Screaming Jets co-founder Grant Walmsley remembers Michael Gudinksi

"I've got a funny story for you," said Grant Walmsley, co-founder of Novocastrian rockers The Screaming Jets.

We'd asked Walmsley for his thoughts about Michael Gudinksi, who died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep at his home in Melbourne on Tuesday at age 69.

Gudinski was a giant of the music industry. He founded Mushroom Records in 1972 at age 20.

The music label signed the likes of Skyhooks, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Paul Kelly, Split Enz, Jimmy Barnes, Kylie and Dannii Minogue, The Angels, The Church, The Choirboys, Yothu Yindi, The Saints, Chantoozies, Frente, Kate Ceberano, Jason Donovan and Peter Andre.

Gudinski tried to sign The Screaming Jets to Mushroom. Walmsley said: "After we won a national Triple J comp in about 1989, literally every record company and manager in Australia came to see us play on our Monday night residencies at the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross".

"Everyone played there. Even Mick Jagger would go there after a concert and get on stage. It was a jumping place, right in the middle of Kings Cross. It was full of smoke, just incredible. There was nothing you didn't see in that place. It was at the height of the Golden Mile [the red light district]."

Grant Walmsley (second from left) with The Screaming Jets in 1994.

Grant Walmsley (second from left) with The Screaming Jets in 1994.

Despite Gudinski's efforts, The Screaming Jets ended up signing for INXS manager Chris Murphy.

During a Jets' gig, Gudinski became irate.

"We were playing there [the Kardomah Cafe] one night - and I love this about him - he was fully passionate, he was fully rock and roll," Walmsley said.

"He grabbed our producer Steve James, who did our first two albums. Steve was horrified." [Steve is the son of Sid James, the famous British comedian]

Gudinksi told Steve: "How dare you f***ing let them [the Jets] sign with Murphy? I was gonna f***ing sign them."


Walmsley said Gudinksi was an "irreplaceable piece of the fabric of Australian rock and roll".

"He was one of the trailblazers of rock'n'roll through the '70s, '80s and '90s. He was certainly old school. It's a bygone era," he said.

"The thing I always remember about Michael Gudinski was the start of Mushroom Records, which was Skyhooks. That really changed the landscape in Australia at the time. I was only a kid at the time."

Whenever the Jets did a gig in Melbourne, Gudinski would be there.

"You know what I liked about guys like him, they were characters. Whenever we were in Melbourne, he'd turn up and say g'day. He'd be excited. He'd always come backstage."

At their peak, the Jets had an attitude of: "No one's gonna stop us, we're going all the way, keep up with us or don't".

"That came from guys like Gudinksi. That's how he did it. There was nothing politically correct about it. We're going to the top and get the f*** out of our way," Walmsley said.

"Chris Murphy and Gary Morris [Midnight Oil manager] were exactly the same. I dare say AC/DC started all that. They were the ones that really had that attitude."

Jimmy Barnes paid tribute to Gudinski on Twitter: "Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out. I felt it, my family felt it, the music business felt it, the world felt it. Michael Gudinski was not only that heart but he was my friend.

"He stood with me through my darkest moments and my most joyous days. Michael was the rock I reached for when life tried to wash me away.

"The music business turned, grew and moved forward in Australia because of Michael. He was a force of nature, a giant of a man. His boundless enthusiasm breathed life into our music scene."

Bruce Springsteen said on Facebook: "My friend Michael Gudinski was first, last, and always a music man. I've toured the world for the last fifty years and never met a better promoter.

"Michael always spoke with a deep rumbling voice, and the words would spill out so fast that half the time I needed an interpreter. But I could hear him clear as a bell when he would say, 'Bruce, I've got you covered'. And he always did.

"He was loud, always in motion, intentionally (and unintentionally) hilarious, and deeply soulful. He will be remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they set foot on Australian soil. My deepest condolences to his wife and partner Sue and to the whole Gudinski family, of which he was so proud."

This story The time Michael Gudinski tried to sign The Screaming Jets first appeared on Newcastle Herald.