Vale Wendy Saddington
(1949 – 2013)
There might be some debate about who was the ‘Queen” of Australian music from it’s halcyon days in the late 1960’s, through to the 1980’s. In my mind there is no debate – it was Wendy Saddington.
It is with a heavy heart and a profound sense of loss that we farewell the ‘Diva of the Blues’. This was not to say that Wendy did not master a plethora of styles including Soul and Jazz, because she did, and she was known to belt of some hot reggae as well.
She started singing back in 1967 in a Melbourne band called Revolution, before fronting the well-known Adelaide based band, James Taylor Move. Her meteoric rise can be tracked through her fronting such iconic and fantastic bands as Chain, and although not having any hits with that group, she certainly established her credentials as a leading female singer, and I for one remember her clearly from her appearances in the just as iconic Melbourne disco/club, the Thumping Tum.
By the early 1970’s she was co-lead singer with Jeff St John in Copperwine.
Wendy and Jeff
In January 1971 with St John missing, Wendy took the lead in the band when they played at the Wallacia festival in New South Wales. A live recording of the group there resulted in the album “Wendy Saddington and Copperwine”.
In 1973 she won the part of the nurse in the live performance of the Rock Opera, Tommy. Then she took a marked change of direction. Wendy had her demons and on the outside appeared to have dealt with them. In one famous interview she confronted her critics of the advice she was giving teens in a magazine she was writing for, by declaring, “Some people can’t face reality.”
So when she joined the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” in the early 1970’s and her career faltered, once again the critics were quick to jump on her. Wendy with the Krishna’s
She answered them, and did it in the usual Wendy Saddington style, when in the early 1980’s she formed the “Wendy Saddington band”, with such musical greats as Harvey James, Chris Sweeny and Bobby Gebert. But for me, it was the Mark II version of this band where she 'clobbered' her critics. Supporting her were she was really highly acclaimed musicians and with their backing, a change of musical direction. With Mick Liber (ex-Python Lee Jackson) on guitar, female Bass guitar maestro Angelica Booth, Rose Bygrave on organ, Javier Fredis on Congas, and, top drummer Dezzy Mckenna on drums – this group really cooked.
However the direction Wendy took the band in was that of Reggae and although she took this music to some unusual places where it wasn’t really appreciated, like the Lightning Ridge RSL, gigs in other locations raised the roof. Unfortunately an album recorded at this time was ‘stuffed’ due to a demagnetisation of the tapes issue, and was never released.
Wendy continued playing and in 1999, a track, “Later One Night Jam”, recorded by Kevin Borich and the Express was released, with Wendy and Ross Wilson on guest vocals.
Over the remaining years Wendy went back to singing Jazz and in 2002 a recording of Wendy singing with bass player Jacky Orzascky, drummer Peter Figures, Hammond organist Lachlan Doley and with Peter Head on piano, was made at a concert organised by Head. To my knowledge that album was never released.
In 2003, Wendy provided three tracks for the album, Women 'n Blues, with other tracks by Kate Dunbar, Sally King, Jeannie Lewis and Margret RoadKnight.
As recent as 2012, she was still performing and wowing her audience. Wendy 2012
Wendy singing in 2012
There is so much more to the story of this legend, including gigs with the also legendary Geof Krozier, in the USA, her fantastic shows at the fantastic T.F Much Ballroom, the great performance with Jeff St John at the Myponga festival, and her work with Company Cain and many, many fine Australian musicians. She accomplished much, and won just as much respect and love from her peers and her audiences.
The following is the track featuring Wendy,"I Who Have Nothing", supplied by one of those many fine musicians that played with her, drummer Dezzy McKenna. I think it is a very appropriate track, for someone who was a strong follower of the Krishna faith. On one hand Wendy had so very, very much, but on the other she recognised how transitory it all was according to her close friends who kept her Facebook page, when they wrote: "Gandharvika (Wendy's given Krishna name) has accepted the fact that she is soon to be free of this body and make no mistake, she is leaving with joy."
(1986) - Wendy 'Gandharvika' Saddington
Harvey Fredes on congas
Angelika Booth - bass
Dezzy McKenna - drums
Rose 'Goanna Band' Bygraves - piano & 2nd vocal
Mick 'Python Lee' Liber - guitar
Wendy eventually succumbed to esophageal cancer and passed away at her home with those who she cared most about, around her.
We have lost many treasured artists over the past few years, and non-will be missed more than Wendy Saddington! She has left a hole in our treasured gallery of artists, but more than that, she has left a hole in our hearts.
Sing on Wendy, while your shows on this planet are over, may you now headline in a greater place.
[This tribute is provided on behalf of the Publisher, staff and contributors of the Toorak Times]