A self taught musician, playing the banjo, recorder and 12 string guitar, Keith Potger started out in the music business as a radio producer, then performed with the Trinamics and the Escorts. The Escorts was a four-piece group (Keith Potger, Athol Guy, Ken Ray and Bob Turnbull). With the change of just one member (Bruce Woodley replaced Bob Turnbull) the Equals became The Seekers. In 1962 after vocalist Ken Ray had left the group to get married, Judith Durham was brought in as a replacement.
To begin with The Seekers sang together whilst also holding down day jobs. Judith Durham and Athol Guy both worked for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. Bruce Woodley worked for a rival firm, Clemengers, and Keith Potger worked as a radio producer for ABC. Potger's job gave him access to a recording studio. During their lunch hours and at weekends The Seekers used an ABC studio to put down some demo tapes (years later these were released on the Philips label as The Seekers' Golden Collection). In the evenings they performed at venues in Melbourne such as the Treble Clef and Rob's Carousel Restaurant. Meanwhile Judith Durham was also making a name for herself as a jazz vocalist.
In 1963 The Seekers were offered a contract by W&G Records to record their first album (Judith Durham was also offered a separate contract to record an EP). The album, aptly titled Introducing the Seekers, consisted of re-recorded versions of the group's demo songs plus popular numbers from The Seekers' live act. Keith Potger could not be pictured on the album sleeve as ABC employees were not allowed to have a second job. Ken Ray was therefore brought back to take Keith's place at the photo session. By the time the LP was released by Decca in the UK with the amended title The Seekers, the problem no longer existed and Keith was featured on the cover.
W&G also released a single, Waltzing Matilda, which was not included on the album and which was billed as The Seekers featuring Judy Durham. The single became a minor hit, entering the lower reaches of the Australian Top 100. Both the single and the album brought The Seekers more media attention and, as the offers of work began to pour in, the foursome gave up their day jobs and turned professional.
The Seekers set sail for the UK on 28th March 1964, arriving in Southampton aboard the SS Fairsky on 21st May. The trip had originally been intended as something of a holiday but The Seekers very quickly found themselves in demand. The night after their arrival they appeared on the BBC television programme The Tonight Show. Less than a fortnight later they were supporting Freddie and the Dreamers for six nights at the Queen's Theatre, Blackpool. By the end of that week The Seekers had also been asked to fill a gap on the bill for a Sunday night charity show at the Blackpool Opera House starring Dusty Springfield.
The Seekers had originally intended to return to Australia on 30th July but their appearance at the Blackpool Opera House brought them to the attention of the UK media. With glowing press reviews and regular club bookings coming in they opted to stay on in England.
In 1964 The Seekers recorded two albums for the World Record Club, The Seekers and Hide and Seekers, before forming a partnership with Tom Springfield, whose song-writing talents soon took them to the top of the charts. On 4th November The Seekers went into EMI's Abbey Road Studios with Springfield to record a song he'd written specially for them, I'll Never Find Another You. The song, which Judith Durham described as "slightly old-fashioned" and "a bit square", was released as a single by EMI on their Columbia label on 4th December. It entered the UK singles chart on 7th January 1965 and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Seekers had six Top 10 hits in the UK, five of which were written by Springfield. These included two number 1s - I'll Never Find Another You, which topped the charts on 25th February 1965 and The Carnival Is Over, which knocked the Rolling Stones off the number 1 spot in November the same year. Aside from Springfield's compositions, The Seekers also gave Paul Simon his first UK hit with their recording of Someday, One Day (a UK number 11 in 1966).
At the height of The Seekers' popularity Keith Potger married the British swimmer Pamela Powley. Their wedding, which was attended by the other Seekers, was held at St. Michael's of All Angels Church in Sopley on 22nd January 1966. Athol Guy was Potger's Best Man.
Although The Seekers had a wholesome image, the group ran into trouble in October 1966. Having performed shows in South Africa and Rhodesia, The Seekers arrived in Nairobi to find that their work permits had been rescinded by the Kenyan government and their shows cancelled.
At the end of 1967 The Seekers recorded a single titled Emerald City. Credited to songwriters Kim Fowley and John Martin, it was in fact a Keith Potger composition. Potger had used the name John Martin so that the other members of the group didn't feel obliged to record the song. The record spent only one week on the chart and peaked at number 50. It was The Seekers' last chart single.
