I was in my room after lunch when I heard Yem’s voice calling me from afar. It was unusual for Yem to be calling me like this for he could just enter my room without any hassle and this time his voice was more urgent. As I walked to the door, Yem was already at the front stairs of the house and he was panting.
“What’s the problem?” I asked Yem with curiosity.
“One of the organizers for the talent time show came to see me, and he wants our band to be the guest band”, explained Yem while still panting and trying to recover, “and I have accepted it”, he continued.
“No, you can’t do that. Ungku Tik is not with us anymore. He had left Muar for Johor Bahru. Furthermore the talent time is just three days away, I don’t think we can do it” I answered.
Ungku Safian or popularly known as Ungku Tik was our lead guitarist in a band we formed and named as The Kool Kats a year ago. I was the bass guitarist and Yem played the drums while Hamzah Bachik the rhythm. It was about two months ago when I was with Tik and while having our teh cangkung at the Padang Muar Club, he had told me that he had decided to leave for Johor Bahru for good. Ungku Tik and me had been very close since our childhood days and we treated each other as first cousins although technically he was my uncle. I knew him as early as I was five or six years old and we would always meet at our grandma’s house in Parit Bakar. On every first day of Hari Raya, Tik and his family would be the first to be at our dinning table together with his younger brother Ungku Fadil and his small sister Ungku Arfah. His mother was grandma’s younger sister and they were very close.
“I have accepted it, sorry Din we have to perform, I promise them”, Yem said while pleading with me.
“That would be a problem, who’s going to play the lead guitar and you know Hamzah will not play without Ungku Tik”, I answered.
As we were discussing, Halim arrived and joined us but he was never a musician and would not be of any help. Yem told us that the organizers would pay us one hundred dollars for four songs and that’s big money for less than half an hour show. Since Ungku Tik left, we had disbanded the group and I was already playing part time for the Dreamers. Last year we entered a talent time complete with our dancers but we didn’t make it and played ocassionaly at some other functions. Some of our instruments were rented and it would be costly if we had to rent it this time and in the end we would not make a single cent. However, before we could even think of renting the instruments, we need to identify the players and who would that be?
“Lets rope in Razak Kuda, he’s quite good with the bass guitar and we can ask Guna to play the rhythm while you take the lead”, suggested Yem and Halim agreed and he even suggested that we get Sahak Doktor to sing. Guna was once playing for the Hells’ Angels but we could not ascertain whether he could play with us for just four songs. In any case, we need to talk to Guna first and so the three of us cycled to his house which was situated quite near the SABGS. He was an Indian lad, quite tall and good looking. When we reached the house, Guna was at the stairs playing his acoustic guitar. He looked at us amazed and stood up.
“Guna, jumpa sekejap,” I shouted at him as we all parked our bicycles.
“Kenapa?” asked Guna egar to find out what seemed to be the problem.
“Kita nak main dekat talent time show jadi guest band, kau boleh main rhythm tak?” I asked.
“Tak bolehlah, bapak aku marahlah, mak aku pun marah. Kau tau lah aku Form Three dah lah tak pass. Ni kalau bapak aku tau, mampus aku,” asnwered Guna in perfect Malay. “Cuba kau tanya Atan White Devil, budak dia boleh main rhythm”, continued Guna.
“OK lah, nanti aku tanya dia”, I answered quite disappointed after hearing Guna’s explanation.
Before we left to look for Atan White Devil, I asked Halim to look for Razak Kuda to find out whether he would be available for the talent time while Yem and I would cycle to Atan’s house. We had to cycle to the very end of Jalan Abdul Rahman after the Junction between Jalan Joned and Jalan Sultan Ibrahim. It was a clear day although the rainy season was still in its midst. Most talent time shows were organized during the school holidays and this December it would be held at the Diamond Jubilee Hall, the last month of 1966.
Later in the evening, as we were sitting on the stairs of Yem’s house, Halim came with a bad news. Razak would not be able to perform as he would be leaving for Port Dickson the very day of the show. He was a good bass guitarist and now we had a serious problem. Earlier we were lucky when Atan’s boy had agreed to perform with us as a rhythmist. Then I thought of an idea and that was to switch players. I would play the lead guitar, Atan’s boy the bass guitar and Yem had no choice but to play the ryhthm guitar, for the drums I suggested Jaafar Beatles. We all agreed and Yem cycled immediately to Jaafar’s house to send the message and we’d better pray that he would be available.
Minutes later Yem came back smilingly which of course bringing with him the good news.
