Walk Don’t Run With Russell Morris & The Rubes

Walk Don’t Run With Russell Morris & The Rubes

russell morris
Russell Morris (Photo: single artwork)

Melbourne great Russell Morris, who’s back on the charts with his new album Black and Blue Heart, is amid at least his fourth chart run in a career that has now spanned well over 50 years. 

First, it was up front of the group Somebody’s Image, a popular mid-60s club band whose Molly Meldrum produced cover of Joe South’s “Hush” first took Russell to the charts in 1967. Then it was the early solo years – which begun with a band with the most famous of Meldrum productions, and one of the most iconic Australian singles “The Real Thing”, in 1969, and continued with classic early 70s singles like “Rachael” and “The Wings of an Eagle” and the landmark progressive country-rock album Bloodstone in 1971. The somewhat forgotten and softer-rock  New York recorded Russell Morris, which also cracked the Top 20 in 1975, was probably the end of the first phase of Russell’s solo career, precipitating as it did the end of his unsuccessful attempt to crack the American market. Then came the phase we look at here, when Russell, like his 1960s contemporaries including Jim Keays, Ross Wilson, Mike Rudd, and Jeff St John, realised the way to an Australian audience was through its beer. 

The Russell Morris Band, which hit the pub circuit and was signed to Mushroom by early 1979, was a tight and energetic outfit whose music stands up well against a range of late 70s/early 80s pub contemporaries, from Dragon and early Mondo Rock to Cold Chisel and Australian Crawl. Their first single “Thunderground” was an energetic rocker that perhaps surprisingly didn’t crack the Top 40, although it clearly must’ve gone down well live. Check out this ripping live performance at the  Hell’s Angels-run Broadford Festival in 1979.

With an all-star line-up settling around former Stars bass-player Graeme Thompson, former Taste guitarist joey Armenta and future Mondo Rock and Rockwiz keyboard player James Black, the Russell Morris Band followed up with the album; Foot in the Door, and the single “Hot Love”, both of which kept things concise and punchy but also maybe suggested that Russell still had the American charts on his mind.

The album stalled before achieving any significant success, and by mid-1980 the band had run its course. With a new line-up and a new name – Russell Morris & The Rubes – Russell decided to go back to the beginning to start anew and released a tough new version of his first hit with Somebody’s Image, “Hush”, to kick the new decade into gear.

The fine album Almost Frantic followed in February 1981. Featuring the catchy but perhaps too-oddly-titled-for-radio single “The Roar of the Wild Torpedoes” and another shoulda-been hit “Walk Don’t Run”, it reached #28 on the national album chart but deserved more.

With the band’s straight-ahead rock starting to sound somewhat out of date amidst the New Wave-influenced sounds of the era, Russell & the Rubes recorded one more single in 1982, having already decided they’d call it a day if it wasn’t a hit. “Get it Right” unfortunately didn’t bother the charts.

Russell played out the decade with various line-ups and then released a Mark Moffatt-produced solo album A Thousand Suns,  again for Mushroom, in 1991. In 1996 he teamed up with old mates Darryl Cotton and Ronnie Burns; Ronnie left in 2000 to be replaced by Jim Keays, and, as Cotton, Keays & Morris, the trio enjoyed great success on the club circuit until Darryl’s passing in 2012. For some of that time, Russell also worked successfully (and recorded) in a duo format with another old mate Brian Cadd. In 2007 he again recorded for Michael Gudinski; the collection of acoustic reworkings of his old classics, Fundamentalist, perhaps setting the stage for the acoustic blues-based set Sharkmouth which prompted Russell’s unprecedented career revival in 2012. 

Listen to Russell Morris on Spotify

Listen to Russell Morris on Apple Music

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