Zoot was a pop/rock band that formed in Adelaide, South Australia in 1965 as Down the Line. They changed their name to Zoot in 1967 and by 1968 had relocated to Melbourne. They had a top five hit on the Go-Set national singles chart with a heavy rock cover of The Beatles' ballad "Eleanor Rigby" released in 1970; but they disbanded in May 1971.
Mainstay bass guitarist, Beeb Birtles, was later a founder of Little River Band in 1975 and guitarist singer-songwriter, Rick Springfield, who moved to the United States in 1972, achieved international fame as a solo artist, songwriter and actor.
Zoot reunited for the Rick Springfield and Friends cruise in November 2011.
Early years[edit | edit source]
Plympton High School mates John D'Arcy on guitars and vocals, and Gerard Bertlekamp (later known as Beeb Birtles) initially on lead guitar and vocals formed Times Unlimited in Adelaide, South Australia with drummer Ted Higgins and a bass guitarist in 1964. Birtles moved to bass guitar and they were joined by Darryl Cotton, lead vocalist from local rivals, The Murmen. The new group of Birtles, Cotton, D'Arcy and Higgins formed in 1965, and were named Down the Line from The Hollies version of Roy Orbison's "Go Go Go (Down the Line)". Soon Gordon Rawson, an ex-school mate of Birtles, briefly joined on rhythm guitar.
Down the Line performed covers of English Mod groups: The Hollies, The Move, The Who and The Small Faces in many clubs and discos around Adelaide, gradually gathering a following. They sometimes backed Bev Harrell, a then popular singer, who was managed by Darryl Sambell. By May 1967, Sambell also managed rising singer, Johnny Farnham, and used Down the Line as session musicians on demo recordings which secured Farnham a contract with EMI Records. One of these was "In My Room", written by Farnham, which became the B-side of his debut single, "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)" released in November. After recording with Farnham, Down the Line were approached by Adelaide-based musician, Doc Neeson, who was interested in band management and suggested:
Y'know, you should change the name to something short and punchy like Zoot.
—Doc Neeson, mid-1967.
They liked the name but did not sign with Neeson, who formed pub rock band The Angels in 1970. Zoot were playing some original material in their set and by early 1968 D'Arcy was replaced on guitar by Steve Stone. D'Arcy was later a member of Alison Gros alongside Graeham Goble (Mississippi). Other Adelaide bands, The Twilights and The Masters Apprentices, inspired Zoot to tackle the national market, so in mid-1968, Zoot relocated to Melbourne. Prior to the move, they had entered the South Australian heats of Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds, finishing second in a tense contest to The Masters Apprentices (eventually second nationally to The Groove).