The Mullumbimby community lost one of the founding fathers of its counter culture last Thursday, when Graham Chambers, better known as Jerry De Munga, passed away at his home with the love and care of wife Chrissy, family and close friends.
As a performing musician, pundit, jester, party-goer and a very distinctive and cool guy to boot, his early years in Napier New Zealand were austere by current standards, and he was known as a bit of a runaway.
His grandfather was a member of a professional band, and started Jerry on his musical journey, teaching him some mandolin. His early 20s saw him venture to ‘the west island’ often as a stowaway on trans-Tasman shipping, where he had the good fortune to fall in with many of the folk who founded what was to become a thriving hippie community in Coopers Lane Main Arm in the early ’70s.
Big, affable and as sharp as he was talented, he soon etched himself a place in the movement that would change the social fabric of the town. Jez worked at many things through this time, but mainly as a guitarist and singer who favoured the Stones but could rip out a few of his own songs too.
Versatile, and with a huge repertoire, he could bang out a few rockers and then knock you flat with a soulful rendition of a female artist like Patsy Cline or Cindy Lauper.
People who made friends with Jerry tended to stay friends. He met wife and the mother of his daughter Rosanna, Chrissy, at a support gig he did at Bangalow for the Master’s Apprentices in 1980.
The lovely Rosie’s sudden passing in a fire in Byron Bay was devastating for all, and one can only admire how they carried themselves in the face of this tragedy.
Mortgage necessity saw him work for many years on the Byron cabs where he was known for his incomparable local knowledge and the deft, compassionate touch he showed with their clients with disabilities or special needs. Ubiquitous on a Saturday morning outside IGA (Formerly Dennett’s) on Mullum’s main drag, his busking band ‘the Buds’ is still fondly remembered.
Jerry was diagnosed with cancer around four years ago, but took positive steps with his health and enjoyed quality time with Chrissy and his friends.