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March 3, 2021

Sidemen take centre stage in new Byron Theatre show

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They have performed alongside some of the biggest names in music – performers like Cliff Richard, Paul Kelly and Tears for Fears.

But the chances are you wouldn’t recognise any of these musicians if you passed them on the street.

Such is the nature of being a ‘sideman’ – a musician who is integral to a performance but tends to avoid the limelight.

But the sidemen will take centre stage on May 25 during a special show at Byron Theatre.

Put together by local musician Steve Banks, the show features some of Australia’s most accomplished sidemen, including Greg Lyon (The Hip Operation), Rick Fenn (10cc and Tears for Fears) and Grant Gerathy (John Butler Trio, Bruce Haymes (The Paul Kelly Band, Renee Geyer and Archie Roach) and Jeff Burstin (The Black Sorrows, Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons)

Banks recalls with a chuckle how he stumbled across the group’s bass player, Greg Lyon at the Byron Golf Club.

One of the Sidemen, guitarist Jeff Burston, who has played with the Black Sorrows

‘I saw this sign up saying Greg Lyon and the Hip Operation and I was a bit confused because I thought maybe he was playing alongside a talk by an orthopaedic surgeon or something,’ he recalls, chuckling.

‘I decided to go in and hear him play and to introduce myself.

‘I didn’t know much about Greg’s past history, but as it started to come out my jaw fell further and further to the floor.

A renowned musician and music educator, Lyon has played alongside numerous music legends including Jon Cleary, Randy Becker and Maria Muldaur.

He co-founded the much-loved jazz-fusion band Crossfire, and helped to create Australia’s first contemporary music degree course at Southern Cross University.

When the group met up soon after, Lyon brought along another local who he said was handy on the drums.

That man turned out to be Grant Gerathy, the drummer for the John Butler Trio.

Soon after, while the group were jamming at a 50th birthday celebration that they were joined by another legendary sideman – Rick Fenn from 10cc.

‘We got there and purely serendipitously there was Rick was there,’ Banks recalls.

‘He was a bit cagey at first about getting up, but when he saw us playing he came on stage did a few songs and refused to leave.’

‘A little while later I was talking to Greg about performing together as a band and he said “Why would anyone want to come and see an old fart like me? I’m just a sideman.” and I said I think we’ve got our name: Steve Banks and the Sidemen.

The show will feature an eclectic collection of songs, from the tunes that inspired the men to become musicians, to the hits they wrote or contributed too.

‘We’re talking numbers like Sunshine of Your Love, Dreadlock Holiday, Harley and Rose and How to Make Gravy,’ Banks says.

Interspersed throughout the show will be interviews in which the five musicians discuss the trials and tribulations of their music careers.

‘These are guys who often shun the limelight, so it will be great to get them talking and to hear some of their stories.’

The May 25 show goes from 8.30–10.30 at Byron Theatre. Tickets are available at www.ByronCentre.com.au.


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  1. Pardon me for butting in here but if you had a group where you had no sidemen but all the group shared the light equally, that’s right, you would have The Beatles.


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