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 negotiated record deals with my songs, which were released worldwide. I still make music every day.
This is my story.
I come from Townsville. 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 local 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 visiting acts like Sherbet and John Paul Young.
In Brisbane, aged 17, I played the Ivan Dayman show band circuit for about nine months. 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; 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 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.