“Ok good, we will play four songs. Our opening song will be ‘Geronimo’ of the Shadows, then we get Sahak Doktor to sing ‘Don’t Play That Song’ by Keith Loke, the third song is ‘Gee Whiz Its You’ of Cliff Richard and the last will be the instrumental number of ‘Walk Don’t Run’. All of us agreed. Then I instructed that everyone meet here at Yem’s house first thing tomorrow morning to begin our practising. In the meantime, I told Yem to look for the organizers and to inform them that we could only perform but they had to supply us with the instruments otherwise no deal.
The next morning I brought my acoustic guitar while cycling and when I reached Yem’s house Sahak Doktor and Jaafar Beatles were already seated at the stairs but Atan’s boy was not at sight. I supervised the arrangements and to make sure all chords to be used in each song was correct. We had no drums to practice and so I told Yem to get some pillows and Jaafar Beatles to look for two sticks. The pillows were then tied together and placed a cardboard on top so that it could produce the sound that of a drum. We practiced from morning till evening but Atan’s boy was still missing.
Yem’s mother, Mak Mas whom we called ‘Mother Gold’ prepared lunch for us and her asam pedas was truly good. She treated me and Halim like her own and was always good to both of us. Whenever I slept at her house, she would always prepare for me breakfast and her favourite dish for breakfast was ‘tepong goreng’ with her own made sauce.
The next day we practiced again and by evening we had satisfied ourself and were ready for tomorrow. “What happen to Atan’s boy?” I asked Yem. “We can’t perform without the bassist”, I continued. This caused great concern for us and so that evening together with Yem, we cycled to his house. Apparently he was suffering from diarrhoea and could not inform me but he assured us of his presence tomorrow evening. The chords of the four songs are not too difficult and as a bassist, all he needs to know is the correct arrangement and his fingers can follow the chord base. Furthemore he understood all the four songs we were going to perform.
That evening arrived. All of us were at the Diamond Jubilee by 7pm and by 7.30pm almost half of the hall was full. The stage was half-filled with instruments, from Farfisa, Fenders, Gibsons and even Hofners. Two drum sets were placed at each corner and one Farfisa organ. We looked for the organizers to determine which instruments to use, then suddenly I saw Mat Atan the lead guitarist of The Strangers of the ‘Cicin Emas’ fame. He came all along from Johor Bahru with his band to perform also as a guest band. I knew Mat Atan when we recorded four songs at one Singapore studio about four months earlier. I approached him whether we could use his band’s instruments which he gladly allowed. That settled all our problems.
The Diamond Jubilee is situated along Jalan Sultan Ibrahim, quite near the house of the famous Muar family of Mat Cowboy. Apparently his neighbour was Mohammad Shariff and so we all called this area as the cowboy area, with Mat cowboy and his neighbour the Sheriff family.
At the back of the stage, the contestants were all ready to show off their talents. It was in this show that Awang sang the song ‘Yours’ that eventually earned him the title of Awang Yours. Yem Smart came with Jalil Selekeh (untidy), Man Jolly and his brother Mat Hj.Bakhil (extremely stingy) were also in the hall, Bakar Gagap and his brother Abu Juling (now Tan Sri) were seen outside the hall and many more notable Muarians. The girls too came with their colourful skirts. Shaukat the daughter of the Menteri Besar was seen seating at the front row together with her sister Nabiha, Midah Mata Sepet surely made her presence felt and many more Muarian girls.
The show began with a bang and everyone was excited. The accompanying band consisted of various guitarists each with their own unique style. One singer sang an Elvis number but half way he forgot the words and just sang along confidently with ‘La la la’. There was one singer who could not even start to sing the first line as he was suffering from speech impediment and the band had to play several times until he managed to begin the first word while the audience kept laughing. Another singer had the wordings written on the palm of his hand and while singing he kept looking at his palm. When all the singers had done their duties, it was time for us to exhibit our talents.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present to you tonight our first guest band, our local talents “The Kool Kats” from Muar. The song ‘Geronimo’ began to fill the air.
From left to right: Me playing the lead guitar, Atan’s boy with the bass guitar, Jaafar Beatles at the drums, Yem playing the rhythm guitar and Sahak Doktor singing ‘Don’t Play That Song’.
While playing the first song ‘Geronimo’, the drum seat was broken and from then on, Jaafar Beatles had to play the drums while standing. If you notice the picture above, Jaafar was standing behind the drum sets.
When we finished the last song ‘Walk Don’t Run’, the whole audience gave us a thunderous applause and we were so happy. We made it, in spite of the many problems we encountered earlier, we managed to satisfy the audience. At the back stage, Mat Atan told me that I should just be the lead guitarist instead of playing the bass guitar but somehow I still perfer playing the bass. The organizers were satisfied with our performance and thanked us for our efforts.
That was the last time I performed on stage in a small town called Muar.