Piet Botha & Jack Hammer: Live At The Nile
- Liberty (H)
- Sien Jou Weer (F)
- Russian And Chips (Freedoms Children / Wildebeest) (A, M) see comments below*
- Die Mamba (K)
- Last Fair Deal Going Down (Robert Johnson) (L)
- The Fisherman (D)
- Blues Vir Louise (including bass guitar solo) (G)
- G8 Manifesto (released on The Pilgrim simply titled ‘G8’) (M)
- Llandudno Blues #13 (L)
- April (H)
- Good Friend Of Mine (C)
- Bye Bye My Darling (K)
- Sarajevo (E)
- Goeienag Generaal (F)
- RSVP (H)
- Bordello (‘House Of The Rising Sun’ with Afrikaans lyrics) (K)
- Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones) (L)
- Man Met Kitaar (K)
- Headlines (M)
- The Station (B)
- Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (L)
- Kitty (K)
- Suitcase Vol Winter (F)
- Riders On The Storm (The Doors) (L)
Recorded live at the Nile Crocodile, Pretoria, 2nd February 2003.
- Piet “Hammer” Botha: Vocals, guitars, harmonica
- Johnathan “The Kid” Martin: Vocals, guitars
- Tertius “Bean” du Plessis: Bass
- Paul “Duke” van de Waal: Drums
Recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by Lanie van der Walt.
July 2004, Wolmer Records, F1000292 (distributed by Bowline)
*‘Russian And Chips’ is a cover version of the Freedom’s Children classic ‘The Kid He Came From Nazareth’ combined with a traditional Russian folk song. It was originally performed like this by Wildebeest, featuring Piet Botha on bass guitar, in 1981. It was recorded by Jack Hammer and released on ‘The Pilgrim‘ in 2005.
A. Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest (1981)
B. Jack Of All Trades – Jack Hammer (1987)
C. The Judas Chapter – Jack Hammer (1990)
D. Ghosts On The Wind – Jack Hammer (1994)
E. Death Of A Gypsy – Jack Hammer (1996)
F. ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter – Piet Botha (1997)
G. Jan Skopgraaf – Piet Botha (1999)
H. Anthology – Jack Hammer (2000)
I. Bootleg – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer (2001)
J. Die Hits – Piet Botha (2001)
K. Die Mamba – Piet Botha (2003)
L. Live At The Nile – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer (July 2004)
M. The Pilgrim – Jack Hammer (April 2005)
Piet Botha and Jack Hammer – Live at the Nile
The long overdue live album by Jack Hammer has now been released on Wolmer Records and will be distributed by Bowline.
This collectors piece was recorded in February 2003 at the Pretoria venue “The Nile Crocodile” by Lanie v.d. Walt and mixed later in the year at Wolmer Studios. Originally set for release by November 2003 on Rhythm Records but then rescheduled for early 2004, the album has now finally been released as a limited edition.
The somewhat strange thing about this album is that it is not a commercial venture but purely an artistic endeavour. It is a historical piece of music as well as no one has previously recorded a double live set in South Africa, at least not a rock album of this nature. And thirdly it is a bilingual album.
The album is brutally honest and captures the Jack Hammer live sound as many have come to experience it over the years. The year 2004 does mark the 20th anniversary of this legendary S.A. band. In a rare interview Piet Botha (The Hammer) said the following:
“We were going to release this album to celebrate our 20th birthday and in a way to end a certain period in our journey. The next studio album will be different, believe me, and we probably won’t be doing another Afrikaans album for a long time either. But most of the credit for this album goes to Lanie v.d. Walt who did an incredible job mixing these two hours of Rock and Roll music. And we didn’t use any tricks like overdubs or anything.. the band played a two hour set and we recorded it just like that. I think in time it will all make sense why we did it when we did it. That’s the mystical aspect of it…” He continues: “Obviously many people are going to think why a “live“ album? Well the truth is that we CAN record a live album and that’s the crux of it. The beauty of it is that we were never interested to make money from the project, only to recover production costs. So essentially it is a work of art and not something bound by rules or trends or Television or Radio or anything. It’s for our hardcore supporters and we thank them.”
After their 10th consecutive appearance at Oppikoppi in August  the band is set to release their new studio work which sees them taking a bold new direction. But that’s for another time. In the meantime here is a double live CD by a band that has never compromised in the 20 years it has performed and recorded.
