royal Terminus Hotel at Brighton Beach. Mum used to take me there and I’d sit on the floor. I was about nine then and Allan was about 20.’’

They married in 1983.

In 2000, Browne had a lung transplant and needs regular hospital visits for immune system treatments. Occasionally he uses a portable oxygen device when playing but is using it less now, Dyer says.

True to their lifelong callings, the pair communicate through music when performing – Dyer worries if he doesn’t want to take a solo. “I know he is not doing so well. And when he takes a really high-energy solo, I’m really happy because I know [the hospital treatment] is working." '

In 2015 when Allan Browne tragically passed away: Margie Lou continued at Claypots (St. Kilda) every Sunday with her quintet - Replacing Allan on drums with their daughter Hayley Miro (washboard). Margie also began playing an acoustic solo gig each Saturday night at Claypots in South Melbourne.

Margie Lou is still playing at Claypots Evening Star - South Melbourne, Saturday nights 7-9pm solo

Testimonials & Reviews: Reviews
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