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The Peppermint Lounge - Box Hill


In 1964, at a time when there was a lack of live music venues around Melbourne, particularly in the eastern suburbs, two friends got together and decided to open a coffee lounge and to employ young bands and introduce cabaret style floor shows featuring top local artists, who, prior to the opening of the Peppermint Lounge were restricted to performing at rock dances, mostly held at town halls around the suburbs.


Jeff Lang and Ron Hudson sought out a suitable premises for the venue and soon found a vacant room above a sewing machine shop in Main Street, Box Hill. They fitted it out with the required equipment for making toasted sandwiches and coffee, with tables and chairs, a stage and Public Address System, spotlights as well as suitable mood lighting to provide a unique atmosphere in what was to become the most popular live music venue in the eastern suburbs.


In consultation with Ron McPherson, manager of "The Mustangs", they discussed the type of acts that would be required to ensure the success of The Peppermint Lounge. "The Mustangs" were booked as house band and many of the top artists of the day accepted bookings for the opening night in the spring of 1964. A DJ was employed to announce the band's songs as they were played, as well as to introduce the numerous floor shows to which the audience were treated.


Jeff and Ron arranged heavy radio advertising to promote their new venture. 3AK and 3UZ, the two leading rock stations at the time, featured regular spots advertising the venue. Popular TV and Radio personality, Pete Smith would be guest compare on opening night.


That night soon arrived and the small room above the sewing machine shop in Main Street, Box Hill, just beside the station was jam packed. The atmosphere was electric. The Lounge would be open four nights a week with featured artists most nights and top acts performed floor shows every Friday and Saturday. Not only musical talent was on display but a hypnotist appeared on multiple occasions and proved extremely popular.


For the band and the performers, makeup was the order of the day. The spotlights were bright and hot and without makeup faces were white. Lindsay Cook, lead guitarist with "The Mustangs" said "my father was devastated when I told him I had to apply my Max Factor Pancake No 1 - or was it no 2? He doubted at that time that his only child would ever present him with grandchildren. If he'd known I was using hairspray as well there'd have been hell to pay".



                                                      The Mustangs at The Peppermint Lounge in 1964



It would be impossible to name all of the artists who performed at The Peppermint Lounge as there were multiple floor shows every Friday and Saturday night. However, some of the notables included Bobby Bright and Laurie Allen (Bobby & Laurie), Normie Rowe, Colin Cook, Bobby Cookson, Pat Carroll, Johnny Cooper, Grantley Dee, Buddy England, Dave Howard and so many others.



                      Normie Rowe


The music of the day was very much part of the UK Invasion featuring the Mersey Sound dominated by The Beatles along with groups such as Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, The Searchers, The Dave Clark Five, Manfred Mann and artists such as Cilla Black, Sandy Shaw soon followed by the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. Lindsay said "we were basically a Shadows tribute band (although not called that in those days) until The Beatles came along and then we all had to learn to sing harmonies fast. At the time of the opening of The Peppermint Lounge whilst there were still a few Shadows tunes in our repertoire, the majority were vocals and almost all of the original artists out of the UK. What's more there was a couple of new hits released every week and we were flat out just keeping up because we wanted to be playing all the top songs before they became hits."


The top 10 hits in Australia in 1964 were : 

1. I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

2. I Feel Fine / She's A Woman (flipside)  - The Beatles

3. Can't Buy Me Love / You Can't Do That (flipside) - The Beatles

4, A Hard days Night / Things we said Today (flipside) The Beatles

5. All My Lovin' (EP) - The Beatles

6. Should Have Known Better / If I Fell - The Beatles

7. Ain't That Loving You Baby - Elvis Presley

8. Have I The Right - The Honeycombs

9. You're My World - Cilla Black

10.  Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison


Sunday night was talent quest night at the Peppermint Lounge. Young performers wanting to be seen and heard would come along and perform in the hope of winning the talent quest  or perhaps even better, being seen by someone who could start them on the road to stardom. One such artist was a young singer named El Gamble, who looked and sang like Elvis Presley. At a time when everybody wanted The Beatles, El stopped the show with his brilliant renditions of several Elvis favourites of the time.  Needless to say he won the talent quest and went on to become one of Australia’s top show performers in his own right with The El Gamble Showband, whilst still performing some of the songs made famous by his lifelong hero Elvis Presley.

Another young vocalist who started her career by entering the Peppermint Lounge talent quest was one Lyn Baxter, who soon become a regular guest artist performing with  The Mustangs”, both at the Peppermint Lounge and other venues. Lyn went on to become a popular performer at dances and clubs around Melbourne before marrying “Mustangs” lead guitarist, Lindsay Cook. She retired from her musical career at a young age to raise the couples three children. However, in later years Lyn returned to the music scene joining Lindsay’s band Concept in the mid-eighties and is now a member of the re-formation of The Mustangs known as  “The Original Mustangs”

The high cost of radio promotion, combined with the ambitious strategy of making it a showplace for the top performers of the time forced the closure of the popular venue. Jeff Lang and Ron Hudson put together several music extravaganzas at large venues, such as town halls and again featuring the cream of Melbourne talent, this time supported by multiple bands including “The Strangers” and the “The Mustangs”.

Following the establishment and early success of the Peppermint Lounge other similar small venues started to open up including The Mitcham Rendezvous, another coffee lounge that featured bands and guest artists.



We welcome people who may have been performers at the Peppermint Lounge or perhaps some of those who patronised the venue at that time to help re-live those days by adding their contribution to this page.


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