Story by Paul Young
For a bloke born in N.Z., you don’t get much more Australian than guitar virtuoso Kevin Borich. He’s a genuinely affable and easy-going guy. Over the years Kevin has been a member of the La De Das, the Party Boys and the Kevin Borich Express. He’s performed with Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, Santana, Bo Diddley, Elton John – the list goes on!
Kevin cut his first single at the age of 12. He formed his first band in 1963 with two of his high school buddies, Brett Neilson and Trevor Wilson. In 1964 rhythm guitarist Phil Key joined the band. With the advent of the British Invasion they changed their musical style, having been an instrumental act until then. Now needing a new name to reflect this shift in musical direction, they eventually settled on the ‘La De Das’. They also needed a lead vocalist. As Kevin said to ‘Theme Machine’ presenter Paul Young, “We were trying to work out who was gonna sing this new cover we were tackling, and then Phil just pipes up and says ‘Oh, I’ll sing it.’ And we’d never heard Phil sing. Well, he just blew us away! He had such a soulful voice … so he became the lead singer.” In 1965 Bruce Howard joined on keyboards as the fifth member of the band. The La De Das had five Top 10 hits in N.Z.
In 1967 they crossed the Tasman to tackle the Australian marketplace. As Kev put it, “… as there were more people in Sydney than in New Zealand, it was time to go. But we had to go backwards and forwards. We’d run out of money, return to New Zealand, and do a ‘Welcome Home Tour’. Then we’d come back over here, play until we ran out of money, then go back to New Zealand for another return tour. Then we’d do a ‘Send-off Tour’, just to build up enough money so that we could eventually get a foothold. Which ultimately did happen, because we ended up living here.” Kevin sees himself as an Aussie these days, so much so that he declares “I barrack for the Wallabies! I mean the All Blacks are so bloody good, it’s about time someone beat them.”
In 1969 the band went to England, performed a handful of gigs, and went to Abbey Road Studios to record a fine version of Beatles track ‘Come Together’. Unfortunately, with no manager or agent, and with only one roadie, they ran out of funds and returned to Australia. Undeterred they reverted to their roots as blazing blues and boogie exponents; and gigged relentlessly alongside the likes of Chain, Daddy Cool, Country Radio, Max Merritt and the Meteors and Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs. At the end of 1971 they had a #6 hit with “Gonna See My Baby Tonight”, and in January 1972 played the Sunbury rock festival – ‘our Woodstock’.
In 1972, this line-up of the band split, albeit amicably. A new version of the band continued with some success until 1975, when it folded for the last time. In 1976 Kevin formed the rock three-piece band Kevin Borich Express (KBE).
In 1982 Kev became one of the founding members of The Party Boys, an all-star line-up of Australian and international musos. Members included artists from bands such as The Angels, Status Quo, Rainbow, Swanee and Dragon; solo artists included Eric Burdon, Graham Bonnet, and Joe Walsh. Not only was Kevin working with top calibre musos, he formed some long-lasting friendships. Joe Walsh would even crash on Kev’s couch!
The Party Boys were a hugely successful live act, with a top 10 live album, and a number 1 hit with a cover of the John Kongos track ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’.Forty-five years later, KBE is still together, with Kev as the last original member. When station announcer Paul Young caught their gig at the Baroque Room in Katoomba, they played both electric and acoustic sets. Current members of the band include Jon Carson on drums and vocals, and Chris Gilbert on bass and upright bass. For some hard driving, yet sophisticated rock and roll, check the Gig Guide at https://kevinborich.com.au/ for upcoming performances. Suss em out! In the words of rock guru Molly Meldrum, do yourself a favour!