Graeme “Shirley” Strachan 1952-2001


Shirl1Graeme “Shirley” Strachan was killed in a helicopter acciden in August 2001.

For more tributes to Shirl go to the official Skyhooks website.

When my band, Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs, first toured the eastern states of Australia in 1978, our record label boss, Michael Gudinski, gave us the support slot to his number one band, Skyhooks. It was just after Women In Uniform had been released, and they were huge. The first gig we did in Sydney was at Castle Hill RSL. It went pretty well, but we were damn nervous. In those days it wasn’t common for the headline acts to have anything to do with their support bands, but Shirl wasn’t like that. He poked his smiling face and curly head into our dressing room and wished us luck.

Skyhooks 05/01/76

It was also a case in those days that the headline acts would tell their sound guys or lighting guys (whose gear we were using) to keep the support band “small” –- meaning just a couple of lights and low wattage through the PA. But Skyhooks weren’t like that at all. In fact, they encouraged their road crew to help out we ingenues from the west. When the gigs were over, most musos would be flagging –- slumped in their dressing rooms, drinking. Shirl liked a drink and was a terror with the girls, but he would also be out helping the road crew load the truck.

He was just a terrific, friendly person. And he was a great singer. We often get told that John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes are the voices of Australian rock, but Shirl had a fabulously high vocal with real power –- in my opinion, easily the equal of either of those two great performers.

He was also very witty, one of the quickest people with a quip I’ve ever seen. He absolutely demolished poor old Mike Willessee on his current affairs program back in the heady days of the 1970s when rock and roll stars usually came off as stoned dullards.

Shirl2Even after our rock and roll days had become a haze, Shirl remained a gregarious, friendly person. I haven’t seen Shirl in the past few years and I have heard that he had become more reclusive.I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that every single time I met up with Shirl he made me feel good. He is one person I will really, truly miss. Thanks for your great songs Shirl, and even more for your wonderful life.


SHIRLEY STRACHAN:: 1952 – 2001