Jands Celebrates 40 Years

Possibly the easiest way to remember “milestones” is to remember some of the people and the way they perhaps influenced the direction of the company.

Not the people that still work here, they still have an influence, but the ones that none of the newbie’s have never heard of.

Story by Robert Young - Jands Executive Director

After 40 years I was asked to write an article detailing the history of Jands. Hey, I am 60 years old, I struggle to remember to bring my lunch to work let alone remember what happened in 1970!

Phil Storey – The “S” in Jands


I sat beside him on my very first day at high school. Let’s see, that’s 48 years ago, he was a crazy guy then and nothing has changed till today. Always ahead of the pack, drove the teachers mad, convinced the headmaster he should take over the PA system and convert it to a radio station and the dimmer loft to a disco (see photo). He gave me my first job at Jands, developed all the early power amps and left the company in the mid 70’s.

Bruce Jackson – The “J” in Jands

Strand-123-FresnelHe was a year ahead of Storey and myself at school so clearly didn’t talk to us for the first years. Brain bigger than the universe but probably had on his report card “needs to try harder” by the teachers he monstered. He was the very early influencer at Jands, meeting guys like LSD Fogg who were returning from overseas with new ideas about lightshows. He showed us really cool things like strobes, colour organs, mirror balls and the like. This became the foundation of the hire company as, to add to these effects, Jands needed to add some basic lighting.

As you can only do so much with coloured par 38’s he discovered “Strand” who had these really “hi-tech” lighting fixtures called Pattern 23’s and Fresnel 123’s. It was this association that lead to Jands becoming a manufacturer, as he convinced Strand that we could make their 2K dimmer modules for Miniset 2K Racks. Jands made them for years with some very sophisticated equipment including a Sunbeam frypan (the wave  solder machine). Jackson left the company having met the Clair Bros when Blood Sweat & Tears, Johnny Cash etc started to tour Australia with “Big Black Boxes”. Jackson ,myself and a guy called Gil McPherson copied the big black boxes Later known by everybody as W Cabinets.

Gil McPherson

Gil_McGil lived  above a shop in Randwick and made “Phoenix Amplifiers”. A couple of the guys that worked for him part time, (Bruce Worrell and Clive Shakespear) were in a band called Sherbet. They began to make some money and I believe were the first band in Australia to have a PA system with JBL components. Mind you it was still really a PA Column but then again what’s a Line Array?
Gil and Storey bonded in a geek way and built some really big PA amps using transistors (100 watt). We put them on top of each other and called them Amp Racks.

Gil was also famous for owning three cars, a Mini-Van that you had to hot-wire to start because he had lost the key, a gold GTHO Phase 3 Falcon which is without a doubt the fastest, scariest car I have ever been in. He also had a Morris Minor with a small block V8. Naturally I only got to drive the Mini- Van. Yes in 1972 you could fit a lighting rig in a Mini-Van..

Gil’s fascination with cars even extended to painting the early 4 way PA’s  purple after a Holden Torana colour. Gil was an expert on anything radio and went back to this environment by the mid 70’s.

By this time the company had grown to  a reasonable size and operationally was sound. The Mulholland’s and Robinson’s having bought out Jackson and Storey brought some level of sanity to the organisation and we even rented a real factory in Marrickville. It was shiny and new unlike, the shop above the Rose Bay Florist, the Redfern woodwork shop that you had to lock the locals out of if you were working and the Randwick shop where the cats and babies were constantly crawling around the floor of the workshop. We had not heard of OH&S in those days.

{Re OH&S – the biggest shows in the early days were at the UNSW Roundhouse. To hang the mirror ball in the centre was somewhat challenging but what was even better was to hang a bag of flour below it. I seem to recall the idea was you tied a release rope to the flour bag and when the punters were tanked and dancing the Jands guy pulled the rope and covered them with flour. Of course, being clever university students, after this was done once or twice, it became the done thing to make a pyramid of people to reach the bag and release it before the Jands person released the hidden rope. Next time you frequent the roundhouse imagine how high those pyramids were and what chance you would have of doing it now.}

Howard Page – The Denim Legend

Howard was a radio station panel operator but was infatuated with live audio. I recall that Harry Miller was opening Hair and Howard became the audio engineer. Howard was single minded in his desire to make Jands a world class audio company. He designed consoles, speaker cabinets, cross-overs all with the purpose of keeping Jands ahead of the field. He eventually took this drive to Show Co and then Clair Bros in America as director of engineering. But one thing always remains the same – blue jeans and big belt buckle – The Denim Legend.

Tony Cochrane

Tony was from Adelaide which was probably the leading Australian city with respect to theatre and theatre lighting in the early eighties. Tony (The Alderman) was a good politician, a great salesman and had a terrific knowledge of overseas lighting products which at the time was still dominated by Strand. By finding new lines and daring to take on the Strand monolith he was a huge influence in making Jands the leading lighting distributor it has become today. Tony always had the big ideas , became a promoter and is of course now the face of V8 supercars.
(I find this humorous as he used to drive a horrid Saab.)

Ron Blackmore

Ron, unlike all the other mentioned here, never worked for Jands and in fact usually worked against Jands. His company, Artist Concert Tours, was the first real opposition company to Jands Production Services having taken over a Clair system brought to Australia by Bruce Jackson (then working for Clair Bros). He always came across as the Little Aussie Battler but, having come up through the Melbourne music scene, was a very worthy competitor. He became entrenched with the Paul Dainty organisation locking Jands out from many concert tours in the early 80’s. Ron was finally convinced to join ACT and Jands together in 1982 and finally to sell out in about 1985. He went to own and manage a beach front caravan park north of Coffs Harbour but still had his signed Rolling Stones tour poster on the wall behind the reception desk.

With the ACT package came two other people who became major influencers on the production company , Peter Ratcliffeand Wyn Milson. Previously Ratcliffe had run Bronco Sound which had become the Sydney arm of ACT. As Peter and Wyn are still involved with the company we will say no more, as we said at the beginning we are only talking about ex Jands influencers. Sufficient to say they continue to push the quality of service and equipment that had begun with Jackson and Page.