Liny Kruger, Bowline Music
Live at the Nile – Piet Botha and Jack Hammer
IOL, 18 November 2004
A slice of history from this Afrikaans rocker and his longstanding musical compatriots, this is a batch of songs recorded live in Pretoria last year. It features 24 of the band’s trademark compositions sung in English and Afrikaans and it’s a warts-and-all affair with the pleasing raw feel of a live gig.
There’s the boogie blues element, the Dire Straits influence, as well as regular straight-ahead rock.
The idea here is personal enjoyment for the musicians, and this release isn’t aimed at garnering huge commercial success. Taken from a two hour set, this double CD has been released as a limited edition.
JACK HAMMER: 20 YEARS OF POUNDING DOWN THE ROAD
by Brian Currin, March 2004
“Highway’s got my number, yet she keeps calling”.
November 2004 marks the 20th anniversary of the band known as Jack Hammer. This South African band has always stayed true to its original brand of Rock and Roll, and has toured and recorded over the years, never seeking the limelight but always playing their hearts out.
Jack Hammer is more than just a band – it is a roundabout of musicians. A collective that over the years has included amongst its members American Oscar-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton, McCully Workshop keyboard wizard Rupert Mellor, Kwaito master producer Gabi le Roux, Not My Dog guitarist Lanie vd Walt, prog-rocker Kenny Henson, Blues Broer Simon Orange, saxophonist supremo Mike Faure, and many, many others. As band roadie Hendry Jackson (who is immortalized in the song ‘Laat Die Wiele Rol’) said, “I have seen many Jacks, so to speak, come and go in my time, I tell you.”
Fiercely independent, they have somehow survived the strange machinery that is the SA music industry and produced some sterling original albums over the years. Since their first performance way back in 1984 the one constant factor in the band has been the man affectionately known as “The Hammer”, Piet Botha.
“It all began at Slowfarm on the old Warmbaths road, just north of Pretoria, in November 1984,” Botha recalls. Botha (who was born in 1955 and shares his birth date of 18th July with Nelson Mandela) began writing songs and forming bands while still at school. He hooked up in 1974 with Abner Smith at the University of Pretoria to develop an acoustic duo. “They used to play at the Keg and Tankard in Pretoria”, remembers Jackson. Botha recalls this as being their first professional gig.
Botha then connected with the members of Tusk (Doc Barendse, Dino Salvatori, and Derek Riley) to establish the band Raven and later added keyboardist Gabi le Roux to fill out the sound. This hard-rocking band won the ‘Beat 79’ nationwide competition for new rock groups, and released the Uriah Heep-styled single, ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ b/w ‘The Horseman’, on David Marks’ 3rd Ear Label.
Botha (known as J.P. Botha [Jakob Pieter] at that time and playing mainly bass) then formed the three-piece Catherine Wheel with Karlien van Niekerk and Doc Barendse. At this time violinist Dave Tarr and drummer Colin Pratley (ex-Freedom’s Children) were in a duo called Wildebeest. “We amalgamated our two bands” says Botha. Doc Barendse left and Boet Faber joined as guitarist. In 1981 the classic ‘Bushrock 1’ live album (recorded at Upstairs in Sunnyside, Pretoria) was released under the band name Wildebeest. ‘Bushrock 1‘ was the Rand Daily Mail’s ‘Album of the Year’ in 1981.
“I was part of the team with Colin Pratley, Boet Faber, Paul van Eden, Piet Botha, Deon Maree and Gilbert Lyons that put on the ‘One Skin Mile from Skullgrin’, a Wildebeest Bushrock Ballet, at the Conservatoir of Music, in Pretoria, in 1982”, remembers longtime friend of the band and sometime manager, Moonshine Lee. “Around this time Piet, Boet Faber and myself lived on a farm in DeWildt, north-west of Pretoria, and I ended up assisting with the management of the band.”
In 1983 Wildebeest was one of the first bands to mix rock music with Afrikaans lyrics and recorded the (now very rare) ‘Horings Op Die Stoep‘ 4-track EP which featured ‘Bossies’, a song about the Border War, which was very much a no-no during those Apartheid times.