The Seekers went their separate ways in 1968. The following year Keith put together a new group - the New Seekers. At first he performed with the group but soon slipped into a management role, guiding the group to international success which surpassed even that of the original Seekers. When he introduced the group in concert Marty Kristian told it this way:
"A lot of people have asked us why we were called the New Seekers ... When the original Seekers broke up there was a gap in the market for that type of music and Keith Potger, the founder member, decided that he wanted to keep performing. So he decided to get a backing group ... When he'd had his fill of performing he decided that he'd use his backing group, and sort of 'use' them to exploit them. And this is the result."
(Live at Chuck's Cellar)
Keith produced the New Seekers' first album and co-wrote three songs for two of their subsequent albums - Alright My Love and Evenings Make Me Blue (both of which appeared on their second album Keith Potger & the New Seekers) and Sing Hallelujah (which appeared on the New Seekers' Farewell Album and was also released as their last single for Polydor in 1974).
The back cover of the album
Keith Potger & the New Seekers
featuring Keith Potger (top) and (from left to right)
Paul Layton, Lyn Paul, Eve Graham, Peter Doyle and Marty Kristian.
More important than his writing and producing was Keith's role in selecting songs and arranging them for five-part harmony. Lyn Paul described how he went about this on the sleeve notes of a Readers' Digest compilation LP:
"The New Seekers always tried to find a variety of good new songs to keep the act fresh ... The efforts of Keith Potger were very important to us in this respect. For example, when we had a recording session coming up and the new material had been selected, Keith would call a rehearsal, which would always start at 10.00am (or as soon as we got there) and we would all sit in a circle around him, while he played our parts to us individually on the guitar.
At first it was very difficult and took a long time to remember the harmonies until everybody was ready to sing them together. But gradually, with Keith's patience, we began to get used to it and the new routines were learned quickly ..."
(The Best of the New Seekers, Disc 4: Singalong)
In 1972, while the New Seekers enjoyed the international success of their monster hit I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, Keith Potger became involved in another musical project, arranging and co-producing (with John Pantry) an album for Springfield Revival (Polydor 2383 150). The album included two traditional songs from The Seekers' repertoire, Cottonfields and Gypsy Rover, as well as You'll Always Be On My Mind, a song co-written by Keith with John Pantry, which was chosen as the group's début single. Springfield Revival traded on memories of the original Springfields. The trio (Donna Jones, Mick Flinn and Ray Martin) released a second album in 1973 which included a cover version of Silver Threads And Golden Needles, a US hit for the Springfields in 1962. Despite numerous television appearances in the UK and two world tours with the Osmonds, Springfield Revival failed to make the charts and split up in 1975
That same year Keith Potger and two of the original Seekers (Athol Guy and Bruce Woodley) got together again as the Seekers '75 - this time without Judith Durham. Her place in the group was taken by teenager Louisa Wisseling, the daughter of Dutch Immigrants living in Rosebud, Victoria. This line-up of The Seekers stayed together for just two years, recording two albums together and scoring a number 1 hit in Australia with The Sparrow Song.
In 1980 The Seekers were back again but with a line-up which made them barely recognisable as the hit group from the '60s. Keith Potger was the only surviving member from the original line-up. He was joined by Buddy England, Peter Robinson and Cheryl Webb.
As the 1980s drew to a close Keith Potger, Athol Guy and Bruce Woodley were once again reunited as The Seekers. They recruited Julie Anthony and then Karen Knowles as their lead vocalist.
In 1993 Judith Durham returned to the group for a sell-out 25th anniversary tour of Australia and New Zealand. To coincide with the tour EMI Australia released a Silver Jubilee Album, featuring twenty-three songs from the original Seekers' back catalogue and two newly recorded songs - One World Love and Keep A Dream In Your Pocket. The latter was also released as a single.
The following year the Silver Jubilee Album was repackaged for the UK market and released as A Carnival Of Hits. The Seekers came over to Britain in mid-March to promote the album and, on 14th and 15th April 1994, performed two shows at London's Royal Albert Hall, a venue they had not played in their hey day. Following the success of these shows, both of which sold out within hours, The Seekers returned to the UK for a short concert tour in March 1995. The tour kicked off at the Sheffield Arena on 23rd March, followed by shows at the Birmingham NEC, Wembley Arena, Cardiff CIA and the Brighton Centre.
In 1997 The Seekers recorded Future Road, their first studio album for thirty years. Released in October, it featured four of Keith Potger's songs - The Circle Of Love, Forever Isn't Love Enough (For Me), Guardian Angel / Guiding Light and the title-track Future Road. The songs from the album were featured on The Seekers' 30th Year Anniversary tour of Australia and New Zealand the following year.
