There’s a rock & roll band playing at Atherton this Saturday night that must hold a record for musical industry longevity. The Fireflies played their first gig at Gordonvale, south of Cairns, in 1958. Rock & roll was brand new in Australia back then, and The Fireflies were a brand new band. So new that they only had two songs in their repertoire. They played those two tunes over and over, all night – but no-one seemed to mind. The Fireflies had the NOW sound – they went on to become one of far north Queensland’s best known & best loved bands.
The Fireflies were the first all-electric guitar band in Cairns. This was in a time before pubs & clubs offered live music. Bands put on dances at venues around Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands, as far south as Ingham. It was not unusual for The Fireflies to pull a crowd of 700 to their gigs. Their biggest crowd was 1700 at the Johnstone Shire Hall at Innisfail. And the band knew a lot more songs by then.
By the mid 60s, The Fireflies were a very big deal. They were regional winners three years in a row in Australia’s most prestigious rock band competition – Hoadley’s Battle of The Sounds. On the day Neil Armstrong first walked on the Moon, The Fireflies were walking on air – having won the Battle of The Sounds regional final in Rockhampton. They went on to perform in front of 7500 people at the Queensland final in Brisbane, where a young bloke called Johnny Farnham brought the house down with his new song – Sadie The Cleaning Lady.
The Fireflies toured throughout Queensland and northern NSW backing many famous artists of that era – Johnny O’Keefe, Normie Rowe, Ted Mulry, Dinah Lee, Lucky Starr, Frankie Davidson, Kamahl and more. They’ve kept playing through the years, and held a triumphant 50th anniversary concert in 2008 – when 900 people filled the Merrilands Hall at Atherton – another 650 had to be turned away.
Two original members of the band will be in the line-up at the Atherton International Club this Saturday night. One of them is drummer Tom Duffy.