Ross Wilson (musician)

Ross Andrew Wilson[1] (born 18 November 1947) is an Australian singer-songwriter, musician and producer. He is the co-founder and frontman of the long-standing rock groups Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock, as well as a number of other former bands, in addition to performing solo.[2] He has produced records for bands such as Skyhooks and Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, as well as for those of his own bands. He appeared as a judge on celebrity singing TV series It Takes Two from 2005.[3] Wilson was individually inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 1989 and again as a member of Daddy Cool in 2006.[4][5]

Ross Wilson
Wilson performing in 2018
Background information
Birth nameRoss Andrew Wilson
Born (1947-11-18) 18 November 1947
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresRock and roll, progressive rock
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, harmonica
Years active1964–present
LabelsSparmac, Wizard, Sony BMG, Liberation, Shock
Associated actsDaddy Cool, Mondo Rock, Skyhooks, Pat Wilson, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, The Pink Finks, Sons of the Vegetal Mother, Mighty Kong, The Johnnys, The Party Machine
WebsiteOfficial website


Early years

Wilson's father was an amateur jazz musician and his mother would play classical music on the piano at their home in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton.[2] Wilson learnt to sing harmonies with the local Anglican church choir and was selected as a boy soprano wedding singer.[2] In 1958, at ten and a half years old, he and his father attended their first rock & roll show featuring Johnny O'Keefe, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly and the Crickets.[2] A car accident in 1963 caused severe injuries. During recovery over subsequent months, Wilson took up harmonica playing and would copy from records to develop his playing style.[2]

Wilson began his musical career in 1964 and formed his first band The Pink Finks with thirteen-year-old Ross Hannaford (guitar and vocals), who would become his long-time musical partner, whilst both were still at school.[6][7] They released a cover version of "Louie Louie" as a single in 1965[7] on their own label, Mojo, and followed with three more singles after being signed to local label W & G.[8] At about this time he met Patricia Higgins (future Pat Wilson) whilst working at the Department of Supply.[2] The Pink Finks was followed by the more progressively oriented The Party Machine (1967–69) still with Hannaford, but included Mike Rudd on bass (later in Spectrum).[7] Compensation for his earlier car accident was received by 1969, which enabled Wilson to travel to England with Pat. He had been invited by Brian Peacock (bass guitar) to join his band Procession.[6] Whilst there, Wilson married Pat, recorded an album Procession with the band and began to work on the song "Eagle Rock".[2] Wilson returned to Australia later that year and formed Sons of the Vegetal Mother (1969–70), again including Hannaford and Rudd, a group inspired by the work of Frank Zappa.[6][7]

1970–1976: Daddy Cool and producing Skyhooks

In 1970 Sons of the Vegetal Mother formed a side-project called Daddy Cool.[6][7] The original members were Wilson, Hannaford (vocals and guitars), Gary Young (drums, vocals) and Wayne Duncan (bass, vocals), other members that joined, included saxophonist Jeremy Noone and guitarist Ian Winter.[7]

Known for their "good time" image, Daddy Cool's repertoire mixed covers of 1950s R&B and doo-wop classics with original compositions mostly written by Wilson.[6] The band signed to the independent Sparmac label, co-owned by producer and former child prodigy guitarist Robie Porter.[6] Daddy Cool became very popular in Australia and their records also gained a following in the US and Canada in the early 1970s. They scored a nationwide No. 1 hit in Australia in mid-1970 with the single "Eagle Rock" and their debut LP, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool, also reached No. 1 to set a record as the biggest selling Australian album to that time.[6][9] The "Eagle Rock" promo was directed by Chris Löfvén who had earlier that year directed the video for Spectrum's single "I'll Be Gone".[6]

Around this time Ross and wife Pat both appeared naked in a short film directed by Chris Löfvén titled "The Beginning" which is an extra on the DVD release of Oz.

