Watch A Teenage Stuart Fraser Perform With Blackfeather And Feather On Sounds Unlimited & Countdown In The ‘70s

Watch A Teenage Stuart Fraser Perform With Blackfeather And Feather On Sounds Unlimited & Countdown In The ‘70s

Posted 13 Dec 2019
stuart fraser, feather
Feather performing on 'Countdown' in 1977, via YouTube.

A decade before he helped form the chart-busting Noiseworks in 1986, ever-youthful guitarist Stuart Fraser, whose passing last week at the age of 58 prompted a considerable outpouring of grief in Australian music circles, was a school-aged guitar prodigy.

Stuart began his professional career in early 1976 at the age of 14 or 15, joining, together with his older brother Warwick, a late incarnation of iconic ‘70s group, Blackfeather. Blackfeather has one of the most convoluted histories in all of Australian rock: suffice to say that in 1976 the band was once again fronted by original vocalist Neale Johns, who’d left it three years earlier!

While this line-up of the band never made a record, Stuart did make his first TV appearance with them, performing the track “Fugitives” live on Donnie Sutherland’s much-loved Saturday morning program, Channel 7's, Sounds Unlimited.

“Fugitives” [1976, Sounds Unlimited] 

Johns had left the band again by the end of the year, and with replacement vocalist John Swan in tow, the group shortened its name to Feather and started gigging heavily. Swan was the older brother of Jimmy Barnes from the fast up and coming Cold Chisel, and a previous member of Adelaide’s Fraternity, who, in 1970, with Bon Scott on vocals, had had a national hit with Blackfeather’s “Seasons of Change” … making things even more convoluted. 

Feather was recorded live by the fledgling 2JJ radio station in May 1977. Their song “Free And Easy” appeared on the JJ live compilation Long Live the Evolution, alongside exclusive live recordings from AC/DC, Radio Birdman, Skyhooks, Dragon Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and others.

“Free And Easy” 

Signing to CBS, Feather toured nationally with TMG and released the single “Girl Trouble”. Stuart Fraser made his first Countdown appearance performing the song in 1977.

“Girl Trouble” [1977, Countdown] 

Feather subsequently folded. Neale Johns would be back to reclaim the Blackfeather name in ’78 and John Swan would become the nationally successful pub rocker, Swanee. Stuart joined popular Sydney pub blues band Cyril B. Bunter, before briefly turning up in Swanee in 1982. He then formed a band called The Change, with ex-pat New Zealand vocalist Jon Stevens, and then bass player Steve Balbi. His brother, Warwick Fraser eventually joined popular Sydney inner-city outfit The Screaming Tribesmen in 1986, the same year that The Change evolved into Noiseworks. The rest of that story is history.

In 1990, Stuart played guitar on “Everything You Like Tries To Kill You” by former Rose Tattoo slide guitarist Peter Wells. Following the demise of Noiseworks’ in 1992, Fraser became the guitarist for a new production and recording of Jesus Christ Superstar before starting a 25-year stint in John Farnham’s band. Along the way, he played with the likes of Tom Jones, Ray Charles, Boz Scaggs and the absolute cream of local names: Swanee’s younger brother Jimmy Barnes, Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri, Tommy Emmanuel, Diesel, Kylie Minogue and numerous others. 

Stuart Fraser died way too young, but he packed a lot of music into a career that spanned five of his six decades. To hear from the man himself, check out this excellent interview with Stuart on the Australian Guitar Channel from 2016.

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