Roadies but Goldies: Jackson
“… Laat Die Wiele Rol, O Jackson …”
Farewell To Jackson
by Moonshine Lee, 16 July 2001
The ‘fifth’ member of Jack Hammer, Hendry Jackson, jets out to Chicago USA tonight (16.07.2001) to pursue business interests there for awhile. A close and long standing friend, supporter, stalwart of the ‘Hammer’ over the past 23 odd years.
We celebrated two farewell gigs for Jackson in Pretoria, which is Jackson’s hometown, over the past weekend. Friday night (13.7.2001) saw a packed Café Barcelona, in Erasmuskloof, bid a fitting farewell to our ‘Brother-in-Arms’ with some seething rock ‘n’ roll from Jack Hammer. The short tour the Hammer and Johnathan Martin had in the UK in June, and having seen the likes of Neil Young, AC/DC and Buddy Guy live, has certainly put a razor sharp edge on their music. And bring the house down they did. What a send off ….’Laat die wiele rol, ou Jackson………….’
Sunday afternoon (15.7.2001) the celebrations moved to Glen Afrique, an exquisite bush pub situated in the midst of a game farm near Hartebeespoortdam. A better venue for the ‘grand finale’ ala bush style, one could not have asked for. The Hammer, Johnathan Martin with Mervin Davis on mandolin, bid their farewells to their good friend the only and best way they know, through their music……. (after all that’s what formed this bond in the first place!)
Jackson we wish you well and don’t see this as the end of an era, but in fact the start of something new. We’re sure you’ll be keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities in the Chicago scene and we look forward to a time when we can meet up there with you.
For now, we want to say that it had been an honour and a privilege to have walked this road with you for the past 23 years. My friend, we’re sure going to miss you, but by the same token this break could not have happened to a finer man.
Moonshine Lee, The Hammer, Jono the Kid Martin, Tertius and the Duke.
Roadies but Goldies — rock’s unsung heroes. The story of Jackson, the fifth Hammer on the Jack and the road less travelled.
by Bert Badgrass, January 2001
As this glorious beast we call rock ‘n roll gains in strength and finds new voices all the time, the vital role of the roadie is ritually overlooked and forgotten.
These unsung heroes who travel the length and breadth of the land, setting up the stage for the band, slinking back into their no-man’s land to savour the sounds during the gig, only to reappear when everybody’s gone home to pack up and head off for the next town.
Often running on empty – with apologies to Jackson Browne — these are truly the guys who live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle to the full. Without the glamour that performance brings.
And often, as is the case with Jack Hammer’s Jackson, it is a labour of love. Guys who plugged in to the alternative vision which rock offered way back when the world was young. Guys who bought, hook, line and sinker, the dream of peace and love offered by these “other” voices.
I caught up with Jackson at that national monument to consumerism — one of several in which have been erected in honour of Mammon in our land, mind — Menlyn Park in Pretoria.
He was busy with his daytime job — installing surveillance cameras, another latterday necessary evil, for an electronics company. Remember the days when the only Big Brother we gave the thumbs-up to was the one who headed the Holding Company, which backed Janis Joplin? Ah well … so it goes.
Jackson and The Hammer (aka Piet Botha) go way back to the late 1970s when Piet was playing with Abno at the Keg and Tankard in Pretoria. (Jacks and I go back even further: Palm Grove, Margate in December ’72 — ’76. Remember Shalima etc? As ex-Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi had it: Oh How We Danced!)
“I just started hanging out with Piet, digging his music and what he was doing. We became friends and I just helped out where I could as far as electronics were concerned. I sort of formally became Jack Hammer’s roadie — this was during their first incarnation — in the mid 80s.
“This was when we got the gig at Grand Central and the band did a light show. They needed someone who knew something about being a sparks and, well, I just naturally filled that role.
“In those days, the members included Piet and guys like Boet Faber, Paul van Eeden, Derek Riley and Eric Birkenstock — I have seen many Jacks, so to speak, come and go in my time, I tell you.”
