I began my professional career at the age of 16. I started out playing drums. I’ve played with Jaco Pastorius; Tommy Emmanuel; Seals & Crofts; and America. I’ve written songs; and got record deals which were released worldwide. All these years later, I still make music every day.
I began playing drums when I was 12, encouraged by my brother Brian, who at 15, sang and played guitar in his own band. Brian needed a drummer, so he gave me a pair of sticks. After wrecking my parent’s lounge playing along to The Beatles and Deep Purple, my mother let me buy a drum set at auction. My father, Sir George Kneipp, was not entirely pleased, but my parents always supported my music.
I played drums for Brian and other Townsville bands, including “Island” with Sydney guitarist Chris Raggatt and Russell Hanley (who later played keyboards in Popular Mechanics and co-founded Countdown Magazine) I was usually mistaken for someone’s kid brother when sharing stages with touring acts like Sherbet and John Paul Young.
In Brisbane, I played the Ivan Dayman show band circuit for about nine months. Then I headed to Sydney, where fellow Queenslander Steve Hopes looked after me with room, board and work – including filling in for him at the Texas Tavern in Kings Cross with Nev Nicholls and the Country Playboys. Here I met Phil and Tommy Emmanuel; bassist Ian Belton and a lot of other Sydney musicians. The pay was average and the tax severe; we had a phantom member to help with this – we split his money and he never seemed to mind.
Leon was well known in Sydney, as a composer and piano virtuoso. He led a heavyweight band every weekend at The Musicians Club. The lineup included Rex Goh on guitar, Phil Scorgie on bass and Rex Bullen on keyboards. It was a baptism by fire. There was a lot of talent playing the “Muso’s Club” – including Barry Leef; Crossfire; and Moving Pictures.
Leon’s music was mostly fusion. I then became interested in jazz; and around this time I studied at the NSW Conservatorium of Music with Don Burrows. My classmates included James Morrison and Dale Barlow.
After spending time in the USA – first in L.A. and then playing at the Worlds Fair in New Orleans, I came home interested in producing and writing. I had support from publisher Chris Gilbey and with singer Chris Moy, we got a record deal with Festival Records and released a single “Dreamland”.
While playing gigs and teaching at Australian Institute of Music I built a recording studio, with Rex Goh and Tim Ryan. I wrote and recorded a lot of music there; and negotiated a record deal for The Robertson Brothers with BMG. I wrote their first single “I Know Why” which reached #47 on the Australian charts. I also toured Germany with them, playing support for America, doing publicity for the album ‘Symmetry’, which was produced by Barry Beckett in Nashville. This album featured Dann Huff on guitar and four of my songs. I had some chart success in Israel, Singapore and Europe.
Some of the music I have been a part of:
Leon Berger; Barry Leef; Marcia Hines; Sharon O’Neil; Jeff St John; Rick Price; Erol Buddle; Seals & Crofts; Ricky May; Sister Janet Mead; Reg Livermore; The Robertson Brothers; Tim Finn; Marc Hunter; the musicals Barnum; Chess; Blood Brothers with Russel Crowe and Chrissie Amphlett; Are You Lonesome Tonight with Martin Shaw ; Danny La Rue; TV shows : Play School; Countdown (4 times); Late Night With Jonno and Danno and Have a Go.
As a result of various accidents – with motorcycles, bicycles and skiing, I had spinal surgery in 2004 and this led to fairly long break from live gigs. Thanks to the surgery – performed by neurosurgeon Lali Sekhon, I have made a good recovery.
I now spend most days in my studio, but I enjoy playing with Sydney’s own “Steely Dan Appreciation Society” – The Kites. Although lots of fun, this is an extremely challenging repertoire and it keeps me on my toes.
Most recently I formed a duo with my wife Danielle, who is a musician, singer and one half of Rock Farm Road. We have one album together and another in progress.