After Daddy Cool broke up late in 1972, Wilson and Hannaford formed the short-lived Mighty Kong which included former Spectrum drummer Ray Arnott and Company Caine guitarist Russell Smith.[7] They recorded only one LP, All I Wanna Do Is Rock released on Porter's new label Wizard Records, but the band broke up soon after.[6] Whilst performing with Mighty Kong, Wilson was impressed by a fledgling Melbourne band called Skyhooks and signed their main songwriter Greg Macainsh to his publishing company.[2]

Daddy Cool made a surprise reformation for the January 1974 Sunbury Pop Festival and remained together until late 1975.[6] Also performing at Sunbury in 1974 were Skyhooks and, despite being booed off stage, Wilson recommended the band to Mushroom Records boss Michael Gudinski. In June / July 1974 Wilson took time off from Daddy Cool and produced Skyhook's breakthrough debut album Living in the Seventies, which overtook Daddy Cool's first album to become the biggest-selling Australian LP.[6] He went on to produce their next two albums, Ego is not a Dirty Word (1975) and Straight in a Gay Gay World (1976), both of which were also successes in Australia.[6][9]

1976–1991: Mondo Rock and solo

Contractual problems with Porter's Wizard label, to whom Wilson was signed at the time, forced him to wait out the end of his recording contract. He turned to producing records for Skyhooks on Mushroom Records and Company Caine on his own label Oz Records. When his contractual obligations ended, Wilson also scored Chris Löfvén's 1976 film, Oz, inspired by The Wizard of Oz but set in Australia.[10] Wilson performed "Livin' in the Land of Oz" (also released as a single), "The Mood", "Greaseball", "Who's Gonna Love You Tonight" and "Atmospherics", with fellow ex-Daddy Cool members Gary Young and Wayne Burt; he produced the soundtrack which also featured the film's stars Joy Dunstan and Graham Matters singing a track each and two tracks by Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons.[11] Jo Jo Zep, containing Young and Burt, were also signed to Oz Records and released the single "Beating Around the Bush" from the soundtrack.[11]

To promote his single, Wilson formed Mondo Rock:

My longest lasting project, Mondo Rock (76–90) started as an occasional thing to help promote my 1st solo single "Living in the Land of Oz" & it wasn't until 1978 that we issued our debut single[12]

Ross Wilson, 2001

Mondo Rock went through several incarnations but the best known line-up included bassist Paul Christie (ex-Kevin Borich Express, later in The Party Boys), guitarist and songwriter Eric McCusker, (ex-The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band), drummer John Hackett (ex-Stars) and James Black on keyboards and guitar. Wilson also produced the band's first single in 1978 "The Fugitive Kind" and first album, 1979's Primal Park for his own Oz Records label. Greatest singles success was with 1980's "State of the Heart", 1981's "Chemistry" and "Cool World" all from their award-winning second album Chemistry released in 1981 on Avenue Records. 1980s teen-idol Rick Springfield recorded "State of the Heart" in 1985, making the U.S Top 40. McCusker had written "State of the Heart",[13] co-written "Chemistry" with Christie,[14] and Wilson had written "Cool World".[15] Mondo Rock released Nuovo Mondo in 1982 which included their track "A Touch of Paradise" written by Wilson and Gulliver Smith[16] (aka Kevin Smith, ex-Company Caine) this became a 1986 hit when covered by Australian pop singer John Farnham (ex-Little River Band).

In 1983, Wilson's then wife Pat recorded and released, "Bop Girl" a song written by Ross.[17] The song featured Ross on backing vocals, and became an Australian No. 2 hit[9] and even gained recognition internationally. It also had a video directed by Gillian Armstrong, which featured not only Ross, but the actual screen debut of Nicole Kidman.

Mondo Rock released further albums including The Modern Bop in 1984, which had their best charting single "Come Said the Boy" (#2 on National singles chart)[9] and "The Modern Bop"; and Boom Baby Boom in 1986, Aliens (EP) in 1987 and Why Fight It? in 1990. The later albums and singles had little chart success. Wilson's most successful solo release was 1989's "Bed of Nails" which reached No. 25 on the National singles charts.[18] It was released from his July 1989 solo album Dark Side of the Man on WEA.