There’s hardly an area of South Africa where Jack Hammer hasn’t performed in the past 15/16 years or so. Still, it’s been an unusual take on life, says Jackson — definitely the road less travelled.
Jacks does it for the love of it and out of his admiration for the band. “When we’re on the road, I’m looked after in terms of food and accommodation etc (plus, of course, a few other perks, not to mention temptations) but I don’t want money.
“That just means that the guys in the band get less. Yeah, I guess you could say it is a labour of love, although Piet does help me out if the need arises.
Altruistic or what?
In addition to taking care of the nuts and bolts of setting up etc — although that task these days fail more and more on the shoulders of guitarist Johnathan (“The Kid”) Martin and bassist Tertius (“Bean”) du Plessis — Jacks is also the band’s sternest critic.
“When I think they’ve been hot I’ll tell them that. But when they’ve, shall we say, fouled up, I tell them straight: ‘If you get 50% better you’ll be halfway there.
By the way, drummer Paul van de Waal is known As The Duke — “because he always looks smart”.
Jackson reckons the current Jack Hammer line-up is “just about the best we’ve ever had. We’ve had a few storms in the past, I tell you; let’s say it was down to personality clashes.”
Asked what his high point of his 20 or so years with Piet has been, Jackson singles out the ZZ Top tour — when Jack Hammer was the support act. “Ah, you know, everyday is a high point, whenever I hear the guys.”
“I’ve always been surrounded by so many great musicians that I count it a privilege.”
Low points are a bit more mundane — car/van breakdowns on the road. Once, the band’s combi caught fire just outside Bloemfontein. “A piece of sponge fell out of the engine on to the exhaust and the combi staretd smoking.”
“Some guys in another car who saw the smoke billowing out the back pulled us over — we thought we were being attacked or hijacked, heaven forbid — and helped us put out the fire. That was close, but we managed to save both the combi and the equipment — the show had to go on, you know.”
The biggest pluspoint of his job as roadie is meeting lots of different people; “good people and good music”. Pressed on the “temptations” referred to earlier, Jackson laughs and says: “Yeah, we travelled pretty hard in the old days — these days we take it a bit more easy.”
As a result of his lifestyle, Jackson prefers the life of a bachelor. “It’s like Ben Dekker said when he was asked if he had ever been married. He replied: ‘No. I’ve avoided all of life’s major mistakes’.”
He thinks of himself as an integral part of the band. “I always talk about ‘us’ or ‘we’ whenever we are on the road. More so when we are in other towns: You know, ‘we’re’ playing at such and such a venue tonight.”
Jackson says Piet’s Afrikaans work, notably Suitcase Vol Winter, had allowed them the opportunity to reach a much wider audience. “We even played in Vredendal on the West Coast. It’s great to see the audience — young and old — sing along with the songs.”
Well, that’s the great thing about music eh? It breaks down barriers.
Jackson favourite songs in Jack Hammer’s repertoire include some early ones, like Must’ve Been Dreaming and Cameron Road, as well as some great covers, the Stones’ Love In Vain and the Doors’ Texas Radio And The Big Beat.
So yeah: hey, hey, my, my; rock ‘n roll will never die. And to a large extent it is unsung heroes like Jackson who will ensure that the beast goes from strength to strength.
The growing number of Jack Hammer fans will be happy to hear that a new Piet Botha & Jack Hammer CD, entitled Bootleg, is now available.
As the title suggests, it is a live album, recorded at various locations up and down the country between May 1998 and April 2000, except for the two opening tracks, The Game and For Annette.
I love their version of Nick Drake’s Northern Sky — which isn’t surprising. There are also some original gems, like Blues Vir Louise, Goeienag Generaal and, of course, Suitcase Vol Winter — and I tell you, the blues never sounded so good in Afrikaans.
Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine (sung by Johnathan) is also there and is superb, as are Jack Hammer showstoppers like Runaway Train and Cocaine Blues. Jackson says the CD is available at live gigs. Good news is that the lads will be going into the studio towards the end of the year to record a brand new CD.
Keep on hammering away guys; we, your fans, are all jacked up! And thanks hey!
Reprinted from Pretoria website