In 2000 The Seekers announced that they would wave the world goodbye on an international tour, billed as the Carnival Of Hits 2000. The tour started on 18th February and took the group across New Zealand and Australia and then on to the UK in May for concerts in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester. The carnival was finally over - or so it seemed. Three years later, in March 2003, The Seekers were back on the road again on the aptly named Never Say Never Again tour of Australia.
Shortly before this Keith had suffered the singer's nightmare of losing his voice, but with the help of a speech therapist he was able to sing again in time for the tour. Afterwards, his experience prompted a return to the recording studio, lest something similar should happen again. As Keith described it:
"In August 2003 I booked the recording studio for a few weeks to put down some basic versions of songs I had written during the past decade. I guess there must have been some extra inspiration in that studio because before I knew it the rough tracks had become polished tracks. The original idea of putting down thirteen songs was expanded to nineteen and I felt like I was singing better than ever." (Quoted from the Judith Durham website)
The result was a CD Secrets Of The Heart, released in 2005.
On 3rd December 2005, while on a visit to the UK, Keith Potger gave a one-off concert at Dinton Village Hall, Dinton, near Salisbury, to help raise funds for small villages in rural areas. In 2007, following his marriage on 18th November 2006 to actress Nicki Paull, Keith returned to the UK for some more solo dates and a reunion concert with the New Seekers at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon.
Wednesday, 7th February - Willows Folk Club, Arundel
Saturday, 10th February - Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham
Saturday, 17th February - Valentines Folk Festival, Birmingham North
Saturday, 3rd March - The Centenary Centre, Isle of Man
Tuesday, 6th March - The Processed Pea, Beverley
Wednesday, 14th March - Hexagon Theatre, Middlesborough
Thursday, 15th March - Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Hall, Croydon
Saturday, 17th March - Red Lion Hotel, Chumleigh, Devon
Saturday, 24th March - Eype Centre for the Arts, Dorchester
2007 also saw the release of a second solo album, Sunday, which included six songs written with the Australian film producer, screenplay and lyric writer Frank Howson.
A third solo album, Smile Now, followed in 2010, To mark the launch of the CD at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, a Festival Limited Edtition was made available, featuring a bonus live recording of Nasal Twang, "one of Keith's humorous takes on the world of Country music and those who pretend they were born within the sound of Nashville pedal steel guitars."
On 16th November 2012, to mark the 50th anniversary of Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley first singing together as The Seekers, EMI released The Seekers: The Golden Jubilee Album. Among the 50 tracks on the double CD were two new recordings, Silver Threads and Golden Needles and In My Life, both recorded in mid-2012.
Later it was announced that The Seekers would embark on a Golden Jubilee Tour of Australia in 2013. The tour began on Wednesday, 1st May with a concert at the Convention Centre, Brisbane, followed by dates in Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle. On 14th May, however, the tour was brought to a premature halt when singer Judith Durham was taken ill after a concert at Melbourne's Hamer Hall. Diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, Judith spent three months in rehabilitation at Melbourne's Epworth Hospital. In September she was given the all-clear to resume work and The Seekers completed the tour.
2nd-3rd November, Riverside Theatre, Perth
7th-8th November, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
11-12th November, AEC Theatre, Adelaide
15th November, State Theatre, Sydney
19th November, Entertainment Centre, Wollongong
23rd November, Derwent Entertainment Centre, Hobart
25th November, Princess Theatre, Launceston
28th November, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
2nd December, Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
4th December, Brisbane, Convention Centre, Brisbane.
In 2014 Keith Potger teamed up with Frank Ifield for a short tour of New South Wales and Victoria. Titled When Aussies Ruled Britannia, the shows featured Frank and Keith presenting stories and songs from the era when they were top of the pop charts across the world. Frank told the stories behind all of his hits, which were sung by Wayne Horsburgh, while Keith, who was partnered by Nicki Gillis, performed hits by The Seekers and the New Seekers.
17th January, Dame Joan Sutherland PAC, Penrith,
20th and 23rd January, Capitol Theatre, Tamworth,
24th January, Q Theatre, Queanbeyan,
25th January, Wollongong Town Hall,
29th January, Westside Performing Arts Centre, Mooroopna,
30th January, Royal Theatre, Castlemaine,
1st February (2 Shows), Drama Theatre, Geelong.
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