Inception in Harmony: The Birth of The Delltones
Australian vocal doo-wop harmony group The Delltones formed in Sydney in January 1959, comprising Warren Lucas (tenor vocals), Brian Perkins (baritone vocals), Noel Widerberg (lead vocals) and Ian “Pee Wee” Wilson (bass vocals). They gained popularity for their tight harmonies and dynamic stage presence, quickly becoming a prominent act in the local music scene.
Bandstand Breakthrough: National Recognition and Stardom
The Delltones provided backing vocals for performances by visiting international and local artists. They also sang backing vocals on recording sessions for Johnny O’Keefe who invited them to appear as regulars on his ABC Television music show Six O’Clock Rock. One of their notable achievements was their appearance on the popular TV show Bandstand, hosted by Brian Henderson. This exposure helped catapult them to national fame, and they went on to release several successful singles, including “Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands” and “Come a Little Bit Closer.”
Pee wee Wilson, also known as Ian Wilson, was a key member of the Delltones, contributing not only to the vocal harmonies but also as a guitarist. His nickname “Peewee” stuck and became a recognizable part of his identity in the music world.
Changing Times: The Delltones' Evolution and Lineup Shifts
As the years went by, the Delltones experienced lineup changes, but they continued to evolve their sound and maintain a strong presence in the Australian music scene. Their longevity is a testament to their talent and adaptability in the ever-changing music industry. Noel Widerberg died in a car accident in Sydney in June 1962 and three weeks later the group’s single, Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands, reached #3 on the local charts.
In 1963 the single Come A Little Bit Closer was an immediate hit and eventually became The Delltones’ all-time best-seller. An album was released to capitalise on the hit single. With surf music now dominating the Australian Charts, The Delltones released the tongue in cheek composition, Hangin’ Five, which reached #3 in Australia and became a cult classic in California.
Homecoming: The Delltones' Rollercoaster Ride
The group continued to record and perform live – including shows for the Australian troops in Vietnam. Following their return from Vietnam, Warren Lucas and Col Laughnan left the group and were replaced by Ray Burton and Wayne Cornell. Burton left after only a year (going on to co-write I am Woman with Helen Reddy. They then travelled to London in an attempt to crack the overseas market. They recorded and toured throughout Europe, until financial problems forced them back home to Australia.
Solo Ventures and Collaborations: Peewee Wilson's Musical Journey
For the next three years, The Delltones toured nationally until disbanding in 1973. Pee Wee Wilson subsequently reformed them in 1978 (with new members) as a five-piece band. By the end of 1981, Pee Wee was the only surviving member. He continued to tour Australia with a completely new lineup of The Delltones into the new millennium.
Pee Wee Wilson’s contributions as a guitarist and vocalist were crucial to the Delltones’ success. His skills added depth to the group’s sound and helped them stand out in a crowded musical landscape. Although individual members pursued different paths over the years, the legacy of the Delltones and Pee Wee Wilson lives on today, cherished by Australian music fans everywhere.
The Delltones Today: Resonating in Modern Music
The Delltones finally broke up in 2016 after almost 60 years. This week, Pee Wee Wilson joins me to share their incredible story. You can learn more about them by heading to their website here.