Home town: Salisbury
The original line-up comprised:
- Gavin Godfrey Pretorius – Lead vocals
- Ian “Hubcap” Davis – Lead guitar & vocals
- Gary Crouch (also replaced Ernie Mindry on bass when Mindry departed the band) – Rhythm guitar & vocals
- Ernie Mindry (1962 – 1965) – Bass & vocals
- Seymour Smith – Drums
In due course, the following musicians replaced those who left the band:
- Bruce Edward replaced Seymour Smith on drums in 1967.
- Martin Taylor – Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist
- Ed Westergaard – Lead vocals
- Brian Colbert – Rhythm & vocals
- Steve “Lofty” Hughes – Vocals.
Steve replaced Ed Westergaard and his strong and dynamic rock voice increased the band’s following. Such were his vocal skills that he was able to perform a wider range of music thereby appealing to a wider audience. Steve was with the band for about a year.
- Alistair “Ali” Easton – vocals. Steve Hughes was replaced by Ali Easton who took the band’s ratings to even greater unprecedented highs, thanks to his vocal abilities.
- Dan Varkevisser – Rhythm guitar (1964 -1966)
The TELSTARS had some extremely exciting incidents in their early years, none more so than the occasion when, whilst playing at the Palace Theatre, Ian Davis took a severe shock from a microphone which had short-circuited. Such was the force of the jolt that Ian ended up on his back, basically unconscious in front of a full house of fans who thought it was the greatest stage act they’d ever seen! Thankfully, Ian was successfully resuscitated whilst the victim and helpers were drowned by appreciative cries from the audience: “Hey, great trick, what a lekker big shower of sparks!! How can we do it at home – stick a screwdriver in the wall socket? Oh, Man, what a band!”. Could it be said that the TELSTARS were the first Rhodie band to use pyrotechnics as a part of their love stage act? (Eat your heart out KISS!!).
The group played in most of Salisbury’s popular venues, including the Catholic Centre, the Salisbury Sports Club and Harry Margolis Hall. They were also not scared to venture further afield and did Easter appearances at Hot Springs, as well as a monthly contract at the Sinoia Caves Hotel. Back home they did a six week stint at La Boheme whilst the resident band, the GENTLEMEN, were away.
The TELSTARS didn’t fare that well, however, in their only appearance in the Texan Rock Band Contest where they didn’t feature beyond the preliminary rounds. They took consolation in the fact, however, that the ETONIANS won it that year blowing everyone away with their rendition of the Beatles’ “Help!”.
The band made a couple of appearances on local television in Martin Locke’s “Teentime” and “Stairway To The Stars”. They did, however, act as the backing band to a number of other performers, including ERIC DIVARIS and GAIL GOATCHER. These appearances included a turn on the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Show in aid of the Forces. Here, in 1968, they were able to share the spotlight with other luminaries like the DOMINOES and WREX TARR.
The band’s practice room was in Manica Road above the Flower Pot and close to the EXECUTIVES‘ rehearsal venue. At that time the EXECUTIVES included BARNEY HELSDINGER and ERNIE MINDRY. On one occasion the band put out the word that they would be practicing in the open-air courtyard on a particular Saturday lunchtime. The response was huge and fans packed into the venue to enjoy the music and full bar facilities. Two weeks later the Fire Department closed the sessions down pointing to the fact that 600 people in such a confined space definitely constituted a fire hazard!
The band members themselves would probably say that their Best Gig was a New Year’s Eve bash at the Triangle Country Club. There was a huge (for such a venue) turnout and the cheque the band received was a generous one, equating to about tuppence per second from 20:00 – 04:00. As if this wasn’t enough, the hat was still passed around to top up their princely earnings and the band felt that they were on the brink of retiring as extremely rich people! Problem was, no more cheques of that size came their way!
Their “Biggest Flop” of a gig was, undoubtedly, staged in Bulawayo when the band were lured there by a gentleman who promised to “make them a fortune”. This individual put posters up all over the town, did radio ads and hired the large City Hall to “pack ’em in”. In due course the band set up for what they anticipated to be the Saturday gig of their lives and eagerly awaited for the throngs to pour into the hall. Things started off slowly with only two attendees having presented themselves after an hour! And it didn’t get better. The band duly found out that a top class act – someone like The PLEBS – were in town for the night and that’s where the audience had gone! Rather amazingly, the band didn’t get paid for this gig!!
The band broke up in 1970. Since then the following developments have occurred:
- Gary Crouch – Killed in action not long after leaving the band.
- Ed Westergaard – Turned professional in Durban and later died tragically.
- Ed Mindry – Presently living in England, having returned to SA from England in 1987. In 1996 he returned to England but is no longer actively playing.
- Ian “Hubcap” Davis – Also moved to Durban. Present whereabouts unknown.
- Brian Colbert – Believed to be in Gauteng.
- Lofty Hughes – Believed to be in the Umhlanga area.
- Ali Easton – Working and residing in the Pinetown area with his family.
- Bruce Edward – Continued to gig with various musos including DAVE “SQUEEGE” LEWIS and TONY HULLEY. Today, he is working and residing in the Pinetown area.