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Geelong Advertiser
March 22 2014

Growing up in Adelaide in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s my Dad would tell us stories of the Holden Brothers Travelling Circus. Adolphus Holden, the one-legged trapeze artist; his grandfather William Holden tap dancing and playing the piano in his Coffee Palace at St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. It all sounded exotic and too fantastic to be true but it was.

In the 1990’s I was appearing from L.A. on GMA with Bert Newton and mentioned the Holden Circus. People would always ask me - "are you the Holdens of Holden cars?" and I would answer - NO - I’m the Holden from Holden and Sloggett’s Travelling Circus!

Out of the woodwork sprang a connection to the Holdens from that show. I was working with the Hoff, recording his vocals in New York, when I was contacted and told there was to be a family reunion at the Holy Rosary Church in Kensington. I flew straight back from New York.

I met a whole lot of Holdens! The afternoon evolved into a sing-along and I heard Dallas Holden sing for the first time and heard Maree Holden belt out a country song and steal the show - if I’d invented 'Touchdowns' at that time it would have been a Grande Royale Touchdown.

That night I went back to Mick and Sonya Holden’s place in Keilor and kept singing with the Holden family. We’ve all been singing together since then back in 1996 or 1997 I think it was.

Frank and Barry Holden, Maree Holden’s brothers are really the last of our line to be full time circus performers but Frank started calling me collect from Albury when I got back to the US. He was hoping I’d put the Holden Brothers Travelling Circus back together and I kind of, have, in my own way.

Just this past week, with my editor Duncan Balmain, I finished the first draft of compiling episodes of the Holden Brothers Travelling Circus. They are 24 minute 'Glee-umentaries'. A musical journey through the Holden family past and present. So far I have 4 episodes. They will be available on iTunes as of October 2014. I will keep adding episodes as I make them.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been recording the soundtrack for the episodes with all the extended Holden family. Of course with Mick and Dallas at the core and Kain and Michael Holden on drums and my son Cane on vocals and as a co-writer. My daughter Katie sings for the first time on the soundtrack and there are 2 pieces with her in them - singing and playing piano. My brother Craig is on a number of tracks as is Sherree Goldsworthy on bass, my son’s mum. My wife Anna wrote the lyrics to a fab song called 'Keith Richards' that features on one of the episodes. Its really turning out beautifully.

I have lots a fab old Holden photos and sublime 16mm footage from the 50’s and 60’s that Mervyn Ashton has given me permission to use. Its never been seen before and is a national treasure. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

You can check out the first song called 'Travel By Train' at:

The pace of the project is really picking up now that the first 4 episodes are nearly complete.

One of the episodes came about because Maree Holden told me I needed to go down to the Wathaurong Centre in Geelong to learn about the real history of the Bellarine that the Holden family were pioneers of. Through that I met Mick Ryan, Reg Abrahams and Uncle Dave. Its been an extraordinary journey.

Maree is of the opinion that the Holden interaction with the indigenous community was benign but the simple fact remains that the Holdens and others in farming the land dispossessed the local inhabitants who had been there for tens of thousands of years. There is plenty of evidence that the Holden Circus people interacted with the aborigines when they travelled through their country in the 1890’s onwards. They employed aboriginal rough riders who worked with the horses and there are some beautiful photographs of the circus in rural communities engaging with the local clans along the way.

Mick Ryan and Uncle Dave from the Wathaurong Centre told me the story of the Kill Party, the massacres that happened from settlement onwards. Mick and I wrote a song called Kill Party. A couple of weeks ago we performed it on the Marngrook Footy Show on NITV. Special thanks to everyone at the show and especially Grant Hansen. It's online on YouTube now if you want to check that performance out.

We also performed it at the Medicare Close the Gap day in Geelong and will be performing it this week to facilitate a discussion of Reconciliation at the Department of Justice in Melbourne.

Its turned out to be an extraordinary experience and very rewarding collaboration and exercise in understanding.

The gig at Yea was a riot. The second HBTC performance, the first being the Hard Yards gig earlier this year at Chum Creek Victoria.

We are definitely getting better each time. We had Rob Draper on board taking Craig Holden’s place as he couldn’t make it. We had Mick and Dallas Holden of course and Kain Holden on drums - Mick’s mate Johnny on bass who was terrific and the beautiful Visnja on harp, piano, vocals, fife, ukele and strings - she almost stole the show even though she was stuck behind a pillar at the Caledonian pub in the main street of Yea.

The highlight for me was the gorgeous version of the song 'Flying' that Dallas Holden and I wrote. Katie got up and sang live in an HBTC show for the first time. With her, Dallas and Visnja all singing it was just sublime! Congrats girls you were simply fabulous!

Lots of exciting events to unfold over the next few months as I wind up to releasing the HBTC TV series and soundtrack album.



                          © HBTC 2014