Little River Band was an Australian ‘supergroup’ of savvy and well-experienced musicians. Three members came from an acoustic band called Mississippi while Dutch-born Beeb Birtles had been a member of Zoot, one of Australia’s most popular bands between 1969 and 1971.
LRB had its genesis in the early 1970s in London. Shorrock (pictured) had been recording solo and was singing backup at Cliff Richard shows when he received a phone call from Beeb Birtles and Graham Goble, whose band (Mississippi) had broken up.
All three were searching for a sound and decided to meet up in Melbourne. Taking their name from the town of Little River, near Geelong in Victoria, the result was the formation of the Little River Band in 1975.
Often dismissed as bland imitations of West Coast US bands, LRB suffered for being a product of their time.
They had developed listening to the sounds of The Doobie Brothers and The Eagles, and experimented with a smooth sound based on two melodic lead guitarists and meticulous vocal harmonies. The distinctly Australian subject matter of their songs was often overlooked.
Songwriting was divided almost equally amongst the group’s three prime movers and vocalists, Birtles, Goble and Shorrock, and the differing personae were reflected therein. Glenn delivered the more uptempo stuff while Beeb’s tunes were the popular ones with attractive hooks, and Graham was somewhere in between – softer than Glenn but with a moody, yearning quality particularly evident on It’s A Long Way There.
In 1975, any internationally successful Australian acts lived overseas, but LRB maintained their base in Australia and toured their home country regularly. The USA was the obvious target for their sound, and manager Glenn Wheatley’s contacts in the States proved invaluable.
After a brief European tour, which saw them gig with Queen in London’s Hyde Park, LRB hit the US for the first time in November 1976.
It was the start of a decade of success, culminating in becoming the first Australian-based band to achieve gold-record status in the USA, and they regularly commanded stadium-size audiences in America.
Albums like Sleeper Catcher and Diamantina Cocktail proved that Australian production values were equal to any in the world.
Featuring superb musicianship and precision harmonies, the singles Help Is On Its Way, It’s A Long Way There, Lonesome Loser and Reminiscing all helped make them a regular fixture in the upper reaches of the US and Australian charts.
Glenn Shorrock had always been a stand-out live performer, and his stagecraft learnt during his days with The Twilights ensured that LRB usually outshone their US counterparts.
They toured Australia, the USA and Europe incessantly, sparking chart success wherever they performed. All seemed rosy until Glenn Shorrock decided upon a solo career in 1982.
He was replaced by John Farnham, whose own solo career had hit a dead spot. Despite raised eyebrows at the time, LRB carried it off, with the singles Down On The Border and The Other Guy continuing their chart success.
As a result of constant lineup changes, legal ownership of the band’s name somehow ended up with session guitarist Stephen Housden and a vastly inferior “new” Little River Band – containing none of the original members – continues to tour in the USA playing shitty versions of the hits. They would never dare set foot in Australia!