1990s and beyond

Wilson returned to performing in the late 1990s and he has released two albums of new material plus a two-CD retrospective covering his entire career, including many rare tracks.) He has also collaborated with children's group The Wiggles, singing on their re-recording of "Eagle Rock" and playing the part of "King Mondo" in the video "Space Dancing". Wilson also appeared as "King Mondo" on the 2004 video "Santa's Rockin'!" singing This Little Baby Is Born Again.[19]

In 1996 Wilson was part of the pre-game entertainment at the ARL Grand Final at the Sydney Football Stadium, with other famous Australian music acts, The Del Tones, Glenn Shorrock, Christine Anu and Kate Ceberano. Wilson sang "Eagle Rock", which was later adopted by the winners of the Grand Final, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, as their team anthem.

Ross Wilson has appeared as a judge on the Seven Network celebrity reality singing competition It Takes Two in both 2006 and 2007 series, and was featured in the ABC interview series Talking Heads with Peter Thompson on 9 July 2007.[2]

In August 2009 Wilson celebrated 45 years in music with the commemorative "5 Decades of Cool" concert at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda, Melbourne.[20]

Personal life

Wilson has a brother, Bruce Wilson, who designed the logo for the Mojo Label under which The Pink Finks released "Louie Louie",[21] Bruce also designed the logo for The Party Machine, and printed their "obscene and seditious" songbook.[22] Ross Wilson's first wife, Pat Wilson, was a journalist and, briefly, a pop star with "Bop Girl" (written by Ross)[23] in 1983 and reached No. 2.[9] On the promo video for "Eagle Rock" a pregnant Pat Wilson is in the front row of the concert footage.[2] They were married for twenty years, from 1969 to about 1989.[2] His second wife, Tania has been married to Wilson from 1999 and they have three children Athina, Dimitri and step daughter actress Olympia Valance.[2]


Studio albums with Ross Wilson:

The Pink Finks

  • In Group (EP) (1965) [In E2558]
  • Louie Louie (EP) (December 1980) [Raven RV06] – "Louie Louie" / "Back Door Man", "Comin' Home" / "You're Good For Me" / "Rub My Root" / "Something Else" / "Untie Me"

The Party Machine

  • "You've All Gotta Go"/"Gentle Art" (7") (1969) EMI/Columbia


  • Procession (1969)

Sons of the Vegetal Mother

  • Garden Party (EP) (November 1970) – Only 250 copies were produced

Daddy Cool

Mighty Kong

  • All I Wanna Do (1973) Wizard
  • "Calling All Cats" / "Hard Drugs (Are Bad For You)" (December 1973) Wizard


as Producer, session musician

Oz Soundtrack

as Producer, main performer on 7 tracks, session musician on others

  • Oz (1976)

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons

as Producer, session musician

  • Don't Waste It! (1976)
  • Whip It Out (1977)

Mondo Rock


  • Dark Side of the Man (1989)
  • Go Bongo Go Wild! (2001) also co-produced
  • Country and Wilson (2003) also co-produced
  • Tributary (2008) Liberation Blue
  • I Come in Peace (2010)


  1. ""Eagle Rock" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 9 September 2009.
  2. "Ross Wilson interview on Talking Heads with Peter Thompson". ABC. 9 July 2007. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  3. "Ross Wilson entry". IMDb. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  4. "ARIA presents the 2006 ARIA Hall of Fame". ARIA. 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  5. "ARIA Awards 2007: About Hall of Fame". ARIA Awards. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  6. "Daddy Cool". Milesago. Archived from the original on 7 March 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  7. "Daddy Cool". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  8. "Ross Wilson on Saturday Night Country". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 28 May 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  9. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  10. Oz (1976) on IMDb
  11. "Oz (1976) soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  12. Wilson, Ross (October 2001). "Ross Wilson Bio". Ross Wilson. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  13. ""State of the Heart" at Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)". APRA. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  14. ""Chemistry" at APRA". APRA. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  15. ""Cool World" at APRA". APRA. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  16. ""Touch of Paradise" APRA". APRA. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  17. ""Bop Girl" at APRA". APRA. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  18. "Ross Wilson – "Bed of Nails"". Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
  19. "This Little Baby is Born Again". Ross Wilson. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  20. Ross Wilson official website
  21. "The Pink Finks". Milesago. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  22. "The Party Machine". Milesago. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  23. ""Bop Girl" entry at Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)". APRA. Retrieved 7 May 2008.
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