In November 1984, Jack Hammer was started with Boet Faber, Jan Maloney and Eric Birckenstock. The band immediately built up a new original repertoire and started performing. During the 1984 festive season the club they were booked at burnt down with all their gear. Botha, who had been planning a sojourn in the USA for some time, left, and so the first line-up was short-lived, but that’s when Jack Hammer really began.
During 1985, Piet Botha lived in Los Angeles, working construction, and other immigrant jobs by day, and writing and recording by night. By a stroke of luck he teamed up with a young, aspiring actor, drummer and singer from the south called Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton would do the drumming in the studio as well as vocals and Botha would do the guitars, piano, vocals and harmonica.
Twelve years later, Billy Bob Thornton would win the ‘Best Actor’ Oscar for his part in the film ‘Slingblade’, and is also well-known for his marriage (now dissolved) to actress Angelina Jolie.
By the end of 1985, Botha had to return to South Africa. The first Jack Hammer album, ‘Jack Of All Trades’, was eventually completed in South Africa, and released by the end of 1986, as a custom album on Third Ear Records. This album has not yet been released on CD and sealed vinyl copies can fetch over R100 from collectors.
From this time onwards the Jack Hammer band would perform all over South Africa with many different line-ups. From 1987 to 1990, the second album, ‘The Judas Chapter’, was written and recorded at Doc Barendse’s studio. During 1991 Botha took up an offer to perform with the Silver Creek Mountain Band, and played acoustic guitar and piano, six nights a week for a whole year.
1992 saw a new Jack Hammer, with drummer Findlay Malherbe playing a major role in the new sound, tighter arrangements, and energy that come to light on ‘Ghosts On The Wind’, which was released in 1994 to much critical acclaim. The highlight of this collaboration was Jack Hammer opening for Deep Purple and Uriah Heep on their “Masters of Rock” tour in March/April 1995.
Findlay went to America, so “The Duke” arrived on the scene. Paul van de Waal had been drumming with bands for years and had to stand in one night in an emergency, without ever having met Jack Hammer. He was hired the same night and is still happily drumming away with them today. He is known as “The Duke”, because he always looks smart.
1996 saw Jack Hammer signing to a record label for the first time! Till then, Botha had always been fiercely independent. The first album to be released under the now well-known Wildebeest label was Jack Hammer’s ‘Death of a Gypsy’, with catalogue number WILD001.
During this time the band was also privileged to be the supporting act for ZZ Top (one of Botha’s prime influences) on their South African tour. Jackson recalls this as being a high point of his 20 years or so with Jack Hammer: “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,” says Jackson.
During 1997 Botha was asked to write and record an Afrikaans album. Using the Jack Hammer band members at the time, Johnathan Martin, Jason Phillips and Jorik Pienaar, the result was the all-Afrikaans ‘Suitcase Vol Winter’ album, released in late-1997, which proved to be a watershed. This album is considered a classic by many and a superb example of the groundbreaking alt.Afrikaans genre.
The major change in Jack Hammer’s sound and direction came about by a strange twist of fate when Johnathan Martin joined the band in April 1997. Suddenly there was another singer and songwriter in the band and, despite his youth, his guitar style was linked to the ’70’s. Soon Piet and Johnathan were doing acoustic shows (as Piet and The Kid), mixing the repertoire from English to Afrikaans and doing covers of old blues classics. Then there were also the electric rock shows, with some vintage Jack Hammer sounds.
Botha released a second Afrikaans album in November 1999, entitled ‘Jan Skopgraaf’, which did not fare as well as ‘Suitcase’ but which did include some classic tracks like the live favourite, ‘Blues Vir Louise’.
A Jack Hammer compilation, titled simply ‘Anthology’, was released in January 2000 and featured tracks from all four previous Jack Hammer albums plus four new recordings. It also included a new re-recording of their classic song ‘Fort Lauderdale’, which was based on the story of bank robber André Stander. Those new songs were recorded during the winter of 1999 at Sunset Recording Studios just outside Stellenbosch.
In February 2001 a limited edition live album, the confusingly titled ‘Bootleg’, was released and credited to Piet Botha and Jack Hammer. That album included tracks from both the Piet Botha (Afrikaans) and Jack Hammer (English) songbooks as well as cover versions of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’, Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’ (plaintively sung by Martin) and ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum.
