Circa: 1965 – 1968
Home town:  

  • Nigel Sweet – Guitar & vocals
  • Ray Taylor – Guitar
  • Ian Burton – Bass
  • Jimmy Duncan – Drums
THE BLACKJACKS on stage at the 1966 Texan Rock Band Contest. From left to right: Nigel Sweet (guitar & vocals), Ray Taylor (guitar), Ian Burton (bass) and Jimmy Duncan (drums).

Jimmy, Nigel and Ian originally first met when they attended Alfred Beit Junior School in Mabelreign together.  Later on, when they’d progressed to high at Ellis Robins they met Ray Taylor.  Ray, a year older than is three colleagues, was into music and taught Nigel and Ian the basics of guitar.  Nigel had an excellent voice which suited the music of the day, the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Hollies.  Jim, whose father was a good piano player who performed regularly at the George Hotel in Avondale, had been playing drums since the age of 11.  And so it was that the quartet formed their first high school band, the Blackjacks.

In the early years the band practiced at Jim’s house by as they, and their associated equipment, grew in size the neighbours started to complain about the noise levels.  Their fathers provided the transport service, ensuring that they and their gear reached gigs on schedule, however, once they started playing up to 4 venues a weekend this became too much for the dads!  Despite not having drivers’ licences, the band invested in a Combi (Ian still has the keys!) which was sponsored by Coke and was painted black with a white roof, together with Coke labels splashed all over the vehicle’s sides.  An older school friend who had a driving licence was their “chaffeur” until such time as Ian acquired a licence in 1967.  By this time the band were using the hall at the Yellow Orchid Road house in Belvedere for practice purposes.  The well known band, The Bandits, played in the hall regularly at gigs and were an inspiration to our youthful and aspiring musicians.  Indeed, when the Bandits relocated to Australia the band bought their Dynacord mics and vocal equipment.  In addition to that, Ian bought Doug Smith’s Fender bass and vox amp.

EVERYTHING’S GOING RIGHT WITH THE BLACKJACKS! Performing live in 1967 at a Rock Band Competition at the Harry Margolis Hall. Left to Right: Ian Burton, Ray Taylor, Nigel Sweet and Jimmy Duncan.

In due course the Blackjacks participated in the Texan Rock Band Competition at Trade Fair Rhodesia in 1965 and 1966.  In 1967, they participated on a Rock Band contest at the Harry Margolis hall.   The band were well known for playing the music of the Rolling Stones, Byrds, Kinks and the Beatles, playing most of the songs which featured in the Top 10 of the charts of the day. On most Fridays the band played house parties  whilst, at lunchtimes on Saturdays, they could be found in residence at the Discotheque where they appeared for a year from 1966 – 1967.  On Saturday nights they staged their own gigs at venues such as the Standard Bank Sports Club, Duthie Hall at the showgrounds, Mount Pleasant’s TMB Hall and the MOTH Hall.  They also played regularly at the RLI barracks and for the Mercenaries when they returned home for R&R under Bobby Caven.

The band broke up in 1968 for the members to complete their National Service and to pursue careers.

THE BLACKJACKS in black and white! This 1966 photo of the band performing at the Palace features, from Left to Right: Ray Taylor, Ian Burton, Nigel Sweet and Jimmy Duncan.

Ray Taylor went to England and obtained a Doctorate in Electronics.  Now, in retirement, he lives on a yacht in Brighton and plays jazz in various clubs.

Jimmy Duncan opted for early retirement in 2006 after 30 years with Pick ‘n Pay in Cape Town, purchased a property on the West Coast and has devoted his life to caring for severely mentally handicapped children.  His activities feature on the following website:

Nigel Sweet remains in Zimbabwe carrying out building alterations and constructing swimming pools for resorts along the banks of the Zambesi.  His talents and reputation as a swimming pool constructor are legendary, the World-class pool at Bumi Hills being an example of his work.  He is still asked to get up and sing Rolling Stones songs whenever there is music in his presence in Harare!

Ian Burton, by his own admission, has not played a guitar again since leaving the LIVIN’ END in 1973.


ROCKIN’ THE PALACE IN 1966. Left to Right: Ray Taylor, Ian Burton, Nigel Sweet and Jimmy Duncan.