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Ol’ 55

Formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1975, OL’55 enjoyed enormous popularity with a retro-fifties style that bordered on parody. The band took its name from the Tom Waits song (as covered by The Eagles).

ol55_2Under the direction of astute manager Glenn A Baker, ‘the Fives’ managed to combine novelty retro kitsch and clever theatrics with superb vocal harmonies (all of the band members sang) a keen sense of pop dynamics and an acute understanding of rock ‘n’ roll.

Former chartered accountant Peter Bryan became larger-than-life motor mouth frontman, Frankie J Holden.

The band dressed in authentic 1950s rocker gear and mixed vintage material with excellent originals (mostly penned by bassist, Jimmy Manzie).

By September 1975 the band had released their first single (a version of Paul Anka‘s Diana) on the Mushroom label. The single was a minor hit in Sydney, but it was the follow-up track, an original composition called On The Prowl, which launched OL’55 into the national Top 20.

At the same time, their debut album Take It Greasy peaked at #2 nationally, eventually attaining double-platinum status and staying in the charts for a massive 39 weeks.

With two more hit singles, Looking For An Echo and (I Want A) Rockin’ Christmas, OL’55 took their place alongside SherbetSkyhooks and John Paul Young as mid-1970’s Australian pop superstars.


Drummer Geoff Plummer left OL’55 in January 1977 to be replaced by Geoff “Spud” Peterkin. One month later the band’s fifth single, C’mon Let’s Do It, reached #18.

F.J. Holden also released his debut solo single, My Right Of Way b/w Chartered Accountant Blues in April. Written by Manzie, the A-side of the single was the theme to the Australian movie The FJ Holden (1977).

ol55_liveFrankie left the band in May 1977, followed one month later by sax-man Wilbur Wilde who joined Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons.

OL’55 unveiled its revamped line-up in August with new singer Mike Raffone (real name Paul Stephens, ex-Silver Studs).

The band’s second album Fiveslivejive (featuring the original line-up) failed to chart despite containing some interesting treatments of old and new favourites recorded pseudo-live. The album was recorded in a studio with invited friends and guests as the ‘audience’.

The new line-up released their ‘debut’ single Stay (While The Night Is Young) which made it to #11 in November 1977. Bruce ‘Tangles’ Allen joined on sax at the end of 1977 but by the following February, Mike Raffone had left again.

Continuing as a five-piece with Rockpile Jones, Pat Drummond and Jimmy Manzie sharing lead vocals, the band released Feels Like A Summer’s Night which featured a more contemporary power-pop sound and charted at #23 in May 1978.


The next single Time To Rock ‘N’ Roll failed to chart and the third album Crusin’ For A Brusin’ was not successful either, despite containing some quality original pop songs. Ruby returned OL’55 to the national Top 40 in February 1979 followed by Living For Your Smile. Unfortunately, a split in the band’s ranks was widening.

For some time Jim Manzie had been steering the band in a more power pop-oriented direction which caused friction with Rockpile Jones and Patrick Drummond who wanted to continue in the retro Rock & Roll vein.

The two guitarists left the band in June 1979 amid much acrimony, taking with them the rights to the name OL’55. Drummond and Jones recruited original drummer Geoff Plummer, Rob Drummond (bass) and Bob Tawney (guitar) in a new line-up and started from scratch.

ol55_201By the end of the year, they had signed a deal with RCA, and Terry Bellew had replaced Rob Drummond on bass.

The band released the unsuccessful Comic Book World followed by their eighth hit, a version of Lou Christie’s Two Faces Have I which reached #15 nationally. Another album (The Vault) was released but the band folded shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, Manzie and Peterkin had formed a superb contemporary power pop band called The Breakers. They were described as ‘Heavy metal pop that combined Beach Boys style vocals with Ramones guitar riffs and Buggles synthesizers’.

This exceptional band broke up after a year and Manzie concentrated on his production duties.

In 1982, Holden, Manzie, Wilde, Jones, Plummer and newcomer Gunther (Ian) Gorman reconvened as The Fives to appear at the Mushroom Evolution concert to celebrate the labels 10th anniversary. Three tracks from the band appeared on the live triple album of the event.

Since then, there have been many reformations under the monikers of OL’55, F J Holden and the Fives and in the 1990s, OL’ Skydaddys.

Frank Holden has pursued an acting career and was the host of the Australian TV Tonight show IMT (In Melbourne Tonight). Wilbur was a regular part of the Hey Hey It’s Saturday band from the mid-80s until the show’s demise.

Geoff Plummer passed away on 2 February 2006.

Frankie J Holden
Rockpile Jones
Guitar, vocals
Jimmy Manzie
Bass, vocals
Pat Drummond
Guitar, vocals
Wilbur Wilde
Sax, keyboards, vocals
Geoff Plummer
Drums, vocals
Geoff “Spud” Peterkin
Drums, vocals
Mike Raffone
Bruce Allen
Rob Drummond
“Bad” Bob Tawney
Terry “Washing Machine” Bellew
Gunther (Ian) Gorman