October 2001 saw a “Best Of” Piet Botha collection being released by EMI entitled ‘Die Hits‘, which included four new Afrikaans recordings (including ‘Vandat Jy Weg Is’, a tribute to his late mother) alongside Botha’s other classics like ‘Sien Jou Weer’, ‘Blues Vir Louise’ and ‘Staan Saam Burgers’.
The current Jack Hammer line-up has now been together for around seven years and consists of Paul van de Waal (“The Duke”) on drums, Tertius du Plessis (“Beano”, so named because he acts like Mr Bean) on bass guitar and Johnathan Martin (“The Kid”) on guitar and vocals and occasional cello.
A third Afrikaans album, ‘Die Mamba’, was released in August 2003 by Rhythm Records and has received much critical acclaim, including being voted the best album of 2003 by the influential SA Rock Digest e-mag. In a poll by Huisgenoot/You Magazine, this album was voted in the top 5 of 2003 by accredited critics from Huisgenoot, Die Burger, Insig, Rapport, Volksblad and Die Beeld.
2004 sees the band returning to their roots, so to speak, with the release of a double live CD, ‘Piet Botha and Jack Hammer – Live at the Nile’, followed by a long-awaited studio production, ‘The Pilgrim’, due later in the year. This will be an English album and should really broaden their horizons. ‘The Pilgrim’ will be the first full Jack Hammer studio album since 1996’s ‘Death Of A Gypsy’.
Botha has this to say, “Jack Hammer was a rock band performing in the English language when they started and the swing to Afrikaans was a lovely and vibrant thing at the time, but now it’s time to go back as it were, in order to move forward”.
The albums will be produced by Lanie van der Walt, who was also responsible for ‘Die Mamba’ and the award-winning Not My Dog album, ‘Braai Vibes’ (SAMA best rock album 2003). Lanie was also an integral part of Jack Hammer from 1994-96 as a guitarist and songwriter, but then went on to form Not My Dog. Throughout the many years of performing and recording, the band has refused to compromise or bow to commercial pressure and that is why their work is timeless. This is evident when listening to their earlier work as far back as ‘Jack Of All Trades’.
Botha was one of the first musicians inducted into the SA Rock Hall Of Fame in January 2002, alongside James Phillips (who died in 1995). Other media highlights over the years include performing with Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and ZZ Top on their SA tours, and of late with the legendary Shawn Phillips, and also with Vusi Mahlasela. This year also marks the band’s 10th anniversary gig at Oppikoppi, the most prestigious festival on the SA Rock calendar.
‘Live At The Nile’ is a double live CD, recorded at the Nile Crocodile in Pretoria, and includes renditions of most of the Jack Hammer and Piet Botha classics from over 20 years on the road. The album includes an updated version of the song ‘Russian And Chips’ by Wildebeest from 1981, which is based on ‘The Kid He Came From Nazareth’ from the highly rated ‘Astra’ album by Freedom’s Children. There are also a few covers including ‘Last Fair Deal Going Down’ by Robert Johnson (a big influence on both Botha and Martin) and songs by The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Pink Floyd (‘Wish You Were Here’).
Botha has been making music for over 30 years and celebrates a 25 year recording career this year. And the Jack Hammer band has been pounding down the highway for 20 years and show no signs of slowing down.
Piet Botha and his band Jack Hammer are truly Legends of South African Rock.
- Jack Hammer: Jack Of All Trades
- Jack Hammer: The Judas Chapter
- Jack Hammer: Ghosts On The Wind
- Jack Hammer: Death Of A Gypsy
- Piet Botha: ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter
- Piet Botha: Jan Skopgraaf
- Jack Hammer: Anthology
- Piet Botha & Jack Hammer: Bootleg
- Piet Botha: Die Hits
- Piet Botha: Die Mamba
- Piet Botha & Jack Hammer: Live At The Nile
- Jack Hammer: The Pilgrim
- Jack Hammer: TuksFM Sessions
- Jack Hammer: Highway 13
- Jack Hammer: Road Works 1984-2009
- Piet Botha: Spookpsalms
- Jack Hammer: Handful Of Rain
- Piet Botha: Die Middernagtrein
- Piet Botha | Jack Hammer Double LP
- Piet Botha & Jack Hammer: 13 Towns
- Piet Botha & Jack Hammer: 13 Towns, Vol 2